Like Aphrodite of old, the first Applegate in the New World arose full-grown from the sea. He has no documented history prior to his appearance in the colonies, but his name was Thomas. There are many references to and records of his life in the New England colonies. Our earliest authentic record is the granting of a license to run a ferry between present day Weymouth (nee Wassaguscus) and Braintree (nee Wolliston) on 02 September 1635 (Shurtleff, N. 1853. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. 5 Vols.). However, six months later (03 March 1636) the same record tells us that Thomas was discharged from keeping the ferry and was replaced by Henry Kingman.
The earliest reference to Thomas being in the New World, but on an ill-defined date, is given by Nash (Nash, C. G. 1905. Weymouth In It's First Twenty Years Weymouth Historical Society Publication 3).
In March of the next year (1636) Thomas Applegate also a prior settler (prior to the Hull Company of 1635), was removed from his position as ferry keeper and Henry Kingman, one of the new-comers appointed to succeed him. (Material in brackets added.)
There is evidence that although Thomas had his license withdrawn, he retained control of the ferry. On 04 December 1638, William Blanton was enjoined to appear to the next court at Newe-Towne (now Cambridge, Massachusetts) with all the men that were in a canoe with him and with ____ Aplegate, who owned the canoe out of which the three persons were drowned. It was ordered that no canoe should be used as a ferry upon paine of 5s nor no canoe to be made in our jurisdiction before the next Generall Court upon pain of 10s (paraphrased) (Shurtleff, N. 1853. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. 5 Vols. I:246) At the next court, 05 March 1639, Willi Blanton, Willi Potter, Rob't Thorpe, Henry Neal, John Fitch, and Thomas Aplegate, appearing, were discharged, with an admonition not to adventure too many into any boat (Shurtleff, I:249). Thomas, besides being admonished, also lost his canoe. It was staved by court order i.e., bottom knocked out (Shurtleff, I:246).
John Stillwell Applegate, a judge from Red Bank, New Jersey, in a letter to his father dated 06 December 1896 said:
It was an ancient law that the instrument which caused the death of a person should be forfeited to the king, to be applied to pius uses. Blackstone says that in the blind days of popery such forfeitures were designed as an expiation for the souls of those snatched away by sudden death. Hence the name "Deoland," given to God. But the true reason for such forfeitures in the latter days seems to have been, that the owner of the instrument should be deprived of it as a punishment for their negligence (DTA, film 973).
The same court, that ordered the canoe staved, also ordered Thomas to be given 29 shillings for his canoe, provided he returned in good condition arms he had borrowed (Shurtleff, I:249).
The canoe was a necessity to transport people and goods, via water, between the two settlements of Weymouth and Braintree. An account written in 1634 says "three miles to the north of this" (Wessagyscus) "is Mount Walleston ... A second inconvenience is, that boats cannot come in at low water, nor ships near the shore" (Young, A. 1975. Chronicles of the First Planters of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay from 1623 to 1636 quote is taken from Wood, W. 1634, Description of Massachusetts).
In 1641, testimony by George Allen, son of the George Allen who later purchased the land of Thomas, also connects Thomas with a boat:
Thomas Rawlins of Weymouth in New England ffisherman aged about 33. yeares sworne upon his oath that in or about Oct last he heard John King of Weymouth seaman undertake unto Thomas Applegate of Weymouth planter to goe in his boate as Master thereof if an other man could be gotten by either of them to goe wth him the said John King to help manage the said boate and they agreed together that the said John King should have his owne parte of the fishe taken by himself in the sd boat freight free & that the said Thomas Applegate should have the 4th penny of freight of goods carryed in the said boate and that if the boate or any goods therein should be miscarryed cast away or hurt by ill ordering or laying of the said boate the said John King should beare the damage thereof and their words & agreement were to this purpose.
George Allen of Weymouth in New England planater aged about twenty one yeares sworne saith upon his oath that about the begining of November last one day late wthinnight he was present in the house of John King of Weymouth seaman Master of Thomas Applegates boate & there heard the said John King say to William Newland that he would not stand to the adventure of the goods of the said William Newland laden in the said boate if that one hogshead of salt more of his were put into the same boate, whereto the said Newland answered that not withstanding he would have the said hogshead put into the said boate that night & if the boate were overladen in the morning some of the said goods might be again taken out thereof or words to that purpose and hereupon this deponent wth others did help put in the said hogshead that night into the said boate & in the next morning the boate did not rise but sunke to that side where the said hogshead lay and this deponent knoweth thatrhe said boate did rise well enought one tyde when the resr of the said goods besides the said hogshead were in it (Hale, E. E. 1885. Note-book kept by Thomas Lechford, Esq. Lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts Bay from June 27, 1638 to July 29, 1641. Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society, 7:215).
In a footnote to the above, it is observed that in 1636 Thomas was discharged from keeping the ferry but from later entries, it appeared that Thomas continued until 1638 as owner of the ferry although William Blanten may have actually managed the ferry.
Just one day after the sinking, Newland filed suit against Thomas for eight pounds - and won. George Allen testified it was Newland's salt that had been in Thomas' boat and therefore Newland was entitled to damages (Chamberlain, G. W. 1923. History of Weymouth, Massachusetts. 4 Vols. 4:443).
The ferry and the Allen family were connected later. George Allen, the purchaser of Thomas' land, came to Weymouth with the Hulls in April 1635. One of his sons, John, was granted land "in the plaine" prior to 1643. This land had originally been given to Thomas (Chamberlain, 3:11). George Jr., another son, complained to the general court "about the ferry at Weymouth" on 10 March 1640.
According to Chamberlain (3:14) Thomas' first land was "in the plaine" and then given to John Allen. Later, Thomas was given land "on the west side of Great Pond." Chamberlain goes on to say, without documentation, that Thomas was in Weymouth prior to 1635. He then given another version of the famous/infamous canoe. According to him, John King was the captain when the drowning took place. Besides the passengers, the canoe carried a load of salt that caused the capsizing.
The last land record for Thomas in Weymouth is 02 February 1651 when he was given lot 28 on "the east side of Fresh Pond." (Nash, C. G. 1863. Historical Sketch of the Town of Waymouth, Massachusetts)
The final item on the land of Thomas is given by Nash, p. 255:
The land of John Allin
ffive acres on the plaine first granted to Thomas Applegate bounded on the East by a lot of Joseph Shawes on the East & south with on the West by Ralph Allins lot the sea on the north two acres at the same bounded with the sea Eyght acres on the necke the land of Henry Kingman on the East Thomas Holbrooke on the west the common on the north first granted to George Allin Two acres and a quarter twelve rod of meddow in the wester neck first giuen to George Allin bounded on the East with the marsh of Richard Silquester on the west with the marsh of William ffrie the sea on the north the land of Henry Kingman on the south ...
In 1641, Joshua Coffin noted that he saw Thomas in Weymouth (Farmer, J. 1964. A Genealogical Register of the First Settlers of New England).
Apparently, their independent spirit and free speech did not endear the Applegates to the Puritans. The contentions which plagued them in Massachusetts may have been a factor to induce them to move to Rhode Island. Characteristaclly, the first data from Rhode Island is of Thomas in court (Chapin, H. M. 1916. Documentary History of Rhode Island. 2 Vols.). He filed suit against John Room(e) of Newport for use of a house on 01 December 1641. In a complicated set of suits, Thomas, Room(e), Nicolas Cotteral and William Heavens sued and countersued each other up to 03 December 1643 (Chapin, pp. 135, 138, 142, 150, 152).
According to Rhode Island Colony Records (1:7), the land had been granted to William Heavens by the town council. Heavens, identified as a carpenter, mortgaged the property to Nicholas Cotteral and, with the money, built a house on the lot. Later, Cotteral foreclosed and sold the porperty and house to Thomas. He, in turn, attempted to sell it to George Cozzens. The property apparently is on what is now Aquidneck Avenue, Middletown (then part of Newport).
Our next record of Thomas is also a court case (Rhode Island Colony Records, 1:135). A Jermey Gould filed against Thomas. Both are identified as being from Newport. Mr. Coggesdall was appointed as referee and both Thomas and Jermey were ordered to abide by his decision no later than the last day of April, 1642. Neither the cause of the dispute nor the resolution are listed.
Edward Browce sold Thomas, identified as a weaver, a four-acre house lot between the lots of George Cleer and Thomas Roberts on 21 January 1643 (Rhode Island Colony Records, 2:3). The same records show that George Gardiner switched lots with Thomas Applegate. The lots are in the region of Newport's main post office - Thames Street at Memorial Boulevard. In the 1650's all these home lots were purchased by Benedict Arnold, the great-grandfather of the traitor. Their separate identities were lost at that time.
On 20/21 March 1643, James Rogers sold three parcels of land to Thomas Applegate, weaver (Rhode Island Colony Records, 2:1): 1) Roger's house and lot; 2) a four-acre lot between the lots of Edward Andrews and Michaell Spence; 3) the western half of Roger's "30-acre great lot."
On 06 May 1643, Edward Andrews sold to Robert Jefferies two four-acre lots (Rhode Island Colony Records, 2:4). The land north of the lots was described as being owned by Thomas Applegate, weaver. However, Thomas had sold that land to Jefferies nine months earlier.
Thomas took time out from his real estate dealings (but not for long) to engage in another court case. On 07 June 1643, William Dyer of Newport filed suit against Thomas Applegate, weaver, of the same town for "detayning of goods to the damage of 40s the D:acknowledged wrong & was injoyned to aske forgiveness of the pl and his wife for wronging of them & so carry back the goods to the Pl. house" (Rhode Island Colony Records, 2:141).
On the same page (and probably on or near the same date) Henry Bull filed suit against Thomas for trespass. Applegate was to "Satisfie" the claim by order of the court.
A few months later, 20 August 1643, Thomas sold to Robert Jefferies two home lots of four acres each (Rhode Island Colony Records, 2:3). One lot was that sold Thomas on 21 January 1643 by Edward Browce. The other lot, location unknown, was given Thomas by the town.
Thomas also held land to the south. It is now known as Price's Neck. By the original deed, William Dyre bought the neck from Thomas Applegate who obtained it by a town grant. On 20 December 1644, Dyre sold it to George Gardiner (Rhode Island Colony Records, 2:5). On 14 December 1652, Gardiner sold it to John Price (hence today's name).
Appelgat's Plaine is mentioned in Rhode Island Land Evidence, 1:71. William Dyre was colony secretary and he was one of the men who originally laid out the roads, farms and lots. In 1654, he wrote:
An other high-way from the Entrance of mr. Coggesdalls farme to goe to castle hill and soe leadinge to all the Lands and Comons upon the neck wch way was layd out by us to the Brooke that came down by Apelgates Plaine the rest is not detirmined as yett where to runn - A highway from the Towne layd out of 2 poles wide to wi. Dyres farme and soe to lead to the lands on the north side of the Towne girt the meadows, mr. Coggingtons Cow-pasture the Artillery Garden mr. Clarkes land and Willia Dyres Land soe by mr. Dyres meadow a way into the land that the said Dyre bought of Apelgate to fetch off the wood of that land for the townes use which land was layd forth by Captn Clarke and mr. Robert Jefferays as alsoe byn them was the wood reserved and the way appointed only for that use.
Sometime after Thomas sold his 15-acre farm, on 05 May 1644, he must have left Rhode Island. On 10 Oct 1645, he was one of the original patentees of Flushing, Long Island (Thompson, B. J. 1962. History of Long Island 3rd ed. 3 vols.).
Apparently, Thomas did not stay in Flushing long. John Ruckman, one of the original patentees of Gravesend, sold Thomas land in Gravesend on 12 November 1646 (Gravesend, 1:4. Records of the town were transcribed in the early 1900's. The transcripts are in the James A. Kelly Institute for Local Historical Studies, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, New York). On 17 December 1646, the town council of Gravesend included Tho. Aplegate in the list of those required to keep twenty poles for a fence to be erected between the various lots (Gravesend, 1:9). Thomas failed to keep up his part of the fence. On 13 April 1647, the town council decided to "hyer a man to doe it" and have Thomas chared with the costs (Gravesend, 1:10). Later, in February 1648, Thomas agreed to help fence the common pasture.
As usual, while in Gravesend, Thomas and Elizabeth were caught up in court cases. On 12 September 1648, Ambrose London brought suit against Elizabeth for saying that his wife milked the cows of Elizabeth. Elizabeth admitted she had said it but that she was merely repeating what Penelope Price had told her. Upon questioning, Penelope acknowledged her fault and apologized. There is no record of Elizabeth being fined (Gravesend, 1:24).
Thomas did not have a good year in 1650. Driggs (Driggs, L. L. 1939. The Baxters of New Amsterdam. New York Genealogical and Biographical Register, 70:3-16.) identifies his as owning a farm and "seem(ing) to have spend most of his leisure in the public stocks on the common outside Lady Moody's door." Furman (Furman, J. P. 1983. Thomas and Elizabeth Applegate of Gravesend. mss.) has analyzed the court cases of Thomas while in Gravesend. He concludes there is some evidence that Driggs overstated both Thomas' offenses and his penalties.
In one of the 1650 cases, Nicholas Stillwell brought action for slander against Thomas for saying "if plaintiffs debts were paid he would have little left." Apparently, Thomas stood mute; he was admonished and fined 12 guilders plus court costs (Gravesend, 1:58).
On 08 January 1651, Sergeant Hubbard, on behalf of his wife, brought suit against Thomas. Thomas was charged with slander in saying that Hubbard had but half a wife:
Robert Clarke being disposed saith that Thomas Aplegate Sr. being some time att Manhattan, there waiting three days to have ye company of the said Robert Clarke to ye plantation of Gravesend, of ye way hee, his wife and said deponent come along, ye said defendent said:"I heare" said hee, 'ye Governor Stuyvesant hath layed out your daughter for Ensign Baxter but I hope you will be wiser. 'Why?" said ye deponent. Ye defendent replyed saying: "Hee is a beggerly scabb and most of his maintainance hee hath in the place we are going to ; and when hee is there ye Serjant Hubbard hath but halfe a wife." Ye wife of Mr. Clarke of ye age 48 being disposed witnesses the same. Thomas said "hee never spoke ye words."e;
The court found him guilty. He was sentenced to "stand att ye public post during ye pleasure of ye court with a Paper upon his breast mentioning the fact that hee is a notorious scandalous person." Later, Thomas admitted he said the remark and asked Mrs. Hubbard for forgiveness - which she gave. Thomas had to post a bond, on 11 January 1651, of 500 guilders to speak no more scandal. The bond was boided on 01 July 1652 at the request of Thomas (Gravesend, 1:59, 60, 66).
According to Stillwell (Stillwell, J. E. 1970. Historical and Genealogical Miscellany Relating to the Settlement and Settlers of New York and New Jersey. 5 vols. 3:29), trivial suits such as these became so common, the courts in self-defence ruled that if the charges were not sustained, the plaintiff was fined. He attributes the suits to the isolated and dull lives of the colonists. Their "mental development on wholesome and broad lines" was not encouraged by their lifestyles. Talk degenerated into gossip of a dangerous, personal line, readily embellished and circulated over the convivial cup at the tavern." Usually, in a court suit, the defendant, if found guilty, was let off if they confessed their guilt and expressed remorse. Thomas, however, as a result of his loose tongue, stood in danger of losing it altogether.
Thomas Applegate, so often in trouble, was charged with slandering Governor Stuyvesant, by saying he took bribes. He was brought before the town court in 1650, found guilty, the following is his sentence: "The court convinced by the evidence, that he has spoken the said words, which are so contrary to all rules and laws devine and human, to scandalize and speak evil, especially of the governor, do adjudge that the said Applegate do deserve to have his tongue bored through with a red-hot iron, and to make public acknowledge of his great transgression therein, and never to have credit or belief in any testimony or relation he shall make either in court or country, and the execution of the said sentence do refer him to the mercy of the governor."
Thomas escaped sentence by confessing his guilt (Stockwell, A. P. 1885. Gravesend, L.I. Old and New. New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, XVL:97-110.) (Gravesend, 1:56-58).
On 06 October 1651, Richard Gibbons filed suit against Thomas for "violateing ye gates belongeing to ye common field" (Gravesend, 1:90). On 09 November 1651, Thom. Aplegat Senior sued William Auldridge for a debt of 9 guilders 7 stivers. William Vowne said he would try to pay the devt in a weeks time "if he can pcure ye money to see it pd." The court ordered Auldridge to pay it in 14 days if Vowne did not pay (Gravesend, 1:92). On the same day, Thomas brought suit against William Goulder for a devt of 35 guilders 10 stivers.
Thomas was in trouble again for his fence on 08 January 1651. He failed to maintain it so the town repaired it and charged him for the costs (Gravesend, 1:61). On the same day, son John was at Thomas' house. The court sent for John to pay his fine for breaking of the peace. John refused and told the court to "doe theyer worste" (Gravesend, 1:61).
The last reference I have found for Thomas is 15 January 1656 when he appraised the estate of John Morris (Gravesend, 3:445). Thomas' wife, Elizabeth, and sons, Bartholomew, John and Thomas appear as freeholders of land in Gravesend in 1657 (Thompson, B. J. 1962. History of Long Island 3rd ed. 3 vols. 3:117). Thomas Sr. may have died sometime in the years 1656-1657. Those listing his death in 1652 are mistaken.
All traditions say Thomas moved to Holland to escape political or religious persecution. There is no factual evidence for this that I have found. His stay in Holland (if he did go) is said to have been short (Salter, E. 1890. History of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. p. v). Hardeman (Hardeman, M. G. N. 1957. Genealogical Data of the Applegate Family. Film 858665, Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints. p. 2) quoting Harvey L. Applegate says Thomas left England for Holland about 1625. This date, if true, supports the earlier birth date. It also means he was in Holland no more than 10 years since the ferry license is dated 1635.
All traditions agree that Thomas moved to Holland to escape religious and/or political persecution. His documented outspokenness makes either possible. However, the sole reference to his religious biliefs says he was an adherent of the Church of England (Lewis Historical Publishing Company. 1922. History of Monmouth County, 1664-1920. 3 vols. 3:12). Of his issue, only the religious preference of Bartholomew is known - Church of England (Weeks, L. H. 1912. Genealogy. 2 vols. 1:230). This does not prove he did not suffer religious persecution; it does make it unlikely that he did though.
Obviously, his frankness of speech could have led to political persecution. I have found no data for or against this suggestion. It will be recalled that Thomas showed financial resources when he came to Massachusetts Bay Colony and an eye for business. This suggest another possible reason for the sojourn in Holland.
In the early 1600's, Holland and England were tied closely together in trade. Citizens of both countries freely entered into business with each other. There was free interchange of people and monies. Treaties of 1578 and 1617 allowed Englishmen to settle in Holland for the puposes of trade. Perhaps Thomas was engaged in trade. He is identified as a weaver in several sources. "The term 'weaver' apparently had a more general meaning that we would give it, embracing all engaged in cloth manufacture including the merchant of cloth and sometimes the ship owner. It implied more moveable wealth and more active intelligence than belonging to the laboring farmer (few farmers owned the land they tilled) and from it was generally presumed certion religious opinions" (Woodford, J. A. 1984. Personal Letter).