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Monday, December 3, 2012

James Cole, Plimouth, 1633

Thanksgiving always brings back a plethora of childhood memories, family gatherings, cold, invigorating air, warm toasty house, smells of turkey and pies, lots of people around the table – oh! What a great tradition and what great fun.  This year it also brought back a reminder that I have another Plymouth connection. This is not a Mayflower connection, just a very early Plymouth one.

 As a child I heard conversations that we had ancestors who had been in Plymouth very early but no one was sure if they had come on the Mayflower. My gt. grandmother had claimed that there was money back in England for the person in the family who would be so brave as to go find/get it. I never knew of anyone who had attempted this and like all other family stories it got filed away.
As the years went by, my sister and I began to take very serious paths in the study of our family branches. I began to more intensely research the paternal ancestors and she took off on the trail of our maternal lines.

My grandmother Broderick lived with us and her maiden name had been Chambers. Her mother had been Rebecca Cole and both ladies had been born in Dorchester, NB, on the Bay of Fundy. It’s amazing to me that I have both maternal and paternal connections to Plymouth, but three out of four of my grandparents were born in Canada. The only one to be born in the USA was my grandfather, John Broderick, who parents were Irish immigrants just prior to his birth.

I’ve already spoken about my paternal connections to Stephen Hopkins and William Brewster, so I thought it was the appropriate time to speak of my mother’s ancestors.  My sister did hours, weeks, months of research in the day before computers when everything was on microfilm or microfiche. It was tedious viewing and you could only borrow the film for a certain length of time.  Bit by bit she pieced together the line of decent from James Cole of Plimouth Plantation to our Gt. Grandmother Rebecca Cole Chambers.

The information she had at the beginning of her research, although accepted at that time, has now proven to be inaccurate. Robert C. Anderson in his The Great Migration Begins states that James Cole was b. c 1600, based on his age at marriage.  It isn’t known where he was born or who his parents were, but there is a marriage record for James and Mary Tibbes in Barnstaple, Devonshire on May 1, 1625. There is information out there that says James Cole was the son of William, of Enniskillen, Ireland. This just isn’t true. I have seen the family tree of this William Cole of Enniskillen and although he had children there was not one named James for several generations after him.

 James and Mary had four children, the first two, James and Hugh, were baptized in Barnstaple, Devonshire. James was bapt. on Feb. 11, 1626/1627 and Hugh on June 29 1628. Another son, John, b. Nov. 21, 1637 and a daughter, Mary, b. 1639, were born in Plymouth. At this point it’s necessary to mention that there were at least two other men by the name of James Cole in the colonies at the same time. One went to Saco, ME and the other went to Boston. To add to all the confusion Daniel Cole and his family were also in Plymouth at about the same time and he had children with similar names. To date, no known family connection has been discovered between the Daniel Cole and James Cole families.

James Cole, his wife and children arrived in Plymouth sometime prior to 1633, when he was listed as a freeman. He has been called a sailor, a shoemaker and an innkeeper. He also was a surveyor of highways, served on several juries and was a constable for Plymouth. He must have had some education to be considered reliable for these positions. The land that became known as Cole’s Hill, was first known as Burial Hill. This is where it is said the Pilgrims buried their dead that first winter, 1621, so the Indians would not be aware that their numbers had dropped by half. There are many entries in the records of Plymouth concerning James as an innkeeper. He had many difficulties with the laws of Plymouth. He was fined for allowing people to become drunk, for selling spirits on the Sabbath, for selling spirits to the Indians and for being drunk himself. He lost his license to operate his tavern, but he continued to run his inn regardless. He was obviously a colorful figure in Plymouth society.
In 1670 his tavern was succeeded by his son James, Jr. The business operated smoothly after that as James, Jr. stayed well within the regulations set forth by the Plymouth magistrates.

 Today, Coles Hill has a roadside marker and other memorials to him and the Pilgrims. It faces Plymouth Rock and the Ocean. It was a good vantage point for seeing any approaching vessels bent on doing harm to them. One of the memorials says:

"In memory of James Cole
Born London England 1600
Died Plymouth Mass 1692
First settler of Coles Hill 1633
A soldier in Pequot Indian War 1637
This tablet erected by his descendants1917"

 There were no other entries in the Plymouth records concerning James after the late 1670’s. To follow him and his family we need to go to Swansea MA. It appears that James Jr. may have remained in Plymouth, while Hugh went to find new lands to farm. At first this whole area was known as Warren RI, until sometime later when the boundaries were redefined. It’s believed this is where James, Sr. died. Although there are no records to show where he died or where he was buried.

 Hugh Cole, in 1667, along with others, purchased 500 acres along a river from the Indians. This river became known as Cole River and is still so called today. Hugh’s allotment was 50 acres.  Hugh was also a shipwright, a civil engineer, and a selectman of Swansea for many years and a representative to the General Court.  He was a friend of King Philip, Indian Chief. King Philip's warriors organized against the colonists and terrorized the area for about a year.  In June of 1675, two of Hugh's sons were taken prisoner by the Indians and taken to Philip at Mount Hope.  Philip ordered them freed, but told Hugh he could no longer restrain his warriors.  He advised Hugh to take his family to Rhode Island, immediately.  Hugh did this and within the hour his house was in flames.  In 1677, he returned to Swansea and built a house.  There is no mention of James Sr. through any of this history so one assumes he may not have lived long enough to move to Swansea.

Hugh married Mary Foxwell, daughter of Richard and Ann Shelley Foxwell. The Foxwells left London on Sept. 16 1632 on board the ship Lyon, William Pierce, Master. Hugh and Mary had 10 children, 6 boys and 4 girls. When Mary died, Hugh married Elizabeth Lettice, and then after her death he married Mary Shelley. There are some discrepancies on dates in the various histories I have consulted. Hugh’s children all seem to be the offspring on his first wife. I have found no children attributed to the 2nd and 3rd marriages, but because all the dates don’t agree, I can’t be certain Mary Foxwell was the mother of all of them.

 My next blog will continue with a few more generations of the Coles. I’ve been so busy with substitute teaching that I haven’t been able to put much time into a  blog.



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