By Jared L. Olar
July 2007-January 2014
My late mother Dolores Frances (Shaw) Olar was the tenth generation of her family in America, directly descended from JOHN SHAW, our colonist ancestor in Massachusetts in the early 1600s. Starting below is a presentation of her Shaw lineage, proceeding father to son, with occasional discussion of collateral branches and cousins. As mentioned on the Shaw Genealogy page, the old family records, notes, photographs, and papers that I inherited from my late grandmother Frances (Miller) Shaw Keithahn form the basis of the following account of the Shaw genealogy, but these records have also been greatly augmented and extended thanks to the help of many cousins. Two chief sources are Benjamin Shurtleff and Margaret Johnson Drake's unsourced but very useful and generally accurate manuscript John Shaw of Plymouth, Massachusetts (1972), and John Shaw of Plymouth Plantation in Progress, the database of my distant cousin Kenneth L. Shaw III of Taunton, Massachusetts. One of Kenneth's sources is an important genealogical study prepared by Kenneth's cousin Jonathan Allen Shaw, "John Shaw of Plymouth Colony, Purchaser and Canal Builder," published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1997) 151:259-285, 417-437. (Jonathan Allen Shaw's mailing address was listed in this study as P.O. Box 123, Sandwich, Massachusetts, 02563.) Jonathan A. Shaw's study is the definitive work treating the first three generations of our Shaw family in this country. My distant cousin Paul H. Shaw of Tennessee has kindly provided a copy of Jonathan A. Shaw's study, which thus serves as a chief source for the first three generations below. Kenneth's database also incorporates information from his late cousin Jonathan Arthur "Jack" Shaw, who had prepared an exhaustive compilation of the Carver, Plymouth County, Massachusetts burial records of Lakenham Cemetery, corner of Linton Drive and Forest Street, North Carver, Union Cemetery, Central Cemetery, Wenham Cemetery and some early Town Hall Records. Kenneth's database also includes genealogical and topographical information supplied by his cousin Dana Shaw Ward concerning our Shaw family homesteads and locations in Massachusetts. In addition to Shurtleff and Drake's manuscript and Kenneth's database, my other sources include Eugene Aubrey Stratton's Plymouth Colony: Its History and People 1620-1691 (1986), page 350; Robert Charles Anderson's The Great Migration Begins (1995), vol. III, pages 1659-1662; and James Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (1884, 1994), vol. IV, pages 63-65. Information from Kenneth Shaw's database, greatly augmented and at times corrected by Jonathan Allen Shaw's definitive study, forms the basis of the first four generations shown below and on the subsequent webpages.
Outline of our Shaw lineage
1. John Shaw (c.1597-c.1664), probably married twice | 2. Deacon Jonathan Shaw (1629-1701) m1. Phebe Watson (1637-c.1682) | 3. Benoni Shaw (c.1672-1751) m. Lydia Waterman (1678-1757) | 4. Benjamin Shaw (c.1715-1792) m. Mary Atwood (1723-1808) | 5. Capt. Job Shaw (c.1763-1821) m. Lucy Sherman (1768-1813) | 6. Manly Sherman Shaw (1811-1891) m. Malinda DeWolf (1817-1892) | 7. James Monroe Shaw (1838-1876) m. Mary Rebecca Linn (1841-1917) | 8. Sherman Linn Shaw (1864-1942) m2. Grace Esther Bender (1878-1941) | 9. Sherman Linn Shaw II (1912-1973) m. Frances Mae Miller (1917-1993) | 10. Dolores Frances Shaw (1936-2007) m. Joseph Olar (1927- )
Ten Generations of Shaws
1. JOHN SHAW, born circa 1597, very likely in England or perhaps in Scotland or, perhaps less likely, in Ireland; died circa 1664 in Plymouth Colony (Middleboro), Massachusetts; thought to be buried in Nemasket Hill Cemetery, Plymouth Street, Middleboro, Massachusetts. Shurtleff and Drake's John Shaw of Plymouth, Massachusetts (1950, 1972), page 5, says John died 24 Oct. 1694, which would have made John unusually long-lived for that era. However, that date comes from an old misreading of Savage's Genealogical Dictionary, page 64, which assigns the date of death of 24 Oct. 1694 to John's daughter and shows no date of death for John at all. The surname of John Shaw and his descendants variously appears in the old handwritten records of Massachusetts as "Shawe," "Shaw," "Shaul," "Shew," "Shoare," "Shore," etc. Our ancestor John Shaw appears more than 50 times in the early records of Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, in the period from 1626 to 1664.
Nothing is really known of John's life prior to his immigration to Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. Shurtleff and Drake's John Shaw of Plymouth, Massachusetts (1972), page 5, says he was born in England and that he "left Plymouth, England in 1622 and came to this country as early as 1627, his wife and children coming afterwards." As for his place of birth, guesses include London, or Essex, or Kent, or Yorkshire, or Dalton in Furness, Lancashire. As mentioned above, for all we know he could have been born in Ireland or Scotland and moved to England as a child or an adult, though that seems to be not as likely as a birth in England since John's known children did not have typically Scottish names. In his study, Jonathan A. Shaw says, "The origins of John Shaw in England have not been found -- nor are they likely to be since the name John Shaw is a common one" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:261). John Shaw and his children in Massachusetts were English in culture, and DNA testing suggests that he probably was either of English origin or else was of male-line Irish ancestry and was descended from the O'Sheas or Shees of Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny. Kenneth Shaw lists six English baptismal or birth records of children named "John Shaw," any of which or none of which might be our John:
John Shaw, baptised 10 Aug. 1589 in Bingley, Yorkshire, son of John Shaw and Mary Ryley John Shaw, baptised 2 Sept. 1597 in Dalton in Furness, Lancashire, son of James Shaw John Shaw, baptised 16 Jan. 1599 in Middleton, Lancashire, son of John Shaw and Margaret Barlow John Shaw, born 4 April 1600 in Ellastone, Staffordshire, son of John and Alice Shaw John Shawe, baptised 13 July 1600 at St. Botolph Parish, Bishopsgate, son of John Shawe John Shawe, baptised 26 Aug. 1604 at St. Botolph Parish, Bishopsgate, son of John Shawe
It's likely that the two John Shawes of St. Botolph were both children of John Shawe and Agnes Ewdall, who were married 25 June 1598 at St. Botolph, Bishopsgate. The John baptised in 1600 may have died in infancy, and his parents then gave another son the same name. The marriage record of John and Agnes appears on page 30 of vol. 1 of the old parish registers of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate. The above shown 1600 baptism of John Shawe is on page 147 of vol. 1 of the St. Botolph parish registers, while the 1604 baptism of John Shaw is on page 158 of the same volume. Two other Shawe baptisms, apparently children of John Shawe and Agnes Ewdall, are also recorded in the St. Botolph registers: Thomas Shawe, baptised 2 May 1602, son of "John Shawe, carpenter" (page 152), and Robert Shawe, baptised 25 May 1607, son of John Shawe (page 166). There is, of course, no way to tell if this is our Shaw family. Indeed, if our John was born circa 1597 then he could not have been either of the two John Shawes who were baptised at St. Botolph in 1600 and 1604.
Whether or not our John ever lived in Plymouth, England, as Shurtleff claimed, he certainly immigrated from southern England (Essex?) no later than 1626 to Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. In that year, he appears as one of the colony's Purchasers or shareholders in one of the letters of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony:
"The twenty-seven men who signed the agreement to allow privileges to the eight Undertakers in return for their assumption of the debt are: William Brewster, Cuthbert Cuthbertson, William Palmer, Stephen Hopkins, John Adams, Experience Mitchell, Francis Eaton, Phineas Pratt, Edward Bangs, Jonathan Brewster, Stephen Tracy, Samuel Fuller, Manasseh Kempton, Edward Doty, Robert Hicks, Thomas Prence, Joshua Pratt, John Howland, Anthony Annable, Stephen Deane, John Billington, John Shaw, William Wright, Peter Brown, William Bassett, Francis Cooke, John Faunce" (Governor William Bradford's letter book (1906), pages 38-40)
Jonathan A. Shaw adds that, "As a Purchaser, one of 58 freemen, he agreed to pay three bushels of corn or six pounds of tobacco yearly, to enjoy as a consequence of his purchase the Colony's anticipated prosperity, and to receive future land grants," and explains in a footnote that the 1626 purchase agreement "must have been signed just before 24 March 1626/7, for Governor Bradford wrote that 'after' signing the purchase agreement 'we made division of the cattle'" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:261). This is the earliest known reference to John on record. It is unknown exactly when and how John Shaw came to Plymouth Colony. Charles Knowles Bolton had listed John Shaw among the founding settlers of Wessagusset Colony (Weymouth, Massachusetts) in 1622 (The Real Founders of New England (1929), Appendix B, pages 161, 176), supposedly being one of the passengers on the Sparrow along with Phineas Pratt. However, it is significant that Shaw does not appear in the 1623 Plymouth land division as does Pratt, which is a problem if Shaw was really a Wessagusset refugee as Pratt was. On this question, Jonathan A. Shaw commented in his study as follows:
"Although Shaw was not one of the first settlers of Plymouth Colony, he and only one other man, Phineas Pratt, were given the privileges belonging to 'old-comers,' those arriving on the first four Pilgrim ships, Mayflower, Fortune, Ann, and Little James . . . . It has been suggested [by Bolton] that he came over in 1622 with Phineas Pratt in the ship Sparrow, Swan, or Charity to plant Thomas Weston's new colony at Wessagusset (now Weymouth). If Shaw arrived with Pratt, it would have been at least three years before he himself appeared on the Plymouth record as a Purchaser, and over four years before he was selected as one of the leaders in the May 1627 livestock division. Shaw had two sons, John and James, born before August 1627, and it seems unlikely that he was separated for four years from a wife and two young children. It is much more probable that he came over in 1625 or 1626 as a seaman in a fishing ship or in one of the cargo ships, such as the Jacob in 1625, which brought cattle to the Colony, and even this hypothesis does not preclude the speculation that he first came over with Pratt and then returned to England before emigrating" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:261, 262).
In 1627, the year after his appearance as a Plymouth Colony Purchaser, John shared in Plymouth Colony's division of cattle, the first person in the sixth company. The cattle division took place through the drawing of lots on 22 May 1627. Jonathan A. Shaw comments in his study that John's selection as a leader of one of the companies "indicates that he was related to one or more of the Plymouth colonists" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:262). In fact, some members of his company may well have been related to him. The text of the 1627 cattle division reads:
The sixt lott fell to John Shaw & his companie Joyned 1 to him 2 John Adams 3 Eliner Adams 4 James Adams 5 John Winslow 6 Mary Winslow 7 Willm Basset 8 Elizabeth Bassett 9 Willyam Basset Junor 10 Elyzabeth Basset Junor 11 ffrancis Sprage 12 Anna Sprage 13 Mercye Sprage To this lot fell the lesser of the black Cowes Came at first in the Ann wth which they must keepe the bigest of the 2 steers. Also to this lott was two shee goats.
John Shaw is mentioned a second time in the cattle division under the seventh lot, which fell to Stephen Hopkins. The seventh lot was to receive livestock that included "the Calfe of this yeare to come of the black Cow, which fell to John Shaw & his Companie." John appears in the cattle division without wife or children, but it is known that he married at least once in England, where he probably had at least two of his four known children. As noted above, Shurtleff and Drake state that John's wife and children came to Massachusetts after him. However, doubt surrounds the identity of the mother of John's children, as he may have married more than once. After settling in Massachusetts, John appears with a wife named ALICE, born circa 1600 probably in England, died 6 March 1654/5 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is not known whether Alice was the mother or stepmother of his children. If she was their mother, then based on the probable age of John's eldest known child, she and John married circa 1621. If Alice was their stepmother, then it was circa 1621 that John married his unknown first wife. In addition, if Alice was John's second wife, then it's possible that he married her in Massachusetts -- indeed, Alice may even have been the widow of another Plymouth colonist for all we know. On this question, Jonathan A. Shaw says, "It is likely that [Alice] was not the mother of his children and that he had one or more earlier wives . . . . The prevalence of the given names Hannah/Anne -- and perhaps Abigail as well -- in the descendants of John Shaw suggests that his unknown wife or wives may have been named Hannah/Anne or Abigail." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:261)
Though there is uncertainty regarding the maternity of John Shaw's children, the records and Shaw family tradition affirm that he had three sons and one daughter. The eldest, JOHN SHAW JR., was born in England by about 1622. John Jr. had a sister named ABIGAIL SHAW, born perhaps around 1624, probably in England, wife of STEPHEN BRYANT. The other known children of John Shaw Sr. were JAMES SHAW, born perhaps around 1626 either in England or Plymouth Colony, and JONATHAN SHAW, born in Plymouth Colony traditionally on 2 March 1629 or perhaps as late as circa 1631. Kenneth Shaw notes a number of possible candidates for John's hypothetical first wife (who would be the mother of his four children):
John Shawe married 15 May 1610 to Katherine Denny in Halton, Lancashire John Shaw married 14 Feb. 1614 to Katrine Standishe in Winwick, Lancashire John Shaw born circa 1591 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, married 5 May 1616 to Ann Beaumonte in Breswell, Yorkshire John Shawe married 30 June 1622 to Katherine Cockes in Aldermanbury, London John Shaw ("Jno Shaw") married 14 Jan. 1623 Anne Standish, born circa 1603, in St. Dunstan's Church, Hamlet of Stepney Jonathan Shaw born circa 1599, of Wantworth, St. Stepney, London, married Anne Standish John Shawe, vintner, of London, on 20 Jan. 1616/17 obtained license to marry Mary Cosens, widow, of Stepney, Middlesex
Most noteworthy are the last three candidates, which are all associated with Stepney in London. There appears to be some confusion, however, because both John Shaw and Jonathan Shaw are said to be from Stepney and both are said to have married an Anne Standish. Is "Jonathan" merely a duplicate of "John," or were they perhaps brothers or cousins who both married Anne? In any case, the marriage of this John Shaw and Anne Standish could be very significant, for a number of reasons. For one thing, the marriage date agrees with the approximate date of birth of our John's eldest son. For another thing, there is a possibility that Anne Standish was related to the Mayflower Pilgrim Miles Standish. On that score, Katrine Standishe who married a John Shaw in 1616 might also have been a relative of Miles Standish. Now, according to Kenneth Shaw, "There also is evidence of a JOHN SHAW AND HANNAH UNKNOWN up in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, New England in 1627." Kenneth Shaw does not say what that evidence is, but if he is right, that is very probably our John Shaw, whose first wife would have been named "Hannah," a form of the name Anna, Anne, or Ann -- perhaps the Anne Standish of Stepney. In addition, as Kenneth Shaw notes, "There are many connections between Stepney and the Pilgrims who arrived at New England." In those days, according to Kenneth, the old Hamlet of Stepney, East London, included "the districts of Bow, Bethnal Green, Bromley, East Smithfield, the Isle of Dogs, Mile End, Limehouse, Poplar, Ratcliffe, Saint George, Shadwell, Waping, Whitechapel, Stepney and others." Due to the Pilgrim associations with Stepney, however, there is also a possibility that the 1616/17 marriage of John Shawe and Mary Cosens is that of our John Shaw. This latter marriage is recorded on page 48 of Allegations for Marriage Licences Issued by the Bishop of London England 1611 to 1628 (published by The Harleian Society). The marriage license identifies Mary Cosens as the widow of Henry Cosens of Stepney, vintner, and the license was issued at St. Anne & Agnes, Aldersgate, London.
Jonathan A. Shaw also discusses the possible implications of the 1623 John Shaw/Anne Standish marriage in his study of our Shaw family. He comments, "The date is approximately correct for, say, a first or second marriage of John Shaw, but the IGI also shows the christening of a child John to a John Shaw and mother Hanna at Saint Dunstan on 16 January 1633 -- too late for John Shaw." In other words, if the John and Hanna of 1633 were the John and Anne who married in 1623, then it obviously could not be our John Shaw, who was then living in Massachusetts, not London, and the child also was born too late to be John Shaw Jr. Jonathan A. Shaw continues, "The place of origin of the Miles Standish family has never been conclusively determined despite a hundred years of research, although the Isle of Man has been generally accepted. Thus, despite the possible connection of John Shaw with the Wessagusset colonists and their rescue by Miles Standish the significance of this particular marriage seems slight" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:261).
About six months after the 1627 cattle division, the Plymouth settlers also apportioned the land of the colony. In his study, Jonathan A. Shaw describes the land division as follows:
"Although the records of the land division of 1627 . . . have not been preserved, it is known from [Governor William] Bradford's journal that the head of each family received twenty acres for himself and a multiple thereof for each member of his family, and it is highly probable that the families of each company that received livestock also received land in proximity to one another. According to Governor Bradford, these plots of land were laid out along the shore of Plymouth Bay, extending north and south from the original settlement . . . . The plots, according to Bradford, were mostly five acres wide along the water and four acres deep, which meant that each adult male had at least 1000 feet of seashore and that each lot extended 800 feet inland." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:263)
Continuing, Jonathan A. Shaw explains where our ancestor John Shaw's portion of the 1627 land division was located:
"John Shaw's twenty acres, as we know from later records, was at Plain Dealing on Plymouth Bay, a tract of land two miles to the north of the seventeenth-century village of Plymouth and slightly to the north of the section of Plymouth known then and today as High Cliff. Plain Dealing, a name that at that time meant a plain lying on the edge of the sea, still lies in the town of Plymouth on the border with Kingston." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:263)
About three years after the 1627 cattle and land divisions, John Shaw bought land from his neighbor John Winslow, who was a member of John Shaw's company in the cattle division. On 8 July 1630, Winslow sold to Shaw "all his arable land that is lying in that tract of land that is commonly called Knave's Acre otherwise named Woodbee," located near High Cliff, and part of the consideration was "all the meadow ground tha butteth at the upper end of the said arable land." Jonathan A. Shaw notes in his study, "On this deed, witnessed by Jonathan Brewster, John Shaw's mark -- an indication that he could not read or write -- appears for the first time" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:263). In 1633, John Shaw is named among those who had been admitted as freemen of Plymouth Colony prior to 1 Jan. 1632/33. Most notably, John also was a leader of the group that in 1633 cut the passage between Green's Harbor (Marshfield) and the bay, a watercourse known today as the Cut River. This is related in the account of the founding of Marshfield, Massachusetts, in Plymouth Colony: Its History and People 1620-1691, Part One, Chapter 3:
"First called Green's Harbor, then Rexham, this settlement finally became known as Marshfield. In writing of the year 1632, Bradford noted that some lands were granted at Green's Harbor to some special men who were expected to let their servants farm there but live at Plymouth themselves. Of course, within a few years Marshfield is a town, and Edward Winslow is one of its leading residents. On 1st July 1633 the General Court ordered that Mr. Gilson, John Shaw, and the others who undertook to enlarge the passage between Green's Harbor and the sea, finish it by 1st October, or be fined £10. Whether this is done and later had to be redone, or was not done at all, is not known, but on 3rd January 1636/37 the court ordered again that the passage be enlarged, and the governor, the Assistants, and John Winslow, Jonathan Brewster, John Barnes, and Christopher Wadsworth were to apportion the costs equally to 'every man' and to supervise the work there, with ten men working at a time. It does not seem that 'every man' would refer to the entire colony, but more likely meant every man then living at Marshfield (and possibly some living at Scituate who would have also benefited from this access to the sea)."
Two views of the Cut River at Green Harbor, near Marshfield, Massachusetts
The Cut River, connecting Green Harbor and Duxbury Bay, is the earliest canal still in existence in the United States. In colonial times, the canal was called "the Cutt." It was "cut" (hence its name) in 1633 by a team of Plymouth colonists led by William Gilson and John Shaw.
This project was in fact the digging of a new canal, not simply the enlargment of a passage, though it did make use of creeks and rivers already present. Jonathan A. Shaw in his study informs us that, "This is the earliest canal still in existence in America," explaining in a footnote that, "It was preceded on 5 July 1631 by a cul-de-sac canal, no longer in existence, that led from the Charles River to the settlement at Cambridge." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:259). He describes the construction and history of the Cut River canal as follows:
"It connects Green Harbor and Duxbury Bay to create an inland water route from Plymouth via the Duxbury creeks and Green Harbor River, through a narrow creek to the South River estuary and up the North River to the present town of Hanover. The Cutt, as it was soon called, may have been difficult to complete, and for whatever reason Gilson and Shaw were delayed in the construction. As a consequence the General Court threatened them with £10 fines if they did not fulfill their agreement and finish the work by October 1. Four years later, on 4 January 1637[/7], the Cutt, which had no doubt proved its worth as a safe route for the passage of people and goods between Marshfield, Duxbury, and Plymouth, was ordered to be enlarged to 'eighteene foote wide and sixe foote deep.' Colonial ships and barges in the middle of the seventeenth century were small, and the widened and deepened canal was designed to permit the passage of medium-tonnage vessels, saving many miles of dangerous travel in the open sea. As the General Court formulated its plans on 4 January 1636[/7], it made no mention of John Shaw or his partners, but the difficulties that occurred in 1633 may have been reflected in the fact that the 'ordering' of the project was to be directly under the control of the Governor and his Assistants so that 'tenn men may worke together there at once,' and was requested that the participants 'apportion everyman equally to the charge.' Once constructed, the canal was used by lighters (shallow-draft barges) for the transport of salt hay that was 'mowed, made, stacked and loaded' at Green Harbor. Early in the nineteenth century a new canal was constructed, joining the old one at the Duxbury line. The seventeenth century canal can still be seen where a small bridge crosses it at the corner of Canal and Bay Streets in Marshfield, a winding watercourse approximately 1000 feet long, much narrowed over the years. A granite stone, placed by the Marshfield Historical Commission, marks the site." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:259-260)
Two additional views of the Cut River at Green Harbor, near Marshfield, Massachusetts
The photograph at left shows the Cut River canal looking away from Green Harbor, and the photograph at right shows the canal looking toward the harbor.
John Shaw appears on Plymouth Colony's tax list around the time of his involvement in the cutting of the Cut River canal. He appears on the tax list of 25 March 1633, when he was assessed 18 shillings, and again on the tax list of 27 March 1634, when he was assessed 9 shillings. On 14 Jan. 1636/37, John was "allowed to enlarge at the end of his lot lying at Black Brooke," an indication of the growth and prosperity of Plymouth Colony. On 2 Oct. 1637, he and his neighbors John Atwood and Thomas Armitage were allowed "to have enlargement of lands abutting above their lotts at Playne Dealeing, to the northward, wch lands are to be first viewed, and afterwards to be deuided to them." Jonathan A. Shaw mentions that this enlargement of their property seems to have occasioned a legal dispute, for the Court agreed on 2 April 1638 that "The lands that were proportioned to Mr. Atwood and John Shaw are to stand as they are layd forth to them, prouided they do not prejudice the graunt formerly made to Mr. Prince [Thomas Prence, resident of Plain Dealing and later governor of the Colony] and Mrs Fuller [widow of Dr. Samuel Fuller]." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:264) These are probably the same lots referred to on 4 Feb. 1638/39. About a year or two after that, "John Shawe of Plymouth, planter," sold to William Kemp of Duxbury two and a half acres of meadow land on 2 April 1640. This meadow was located at the eastern end of Kemp's Duxbury property.
In 1638 and 1642, John Shaw appears in two records that pertain to the raising of cattle in Plymouth Colony. "On 26 July 1638 the Colony's stock of cattle from Mr. James Shirley's 1624 donation of a heifer for the poor was distributed, and the 'pyde cow that was Goodman Shawes went to John Shawe -- four shares; Francis Billington -- sixe shares; Mrs Hodgkinson -- two shares,' and there remained 'One red steere in goodman Shawes hands'" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:264). Undoubtedly, "Goodman Shawe" is our ancestor John Shaw, while the reference to "John Shawe" is the earliest surviving mention of his eldest son John Shaw Jr. Plymouth Colony's cattle again were distributed at a town meeting on 7 July 1642, by which time the pied cow was dead -- "Her encrease was only a yeareling heiffer Valued at £4 -- John Shaw had the heiffer and is to pay the stock [20d] and to bring in her hide to Goodman Hurste to be tanned." To cope with wolf attacks on the colony's livestock, a town meeting of 10 Feb. 1642/3 the General Court ordered the construction of wolf traps at five locations, including one "at Playne Dealing by Mr. Combe, Mr. Lee, Francis Billington, Georg Clark, John Shaw, and Edward Dotey" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:264).
Around this time, John and several of his neighbors brought a number of legal actions against each other, accusing each other of trespassing on one another's land. As Jonathan A. Shaw explains, early in Plymouth's history property lines were not clearly delineated or well marked, which led to frequent trespass complaints in court. John brought two actions alleging trespass on 3 March 1639/40 and 1 Sept. 1640. Jonathan A. Shaw writes, "On 3 March 1639/40 Shaw complained against Edward Doty in an action of trespass and won a verdict of 3 pounds 15 shillings. On 1 September 1640 Shaw successfully complained against Mr. Richard Derby in an action of trespass, recovering 50 shillings." However, later Kenelm Winslow brought an trespass action against John Shaw on 7 Dec. 1641 and won a verdict of 6 shillings, and William Hanbury brought a trespass action against John on 7 Sept. 1642 and won 4 pounds and damages. After that, on 3 Jan. 1642/3, John Shaw won a lawsuit "agst John Barnes, for Richard Derby, etc." Two years later, as Jonathan A. Shaw writes, "On 3 March 1644[/5] John and his sons, John, Jr. and James, and his son-in-law, Stephen Bryant, and eleven other men were ordered to pay bonds and to appear at the next General Court; the case was settled on 6 June 1645 when John Shaw and others paid fines of 3 pounds" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:265).
John first served on the colony's Jury on 4 Sept. 1638, and then again on 1 June 1641, 6 Sept. 1641, 3 May 1642, 5 March 1643/44, 5 June 1644, 22 July 1648, 3 Oct. 1648, and 28 Oct. 1649. His Jury service on 22 July 1648 and 3 Oct. 1648, as well as his service on the Coroner's Jury on 6 Aug. 1648 and the Petit Jury on 4 Oct. 1648, was for the trial of Alice Bishop, who had murdered her 4-year-old daughter Martha Clark. As a Juror for this trial, John probably witnessed Alice Bishop's execution by hanging. John was on Plymouth Colony's list of men ages 16 to 60 who were able to bear arms in August 1643. (Shaw, NEHGR 151:265).
On 7 March 1642/43 and again on 5 June 1644, John held the position of highway surveyor for the town of Plymouth, for the Jones River (now called Kingston). "The duties of surveyor were to ensure that the roads were well-maintained and open," Jonathan A. Shaw explains. "John Shaw was surely familiar with the problems, for two years earlier on 1 February 1640[/1] a jury had been appointed to lay out certain highways that were in dispute and to fix the bounds between John Shaw, Kenelm Winslow, and John Atwood" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:266).
Shurtleff and Drake record an old tradition that in 1645 John Shaw "was one of eight men who went out against the Narragansetts." However, William Richard Cutter's New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial (1914), vol. IV, page 2146, says either John Shaw Sr. "or his son John served seventeen days against the Narragansett Indians in 1645." Jonathan A. Shaw also notes, "On 28 Oct. 1645 John Shaw and five other men from Plymouth went out against the Narragansett Indians. 'Each soldier on going forth was supplied with 1 lb. of powder, and 3 lb. of bullets, and 1 lb. of tobacco.' Although the record is not specific, the ages of other men in the expedition suggests that the man concerned was John Shaw, Jr., rather than his father."
The Narragansett were a powerful American Indian tribe of the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut area. They were enemies of the Wampanoag, who in turn were allies of the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth Colony. Consequently, relations between Plymouth and the Narragansett were usually poor or overtly hostile -- although Canonicus (1562-1647), sachem (chief) of the Narragansett, always maintained his friendship with Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, who had been expelled from Plymouth for heresy. The following account written by Sanderson Beck and published in his America to 1744 (2006) briefly presents the background of the 1645 military action against the Narragansett:
"In 1645 Chief Pessicus led a Narragansett invasion into Mohegan territory and assaulted the fort of [the Mohegan chief] Uncas. Both Connecticut and New Haven sent forces to defend the Mohegans, and a special meeting of the Commissioners in June sent out envoys, who were abused by the Narragansetts. The Narragansetts sent a gift to Governor Winthrop in Boston, asking for an alliance against Uncas, but he refused to accept it on those terms. The confederation raised three hundred men with 190 from Massachusetts. Roger Williams secured Rhode Island by negotiating neutrality with the Narragansetts in July. Miles Standish was leading forces from Plymouth, and he objected to the Rhode Islanders being friendly with the Indians and demanded that they take one side or the other. The Indians agreed to negotiate, and they signed a treaty in August; captives were to be returned, and children were to be hostages. However, the Narragansetts and the Niantics did not restore the captives nor did they pay the damages. The Commissioners called another special meeting in July 1647, and the sachem Ninigret came to Boston with some Niantics and promised to pay a thousand fathoms of wampum."
It was during this conflict that Capt. Miles Standish of Plymouth Colony with eight of his soldiers, which included either John Shaw Sr. or John Shaw Jr., headed over to Wessagusett Colony (Weymouth) to rescue them from hostile Indians. Standish and his soldiers killed four Indians there, and the rest of the attacking Indians for whatever reason fled into the swamps. Kenneth Shaw has speculated that John Shaw's wife Alice could have been the widow Alice Whitmarsh of Weymouth, and that perhaps Standish's relief of Wessagusett in 1645 was when John Sr. met his wife Alice.
Both Savage and Cutter state that John Shaw purchased land in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, in 1652. The following year, on 3 Nov. 1653, John and his wife Alice agreed with Thomas Savory and Annis Savory his wife, all of New Plymouth, that the Savorys' son, Benjamin, aged 9 years old, would live with the Shaws until he was 21, and the Shaws would pay him £5 at the end of his service. If either John or Alice died, Benjamin was to serve out his time with Jonathan Shaw, the son of John Shaw, and Jonathan was to teach him a trade, writing and reading, and give him two suits of apparel. On 4 March 1657, Jonathan was cleared of this engagement by mutual consent of all the persons "that are now alive," which reflects the fact that Alice had died in the interim.
On 28 Dec. 1653, John Shaw Sr. of Plymouth, planter, purchased of Mr. John Winslow of Plymouth, a two acre parcel of marsh meadow in Green Harbor Marsh. This land purchase appears in the old records of Plymouth Colony as follows:
"The 28th of December 1653. Memorand; That Mr John Winslow of the towne of Plymouth in the Jurisdiction of New Plym: Doth acknowlidg that for and in consideration of the summe of 3 pounds and six shillings to him in hand paied by John Shaw senior of Plymouth aforsaid planter; hee hath freely and absolutly barganed and sold unto the said John Shaw a pcell of mersh meadow conteining two acres bee it more or lesse lying in greenharbour mersh att a place called the pinney point over against wood Island lying next a psell of mersh belonging to Mis Jenings; To have and to hold the said two acres of Mersh meadow bee it more or lesse with all and singulare the appurtenances belonging therunto unto the said John Shaw his heires and assignes for ever; unto the onely proper use and behoofe of him the said John Shaw his heires and assignes for ever. Acknowlidged before Mr Bradford Govr"
This purchase of marsh meadow from John Winslow is mentioned in a subsequent deed dated 31 Dec. 1656, when John Shaw Sr. of Plymouth deeded to "my son Jonathan Shaw all that my house and land I am now possessed of and live upon in the township of Plymouth aforesaid containing twenty and five acres of upland . . . provided . . . I reserve an interest in my orchard during my life and decease to be my said son Jonathan's . . . reserve unto myself liberty to employ or improve some small spot of upland for the planting of tobacco . . . during my life . . . [also] unto my said son Jonathan all my meadow land fresh or salt in any place belonging to me, in particular three acres of marsh meadow bought of Mr. John Winslow . . . and six acres more or less of fresh meadow lying on the south arm of Joanes River . . . one quarter part of my purchase land . . . ."
A further deed, dated 26 March 1658, involves John Shaw's sons John and James. On that date, John Shaw Sr. of Plymouth, planter, deeded to his son Sergeant James Shaw of New Plymouth one half of his land at Cushena, unless John Shaw son of the said John Shaw Senior "shall come within the term of four years beginning from the first of March 1657/58" (that is, before 1 March 1661/62), in which case John Shaw Jr. should have one half of the land given to James Shaw, i.e., one quarter part of the whole (Shaw, NEHGR 151:272-73). Not much is known of John Jr. As mentioned above, he was probably born by about 1622. John Jr. first appears in Plymouth records on 5 May 1643, when he and his brother-in-law Stephen Bryant bought from Edward Doty two lots of upland at High Cliff, a total of 40 acres of land for the price of 16 pounds. A few months later, in August 1643, John Jr. was listed among the men aged 16 to 60 who were able to bear arms. Two years later, on 17 July 1645, John Jr. sold to Samuel Sturtevant the 20 acres of the upland he'd purchased at High Cliff from Edward Doty, for 4 pounds 10 shillings worth of "good merchantable beaver" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:271).
In August 1643, John Jr. was listed among the men aged 16 to 60 who were able to bear arms, and two years later, as noted above, John Jr. went out against the Narragansett Indians on 28 Oct. 1645 (unless that was his father John). It was around this time that John Jr. begins to appear frequently in the court records of Plymouth Colony. For example, on 7 Jan. 1644[/5] Francis Goole brought a trespassing complaint against him, for which John Jr. had to pay 21 shillings. In another case of an unknown nature, dated 3 March 1644[/5], John Jr. was fined 2 pounds. In 4 Aug. 1646, John Jr. was sued by Tobias Taylor regarding a debt he owed, and the court ordered that Taylor be paid "in peeces of eight, according to ye ship's account . . . That is to say, John Shaw shall pay to Tobias Taylor fifty shillings, according to the seamens account . . . ." (Shaw, NEHGR 151:271).
A few years later, John Shaw Jr. was involved in legal disputes with the Mayflower passenger Edward Doty. As Jonathan A. Shaw writes:
"On 6 March 1649[/50] Edward Doty complained against John Shaw, Jr. The jury ordered Shaw to pay 35s in damages and court costs, and to 'make good the iron work.' Again, in what was probably the same case, on 7 May 1650 John Shaw, Jr. and his brother James were ordered to pay court costs and 35 shillings to Edward Doty. However, on 6 June 1650 Edward Doty and John Shaw, Jr. were in court again for two more suits brought by John Shaw, Jr.: first, a complaint against Doty -- with the jury finding for the defendant; second, a complaint against Doty for 20 pounds in an action of trespass -- with the jury finding for the plaintiff 3s and charges for the suit of 16s 6d" (Shaw, NEHGR 151:272).
Besides these disputes with his fellow colonists, John Shaw Jr. also began to fall afoul of the colonial authorities. For instance, on 6 June 1649, John Jr. appeared in court on charges of "profaning the Lords day for attending on the tar pits," and was sentenced to "sit in the stocks for this, which was accordingly executed." John's brother-in-law Stephen Bryant also was brought before the court in connection with the same incident, having been accused of "carrying a barrel to the said pits on the same Lords day," but Bryant was only given an admonition. John Jr. and Bryant were apparently distilling tar, which the colonists used for many things, especially to repair ship hulls, according to Jonathan A. Shaw. (Shaw, NEHGR 151:271-272).
The most serious trouble that John Jr. ever got in, however, came in the early summer of 1651. On 8 June 1651, a Plymouth jury brought charges against John Shaw Jr., his brother James Shaw, Samuel Cutbert, Benjamin Eaton, Goodwife Gannett, Martha Haward, and William Snow for "vaine, light, and lacivious carriage at an unseasonable time of night." The case concluded on 7 Oct. 1651, when James Shaw and Goodwife Gannett were given a punishment of either paying a fine of 30 shillings or else to receive a public whipping, while the others were merely admonished -- except for John Shaw Jr., of whom the court said, "And as for John Shaw, hee is lyable to punishment when oppertunitie seruth." The reason John's punishment was deferred is because he apparently had decided to leave Plymouth Colony permanently rather than submit to a trial and punishment at the hands of the colonial authorities. On 9 June 1651, just one day after the jury had presented its charges, John Jr. sold his only property -- eight acres of marshland he had bought in 1649 from Ann Atwood -- to his brother-in-law Stephen Bryant. This sale was acknowledged in the presence of Captain Miles Standish of Duxbury, meaning John Jr. completed the transaction in Duxbury rather than Plymouth, thus avoiding having to face the charges in Plymouth.
After that, John Jr. disappears from Plymouth records and is never seen nor heard from again in Massachusetts. Shurtleff and Drake record the tradition that John Jr. "went to Rhode Island and had a great day, roasted an ox whole and nothing was known of him after. It is supposed he went back to England." Whether the roasting of the whole ox happened after John left the colony, or happened on the occasion of the "vaine, light, and lacivious carriage," cannot be determined. In any case, Savage also states, "[John Shaw Sr.'s] s. John went unm. to Eng." (Genealogical Dictionary, page 64) The wording of John Shaw Sr.'s abovementioned deed of 26 March 1658 indicates that John Jr. did return to England. It is unknown whether or not John Jr. left any descendants in England, but in any event he presumably was dead by 30 Jan. 1663/4, when his younger brother James received the double portion due to the eldest son. Whether he was still alive or not in 1663/4, John Jr. did not return to Plymouth within the four years stipulated by his father in the 26 March 1658 deed of gift. (Shaw, NEHGR 151:272-273)
As one of the Purchasers or "old-comers" of Plymouth Colony, John Shaw Sr. had the right to special grants of land that had been reserved for them. On 1 Dec. 1640, the Purchasers jointly chose three tracts of land to be reserved for the grants "for themselves and their heires." John Shaw Sr. was granted, or already owned, land in two of those three tracts, and probably also in the third tract as well. (Shaw, NEHGR 151:266-267). According to Jonathan A. Shaw, the locations of the three reserved tracts were as follows:
TRACT A -- including the present Massachusetts towns of Dartmouth, Fairhaven, and New Bedford, and the Rhode Island town of Little Compton
TRACT B -- including the Massachusetts towns of Swansea, Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Attleboro, the Rhode Island towns of East Providence, Cumberland, and part of the Rhode Island town of Pawtucket
TRACT C -- "Cape Cod, extending from Bound Brook or Quivet Creek -- the present Dennis-Brewster boundary -- on the west to a point just east of Allen's Harbor or Harwichport, the northern bound being near the southern part of Eastham; and the tract embracing South Orleans and the greater part of Harwich and Brewster."
John Shaw's lands in Tract A included lot 22 at Punckateesett "over against Road Iland," which John was recorded to have owned by March of either 1651 or 1652. Then on 7 March 1652[/3], a general meeting of the Purchasers at Plymouth established the tract of land at Dartmouth. Of the 36 Purchasers at that meeting, John received one share, amount to a thirty-fourth part or 200 acres. On 22 March 1663[/4], lot 22 at "Puncateesett Necke," reaching from the water to the highway in the midst of the Neck, was shared by both John and George Watson, who was the father-in-law of John's son Jonathan (Shaw, NEHGR 151:266). As for John's lands in Tract B, they included land at Rehoboth on the south side of the Smelt River. John had been granted this land at some point prior to 4 Feb. 1638[/9], but he later deeded it to his son-in-law Stephen Bryant, who handed it back to Plymouth Colony on 24 May 1660 in exchange for 80 acres of land on the south branch of the Jones River (Shaw, NEHGR 151:266-267). John probably held lands in Tract C as well, but no record of any such ownership has survived, chiefly due to the Barnstable County Courthouse fire of 22 Oct. 1827. Nevertheless, three of the children of John's son Jonathan are known to have married and to have lived in Eastham (in Tract C), so it's possible that their grandfather had owned land in Eastham (Shaw, NEHGR 151:267).
In his old age, John Shaw Sr. became one of the first settlers of Middleboro (Middleborough) in 1662, although the new settlement, in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, was not then distinct from New Plymouth and would not receive the name "Middleboro" for a few more years. Kenneth Shaw provides this description of Middleboro:
"The Town of 'Middlebury' now called Middleborough is a 70-square mile historic industrial town on the Nemasket River and was a major native settlement area used for seasonal fishing, hunting and berry gathering. The town is one of only a handful of Southeastern Massachusetts communities that retained a sizable Indian population throughout the Colonial period. The first European Gracious old homes, spacious rural communities, working farms and welcoming urban neighborhoods abound in Cranberry Country."
John obtained his lands in Middleboro through the Twenty-Six Men's Purchase of 1662, by which the land was obtained from the Indian Josiah Wampatuck for 70 pounds. The boundaries of the Twenty-Six Men's Purchase were "from William hopkins [sic -- William Hoskins] his house at Lakenham alonge the old Indian path; to the wading place at Namassakeet River." John's land within the purchase, which was granted to him in 1664, was Lot 12 "bounded with a White oak and rod oak marked" near the Nemasket River in Middleboro. According to Jonathan A. Shaw, this may be the same as the property that later was known as "Shaw's Purchase," which remained in the possession of John's descendants for many years and which was not divided until 1745 (Shaw, NEHGR 151:267).
In the final decade of John Shaw's life, he made a series of deeds of gift, granting land and property to his children who had married and had begun to have children of their own. Thus, as previously mentioned, on 31 Dec. 1656, John Shaw, then living in Plymouth, deeded all of the property he was living on, both house and land, consisting of about 25 acres in the township of Plymouth, to his son Jonathan Shaw. Concerning this deed of gift, Jonathan A. Shaw writes:
"This property probably included the original twenty acres and the enlargement granted on 2 October 1637. The property is described as including fences, woods, timber, houses, and orchards. John Shaw reserved a two-thirds interest in the fruit of his orchard during his life, and he also reserved 'unto my selfe libertie to Imploy or Improve som smale spott of upland for the planting of Tobacco or the like as I shall see Reason During my life.' John also gave to Jonathan all his meadow land fresh or salt in any place belonging to him, in particular three acres at Piney Point in the Great Marsh [Marshfield] bought from John Winslow, and six acres of fresh meadow on the south arm of the Jones River (Kingston). Also included was a quarter part of his Purchase Land with all appurtenances. In return, Jonathan was to provide his father 'a Comfortable habitation' during his life. The deed was acknowledged before William Bradford, Governor." (Shaw, NEHGR151:268)
Two years later, on 1 Nov. 1658, John's son Jonathan Shaw sold property at Plain Dealing to his brother-in-law Stephen Bryant for 20 pounds. Plain Dealing was the original homestead of John Shaw, and this land that Jonathan sold to his brother-in-law in 1658 no doubt was John's original land, as indicated by the records of John Winslow's sale of land at Plain Dealing to Edward Gray on 10 Oct. 1657. In that document, Winslow's land is described as bounded on one side by the lands of John Shaw Sr., but John's name in the record was immediately crossed out and Jonathan's name was written in its place, since Jonathan was then the owner of his father's original homestead there (Shaw, NEHGR 151:268-269).
As mentioned previously, a few months prior to Jonathan's sale of the Plain Dealing property, "John Shaw, Senior, Planter of the Town of Plymouth in the Jurisdiction of New Plymouth" on 26 March 1658 deeded to his son Sgt. James Shaw on half of his land at Coaksett or Cushena (Dartmouth), commonly called the Purchase land -- but with the stipulation, as noted above, that if John Shaw Jr. were to come within the next four years, then John Shaw Jr. would have half of that half. During those four years, James could use but not sell the land. This deed was acknowledged before Lt. Southworth, Assistant (Shaw, NEHGR 151:269).
The very last document on which John Shaw was to place his mark was a deed dated 30 Jan. 1663[/4], which reads as follows:
"Know all men by these prsents That I John Shaw of Plymouth in New England senir: have and Doe by these prsents give unto my son in law Stephen Bryant of Plymouth aforsaid all that my whole share of land aloted unto mee neare unto Namassekett [Middleboro] both uplands and meddows with all and singulare the appurtances therunto belonging; To the said Stephen Bryant his heires and assignes for ever; Alsoe I Doe give unto my son in law Stephen Bryant another portion of land Called by the name of Rehoboth which land was formerly graunted unto mee; lying upon the south side of the smelt River; according as it is bounded and sett out; bee it forty acrees more or lesse with all the appurtances therunto belonging; To the said Stephen Bryant his heires and assignes for ever; And I Doe further Declare by these prsents that I have and Doe give unto my son James Shaw the one halfe of my Purchase land att Cushena [Dartmouth]; and the one fourth prte of my said lott att Cushena I give unto my son Jonathan Shaw; and the other fourth prte of my said Purchase lands to my son in law Stephen Bryant To them and theire his [sic] and theire heires and assignes for ever; alsoe my purpose and will is that my Daughter Abigaill Bryant After my Decease shall have my bed and all the bed furniture therunto belonging; as alsoe my Chist with whatsoever else Doth any wayes appertaine to mee and in witnes of the truth and Reallity of all the abovesaid Premises I have heerunto sett my hand and seale January this 30 1663."
John Shaw signed this deed with his mark, which was witnessed by Thomas Prence and Samuell Dunham. John was residing in Middleboro, in Plymouth, at the time. John apparently never made a formal last will and testament, but this deed obviously was intended effectively to serve as a will. (Shaw, NEHGR 151:269, 270)
On 22nd March 1663/4, George Watson and John Shaw Sr. were granted lot 22 on Puncateesett Necke (Plymouth Town Records 1:67). This is the last time John Shaw is mentioned to be still living. In 1665, however, Henry Wood received land that was originally set out for John Shaw in "Middlebury" (Middleboro). This evidence indicates that John died some time after the land grant of 22 March 1663/4 but before Henry Wood received John's Middleboro land in 1665. On the location of John's death, Jonathan A. Shaw writes:
"The place of his death is unknown, but he almost certainly died in Plymouth Colony and probably at Plain Dealing, where his daughter Abigail and her husband, Stephen Bryant, were living -- perhaps in the same house there that he gave on 31 December 1656 to his son Jonathan and that Jonathan sold to his brother-in-law Stephen Bryant on 1 November 1658. It was perhaps the same house at Plain Dealing beside the King's Highway -- 'the house of Goodman Bryants' -- where Bryant was living in 1684 and which he sold in 1694. Governor Thomas Prence was a resident at Plain Dealing in the 1660s and one of John Shaw's nearest neighbors, and it is likely that John Shaw was at Plain Dealing or in the village of Plymouth when Governor Prence witnessed the mid-winter signing on 30 January 1663[/4] of the deed that was John Shaw's de facto will."
Regarding the many gaps in our knowledge of the life and family of John Shaw Sr., Kenneth Shaw comments in his database:
"Presently it is not known where exactly in England this John Shaw and 'Alice' are from. The death of John Shaw and the possibility of where he migrated from could have been recorded in the very first book titled 'Plymouth Towne Book Ano Domine 1696-7 for Births Burials and Marriages per Thomas Ffaunce Towne Clerke.' The third leaf, containing the second and third pages, are missing! I would guess the pages missing contained a lot of ancient records of other early colonial families too. You may have noticed the estimation dates for some of the early ancestors listed in the family tree. One of the reasons there are not any solid month, day, year dates or locations of this early colonial Shaw family's births, baptisms, marriages and burials in England or New England is attributed to the missing Lakenham Parish Church records. This Shaw family is not the only family that is affected by this. There are lots of others who attended this church and little information is known of their vitals because of the absence of these particular records. Basically some vitals of the early colonial families of North Carver are very obscure. It is believed that the missing church records contain many years of the no longer existing Lakenham Church's activities."
The known children of John Shaw are:
-- JOHN SHAW JR., born before 1622, died probably before 30 Jan. 1663/4 -- ABIGAIL SHAW, born perhaps about 1624, died 24 Oct. 1694. -- SGT. JAMES SHAW, born perhaps circa 1626, whose children all died young. 2. DEACON JONATHAN SHAW, traditionally born 2 March 1629 or perhaps circa 1631, died July 1701.
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