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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do you have a Governor in your family?

Do you have a Governor in your family? 

Sometimes it’s difficult to sort out all the different settlements in the early days of colonial New England. One settlement began in Maine, in 1607, but only lasted about a year. Still it managed to have two Governors: George Putnam and Raleigh Gilbert. Another short lived colony was located at today’s Weymouth. It, too, lasted only a little more than a year, with two Governors, Richard Greene and John Sanders. Plymouth, the colony that survived and became a beacon of hope to others, had an elected Governor from 1620-1680. John Carver was the first to hold that office, but ended with his death after only 5 months in office. William Bradford served the longest, more than 30 terms (years), but not sequentially. Thomas Prence served about 18 years, Edward Winslow, 3 years, Josiah Winslow, 7 years and then Thomas Hinckley, 9 years, who was considered the last Governor of Plymouth Colony.  All the while this was happening in Plymouth, The Massachusetts Bay Company established a colony, in 1628, at Shawmut, later to be called Boston. During the course of the next 64 years there were a number of elected Governors, probably the most notable being John Winthrop. Since there was a good number of Governors between the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, if your ancestors were amongst the early settlers, it is possible one of these men may show up on your family tree.  

In my family, we are descendants of Governor Thomas Prence. He was b. near Lechlade, Gloucstershire, about 1600 to Thomas and Elizabeth (Tolderby) Prence. At some point his family moved to London where his father was a carriage maker. In earlier records the name was mostly spelled ‘Prince,’ but after arriving in Plymouth on the ship “Fortune” in 1621, the young, single Thomas used the spelling ’Prence.’ Thomas married four times and had children by three wives. The first was Patience Brewster, d/o William Brewster, Mayflower passenger. They had four children: Rebecca, Thomas, Hannah and Mercy. Thomas was the only son born and he returned to England where he married and had a daughter, but died about 1672 at age 45.  Rebecca married Edmond Freeman, while sister Mercy married Edmond’s brother, John Freeman. Hannah married Nathaniel Mayo. Patience died in 1634 during a pestilent fever outbreak; Thomas then married Mary Collier. Four more daughters were born, Jane married Mark Snow, Mary married John Tracye, Judith married Isaac Baker, and Elizabeth married Arthur Howland. With his third wife, Apphia (Quick) Freeman he had one daughter, Sarah who married her step-brother, Jeremiah Howes. Thomas Prence left no male children to carry on the Prence name. There is some dispute about the children Mary and Apphia had. I have chosen one suggested parentage, which may or may not be accurate.

Prence was not one of the religious dissenters but he did sympathize with them. Early, after his arrival, he became involved with leadership roles, perhaps because he was one of eight men who assumed the pilgrim’s debt to London merchants. He moved to Eastham in 1644 and was considered one of the founding fathers of that town. He moved back to Plymouth in 1663, where he remained until his death in 1673. Prence didn’t have much tolerance for or show much leniency toward the Quakers, but generally, showed his conservative nature and was noted for his kind treatment in dealing with the Indians. Although, much to his displeasure, his daughter Elizabeth did marry Arthur Howland, a Quaker.  He was also an advocate for and helped establish afree school system in Plymouth Colony.
Thomas Prence is my 9x gt. grandfather. The descent is from Thomas and his wife Patience Brewster, who was the d/o the Plymouth Colony’s religious leader, William Brewster. Therefore this line also outlines another Mayflower descent beginning with the Rev. Brewster.  This descent begins with:

  1. Mercy Prence (1631-1671) m. John Freeman (1627-1719). He was the s/o           Edmond and Bennett (Hodsall) Freeman.
  2. Edmond Freeman (1657-1717) m. Sarah Mayo (1660-1746). She was the d/o Samuel and Thomasine (Lumpkin) Mayo.
  3. Ruth Freeman (1680-1726) m. Israel Doane (1672-1740). He was the s/o Daniel and Constance (Snow) Doane.
  4. Edmond Doane (1718-1806) m. Elizabeth Osborne (1715-1798). She was the d/o Samuel and Jedidah (Smith) Osborne.
  5. Abigail Doane (1758-1847) m. Hezekiah Smith (1754-1834). He was the s/o Archelaus and Elizabeth (Nickerson) Smith.
  6. Stephen Smith (1786- 1870) m. Elizabeth Spinney (1789-1874). She was the d/o John and Susannah (Snow) Spinney.
  7. Rachel Smith (1823-1881) m. 2nd husband Samuel Scarr (1814-?).
  8. Mary Ellen Scarr (1853-1923)  m. Henry Gordon Carmichael (1850-1910).  He was the s/o Thompson and Barbarba (Hubley) Carmichael.
  9. Nora Edith Carmichael (1875-1921) m. Jesse Pye (1865-1940). He was the s/o John Charles Pye and Elizabeth Lacy. Nora and Jesse are my grandparents.

The Thomas Prence house (above) has since been demolished. The gravestone is for Mercy Prence Freeman.

There are literally thousands of Prence descendants today. To name a few of the more famous ones, the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, singer Bing Crosby, and former Gov. of Alaska, Sarah Palin. Prence descendants with documented lines are eligible for membership in:


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