The Danforths

Below are pages kindly donated by Patricia Davidson-Peters who's copyright these pages remain & who has more geneology & history pages and would welcome contact from those interested in the Danforths.

Framingham derived its name, first known as Danforth's Farm, from Thomas Danforth of England. He was the son of Nicholas who had been a native of Framlingham, Suffolk County, England which is about 90 miles northeast of London and about 12 miles from the shore of the North Sea. In the late 1880's, this town was comprised of about 3,000 inhabitants and its chief features were the great church and the extensive ruins of a once magnificent castle whose walls were eight feet thick and forty-four feet high.

While living in Framlingham, Nicholas Danforth married at about age thirty and was the father of seven children, one named Mary died in infancy. He was a protestor of the bigotry and oppression of the English rulers, and though not of gentry or considered wealthy, was a respected and trusted man who had served as trustee of the town and land properties. His signature bore that of "yeoman" indicating therein that he was not gentry but a freeholder of land.

In 1634 he escaped England and its persecutors, coming to what was then called "New Towne" and arrived in Boston on September 18th on the "Griffin" - a ship from London which weighed 300 tons and carried two hundred passengers including his brother-in-law Rev. Zechariah Symmes (who later became minister of Charlestown) and his six children, three sons and three daughters ranging in age from six to sixteen. His wife, Elizabeth Symmes had perished nearly five years earlier in Aspall, Suffolk, England in 1629.

In this new country, Nicholas worked as a surveyor, and set out the boundaries for Concord, Roxbury, Dedham, and Dorchester. He served as a deputy to the General Court and thus settled in New Towne which had been renamed by the same court, as Cambridge. He was admitted freeman on March 3, 1635-6 and was an original member of the church of Cambridge, had been chosen representative in 1636 and 1637, and had made the first appropriation for the establishment of Harvard College. Nicholas died in April 1638, only three and a half years after his arrival.

Children of
Nicholas & Elizabeth Danforth

  1. Elizabeth - born 3 Aug 1619 in Framlingham, England; married Andrew Belcher, Sr. of Cambridge on 1 Oct 1639. They were the grandparents of Governor Jonathan Belcher and owners of the Blue Anchor Tavern in Cambridge.
  2. Mary - born 3 may 1621 in Framlingham, England and married Thomas Parrish of Cambridge in 1639.
  3. Anne - born 3 Sep 1622 in Framlingham, England; married Matthew Bridge of Cambridge on 19 Jan 1642/43 and was great-grandmother of the second pastor of the church in Framingham, Rev. Matthew Bridge.
  4. Thomas - born 20 Nov 1623 in Framlingham, England; married Mary Withington of Dorchester on 23 Feb 1643/44. They were the parents of Sarah - born 16 Apr 1645; died 29 Oct same year; Sarah - born 11 Nov 1646; married Rev. Joseph Whiting; Mary - born 28 Jul 1650 married (1) Solomon Phipps of Charlestown; md (2) Thomas Brown of Sudbury; Samuel - born 5 Oct 1652; graduated at Harvard University in 1671 and died of small-pox in London on 22 Dec 1676; Thomas - born 16 Dec 1654; probably killed in the great Narraganset Swamp fight on 19 Dec 1675; Jonathan - born 27 Feb 1657; died within a few weeks; Jonathan - born 10 Feb 1659; graduated from Harvard University in 1679 and died unmarried at Cambridge on 13 Nov 1682; Joseph - born 18 Sep 1661 ; died 2 Oct 1663; Benjamin - born 20 May 1663; died 23 Aug 1663; Elizabeth - born 11 Jan 1665; married Francis Foxcroft of Cambridge on 3 Oct 1682; and Bethia - baptized 16 June 1667; died the following year.
  5. Lydia - born 24 May 1625 in Framlingham, England and married William Beaman on 9 Dec 1643 in Sabybrook, CT and died there on 16 Aug 1686.
  6. Samuel - born in 17 Oct 1627 in Framlingham, England, graduated at Harvard University in 1643. He became pastor of the church in Roxbury from 1650-1674 and was a colleague with the apostle Eliot. He married Mary Wilson on 5 Nov 1651 and died in Roxbury on 19 Nov 1674. His wife Mary died on 13 Sep 1713.
  7. Jonathan - born 28 Feb 1627/28 in Framlingham and settled in Billerica where he died on 7 Sep 1712.

These young children of Nicholas, now orphaned, were left upon their own, the death of their mother nine years earlier, preparing them somewhat for the duties that were required of them. Elizabeth, the oldest and in her twentieth year, married Andrew Belcher of Sudbury eighteen months after her father had died. They kept a "house of publique entertainment" which was to become the famous Blue Anchor Tavern, located at the corner of what was later called Brighton and Mount Auburn Streets. After the death of her husband in 1673, Elizabeth kept the tavern license which was then passed to her son Andrew. - Her husband's family was among the wealthy and liberal merchants of Boston who were staunch loyalists and held many offices under the Crown, one being the royal governor, first of Massachusetts and afterward of New Jersey. Another, in the next generation, was lieutenant-governor and chief-justice of Nova Scotia whom it was said "was associated with John Adams and Josiah Quincy as counsel for the British soldiers indicted for murder in the Boston Massacre."

Anna, next eldest daughter, became the care giver of the younger children and married at age twenty-four. Her husband was Matthew Bridge, the son of John who was a leading citizen. This marriage lasted fifty-six years, until the death of her husband.

Lydia, the youngest daughter, married at the age of nineteen. Her husband was William Beaman of Saybrook, Connecticut. She returned with him and there she remained the rest of her life, dying at the age of sixty-two. Her name appears as grantee of lands bought from Joshua, the son of Uncas, an Indian sachem.

Jonathan, the youngest of the family, became surveyor and was known as "Father of Billerica" where he had emigrated from Cambridge in about 1654 along with the first settlers, and built what may have been the first house in the Indian village os Sawshin. His skill as a surveyor had given him continual employment and his survey descriptions are said to have filled 200 pages of land grants, penned in very clear and handsome handwriting - the contents of which have been preserved in the state archives of New Hampshire.

He married Elizabeth Poulter in Boston on 22 Nov 1654 by whom he had eleven children. After her death on 7 Oct 1689, he married Esther Champney Converse of Woburn, on the 17th of November 1690. - The children of Jonathan and his first with Elizabeth were: Mary who married John Parker (probably a descendant of Joshua Parker of Groton who was son of Captain James Parker who had married Abigail, the youngest daughter of William Shattuck and widow of Jonathan Morse - son of Joseph and Hester); Elizabeth who married Simon Haywood; Jonathan; John who died shortly after birth; John who also died as an infant; Lydia who married Edward Wright; Samuel who married Hannah Crosby; Anna who married Oliver Whiting; Thomas, Nicholas; and Sarah who married William French.

Samuel, two years older than Jonathan, had been dedicated to the ministry and was placed in the care of Rev. Shepard. He afterwards completed his courses in college and graduated in 1643. In 1650 he was ordained colleague to John Eliot, the revered pastor of the First Church in Roxbury, whose "labors for the red men occupied much of his time, and procured for him the title of 'Apostle to the Indians.,"

He also gave much attention to the study of astronomy and published a series of almanacs, and a particular account of the comet of 1664. Samuel married Mary Wilson, daughter of the first pastor of the Old Church in Boston and they were the parents of twelve children. He died on 19 Nov 1674 and his remains were laid in Governor Dudley's tomb.

Thomas, the eldest son of Nicholas, married Mary Withington within the same year his sister Anna had married. This same year, 1643, he was admitted freeman and in 1650 was treasurer of Harvard College, an office he held for nineteen years. For two terms he was a representative from Cambridge to the General Court and in 1659 was chosen councillor or assistant of the Executive to which he was elected for nearly twenty years. In 1679 up until the dissolution of the colonial government, he was deputy governor, and Commissioner of United Colonies between 1668 and 1679. He also held the position of President of the District of Maine between 1680 and 1686 and also 1689 to 1692 and was a member of Council of Safety in 1689, Justice of Superior Court from 1692 to 1699 and had been from 1662 to 1679 commissioner from Massachusetts to the New England Confederacy which negotiated treaties with the Indians.

On the 16th of October of 1660, Thomas was granted 250 acres of land which joined the Sudbury town line on the west side of Sudbury river and was adjacent to the land already occupied by John Stone who had, with other residents of Watertown, made a journey to the Connecticut river to erect a few huts at Pyquag (Wethersfield) and remained for the winter. Stone purchased of the Indians eleven acres of land in 1656 and a grant of 50 acres was added thereto, laid out in May of 1658. He also purchased the Corlett farm of two hundred acres in December of 1661 and purchased of Mr. Danforth, twenty acres of meadow.

Other land records for Thomas indicate that on the 7th of May 1662, he was granted 200 acres of land adjoining lands he "hath between Conecticot path and Marlbrorough" which was laid out "adjoining to and west of the former grant of 250 acres.

Having supplied the Commissioners to York with ten pounds money he was granted this same day, "so much land lying between Whipsufferage an Connecticut path, adjoining to his farm as old Goodman Rice and Goodman How of Marlborow shall judge the said ten pounds to be worth, and they improwered to bound the same to him."

In addition to these lands, the General Court allowed and approved additional lands on October 7th of 1662, a grant that covered most of the Framingham territory on the westerly side of Sudbury river, and between the river and Southborough line. These lands amounted to no less than 15,500 acres within the limits of the old Framingham plantation.

The following is a portion of the deed given to Danforth by the Indians, it states in part: "Indians all of Natick in the County of Middlesex and Massachusetts Colony in New England, for and in consideration of the sum of forty shillings in current money of ye New England, to them in hand payd at and before ensealing and delivery of these presents by Thomas Danforth Esqr of Cambridge in the above Colony and County, have granted bargained and sold, aliened Enfeoffed and confirmed and by these presents do grant bargaine and sell, alien enfeoffe and confirme unto him the Said Thomas Danforth, all that tract of land to him the said Danforth belonging and appertayning, Scittuate, lying and being on the Southerly or South Esterly Side of Sudbury River, counting by Estimation Eight hundred acres more or less, and was the grant of the Genral Court of five hundred acres part therof to Richard Russell Esqr deceased, and three hundred acres to Marshall Richard Wayte, late of Boston deceased, to him the said Thomas Danforth, to have and to hold the above granted tract of land and every part and partes therof, together with all the priviledges and appartenains therunto belinging or in any wise appertayning to him the said Thomas Danforth, his yeyrs and assignes forever to his and their only proper use and behoof ... " and was signed the first of October 1684.

After he had matured and made known his plans for supervising of his land by long leases, settlers began to locate on the west side of Farm Pond, and on the west side of Sudbury river and the Whitneys and Mellens who had come from Watertown, settled on Danforth's land in about 1687 or 1688.

Intending to personally supervise the settlements on his Framingham farm, Danforth found responsible parties to homestead and cultivate his lands, and in turn, he allowed them to occupy these homesteads rent-free for a few years, so that settlers began coming along rapidly and by the time Danforth died on the 5th of November 1699, there were about 70 families located on this land.

After Danforth's death, the differences between the town of Sherborn and the inhabitants of the plantation of Framingham (which was described as "all that tract of land formerly granted to Thomas Danforth") was ordered and dated June 25, 1700, that "said plantation be from henceforth a township" and was signed by Bellmont, the Royal Provincial Governor.

Among some of the settlers were those families of Danvers, then called Salem Village, some of which were tragically accused of witchcraft. Rebecca (Town) Nurse, the wife of Francis and mother of Benjamin and her sister Sarah (Town) Clayes, wife of Peter, were among those accused. The jury, on two occasions, failed to convict Rebecca, but upon the third trial, the third court came to the conclusion that she had not full answered their questions and convicted her. It was later learned that due to deafness, she had been unable to full comprehend the questions. She was driven in a cart with four others to Gallows Hill and hanged on the 19th of July in 1692. One sister, Mary (Town) Estey, was also hanged on charges of being a witch, and her sister Sarah, had been tried and found guilty and was committed to a jail in Ipswich where her husband was allowed to visit her. Finding, or having been given means to escape, Sarah was concealed by her friends and eventually the uproar of the witchcraft and trials began to subside, this due largely in part to Governor Danforth who was instrumental in stopping the convictions by the court.

Rebecca, mentioned above, was the daughter of William Town and wife of Francis who died on 22 Nov 1695 at the age of 77, surviving his wife, who had been an honored member of the old church in Salem at the time she was hanged. They were the parents of eight children: John; Samuel; Rebecca who married Thomas Preston; Mary who married John Tarbell; Francis who was born 3 Feb 1661 and had settled in Reading; Benjamin who was born 26 Jan 1666; Michael; and a daughter who married William Russell.

The son Benjamin had emigrated from Framingham in 1693 and had located on Salem Plain. His second wife was Elizabeth (Sawtel/Sautle) Morse, widow of Joseph Morse of Watertown whom he married on 16 Feb 1713-14. They were the parents of Elizabeth, Joseph, Abigail, Zechariah, Samuel, Jonathan. - Sarah Town, sister of Rebecca and wife of Peter Clayes, had first married Edmund Bridges of Salem, and had five children. It was in the spring of 1692, ten years after her marriage to Peter, that she had been accused of witchcraft and was imprisoned, escaping the day before her execution. She later died in 1703, the same year the town of Framingham hired school master Deacon Joshua Hemenway.

James Clayes, son of Peter, was the father of Mary Clayes who was born 12 October 1712 and had married Deacon Jonathan Morse who was the son of Joseph but had been brought up by his step-father Benjamin Nurse. This Jonathan was the father of Nathan Morse who had married Elizabeth Stevens. He was a Revolutionary soldier, and the grandfather of Marianne Nichols Morse who had married William Henry Danforth in Concord, Essex County, Vermont in 1843.

The line of the Danforths of Framingham to the Morse family of the same, is suspected to tie one to the other from either Samuel the minister of Roxbury or Jonathan the pioneer of Billerica, as these two Danforths are the only lines having surviving male descendants of Nicholas. Although, unlikely, there was a William Danforth who had immigrated in 1670 and settled in Newbury. This line, in my opinion, does not evoke the similar ties that the Danforth and Morse lines show in the Framingham and Watertown areas, and I suspect is not the ancestral line of William H. Danforth.

The challenge, herein, is connecting the early Danforth and Morse Massachusetts settlers to these families of same name who removed to New Hampshire. The Danforths, as far as can be ascertained, lived in Massachusetts until about 1743 when the descendants moved from Billerica to Hollis (Hillsborough County, NH) which was then West Dunstable. But when it was David Danforth, son of Jonathan and Hannah (Leeman/Lehman) found their way to Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York is not known. He had married Paulina Richmond, the daughter of Jonathan and Amarilles (Chambers) in that town in 1806 and this couple is the presumed parents of William H. Danforth.

Of the Morse family, it is known that Deacon Jonathan Morse was brought up by his step-father Benjamin Nurse of Framingham, and that his son Nathan Danforth was born in Framingham in 1750 and served in the Revolutionary War from Grafton, Worcester County, Massachusetts. After his service, Nathan moved to Alstead, Cheshire County, New Hampshire where they remained there until at least 1818 or perhaps 1820, when he removed to Canadice, Ontario County, New York.

Nathan Morse, the son of Nathan above, though born in Framingham in 1777, had by the year 1800 moved to Concord, Essex County, Vermont where he married Polly Fisher, she having been born in Alstead, New Hampshire and was the descendant of the early settlers in Wrentham and Dedham, Massachusetts.

In conclusion, Nathan and Polly's daughter Marianne Nichols Morse, who was born in 1824, was the third great-granddaughter of Anna Whitney who had been born in Watertown in 1660 - the very same year Thomas Danforth had been granted the 250 acres of land lying adjacent to John Stone's land.

John Stone's sister, Ann, had married Lewis Jones and were parents of Lydia Jones who was the wife of Jonathan Whitney - thus the parents of Anna Whitney who had married Cornelius Fisher and became then, the 3rd great grandmother of Marianne (Morse), wife of William Henry Danforth.

In looking back upon the history of the early settlers of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, it is apparent that the Danforth and Morse lines are intertwined with these early emigrants who had left their oppressive rulers of England and then courageously fought to save their land and preserve the liberty they had sought in Colonial America. They broke the primitive grounds, they tilled and chartered new governments. They forged ahead and left behind an ancestry worth looking back on, and the story of a small Massachusetts town once known as Danforth's Farm.



  1. History of Framingham, Early Known as Danforth's Farms 1640-1880; with a Genealogical Register by Temple, Josiah Howard; published Framingham 1887.
  2. Memorial of the Morses by Morse, Rev. Abner; published 1850.
  3. Family Memorials - Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, including Waltham and Weston 1st & 2nd Editions - by Bond, Henry, M.D.; published Boston 1855.
  4. Revolutionary War Pension Records of Nathan Morse.
  5. The Danforth Family in America - Fifth Meeting; published Boston 1886.
  6. New England Marriages Prior to 1700 by Torrey, Clarence A.