Gager #5302

William Gager (1592-1630)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 and

Unknown Spouse.

Gager 5302

William Gager was born in Suffolk, England and died in Charlestown, Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He is he son of William Gager (1555-1622).  Many sources report that his wife was Hannah Mayhew, and that Hannah’s brother was Thomas Mayhew (1593-1682), who was a leading man in the early history of Martha’s Vineyard (an early settler of that island and first de facto Governor of that colony).  However, Charles Banks[1], in his history of Martha’s Vineyard does not mention a “Hannah” as a daughter of Matthew Mayhew (the known father of Thomas).  Also, Gary Boyd Roberts, American Ancestors and Cousins of the Princess of Wales (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984), traces the ancestry of Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, back to William Gager, but claims that his wife is unknown (p. 31).  I have not been able to discover the source for the “Hannah Mayhew” tradition.

Map of the Massachusetts Bay colony and neighboring settlements

In April 1630, William Gager, along with his wife and other family members, left England for the fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony, under the leadership of his friend and neighbor John Winthrop[2].  The company they sailed with was known as the Winthrop Fleet[3] and was a group of 11 ships that carried 700 Puritans plus livestock and provisions under the leadership of John Winthrop over the summer of 1630 to New England.  The Winthrop Fleet was a well planned and financed expedition that formed the nucleus of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  In a letter directed to our loving friend Mr. Gager at Little Waldingfield in Suffolk about 1629/30, John Winthrop wrote:

Sir, Being informed of your good inclination to the furtherance of this work which (through the Lord’s good providence) we are in hand with for the establishing of a church in N.E., and having sufficient assurance of your godliness and abilities in the art of surgery to be of much use to us in this work, being informed also, that the place where you live doth not afford you such sufficient and comfortable employment as your gifts do require, we have thought good to offer you a call to join with us, and become a member of our society: your entertainment shall be to your good content; if you like to accept this motion, we desire you would prepare to go with us this spring. If you come up to London we shall be ready to treat further with you.

The Gagers sailed on the fleet’s flagship, the Arabella, captained by Peter Melbourne.  After the fleet landed on 12 Jun 1630, the passengers settled in Boston, Salem and other nearby areas.  The Gagers settled in Charlestown, a section of Boston.  However, William never fully recovered from the ill effects of voyage from England and died of a fever on 20 Sep 1630.  His wife evidently died around the same time.  Thomas Dudley, another member of the Winthrop Fleet, wrote to Bridget Fiennes, Countess of Lincoln, that over 200 passengers had died between their landing in Massachusetts and December 1630.

The Arbella -- Gov. Winthrop's Flagship, The Pioneers' Village, Salem, Massachusetts (Created/Published: Tichnor Bros. Inc., Boston, postcard issued circa 1930-1945)

The Arbella — Gov. Winthrop’s Flagship, The Pioneers’ Village, Salem, Massachusetts (Created/Published: Tichnor Bros. Inc., Boston, postcard issued circa 1930-1945)

William Gager was admitted to Boston church as member #8, which would be no later than 27 August 1630, and he was made deacon of the church on that day.

The following is from Dr. Snow’s book, History of Boston, printed in 1828:

In the midst of these afflictions, Dr. Gager died.  He was their principal, if not their only, physician and surgeon.  He is represented as a man of skill in his profession.  And we have seen that the soundness of his faith and the purity of his life have promoted him to the office of a Deacon in the infant Church.  He was considered a Public Servant; and the same court which provided for the salaries of the ministers ordered that a house be built for him against the coming spring, and that he should be furnished with a cow and be paid 20 pounds for his first year.  And afterward have 30 pounds per annum at common charge.

Dr. William Gager is buried at Town Hill, Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The daughter of William Gager is Sarah Gager (1620-1683).  Sarah’s husband, Robert Allyn (1609-1683) and her brother John Gager (1620-1703) were two of the 35 original proprietors (founders) of Norwich, Connecticut.

The Norwich Founder’s Monument was erected on the site of the Ancient Norwich Burying Ground – also known as the “Post and Gager” Cemetery.  Although none of the original gravestones remain, it is probable that most of the early Norwich settlers were buried at this location.

Norwich Founders memorial plaque, Norwich, Connecticut

The Ancient Norwich Burial Ground was the first cemetery in the town of Norwich.  The first death in the new settlement was that of Mary Post, wife of Thomas Post, in the year 1661.  Thomas Post was one of the original proprietors, and his home-lot lay adjacent to Richard Edgerton on Town Street.  Mary Post was buried on a plot of land at the rear corner of the Post home-lot.  The Norwich proprietors later voted to purchase the surrounding area as a burial place.  A memorandum on the Norwich town records notes that: The Towne hath purchased a burying place of Thomas Post – in the home lot of said Post – towards the rear of his lot.

The Founder’s monument lists the names of thirty-eight of the first settlers of Norwich, including all thirty five of the original proprietors. Namely:

Side 1: Major John Mason*, Rev. James Fitch*, John Pease, John Tracy, John Baldwin, Jonathan Royce, John Post, Thomas Bingham, Thomas Waterman, Robert Allyn*.
Side 2: Ensign Wm Backus, Francis Griswold, Nehemiah Smith, Thomas Howard, John Calkins, Hugh Calkins, Richard Egerton, Thomas Post, John Gager+.
Side 3: Thomas Leffingwell, Richard Wallis, Thomas Adgate, John Olmstead++, Stephen Backus, Thomas Bliss, John Reynolds, Josiah Reed, Christopher Huntington.
Side 4: Thomas Tracy, Samuel Hyde, William Hyde, Morgan Bowers, Robert Wade, John Birchard, Simon Huntington, Stephen Gifford, John Bradford.

* 9th g-grandfather; + 9th g-grand uncle (brother of Sarah Gager, my 9th g-grandmother); ++ husband of 8th g-grand aunt (Elizabeth Marvin, sister of Rebecca Marvin, my 9th g-grandmother)

The original township of Norwich has changed considerably since its original layout in 1659.  The Old Burying Ground on Town Street is now situated on a hilltop adjacent to the Connecticut Turnpike, although isolated and out of view.  The burying ground fell into disuse long ago, but was kept in the ownership of the Norwich proprietors and is now maintained as a public park by the Town of Norwich.  The Ancient Burying Ground is now relatively wooded, as can be seen in some of the photos above.  The cemetery is enclosed by a stone fence with a metal gate at the entrance.

A large stone bench built on the site bears the following inscription:

Near this spot lie buried the first settlers of Norwich. This stone dedicated to their memory August 11, 1940, by the Society of the Founders of Norwich, Connecticut and the John Mason Monument Association.

The daughter of Robert Allyn and Sarah Gager is Sarah Allyn, and the lineage of their descendants is continued under the heading for Sarah Allyn’s husband, George Geer (1621-1726).

[1] Charles Edward Banks. The History of Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes County, Massachusetts in three volumes (Boston, Massachusetts: George H. Dean) 1912.

John Winthrop (1588-1649) was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

John Winthrop (1588-1649) was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

[2] John Winthrop (1588 -1649) was a wealthy English Puritan lawyer, and one of the leading figures in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after Plymouth Colony. Winthrop led the first large wave of migrants from England in 1630, and served as governor for 12 of the colony’s first 20 years of existence. His writings and vision of the colony as a Puritan “city upon a hill” dominated New England colonial development, influencing the government and religion of neighboring colonies. Born into a wealthy landowning and merchant family, Winthrop was trained in the law, and became Lord of the Manor at Groton in Suffolk. Although he was not involved in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1628, he became involved in 1629 when the anti-Puritan King Charles I began a crackdown on Nonconformist religious thought. In October 1629 he was elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in April 1630 he led a group of colonists to the New World, founding a number of communities on the shores of Massachusetts Bay and the Charles River. Between 1629 and his death in 1649, he served 12 annual terms as governor, and was a force of comparative moderation in the religiously conservative colony, clashing with the more conservative Thomas Dudley and the more liberal Roger Williams and Henry Vane. Although Winthrop was a respected political figure, his attitude toward governance was somewhat authoritarian: he resisted attempts to widen voting and other civil rights beyond a narrow class of religiously approved individuals, opposed attempts to codify a body of laws that the colonial magistrates would be bound by, and also opposed unconstrained democracy, calling it “the meanest and worst of all forms of government”. The authoritarian and religiously conservative nature of Massachusetts rule was influential in the formation of neighboring colonies, which were in some instances formed by individuals and groups opposed to the rule of the Massachusetts elders. Winthrop’s son, John, was one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony, and Winthrop himself wrote one of the leading historical accounts of the early colonial period. His long list of descendants includes famous Americans, and his writings continue to be an influence on politicians today.

[3] Ancestors who are known to have arrived with America with the Winthrop Fleet are William Gager and Hannah Mayhew (my 10th g-grandparents) and John Sayles and Phillipa Soales (my 11th g-grandparents). It is also possible that William Almy (my 11th g-grandfather) was a member of the Winthrop Fleet voyage in 1630, but this has not been proven.  These individuals are discussed under their own headings. The Winthrop Fleet consisted of eleven ships carrying approximately 700 passengers sailing from Yarmouth, Isle of Wright to Salem. The ships of the fleet were the flagship Arbella, Ambrose, Hopewell, and Talbot, (which sailed 8 Apr 1630) and Charles, Jewel, Mayflower, Success, Trial, Whale, and William & Francis (which sailed in May 1630).


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