It is time to rethink the various Fishers of Dedham, Massachusetts in the 1630s.Let's start with a list of Fishers who signed the Covenant of Dedham between 1636 and about 1639.See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_signers_of_the_Dedham_Covenanthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_signers_of_the_Dedham_Covenant.This article states:"The Covenant of Dedham, Massachusetts was first signed on August 15, 1636. Those who signed the Covenant are listed below, in the order in which they signed."There then follows a numbered list that includes the following:
Below I will focus on just John, Thomas, Samuel and Thomas.
What do we know about John Fisher?We can reasonably infer two things from his having signed the Covenant.First, he was surely an adult (by no later than 1639) and so likely born in/before 1618.Second, he was present (and alive, obviously) in Dedham sometime between 1636 and 1639.Turning to Savage's "Genealogical Dictionary", we find three entries for men of New England named John Fisher, as follow:
JOHN, a petitnr. for gr. of Lancaster 1644, perhaps the same as foll.
JOHN, Medfield, s. of the sec. Joshua of Dedham, m. Apr. 1658, Elizabeth d. of Thomas Boylston of Watertown, Elizabeth b. 6 Feb. foll.; had Elizabeth b. 6Feb. foll. wasfreem. 1682. From his will of 26 June 1668, it is found that he hadJohn, and Elizabeth by her, had m. ano. w. Mary, prob. d. of Nathaniel Treadway,had Jonathan, and hopes of ano. ch. Elizabeth m. 2 Jan. 1678, John Plimpton of the same.
JOHN,Dedham, s. of Daniel the first, m. 15 June 1681, Rebecca Ellis.
Another source has another John Fisher, as follows.
"The Pioneers of Massachusetts: A Descriptive List, Drawn from Records of the ...", by Charles Henry Pope at pp. 166-167
John, Dedham, propr. 13 (5) 1637; d. 15 (5) 1637.His widow Elizabeth, adm. Chh. 21 (6) 1640, d. 31 (11) 1651.Her small est. was admin. 10 (12) 1651 by Henry Chickering and Anthony Fisher.[Reg. VII, 58.]
The John Fisher described by Pope (just above) was in Dedham in 1637, until his death on the 15th day of the fifth month of that year (i.e., July 15, 1637, under the "old style" then in effect).The three men named John Fisher described by Savage do not seem to be the John who signed the Covenant.Therefore, we can conclude that Savage simply overlooked the John Fisher who signed the Dedham Covenant.
But now look at Elizabeth Fisher, widow of John.Pope states that she died on the 31st day of the eleventh month of 1651 (i.e., January 31, 1651, "new style").We will return to Elizabeth below.
THOMAS FISHER (two different men)
The list of Covenant signers also includes two men both named Thomas Fisher.What do we know about either of them?Savage has two entries for men named Thomas, as follow.
THOMAS, Cambridge 1634, came, perhaps, from Winton in Eng. But it is not told whether the town were in Westmoreland or Yorksh. and I doubt the spell. may have been Winston, in Co. Suffolk. had Thomas, Samuel, perhaps a d. was freem. 4 Mar. 1635, rem. to Dedham 1637,was engag. to build the meeting-ho. and d. 1638. His wid. Elizabeth d.21 Jan. 1651.
THOMAS, Dedham, perhaps s. of the preced. m. 5 Dec. 1666, Rebecca, d. of the first George Woodward of the same, freem. 1678. He had six ds. no s. and the same or ano. is in the list of 1678. A Mary F. wid. join. Boston ch. 25 Dec. 1647, and d. 6 Sept. 1653, but I kn. not wh. was her h.
Savage also stated, "Great labor I have found to conciliate these Fishers, and some of it may seem unsuccess[ful]."Savage is admitting that there might be mistakes in what he was reporting.
In Pope's book there is one entry for a Thomas Fisher of Dedham, as follows:
Thomas, carpenter, Cambridge, propr. Of house and land, 1634; frm. March 4, 1634-5.Rem. To Dedham; adm. Propr. 18 (5) 1637.He d. 10 (6) 1638.The town gave to his widow 40 shillings toward the bargain he had made in building the meeting-house, 25 (1) 1639.She paid to the attorney of Elisha Bridges, 4 (7) 1639, a legacy left by her husband for his dau. Sarah, wife of John Blackston.[L.]She had leave from Gen.Court 13 May, 1640, to admin. Her husband’s est., and to sell half of her lot for the bringing up of her children."
While Pope does not explicitly state the first name of the widow of Thomas Fisher, he does make reference to a daughter Sarah, wife of John Blackston.For further information see "Note-book kept by Thomas Lechford, esq., lawyer: in Boston, Massachusetts ...", by Thomas Lechford, James Hammond Trumbull.It is available on the internet at
Lechford's information is also addressed in a work entitled "Transactions and collections of the American Antiquarian Society", Volume 7, by the American Antiquarian Society, available on-line at
The Antiquarian Society author first quoted the Lechford notes and then expanded on the information as follows:
"Elisha Bridges releaseth Mary Fisher widdow for 30s legacy given by Thomas Fisher [footnote 1] the testator to John Blackston and Sara his wife daughter of the said Thomas & payd by the said Mary executrix of the said Thomas Fisher unto the said Elisha Attorney for the said John Blackston & Sara his wife dated 4. 7. 1639. before Mr [blank] Hawkins Ed: Michelson & myselfe. [1s. 6d.]
"A Coppy of the said Bridges letter of Attorney. [1s. 6d.]
"[footnote] 1 It is difficult to be sure of identifying this Thomas Fisher and Mary his widow; but I think him the man of that name who came from Winton in England to Cambridge in 1634, and moved, says Savage, from there to Dedham in 1637. Exactly when he died I cannot say. The date here is two years after his removal to Dedham, which would afford him ample time. Some while after, this Widow Fisher, — whom I suppose to be the Mary in the text, — of Dedham, had liberty given her by the General Court to take the administration of her husband's estate for the benefit of her children (Mass. Col. Rec., i. 292). This Mary Fisher we may reasonably believe to have been the widow who joined the Boston Church in 1647, and died 1653. 'Great labor,' says Savage, 'I have found to conciliate these Fishers; and some of it may seem unsuccess.'I think, however, this passage in Lechford supplies a link which was wanting in Savage's train of reasoning.
"In regard to Elisha Bridges and John Blackstone and Sara his wife, I regret to say my researches have been less successful. The name of Elisha Bridges does not occur in Savage; Blackstone may have been some relative to the Rev. Wm. Blaxton, who had a son John."
Therefore, we have evidence, from a primary, historical document (notes of attorney Lechford), that the widow of Thomas Fisher of Dedham in 1639 was named Mary.Savage, however, in his Dictionary, stated, "[Thomas's] wid. Elizabeth d.21 Jan. 1651."In Savage's entry for the second of the two men named Thomas Fisher (and who married Rebecca Woodward in 1666), he added, "A Mary F[isher] wid[ow] join[ed] Boston ch[urch] 25 Dec. 1647, and d[ied] 6 Sept. 1653, but I kn[ow] not wh[o] was her h[usband]."So apparently Savage was wrong, and this is an instance where his "great labor" was "unsuccessful".
Let's return to Elizabeth Fisher, widow of John.Pope said this widow Elizabeth Fisher died January 31, 1651 in Dedham.Compare her to the Elizabeth Fisher, supposedlywidow of Thomas, that Savage said died January 21, 1651 in Dedham.Apparently Savage confused Elizabeth, widow of John, with the widow of Thomas (who was actually named Mary).Compare the dates of death:January 21, 1651 and January 31, 1651.It seems too great a coincidence that two widows named Elizabeth Fisher both died in January 1651 in the still-small town of Dedham.Since we know that Savage was in error on the name of Thomas Fisher's widow (who was Mary, not Elizabeth), it seems that he simply mis-identifed Elizabeth, John's widow, and then possibly had a clerical (typographical) error in the date of her death.
How much of the other information about Thomas Fisher did Savage confuse?Quite a bit.Let's take it piece by piece.
BOTH Savage and Pope state that Thomas Fisher had lived in Cambridge, Massacusetts in 1634 (when it was still called Newtowne).BOTH Savage and Pope mention that the leaders of Dedham had engaged him to build the meeting house (and Pope states he was a carpenter).BOTH Savage and Pope state that Thomas Fisher had been admitted as a "freeman" of the Massachusetts Bay Colony on March 4, 1635 (and this was new style, because Pope noted the date as 1634/5). Savage states that Thomas had "perhaps a d[aughter]" while Pope states that Thomas had a daughter Sarah.Savage stated that Thomas Fisher died in 1638 while Pope stated that Thomas Fisher died on 10 (6) 1638 (i.e., August 10, 1638, new style). The Antiquarian Society author wrote, "Exactly when he died I cannot say."
Pope refers to a primary historical record, stating, "[The widow of Thomas] had leave from Gen. Court 13 May, 1640, to admin. her husband’s est., and to sell half of her lot for the bringing up of her children."The author of the Antiquarian Society work hedges cautiously, stating, "Some while after, this Widow Fisher, — whom I suppose to be the Mary in the text, — of Dedham, had liberty given her by the General Court to take the administration of her husband's estate for the benefit of her children (Mass. Col. Rec., i. 292)."
Apparently this record from the General Court only refers to "Widow Fisher", without explicitly stating her first name.We know from Pope that John Fisher had died July 15, 1637 in Dedham and that his widow Elizabeth was still there in 1640 (when she became a member of the Dedham church) and until 1651 (when she died there).We also know from Savage and Pope that Thomas Fisher had died in 1638 (perhaps August 10) in Dedham and that his widow Mary had at least a daughter Sarah.The 1640 order of the General Court was almost three years after the death of John Fisher, and almost two years after the death of Thomas Fisher, but in all honesty, the Court record could refer to either widow, Elizabeth or Mary.
The "Widow Fisher" referred to in the 1640 Court record had "children" (plural).We know that Thomas and Mary Fisher had at least a daughter Sarah.We do not know if John and Elizabeth Fisher had children.Nonetheless, Savage, without any citation of evidence, baldly stated that Thomas and "Elizabeth" Fisher had sons Thomas and Samuel.Savage was wrong on the wife; was he wrong on the sons?
Many family trees posted on World Connect (www.rootsweb.com) state that the Thomas Fisher who married Rebecca Woodward (daughter of George) in 1666 was likely born between about 1630 and 1638, and died on or about March 12, 1707.Savage wrote that this Thomas was "perhaps" the son of the Thomas who had died in 1638.Many family trees on World Connect also state that there was a Samuel Fisher, likely born between about 1630 and 1638, who married in 1659 Meletiah (or Milcah) Snow (daughter of Thomas) and lived in Wrentham, Massachusetts, where he died about January 5 or 6, 1703/4.Many suggest that he was another son of the Thomas Fisher who died in 1638.
Here is the problem.In 1670, the Reverend John Allen of Dedham wrote his Will and made bequests to (among others) his "near kinsmen" Samuel and Thomas Fisher.I believe that many researchers have GUESSED that this Samuel and Thomas Fisher mentioned in the Will were the same Samuel and Thomas who are listed by Savage as sons of Thomas.People have then GUESSED that John Allen, in using the term "near kinsmen" was calling these two his nephews.People have then taken the erroneous information from Savage about Thomas Fisher having a widow Elizabeth, and have CREATED an Elizabeth Allen, sister of the Reverend John Allen.But this is error, as Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) was the widow of John Fisher, and Thomas Fisher's widow was named Mary.
Now add one more bit of information to the mix.On a family tree posted by a Doneva Shepard at http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=donevanell&id=I02680http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=donevanell&id=I02680, she stated, "On an unknown date, in a list of 'Gifts bestowed upon the colony since 1634,' John Winthrop noted that 'John Allen of Surslingham, minister, in Norfolk, gave £25 to the treasury, sent by Thomas Fisher of Winton'. 'Surslingham' is a corruption of Saxlingham-juxta-Mare. 'Winton' may represent an earlier residence for Thomas Fisher; no parish of this name exists in Norfolk, but there is a Winston in Suffolk."
I have not had any success in tracking down the primary source for this list of "Gifts", but it strikes me as being credible.I believe this record might have been the evidence that Savage relied upon in stating that Thomas Fisher of Dedham (by way of Cambridge) came "perhaps, from Winton in Eng. But it is not told whether the town were in Westmoreland or Yorksh. and I doubt the spell. may have been Winston, in Co. Suffolk."
I personally believe that it is reasonable to infer that this John Allen, a minister in Saxlingham, Norfolk, England was the same Reverend John Allen who came to Dedham in about 1637.It also seems reasonable to infer that the Samuel and Thomas Fisher who were "near kinsmen" of John Allen (as described in his 1670 Will) are somehow related to this Thomas Fisher of Winton (or Winston).But was the Thomas Fisher residing in England, who gave a generous gift to the Massachusetts Bay Company AFTER 1634 (but presumably before 1637) the carpenter Thomas Fisher living in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1634?I don't think so, for several reasons.
First, if the Thomas Fisher who died in Dedham in 1638 was living in Cambridge, MA in 1634, he could not have been living in Winton (or Winston), England after 1634, when the gift was made.Second, Thomas Fisher, a mere carpenter, was very likely too poor to afford a gift of 25 pounds.Twenty-five pounds was a substantial sum in the 1630s, and the Thomas Fisher who made that gift was more likely a merchant or other person of means.Third, there is no evidence about the vital statistics of the donor Thomas Fisher, but I would guesstimate that he was established and comfortable (and so over the age of 30, or even over 40) when he made the gift, so likely born before 1600.Fourth, IF the donor Thomas Fisher was POSSIBLY the father of the Samuel and Thomas Fisher estimated as born 1630-1638, then he was almost certainly born before 1610.But did the donor Thomas Fisher ever migrate?
We now can return to the list of men who signed the Dedham Covenant, and notice that there were TWO men named Thomas Fisher listed, one at number 42 and one at number 125.I believe that Thomas Fisher No. 42 was the carpenter from Cambridge who died in 1638.I believe that Thomas Fisher No. 125 MIGHT be the donor Thomas Fisher, who might have arrived in Dedham about 1637, at the same time as the Reverend John Allen.
One "mystery" remains to be rethought.The list of Dedham Covernant signers also included a Samuel Fisher (No. 122).Who was he?Presumably he was an adult by no later than 1639, and so likely born in/before 1618.He might have been related to the donor Thomas Fisher and/or to the Reverend John Allen.He was PROBABLY not the Samuel Fisher who married Meletiah (Milcah??) Snow in 1659 (unless he married at age 41 or older, and lived to be at least 86).
Based on the re-examination of the evidence above, I think the following conclusions are reasonable.
1.There is NO evidence that the carpenter Thomas Fisher of Cambridge who died in Dedham in 1638 was from Winton or Winston.
2.The wife of carpenter Thomas Fisher was named Mary.
3.The donor Thomas Fisher, of Winton/Winston MIGHT be the Thomas Fisher No. 125 on the Dedham Covernant list, and MIGHT be the father of the Thomas who married Rebecca Woodward and the Samuel who married Miss Snow.
4.The wife of donor Thomas Fisher MIGHT have been a Miss Allen or some other relative of the Reverend John Allen, but there is NO evidence that her name was Elizabeth.
5.A John Fisher of Dedham, who died in 1637, left a widow named Elizabeth, but her maiden name is unknown.
6.There was possibly a Samuel Fisher born before 1618 who lived in Dedham as of about 1638, and who MIGHT be related to donor Thomas Fisher.
If anyone has additional relevant evidence, or other reasonable interpretations of the evidence cited above, please share by posting here, or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.