Edward Gray. Clam Chowder and Genetic Memory.

I have lived in several different areas of the country other than my beloved New York State Finger Lakes region over the years and some places had that inexplicable sense of ‘home’ almost immediately. None so much as living in Rhode Island. It was instant and heartfelt. I could never put my finger on it until in my later years I began to research my heritage and discovered my deep roots in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

When I return now to research, it is with a heightened awareness of my heritage and love of the New England coastline. I fondly recall the drive through Tiverton and heading south to Newport and the anticipation of a steaming bowl of clam chowder at the Black Pearl and a leisurely afternoon strolling through the grounds of one of the grand mansions.

And always the smell of the sea.

Perhaps there is something to the scientific theory that we have genetic or ancestral memories.

Plimoth Plantation is part of my heritage with both Mayflower passengers John Billington, Edward Fuller and Reverend John Robinson and a plethora of Great Migration settlers as well. As I have been working these lines for some time now, it occurs to me that like my New York State family, a New England nexus is present so I am building a graphic to illustrate the connections and to show the disbursement points westward. A much more daunting task than the New York State project because of the sheer number of ancestors in New England.

So what…or should I say WHO compelled me to begin this New England project?

My paternal 8th great grandfather -The English immigrant EDWARD GRAY, SR. (1629-1681) of Plymouth, Massachusetts

“where he settled as early as 1643, and died in June 1681. He received a grant of a double share of land at Plymouth, June 3, 1662, and was made freeman, May 29, 1670. He received a grant of one hundred acres at Titicut (located at a bend of the Taunton River), March 4, 1674, was grand juryman, 1671, and deputy to the general court in 1676-77-78-79. He was appointed a member of a committee, July 13, 1677, to examine the accounts of the various towns on account of the recent Indian war. He had nine-thirtieths of a tract of Tiverton lands, purchased with other, March 5, 1680, for eleven hundred pounds.” [i]

“Before Europeans arrived, the Pocasset people fished and farmed along the eastern shore of the Sakonnet River in what is now Tiverton. Forests, swamps, and streams provided fresh water, game, wood products, berries, and winter shelter. In 1651, Richard Morris of nearby Portsmouth purchased the Nannaquaket peninsula from its native inhabitants. There is no evidence of Morris settling here, so he may have used the peninsula to grow crops and graze animals. In 1659, Morris’ claim was recognized as legitimate by Plymouth Colony, which at that time included the Tiverton area as part of its holdings.

Strapped for cash by King Phillip’s War (1675 – 1676), Plymouth sold a tract of this land in 1679 for £1100 to the Proprietors of Pocasset. The “First Division” of the Pocasset Purchase created thirty large lots, with the northernmost edge close to the present-day Fall River-Tiverton border and the southern boundary at the Tiverton-Little Compton line.

Edward Gray (1667 – 1726) held nine shares along the southern boundary of this purchase. The 237-acre tract now known as Pardon Gray Preserve passed to Edward’s grandson, Pardon Gray (1737 – 1814), who farmed the property. During the Revolutionary War, Pardon Gray became a Colonel in the Rhode Island militia, and he was placed in charge of the local commissary, which he ran from his home. Colonel Gray supplied 11,000 militia and Continental troops stationed at Fort Barton prior to the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778. Marquis de Lafayette briefly used a house nearby as his headquarters. Pardon Gray died at the age of 78 in 1814, and he is buried alongside his wife, Mary, in the family cemetery.”[ii]

That land purchase in Tiverton caused his son EDWARD GRAY, JR (1666-1726), my 7th great grandfather, to migrate there and like his father was a merchant who traded between Plymouth and Newport. His many descendants and my ancestors were born, lived, married and toiled along the coastlines in Tiverton and Newport, Rhode Island and Dartmouth and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Edward Gray, Jr. is buried on his former property in Tiverton.  The house was on the main road (Route 77) in Tiverton between Newport and Boston, and not far from the intersection known as “Four Corners.” (Routes 77 and 179)   The grave is not marked. On an old Tiverton map the location is indicated by a cross.  (Plat 15, Book 1, Town Hall. Notation: Old Edward burying place.  Tiverton Town Hall Land Records).

The Pardon Gray Preserve

I am excited to visit this historic preserve and visit the old Gray Family cemetery and perhaps get that tingle of ancestral memory.

The 230-acre Pardon Gray Preserve was purchased and preserved as permanent open space by the Tiverton Land Trust in 2000. It is an active farm and forest preserve adjacent to Main Road in South Tiverton and contiguous with the 550 acre Weetamoo Woods Open Space. The property, originally part of the Pocasset Purchase signed in 1676, contains many colonial artifacts including the Gray Family Historical Cemetery, an old well house (restored as a visitors’ kiosk) and original stonewalls. The Tiverton Land Trust stewardship program focuses on protecting open space, agricultural lands, historic sites and wildlife habitat. (Sakonnet Historical Society).

Edward Gray Burial Hill Plymouth monument stereoptocon

Stereopticon Card Image of Edward Gray Monument. Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Edward Gray, Sr. is buried in Plymouth in Old Burial Hill. His restored monument still stands.






[i] NEW ENGLAND FAMILIES, Genealogical and Memorial.  A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealth and the founding of a Nation.   Compiled under the Editorial Supervision of WILLIAM RICHARD CUTTER, A.M. THIRD SERIES. Volume 1.  New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company.  1915.

[ii] History of Pardon Gray Preserve By Tiverton Land Trust with research support from Tiverton Land Trust.

Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright August 2016.  All Rights Reserved.



Everywhere I go…There I am

A Note To My Readers:  Today I decided to begin the process of developing a list of my direct ancestral lines -an index of sorts- from the first European to step off a ship and on to the New World.  I regard the list of names as passengers who ride time through a wormhole…and I am along for the ride.


a Martin, Purdy, Penird, Curtis/Curtice, Carwithyn, Case, Curry, Learn, Jennings, James, Bowker, Roberts, Powers, Colwell, Frear/Freer, De Lay Haye, Le Roy, Van Bommel, Mynderse, Louw, Heermanse, Persen, Theuynes, Pierson, Gould,  Richardson, Wellman, Willmarth, Billington, Myers, Van Kleeck, Bennett, Tobey, Jenne, Dawson, Hobbs, Garfield, Lambert, Chancy, Gunn, Williams, Van Dorn, Smith (two lines), Irwin, Davenport (two lines), Moulthrop, Street, Halle, Woodward, Hunt, Longstreet, Woertman, Briggs, Graford, Schenck, Shubber, Hinckley, Bliss, Brokaw, Ingersoll, Weyburn, Bratton, Wilson, Rowley (two lines), Green(e), Tyler, Downing, Robinson, Rowland, Hill, Franklin, Palmer, Coleman, Titus, Hoag, Germond, Wright, Searing, Dickinson, Bartlett, Elliott, Fuller (two lines), Johnson, Potter.

I am them.  They are me.

Among them are sea captains and privateers, physicians, preachers, farmers, innkeepers, tailors, stonemasons, teachers, canal ‘boatmen’, bootmakers, theater owners, haberdashers, seamstresses, surveyors, merchants, carriage makers, master painters, carpenters, a stenographer, speculators,  abolitionists, suffragettes, a politician or two, a murderer (Mayflower passenger, John Billington), Quakers, Mayflower passengers, Huguenots, Revolutionary War soldiers and Civil War soldiers.

The paths and places have taken me from England and Holland, France and Germany to the New World…Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the nexus of New York State from the earliest days of New Amsterdam, the settlers along the upper Hudson Valley,  post Revolutionary War military tracts and the westward movement along the Erie Canal system to central and western New York.  I listened as my ancestor, Reverend John Robinson, preached to Separatists in the home of his friend, William Brewster in Scrooby and led them from England to the streets of Leiden, Holland.

Mourt's Relation

Mourt’s Relation

It was not without a bit of interest that I discovered that my paternal 9th great grandfather was Mayflower passenger, John Billington, who was a thorn in the side of the Puritans, a nuisance to Captain Miles Standish and an aggravation to Governor Bradford.  In 1630, when he was forty years of age, he was tried and hung for the murder of John Newcomen.  The first recorded execution in the New World.   While reading the accounts of John Billington, I found scholarly studies about his existence and fate  including the earliest work,  the famous “Mourt’s Relation,” written in 1622 by William Bradford’s cousin George Morton who like John Billington was a Separatist to the latest by Josh Clark,  “How Stuff Works, Who Was America’s First Murderer?”   Some concluded that his decidedly different opinions earned him an unjust outcome.  It was documented that young Newcomen was a poacher…a serious crime when survival was so dear and declared a crime punished by death.  He had been warned to cease his criminal activity more than once.  Billington, who was no marksman especially with such a crude weapon as was had in those days, shot to warn the young man, but instead wounded him.  Newcomen fled into the woods and was found bled out.   A quick trial and execution, the Billington properties taken over by the colony, wife and children put out to service and Standish and Bradford had rid themselves of the “vulgar knave”.   One of my fellow descendants, a law school student, had taken on ‘the defense of John Billington’ as an academic piece and fascinated me enough to delve into the Bradford papers myself.  I can credit my grandfather with teaching me that written history is at best a fascinating trail of human life and at its least…propaganda.

It was interesting to compare the two men…Robinson and Billington…both my 9th great grandfathers….and to note that they both rebelled against an established authority with two decidedly different outcomes.

Like dandelion seeds taken by a breeze I have followed my ancestors to the rough and rowdy days of Deadwood City,  pioneering the plains of Nebraska and taming the wildernesses of Michigan and Wisconsin after a long and difficult

New Bedford 1846

New Bedford 1846

overland trip in Conestoga wagons.  With all the family’s worldly goods loaded into wagons, the oxen followed the old Indian trails through the densely wooded Endless Mountains of northern Pennsylvania and we arrive at the great Susquehanna.  Poling the  flat boats along low waters, we travel northward to the Chemung system of the southern tier of New York State and build a log cabin at the base of Taughannock Falls.  Fleeing religious and political persecution and the devastating loss of my family from the Black Plague, I packed up my only surviving child and make a life with other French Huguenots along the upper Hudson River.  From the mighty Hudson, sturdy Quakers carry me along the newly built Erie Canal system to settle on the shores of  Cayuga Lake.  Before the building of the Panama Canal I ride with impatient passengers on trains struggling through the malaria ridden isthmus to reach the promise of gold in California. I sail on the sloop, Keziah, to the deepest parts of the Atlantic in search of sperm whales.

Countless journeys await me and some individuals I know better than others.  Beyond the clinical names, dates and locations.  Some were so well documented by their activities, or a published biography or genealogy that it was a short step into their lives with a quick familiarity.  Some were so available to me by my mother’s stories that  it was as easy as sharing a glass of lemonade on a pleasant Saturday afternoon.  And some I had to work for.  What genealogists refer to as the dreaded ‘brick wall’.   In fact, there are a few that remain in that list and most are my female ancestors.  Nothing is more gratifying than identifying an individual and rescuing them from that list and exploring history with them.

On occasion someone is searching for their ancestor and we find each other to share information, photos and memorabilia and declare ourselves “cousins”.   That has happened to me several times and without equivocation, one of the best experiences to have as a genealogist.

Finding family.  And fellow passengers.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved