Colonel John Pynchon
d.17 Jan 1702/03 Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, United States
m. bef 1618
Facts and Events
John PYNCHON married Amy WILLYS at Hartford, October 30, 1645. Amy died January 9, 1699, aged 74. He died January 17, 1703, aged 76.
John Pynchon, the only son of the founder of Springfield, was 26 years old when his father returned to England. Inheriting the lands his father had acquired here and his store of goods, and the special privileges which had been granted to him in the way of trade with the Indians, the son at once entered upon a prosperous career, and was placed at the front of every undertaking leading to the development of the country, and to the acquisition of wealth. He had from the start opportunities that came to no other inhabitant, and he possessed the ability to make the most of favoring circumstances. In both private and public concerns he was the leading spirit. He was chosen Selectman in 1650. Town Clerk in 1652, appointed Magistrate to try small causes in 1653, elected Deputy to the General Court in 1662, and soon afterward Assistant in the Council, or Upper House, which position he held until 1701, almost to the close of his life.
He was appointed by the General Court on the committees to establish the boundaries of the new towns within the vicinity of Springfield. He, with others, laid out the bounds of Northampton, Hadley, and what afterwards became Hatfield (purchasing the lands of the Indians), Westfield, Suffield, and Enfield. In short there was no movement of a public nature in which he was not concerned. Even the names of some of the new localities suggest his practical and unsentimental nature. For instance, Westfield was so named from the fact that it was a field west of Springfield; Suffield was originally Southfield, from its direction from Springfield, but the English habit of contracting the prefix to "suf" for south curtailed it to Suffield, Enfield was sometimes written Endfield, suggesting that it was a field at the end of the town, it being supposed at the time that it was within the sphere of Massachusetts. It might, however, have derived its name from Enfield, in England. Then, at a much later date, came the naming of Brimfield, suggested perhaps from the fact it was on the brim of the settlement. Brookfield, in which Pynchon had a hand, was probably named from its numerous brooks. Going north, though Pynchon was not concerned in its beginning, Northfield received its name from its geographical position to the older settlements, and Deerfield, from the fact that its meadows made a good feeding place and were frequented by deer. Sunderland was originally in the Pynchon vernacular Swampfield. The Stony brooks of Suffield and up the Connecticut, received their names from Pynchon. These localities had something about their position sufficient to suggest to his practical mind the names which they received and continue to beat at the present time.
He entered early into the military spirit which had come across the ocean as an inheritance. He was confirmed by the General Court in 1653 Lieutenant of the training band, in 1657 Captain of the company, and at a later date was made a Major of the troop, the local cavalry company, with the command of the military forces in this region.
The Colonial authorities appear to have had great confidence in his ability and the General Court appointed him on many important committees relative to boundary lines, and in 1680 he was sent to Albany to confer with Sir Edmund Andros, then Governor of New York, concerning the depredations that the Mohawks were making upon some of our outer settlements, and he succeeded in establishing friendly relations with the Indians, for which our General Court voted him £12.
The same year he was appointed with Joseph Dudley to establish the boundary line between Massachusetts and Connecticut. In 1685 he was one of the committee to make the final settlement of the boundary line between Springfield and Northampton. During his long service in the General Court there was scarcely an important question concerning boundaries or where tact and diplomacy were needed, that he was not given opportunity to bring about a peaceful settlement.
He was zealous in upholding the religion of his time, but he does not appear to have had any of the polemic, or controversial spirit of his father. He was too eminently practical to enter into the discussion of the different points in theology,--possibly from the fact he was deeply concerned in trade, and in the accumulation of wealth. Whatever success came to him he evidently regarded as God given. He took part in the religious observances of the town and at times conducted Sunday services, sometimes by reading and sometimes from his own meditations. During the ministry of George Moxon he wrote in a kind of short-hand the leading points in the sermons which are now in possession of the City Library, but it was constructed on no known system of the present.
The great calmity which befell Springfield October 5, 1675, the burning of the town by the Indians, occurred while he was at the head of his troops in Hadley, and his desponding letters concerning it, written to the Rev. John Russell of Hadley, and to the Governor, indicate that he was greatly affected and despaired of the ability that had fallen upon it, but his fears proved greater than the reality and prosperity came to it in the subsequent years in the continued up-building of the town.
His penmanship was strong and clear, entirely unlike that of his father, but he lacked that thorough training that his father had received, which could hardly be otherwise considering hewas placed uner entirely different conditions in his youth. His recorded transactions lack system and an orderly arrangment in statement, but there is a certain picturesqueness that gives them the color of the times, a freshness that better trained minds sometimes lack. In entering the accounts in his ledger he frequently accompanied them with bits of conversation, or statements that enliven a very commonplace transaction, even to describing his leather breeches made for him by John Barber.
He was granted at various times large tracts of land. The Island in the Connecticut just north of the railroad bridge at Warehouse Point, in Connecticut, was given to him in 1681 by our General Court. He acquired many grants from the town as gifts, or for services in the erection of mills, or for other work done by him. The grain mill and the sawmill were built and conducted in consideration of receiving grants of land.
His mercantile transactions extended up and down the Connecticut in the early years, having purchasers at Northampton and Hadley on the north, and at Windsor, Hartford, Wethersfield, and even New Haven, on the south. His store probably had the largest stock of goods for many years of any within many miles of Springfield. Beaver skins bought of the Indians, or of those who traded with them, were shipped to England, and they enabled him to purchase goods for his store. Grain was sent down the Connecticut and around to Boston, but there is nothing to indicate here that it was shipped to England. He also had some trade with Barbadoes. His store was the medium of exchange,--goods for labor and produce, and his shipments abroad enabled him to keep up the supply which was so much needed in this frontier settlement.
RESIDENCE: Came to America in 1648 on the Arbella of Gov. Winthrop's fleet. First to Dorchester, Massachusetts, then Roxbury, Massachusetts, then settled in Springfield, Massachusetts. Built first brick house in the valley.
OCCUPATION: One of the wealthiest and most influential men in New England. Had extensive interests in Barbados. A merchant, inherited the business from his father.
MILITARY SERVICE: Military hero in King Phillip's War, saved the inhabitants of Hadley, Massachusetts. Lt. in Springfield Co., 1653; Capt. 1657; Capt. Hampshire Co. troop 1663; Capt. expedition against the Dutch, 1664.
PUBLIC SERVICE: Magistrate 1652-1665. Commissioner to New York April 1677. Commissioner to the Mohawks 1680, established friendly relations with them. Appointed to establish boundary between Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1680. Councillor 1686-89. Judge of Court of Common Pleas and Probate Court 1692-1703.