Greene #10952

(Dr.) John Greene (1597-1659)

Born in England.  Arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on 3 Jun 1635 and subsequently settled in Rhode Island in 1638 and

Joane Tattersall (1598-1635?)

Born in England.   It is believed that she may have died during the voyage to New England in 1635, but she may have arrived in Boston with her husband and lived until as late as 1643.

Greene 10952

Greenes of Rhode Island_title pageA good resource for research on the descendants of (Dr.) John Greene is The Greenes of Rhode Island, with historical records of English ancestry, 1534-1902 by George Sears Green.  It was originally published in 1903 (available for download in my family history library) and is also available new in a reprinted edition.

John Greene was an early settler of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and a co-founder of the town of Warwick in the colony.  He sailed from England with his family and landed at Boston, Massachusetts on 3 Jun 1635.  He first settled in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but had difficulty with the Puritan authorities and soon followed Roger Williams[1] to Providence, Rhode Island, becoming one of the original proprietors of that town.  In 1643 he joined Samuel Gorton and nine others in purchasing land that would become the town of Warwick.  Difficulties with Massachusetts ensued, until he accompanied Gorton on a trip to England where they secured royal recognition of their town.  Once Warwick became safe from external threats, Greene became active in its government, serving on the town council, as Deputy to the General Court of the colony as magistrate of the General Court of Trials.


English origins: 

From New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record of the Achievements of her People in the Making of Commonwealths and the Founding of a Nation, Volume 4, p. 2088:

“(The Greene Line). The family of Grene or Greene of Northamptonshire, England, is of great antiquity.  The earliest authentic records of the family go back to the beginning of the thirteenth century.  In Halstead’s Succinct Genealogy (London, 1685), appears the following as to the origin of the name and arms of the family: Of the original of the house of Greene we have no certain information, but it is apparent they assumed their Name and Arms from an allusion to their principal and beloved lordship, which was Buckton, or of the Town of Bucks, in the county of Northampton, being of the Hundred of Spelho, a place memorable for the excellency of its soil and situation and a spacious and delightful greene upon which, at the desire of the Lords, was yearly held and exercised a Fair with particular and extraordinary privilege. Hence they were called Greene or of the Greene. And from Buckton or the town of Bucks they have assumed for their Arms: In a field azure three bucks trippant, or’. The Greenes of Rhode Island descended from the English branch of Dorsetshire. (I) Robert Greene, the first of the line here under consideration of whom we have definite information, owned and resided on his estate at Bowridge Hill in the Parish of Gillingham, county Dorset (a locality noticed in the Ordinance Survey of England), when taxed on the Subsidy Rolls in the time of King Henry VIII. (1543), in the 1st of Edward VI. (1547), and in the 1st of Queen Elizabeth (1558). The name of his wife is unknown.”

Bowridge Hill, Dorset on a map of England

John Greene was likely born at the family’s estate at Bowridge Hill near Gillingham, Dorset, England.  His date of birth is not known with certainty.  Various sources cite dates between 1590-1597.  He was one of the youngest of a family of at least 10 children.  He is the son of Richard Greene (about 1560-1617) and Mary Hooker (1677- ).  His father was also named Richard Greene (about 1527-1608).  His g-grandfather is the Robert Greene[2] referred to above.  Therefore, it is apparent that John Greene was from a family of some prominence.  The family’s Bowridge Hill estate was inherited by John’s oldest brother, Peter at the time of his father’s death in 1608.  John Greene, sometimes referred to as Dr. John Greene, was a surgeon and practiced his profession at Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.  It is there that he was married at St. Thomas on 4 Nov 1619 to Joane Tattersall (sometimes Tattershall or Tatarsole) and where all of his children were born and baptized.

The timing and circumstances of the death of Joane Tattersall have been variously reported.  According to some sources, she died at sea in 1635 on the voyage to America.  There is another tradition that she survived the voyage and migrated to Rhode Island with the rest of the family.  As the story is told, Joan sought refuge with the Indians in the area called Occupassnatuxet (aka Pastuxet, now Warwick), Rhode Island, from the Massachusetts authorities in 1643.  The event was so trying that she died there from shock. 

In any case, Joan died by 1643, and John Greene is known to have subsequently married twice more: First to Alice Daniels of Gillingham, Dorset, England on 8 May 1644.  She died soon after their marriage.  Next he married Phillippa “Phillis” Arnold of London, England on 20 Oct 1645 in London, whence he had returned for a time to seek redress from the Crown for grievances of the colony of Rhode Island against the colony of Massachusetts Bay.

On 6 Apr 1635 John Greene and his family boarded the ship James at Southampton, England and sailed for New England, arriving in Boston, Massachusetts on 3 Jun 1635.  The family resided at Salem, Massachusetts for a short while thereafter.  John Greene was consistently resistant to the Puritan authority of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and within a year or two of his arrival in New England he moved to Providence, Rhode Island with Roger Williams.  He used this sanctuary to write haranguing letters to Massachusetts, speaking contemptuously of the magistrates. On 1 Aug 1637,  he first appeared in Massachusetts Colonial Records in this wise:

Mr John Greene of New Providence bound to Quarter Court first Tuesday of 7th month next, for speaking contemptuously of Magistrates, stands bound in 100 marks.

On which the action taken is as follows:

John Greene of New Providence fined 20 marks and forbidden the jurisdiction on pain of fine and imprisonment for speaking contemptuously of Magistrates, 19 Sept 1637.

On 12 Mar 1638, a letter from him was received by the court of Massachusetts,

…wherein the court is charged with usurping the power of Christ over the church and mens consciences etc He was ordered not to come into that jurisdiction under pain of imprisonment and further censure.

This map shows the original town lots of Providence, Rhode Island as of about 1664. The names are easily readable if expanded. Just click on the map (from “The Providence Plantations for 250 Years” by Welcome Arnold Greene, 1886). Greene’s lot is fifth from the top.

Later in 1638, he was one of the 12 persons to whom land was deeded by Roger Williams, and he became one of the original proprietors of Providence, Rhode Island.  He was also one of the 12 original members of the First Baptist Church[3] there.

In October 1642, John Greene bought a neck of land with a little island from the Indian sachem Miantonomi and named the property Occupassuatuxet.  The sale price was 144 fathoms of Wampun.  A fathom (six feet of strung beads) of white wampum was worth perhaps ten shillings and double that for purple beads.  This land remained in the family until 1782, when it was bought by Governor John Francis.  He became a close friend of Samuel Gorton[4], and in January 1643 these two men and nine others[5] purchased another tract of land from Miantonomi and named it Shawomet, later to become Warwick, Rhode Island.

The following is a copy of the deed given by Miantonomi to the Warwick settlers:

Know all men that I, Myantinomy Cheef & Sachem of the Nanheygansett, have sould unto the persons here named one parsell of lands with all the rights and privileges thereof whatsoever lyinge uppon the west syde of that part of the sea called Sownomes Bay from Copassenetuxett over against a little Hand in the sayd Bay, being the north bounds and the outermost point of that neck of land called Shawomett; being the south bound from the sea shore of each boundary uppon a straight lyne westward twentie miles.  I say I have truly sould the parsell of lands above sayde the proportion whereof is according to the mapp underwritten or drawne, being the form of it, unto Randall Houlden, John Greene, John Wickes, Francis Weston, Samuel Gorton, Richard Waterman, John Warner, Richard Carder, Sampson Shotten, William Wuddall for one hundred and forty foure fathoms of wampumpeage.  I say I have sould it, and possession of it given unto the men above sayd with the free and joint consent of the present inhabitants, being natives, as it appears by their hands hereunto annexed.             Dated ye twelfth of January, 1642.  Being enacted uppon the above sayd parsell of lande.

The following September, many of these Shawomet settlers were summoned to appear in court in Massachusetts, based on supposed charges brought against them from two minor Indian sachems.  The settlers refused the summons, telling Massachusetts that they did not have jurisdiction over their land, in response to which soldiers were sent and several of the settlers were taken to Boston.  John Greene and his son John (Jr.) both escaped to Conanicut Island and were never captured.  Those who were taken to Massachusetts, including Samuel Gorton, were tried, and several of them were convicted of blasphemy and for their beliefs and then incarcerated. While the captives were released a few months later, they were banished from Massachusetts, and also from their homes in Shawomet.  Seeking redress for the wrongs against them, John Greene, Gorton and Randall Holden sailed to England, but had to board a ship in New Amsterdam, since they were banned from traveling to Boston.  While in England, Gorton was able to get a royal decree for his settlement of Shawomet from the Earl of Warwick.  John Greene and Holden returned to New England with this important document in 1646, while Gorton remained in England for another two years.  When Gorton returned in 1648, he had his town renamed to Warwick, in honor of the earl who helped him get the protection he needed for the settlement.

A view of the "new" Manor House from the Old House foundation, exposed in Trench 1 in 2007 and in 2006 excavations. The orange flags mark the location of current excavation areas.

A view of the “new” Manor House from the Old House foundation, exposed in Trench 1 in 2007 and in 2006 excavations. The orange flags mark the location of current excavation areas.

The  land that John Greene purchased from the Narragansett sachem Miantonomi in 1642 was initially called “Greene’s Hold”, and it was the largest in 17th century Warwick.  By 1663 Surgeon John Greene and/or his son Major John Greene (Jr.) constructed dwellings along the southwest coast of the Occupaspatuxet Cove, where they lived while cultivating and trading from the property until about 1700.  Five generations of Greenes owned the estate until 1782, when John Brown (1736-1803), a wealthy, powerful Providence merchant and co-founder of Brown University, bought it.  The farm was then worked by tenant farmers, and the Brown family used it as a country retreat.  Brown’s grandson, Gov. John Brown Francis (1791-1864), returned to the property, where he and his descendants remain today.  Since 2004, the property has been the site of the “Greene Farm Archaeology Project”, which focuses on documenting and interpreting five centuries of cultural and natural landscape transformations on one of the few remaining Providence Plantations.  Seasonal archaeological surveys and excavations have unearthed important information about the Greene Farm landscape’s deep and long-term history.  The project has also uncovered unique archaeological insights into the Greene and Brown families’ everyday lives and into the technologies, sociopolitical climate and global exchange networks of colonial and early Republic America.  The project is sponsored by Brown University (Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World and the Department of American Civilization) and Wayne State University (Department of Anthropology).  More information and images may be available at the Greene Farm Archaeology Project website.

Greene Farm landscape (2004)

Greene Farm landscape (2004)

John Greene (Sr.)’s grave marker – John Greene Cemetery, Warwick, Rhode Island

John Greene served on the Warwick town council in 1647 and 1648, was the Warwick Deputy to the Rhode Island General Court from 1649 to 1657 and was made a freeman in 1655.  He was the magistrate for the Rhode Island General Court of Trials in March 1656.  He died in Warwick, Rhode Island sometime between 28 Dec 1658 (when he wrote his will) and 7 Jan 1659 (when it was proved), survived by his third wife.  He and his first wife, Joane Tattersall, had six children who grew to maturity (a seventh child died young). The children were all born in England.  They are listed as follows:

  1. John Greene (1620-1708), discussed below.
  2. Peter (1621-1699), who married Mary Gorton, a daughter of colonial President Samuel Gorton.
  3. Richard (1624-1659)
  4. James, born 1626 and died 27 Apr 1698.  He married (1st) Deliverance Potter in 1658  and (2nd) Elizabeth Anthony on 3 Aug 1665.
  5. Thomas, born 4 Jun 1628 and died 5 Jun 1717.  On 30 Jun 1659 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Rufus and Margaret Barton. Children: Elizabeth (1660), Thomas (1662), Benjamin (1666), Richard (1667), Welthran (1670), Rufus (1673) and Nathaniel (1679).
  6. Joan, born in England in 1630.  She married John Hade.
  7. Mary, born in 1633.  She married James Sweet about 1654.

A great grandson, William Greene (1695-1758)[6] served as Governor of the colony for 11 one-year terms during the middle of the 18th century, and his son, William Greene (1731-1809)[7] served as a governor of the State of Rhode Island.  John Greene is also the ancestor of General Nathanael Greene (1742-1786)[8], the only general in the American Revolutionary War, besides George Washington[9], to serve for the entire war and of former U.S. President Warren G. Harding[10].

The son of John Greene and Joane Tattersall is John Greene (Jr.), born about 1620 in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England and died 27 Nov 1708 in Warwick, Rhode Island.  In 1648 he married Ann (sometimes Annis or Agnes) Almy, born about 1628 in Leicestershire, England and died May 1709.  She is the daughter of William Almy and Audrey Barlowe, discussed under their own heading.

John Greene (Jr.) was a deputy governor of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations who spent almost his entire adult life in the public service of the colony.  He is considered one of the most important figures in the early history of Rhode Island.  As discussed above, his father, after coming from Massachusetts to Providence, became one of the original settlers of Warwick, Rhode Island.  In 1652 Greene served in his first public role as a commissioner from Warwick, and served in some public capacity every year until 1690 when he was first chosen as deputy governor of the colony.  He then served ten consecutive one-year terms in this capacity, retiring from public service in 1700 at the age of 80.

Surgent (i.e. Surgeon) John Greene monument in the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Warwick #66 (West Shore Road at Armstrong Avenue, Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island)

Surgent (i.e. Surgeon) John Greene monument in the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Warwick #66 (West Shore Road at Armstrong Avenue, Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island)

The distinguished career of John Green (Jr.) makes him one of the most amazing and outstanding men of the colonial period in New England. His impact on Rhode Island and the English colonies in the 17th century included a leading role in politics and business.  In his role as deputy governor he was regarded as a champion of Rhode Island rights.  He is primarily responsible for the establishing of the Boston Post Road and for the early postal service.  As deputy governor, John Greene (Jr.) is considered the man who introduced the controversial practice of privateering[11]. This brought prosperity and a degree of infamy to the colony.

For over 50 years he held most of the important offices in both Warwick and Rhode Island. He was a member of the Colonial Assembly, deputy, assistant and deputy governor of the colony. These positions would be equivalent to representative, senator, secretary of state and lieutenant governor.  While he never served as governor, he wielded more power than any of those who held that position in his lifetime.

In 1648 John Greene (Jr.) married Ann Almy, daughter of William Almy and Audrey Barlowe of Portsmouth.  Greene’s father-in-law was one of Rhode Island’s early members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and a man of considerable influence.  For much of his long life John and Anne lived on the land established by his father at Occupasuetuxet.  The estate was deeded to him in 1659.  It has been described as that neck of land called Occupasuetuxet and all meadows that belong thereto with a little island adjoining, all of which was purchased of Miantonomi on Oct. 1, 1642.  It is on this property that John Greene (Jr.) is believed to have been buried.

John Greene (Jr.) and Anne Almy had 11 children, many of whom married members of other early and influential families.  His will dated 1706 was proved 20 Dec 1708 and names his wife, sons[12]: Peter, Job, Richard and Samuel as executors, and daughters: Deborah Torrey, Anne Greene, Catherine Holden, and Audry Spencer, as well as granddaughter: Mary Dyer[13] and the children of Phillis (Carr) Dickinson, deceased.

The son of John Greene (Jr.) and Anne Almy is William Greene, born 3 May 1652 in Warwick, Rhode Island and died 16 Jan 1680 in Newport, Rhode Island.  On 11 Dec 1684 he married Mary Sayles, the daughter of John Sayles and Phillipa Soales, discussed under their own heading.

William Greene died rather young, at the age of only 28, and Mary Sayles subsequently married Rev. John Holmes on 12 Oct 1680.

The daughter of William Greene and Mary Sayles is Mary Sayles Greene, born 8 Jul 1677 in Warwick, Rhode Island and died 11 Aug 1761 in North Kingston, Rhode Island.  On 28 Sep 1698, she married Edward Dyer (1670-1760).  The lineage of Mary Sayles Greene, and Edward Dyer is continued under the heading of Mary (Barrett) Dyer.  We are also descended from Edward’s sister, Ann Dyer, and her husband Carew Clarke.  That lineage is continued under the heading of Joseph Clarke (1618-1694).


[1] My 10th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading.

[2] Robert Greene repurchased the estate at Bowridge Hill, the family seat of the three preceding generations. In the subsidy rolls of 1543, Robert Greene of Gillingham is listed as an elderly man with grandchildren. One of his daughter’s name was Anne, a very popular name with the Gillingham Greenes, their diminutive for which, Welthian, was used in the family for several generations after the family came to America. Of Robert Greene’s children, two sons (Richard and John) were the forebears of the two families of Greene who settled in America. There were two men named John Greene who immigrated to Rhode Island at the same time in the 1600s. One is known as John Greene of Quidnessett. He was born about 1606 in Gillingham, Dorset, England, and is known to be the son of Greene (born 1580), grandson of Henry, great grandson of John and 2nd great grandson of Robert. John of Quidnessett married Joan Beggerly. The other, our ancester, is known as John Greene of Warwick. That’s a lot of Johns, Richards and Roberts to keep track of. The two men named John Greene who emigrated to Rhode Island were 2nd cousins 1x removed.

[3] The history of First Baptist Church in Providence is discussed at greater length under the heading of Joseph Clarke, whose brother, John Clarke, was a leading advocate of religious freedom in the Americas, along with Roger Williams (my 10th g-grandfather). Roger Williams and John Clarke were co-founders of this church. Other ancestors of ours with a connection to leadership of this church are Rev. Thomas Olney (born 1600; pastor from 1639-1652), my 10th g-grandfather and Rev. Pardon Tillinghast (born 1622; pastor from 1681-1718), my 9th g-grandfather.

[4] He was one of Rhode Island’s most fascinating and enigmatic characters. To characterize him as a controversial and quarrelsome figure borders on understatement. Like John Greene, he was an early settler and civic leader of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Upon arriving in Massachusetts in 1637, he quickly antagonized an impressive list of influential and powerful persons in 17th century New England. Gorton, a brilliant, but unorthodox, self-proclaimed, preacher severely criticized the religious doctrines of the Boston and Plymouth Puritans and opposed their right to rule in Massachusetts. He felt as many others did that there was no necessity for bishops to act as intermediaries and believed that people were guided by God’s spirit directly. He preached that all should be able to worship as they pleased and that all men and women, not just the Elders or the ordained, had the right to preach. For this, and for his insistence that there should be a separation of church and state and that the New England Colonies were not correct in their practice of English Common law, he quickly incurred the wrath of the Puritan Elders in Boston and Plymouth. For a time his brilliance and appeal were tolerated, but as he challenged all authority he was banished from Massachusetts and eventually made his way to Providence. His views on government and legal rights soon led him to quarrel with a number of leaders in the community and he made enemies in Providence, and he was denied admission as a freeman in Providence. William Arnold, one of the five disposers, as the men were called who handled such applications, strongly opposed Gorton. Arnold, on 25 May 1641, wrote that Gorton, showed himself an insolent, railing and turbulent person.  Even Roger Williams, usually a tolerant man, found Gorton troublesome. In a letter to Governor Winthrop, dated Providence 1640 Williams says, Master Gorton, having abused high and low at Aquidnick, is now bewitching and bemadding poor Providence, with his uncleane and foul censures of all the ministers of this country…and also denying all visible and externall ordinances…  Next Gorton and a group of others purchased land of the Indians, settling south of the Pawtuxet River in an area they called Shawomet, later named Warwick. Refusing to answer a summons following the complaints of two Indian sachems about being unfairly treated in a land transaction, Gorton and several of his followers were forcefully taken away to Massachusetts. Being tried for his beliefs and writings, rather than the original supposed infraction, Gorton was sentenced to prison in Charlestown, though all but three of the presiding magistrates voted to give him a death sentence. After a few months Gorton was released from confinement, but banished from Massachusetts and his home settlement of Shawomet, which was claimed by Massachusetts. He and several of his followers soon sailed to England where he spent four years, writing and publishing a book about his Shawomet experience, but more importantly obtaining an official order of protection for his colony from the Earl of Warwick. Once back in New England, with his settlement of Shawomet (now called Warwick) secure, Gorton became a part of the civil authority that he had previously rejected, serving as assistant to the president, commissioner, deputy, and president of the two towns of Providence and Warwick. He served in civic roles over a period of 20 years until he was in his late 70s. Gorton wrote a number of books, two of them during his trip to England, and several others following his return. A man of great learning and great intellectual breadth, Gorton believed passionately in God, the King and the individual man and was harshly critical of the magistrates and ministers who filled positions that were meaningless in his eyes. His beliefs and demeanor brought him admiration from his followers, but great condemnation from those in positions of authority, and he was reviled for more than a century after his death. In more recent times historians and writers have looked upon him much more favorably, considering him one of the great colonial leaders of Rhode Island. He is the paternal grandfather of the wife (Mary Gorton, 1673-1732) of our 9th g-grand uncle (Gov. William Greene, 1695-1758).

[5] Including my 11th g-grandfather, William Wodell (William Wuddall, above), discussed under his own heading.

[6] My 9th g-grand uncle.

[7] My 2nd cousin 9x removed.

[8] My 3rd cousin 9x removed and John’s 2nd great grandson. See article under “Notable Kin”, for more information.

[9] My 3rd cousin 8x removed. See article under “Notable Kin”, for more information.

[10] My 8th cousin 3x removed and John’s 8th great grandson. See article under “Notable Kin”, for more information.

[11] A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers. They were of great benefit to a smaller naval power or one facing an enemy dependent on trade: they disrupted commerce and pressured the enemy to deploy warships to protect merchant trade against commerce raiders. The cost was borne by investors hoping to profit from prize money earned from captured cargo and vessels. The proceeds would be distributed among the privateer’s investors, officers, and crew. It has been argued that privateering was a less destructive and wasteful form of warfare, because the goal was to capture ships rather than to sink them.

[12] His son William, my 9th g-grandfather who died in 1680, is not named.

[13] My 7th g-grand aunt.



One comment

  • Lorrie Simmons

    My g-grandmother was Hettie Greene, daughter of Noble K. Greene. I believe we are from the Warwick Greenes.

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