Stanton #2634

Thomas Stanton (1616-1677)

Born in England.  Probably arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and later settled in Connecticut and

Anna Lord (1614-1688)

Born in England.  Arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and later settled in Connecticut.

Stanton #2634

History of the town of Stonington_title  pageMuch of the history recounted here is from History of the Town of Stonington, County of New London, Connecticut: from its first settlement in 1649 to 1900 by Richard Anson Wheeler (Press of the Day Publishing Company) 1900.  This book is an excellent source for families that settled in Stonington, Connecticut and contains a tremendous amount of information for many families in the 1600s.  My account is also supplemented with other sources.

The English origins of Thomas Stanton are uncertain.  The most egregious tale about his early life is the one told and retold of his English origins.  It has been believed that Thomas Stanton came from a landed, armigerous family in Warwickshire, and that he attended Oxford University, leaving wealth and privilege to come to the New World.  It is said that he walked from Virginia to Boston to satisfy his Puritan beliefs, learning the Algonquian language along the way.   It would have made a delightful introduction to his biography, but, alas, it has been disproved, not just once, but twice, the first time by Clarence Almon Torrey (in The American Genealogist, Volume 14, pp. 86-87) back in the 1930s and more recently by Eugene Cole Zubrinsky in The American Genealogist in 2006.  Zubrinsky’s conclusion is: “The available evidence provides neither complete details nor absolute certainty as to Stanton’s immigration to and initial whereabouts in America. We may nevertheless be confident in discarding more than 150 years of virtually unsupported (yet, incredibly, uncontested) assertions about these matters.”  Furthermore, the identity of his English parents is not known with certainty.

With that preamble, the reader can make what he will of the traditional recounting: He is thought to be the son Thomas Stanton (Sr.) born about 1585 at Wolverton Hall, Warwickshire, England.

 His mother was Katherine Washington (daughter of Walter Washington, a great-uncle of President George Washington).  Thomas (Sr.) was a well-known sculptor of the time.  Among his works is a bust of William Shakespeare, which is described in Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1842). 
Thomas claimed ancestry to Sir Malgerus de Staunton, who, in 1084, successfully defended against William the Conqueror, a castle called Staunton Tower, which was located seven miles south of Newark-on-Trent, in Nottinghamshire.  The truth of this family legend is impossible to verify.

The bust of William Shakespeare in the choir of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. This half-length statue on his memorial must have been erected within six years after Shakespeare's death in 1616 and is believed to have been commissioned by the poet's sone-in-law, Dr. John Hall.

The bust of William Shakespeare in the choir of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. This half-length statue on his memorial must have been erected within six years after Shakespeare’s death in 1616 and is believed to have been commissioned by the poet’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall.

[Modern scholarship identifies the sculpter of the Shakespeare bust in the Church of Stratford-upon-Avon as Gerard Johnson (flourished c. 1612–1623), the Anglicized form of Gheerart Janssen, a sculptor who worked in Jacobean England.  His father, Gerard Johnson the elder, came to England in 1567 from Holland and established himself as a sculptor of funerary monuments in London.  Johnson’s father had worked on a monument to the 1st Earl of Southampton, which also depicts Shakespeare’s patron, the 3rd Earl, as a young man.  Shakespeare would probably have seen the monument if he had stayed at Titchfield.  The younger Johnson’s monument is in Holy Trinity church, Stratford-upon-Avon, and was probably commissioned by Shakespeare’s son-in-law John Hall.  The attribution to Johnson is contained in William Dugdale’s Antiquities of Warwickshire, published in 1656, but no other evidence of Johnson’s authorship exists.  Dugdale also states that the younger Johnson created the memorial in Holy Trinity church to Shakespeare’s friend John Combe, who left the playwright a legacy in his will.  This would probably have been installed in 1615 while Shakespeare was still alive.  It is also possible that Shakespeare knew the Johnson family from his London days, since their workshop was close to the Globe theatre.  Some of this information is in contradiction to a work by Abraham Wivell published in 1827, An Historical Account of the Monumental Bust of William Shakespeare in the Chancel of the Church at Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.  This account identifies Thomas Stanton as the artist who created the monumental busts of Richard and Judith Combe and the monument of Lord Totness, in the same church, and as the possible (although not probable) sculptor of the Shakespeare bust.]

There are several plausible theories about Thomas Stanton‘s pathway to Massachusetts Bay Colony and thence to Connecticut.  According to the traditional account, he educated in England for a cadet, but, not liking the profession of arms, and taking a deep interest in the religious principles of the migrating Puritans, he left his native land, embarking on board of the Bonaventure in 1635.  He landed first in Virginia, but left there almost immediately for Boston.  It is also possible that he came directly to Massachusetts on some other vessel.  In either case, Thomas probably arrived in Massachusetts before the end of 1635.  There was a John Stanton in Virginia prior to 1635, and from 1652 to 1658 there are records of a Robert Stanton, of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and of a Robert Stanton, of Newport, Rhode Island, a Quaker, who died 1672.  However, there is no evidence that Thomas was related to any Stanton then in America.  The records in New London, Connecticut that might have told who he was and from whence he came were destroyed in 1781 by Benedict Arnold when he sacked and burned that town.

Most of the facts that follow can be verified in the colonial records:

On arrival in Boston he was recognized as a valuable man.  He evidently mingled with the natives in the area enough to rapidly acquire a knowledge of their language and customs, and being conversant in the Algonquian language, he received important assignments as an interpreter in commercial transactions and other dealings with the Indians in the area.  In July 1636 he was selected by the Boston authorities to accompany Mr. Fenwick and Hugh Peters, as interpreter on a mission to Saybrook, Connecticut to hold a conference with the Pequot Indians.

After the Saybrook conference Thomas removed to the new settlement of Hartford, Connecticut and there fixed his permanent abode in 1637[1].  He is recognized as one of the “Founders of Hartford”, and 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”.  In Hartford, he quickly affiliated with the Thomas Lord family, whom he may have known in England and who had recently emigrated from Towcester, England.  He married Anna Lord, probably about 1637.  She was the sister of Thomas Lord (Jr.), the physician contracted to the three towns (Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield – the nucleus of the spin-off colony of Connecticut) and Richard Lord, the future prosperous merchant, an important man in Connecticut political affairs and a grantee of the Connecticut charter of 1662.  Thomas subsequently established a merchant business alliance with Richard Lord.

The Swamp Fight Monument, dedicated in 1904 by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, today sits on a small triangle of land along the Post Road. A large stone monument bears the simple inscription on its east face: “the great Swamp Fight here ended the Pequot War.”

The Swamp Fight Monument, dedicated in 1904 by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, today sits on a small triangle of land along the Post Road. A large stone monument bears the simple inscription on its east face: “the great Swamp Fight here ended the Pequot War.”

During the Pequot War[2], Thomas provided service initially as an interpreter at Fort Saybrook.  During the “Great Swamp Fight”[3] on 14 Jul 1637 that Thomas Stanton nearly lost his life.  He had arranged a temporary cease-fire and managed to negotiate the surrender of 200 non-combatant Indians under a guarantee of safe passage.  After these people passed beyond Thomas’ exposed, forward position, the 100 remaining Pequot warriors opened fire without warning and advanced toward him.  He was rescued at the last moment by nearby colonial troops.  Thomas was a delegate at the Treaty of Hartford ending the Pequot War in 1638 and, in 1643, was appointed Indian Interpreter for all of New England by the Commissioners of the United Colonies.

The Stonington Harbor Light is a historic nineteenth century lighthouse located on the east side of Stonington Harbor. The site is now the home of the Stonington Historical Society, which uses the building as The Old Lighthouse Museum. Holdings in the museum document the area's long and distinguished cultural and nautical history.

The Stonington Harbor Light is a historic nineteenth century lighthouse located on the east side of Stonington Harbor. The site is now the home of the Stonington Historical Society, which uses the building as The Old Lighthouse Museum. Holdings in the museum document the area’s long and distinguished cultural and nautical history.

Thomas became a successful trading entrepreneur in Hartford involving fur and other commodities.  In 1649, he settled a tract of land alongside the Pawcatuck River in what is present-day Stonington, Connecticut, and he was granted permission to establish a trading post with a 3-year trade monopoly. He is considered one of four founders of the town of Stonington, along with William Chesebrough[4], Thomas Minor[5], and Walter Palmer[6]Thomas erected a trading house on the west bank of Pawcatuck river (across from Westerly, Rhode Island), near a place ever since known as Pawcatuck Rock, for the reason that the deep water channel in the river touched the east side of said rock, where vessels trading with him could easily receive and discharge their cargoes without any expense for the erection of a wharf.  The object of building the trading house was to open trade with the coasting vessels which were cruising along our New England shores, gathering furs from the Indians and purchasing the surplus products of the planters, and selling the same either in Boston or in the West Indies.  Thomas did not relocate his family to Pawcatuck from Hartford until 1657, after he had erected a dwelling house.  The precise site of this house cannot now be ascertained, but no doubt it was conveniently near his trading house on Pawcatuck River.

The Uncas monument sits in a small burial ground on Sachem Street in Norwich, Connecticut. The square base of the monument was dedicated in 1833, with President Andrew Jackson participating in the dedication ceremonies. The granite column was dedicated nine years later in 1842, after organizers had resolved several problems with the monument, including quarrying granite that met their specifications and reaching a consensus on the proper spelling of “Uncas.”

Thomas eventually became a friend and close associate of Gov. Winthrop[7] of Connecticut, acting as his interpreter in all of his intercourse with the Indians.  He was appointed to be a counselor for the Pequots and Mohegans and gained a reputation for supporting the fair treatment of Indian peoples.  In one case, he protested the excessive reparations that were being demanded long after the end of the Pequot War.  In another, he accused the Commissioners of the United Colonies of abandoning Mohegan Sachem Uncas[8] and was censored for his effort.  The respect that developed between Uncas and Thomas Stanton was evident when Thomas was asked to write Uncas’ will in 1670.

The historical marker located on Rt 1 between Mystic and Stonington tells of the founding of the town. Thomas Stanton was the second settler who came to operate a trading post on the Pawcatuck River.

The historical marker located on Rt 1 between Mystic and Stonington tells of the founding of the town. Thomas Stanton was the second settler who came to operate a trading post on the Pawcatuck River.

After becoming an inhabitant of Pawcatuck in Stonington, Thomas took an active part in town affairs and was elected to almost every position of public trust in the new settlement.  In 1658, when Pawcatuck was included in the town of Southertown, under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, he was appointed selectman and magistrate.  After Pawcatuck was set off to the Connecticut Colony by the charter of 1662, he was appointed magistrate and commissioner, and re-appointed every year up to the time of his death.  He was elected deputy or representative to the General Court of Connecticut in 1666 and re-e1ected every year up to 1675.  When courts were first established in New London County in 1666, Major Mason, Thomas Stanton and Lieut. Pratt of Saybrook, were appointed judges.  Thus it appears that Thomas took a prominent part in town, county and State affairs from 1636, when he acted as interpreter at Saybrook, until near the close of his life.  His name is connected with the leading measures of the colony, and with almost every Indian transaction on record.

The Stanton family could not avoid the intensifying border conflict between Rhode Island and Connecticut since they owned property on both sides of the Pawcatuck River.  Numerous confrontations occurred.  In 1668, Thomas was appointed to meet with the Governor and council of Rhode Island to seek a solution to these problems but he was unsuccessful.  The Stanton family also developed a significant trading operation with the West Indies.  Two of his sons built ships and a third son, Daniel, went to Barbados as an agent for the firm.  Salt, fish, corn and flour (food for slaves on the sugar plantations) were carried to various Caribbean Islands and the ships returned with sugar, molasses and rum.  It was a profitable business and the foundation of the New England maritime trade.

The Stanton-Davis Homestead Museum is the oldest house in Stonington, Connecticut. It was formerly known as the Robert Stanton House. The house was built by Thomas Stanton, one of the founders of Stonington, beginning in 1670 with additions made in 1700.

Son, Robert inherited the “new” homestead that Thomas had built circa 1670[9].  The last individual owner of this home, Whit Davis, turned it over to the Stanton-Davis Homestead Museum, Inc., the goal of which is to preserve the building and establish a public museum.  This home is unique; besides being the oldest house in Stonington, it retains many of its original furnishings along with the tools required in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The home was in the same family for 11 generations through 1996, and the farm was worked every year since 1654.  Today the homestead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Stanton-Davis Homestead holds a unique place in American history as a touch-stone for three different cultures: Native Indians, European colonists, and African slaves.  Through the Stanton family in early Colonial New England, important representatives of these three peoples lived in or visited this house: chiefs of Indian tribes, most notably Uncas of the Mohegans; African slaves, including Venture Smith who bought his own freedom; and of course the Stantons and the Davises themselves.  Renovations to the property are in the planning stages as of 2012.

In 1674, the First Congregational Church was established in Stonington with nine members, and Thomas Stanton was one of these.  The Rev. James Noyes was minister and he married Thomas’ daughter, Dorothy.

Thomas Stanton died 2 Dec 1677 and his wife, Anna Lord, died in 1688.  They are buried in Stonington at the Wequetequock Cemetery.  The Founder’s Monument in the cemetery states:

He was Marshall of the Colony, County Commissioner, member of the General Court and one of the founders of the First Church in Stonington. A man of widespread and lasting importance to the colonies, and identified with nearly every transaction between the natives and the colonists up to the year of his death.

The children of Thomas Stanton and Anna Lord are listed as follows: (1) Thomas (Jr.), born 1638; (2) John, born 1641; (3) Mary, born 1643.  On 17 Nov 1662 she married Samuel Rogers, the son of James Rogers. Samuel died December 1713; (4) Hannah Stanton, born 1644 and died 17 Oct 1727.  On 20 Nov 1662 she married Nehemiah Palmer, born 23 Nov 1637 and died 17 Feb 1717; (5) Joseph, born 1646; (6) Daniel, born 1648 and died in Barbadoes; (7) Dorothy, born 1651 and died 18 Jan 1743 at Stonington, Connecticut.  On 11 Sep 1674 she married Rev. James Noyes, born 11 Mar 1640; (8) Robert, born 1653; (9)  Sarah, born 1655 and died 7 Aug 1713.  On 20 Jan 1675 she married (1st) Thomas Prentice[10], born at Newton, Massachusetts on 22 November 1649 and died 16 Apr 1683 at 33 years of age.  In May 1686 she married (2nd) William Denison, son of George Denison and Ann Borodell.  William died 26 March 1715 in Stonington, Connecticut; (10) Samuel, born 1657 and died after 1698.  On 16 Jun 1680 he married Borodell Denison, daughter of George Denison and Ann Borodell.

The lineage of Hannah Stanton and Nehemiah Palmer continues under the heading of Walter Palmer (1590-1661).


[1] If this account is accurate, then Thomas did not reach Hartford as a member of the so-called “Hooker Party ” that left Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1636, as some sources have speculated. Additional information about Rev. Thomas Hooker and the “Hooker Party” is located under the heading of William Kelsey (1600-1676).

[2] In the 1630s, the Connecticut River Valley was in turmoil. The Pequot aggressively worked to extend their area of control, at the expense of the Wampanoag to the north, the Narragansett to the east, the Connecticut River Valley Algonquians and Mohegan to the west and the Algonquian people of present-day Long Island to the south. The tribes contended for political dominance and control of the European fur trade. A series of smallpox epidemics over the course of the previous three decades had severely reduced the Indian populations, due to their lack of immunity to the disease. As a result, there was a power vacuum in the area. The Dutch and the English were also striving to extend the reach of their trade into the interior to achieve dominance in the lush, fertile region. By 1636, the Dutch had fortified their trading post, and the English had built a trading fort at Saybrook. English Puritans from Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies settled at the newly established river towns of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield. The Pequot War was an armed conflict between 1634-1638 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth and Saybrook colonies, who were aided by their Native American allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes). Hundreds were killed; hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other survivors were dispersed. At the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day southern New England.

[3] Also known as the “Fairfield Swamp Fight”. This was the last engagement of the Pequot War, which took place on the site on modern-day Fairfield, Connecticut. Most, if not all, of the Pequot warriors were killed during the engagement. On 21 Sep 1638, the Treaty of Hartford formally ended the war and eliminated the Pequot political and cultural identity. Another battle, also known as the “Great Swamp Fight”, occurred on 19 Dec 1675, during King Philip’s War, between colonial militia of New England and the Narragansett tribe.

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

[5] Thomas Minor and Grace Palmer (daughter of Walter Palmer) are my 9th g-grandparents.

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

[7] John Winthrop (1606-1676), sometimes referred to as John Winthrop “the Younger”, was an early governor of Connecticut. He was the son of John Winthrop, founding governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1631 he followed his father to Massachusetts and was one of the “assistants” in 1635, 1640 and 1641, and from 1644 to 1649. He was the chief founder of Agawam (now Ipswich, Massachusetts) in 1633, went to England in 1634, and in the following year returned as governor of both the Connecticut Colony and the Saybrook Colony. He then lived for a time in Massachusetts where he devoted himself to the study of science and attempted to interest the settlers in the development of the colony’s mineral resources. He became one of the magistrates of Connecticut in 1651; in 1657–1658 was governor of the colony; and in 1659 again became governor, being annually re-elected until his death.

[8] Uncas (c. 1588-1683) was a sachem of the Mohegan who through his alliance with the English colonists in New England against other Indian tribes made the Mohegan the leading regional Indian tribe in lower Connecticut. In James Fenimore Cooper’s book The Last of the Mohicans (which is set at a much later date, 1757), Chingachgook’s son is named Uncas. Cooper seemed to confuse or merge the names of the two tribes—Mohegan and Mahican. Cooper’s well-known book helped confuse popular understanding of the tribes to the present day. After the death of John Uncas in 1842, the last surviving male descendant of Uncas, the Newark Daily Advertiser wrote, “Last of the Mohegans Gone,” lamenting the extinction of the tribe. The writer did not realize the Mohegan people still existed. They continue to survive today and are a federally recognized tribe based in Connecticut. The Mahican were based in the Hudson River Valley and continue to survive today as a federally recognized Indian tribe as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Wisconsin.

[9] Thomas Stanton built his first house along the Pawcatuck River at a location called Pawcatuck Rock. This house was torn down in the 1880s, and its position is now marked by a very large stone (the Marker Stone). The house was off Greenhaven Road a short distance from the Stanton-Davis Homestead Museum.

[10] I have not been able to determine the relationship, if any, between this Thomas Prentice and another Thomas Prentice (1621-1710), my 8th g-grandfather, who married Rebecca Jackson (1636-1723).

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One comment

  • Edith

    Do you have any information on Minerva Stanton, slave buried near the former Stewart property line on Barn Island, CT?

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