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John Wood, the oldest immigrant ancestor of the Wood family, came to Massachusetts in 1635 aboard the ship Matthew. Most of his adult children followed him to America soon after.
John Wood is also known as John Atwood in some records; his baptismal name is “Johanem Wood” according to E. F. Atwood; however, I have yet to locate that record, so it may be a mistake. In the Sanderstead parish birth records his name is recorded as “Johannes” (not Johanem) with a date of 4 Feb 1582. Johannes is the Latinized version of John, often used in official records. He was a twin to Dericke who died in infancy. His baptism was recorded in both Sanderstead and Gatton parishes. It is not known why his birth was recorded at Gatton (a parish that is also located in Surrey, about three miles from Reigate), but it leads me to speculate that John’s mother may have originally come from that parish.
From the Sanderstead Parish Register of baptism records:
1582 Feb 4, Johannes t Dericke Woode gemille Nicholaj Woode
translation: 1582 Feb 4, John and twin Derick Wood born to twin bearing (father) Nicholas Wood
Since John Wood was baptised in Sanderstead, Surrey, England on 4 February 1582, it is likely that he was born about that time because it was customary to baptise infant children. He was probably born in Sanderstead since that is where his father, Nicholas and mother Olive (Harman) had a home. The Wood family had been associated with Sanderstead since about 1400 and had constructed a manor house there known as “Sanderstead Court.” The title to the lands in Sanderstead are somewhat confusing at this point in time and it is not entirely clear whether the family was actually living at Sanderstead Court or in one of the other houses in the parish.
John Wood married Joan Coleson of Saint Martin’s Parish, London in the summer of 1612. They had at least seven children, all born in England, five were sons and two were daughters. Johanna and Agnes are questionable children; they are included here until their ancestry is confirmed fully. Philip is sometimes included as a child of John and Joan, however, this is not the case. Most of the other children were baptised at St. Martins in the Fields church in London. E. F. Atwood believes that after the birth of his second son, John (in 1613), he and his family moved to Chancery Lane in London. He does not provide documentation for this assertion, however.
John was a “leather seller” in England. A notation in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1848 indicates that John Atwood was a member of the Leatherseller’s Company on 22 January 1628; he sponsored a man with a highly unusual name to membership in the guild–Praysgod Barbone. Leather sellers were involved in selling, whiting, sorting and staking leather, and they belonged to a guild in London that regulated the trade; their guild hall was a large and elaborate building and they derived both social and financial benefits from belonging to the guild. Leather craftsmen making leather goods and parchment could also belong to this guild. Leather was an essential product with many uses during this time.
When John’s father, Nicholas, died in 1586, he left his estate to his youngest son Richard. Normally the oldest son would inherit his father’s estate, so this was an unusual bequest. Richard died 17 years later in about 1603 and his estate was inherited by the oldest brother in the family, Harman. According to court documents summarized by E. F. Atwood in Ancestry of Harman Atwood, John sued his older brother on 1 Feb 1631 saying he should be the heir of the estate, not Harman:
“Harman Atwood doth confess that he hath a copy of a Court role, dated 37 Henry 8 (1546-47) which proves that Nicholas Wood was the heir, that Thomas Wood, a young son, had certain manor lands settled on him by his father, John Wood, and that on the death of said Thomas, Nicholas Wod was possessed of said lands, according to the custom of said manor.”
Atwood maintains that this proceeding was used to simply sort out ownership of various Wood/Atwood lands, and that it was not filed in anger over John’s perceived disinheritence. King Henry had taken some lands belonging to the Wood/Atwood family some years before when he dissolved the monastaries in England. The land the Wood/Atwood family owned had previously belonged to the monastary, and it may well have been a legal maneuver by the Wood/Atwood family to clarify their rightful ownership of lands in Sanderstead parish and elsewhere. It is probably from this incident that E. F. Atwood says that some of John’s descendants claim he left for America after being disinherited.
I believe that Atwood is probably correct because if John was unhappy with his brother Harman after Richard’s death it seems unlikely that he would have named his own son “Harman” in 1612. E. F. Atwood’s conclusion is that this suit was merely a legal technicality to sort out ownership rights of Sanderstead. This conclusion would indicate that John did not leave England because of dissatisfaction with his inheritance, but for other reasons–possibly religious, possibly financial, or possibly for adventure.
It is not known what prompted John to leave England for the new colonies in America in 1635, but we can make a few guesses based on John’s personal circumstances as well as the political and religious climate in England at the time. James I, the English King (1566 – 1625), faced opposition on many fronts. James did not trust the growing Puritan movement in England, and viewed it as a threat to his royal control of the church. Tensions continued to increase after James was succeeded by his son, Charles I, and finally reached a breaking point with the English Civil Wars.
Many Puritans, who became known as Dissenters, faced discrimination and persecution in England. They sought to “purify” the Church of England and objected to many of its ceremonies such as exchanging rings during marriage, inviting “evil doers” to share in communion, using the sign of the cross in baptism, etc. Many of the Dissenters’ preachers were driven to ruin by the King through excessive taxation. This persecution lead to the first of several exoduses of Puritans, the first of which was to Leyden, Netherlands in about 1605. Most Puritans only stayed in the Netherlands for 10-15 years, however, and many eventually moved to America. The first group of Puritans arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 and founded the Plymouth Colony.
John may have well have been prompted by religious convictions to leave his English homeland and settle in the predominatly Puritan Plymouth Colony. We know that three of his sons married into staunch Puritan families after arriving in America. At least one leather seller in London was persecuted by the King for his beliefs and burned at the stake while John lived in London.
John may have also been motivated by financial considerations. As a younger son, John had been forced to fend for himself financially. It seems that his older brother, also named John (born 1576) had knowledge of the Plymouth Colony for he was recognized by the Treasurer of the stock company that funded the colony as a “special friend.” John’s brother’s relationship to the Plymouth Colony may have had an impact on John. It is also possible that since he had not been successful in his law suit against his brother Harman for a share in his father’s estate, John may have felt that the New World offered more oppotunity than London.
It is believed that John left England on 21 May 1635 aboard the Matthew. John’s name appears in the ship’s register in London, with 131 others; they were first transported to Saint Christopher’s Island (now known as St. Lucia), an island in the Leeward chain in the Caribbean. Richard Goodladd, owner and master of the Matthew per a warrant from the Earl of Carlisle. Before they were allowed to leave England they were compelled to take an oath of allegiance that they would be loyal to their King and their mother country.
Shortly after arriving in Plymouth, he was admitted as a freeman on 3 Jan 1636 which meant that he took an oath of allegiance to the Colony and could vote in elections and participate in the governemntal life of the colony:
“Mr. John Atwood, John Jenkin, John Weekes, Josiah Cooke, Willm Paddy, Robte Lee, Nathaniell Morton, Edward Forster, Georg Lewes, and Barnard Lumbard were made free this Court and sworn accordingly.” (The Wood family relationship with the Morton family would continue for many years.)
John’s wife, Joan, also came to America, but it appears that she did not sail with him on the Matthew since her name is not listed on the ship’s manifest. She came over on a later voyage, however, it is not clear which ship brought her.
From records of land transactions we know that John purchased land in Plymouth next to John Dunham shortly after his arrival. The land was granted to John Wood on 7 November 1636:
“had divers porcons allowed them, 3 acres in breadth & two in length, next to the land of John Dunham the elder…” The others were John Dunham Jr., John Wood, Samuell Eedy, Web Addy, Josiah Cooke, Thomas Atkinson, and Joshua Pratt, “All wch psons haue or are to build in the towne of Plym., and these lands to belong to their dwelling howses there, & not to be sold fro their howses.”
Citation: 7 Nov 1636 Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 1:46
The following summer, in 1638, William Bradford describes an interesting incident that undoubtedly would have made an impression on John:
“This year, aboute the 1. or 2 or June, was a great and fearfull earthquake; it was in this place heard before it was felte. it came with a rumbling noyse, or low murmure, like unto remoate thunder; it came from the norward, and passed southward. As the noyse aproached nerer, they earth began to shake, and came at lenght with that violence as caused platters, dishes, and such like things a stoode upon shelves to clatter an d fall downe; yea, persons were afraid of the houses themselves. It so fell oute that at the same time diverse of the cheefe of this towne were mett together at one house, conferring withsome of their friends that wre upon their removall from the place, (as if the Lord would herby shew the signes of his displeasure, in their shaking a peeces and removalls one from an other.) How ever it was very terrible for the time, and as the men were set talking in the house, some women and others were without the dores, and the earth shooke with that vilence as they could not stand without catching hould of the posts and pails that stood next them; but the vilence lasted not long. And about halfe an hower, or less, came an other noyse and shaking, but nether so loud nor strong as the former, but quickly passed over; and so it ceased. it was not only on the sea coast, but the Indeans felt it with in land; and some ships that wre upon the coast were shaken by it. So powerfull is the mighty hand of the Lord, as to make both the earth and sea to shake, and the mountaines to tremble before him, when he pleases; and who can stay his hand?”
Citation: Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
Four of John’s adult sons also came to America after him:
Stephen went to Eastham, Mass. in about 1648-50
John to Plymouth, Mass. in about 1636
Henry to Middleborough, Mass. in about 1641
Harman to Boston, Mass. in about 1642
It is possible that his other son, William, also came to Charlestown, Mass. (this is based on speculation by E. F. Atwood in Ye Atte Wode Annals).
Three of John’s sons married into prominent Puritan families:
John Wood married Sarah Masterson in 1642 in Plymouth. She was the daughter of Richard Masterson who had been a Deacon at Leyden, Holland, the first home of the Puritans.
Henry married Abigail Jenney in 1644 in Plymouth. She was the daughter of Capt. John Jenney and Sarah Carey who had first gone to Leyden, Holland before coming to America.
Stephen married Abigail Dunham in 1644 in Plymouth. She was the daughter of John Dunham and Abigail Barlow who had originally gone to Leiden, Holland and married there on 22 Oct 1622.
John only lived eleven years in his new American homeland. He died on 27 Feb 1644 in the Plymouth Colony. His will is dated 20 Oct 1643, and was proved on 5 Jun 1644.
E. F. Atwood in Ye Atte Wode Annals (1930) has provided a copy of the suit John filed against Harman in London in 1631. In this suit he is identified as the son of Nicholas and is also identified as a “leather seller:”
Chrles iw. 15-33. Wood Alias Atwood Vs. Atwood. Feb 1, 1631.
Humbly comlayning, your orator, John Wood, alias Attwood, of the City of London, leather seller, that whereas Nicholas Wood, alias Attwood, late of Sanderstead cum Longhurst, County Surrey, deceased father to your orator, was siezed of lands, etc., in Sanderstead, and did, about 28 Elizabeth , convey on parcel of lands called Mancocke and another parcel lying by Parkland, in the bottom towards Comes Wood Head, and a parcel lying by Mitheley, Great Burye, called Opeley, and one close lying at Ledowne, and one parcel abutting upon the house of Henrie Best, all which lands, the said Nicholas Wood alias Atwood, did convey for the use of Oliphe, his wife, for her life, and for the use of Ritchard Wood alias Attwood, his youngest sonne, and after the death of the said Nicholas and Ritchard, the said Oliphe, about 1603, also died; after whose death, the lands descended unto your orator, as youngest sonne of the said Nicholas. But now Harman Wood, alias Attwood, being the eldest son of your orator’s father, and lord of the said manor of Sanderstead cum Longhurst, hath entered the said premises and pretends to disenherit your orator of the same.
ANSWER of Harman Atwood, Gent., Says bill of complaint it devised by the complainant without just cause and denies that he combined with Thomas Collett, the steward of said manor, concerning any controversy and says the complainant has no right or title to said premises. he doth confess that he hath a copy of a Court Role, dated 37 Henry 8 (1546-7) which proves that Nicholas Wood was the heir, that Thomas Wood, a younger son, had certain manor lands settled on him by this father, John Wood, and that on the death of said Thomas, Nicholas Wood was possessed of said lands, according to the custom of said manor.
Note [by E. F. Atwood]: “The above is merely an abstract made for genealogical purposes, hence does not always conform to exact wording of the original. It seems clear that the leather seller was never meant by Nicholas to inherit these lands, but thence comes our traditions of disinheritance, etc. As (Sanderstead manor was confiscated a few years earlier, yet John and Nicholas were left undisturbed in possession of lands bought by Peter in 1346, a Court Roll was necessary to avoid confusion as to titles of the two lands called Sanderstead Manor, one owned by the Greshams and one by the Wood-Atwoods.”
Born John Attwood, John was was the last in his direct line to have a coat of arms. He was descended from knights of the shire, bodyguards of English kings and members of parliament. He was a younger son of his father, Nicolas Atwood. Therefore, he did not expect to inherit an estate. John chose to seek his fortune in the American colony of Plymouth. When John learned that his older brothers had died without eligible issue for his father’s title, he sailed to England to claim it. But his youngest brother, who had remained in England, had secured it from the courts before John was able to to gain his rightful title and estate. John returned to Plymouth, and his name was changed to Wood. Some of his American relatives kept the the name Atwood. He, his son Henry Wood, and grandson John Wood were sometimes called Atwood and confused with people
John Atwood (1582 – 1644)
John Thomas Wood (1614 – 1675)
son of John Atwood
Margaret Wood (1635 – 1693)
daughter of John Thomas Wood
Elizabeth Manchester (1667 – 1727)
daughter of Margaret Wood
Dr. James Sweet (1686 – 1751)
son of Elizabeth Manchester
Thomas Sweet (1732 – 1813)
son of Dr. James Sweet
Samuel Thomas Sweet (1765 – 1844)
son of Thomas Sweet
Valentine Sweet (1791 – 1858)
son of Samuel Thomas Sweet
Sarah LaVina Sweet (1840 – 1923)
daughter of Valentine Sweet
Jason A Morse (1862 – 1932)
son of Sarah LaVina Sweet
Ernest Abner Morse (1890 – 1965)
son of Jason A Morse
Richard Arden Morse (1920 – 2004)
son of Ernest Abner Morse
I am the daughter of Richard Arden Morse
My tenth great-grandfather immigrated to American in 1635 in the Pilgrim ship the “Mathew”.
John Wood, imigrant ancestor, 1635, arrived at Plymouth Colony; married Joan Coleson of Saint Martin’ England, who did not come with her husband, but later ship. John’s name appears in the register in London, with others; they were first transported to Saint Christophers, in the ship, Mathew, Richard Goodladd, owner and master, 21st May 1635. Before they were allowed to leave England they were compelled to take the oath of allegiance that they would be true to their mother country– “ye oath of allegiance supreme”. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Puritans fared badly in England, many men and women being arrested and thrown into prison because they sought to retain their own religious beliefs which were deemed contrary to the teachings of the Church of England. Many of them fled to Holland. On the death of Queen Elizabeth, she was succeeded by King James who was more lenient with the Puritans and freely allowed them to emigrate to America, the first settlement etablished in Virginia being called Jamestown. Later (1620) the Puritans came to Plymouth. Still later, many settled in Boston and Boston became the capital of Massachusetts Bay Colony.
John Wood landed first at Boston, but soon removed to Plymouth. The record of his baptism in England gives the date 24th December 1614. He became “propr.” of Plymouth Massachusetts, 1635-36; he owned land, was constable and on the grand jury. March 25th was recognized as New Year in England and her colonies. His wife Joan Coleson dying soon thereafter he removed to another section of Plymouth which later became the town of Plympton. While there the son John Wood married Sarah Masterson, daughter of Richard Masterson, who had been a deacon at Leyden, Holland, and whose wife was Mary Goodsell of Lancaster (married 26th November 1619). John Wood later moved to Portsmouth on the Island of New Port which was then a part of Massachusetts. Children of John and Sarah (Masterson) were: Thomas, Henry, Walter, William, John, Elizabeth. The records most frequently mention the sons Thomas and John. The father died in 1643-44, The son John Wood, died about 1675.