Hart #8052

Stephen Hart (1603-1683)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1631-32 and later settled in Connecticut and

Unknown Spouse

Born in England.

Hart #8052

Stephen Hart is the progenitor of many descendants who now live in all fifty of the United States, as well as Canada, South America, Europe, and probably other parts of the world.  He was born about 1603 in England.  By 1632, he had arrived in New England on the Lyon.  Four years later he was among the original settlers of Hartford, Connecticut.  After less than 10 years in Hartford, he became one of the first settlers of Farmington, Connecticut, where he lived the rest of his life on one of the largest house lots in town, and members of the Hart family have remained in Farmington and Connecticut until the modern era.  Many of Stephen Hart‘s descendants left Farmington to settle in other parts of Connecticut, the United States, Canada and the world.

Genealogical History of Deacon Stephen Hart_title pageMuch of what is known or believed to be known of Stephen Hart was published in 1875 by Andrews (Genealogical history of Deacon Stephen Hart and his Descendants, 1632-1875)[1].  Other sources are Buell Burdett Bassette[2] and Catharine M. North[3].  I have supplemented these sources with more recent evidence and theories of David Hart published by Richard Hart of Amherst, New Hampshire.

Follow this link for a summary transcription of Original Hart Records.

English Origins: Stephen Hart was born in England, perhaps in or near Braintree, Essex County, as stated in Andrews and North, or possibly in Ipswich, Suffolk County, about 30 miles east of Braintree.  More recent evidence (not available to Andrews) points to an origin in Ipswich.  Bickford[4], suggests that Stephen Hart may have been involved in the weaver’s trade, as looms were listed in early Hart inventories, and he may have come from Essex county in England, a center of cloth production.

Parents: Not known with certainty, although a number of theories have been examined and reported.  Records in Ipswich, England discovered by John Graham[5] in the 1930s and more recent discoveries by Sue Rodwell point to a probable identification of Stephen’s parents as Stephen Hart (1568-1621) of Capel (south of Ipswich) and his wife, Mehitable.  However, this can not be proven due to paucity of sources.  The situation was explained by David Hart on Yahoo “Descendants of Deacon Stephen Hart” discussion group as follows (16 Apr 2013):

“…the publications I wrote for Hart Historical Notes back in 1996-97… stated… that the records give no definitive proof that the Stephen Hart in Ipswich, Suffolk, son of Stephen Hart, is Deacon Stephen.  Perhaps I should have stated it more strongly, but what I meant was the fact that John Graham found the Ipswich Stephen Hart only opens the door to the POSSIBILITY that the two were one in the same.  The main reason we can’t say the two are one in the same person definitely is that the American recollection of Deacon Stephen’s city of origin is Braintree, Essex (e.g. Alfred Andrews).  But the Braintree parish records for the period of his birth were destroyed!  Therefore we will never know if his birth was recorded there.  Indeed, the parish and public records for the turn of the 16th century that still exist today are only some unknown fraction of the total number of records that existed back in time.  Without every one of those parish records being available for inspection, we can never be 100% sure that we have pinned down the right Stephen Hart unless other reliable facts make the connection clear.  These other facts haven’t yet been found.”

The "Lyon" may have been similar in appearance to this model of the "Mary & John" of 1630, which was built in 1987 by Frank Mastini (commissioned by Burton Spear of Toledo, Ohio). This vessel is typical of a 400 ton, 17th century ship.

The “Lyon” may have been similar in appearance to this model of the “Mary & John” of 1630, which was built in 1987 by Frank Mastini (commissioned by Burton Spear of Toledo, Ohio). This vessel is typical of a 400 ton, 17th century ship.

Migration: Stephen Hart arrived in Massachusetts on one of the voyages of the Lyon in either 1631 or 1632.  This ship made four crossings of the Atlantic during these years.  There is agreement that Stephen and his family came to America on the Lyon, and it is possible that they arrived on the same vessel as my paternal 10th g-grandparents, Roger Williams and Mary Barnard, who also arrived on one of the Lyon voyages during this period.  Presumably the Hart family was part of Rev. Thomas Hooker’s group, which employed this ship and her captain, Mr. William Pierce, for transport across the Atlantic.  Indeed, the Lyon was owned by a group of Puritan investors in London.  Rev. Hooker’s party, called the Braintree Company, came in at least three installments, the two Lyon voyages mentioned and a transit by the Griffin on 4 Sep 1633, bringing Rev. Hooker himself.  Several of my ancestors were involved in this congregation, and many later became founders of the town of Hartford, Connecticut when the group migrated from Massachusetts.  No known passenger list verifies Stephen’s arrival on a particular date. The preponderance of circumstantial evidence suggests that the earlier (1631) date may be more likely.  Unless we find additional evidence in some long overlooked records, we may never know the real story.

Residence: Stephen Hart was among the original settlers of three towns:

  1. Newtowne (Cambridge), Massachusetts 1631 (or 1632)-1635.  He built his house in Cambridge on the northeast corner of Holyoke Street and Holyoke Place[6].
  2. Hartford, Connecticut, probably in 1635, as a member of an advance party before the arrival of Rev. Thomas Hooker’s party[7] in 1636.  As one of the advance party which scouted the location for the Hartford settlement, Stephen’s name is found on the “Adventurers Boulder[8]” plaque, placed in 1935 and located near City Hall (corner of Main and Arch Streets), Hartford, Connecticut.   Stephen Hart is one of the original proprietors listed in the “Book of Distribution of Land” as being those who settled in Hartford before February 1640[9].  As such, his name appears on the “Founders Monument” in Hartford’s Ancient Burying Ground of the First Congregational Church of that city, presently known as “Center Church”.  His house-lot was on the west side of what is now called Front Street, near where Morgan Street crosses it.  He remained there until about 1640 or a little later.
The plaque reads:  In Memory of the Courageous  Adventurers  Who Inspired and Directed by  Thomas Hooker Journeyed Though the  Wilderness from Newton (Cambridge)  in the Massachusetts Bay to  Suckiaug (Hartford) - October, 1635

The plaque reads: In Memory of the Courageous Adventurers Who Inspired and Directed by Thomas Hooker Journeyed Though the Wilderness from Newton (Cambridge) in the Massachusetts Bay to Suckiaug (Hartford) – October, 1635

  1. Farmington, Connecticut some time between June 1640, when permission to settle the plantation of Tunxis was granted, and December 1645 when the plantation of Tunxis became the town of Farmington.  There is a tradition that as Stephen Hart and others were on a hunting excursion on Talcott Mountain, they discovered the Farmington River Valley, then inhabited by the Tunxis, a powerful tribe of Indians.  The meadows were probably then cleared, and waving with grass and Indian corn.  Such lands were then much needed and coveted by the settlers, who soon – probably as soon as 1640 – made a bargain with the Indians, and settled among them with their cattle.  They still continued, however, connected with the settlement at Hartford, attended public worship, and prehaps wintered there, until about 1645, when the town was incorporated by the name of Farmington, from the excellent farms there.  Stephen Hart resided at Farmington until his death.

The mill that Stephen Hart operated in Farmington, Connecticut, built circa 1640s, was used for grinding wheat and other grains up until 1963.

Stephen Hart appears to have taken the lead in the settlement among the Indians in Farmington, and purchased a large tract on the border of the present town of Avon.  He was one of the first representatives in 1647, and continued, with one exception, for fifteen sessions, until 1655, and once in 1660.  In short, no man in the town was more active, influential, and useful.  His house-lot, which was four or five times as large as any other, was on the west side of Main Street, in the village, opposite the meeting-house, and contained fifteen acres, extending from Mill Lane to the stone store south.  This large house-lot was granted to Deacon Stephen Hart as an inducement to erect and continue a mill on the premises.

Painting of the Grist Mill by Frank Munson, 1956

Stephen Hart’s mill, still a Farmington landmark, dates from the 1640s or slightly later.  It served as Farmington’s first grist mill, and it has housed a number of establishments over the years.  Originally constructed and owned by the Hart family, it was used for grinding wheat and other grains up until 1963.  Included among the owners of the mill during those years was well-known playwright Winchell Smith, a Hartford native.  It is said that Smith’s stone-ground flour was coveted by Farmington homemakers.  In 1919, the grist mill played a cameo role in a scene from “Way Down East”, a film written and produced by Smith.  The scene shows actress Lillian Gish traversing the Farmington River by jumping from ice floe to ice floe, closely followed by actor Richard Barthelmess.  The renowned mill soon came to the attention of President Calvin Coolidge, who for the remainder of his office, and for some time thereafter, ordered whole wheat flour produced at the Farmington grist mill.  In 1963, the mill, encumbered by increasing production costs and competition from other businesses, closed its doors.  It was later purchased by Helen Winter, who divided the space to make room for various shops, artists’ studios and a luncheon cafe.  Later, it was the home of the Reading Room Restaurant and a bookstore.  Anthony and Kristine Giraulo acquired the restaurant in November of 2001 and operated it as the Grist Mill Restaurant until 2012, when the restaurant relocated to Avon, Connecticut.  In July 2012, Miss Porter’s School closed on the purchase of the property at 44 Mill Lane for $810,000.  At the time, the school issued a statement saying, “We look forward to the careful consideration of the best use of the space in support of our mission to educate young women to become informed, bold, resourceful and ethical global citizens who will shape a changing world.”

The Hart gristmill in Farmington, Connecticut (photo credit: Sherry)

The Hart gristmill in Farmington, Connecticut (photo credit: Sherry)

I have been told that the big white Congregational Church on Main Street in Farmington has a plaque inside commemorating the original founders including Stephen Hart. The red house directly across the street from the Church is the site of the house where John Hart and all his family except 11 year-old John died in a fire. The current house is the second one that John Jr. built.

Church Membership: Admission to Cambridge church prior to 14 May 1634 is implied by his status as Freeman. He would have retained his membership when the Cambridge church moved to Hartford.  He was an original member of the Farmington church, as he was appointed deacon there when the church was created in 1652.

Monument to Tunxis Indians, erected in 1840, Riverside Cemetery, Farmington, Connecticut

Inscription: “Chieftains of a vanished race, In your ancient burial place,
By your father’s ashes blest, Now in peace securely rest.”

Education: He signed both his will and the copy of the Farmington land agreement with the Tunxis Indians, providing evidence that he was able to read and write.  The inventory of his estate showed that he owned £5 worth of books, providing further evidences that he had some education.

Offices Held:

  • Deputy to Connecticut General Court for Farmington, 1647-1655 and 1660.
  • War committee for Farmington, May 1653.
  • Jury Duty: 24 May 1647, 20 Feb 1650/1, 7 Dec 1654, 3 Mar 1658/9, 5 Sep 1661 and 9 Oct 1661.
  • Served in Pequot War, 1637.

Birth: Although Andrews gives a date of 1605, it was probably earlier than that, based on work done by David Hart and others, who discovered a record of his christening at St. Nicholas Parish, Ipswich, England dated 25 Jan 1602/03.

Death: In Farmington between 16 Mar 1682/3 (date of his will) and 31 Mar 1683 (date of the inventory of the estate).  These two dates are only 15 days apart, as the “old style” New Year began on March 25th.  The inventory of the estate of Stephen Hart totaled about £319, of which £180 was real estate: house & homestead, £70; land at Nodd on the east side of the river, £40; 12 acres in the Great Meadow, £25; 10 acres in the Farm Meadow, £30; swamp lot and upland belonging to it, £15; and other lands not yet laid out the worth not known.  There is no known marker for his grave, and its location is unknown.

Marriages: Stephen Hart had at least two wives.  Some think that the gap of seven years between the second and third children suggests the possibility that his children were with two wives, making a total of three wives.  Others suggest that the estimated birth dates of his children may be to early and still others claim that he may have had another son named Stephen, who died either on board the Lyon, or shortly after arrival in America.  Only the name of his last wife is known.  He married Margaret [married name unknown] (Smith) Nash after 1678 (death of her second husband).  She was the widow of Arthur Smith and Joseph Nash, and then Stephen Hart, as well.  She died at Farmington between 18 Feb 1691/2 (date of will) and 1 Mar 1693/4 (probate of will).

Children: Information on Stephen Hart‘s children comes from the Andrews book and from The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633 by Robert Charles Anderson.  Note: It is now generally accepted that Stephen Hart had a daughter named Rachael, as described by Anderson, and not named Mehitable, as described in Andrews’ book.

With first wife or wives:

  1. Sarah, born about 1624 in England.  In Nov 1644 she married Thomas Porter.
  2. John Hart, born about 1627 in England and died in 1666.  In about 1652 he married Sarah Hawthorne.   John’s house in Farmington was attacked by Indians on 15 Dec 1666 and John, his wife and all their children except for John, age 11, who was absent from home, perished when the house was set on fire[10].  John Hart (1655-1714) later rebuilt on the site and with his wife reared a large family there.
  3. Stephen, born about 1634 and died 18 Sep 1689 aged 55 (according to his Farmington gravestone).  Before 1662 he married Ann Fitch, daughter of Thomas Fitch of Norwalk.
  4. Mary, born about 1638.  She married by 1657 (1st) John Lee and (2nd) 5 Jan 1691/2, as his third wife, she married Jedediah Strong.
  5. Thomas Hart, born about 1640 at Hartford or Farmington, Connecticut.  In about 1665 he married Ruth Hawkins, daughter of Anthony Hawkins[11].
  6. Rachel, born about 1642.  By 1664 she married John Cole[12].

Thomas Hart, third son and youngest child of Stephen Hart, married Ruth Hawkins, born 24 Oct 1649 at Windsor, Connecticut and  died 9 Oct 1724 at Farmington, Connecticut.  Thomas inherited a portion of his father’s homestead, opposite the meeting-house.  He was made a freeman by the General Court, at their May Session, 1664, and he was a  prominent and active man in the town’s affairs:

    • Confirmed ensign of Farmington train-band by the General Court, May Session, 1678, lieutenant in 1693, and was deputy to the General Court the same year; was captain, May 1695
    • Appointed on a committee To return the Thanks of the Court to the Rev. Mr. Samuel Hooker for his greatpaynes in preaching the Election Sermon, and that they desire him to grant a copy thereof to be disposed and improved by the General Court for the people’s good.
    • Deputy from Farmington in 1690, 1692, 1694, 1695, 1696, 1697, 1698, 1699, 1700, 1702, 1704, 1705, and 1706, and was chosen speaker of the General Court in 1700, 1704, 1705, and 1706.
    • Appointed commissioner for Farmington by the General Court, in 1692, 1693, 1694, 1695, and 1697.
    • Appointed justice for Hartford County in 1698, 1701, 1702, 1703, 1704, 1705, and 1706.
    • Member of the Council in 1697.  At their October session, 1699, the General Court appointed Captain Thomas Hart and others a committee …to take care of the countries interest in the undivided lands, and to indevour the preventing and detecting all illegall trading with the natives for land, and to implead such persons as have trespassed upon the countries land by intrusion.  By a vote at the May session, 1700, he and others were continued on the same committee.  In May 1701, he was appointed to a committee for a similar purpose and object. In October 1702, he was appointed a committee to settle a line between Connecticut and Rhode Island.  At the same session he was appointed on a committee …to draw a Bill to prevent disorders in Retailers of strong drinke and excessive drinking, and to prepare a Bill to put in execution the reformation Lawes.  At their May session, 1703, the General Court passed the following: This Assembly doth appoint and empower Capt. Thos. Hart and Mr. Caleb Stanley, to survey or to lay out to James Bird 100 acres of land granted to him in October last according to his grant.
    • Thomas Hart and his wife were members of the church in Farmington

Thomas Hart died 27 Aug 1726, in his 83rd year, he and was buried with military honors.  In his will, he left a large estate of about 2,000 acres to his wife and children as well as to Richard Negro, our Servant, 15 acres.

The children of Thomas Hart and Ruth Hawkins are listed as follows: (1) Mary Hart (1666-1752).  On 20 Dec 1683 she married Samuel Newell (1660-1753); (2) Margaret ( -1735), married Asahel Strong; (3) Hawkins, married Sarah Royce; (4) Thomas (1680-1773), married Mary Thompson[13]; (5) John (1682-1756), married Rebecca Hubbard; (6) Hezekiah (1684-1752) and (7) Josiah (1686- ).

The lineage of  Mary Hart and Samuel Newell is continued under the heading of Thomas Newell (1620-1689) and Rebeckah Olmstead (Olmsted) (1624-1698).

Farmington, Connecticut – Colonial map by Jean Johnson, The Farmington Historical Society, P.O. Box 1645, Farmington, Connecticut 06034

[1] Alfred Andrews. Genealogical history of Deacon Stephen Hart and his descendants, 1632-1875. With an introduction of miscellaneous Harts and their progenitors as far as known; to which is added a list of all the clergy of the name found, all the physicians, all the lawyers, the authors, and soldiers.  (New Britain, Connecticut: Austin Hart, publisher) 1875. It is relatively accurate, but like many similar works, it was missing some information at the time of publication. Andrews assembled the best information he had available to him.

[2] Buell Burdett Bassette. One Bassett Family in America with All Connections in America and Many in Great Britain and France (Springfield, Massachusetts: F. A. Bassette Co.) 1926. This book has a section that contains a copy of most or all of the public record of the activities of Deacon Stephen Hart and a few of his descendants.

[3] Catharine M. North.  History of Berlin, Connecticut (New Haven, Connecticut: The Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor Company) 1916.

[4] Christopher Bickford. Farmington in Connecticut (1982). The Farmington Historical Society published a reprinted edition in 2008. This work contains a great deal of  information about the early years of Farmington, Connecticut and the people who lived there.

[5] Graham was a researcher for Dr. A. B. Hart of Harvard College, who spent considerable time around 1930 digging into the old Ipswich records.

[6] A Harvard University building now occupies this site.

[7] Additional information on Rev. Thomas Hooker and the “Hooker Party” is located under the heading of William Kelsey (1600-1676).

[8] Several of our ancestors are named on the “Adventurers Boulder”: Stephen Hart, William Kelsey, Matthew Marvin and Timothy Stanley.

[9] In the Hartford land inventory in February 1639/40 Stephen Hart held eleven parcels, of which ten were granted early, and the eleventh was acquired by exchange: two acres with dwelling house, outhouses, yards and gardens; two acres on which his dwelling house [once] stood; three roods and seventeen perches in the Little Meadow; three acres and thirty perches of meadow and swamp in the North Meadow; three acres and twenty-four perches on the east side of the Great River; sixteen acres in the Old Oxpasture; eleven acres, one rood and twenty-five perches in the Cowpasture; twenty acres, one rood and eighteen perches of meadow and swamp in the North Meadow; four acres, two roods and fourteen perches in the neck of land part whereof he bought of John Talcott;  one acre and three roods in the neck of land; three acres and thirty perches of meadow and swamp in the North Meadow which he received in exchange with William Pantree [HaBOP 190-92].

[10] This is the account given by Andrews in his 1875 book, and it seems to reflect a family tradition that had been passed down through the generations.  This fire may not have occurred as described here. Research by David Mauro published in the July/August 1997 issue of Hart Historical Notes seems to show that no Indians were involved.  Dr. C. Bickford of the Connecticut Historical Society is quoted: “The 19th century accounts of Farmington contain a lot of fiction. Without any corroborating evidence to support Andrew’s story, I had to conclude that it was without substance.” There may have been a fire of unknown origin, though. From the Hart Family History, Silas Hart, His Ancestors and Descendants by William Lincoln Hart (Alliance, Ohio, 1942) p. 17: “The Rev. Samuel Danforth, pastor of the first church in Roxbury kept a diary, and under the date of February 11, 1666 (O.S.) appears the following entry: Tidings came to us from Connecticut how that on ye 15th of 10M66 Sergeant Hart, ye son of Deacon Hart and his wife, and six children were all burned in their house at Farmington, no man knowing how the fire was kindled, neither did any of the neighbors see ye fire till it was past remedy. The church there had kept a fast at this man’s house two days before. One of his sons being at a farm, escaped the burning.

[11] My 9th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading. Anthony’s other daughter, Mary (1644-1691), married John Judd (1640-1715), and they are our 8th g-grandparents.

[12] The son-in-law John Cole named in the will of Stephen Hart is stated in some sources (such as Andrews’ book) to have married a daughter Mehitable Hart, but evidence taken from John Cole’s will and from the Winthrop medical records shows that John Cole of Farmington instead married Rachel, daughter of Stephen Hart. In late November 1657 John Winthrop Jr. treated Rachell Hart of Farmington and Steven Hart her brother, and on 1 Feb 1657/8 he treated Rachel Hart 16 years. She was a frequent patient throughout 1658 and 1659, being treated for an eye problem as a result of which she intermittently lost her sight. Beginning on 12 Dec 1664 John Winthrop Jr. began frequent treatments of Rachel Cole, wife of John Cole of Farmington, for eye problems and head pains. In his will of 12 Sep 1689 John Coale Sr. of Farmington made a bequest to my beloved wife Rachel, and asked Thomas Hart and Thomas Porter to be overseers; Thomas Hart was sister of Rachel Hart, and Thomas Porter had married her elder sister, Sarah. John and Rachel (Hart) Cole had a son John Cole (Jr.) who married Mehitable Loomis in 1691. This may be the source of the incorrect claim that Stephen Hart had a daughter Mehitable who married John Cole.

[13] Mary Thompson (1682-1763) is the granddaughter of Thomas Thompson (1610-1655) and Ann Welles (1619-1680), my 10th g-grandparents.


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