JOHN CRABTREE of BOSTON

by William Crabtree


John Crabtree, Joiner, of the Town of Boston in His Majesties Colony of Massachusetts Bay in New England in the year 1638 is the progenitor of our Crabtree clan of early New England. That he came from England is assumed, from where in England is still open to debate. John and his wife Alice were first recorded in the Colony in Feb. of 1638 when he was allowed, "A great Lott on the mount for two heads", by the Governors Council. When did he arrive in Boston? Probably not long before then as emigrants from England were usually required to have sufficient funds and provisions to sustain themselves upon landing so as not to be a burden on the settlers. Their first objective was to have land for a home and a place to plant a garden. New arrivals as can be seen in the early records were allowed plots of land in the nearby towns of the Colony as decided by the Council but this was also subject to change. In Dec. of 1639 the records show that John's allotment was changed to a Lott for five heads, "whereas he was formerly allowed but for two". The change could have been because John and Alice had a son, John jr. born in Oct. of 1639 and that John had taken on an apprentice, Solomon Greene, in Dec. of 1639 so he needed more room in his house.

In April of 1640 John took on another apprentice named William Roberts who was transferred from a Joiner in Taunton. The next year in 1641 records show that a servant named William Game formerly with the Hollard family in Weymouth was transferred to John Crabtree. Perfect timing as they had their next child, a daughter named Deliverence, in Sep. of 1641. Unfortunately, Deliverence died in June of 1643. These first two children were listed in the records of Boston but two additional children that seem to be of John and Alice were not. There was a Frances Crabtree who was listed in Court records as being bonded to good behavior until her court appearance in 1666 but with no further record of her. In 1670 Esther Crabtree was married to a Butcher named Thomas Platts. As John's was the only Crabtree family in Boston during that time period it seems these girls were also of his family.

What we know of John's life in Boston is based wholly on official records of various transactions where he is listed. In court records of 1646 John hired a lawyer to bring suit against Thomas Gray, Joiner, of Barbados for a debt of 60 L. owed to John. This must not have been successful as in 1648 he hired two lawyers, one in Boston and one in Barbados to renew the suit. In 1649 John filed suit in the Plymouth Colony Court for money owed from an estate there for 6L. 11 s. and 10d. Evidently our John was not to be trifled with when it came to money due him.

There were several Real Estate Deeds recorded for John and Alice in the Suffolk County court records. The first was when John sold his original dwelling house with half an acre of land adjoining it and one acre among the garden lotts. He sold this to George Burden in 1641. Other records place this land at the north end of the Boston peninsula across from Charlestown and near what was to become the Mill Pond. In 1648 he sold a house and wharf fronting on the Sea also in the north end of Boston. In 1654 and 1655 they sold a few more parcels of their existing land in the area and in reading the description of the lots it seems they were in the area of the second Meeting House of Boston. It was built about 1650 and was located within a block of the now famous, "North Church" of Paul Revere fame. (See attached maps.) We don't know the reason for his selling of these small parcels but it could be his health was failing and he was raising money to subsist on, he died sometime in 1656.

Mice, his relict, (widow), married Lieutenant Joshua Hewes on Feb. 11th. 1656/57. Lt. Hewes was an officer of the court, widower, Iron Monger, and also had been a prominent citizen of Roxbury. He and Mice with some of their children soon relocated to Wickford in the Rhode Island Colony just south of Providence. Hewes was involved in an attempt to establish a mine for ore in the area but it was not successful. They later returned to Boston where Hewes died in 1676 and Alice was executrix of his estate.

That John Crabtree Jr. appeared in the new Town of Swansea in the Plymouth Colony in 1670 may not be all that surprising as it is probably only ten miles east from the Town of Wickford across Narragansett Bay. He could have accompanied his mother and Hewes to R.I. although there is no record of that.

I have yet to find a death record or probate record for our John Crabtree in Suffolk County but I shall persist in the search.

Bill Crabtree May 2000