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.



The Man who Named His Daughter Maha-shalal-hasbaz

A Note to My Readers: Lately I experienced genealogical burnout and posted that comment on my FaceBook page.  Years of research and writing and the constant influx of discovery…inquiries from others for corroboration…left me overwhelmed and I needed to take a break.   The responses ranged from the commiserating and comforting words of “been there” to the astonishingly hyper “never” post that had ten exclamation points.  Somewhere in the “in between”, a number of people recommended I go to another family branch and research there.  A nice thought, but I needed a real break…not a new research project.

One of the best and recurring bits of advice was to put down the research and garden…shop…hang out with some new people. All sound thinking, but I was in such a funk, it all sounded too easy. Until last weekend.

I went to a baby shower for my son-in-law’s sister where I ran into a group of women who had  just lost their grandmother. She was the family historian and the dad-to-be’s grandmother. She had kept treasure upon treasure…HER grandmother’s Quaker bonnet and schoolbooks and journals. The women began telling me about what they had and their memories of her and how they missed picking up the phone to talk with her. I told them what I did and we couldn’t stop talking about family history. My gift to them was to tell them THEY were her legacy and she had passed the baton. Their fresh grief washed away when they realized that she was still with them. Their gift to me was to re-energize my enthusiasm. Though I never met their grandmother…she felt like a friendly spirit. And I AM BACK!

Exploring my Quaker Roots

Of course, the conversation about Quaker heritage steered me to Obadiah J. Downing and his wife, Lydia H. Titus.  They were the last practicing Quakers of my ancestry and though I have been working on them and their ancestral lines for years, it was with the most rudimentary understanding of Quakerism and their contribution to American History.

In an effort to learn more, I contacted Swarthmore University which houses the Friends Historical Library.  They are in my backyard so to speak so I can spend as much time as I would like exploring Quaker history.   I called and spoke to an archivist and the five minute phone conversation energized and intrigued me so much that I had to restrain myself from jumping in the car and diving into their archival material then and there.

From experience I know that you don’t just go to a resource without preparation and I had better organize my work.

Gathering my Quaker materials and tidying up the Downing files, I realized I had unfinished business.  I had good records going back to George Downing who migrated from Warwick, R.I. in the late 1600’s to Oyster Bay, Long Island.  For some reason, I had stopped there…probably distracted by another ancestor…they are a noisy bunch and it happens more often than not.

The Downing files are a hodgepodge which included the family material of his first wife, Mary Coles.  Somehow I had ignored the abundant and interesting information on her family.  George Downing is my 6th great grandfather. Mary was his first wife.  I am descended from his second wife, Phebe Valentine.   But the Coles had a story to tell and had waited patiently for me while my ancestors quieted down until I was at their doorstep in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Samuel Gorton “One of the Noble Spirits”

Samuel Gorton

Mary Coles was the daughter of Daniel Coles and Maha-shalal-hasbaz Gorton.   Her grandfather, Samuel Gorton was born in Lancashire, England to well-heeled Thomas Gorton and his wife, Ann.  Samuel was privately tutored and classically educated, fluent in Greek and Hebrew.  His command of both languages served him well as he studied the bible in its original language.  He left England “to enjoy the liberty of conscience in respect to faith toward God and for no other end.”  Traveling with Samuel was his wife, Mary Maplet “a lady of education and refinement”.

When Samuel arrived in  Puritan ruled Boston in March of 1636, it became clear that his personal interpretation of the bible and his politics made his presence undesirable.  At one point he was jailed for his religious and political views and once freed, he and his followers were thrown out of Boston.  They made their way to Portsmouth, Rhode Island, but the “Gortonists” now numbering around 100 souls, suffered more from the hands of the Massachusetts Puritans.  William Arnold (Benedict Arnold’s father) was a prominent Portsmouth citizen and appealed to Boston to “rid him of the Gortonists”. Samuel’s house was burned and as they fled,  Massachusetts soldiers fired on them until they surrendered.

A trial was held…the group being charged with being “blasphemous enemies of the true religion” and escaped death by one vote.  Sentenced to wear chains and leg irons, Samuel and his followers were rescued from their fate by a secret supporter of Samuel Gorton…Massachusetts Governor, John Winthrop.  The sentenced was reduced to banishment.

In 1640 the Gortonists left Plymouth in a raging snowstorm and made their way to what was called Providence.  In 1642 they purchased the lands of Shawomet from the Narragansett Sachems.  The little community became friends with the Indians and settled down.  It was shortly after Samuel and Mary and their children arrived that their daughter, Maha-Shalal-Hasbaz was born.  According to the “History and Genealogy of the Cock, Cocks, Cox Family”, her name was a commemoration of “Gorton’s hegira from Boston to Warwick” referring to the Bible passage of Isaiah VIII:1, 3 which recounted a similar travail.

But Massachusetts was not done with Samuel and continued to harrass him and his followers, imprisoning him again only to release him upon condition that he leave the land that the Gortonists had purchased.

Samuel was released and a man of his word, in 1645 he returned to England sailing out of Manhattan.  His family remained behind living with nearby Indians.  While in England, Samuel met an old friend, Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick.  The two fashioned a manuscript “Simplicities Defense against a Seven Headed Policy” and presented it to Parliament.  As a result, in 1847 Samuel was granted a Royal Charter and received an “order of safe passage”.   He set sail for the New World and much to the displeasure of the Massachusetts government, they were required to provide him with military escort to Rhode Island and were ordered to never interfere with the Gortonists again.

Upon arrival to his Rhode Island home, he named the land Warwick after his friend.

In 1649 Samuel was elected General Assistant to the Governor and in 1651 he was elected as the first President of the towns of Providence and Warwick.  He also held offices as Commissioner and Deputy Governor.

On December 10, 1677 Samuel died at the age of 85 and is buried in Warwick behind a home off Warwick Neck Road.  The Gortonist sect continued for 100 years after his death.

All of this research and reading came about because Samuel named his daughter, Maha-Shalal-Hasbaz and in the New England of their day…and  given the Puritan propensity to name one’s daughters Patience, Thankful, Silence…the name of Maha-Shalal-Hasbaz Gorton compelled me to learn more about her and her parents.   Samuel and Mary Gorton’s daughter led me to the remarkable history of the founding of the colony of Providence and Rhode Island Plantations and the realization that along with Roger Williams, Samuel Gorton played a major role in its existence.

Now where was I?  Oh yes…back to the Downing files.


1. “The History and Genealogy of the Cock, Cocks, Cox Family”. Compiled by George William Cocks. Privately Printed 1914.

2. “The Life and Times of Samuel Gorton. The Founders and The Founding of the Republic, a section of Early United States History and a History of the Colony of Providence and Rhode Island Plantations in The Narragansett Indian Country now The State of Rhode Island 1592-1636-1677-1687”.  By Adelos Gorton.  Published:Philadelphia, 1907.

3. Derivation of Maha-Shalal-Hasbaz.   “Hurry to spoil!” or “He has made haste to the plunder!” -Marhar Shalal Hasbaz was the second mentioned son of the prophet Isaiah.[2] The name is a reference to the impending plunder of Samaria and Damascus by the king of Assyria. Maher-shalal-hash-baz is mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah 8:1-4, which section was later quoted in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 18:1-4. This is the longest name (and word) used in the Bible.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2012.  All Rights Reserved