Saturday, August 30, 2014

Henry Adams - "Founder of New England"

Family Lineage: 1 Henry Adams, 2 Mary Adams, 3 Jonathan Fairbanks Sr., 4 Jonathan Fairbanks, Jr., 5 Joshua Fairbanks, 6 John Fairbanks, 7 Theophilus Fairbanks, 8 Elizabeth Fairbanks, 9 Sarah Elizabeth Lane, 10 Estella Elizabeth Foss, 11 Harold Hayward, 12 Judith Ann Hayward

1583 – 1646

Henry Adams was born in Barton St. David, Somersetshire, England, the youngest of 4 children of John Adams (no – not that John Adams – he came into the family a few generations later). The Adams had deep roots in their homeland as farmers (who grew the barley) and "maltsters" (who processed it into ale, bread products, cereal, etc.).

What finally convinced Henry and his wife, Edith Squire Adams, to leave family and friends behind in 1638 and sail over 3,000 miles to America with all but one of their children?  Did they even begin to suspect the danger of - first - traveling on a flimsy ship in a raging sea and then - after reaching land - re-building their lives in an unknown, unsettled and dangerous wilderness? 

The decision itself must have been even more devastating because what they did know was that they probably would never again see those they had left behind. After all, their only means of communication at that time would have been through letters entrusted to the captain of a ship which hopefully would reach their destination sometime in the next 6 months (no telephone, Skype or Facebook for them!)
Documented family history reveals that Henry and his wife had probably become Puritans in the early 1600s, which is when Puritanism was rapidly growing throughout the country. This trend continued despite civil and ecclesiastical prosecutions to enforce conformity to the established church.  Soon, in response to the ever-expanding  restrictions being put into place against their method of worship, a number of organizations were created to help these Puritans travel to a new world where they might live free from the persecutions of the established church. 

Between 1629 and 1640, about 25,000 Puritans had become the founders of what is now known as "New England".  In fact, some of Henry's friends and even his wife's sister had already made the arduous trip, and they must have fervently prayed that their loved ones had arrived safelyand were waiting for them. 

This was probably the prime motivator for Henry to decide in 1638 that  it was time to leave home.  It just wasn't safe anymore!  And it is likely that they joined the Massachusetts Bay Company which had secured a charter for a colony in Massachusetts.  It was a good decision. The family survived the long journey and, in 1639, Henry was granted 40 acres of land by the town of Boston on which to settle.

However, even after their safe arrival and settlement, there were also unforeseen tragedies. In 1675, their eldest son, Lt. Henry Adams, Jr., was killed by Indians while standing  in his doorway during the “King Philip's War” (one of the little known French-Indian wars), and most of the town of Medfield was destroyed. Ironically, his wife, Elizabeth, was not at home at the time because she was very ill and being treated on the second floor of a minister/physician's home. During the battle, a gun in the hands of a captain commanding a garrison stationed on the first floor of the doctor's house was accidentally discharged.  The ball passed through the floor boards, the bed and into Elizabeth, resulting in her death the next day (Medfield Vital Records, page 189; “History of Medfield,” page 85). 

Eventually Henry became known as “The Founder of New England”.  That could be because of the extraordinary number of grandchildren (89) born to the children of Henry and Edith after their arrival in America.

President John Quincy Adams
These grandchildren - and their grandchildren - also took a prominent place in America's history. They were President John Adams, his brother, Samuel (a rabblerouser if there ever was one who became Governor of Massachusetts after the Revolution), and their children which included President John Quincy Adams. 
John Adams, 2nd President of U.S.

 Many years later, Henry's gg grandson, the second President of the United States, John Adams, commissioned a monument to be  erected extolling Henry Adams' virtues of “piety, humility, simplicity, prudence patience, temperance, frugality, industry and perseverance”.  That monument, as shown above, is still standing.

Henry and his large family seemed to prefer settling near the coast in Braintree Massachusetts, which is now known as Quincy. His biographers do not associate him with the more radical and religious Puritans, nor with the liberal and outlawed Pilgrims, but rather see him and other followers of Rev. John White as adventurers, seeking a new world where the boundaries of a class society could be overcome. (N. E. History and Genealogy Register, Vol. VII., p. 35(1853).")