b. 1600; Ely, Cambridgeshire, England.
d. June 16, 1676; Hadley, Massachusetts; bur.
Hadley, Massachusetts cem.
mo. Sarah (Stacey) Dickinson. f. William Dickinson.
m. to Anna (?) (Gull) Dickinson;
b. c. 1600, England;
m. her January, 1630, East Bergholdt, Suffolkshire,
Children of Nathaniel Dickinson and Anna (?) (Gull) Dickinson.
John Dickinson. b. 1630; d. May 19, 1676.
Joseph Dickinson. b. 1632; d. September 5, 1675.
Thomas Dickinson. b. 1633/34; d. 1712/13.
Anna or Hannah Dickinson. b. 1636.
Samuel Dickinson. b. 1638; d. November 30, 1711.
Obadiah Dickinson. b. 1641; d. June 10, 1698.
Nathaniel Dickinson. b. August 16, 1643; d. October 11, 1710.
Nehemiah Dickinson. b. 1643/44; d. September 9, 1723.
Hezekiah Dickinson. b. February 28, 1645; d. June 14, 1707.
Azariah Dickinson. b. 1648; d. August 25, 1675.
1600 - 1634/35
Ely, Cambridge, England.
Nathaniel Dickinson was b. with the century, one of three sons of
William Dickinson and Sarah (Stacey) Dickinson of Ely, Cambridgeshire,
Nathaniel Dickinson must have had an excellent education as shown by
the outstanding work which he did in Wethersfield, Connecticut and
Hadley, Massachusetts. He may have been trained by private tutors since
he did not graduate from either Cambridge or Oxford in England.
At the age of 29 he m. a widow with an infant son, Anna (?) Gull of
East Bergholdt, Suffolkshire, England.
In A.D. 1628/29 the aspect of public affairs in England became more
threatening than ever. Charles, I dismissed his Parliament and tried
governing without one, introducing a system of tyranny, which
eventually brought him to the block. His inquisitorial policy was to
extinguish Puritan opinions and to punish with imprisonment and death
all deviations from established ceremonies.
Reared in the traditions of a race which, for six centuries had braved
tyranny from the Norman Rufus to the unfortunate Charles Stuart, is it
any wonder that the same spirit led the stern Puritan, Nathaniel
Dickinson, at this time, to seek the wilds of America.
On Easter Sunday of 1630, the Dickinsons were among the Puritans
gathered at Southampton, England. On Monday the Dickinsons went down to
embark on a ship in what has become known as Winthrop's Fleet. John
Cotton, the vicar of St. Botolph's Church in Boston, Lincolnshire,
England, preached a sermon based on the text of 2 Samuel vii 10:
"Moreover, I will
apoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them that they
shall dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall
the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime". In
his sermon, John Cotton explained:
What he hat planted he will maintain. Every plantation on his right
hand hath not planted shall be rooted up, but with his own plantation
shall prosper and flourish. When he promiseth peace and safety what
enemies shall be able to make the promise of God of none effect?
Neglect not wall and bulwarks, and fortifications for your own defence;
ever lett the name of the Lord be your strong tower; and the word of
his Promise, the Rock of your refuge. His word that made heaven and
earth will not fail, till heaven and earth be no more.
The fare for the voyage was five pounds each. Included in this fare was
the food: salt pork, salt beef, salt fish, biscuits, and beer. The
butter, pease pottage, and "water grewell' soon ran out. By the end of
the voyage, signs of scurvy were appearing among the passengers.
There were many storms and sea sickness overcame many of the
passengers. All of these were ordered out of their bunks and made to
walk up and down the decks holding onto a rope. The fresh air restored
There were morning and evening prayers. Each change of the watch was
marked by the singing of a psalm and the saying of an extemporaneous
prayer. There were two sermons each Sabbath. There were the Thursday
lecture meetings whose function was to instruct the people in their
On June 12th, twelve weeks from departure, the fleet dropped anchor in
Boston Bay. Winthrop had originally intended to form his new colony at
Newtown, but the ships of his fleet kept appearing, bringing somewhere
between 900 and 1,000 people by the end of the summer.
The London Company of Massachusetts Bay had transferred itself and the
whole government of its colonists, to its American settlement, and in
June, of this year, John Winthrop, chosen Governor by the Massachusetts
Company, with his fleet, the Arbella, Talbot, Ambrose and Jewell,
bearing three or four hundres colonists, two of whom were Nathaniel
Dickinson and his wife, arrived at Salem, Massachusetts. Another two
members of the party were his brothers John Dickinson, and Thomas
Some "resolved to set down at the head of the Charles River", others
"relinquishing Salem, shipped their goods to Charleston, Watertown and
These emigrants had arrived too late to plant crops, for it was August
before they had their land allotted and installed their meager
possessions in whatever shelter they could erect. Some lived in
sail-cloth tents, some in crude log shelters, and some in Indian bark
wigwams. On December 26th, bitter cold froze the rivers. The cattle and
goats were still without shelter and, as the winter continued, many of
them died. People lived on the remnants of salted meat and hard-tack
left over from their voyage. Beer rant out and they drank water,
considered a dangerous thing to do. They ate hominy, a dish they
learned of from the Indians, without butter and salt. Smelt, clams, and
mussels kept many of these first Puritans from starvation.
John Winthrop had just passed out the last handful of wheat in his
storeroom when the ship "Lyon" was sighted on February 5th. Five days
later the ice broke up, temperatures rose, and they "Lyon" could reach
shore to unload her cargo and passengers. The struggling Puritan colony
was saved, and among them was the Dickinson family.
1635 - 1659
Nathaniel Dickinson is said to have settled at Watertown, where John,
Joseph and Thomas were born, and where he remained until 1635/36, when
looking for better living conditions, Nathaniel removed his family to
Wethersfield, Connecticut, probably
coming overland from Watertown, Massachusetts and following the trail
as the Thomas Hooker party which settled Hartford, Connecticut.
Settling with his gentle wife, Anna (?) Gull, in Wethersfield,
Connecticut, 1636, he took front rank. He was one of the first Board of
Selectmen, Representative to the General Assembly, from 1646-1656,
Recorder for twenty years at Wethersfield, Connecticut; Deacon in the
church throughout his life.
Nathaniel helped survey and lay out the homesteads of new settlers like
himself. He had a homestead, house and barn plus three acres of farm
land. In time he bought half of the homestead lands of Samuel Boardman.
His family grew. One by one the sons came until there were nine of
them, not including Ann's son by her first marriage. Nathaniel and
Nehemiah were twins, a rare and puzzling manifestation of God's notice
of the family. The boys were as strong and healthy as their older
brothers and thrived; not one died before they were married and had
children of their own.
Early in 1648, the oldest son, John, at the extremely young age of 17,
married Frances Foote, third daughter of nathaniel and Elizabeth
(Deming) Foote. Their child, Hannah, was born on December 6, 1648,
which may account for the early marriage. The Dickinsons had commenced
their career as grandparents, but had not yet finished being parents.
Two years after becoming a grandmother, Anna Dickinson gave birth for
the eleventh time. She was almost fifty years old. The baby was a girl
and she was named Anna.
In October, 1654 he was one of three men (one from each of the river
towns) appointed by the General Court as a commission to advise with
the Constables about "pressing men for the expedition into the Ninigret
country", one of the on-going battles in the Narragansett War against
Under one of those theological upheavals, common to the time, and no
doubt with promise of bettering their condition, Nathaniel Dickinson
and his sons decided on the removal to Hadley in 1659.
Nathaniel Dickinson owned east of the "Great River", at Hartford,
Connecticut, one hundred acres in the tract called "Naubuc Farms",
which was sold on or before the removal to Hadley, Massachusetts.
Wethersfield, Connecticut was nearly depopulated by the exodus to
Hadley, Massachusetts. The agreement, or engagement, of those who
intended to remove from Connecticut to Massachusetts, is dated at
Hartford, Connecticut April 18, 1659.
Among the fifty-nine signers are Nathaniel Dickinson and his sons John
Dickinson and Thomas Dickinson.
A part of the agreement made at this meeting was that William Westwood,
Richard Goodman, William Lewis, John White, and Nathaniel Dickinson
should go up to the aforesaid plantation on the east side of
Northampton, Massachusetts and lay out the number of fifty-nine
homelots, and to allow eight acres for every homelot, and to leave a
street twenty rods broad betwixt the two westernmost rows of homelots,
and to divide said rows of homelots in quarters by highways.
1659 - 1676
In 1659 Nathaniel Dickinson joined the Russell Expedition and moved to
When the time came to join the Reverend John Russell's move to a new
town, the entire Dickinson clan responded. Father, stepson, and nine
their families all joined the move, however, some of them returned to
Connecticut at a later date.
John and Frances (Foote) Dickinson had a homelot of their own in the
Northeast Quadrant. Joseph Dickinson decided to settle in Northampton,
Massachusetts. Thomas Dickinson got the homelot next door to his
father, who moved in with Nathaniel
Dickinson, Jr. Neither Joseph Dickinson, nor Thomas Dickinson, although
in their late twenties, chose to marry at this time. When the homelots
opened up on the west side of the river Samuel Dickinson and Obadiah
Dickinson got places there.
William Gull married Elizabeth, the widow of Nathaniel Foote, Junior
[Frances (Foote) Dickinson's brother]. She had four children, three of
them sons. She was the daughter of Lieutenant Samuel Smith, the head of
the Hadley, Massachusetts militia.
Nathaniel Dickinson put up 200 pounds toward the purchase money, one of
the ten who could afford to invest so heavily in future land. With ten
sons he had an exceptional number of people to settle.
The twins, Nathaniel Dickinson and Nehemiah Dickinson, in 1659 were old
enough to bear arms in the town militia, but still underage for
In October, 1660, a town meeting was held at the house of Andrew
Warner, when it was voted that no person should be owned for an
inhabitant in the Plantation, or have liberty to vote or act in town
affairs until he should be legally received as an inhabitant. This was
signed by twenty-eight persons, among them Nathaniel Dickinson and
Nathaniel Dickinson was chosen to rebuild a bridge on the country road
to Springfield, Massachusetts. As shown above he was one of the
original Committee sent to lay out the town; first Recorder there,
Assessor, Town Magistrate, member of the Hampshire Troop, one of the
members of the first Board of Trustees of the Hopkins' Academy. "An
intelligent and influential man, and one qualified to do public
business, as well as a man of substance, rating with the highest in the
division of lands".
On December 16, 1661, the town bought the boat Nathaniel Dickinson and
Richard Goodman owned. They received six pounds in cash, free use of
the ferry for a year, and the free use of the boat whenever they needed
to carry cattle across the river. For three years, Nathaniel would be
able to use the boat four days in order to carry hay and corn. It
worked out well, since the Dickinson's homelot was across the road from
the river on the south end and he had sons with places in Hatfield on
the north side of town.
Hadley also formed a committee in 1661 to treat with Nathaniel
Dickinson and Samuel Porter for providing a convenient place for public
worship. There was no meeting house and presumably the Dickinson and
Porters had houses large enough or an enclosed shed or barn suitable
for seating the numerous people attending the Sabbath services. Such a
space did not have to be heated. In fact, the cold of a winter's day
would do much to keep an audience awake and attentive.
On New Year's Day, 1663, Nathaniel was 63 years old. All his family was
living in the valley. He was the 31st to draw for his meadow acreage,
after his son Thomas, but well before John. Nathaniel was going to be
among the ten who would ride over to
Northampton and help form the Hampshire Troop.
Nathaniel had removed his minister, Mr. Russell, who gave permanent
concealment to Generals Whalley and Goffe, two members of the High
Court of Justice that condemned Charles I. With the restoration of the
SStuarts, a reward was offered for the head of these Generals, but they
could not be found.
One Sunday, in September, 1675, the little town of Hadley was
panic-stricken by an attack of Indians. The surprise was so great, and
the numbers to unequal, that the Indians were fast gaining the
advantage. Suddenly there appeared among the settlers a man of towering
height, and long streaming hair and
beard, dressed in fantastic fashion. Wherever he went the Indians fell,
and the courage of the English rose. They though God had sent an angel
to lead them out of their sore strait. When the fight was over, the
stranger disappeared as suddently as he came. Many believe to their
dying day that he was not mortal. He was General Goffe, the Regicide.
Without doubt, our ancestor, being an intimate friend of Mr. Russell,
was entrusted with the secret of the concealment of the Regicides, and
witnessed this exploit of General Goffe.
WILL AND TESTAMENT OF NATHANIEL DICKINSON.
I, NATHANIEL DICKENSON, Senior, late
of Haytfield, now of Hadley, in ye County of Hampshire, upon
Connitticut, doe make and ordaine this my last will and testament, as
Nathaniel was 76 years old. His wife, Anna, had died within the past
few years. Three of his sons had been killed within the last ten months
in Indian attacks. In fact, John had died only ten days before
Nathaniel wrote his will. A grandson had lived only two days in
IMPRIMIS. Making a full surrender of
myself, soule and body, into ye handes of God, my Creator, and Jesus
Christ, my alone Savior & Redeemer, relying on Him for all yt I
need & hope for in this world, & yt which is to come, &
leaving my body to decent burriell in hope of a blessed resurrection, I
do bestow yt portion of outward estate which the Lord in His Fatherlie
mercy hath blessed me with, in manner following: my debtes and funerall
expenses being first payd.
In "making a full surrender" of himself, Goodman Dickinson shows his
trust in the Lord and bows his head to a destiny that must have seemed
a harsh punishment.
SECONDLY: I doe give unto my son,
Nehemiah, my house & barn & homelott, with all the preveledges
and appurtenances thereto belonging; as alsoe one-half my meaddow land
in Hadley (except what is hereinafter excepted) with the preveledges
and appurtenances thereto belonging; to be to him and his heirs
forever, besides what was Thomas Webster's.
Nehamiah was 32. His wife was Mary Cowles. Nehamiah, Jr. was 4, William
just over 1. A child, John, had been born on February 14th and had died
two days later. This family lived with Nathaniel. Thomas Webster was
the younger son of John Webster. He had owned a 2 acre homelot next to
the pound on the road to the cemetery.
I give my daughter-in-law, Dorcas,
widdow of my son Azariah, four acres & a half of Meaddow land,
bounded by my son, Thomas, his land east; Francis Barnard, west; John
Hubbard, north; & ye highway south; so as to be her & her
heirs' forever. Further, I give or abate to her all yt was my due for
ye rent of the rent of my land from her, & alsoe doe give to her ye
rent money that was due to me for my oxen; and also three pounds that
was due for a barrell (unpayd) of Pork: all and every of ye premises I
give to ye said Dorcas as her own, to her and her heirs forever.
Azariah was his youngest son. He and Dorcas had been married less than
a year before he was killed at the Swamp Fight.
The rest of my meaddow in Hadley, I
doe give to be equally devided betweene all my sons (except Nehamiah)
and my daughters - Frances Dickenson & Hannah Clary - which my
executors shall either equally divide to all my aforesaid children, or
else to pay to each their proportion of ye sayd lands, as it shall be
prized in Country pay, within two years after my decease, to ym and
their heirs forever.
The sons were: William Gull, Thomas, Nathaniel, Jr., Nehemiah, and
Hezekiah. Hannah Clary was his only daughter. Frances Dickinson was his
son John's widow. Note that he makes no mention of his son Joseph's
widow, although she was raising five sons.
To my son, Thomas, I give my house
& lott I bought of Mr. Wattson; he paying to Mr. Wattson ye Thirty
Pounds yt is yet due for the same; or, if he like it not on those
terms, then it shall be last in among my devidable estate to my
Thomas had his own homelot next door. Caleb Watson's lot was on a 2
acre piece on the river at the north end of town. He had moved back to
Connecticut before the war.
I give to my son, Samuel, my house
& homelott in Hatfield, to be to him & his heirs forever,
together with the preveledges & appurtances thereto belonging.
Samuel, 35, lived in Hatfield. His oldest son, Samuel, Jr., was 7. In
time Samuel and Martha would have 8 living children.
To my son, Obadiah, I give all ye rest
of my land in Hatfield, with ye preveledges and appurtenances thereto
belonging, to be to him and his heirs forever; and my meaning &
will is that these two, my sons, Samuel & Obadiah, shall not come
in for a share of my land in Hadley, but this given them in Hatfield
shall be instead of itt.
Obadiah, 35, was the youngest son. He had married Sarah Beardsley of
Northampton and they had 3 children at this time.
To my son, William Gull (son
of his wife by her first husband) I
give that Three Pounds which he oweth me for a barrell of pork.
Obviously Nathaniel raised hogs in quantity, since he was able to sell
barrels of pork to his sons at 3 pounds per barrel.
All ye rest of my estate I give to be
equally divided amongst all my sons and daughters. Frances Dickenson
and Hannah Clary having equall shares with their breathren.
Did this include widow of Joseph? And did it include Dorcas? One
wonders how the executors dealt with this ambiguity. Everyone must have
been satisfied, however, as there were no subsequent law suits.
I doe hereby make and ordaine my two
sons, Thomas & Nehemiah executors of this, my last will &
testament, hereunto as my last will & testament I have subjoyned my
hand and seale this present 29th day of May, 1676.
In presence of JOSEPH KELLOGG,
JOHN RUSSELL, Junior.
The desire of ye testator is yt ye
share given unto Frances Dickenson, may, if she see meet, be given to
Samuel Gillett's children.
(Frances was their aunt).
Nathaniel Dickinson died almost three weeks later, on June 16, 1676.
Nathaniel Dickinson's exact burial spot is not known, but it is
supposed to be in the old Hadley Cemetery near that of his son,
Nehemiah. A fine boulder inset with a plaque, given by Mrs. Nellie
Dickinson Hartnett has been placed near the spot.