Church at Watton, Herts, England.
Church at Watton - Rear View.
"1633. Nov. 18. Thomas Hale, son of Thomas and Thomasine."
No record is found at Watton or in any of the adjacent parishes of the birth, baptism or marriage of Thomas* Hale. His wife Joan Kirby was of the parish of Little Munden, Herts, and that was probably the place of their marriage and of her birth, and not improbably of his birth as well, but the registers of Little Munden, prior to 1680, have long been hopelessly lost, and no monuments are found in the parish churches or church-yards of Watton or Little Munden of any of the name of either Hale or Kirby.
Thomas Hale was the only son of Thomas* Hale, but he had four sisters, all born and baptized at Watton, one older and three younger than himself, whose baptisms are shown by the parish registers at Watton, as follows:
1. Dionis, baptized 15th August, 1602, and registered as "Dionis Haille." She married at Watton, 29th September, 1624, Henry Beane, and was living and had a son Henry at the date of her father's will, 11th October, 1630. Nothing more is known of them. This entry of the baptism of Dionis is the first appearance of the name of Hale in the church registers at Watton, which are preserved back to 1560. It is a noteworthy coincidence, that both William and Richard, sons of the first Richard of King's Walden, had each a daughter Dionysia, in common usance rendered "Dionis."
2. Mary, baptized 8th October, 1609, as "Marie Hale, dau. of Thomas & Joan." It is probable that she married a Whale, and had a son Joseph named in the will of her grandmother Joan Kirby, hereinafter named, as "my grandchild [doubtless meaning great-grandchild] Joseph Whale."
3. Dorothy, baptized 28th March, 1613, as " Dorothie Hale, the daughter of Thomas and Joan his wife."
4. Elizabeth, baptized 31st August, 1617, as "Elizabeth Haile the daughter of Thomas and Joan his wife."
The parish register at Watton shows the burial of Thomas* Hale, father of Thomas, 19th Oct. 1630. The register styles him "Thomas Hale, Senior." He left a will bearing date the 11th October, 1630, and proved 9th December, 1630, in the court of the Archdeaconry of Hitchin, Herts, by Thomas Hale, the executor named in it. The original is still on file among the records of that court, is signed by the testator in a decent and legible though evidently not a business hand, is sealed with the impression of a unicorn's head, and is witnessed by ffrancis Kirby and by John Hale, the latter signing by mark. Nothing is known to connect this John Hale with the testator's blood.
In this will the testator describes himself as "Thomas Hale of ye parish of Watton-at-Stone in the County of Hartford," without addition. After the usual pious profession of faith, thanks to God, committal of his soul to its creator and his body to burial, he disposes of his personal property and his real estate consisting of eleven, and perhaps twelve, distinct parcels, probably all of small extent. Five of these parcels, designated as the house close, the backside close, the hill close, and two others, the extent and tenure of none of which are given, he devises to his wife Joane and son Thomas till Michaelmas next, conditioned that they "shall bestow necessary reparation upon my said house" and shall pay to Mrs. Cranfield the half year's rent to become due at Michaelmas on the land testator holds from her. For ten years thereafter he devises these parcels to his wife, his son Thomas to occupy the same as her tenant, paying her the yearly rent of four pounds in half-yearly payments.
Another parcel designated as the "medow and ry close conteyninge seuen acres more or lesse," he devises to his daughter Mary Hale for three years, "with all the benefit of graseinge or moweing & loppinge both in the said medow & hedges so that she do not spoile the said hedges that the loppinge be only in the first year;" then for three years in like manner to his daughter Dorothy Hale; then for three years in like manner to his daughter Elizabeth Hale; then for one year,to his daughter Dionis Beane, "or to her son Henry Beane which shall be then liveinge." He provides also that Thomas shall occupy this close as the tenant of his sisters respectively during said respective terms, paying to them respectively five pounds per year rent in half-yearly payments.
The remaining parcels of real estate, designated as two half acres of "free land (freehold) lieinge in Headen abuttinge upon the highway leadinge from Watton to Walkerne," an acre and a half in "Monsal's hearn," a "parcell of medow pasture close & orchard in Cooper's crofte abouteinge upon the river on the east & highway on the west," and one piece in Stoneyfield he devises absolutely to his son Thomas, to whom he also gives all his goods and chattels "(exceptinge a bed with beddinge convenient linnen and other fittings furniture for one chamber which I hereby reserue & give to Jone my wife)." He directs payment of all his debts and the "dischargeinge of buriall and such necessary disbursements" by his son Thomas from the avails of the land and goods, and appoints him sole executor, "nothing doubtinge of his carefull performance of this my will," and requests "my brother Francis Kirby to be an overseer."
This completes our knowledge of Thomas* Hale and of his kindred by blood, except so far as he is alluded to in the wills of his wife's kindred hereinafter named. From the brief record it is apparent that he was of the rank of yeoman of the smaller class as to property, but apparently marked by thrift, respectability, honesty, piety and prudent foresight. It is impossible to determine the value of the estate which he left, but it was evidently not large. Thomas the son undoubtedly had as heir the larger part of the estate, and the rents he was to pay his mother and sisters, nine pounds per Year in all, were in that day equivalent in value to from £27 to £36 (say $135 to $180) at the present day (1889). The widow Joan was of course entitled to dower in any of the dowable lands left by the testator, in addition to the specific devises and bequests to her, and from Kirby's letter to Gov. Winthrop it appears that Thomas the emigrant would be entitled to some further property at his mother's death.
Thomas was twenty-four years old at his father's death, and at that early age had his father's full confidence, a confidence which Kirby's letter shows had been fully justified up to the time of his emigration, six or seven years later. At the latter date Thomas had been married probably about five years, had two young children, had doubtless paid off all his father's debts, and Kirby then places the entire value of his estate at £200 - equivalent to £600 to £800 at this day (1889), besides whatever might be to fall in at his mother's death. But it is fair to note that he had probably turned his estate into cash at a disadvantage in view of emigrating. It was a humble but evidently respectable position, and doubtless a fair specimen of the average rank, social position, character and standing of the early settlers of the colony of Massachusetts Bay.
Joan, the widow of Thomas* Hale, at some time between her husband's death and June, 1637, married a Bydes, or Bides, probably John, and was still living in October, 1640, the date of her mother's will, but was probably dead before July, 1660, the date of her brother Francis's will. After her marriage with Bydes she seems to have resided at Little Munden, to which place she was probably accompanied by her two youngest daughters, Dorothy and Elizabeth. Bydes was a man of humble social station, and nothing more is known of the widow Joan Hale after her marriage with him, except the reference to her in the wills noted below.
Of the family of Joan (Kirby) Hale our information is a little, and but a little, fuller than that of her husband Thomas* Hale. The name of her father is unknown. Her mother, Joan Kirby, described in the records as of Little Munden, widow, made a nuncupative (oral) will, 29th October, 1640, in the presence of her three children, Francis Kirby, Joane Bides and Ruth Browne, and of John Bides, which was proved by the executor in the court of the Archdeaconry of Hitchin on the 2d December, 1640. By it she gave to the poor of Watton, where she was born, 20 shillings, to the poor of Little Munden, where she lived, 20 shillings, small legacies to her grandchild Ruth Cowley, to her grandchild Richard Kirby, to her grandchild Joseph Whale, to her cousin Elizabeth Isham, to her cousin Mary Newton, and to her daughter Joan Bides, and the residue to her son Francis Kirby, whom she made sole executor. The inventory attached to the will shows the entire value of her personal estate, £18, 8, 1½, of which £2, as we, have seen, was given to the poor. It does not appear whether she had any real estate, as that, if any existed, would not pass by a nuncupative will.
Besides Joan Hale and Francis Kirby already mentioned, Joan Kirby the elder and her husband had children John, William and Ruth. William, the youngest son, died before 1660, leaving a son William and a daughter Ruth. John, the second son, had, by two wives, five children, the two eldest of whom (perhaps twins) were both named John, and are designated in his will as."my son John the elder," and "my younger son John." His will bears date 23d April, 1628, and was proved in the Prerogative Court at Canterbury, by both executors, 7th July, 1628. In it he describes himself as "of Little Munden, yeoman," disposes of a respectable estate, gives 20 shillings to the poor of Little Munden, provides for his wife Martha, naming her brothers Richard Ward and William Ward as trustees, and for his four sons, the two Johns, William and Richard, and his daughter Elizabeth, and appoints his brother Francis Kirby of London, and his brother-in-law Thomas Hale of Watton, executors.
"John Kirby the elder," eldest son of the above John, made his Will 10th June, 1637, describing, himself as "of Dane End in the parish of Little Munden, yeoman," and naming his wife Mary, his daughter Mary, and a child of which his wife was then pregnant, his brothers John and William, his aunt Ruth Cowley, and his father-in-law John Sympton, and Richard Cock of Little Munden, yeoman, which last two he named as overseers. It also named his sister Elizabeth with a bequest of £10 to her, but this entry was erased, doubtless indicating that she died before the testator. The will was proved at Hitchin, 9th October, 1637, by the widow Mary.
Elizabeth Kirby, daughter of John the brother of Joan Hale, made her will, dated lst June, 1637, describing herself as of Dane End in the parish of Little Munden, and giving bequests to her mother, her brothers the two Johns and William, her aunt Ruth Cowley and the daughter of the latter, Ruth Cowley the younger, her aunt Joane Bydes, and her daughters Dorothy and Elizabeth (Hale), her uncle Francis Kirby, whom she makes executor, and his son and daughter Joshua and Sarah, these last two being residuary legatees. This will was proved at Hitchin by the executor, 2d August, 1637.
Ruth, the sister of Joan (Kirby) Hale, married first a Cowley, by whom she had a daughter Ruth. He died before June, 1637, and before October, 1640, she married Edward Browne. She was still living at the date of the will of her brother Francis in July, 1660, and was apparently the last survivor of the family.
It remains to speak only of Francis Kirby, the brother of Joan and the uncle of Thomas Hale. A foot-note to his letters in the Winthrop papers (Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., s. 4, vol. 7: p. 13) describes him as "a merchant of London, largely engaged in forwarding supplies to the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and in commercial transactions with the early settlers." All the records touching him in England, however, style him "skinner," and not merchant, the former term including dealers in leather, hides, skins, furs and peltries.
His letters to Gov. Winthrop and to his son John Winthrop, Jr., so far as published, are found in the volume of the Hist. Soc. Coll. above named, pp. 13 to 22 and in vol. 9 of series 3 of the same Collections, pp. 237 to 267, and range in date from 1631 to 1639. They indicate relations of great intimacy and confidence, especially between himself and the younger Winthrop; though relating primarily to business, they contain much in the way of general, local and family news, and are written in a free, pleasant and cultivated style, pretty freely garnished with Latin quotations and expressions, with a slight occasional error in inflection or orthography.
Francis Kirby's first wife and the mother of his children, was Susan, sister of Emanuel Downing (the father of Sir George), who in turn married the sister of Gov. Winthrop the elder. This connection by marriage undoubtedly led to the intimate relations between him and the Winthrops.
His business with the colonies seems to have included a general exportation of supplies of all kinds to the colonists, for which he received payment mainly in beavers' skins, for the purchase, care and shipping of which he gives frequent and minute directions.
He probably married for a second wife the widow Elizabeth Carter, mother of Joseph Carter, whom he introduced to Gov. Winthrop by a letter dated 11th April, 1639 (M.H.S.C. vol. 7, supra, p. 20) as "my loue-deseruinge son and faithfull servant." Carter was at Newbury the next year, 1640, when he received from Thomas Hale a deed of forty acres of land in Newbury. He soon after returned to England, where he probably married, and where his daughter Eunice was baptized in St. Helen's Church, Bishopegate, 2d July, 1643, and his daughter Mary, 8th Sept., 1644, each described in the registry as "daughter of Joseph Carter, skinner, and Eunice his wife." This notice is taken here of Joseph Carter, as being, with the exception of the wife and children of Thomas Hale, and his remote alliance by marriage with the Downings and Winthrops, the only connection either by blood or marriage of Thomas who is known to have ever been in America, and his stay here did not probably exceed three years. As further illustrative of the almost constant inaccuracy of Coffin, it is proper to note that he, and Savage following him, place Joseph Carter at Newbury in 1636, when he plainly did not arrive there before 1639.
Francis Kirby had three children, and only three so far as appears, viz.: Joshua, Francis who died on the day of his birth, and Sarah who died before her father. He was born probably about 1590, and married about 1616, his eldest child Joshua having been born in 1617. It is significant of his character and the success which he achieved, that being the son of a rural yeoman, and probably early apprenticed to the trade of "skinner" in London, he could have achieved so early the position of a thriving and respected tradesman which he so evidently sustained from 1631 to 1639, with the degree of education and accomplishments which his letters show him to have possessed; still more significant in this regard is the fact that his eldest son Joshua was matriculated at New Inn Hall in Oxford at the age of 17, in 1634, whence he proceeded B. A. in 1637, at the age of 20; and M. A. in 1640, at the age of 23. Joshua took orders, and his career was a most interesting one, did our limits permit us to follow it. His persecutions, first by the puritans for his adherence to Charles I, whom he persisted in praying for publicly long after most of the puritans evidently regarded him as "past praying for," and after the restoration by the royal party for alleged undue adherence to puritan principles and practices, would seem to indicate his character as the very antipodes of the excellent and politic Vicar of Bray, as well as of the good vicar's antetype or imitator, as the case may have been, Joshua's cousin-german, Sir George Downing. His wife was Mary Balam, a sister of Balaam Balam.
Francis Kirby would seem to have met with financial reverses during the time of the commonwealth, abandoned his old business and quit his old parish of St. Helen's, where his first wife had died in 1635. Some years before his death he was appointed by the common council of London, bridge-master of Old London Bridge, and he held that, post to his death. The office was a respectable and responsible one, and though indicative of fallen fortunes to Mr. Kirby, was no less indicative of the confidence and respect in which he was held by his neighbors and fellow-tradesmen. According to the old chroniclers it was an office filled by "some freeman elected by the city to look after the reparations of the bridge; he hath a liberal salary allowed him, and the place hath sometimes been a good relief for some honest citizens fallen to decay." His emoluments consisted of a salary and fees amounting to about £100 a year (equivalent to about £300 to £400 at the present day)(1889) and the use of a comfortable house at the Surrey end of the bridge in the parish of St. Olave, Southwark, known as the bridge-master's house, and readily distinguished in the old engravings of London Bridge. Here he doubtless died, and was buried in the parish church at St. Olave's, 12th October, 1661, the registry describing him simply as " Francis Kerby, bridgemaster."
His reduced fortunes were evidently somewhat improved before his death, his will indicating that he left a comfortable estate. It bears date 24th July, 1660, and was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1st November, 1661, by Joshua Kirby the executor. In it he describes himself as "citizen and skinner of London, now dwelling in the parish of St. Olave Southwark, Surrey." He gives bequests to Mary, wife of his son Joshua, and to their children Godsgift, Susan, Elizabeth, Phebe, Camdena and Welcome; to his sister Ruth Browne; to the poor of Little Munden; to the poor at St. Olave; to Elizabeth Turfett, daughter of George Turfett, the grandchild of his late wife Elizabeth, deceased; to Mary Nash, widow, late wife of John Nash; to his cousin Joseph Alport, scrivener; to his cousin William Kirby, son of his late brother William Kirby, and to his cousin Ruth Macham, sister of said William; to his cousins John Kirby and William Kirby, sons of his late brother John Kirby; to his cousin Elizabeth Goad; to Eunice, Rachel and Sarah Carter, daughters of Joseph Carter, deceased, and to his servant Mary Bradbury. He makes his son Joshua Kirby residuary legatee and devisee and sole executor, and appoints as overseer his sister Ruth Browne and his "loving neighbor, Mr. Matthew Robinson, citizen and grocer of London."
The will of Joshua Kirby, son of Francis was made 30th May, 1674, proved at Pontefract 29th August 1676, and registered in the registry at York. It is referred to only to note that it gives legacies of forty shillings to each of "my brother Carter's daughters." The male line of Francis Kirby terminated with his grandson Godsgift, son of Joshua, who was educated for the Presbyterian ministry and died in 1686, unmarried, at the age of 28.
This completes the record of the English origin and connections of the emigrant Thomas Hale of Newbury, so far as known or likely ever to be known. The social rank of the Hales and Kirbys, and the absence of church and church-yard monuments, and of further entries upon probate and church registers, render it improbable that more, will ever be known of the generations prior to Thomas. Col. Chester's labors, to which I am indebted for almost all the English records above referred to, have evidently been exhaustive and thorough.
The maiden name, parentage and birth-place of Thomasine, wife of Thomas Hale, are all undiscovered, and likely to remain so, unless by accidental discovery through some records of her own family. But the identity of Thomas of Newbury, who is found at that place in 1638, having a wife Thomasine and children, Thomas said to have been born in 1633, and John born 1635 or 1636, with Thomas the son of Thomas* and Joan (Kirby) Hale of Watton, is established beyond doubt by the following entries found in the Registry of baptisms in the parish church at Watton, viz.:
"1635. April 19. John Hale, son of Thomas and Thomasine."
In conclusion it may be added, that the name of Hale under the different forms of de la Hale, de Hale, at-Hale, Hales and Hale, has been abundant in Hertfordshire since the early part of the thirteenth century, and still is so. I find no evidence that any of the name there were above the rank of yeoman before 1560. The name also early prevailed and is still probably found in Surrey, Sussex, Norfolk, Bucks, Essex, Hants, North Hants, Kent, Salop, Somerset, Gloucester and other counties. Of the Hales of Gloucestershire, to which family the illustrious Sir Matthew Hale, Lord Chief Justice, belonged, Atkyns, in his history of that country, says (p. 107): "The family of Hale has been of ancient standing in this county, and always esteemed for their probity and charity."