Minor #2640

 Thomas Minor (1608-1690)

Born in Chew Magna, Somerset, England.  Probably arrived in Massachusetts about 1629, but certainly prior to 1632, and later settled in New London and Stonington, Connecticut and

Grace Palmer (1612-1690)

Born in England.  Arrived in America probably in 1629 but certainly prior to 1634.

Minor #2640

Thomas Minor (sometimes spelled Miner) was born in Chew Magna, county of Somerset, England on 23 April 1608, the son of Clement Miner. He emigrated to Massachusetts, perhaps in 1629 on the Lyon ‘s Whelp as Banks[1] states, or maybe a couple of years later on the Arabella as many older writings claim (all apparently without any real proof).  Thomas was a founder of Charlestown and Hingham, Massachusetts and New London and Stonington, Connecticut.  He was also the author of one of the few diaries to survive from 17th Century New England.

Parish Church of St. Andrew where Thomas Minor was christened in 1608

English Origins

The primary reference for this Minor/Miner family ancestry, in addition to the original town, church and cemetery records, is Thomas Minor, Descendants, 1608-1981, published in 1981 by John Augustus Miner (1919-2004).  It was reprinted in 2001.

Comparatively little is known of the English ancestry of Thomas Minor or the circumstances of his emigration to New England.  He was the son of Clement Minor (Sr.), according to the parish records of St. Andrew’s parish church in Chew Magna, Somersetshire.  Clement Minor was born in 1560 in Chew Magna, the son of Thomas Minor and Joan [surname unknown].  His wife’s identity is unknown to us.  Clement was buried at Chew Magna on 31 Mar 1640.  The following children, born at Chew Magna, are listed in the parish records of St. Andrew’s Church:

  1. Joan (1585-1586)
  2. John (1587-1597)
  3. Joan (1589-1595)
  4. Mary (1592-1641)
  5. Elizabeth (1594-1630), married Thomas Bucke
  6. Edith (1597-1623), married John Tompkins
  7. Clement (1600- ), married Sarah Pope
  8. Thomas Minor, born 23 Apr 1608

Clement’s son Clement (Jr.) lived near Bristol.  Descendants continued to live in England.  An abstract of the will of his daughter Mary exists. The will was dated 4 Dec 1640, and proved 23 Feb 1640/41, and the value of the estate was £25.2.2.  In her will, she lists the children of Clement Minor (William and Israel), Thomas Bucke (Richard, Mary and John) and John Tompkins (John, Eleanor and Mary).[2]

Thomas Minor – Commemoration Plaque at St. Andrews Church, Chew Magna, England

Clement’s father was Thomas Minor (1530-1573).  He was born about 1530 in Chew Magna, Somserset, England.  His parents were William Minor and [unknown spouse].  He married Joan  [surname unknown] in the 1550s.  He was a tailor and resident of Chew Magna in 1556 at which time it was known as a cloth-producing town.  He was buried at Chew Magna on 15 Nov 1573, and an abstract of his will, dated 20 Oct 1573 and proved 15 Sep 1574, survives.  It indicated his desire to be buried in the churchyard at Chew Magna.  To the church he granted 4 pence, to sons Clement and John a lamb each, to daughter Edith a lamb and a yearling heifer, residue to wife Joan, Executrix.  To William Winch and Thomas Horte as witnesses he granted each 20 pence.  The inventory of his estate totaled £16 5s.   The manor court rolls show Joan succeeding her husband on 19 Jul 1574 under a grant of 29 Jun 1554.  She was buried at Chew Magna on 21 Dec 1592.  William is the earliest member of the family from who a connected line of descent can be shown. He was the great-grandfather of the Thomas Minor baptized at Chew Magna on 23 Apr 1608.

Miner “Coat of Arms” – a fabrication dating to about 1680

Sometime during the mid 1600s, perhaps about 1683, Thomas Minor wrote to a correspondent in England seeking information on his ancestry and seeking an answer to the question whether his surname should be spelled with an “e” or an “o”.  From this source, he obtained a document which traced his family roots back to the 1300s and which explained the origin of the name by noting that a Henry Miner of the Mendip Hills in Somerset was given a coat of arms by Edward III for his services for the up-coming war with the French.  This history has since been proven to be fictitious, along with the fabricated coat-of-arms that the document contained.  For more information on this hoax, follow the link to the “An Herauldical Essay Upon the Surname of Miner“.



Migration to New England

Francis Higginson (1588-1630) – from a daguerreotype attributed to Southworth & Hawes, circa 1854-1860, depicting a painted portrait (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Francis Higginson (1588-1630) – from a daguerreotype attributed to Southworth & Hawes, circa 1854-1860, depicting a painted portrait (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Older accounts state that Thomas Minor arrived in Massachusetts aboard the Arbella (part the so-called “Winthrop Fleet”) in 1630, but more recent accounts state that he arrived on the Lyons Whelp in 1629.  Given that many of the settlers who arrived on the Lyons Whelp, part of the so-called “Higginson Fleet”, settled at Charlestown, perhaps the Lyons Whelp is the more likely of the two traditions.  Rev. Francis Higginson of Leicester was invited by the Massachusetts Bay Company to lead the first expedition to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and establish preliminary settlements.  Higginson led a group of about 350 settlers (including many of his own congregation) on six ships from England to New England.  The Higginson Fleet set sail on the 25 Apr 1629, arriving in Salem harbor on 24 Jun 1629.   The fleet brought with them 115 head of cattle, horses and mares, cows and oxen plus 41 goats and some conies (rabbits), along with all the provisions needed for setting up households and surviving till they could get crops in.  They would have to build their lodgings for the coming winter from scratch.  These were some of the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the main body of which would start coming in 1630 on the Winthrop Fleet.  The ships in the fleet were: Talbot (carried 19 cannon), George Bonaventure (carried 20 cannon), Lyon’s Whelp (carried 40 planters + crew + 8 cannon), Four Sisters (carried 14 cannon), Mayflower (carried 14 guns; not the same as the famous ship of 1620 which carried the “Pilgrims”) and Pilgrim (a small ship with 4 guns that carried supplies only).

John Endicott (before 1601-1664/5), also spelled Endecott, was an English colonial magistrate, soldier and the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Higginson’s fleet was greeted in Salem, Massachusetts by the small group of settlers from the previous year, led by John Endicott.   In the following winter, in the general sickness that ravaged the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Francis Higginson was attacked by a fever, which disabled him, and finally caused his death at the age of 43, leaving behind a widow and eight children.

We have family connections to Rev. Francis Higginson on both our father’s side and our mother’s side:

  • In 1648, Francis’ son John Higginson[3] (1616-1707) married Sarah Whitfield (1620-1675).  Sarah’s sister, Abigail Whitfield (1622-1659), is our paternal 9th g-grandmother, discussed under the heading of Henry Whitfield (1597-1657).
  • In 1677, Francis’ son John Higginson (1616-1707) married Mary Blakeman (1636-1709).  Mary’s brother, Samuel Blakeman (1640-1668), is our maternal 8th g-grandfather, discussed under the heading of Adam Blakeman (1596-1665).

Thomas Miner – Monument Inscription: Lieut. Thomas Minor born in Chew Magna Somerset County England, April 23, 1608. He was first by the name of Minor to migrate to this Country coming on the ship Arabella which reached Salem harbor June 14, 1630. He married Grace, daughter of Walter Palmer in Charlestown April 28, 1634. He took up his permanent abode at Quiambaug in 1653 or 1654 where he lived till his death Oct 23, 1690. One of the founders of New London and Stonington: prominent in public office: an organizer of the church.

The first reference to Thomas is in the formation record of Congregational Church of Charlestown, Massachusetts dated 2 Nov 1632.  That record refers to him and the others listed as dismissed from the Boston Church on 14 Oct 1632. 

He married Grace Palmer on 23 April 1634 in Massachusetts.  She was born about 1612, the daughter of Walter Palmer of Charlestown. Their first child, John, was born in Charlestown, and then in 1636 they moved to Hingham, Massachusetts where more children were born. 

In 1645, they joined John Winthrop Jr. and company in the settlement of New London, Connecticut.  On 15 Oct 1652 Thomas sold his home lot in New London located at the head of Close Cove and settled in Connecticut with Walter Palmer[4] (his father-in-law), William Chesebrough[5] and Thomas Stanton[6].  Along with these three, Thomas is considered one of four founders of the town of Stonington. The Stonington Historical Society has more information on the settling of the town.  In my Family History Library, I have posted an article on these founders by Geraldine A. Coon, “In Search of First Settlers” which was published in Historical Footnotes, a publication of the Stonington Historical Society, in November 1999.  There is a monument to these founders (dedicated 31 August 1899) located in the Wequetequock Cemetery with one side dedicated to Thomas Minor.

In 1653 Thomas Minor bought some land from Cary Latham and moved from the Wequetequock area to the west side of the mouth of Quiambaug Cove near Mystic, Connecticut and began one of the few diaries to survive from this period. The Diary of Thomas Minor covers the period from 1653 through 1684 and was published as a book in 1899[7].  Although the entries are terse and never give details, they do give us a glimpse into his daily life and community activities.  He records many births, marriages, and deaths among his neighbors.  He meticulously records the day of the week, the number of days in the month and the year, for no doubt this served as his only calendar.  He entered the date when a field was planted and its yield, for this would guide him in his planting the following year; unusual weather conditions such as a great snow or bitter cold made his diary truly his farmer’s almanac.  The death of his 21-year-old son is reported in simple and unemotional language, though it must have caused him considerable pain. He makes brief notes of some of his financial transactions as well.  It is a great treasure.  In his diary, Thomas tells of his building his house at Quiambaug.  His first published month, November 1653, and the following month, December of the same year, indicate very clearly his life in Stonington.  During the following months, one can follow the building of his home through entores such as the following:  I had 9 peeces to hewI made an end of hewing of timber; goodman redfield was making our backe for our Chimbloy and wensday the 22nd our backe of our Chimbly was ended goodman Redfild has 22 s and 6 d for doing the stone walle; I had newly raised my roofe of my house, etc.

From 1658 to 1662 Thomas was a party to a dispute whether Stonington was part of Connecticut or Massachusetts.  Stonington was now settled, albeit somewhat sparsely.  Thomas Stanton was on the Pawcatuck River, Walter Palmer on the east side of Wequetequock Cove, William Chesebrough in Wequetequock and Stonington Point, Amos Richardson at Quanaduck, Hugh Calkins owning Wamphassuc Point, Isaac Willey owning Lord’s Point, Thomas Minor in Quiambaug, John Mason owning Mason’s Island and adjoining mainland up to Pequotsepos Brook, George Denison in Pequotsepos, John Gallop on the Mystic River and RobertPark in Mystic.  Nearly all of the waterfront was taken, showing the keen interest of the settlers in seafood, salt marsh hay and trading.  The inhabitants now faced difficulties: being accepted as a town by either Connecticut or Massachusetts, settling the old boundary disputes, deciding how to treat the remnants of the defeated Indian tribes, and providing for their own religious needs.

After a lengthy struggle with both the Connecticut and Massachusetts General Courts, the settlers succeeded in achieving local government.  Their first efforts were then devoted to electing town officers and to the erection of a meetinghouse.


“Road Church” in Stonington, known as First Congregational Church (903 Pequot Trail)

The “Road Church” of Stonington, Connecticut

Thomas Minor and his son Ephraim helped found the “Road Church” in Stonington, known as First Congregational Church of Stonington, Connecticut (903 Pequot Trail).  It is the oldest church in the town of Stonington and the seventh oldest church in Connecticut and was established in 1674.  The present Road Church structure, built in 1829, has maintained its original and unique design.  The front door is in the back of the building and leads directly to the pulpit.  The pews are high, gated and painted white with cherry wood railings.  In the early history of the church, each pew was auctioned to the highest bidder, who was able to use it for 99 years.  A seating diagram still hangs in the church vestibule.  When you enter the church through the doors to the right and left of the pulpit, you face the congregation, a somewhat intimidating experience for latecomers.  As you walk to the back of the church, the aisle inclines upward ever so slightly, giving the impression of a theater.  The decor remains plain and simple, indicative of the Puritan times in which the church was founded.

During the early years the settlers of Stonington had to travel 15 miles and across two large rivers to New London to attend church.  On 1 Sep 1654, the first petition of the Stonington settlers for a separate town and church was refused by the General Court of Connecticut.  The first religious service in Stonington was held on 22 Mar 1657 at the home of Walter Palmer with Reverend William Thompson, a Harvard graduate, officiating.  At the time, Reverend Thompson served as missionary to the Pequot Indians, dividing his time between the Pequots and the settlers.  In 1661, the town erected a small meetinghouse on Montauk Avenue where town business and religious services were conducted.  In 1664 the town appointed a committee to go to the Bay (Massachusetts) and procure a minister.  The committee invited Mr. James Noyes of Newbury, a graduate of Harvard, to become their Gospel-preaching minister.  He accepted the invitation and came in June 1664.

In 1672 a new meetinghouse was built on Agreement Hill, a compromise location at a spot a few “rods” west of the present building.  The meetinghouse became known as the “Road Church” because it was located midway on the only road of the time.  This road, laid out in 1669, ran from the head of the Mystic River (in Old Mystic) through the town platt to Kichemaug (now Westerly), Rhode Island.  The Road Church, standing at the geographical center of town, was poised to become a religious, social and political center of activity.

On 3 Jun 1674 the First Congregational Church of Stonington was officially established with nine members: Rev. James Noyes, Thomas Stanton (Sr.). Thomas Stanton (Jr.), Nathaniel Chesebrough, Thomas Minor; his son Ephraim, Nehemiah Palmer and his brother Moses and Thomas Wheeler.  Descendants of many of these families still attend services at the church today.

“Road Church” (First Congregational Church of Stonington), interior

The meetinghouse as completed in 1673 stood until 1729, when it was taken down and rebuilt on a larger site.  Since the town gave the land on which the meetinghouse stood, it had the right to hold the King’s Court and the Magistrate’s Court there from the time of the first meetinghouse was built in 1661 until 1828, when arrangements were made with the town and the Ecclesiastical Society to build one structure containing a basement to use for town purposes and a meetinghouse for religious purposes.  Some opposed this plan because separation of church and state had been instituted in 1818.  However, a structure with basement was completed in 1829, and remains the meetinghouse for services today.  It was built using timbers and posts from the former structure.  They can still be seen today on the east and west sides of the building.  The town of Stonington retained ownership of the church basement and used it as a town hall until 1929.

In March 1990, the Pequot Trail, upon which the “Road Church” is situated, became the first road in Connecticut to receive scenic status under a 1987 state law.  This law protects the road from changes that would affect its beauty.

Thomas Minor was elected Stonington deputy to the General Court four times, town clerk twice and selectman nine times.  He was often asked to participate in Indian negotiations and was constantly required to lay out boundaries for land grants.  In his diary he wrote:

The 24th of Aprill, 1669, I Thomas Minor am by my accounts sixtie one yeares ould I was by the towne and this year Chosen to be a select man the Townes Treasurer The Townes Recorder The brander of horses by the General Courte Recorded the head officer of the Traine band by the same Courte one the ffoure that have the charge of the milishcia of the whole Countie and Chosen and the sworne Commissioner and one to assist in keeping the Countie Courte.

He was the chief military officer and in 1676, and when King Philip’s War started, Lieutenant Thomas Minor, then 68 years old, picked up his musket and marched off to battle accompanied by several of his sons.

Thomas Minor lived in Stonington thirty-eight years, much longer than any other early settler.  He died on 23 Oct 1690 in Stonington, and his wife Grace Palmer also died in Stonington on 31 Dec 1690.  They were buried in Stonington’s Wequetequock Cemetery, and the graves were marked with “wolf stones” that are still visible today.  Thomas selected this stone himself from his farm at Quiambaug.  The inscription reads: Here lyeth the body of Lieutenant Thomas Minor, aged 83 years. Departed 1690.  These stones are explained in an article in the Hartford Courant dated 31 Oct 2010: Before Connecticut’s last wolf was killed (by a young Israel Putnam in 1743, according to traditional accounts), the colonists would place huge slabs of stone over the burial sites of loved ones to prevent wolves from digging up and scattering the remains.  The “wolf stones,” as they were known, were eventually used as capstones for stone walls, were discarded, or became buried over time.

Thomas Minor and Grace Palmer had four sons:

  1. John Minor (1635-1719)
  2. Thomas Minor (1640-1662)
  3. Ephraim Minor (1642-1724) and
  4. Manassah Minor (1647-1728)

Manassah Minor was born 28 Apr 1647 in New London, Connecticut.  He married Lydia Moore (1649-1720) in 1670.  He served as a volunteer in King Philip’s War, 1676.  He was commissioned Ensign of the Troop raised for the Indian War in February 1692/3 and was adviser of the Pequots in May 1694.  He served as Captain in the Expedition against Canada in 1709.  He was Deputy for Stonington, May 1698, May 1700, May and Oct 1702, May 1705, Oct and Dec 1707, Oct. 1710, Oct and Nov 1711, Oct 1712, Oct 1715, Oct 1716, May and Oct 1717, and May and Oct 1718. He was also a deacon of the Stonington Church.

Mannasah Minor is buried in Ancient Burial Ground of Stonington, Connecticut.  His stone reads:

Here lieth the body of Deacon Manasseh Miner Who died April 29th 1728 in ye 82nd year of his age 

Manaassah Minor married Lydia Moore in 1670.  Their son is Elnathan Minor (1671-1756).

Elnathan Miner was born on 28 Dec 1671 as recorded in Stonington, Connecticut, but he is also recorded in New London, Connecticut as born 5 Oct 1671, son of Manassah Miner and Lydia Moore.  He was baptized at First Church of New London on 10 Mar 1671/2.  On 21 Mar 1694, he married Rebecca Baldwin.  They had four children born in Stonington, Connecticut.  She died on 12 Mar 1700/1, and he married (2nd) Prudence Richardson, daughter of Amos Richardson and widow of John Hallam, on 17 Mar 1702/3.  They had one child born in Stonington, Connecticut.  She died on 6 Aug 1716.  He married (3rd) Tamsen Wilcox on 14 Oct 1718.  They had one child born in Stonington, Connecticut.  Elnathan’s children are listed as follows:

Children of Rebecca Baldwin:

  1. Samuel Miner born 12 Dec 1694
  2. Manassah Miner born 1 Dec 1695.  On 9 Nov 1726 at Voluntown, New London, Connecticut, he married Keziah Geer.  She was born 23 Feb 1710 at Preston City, New London, Connecticut.  Manassah died on 27 Jul 1750 at Stonington, Connecticut, and Keziah died at New London, Connecticut in 1736.
  3. Elnathan Miner born 24 Jan 1696/7; did not marry; died 22 Jul 1758
  4. Rebecca born 13 Feb 1698/9; married Robert Lippencott and Samuel Mason?; died ?

Child of Prudence Richardson:

  1. Richardson Miner born 24 Nov 1704; married Elizabeth Mason; died 1744 in England.

Child of Tamsen Wilcox:

  1. Daniel born about 1719.

Elnathan Minor died on 11 Oct 1756.

The daughter of Manassah Minor and Keziah Geer is Lucretia Minor, born 16 Feb 1733 at Stonington, Connecticut and died 3 Oct 1821 at Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  In 1752, she married Amos York, who was born 15 Oct 1730 in Stonington, Connecticut and died 30 Oct 1778 in Voluntown, Connecticut.  In 1773, Amos and Lucretia and their family moved to Wyoming (Bradford County, Pennsylvania) and then to Wyalusing about 1774, becoming an early pioneer of that area of northeastern Pennsylvania.  Their lineage continues under the heading of James York (1614-1683).

[1] Charles Edward Banks, The Planters of the Commonwealth; A Study of the Emigrants and Emigration in Colonial Times: to which are added Lists of Passengers to Boston and to the Bay Colony; the Ships which brought them; their English Homes, and the Places of their Settlement in Massachusetts 1620-1640 (Originally published: Boston, 1930).

[2] Somerset Record Office DD/X/SR 3 b, p. 89.

[3] John Higginson’s daughter, Ann, was arrested for witchcraft at Salem on 6 Jun 1692 but not convicted.

[4] Walter Palmer and his second wife Rebecca Short are my 9th g-grandparents through their daughter Rebecca and also their son Nehemiah, discussed under their own heading.  Also, Walter Palmer and his first wife Elizabeth Ann are our 10th g-grandparents through their daughter Grace.

[5] William Chesebrough is the father-in-law of my 8th g-grandmother, Rebecca Palmer, whose first husband was William’s son Elisha Chesebrough.

[6] Thomas Stanton and Anna Lord are my 9th g-grandparents, discussed under their own heading.

[7] The Diary of Thomas Minor, Stonington, Connecticut, 1653-1684, prepared for publication by Sidney H. Miner and George D. Stanton, Jr. (New London, Connecticut: Day Publishing Company) 1899.   This work was reprinted as The Minor Diaries by the Thomas Minor Society (1976).



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