Sayles #10956

John Sayles (1602-1645)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 and later moved to the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam by way of Rhode Island and

Phillipa Soales (1602-1635 )

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1630 and died within a couple of years of her arrival.

Sayles #10956

The date of birth for John Sayles (also found in the records as Sales, Seals, Celes, etc.) is unknown.  It is known that on 11 Aug 1625 in Little Waldingfield, Suffolk, England he married Phillipa Soales.  Their daughter, Phoebe Sales, was baptized there in 1626.  They had another daughter, Sarah Sales, born in 1628, but she disappears from the records, and it may be presumed that she died young.  A son, John Sayles (Jr.), was not listed as a passenger on the voyage, so it is presumed that he was born shortly after the arrival of John and Phillipa in Massachusetts.

Map of the Massachusetts Bay colony and neighboring settlements

John Sayles with his wife Phillipa Soales (identified only as Mrs. Sales on the passenger lists) and daughter Phoebe, came to America with the Winthrop Fleet[1], the ships of which reached the Massachusetts Bay Colony late June and early July 1630. They are listed as of Lavenham, Suffolk and bound for Charlestown, Massachusetts.  Of the 700 total passengers, 159 passengers (including the Sayles family) were from Suffolk County.  Most were of the yeoman class who left England more for economic reasons than for religious reasons, although they were led by Puritians.  Their desire to own land, rather than be tenant farmers, was the driving motivation. The Sayles family apparently settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts after their arrival in America. Mrs. Sales is not heard of again, and it is likely that she died within a couple of years of her arrival, as her daughter was bound as a servant in 1633.  The events leading up to this are discussed below

Next, John Sayles achieved notoriety by appearing in the very early records of criminal cases of the colony.  In 1632 in Charlestown, John Sayles was openly punished for stealing fish and corn from his neighbors during a time of great want.  The record notes

… the first knowne theife yt was notoriously observed in ye Country, his name was John Sales…

On 1 Apr 1633 John Sayles was convicted of:

…feloniously taking away corn & fish from diverse persons the last year & this, as also clapboards, &c., is censured by the Court after this manner: That all his estate shall be forfeited, out of which double restitution shall be made to those whom he hath wronged, shall be whipped, & bound as servant with any that will retain him for 3 years, & after to be disposed of by the Court as they shall think meet. John Sayle is bound with Mr. Coxeshall for 3 years, for which he is to give him œ4 per annum; his daughter is also bound with him for 14 years. Mr. Coxeshall is to have a sow with her, & at the end of her time he is to give unto her a cow calf…

Mr. Coxeshall is thought to be John Coggeshall[2].  His daughter Phoebe was bound with Mr. Coxeshall for 14 years – probably her 21st year, which places her date of birth about 1626.  A few years later, on 6 Jun 1637, there is a record of  Phebe Seales free from Jn. Cogshall, and there is an account of John Coggesall of Boston saying that said girle hath proved over burthensome to him.  The court relieved him of the burden.  It seems from the records that John Sayles was subsequently punished on a couple occasions for running away from his master, perhaps even spending some time among the Indians.  Apparently there were a number of runaways fleeing Puritan Massachusetts around this time to the more liberal Dutch settlements.

The banishment of Roger Williams[3] in 1636 from the Massachusetts Bay Colony was followed in 1638 by the banishment of Anne Hutchinson[4] and her followers, among whom were William Coddington, John Clarke[5] and John Coggeshall.  Perhaps Coggeshall brought his indentured servant, John Sayles, and his family to Rhode Island with him.  Perhaps John was finally successful at running away.  Traditionally, John Sayles of Charlestown was thought to be the man of the same name who appeared in the late 1630s in Providence, Rhode Island, but an alternative explanation was offered in an article[6] published in 1992, which demonstrated that the Charlestown man went instead to the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam.  In any case, neither John nor Phoebe show up again in Massachusetts records, but in 1638 they appear in New Amsterdam.

His name is written Jan Celes in the Dutch Colonial Records.  On 21 Aug 1644, John Sayles married Maria Roberts and they had a child, Femmetje. The records identify him as a planter on Manhattan Island.  His farm, commonly known as old Jans’s land, and marked 37 on the farm map, on page 463 of Valentine’s Manual of 1852, lay north of and adjoining the cripplebush (swamp), a miry outlet of the collect, or fresh water pond, now occupied by the lower part of Canal street, and extended northward along the river to approximately Christopher Street (approximately west of 6th Avenue and MacDougal Street).  The approximately location is marked in red on the map below:

by Geo. Hayward, 120 Water Street, New York for D. T. Valentine’s “History of New York” – Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1852 by D. T. Valentine in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the Southern District of New York.

In his latter days, John Sayles seems to have become irritable, and as a consequence he figures in court on charges of shooting his neighbor’s hogs and committing other damages.  In 1643, several cattle, belonging to the government, strayed in the woods, and messengers were despatched to look them up. When they came to Old Jans plantation by the swamp, they saw that the woman residing on said Old Jans plantation had driven with a goad the cattle into said swamp, so that they sunk into it over their backs; but as they were strong and well in flesh, they finally got through the morass.  In 1645, John Sayles was in some way wounded, and he made a nuncupative will[7], dated 7 Apr of that year, which is paraphrased, in part, as follows:

…Jan Celes …being wounded and lying sick abed [bequeathed] half his estate to Tonis Nysen, [his] brother-in-law[8] and the other half to [his] wife Marritjen Roberts until she marry or die: if she marry, then to have the use of said half during life, with privilege to dispose of 200 gl. by will out of the estate, as she may see fit, the remainder of her half, after her death, to go to Tonis Nyssen or his children and heirs…

John Sayles died soon after executing the will, and on 9 Aug 1646, his widow married Thomas Gridy, an Englishman and widower, 60 years old.  Gridy got into trouble with a man by the name of George Baxter in 1656, and he was sentenced to be publicly whipped and to be banished from the province for twelve years.

The history of John Sayles, the son of John and Phillipa, who settled in Rhode Island and died in 1681 is not known.  The age given on his grave marker in the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Middletown #14, (Paradise Avenue, Middletown, Newport County, Rhode Island) is 48 years.  This would establish his date of birth as 1633, so it is probable he was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  He does not seem to have joined his father and sister in New Amsterdam, but instead stayed in Rhode Island.  We do not know who was his guardian until the age of majority.  Perhaps it was John Coggeshall.  In about 1650, in Providence, he married Mary Williams, born in Massachusetts in August 1633 and died in 1684.  She is the daughter of Roger Willliams and Mary Barnard, who are discussed under their own heading.

Head Stones on Top Reading from Left to Right are: John Sayles, Mary (Williams) Sayles, William Greene

Head Stones on Top Reading from Left to Right are: John Sayles, Mary (Williams) Sayles, William Greene

His father-in-law’s prominent position as founder of the first settlement in Rhode Island colony, founder of the First Baptist Church and as President of the Colony may account for the youthful entry of John Sayles (Jr.) into the affairs of the colony.  He was listed as freeman 27 Jan 1651.  During the next thirty years or thereabouts, from the time of his marriage till his death, he was at different times commissioner, town clerk, town treasurer, warden, grand juror, a member of the town council, and he was twelve times chosen assistant or deputy.

John Sayles (Jr.) and Mary Williams had several children, and their lineage is continued under the heading of Roger Williams.

[1] Ancestors who are known to have arrived with America with the Winthrop Fleet are William Gager (my 10th g-grandfather) 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).

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)

[2] John Coggeshall (1601-1647) was one of the founders of Rhode Island and the first President of all four towns in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In the mid 1630s he became a supporter of the dissident ministers John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson. When Hutchinson was tried as a heretic in 1637, Coggeshall was one of three deputies who voted for her acquittal. Hutchinson was banished from the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1638, and the three deputies who voted for her acquittal were also compelled to depart to Rhode Island. John Coggeshall’s daughter, Patience, married Samuel Rathbone, who was the brother of Thomas Rathbun, my 7th g-grandfather, disucussed under the heading of John Rathbun (1629-1702).

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

[4] Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson is my 10th g-grandmother.

[5] Brother of Joseph Clarke, my 8th g-grandfather.

[6] Gwenn F. Epperson, “The True Identity of John Sales alias Jan Celes of Manhattan”, New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 123, Num. 2, April 1992.

[7] A nuncupative will is a will that has been delivered orally (that is, in speech) to witnesses, as opposed to the usual form of wills, which is written and according to a proper format.

[8] The Dutch record could also be translated as “son-in-law”.



  • Thomas Mills

    I was born in Newport, RI, which is where my father was raised. We knew he had been adopted, but it was only 2 years ago that we discovered that his birth name was Sayles. With little trouble he has traced our family line back to John Sayles and Mary Williams. We are also descended from Richard Scott and Katherine Marbury, the sister of Anne Hutchinson. So we seem to have a number of common ancestors. Thank you for posting this information on John Sayles. Was wondering where he disappeared to after John Coggeshall moved the family to Newport.

  • sue

    Beautifully done! Thank you.

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