b.25 Feb 1615 Tring, Hertfordshire, England
d.17 Aug 1684 Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, United States
m. 9 Feb 1606/07
Facts and Events
An unpublished manuscript, "Did Benjamin Cooley's Sister Phebe Marry Richard Sikes of Springfield Massachusetts, Proving Both Born Tring, Hertford, England?", written by Eleanor L. Cooley Rue in October 2000 attempts to link the Benjamin in America with the Benjamin in England.
In November 2004, Jillaine Smith obtained a copy of Eleanor Rue's manuscript. The evidence is strong, but not 100% definite; here are the primary facts supporting the theory:
1) The Benjamin Cooley of Tring had a sister, Phebe Cooley of the right age to be the Phebe who marries Richard Sikes
2) Benjamin Cooley makes reference in his will to his COUSIN SIKES ("cousin" being used at that time to refer child of sibling, ie. nephew or niece).
3) Sikes moves into the Springfield house owned by Benjamin Cooley before Sikes buys it from Cooley.
4) The long, close relationship (of Sikes and Cooleys), continued through descendants.
5) Benjamin Cooley of Springfield was a weaver, and weaving was a primary trade in Tring.
6) Benjamin Cooley of Springfield stated his age as 52 in a 1669 deposition, placing his birth about 1617; a Benjamin Cooley was baptized in Tring in 1616.
7) There is no evidence of either Benjamin or Phebe in Tring or anywhere nearby in England after their baptisms.
LIFE IN NEW ENGLAND
Benjamin Cooley’s role as an early settler of Springfield and Longmeadow, MA is well documented in “Early Springfield & Longmeadow History, with special reference to Benjamin Cooley, Pioneer, chapter IV” (by Harry Andrew Wright; see www.usgennet.org/usa/ma/county/hampden/hist/hist.html). Wright references his sources very well. The following is excerpted from this chapter.
"In the autumn of 1635, William Pynchon, with two scouts, John Cable and John Woodcock, sailed up the Connecticut river in their "great shallops" and concluded an exploring trip at the confluence of the Agawam and the Connecticut rivers, where, as related by Edward Johnson in 1654, they found a district "fitly seated for a beaver trade." It is quite possible that the scouts had viewed and chosen the land on a previous excursion and that Pynchon's visit was to give his final approval to the selection...
"When the eight pioneers gathered at Agawam on May 15, 1636, to establish their town, they committed their plans to a writing that they severally signed. "We intend that our town shall be composed of forty families, or, if we think meet after, to alter our purpose, yet not to exceed the number of fifty families, rich and poor." Rich and poor; masters and servants; gentlemen and yeomen; peers and commoners. That is exactly what was envisioned.... Unlike later settlements such as Westfield, Brookfield, Brimfield, Enfield and Suffield, which were the results of a reaching out by land-hungry farmers, Springfield was designed to be an industrial community. For its support a certain amount of agricultural activities were imperative for subsistence, but these were merely incidental.... Pynchon projected a self-supporting community, serviced by its own builders, carpenters, brick masons, tailors, weavers, smiths. ... in 1639 there were fourteen settlers. In 1641, nineteen were established; in April 1643, twenty-two [by this time we believe that Benjamin Cooley had arrived]. …. Through agents in England [Pynchon] secured young men, indentured to served him for a term of years.... Only those were admitted who could contribute something of value to the community--the financial ability to pay others to work; the ownership of merchandise needed by the townsmen; abilities and talents helpful to the growth of the town... There can be little doubt that Benjamin Cooley became an honored member of the Springfield community at the request and behest of William Pynchon after searching inquiry as to his ability and personality…
"There is ample evidence that Cooley was a skilled worker in both flax and wool. In 1650 he took Samuel Terry as an apprentice, agreeing to "teach him the trade of linen weaving." The inventory of Cooley's estate, taken after his death in 1684, includes: Two looms, slayds (weavers' reeds) and warping bars Serge, kersy, say, penistone and linen cloth Cotton wool and sheep's wool Crop of flax Linsey-woolsey, yarns, spinning wheels, tube (dye vats)
"Here was a stock of finished cloths alone priced at about $1000 in present day values.
"It is fair to assume that [Cooley] and his wife, Sarah, came in 1643, for at Springfield was born his eldest child, Bethia, on September 16, 1643. Whence he came is not known, but undoubtedly, in common with many others, it was via some one of the Connecticut towns. It could hardly have been otherwise, for all approach to Springfield was then by water. Romanticists love to perpetuate a fable of a Bay Path over which the early settlers are said to have made their way to Springfield, but local records do not even mention such a way until November, 1646… No prospective settler, transporting his worldly possessions, would have undertaken such a journey when frequent and adequate transportation by water was readily available....
"With the group arriving about 1643 came also George Colton who during the subsequent forty years was the inseparable companion of Benjamin Cooley. In 1649 they took the oath of fidelity together. [Many more instances of evidence that they were closely aligned…] Such a combination of circumstances could hardly have been merely coincidences. [It is from this close friendship that some researchers believe that Benjamin Cooley's wife was a sister to George Colton, but no documentation exists to support this.]"
... "The earliest of Benjamin Cooley in the Springfield records is dated September 16, 1643, when his daughter, Bethia, was born. The next is February 8, 1643/44 when he was called for jury duty. On September 23, 1645, a reference to fences indicates that he was then established on his property and that he was then the most southerly lot occupant, his later neighbors on the south not then having arrived. From then on the records are replete with references to his public services, some of which must have been quite arduous… In 1667, with Deacon Samuel Chapin and George Colton, he was in charge of the first local "Community Chest" for the distribution of "four or five pounds to help a little against the want of some families." He not only had the confidence of the community but he seems to have endeared himself to all classes. …
"The first recorded mention of a house in the long-meadow owned by Benjamin Cooley:
[August 27, 1660] Thomas Gilbert hath liberty granted him for building and dwelling on his land which he hath bought of Benjamin Cooley at the Longmeadow Gate.42 [December 31, 1660] George Colton desiring liberty to build on his land at the Long meadow, had liberty granted him for erecting a building or dwelling place there.43 [March 13, 1660/61] granted to Benjamin Cooley, thirty acres on the east side of the swamp over against his house at the long meadow which land lies between two dingles and to run from the brow of the hill backward into the woods eastward till thirty acres be made up.44
"At a General Court held in Boston, 28th May, 1679--In answer to the petition of Benjamin Cooley, ensigne to the Foot Company at Springfield, humbly desiring the favor of this Court, to lay down his place, being aged ("62 or thereabouts") and deaf,--the Court grants his request. …
"August 17, 1684, Benjamin Cooley died at the age of sixty-seven. Six days later died Sarah, his wife, the mother of his eight children.
[Eleanor Cooley Rue suggests that both Benjamin and Sarah died from a contagious illness.]
"At his death he owned 524 acres of the choicest. He had houses and barns to meet his own needs and those of his eldest sons.
"As were all their contemporaries, Benjamin Cooley and his wife were interred in the ancient "burying place" by the riverside in Springfield, west of the church that he had helped to build. No stones marked their graves for no lasting stone was then to be had in the community. In the following century it was found feasible to bring from Middletown, Conn., a hard brownstone suitable for grave markers, but locally the seventeenth century knew them not. There remains a stone that marked the grave of Mary Holyoke who died in 1657, but the workmanship suggests that the stone is actually of a much later date. The elaborate brownstone monument that marked the Pynchon lot is known to be but a scant hundred years old, the monument itself being so dated.
"There Benjamin and Sarah rested until the coming of the railroad. In 1849, to make room for the tracks, the remains of 2404 bodies and 517 markers were removed to the Springfield Cemetery on the hill that had been opened in 1841. Dr. Joseph C. Pynchon, who then had charge of the removal of the Pynchon bodies, said thirty-six years later:
"...The few remains were gathered, which soon crumbled to dust on exposure to the air, and with the surrounding earth, deposited in the new cemetery.
"Nothing is known of the Cooley bodies, which in common with many others undoubtedly had wholly disintegrated, leaving not a trace. Such a condition indicates that the bodies were then not buried clothed, as today, otherwise some evidence might have remained. Pilfered shoe-buckles and buttons are frequently found in Indian graves as old as those, though it is of course true that the place of interment chosen by the natives would have been in a soil having far greater preservative qualities than the damp soil by the river bank. Clothing was then far too valuable to have been disposed of in such a way. … The absolute lack of identifying articles in the graves of the old cemetery indicates that the bodies were laid to rest, wrapped in a winding-sheet or shroud.
"Death seems to have come suddenly to Benjamin Cooley for though he attempted to make a will, he did not live to complete it. However, it was carried far enough to indicate some of his wishes, and with a sense of justice worthy of such a father and with a consideration for the needs of each other the heirs divided the estate and carried on.
AFN: has m. Sarah SAVAGE; b 1620, d 23 Aug 1684
NEHGR July 1877 p. 266-7 "Longmeadow Families" Wife Sarah, no surname given.