January iith, 1640
Isaac Sheldon hath by purchase of Richard Samways that was of Samuel Gaylords two acres of meadow, in breadth three rod and seventeen foot more or less, as it lyes bounded North by John Hakes south by William Hannum east by the Great River west by the Water Corce, near the foot of the bank of the home Lotts.
Also purchased of Thomas Parsons two acres or less as it lies bounded south twenty rod in length by Peter Tilton and Widow Gibbs also east by Peter Tilton nine rod one Quarter and likewise east by that which was William Rockwells, fifteen rods three quarters north by Joseph Clark twenty-four rod and ends at a point in the swamp west it bounden by a way that divides it and Abraham Randal and Anthony Hawkins.
Also by purchase of Samuel Rockwell one parcel of land lying in the west side of the street being in breadth eight rod five foot and the length from the street to the west to his own land in quantity two acres helfe more of less bounded north of Susannah Grant south by Peter Tilton and his own land.
Also purchased of John Styles a dwelling house barnes orchard and home lot, being three acres more or less in breadth four rod, in length, a hundred and eighteen rods bounded by the land of Richard Oldage north by the land of Robert Watson south.
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The accuracy and interpretation of this record has long been contested, primarily since the 1926 publication of “The Sheldons of Derbyshire and of New England” by J. Gardner Bartlett which posited that Isaac Sheldon of Northampton, Massachusetts – who was born c1629 – was the son of a Ralph Sheldon and Barbara Stone of Derbyshire, England and therefore could not have been old enough to purchase land in Jan of 1641 and did not have a father of the same name, Isaac. Due to their being two names at the top of this page that were crossed out, it was then assumed that this page was left blank until at least 1652 when an Isaac in Windsor obtained permission to live alone with Samuel Rockwell. However, since that time, it has been proved that the Isaac that was son of Ralph Sheldon and Barbara Stone in Derbyshire stayed in England and married to Mary Venables on 7 Apr 1656 in Manchester where he had several children and died in 1672. He was buried at the Collegiate Church. In addition to this, the Y-DNA profile of Isaac’s descendants are a perfect match to the descendants of John Sheldon of Kingstown, Rhode Island and do not match any lines from Derbyshire, England – all of which match each other. It is, therefore, believed that Isaac of Northampton and John of Kingstown were brothers. This appears to be strengthened by a letter written in 1841 by the Dea. Samuel Sheldon who was born in 1766. In his letter he writes “it is handed Down by tradition that this Isaac Sheldon that first settled at Northampton was Brother to the first Sheldon that Emigrated from England and Settled in Rhode island”.
While this letter and the DNA doesn’t specifically lead to an earlier Isaac, we do have to return to this land record with fresh eyes and no longer assume that the Isaac of Northampton could not have been the son of an earlier Isaac. On the contrary, it would have been extremely unusual for both Isaac and John to have the ability to purchase so much land at such a young age on their own. They could not have been indentured servants, they were both unmarried, they both had money.
Let’s look back at the above land record. It was previous assumed, due to the Ralph Sheldon error, that the page was left blank and the land records added later. Considering the cost of parchment, and with the knowledge that additional records for other men were written before and after this page – also dated “Jan 11 1640” – it does not make sense that they would just leave a page blank for over a decade. We should also note that all of the four records for Isaac were written at the same time – with the same handwriting and color ink, and these were also done at the same time as the pages before and after – again, same handwriting and color ink. However, as was customary at the time, records were often recompiled and copied at a later date. It appears that this was the case here, with the first of the four Isaac records dating to Jan 1641 and the subsequent three undated records occurring later – then all four were copied together at a later date along with the pages before and after. The land records further down the page, not related to Isaac and dated 1671, are in a different handwriting and ink – confirming that those likely were added in 1671 and that the copy was done sometime in the 1660’s. Thankfully, the names in these records can help give us clues as to when each individual land purchase was originally made.
Record 1: Was land “by purchase of Richard Samways”, Richard Samways died in Oct of 1648 – there being a burial record for him with that date – so at a minimum this record must date before that time. This is very important to note as it will help demonstrate later that the four land records could not possibly have been recorded at the same time. The rest of the men noted are presumed to have already been landholders in 1641 and died after 1648 – so they do not help to confirm or deny the date of this record, showing that it is still consistent with a 1641 date.
Record 2: William Rockwell died in May 1640, as his reference says “that which was William Rockwells” seems to confirm that he had already passed (but not to long before) as he was still being referenced rather than his family who inherited it. Note that in the next record William is no longer referenced, and his son Samuel and wife Susannah are noted instead. The “Widow Gibbs” had been married to Gyles Gibbs who died in May 1641. So this record must have been after that date, but not long after. This land was sold to Isaac from Thomas Parsons. Thomas married Lydia Brown in June of 1641. It’s possible that this sale was in some way related to the marriage, perhaps the land being obtained from Lydia’s father and the proceeds used for a better start to life together. The Spring or Summer of 1641 would fit the rest of the timeline as a possible date of purchase
Record 3: Samuel Rockwell was the son of William Rockwell, and the young man listed as living with Isaac in 1652. Susannah Grant was the widow of William Rockwell, having remarried Matthew Grant in May 1645. This land would be the same that is listed as “that which was William Rockwells” in the earlier record. Now time has passed and the new ownership of that parcel has been better established. All of this indicates that at least a few years have passed since the two initial purchases and that this must have been obtained sometime after May of 1645.
Record 4: In 1890 Hezekiah S. Sheldon used only this record to discredit, or at least put in doubt, the 1641 date for the first time. He noted that this record could not have been dated 1641 because “Isaac Sheldon purchased it of John Stiles, and John Stiles did not own it before 1650. Stiles bought it of John Bennett, who bought it of Peter Tilton. Isaac Sheldon’s recorded purchase of the dwelling house and lot bounds it by Robert Watson, who did not make his purchase until 1650. The records give evidence that Isaac Sheldon made his purchase after 1650”. This is absolutely correct – for this 4th record only, which is the only one of the four that refers to John Stiles and Robert Watson. It should be noted, in Hezekiah’s defense, that access to the original records were extremely limited in 1890. He made a very insightful observation given his limited resources.
We must, therefore, conclude the following:
- Record 1 was made before 1648 (when Richard Samways died) and record 4 was made after 1650 (John Stiles and Robert Watson did not own their properties then) = therefore, the four land records could not have been made and recorded at the same time.
- Isaac of Northampton, born c1629, could not have been older than 19 at the time of the first purchase (1648 when Richard Samways died) – which would be very unusual for such a young man to do on his own and living among strangers.
- If Isaac of Northampton already owned his own home at the age of 19 in 1648, why would he wait until Sep of 1652 to request to live alone with his friend and neighbor Samuel Rockwell? Samuel was born in 1631, his father William had died in 1640, and his mother Susanna had remarried to Matthew Grant in 1645. I believe it is because Isaac was not yet alone until 1652 – that this may be the approximate date of his fathers death.
- Having concluded that the four records could not have been purchased and recorded at the same time, and taking into account the value and scarcity of paper at the time, and the fact that the handwriting and color ink match the records on pages before and after that are also dated “January 11, 1640”, without the date itself being crossed out as was done with other errors – we must conclude that the first land record for Isaac does actually date to 11 Jan 1641 (new calendar).
- Having concluded that the first land record dates to Jan of 1641, our Isaac of Northampton (born c1629) was only 12 years old and could not have been the Isaac named in the four land purchases. Rather, we can conclude that this is an earlier Isaac Sheldon. And being that there are no other Sheldons in the colony, must also be the father of the younger Isaac. Likewise, as noted by the 1841 letter and the Y-DNA study, this elder Isaac must also be the father of John Sheldon of Kingstown, Rhode Island.
- With the estimated year of death for Isaac Sr being c1652, when both of his sons are first seen venturing out on their own, and that the timeline of the land records is between 1641 and “after 1650” – it can be concluded that all four of the properties were purchased by Isaac Sr before his death, and his son Isaac Jr still being under age, which can account for why a Sr vs Jr distinction was not made within the records.
See a transcription of the relevant supporting Windsor vital records HERE