Recently I have been doing some very preliminary research into one of the first settlers of Middletown CT, William Cornwell (Cornewell/Cornell). In researching his family history, I have come across a rather interesting conflict in terms of the identity of his second wife "Mary." His first wife Joane, whom he married 9/27/1632 in Essex England, was supposed to have been killed by Pequot Indians sometime between 1633 and 1639. In 1639, William took a second wife "Mary" who was recently identified by United Ancestries, a professional genealogical research group, on their published genealogical CD "CD-100" as being Mary Hyanno (Ihyannough/Yanno/Wianno/Iyanough)-daughter of the Sachem of the Cummaquid Wampanoags at "Barnstable." Since I have not seen this CD I do not know what sources are fueling the United Ancestries claims, nor do I know whether United Ancestries itself is a source of reliable information. There seems to me several important issues raised here. 1. If the Cornwell/Hyanno marriage actually occurred, then would not this be one of the first instances of a New England-English/Native American marriage? If this is not the first instance, how many of these intercultural marriages occurred in the 1630s and 1640s?
2. William Cornwell was clearly a Puritan-he joined the Roxbury MA church by 1633 and the Middletown CT church (along with the mysterious Mary) on 12/3/1668. He also served as a representative from Middletown in the Colonial Legislature in 1654, 1664, and 1665. He was also a constable in 1664. If Mary really was a "Hyanno," would not this have hampered his town standing-clearly he was not at all hampered by any alliance that the other Puritans would have condemned.
3. Mary Hyanno is the subject of another set of genealogical claims stemming from a work by one Franklin Bearse who wrote in the early 20th century of his family's descent from Augustine Bearse of Barnstable (a settler documented by Savage, for example-so he really did exist) who was supposedly of Romish ancestry and so was shunned by the ot her Puritans and therefore married Mary Hyanno in a Native American ceremony-also in 1639.Although many, many current Bearse descendants are claiming the Hyanno-Bearse line as fact, the sole source of all of these claims appears to be the Franklin Bearse genealogy--a document that appears to be riddled with errors and does not inspire my confidence that it is a reliable history (it appears to contain myths such as Mary having "flaming red hair" and that Hyanno means "white Indian" with the implication that Iyannough and his children might be of Viking, not Native American lineage etc.). There is ONE Bearse descendant that I have come across who questions the Hyanno line and in fact writes "probably not Mary Hyanno" but rather an English woman named Martha Wilder was Augustine Bearse's wife and mother of his many children (see James Nohl Churchyard's "Our Family Museum").In any case, if the Bearse claim holds a shred of truth, you would still have one of the earliest recorded New England Settler-Native American marriages on record.
4. The Mary Hyanno and Cornwell alliance does not seem beyond the realm of possibility for several reasons a) Mary "Hyanno"'s father "John" Hyanno/Ihyannough/Yanno/Wianno/Iyanough made an extremely favorable impression on the Pilgrims with his hospitality, generosity, and, the implication is, graceful good looks (see Winslow's "Journal of a Plantation")-therefore Mary might have enjoyed a sort of celebrity status with the Puritans? b) because the Wampanoag were very important allies with the English during the Pequot War--as a soldier during this war (he was one of the 77 soldiers involved in the Mystic Fort massacre), could Cornwell have come into contact with Mary during a diplomatic mission? Therefore he did not necessarily have to live in Barnstable to met her even though it was far more common for English settlers living in the same town to marry. c) Perhaps the biggest clue to the Cornwell/Hyanno marriage might lie in the fact that on 3/15/1652 Will. Cornwell II was deeded 900 acres of formerly Indian lands as well as "multiple acres on Indian Hill (Indian lands before his ownership of them)". Why should he receive so much? Did any of the other British Pequot veterans receive such vast amounts of property? Mary Hyanno was linked through her mother to the Narangasett sachem Canonicus and was it not the Narangasett who particularly felt displaced by what they perceived to be the invasion of the Pequots from the North? Once the Pequots were defeated and their numbers substantially driven out along the Connecticut River, could the Narangasett have laid claim to "ownership" of these lands and couldWill. Cornwell's marriage to Mary Hyanno therefore have allowed him to "purchase" (my source says he was "deeded" the lands-is that synonymous with purchase or does it imply a gift??) vast property perceived to be in some way his wife's dowry? Cornwell would have in effect married not just a Native American princess, but an heiress as well.
On the other hand, this relationship would have been unusual enough to provoke some comment somewhere one thinks.I am hoping now to get information from the professional genealogical research group that first put this interesting information forward and see if they have any documentation to back it up.