John Winthrop Jr.

John Winthrop Jr., here and gone

John Winthrop the younger was the son of Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop, and led the settlement of Agawam in 1633 (renamed Ipswich in 1634), accompanied by 11 men. During that first year they erected crude shelters, and the next year brought their families to join them in the wilderness.

The native population of Agawam had been decimated by a plague, and the relationship between the settlers and the natives was mutually beneficial at the beginning. Sagamore Masconomet signed over to Winthrop all that land between Labor in Vain Creek and Chebacco Creek for the sum of twenty pounds, with a promise of protection from their enemies, the Abernaki Indians.

The meticulous list of John Winthrop’s home inventory has been preserved, and suggests that it was a small four room structure. Winthrop was married to his cousin Martha Fones, who died with an infant in the summer of 1634, the first of the settlers to be buried. After her death, Winthrop sailed to England and when he returned, he had married Elizabeth Reade.

In 1636 Winthrop accepted a commission to begin a plantation in Saybrook Connecticut. More than fifty prominent Ipswich citizens set their names to a letter addressed to Winthrop’s father, the governor, appealing that their leader, John Winthrop Jr. be retained. A generous vote of Jan. 13, 1637 granted to Mr. John Winthrop “Castle Hill and all the meadow and marsh lying within the creeke provided he lives in the Towne.”

Notwithstanding, Mr. Winthrop moved in 1639 to Connecticut and sold Samuel Symonds the Castle Hill grant and his land at “Argilla Farm.” When Mr. Symonds bought it there were no buildings and his first care was to erect a house for himself. Symonds became Deputy Governor of the Colony, and in 1660 conveyed the land to his son-in-law Daniel Epes. In 1657 John Winthrop the younger was elected Governor of Connecticut Colony. He died in 1676.

The small settlement at Ipswich felt betrayed by Winthrop Jr., but selected as their new leader an able and gifted young leader named Daniel Denison, who became Major General of the colonial forces and represented Ipswich in the general court. He was remembered with high esteem by the people of Ipswich well into the 19th Century.

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