m. bef 1634
Facts and Events
The sources on Thomas Holcombe differ considerably on Thomas' ancestry. Thomas was born in England, most probably in one of the southwestern counties, Pembrokeshire, Wales, or Devonshire. We do not know the date of his birth even approximately, but his wife seems to have been born about 1617 and their first child born about 1634; McCracken believes this would place his birth somewhere about 1610; Seaver says 1601, but does not give any reasoning for that date.
Jesse Seaver thought that English records indicated that Thomas Holcomb was born in Pembrokeshire, Wales or Devonshire, England to Ann and Gilbert Holcomb. Several of Seaver's contemporary researchers agreed with him. A disagreement appeared recently; George McCraken writing in The American Genealogist, Vol. 26:109 found that Gilbert Holcomb's oral (noncupative) of 14 October 1623, will stated d.s.p. which meant died without issue and that Gilbert left his estate to his brother-in-law, Richard Bonithon. McCraken's research is based on J.L. Vivian's, The Visitations of the County Devon, on pages 474 and 533. Quote from Vivian, page 474, "The Holcombe of Hull . . . The portion of this pedigree from the connencement printed in ordinary type is from Pole land Westcote; that printed in italic is from The Visitation of Devon 1564, Harlequin.Mss. 1080, fo. 403, 1091, fo, 42, b, and 5840, fo.52." However, Richard Bonithon himself died before execution of the will and his next of kin was nephew John Bonithon (Bonython). Several early authors state he was a member of Reverend Ephraim Huit's church, and Huit was from Kenilworth in Warwickshire. But, no Holcomb births or records were found from the Diocesan Court at Worchester. The Register of Wroxal, 300 @24, for the year 1634 did list the following; Sarah Huit daughter of Ephraim and Isabell his wife was baptized, and Nathaniel Griswold the son of Samuel Griswold and Anne his wife was baptized.
Bowman has found clues recently that Thomas may have been from county Somerset, the city of Bridgewater. She has recently discovered that one of the early Holcomb births in Connecticut was recorded as James the eighth. This could be a clue to ancestry of Thomas Holcomb in that the birth occurred in the third generation of American Holcomb's, i.e. not time to have had eight generations. Bowman lists the ancestry of Gilbert and Ann Courtney Holcomb in her Volume 2 without resolving the question of Thomas' parentage in order that future researchers not duplicate others' efforts in delineating this line. Most recently (October 25, 1998), Bowman updated her Volume 2 with the comment that Christopher was the most likely ancestor of Thomas. The birth and death dates normally assigned to the son of Christopher are not correct nor the marriage to Joan Prideaux. The birth and death dates are those of Thomas, the actor, of London who married Francis Bartlett.
Regardless of his exact parentage, at the time of Thomas' birth, the Renaissance was ending as was the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Perhaps one of the major events of his childhood was the publishing of the King James Bible, which may have affected his life more than any other event of the early 17th century. The Mayflower landed in Plymouth in 1620 and Thomas certainly would have heard of it and perhaps been excited by the possibilities for a young man. The Colony of Massachusetts was founded in 1628 and the Colony of Connecticut was founded in 1633. The stage was set for the second wave of English colonists of which Thomas was a part.
The MARY AND JOHN
Thomas has been said to have come on the 1630 voyage of the Mary and John, but there is no proof of it, all passenger lists for that voyage being hypothetical. Robert Charles Anderson in NEHGR, April 1993, addressed the many different lists of passengers on the Mary and John. He went about objectively establishing specific criteria for determining the likelihood that a specific individual was on the ship. By the criteria he established, which seem reasonable, Mr. Anderson concluded that Thomas Holcombe is not likely to have come on the Mary and John in 1630. (A listing of passengers meeting his criteria is here.) Mr. Anderson does not mention Thomas Holcombe anywhere in his discussion. However, he does leave room for three or four families that would be unaccounted for if the total number of passengers was 140.
If Thomas did not arrive on the Mary and John, it is possible that he arrived on or about 24 July 1633 on the Thunder, possibly with Humphrey Pinney and Henry Wolcott. This would still fit within the time frame of a marriage in may of 1634 and the children that follow
On whatever ship they crossed, Thomas Holcombe was in Massachusetts Bay by 4 May 1634 on which day he became a freeman, and he is recorded as a resident of Dorchester. The freeman's oath he took that day was:
Others taking the oath the same day were: Thomas Squire, Robert Houlton, Richard Fairbanks, Phillip Tabor, Gregory Taylor, John Chapman, William Learned, Mr. Thomas Hooker, Mr. Samuel Stone, Edward Howe, Bartholomewe Greene, Richard Wright, John Steele, Edmond Stebbins, Andrewe Warner, George Steele, Richard Butlar, Thomas Spencer, Edward Muste, Richard Goodman, John Pratt, John Haward, Andrewe Ward, Joseph Twitchell, Thomas Hatch, George Whitehand, Jerad Hadden, John Odlyn, Roger Clapp, Joseph Reddings, Anthony Colby, John Bosworth, Frauncis Palmer, Humfry Pynny, Bray Wilkins, James Rawlyns, Jacob Barny, Thomas Lowthrop, Steven Hart, Jeffery Massy, Richard Brakenbury, Thomas Faireweather, William Hedges, John Hoskins, Peter Woolfe, William Chase, William Talmidge, Mr. John Cotton, Nathaniel Gillett, Daniel Howe, Myles Reddin, John Eales, Mr. William Peirce, Mr. Thomas Mahewe, Josuah Carter, Thomas Talmadge, Robert Walker, and Phillip Randall.
Thomas owned land in Dorchester as detailed in the Great Migration. Granted an eight acre Great Lot at Dorchester, 1 December 1634 [DTR 9]; granted Lot #65, three acres, in the meadow beyond Naponset [DTR 321]; on 12 August 1635 Thomas Holcombe of Dorchester sold to Richard Joanes of Dorchester four parcels of land: four acres "with my houses and all things thereto pertaining"; eight acres in Great Lots; six acres meadow on this side Naponset; and three acres meadow on the other side Naponset [DTR 12]. (DTR cited by the Great Migration is Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston. 1880. Dorchester Town Records (Boston 1883))
His wife was named Elizabeth but the common statement that her maiden name was Ferguson is highly improbable and completely undocumented. It has lately been suggested that the name "Ferguson" results from a misreading of the correct name on a tombstone, but if so, no one has ever found her recorded on a tombstone. She is not mentioned on the tombstone of her first husband which is reported in McCracken's note in TAG 44:58-60. While married to Eno she was attended in 1669 by John Winthroop the Younger and was recorded in his medical journal (TAG 23:124) as then aged 52, which datum gives us a probable birth year of 1617. As this would have made her only 13 when the Mary and John arrived at Boston, it is probable that the marriage of Thomas and Elizabeth took place at Dorchester, and if she came on the same ship as Thomas, she was a child at the time. Winthrop's statement that she was aged 52 in 1669 may, however, be too low, in which case the wedding may have occurred in England.
Migration to Windsor
In the Summer of 1635 some Dorchester people had already reached the river and sat down at a place where William Homes, and others of Plymouth, had erected a trading house two years before (at Windsor), and made preparations for bringing their families and settling permanently; and in November, 60 persons with a large number of cattle, traveled from Dorchester and arrived in safety at the river, after much tribulation. During the first winter the sufferings of these persons were intense and they lost nearly all their cattle. Some individuals wandered back to Dorchester and others avoided starvation by dropping down the river and taking refuge in a vessel at anchor at the mouth. In the spring of 1636, Reverend John Wareham left Dorchester and came to Windsor, Connecticut, bringing his flock, including Thomas Holcomb, with him. Maverick resisted the move and died late in 1635.
Before leaving Dorchester Thomas Holcomb sold his estate to Richard Jones (8-12-1635). Later, 1639, he moved to Poquonock, Hartford County, four miles west of Windsor, where he engaged in farming. He was a Representative from Windsor and Hartford in the Convention that framed the now famous Constitution of the Connecticut Colony.
The settlers from Dorchester had to confront two challenges beyond the usual difficulties of clearing the wilderness, providing shelter, and dealing with the indigenous population. The first of these was the presence on the site they had chosen for settlement of a trading post established two years earlier by Plymouth Colony. The Plymouth party resisted, briefly and civilly, the competing claims of the Dorchester immigrants, but by 1637 Plymouth sold fifteen-sixteenths of their land to the settlers from Dorchester.
"Thomas acquired a home lot in the first tier of allotments in Windsor paralleling the Connecticut River. His lot lay between that of Thomas Gunn and Philip Randall and extended westward to the foot of Meadow Hill. His meadow lot lay eastward to the river. The fact that he had lots assigned in the first tier is a strong indication that he arrived when the allotments were originally made in 1636. By 1649, however, Thomas had moved to a section of land on the Farmington river several miles northwest of Windsor known as Poquonock where his neighbors were the Griswold brothers -- Edward, Frances and George -- and John Bartlett. His property lay near Indian Neck and Stony Brook.
On 14 April 1654, Thomas along with Edward Griswold, and Samuel Phelps, purchased from John Tinker a 226-acre tract of land in Poqonnoc, including an area called as late as 1863, "Tinker's Swamp."
The Great Migration details his lands: The Windsor land inventory on 25 December 1640 states that "Thomas Holcom his former grants sold to Josyas Hull, William [illegible] and George Phelps." He had then granted "by virtue of purchase at Paquannick for an homelot with meadow adjoining twenty acres," also adjoining "four acres and half more or less," also on the west side of the brook before his house "twenty-five acres more or less," also by purchase from Henry Clarke "twenty-five acres with upland adjoining sixty-eight acres more or less" [WiLR 1:30]. On 7 February 1655[/6] Thomas Holcombe had twelve acres of woodland bounded out to him [WiLR 1:30]. On 4 March 1655[/6] he had ten acres of woodland bounded out [WiLR 1:30]. (WiLR cited by the Great Migration is Windsor, Connecticut, Deeds (microfilm of original at Connecticut State Library, Hartford, Connecticut)).
Thomas Holcomb died at Windsor, Connecticut, September 7, 1657. His grave was located in an old cemetery near the old homestead at Poquonock, Connecticut. His grave was marked by a brown stone about two by four feet in size. The stone, having crumbled with age, was removed. It was replaced with a new marker that was inscribed with family information, much of which is wrong.
His widow married, second, August 5, 1658, James Eno (Enno) (his second wife). She died October 7, 1679. Some of those who have asserted that Thomas and Elizabeth were married before leaving England believe that the first two of the children were born there, but, the birth dates given below seem to discredit this supposition. It is quite certain that all who bear the name of Holcomb(e) in New England are descended from Thomas Holcomb, through his sons Joshua, Benajah and Nathaniel. Although Thomas Holcomb and most of his descendants usually spell the name `Holcomb', it bears an `e' on Dorchester and Boston records.
The inventory of the estate of "Thomas Holcom of Windsor" was taken 1 October 1657 and totalled £294 10s., of which £95 10s. was real estate: "eleven acres in home lot with housing and orchard," £50; "four acres and a half adjoining to the home lot," £6; "ten acres and a half of meadow," £10 10s; "in the fourth meadow twelve acres," £15; "twenty-five acres of woodland over the brook against the house," £3; "forty-eight acres of woodland," £7 10s; "ten acres of woodland," 10s; and "his part in that called Tinker's Farm, eighty acres and a barn," £3 [Hartford PD Case #2774]. He also owned two swords.
The surviving children are listed with ages as Joshua (17), Benajah (13), Nathaniel (9), Abigail (19), Deborah (5-7), but this overlooks the two eldest daughters Elizabeth and Mary who were already married, and had probably received their portions at marriage. The widow Elizabeth was granted administration, date not stated. The distribution was as follows:
Just how these sums were computed is not clear, certainly not by the usual third to the widow, a double share to the eldest son and a single share to the other children. In any case, George and Edward Griswold (husband of the daughter Mary and his father) entered a claim for a part of the estate but withdrew it. On 15 Dec. 1660 Samuel Bissell (husband of Abigail) receipted to James Enno, who was by then husband of the widow, for Bissell's wife's portion, and on 17 Dec. 1660 Joshua Holcombe receipted for his. Following is a record taken from Probate Records, Hartford District:
This 17th day of December 1660 I do acknowledge to having received of my Father Enno ye full sum of my portion. Witness my hand, Joshua Holcomb.'
James Eno, with his three children, came to live at the Holcomb house, after the death of his first wife, and his marriage to Elizabeth.
Generally, Thomas Holcombe is credited with ten children of whom three died in childhood, but there is a curious record which suggests there may have been an older son named John. The son Nathaniel had a son Nathaniel recorded at Springfield on 11 June 1673, this because the child's mother, Mary Bliss, came from Springfield, but the same Vital Records attribute the birth of a daughter Sarah on 6 Oct, 1673 to a John Holcum. Nothing more is known of this John, either at Springfield or Windsor, and I am inclined to think that an error was committed by the original town clerk at Springfield and that the surname Holcum is what is wrong. The learned Savage and also Drs. Holcombe and Stiles knew of the same entry, and they thought that John may have gone to Virginia.
Thomas Holcombe's Tombstone
The story of the vandalism was reported to me some years ago by the late Mrs. Carrie Marshall Kendrick who lived in a fine mid-victorian house near the intersection of Marshall Phelps Road with Poquonock Avenue in Windsor, Conn. The house had been formerly known as 1297 Poquonock Avenue but more recently has been given a number of Marshall Phelps Road. On the other side of the road but the same side of the avenue, so Mrs. Kendrick informed me, was formerly a small cemetery in which was originally buried Thomas Holcombe in October 1657.
Members of the Holcomb family "later" removed to what is now Granby and took with them Thomas Holcomb's tombstone, if not what was left of his remains also, and inserted the 1657 stone into an obelisk-type monument in the Granby Street Cemetery in Granby where it was read by C. G. Flanders in 1934 when he reported all the stones of that graveyard: "Thomas Holcomb, born in England, died Oct. 1657."
Mrs Kendrick further stated, with considerable distress, that some years before she spoke members of the family had demolished the obelisk-type monument and replaced it with a modern granite monument, and the original slab was then thrown into a dump.
On the day when I heard this story I visited the Granby Street Cemetery and verified the presence of the new stone, and on 30 June 1967 I again examined the stone and copied the new inscription, as follows:
THOMAS HOLCOMB, BORN IN ENGLAND, DIED OCT. 1657
On the reverse side under Masonic emblem:
ALFRED E. HOLCOMB, AUG. 5, 1867 - SEPT. 13, 1956
No research has been done into the last seven names but presumably Edmund was a younger brother of Gaylord G. Holcomb on the other side, and had, by his first wife Eliza, the son Daniel E; by his second wife Emily, Caroline who married a Case and Alfred who married Mabel Metcalf. Headstones for all these later graves are in rows on either side of the main stone, except that the grave of Alfred, the last to die, has no headstone. The plot lies on what I take to be the west side of the drive to the south, leading from opposite Granby Town Hall.
The genealogical data on the north side of the stone contain a number of errors. Thomas Holcomb had no son named Thomas, and, though C.G. Flanders must have seen a stone for the son, with the date of death, given as 1736, he shows no first name. Thomas Holcomb did have a son who died in 1736, Benajah, who died 25 Jan. 1736/7, and it was probably he who was buried at Poquonock in 1736 Old Style, as he is known not to have accompanied his relatives from Windsor to Simsbury, out of which Granby was later taken. Benajah, however, married Sarah Eno, not Elizabeth Pettebone, and though there were Holcomb-Pettebone marriages, no Elizabeth Pettebone married any Holcomb in the period.
What has happened is that Benajah's death year has been appropriated for a son who was rather Joshua, Born Windsor, 7 April 1649, died Simsbury, 1 Dec. 1690 who married 4 June 1663 Ruth Sherwood, died 10 Sept. 1699, daughter of Thomas Sherwood of Fairfield. Joshua and his wife belong on that stone in the place of a non-existing Thomas. Joshua, however, had a son Capt. Thomas who was born in Windsor, 30 March 1666, died at Simsbury 5 March 1730/1, and his first wife was Elizabeth Terry; second wife, Rebecca Pettebone. The two views of Capt. Thomas have been condensed into one, Elizabeth from the first wife and Pettebone from the second, but the line to these later Holcombs really runs through Elizabeth Terry and the name Pettebone does not belong on the stone. In the next generation Daniel was the 2nd son of Capt. Thomas and Elizabeth (Terry) Holcomb, and was born 30 Sept. 1692, date of death not hitherto known to me. The stone is right in naming his wife Esther Buel, for she was Hester Buel, born Simsbury, 24 Nov. 1705, baptized there by Dudley Woodbridge, 10 March 1705/6, youngest daughter of Peter Buel (William) by his third wife Mary Gillett, and the marriage took place on 1 Jan. 1735/6. Daniel was, indeed, the only son, but as he was born 31 March 1744, his age at death, if he died, 12 Oct. 1836, was 92 and not 85. Likewise, Daniel was aged 65, not 54, if he died as the stone says on 5 Juen 1836, for he was born 18 jan. 1771, baptized 14 Aug. 1774. This article has been written, not only to call attention to these errors, but to serve as an excellent example of the wisdom of not accepting sepulchral information at its face value.