In 1629, the organizers of the Massachusetts Bay Company began to gather 1500 emigrants who were to sail to New England in the fourteen ships of the great 'Winthrop Fleet'. Rev. John White concentrated his efforts on gathering and organizing a group of people from southwestern England, from the shires of Dorset, Somerset, and Devon. The Mary and John was the first ship to sail, in 1630.
It is not known, with certainty, if ELDER JOHN STRONG was among those on the first ship, that sailed from Plymouth, Devonshire, England, Mar. 20, 1630. It landed at Nantasket, Plymouth, MA, May 30, 1630. A widely held opinion is that he did sail on that first ship as a youth of 20, but that he returned to England, as a number of young men on the Mary and John are known to have done. He then married Margery Deane, daughter of William Deane (ELDER JOHN STRONG's uncle), Dec. 15, 1630, at Northampton, Hampshire, MA. Thus, ELDER JOHN and Margery were first cousins. They and two children, one an infant, sailed on the Hopewell leaving from Weymouth, Dorsetshire, England, on May 8, 1635. His wife and youngest child died soon after landing at Hingham or Taunton, MA.
ELDER JOHN married second about 1635 in Dorchester, Suffolk, MA, ABIGAIL FORD, whom he would have met during the 1630 crossing. In 1635, after having assisted in founding and developing the town of Dorchester, he moved to Hingham, Plymouth, where he received a land grant, Sep. 18, 1635, for five acres of land on North Street. On Mar. 9, 1636/37, he took the freeman's oath at Boston.
They then moved to Taunton, Bristol, MA in 1638, where he had a house on Dean Street, west of John Dean's house. On Dec. 4, 1638, he is found to have been an inhabitant and proprietor of Taunton. ELDER JOHN STRONG, WALTER and JOHN DEANE were admitted freemen of the Plymouth Colony, Dec. 4, 1638. ELDER JOHN was the first constable in 1638 and 1639, a deputy to the General court in Plymouth, in 1641, 1643, and 1644, and a juror in 1645.
The family moved to Windsor, Hartford, CT in 1646. There he was appointed along with Capt. John Mason, Roger Ludlow, Israel Stoughton, and Henry Wolcott, all very leading men in the infant colony, "to superintend and bring forward the settlement of that place.", which had been settled a few years before (1636) by a portion of the same colony that with him had founded Dorchester. Windsor was in fact called Dorchester at first, from 1636 to 1650.
On Feb. 4, 1647, Thomas Thornton sold all his land to Thomas Ford and JOHN STRONG. This included a house, yards, orchards and gardens totally about two acres, bounded north and west by the land of Walter Flyer, south by the rivulet, on the east by the highways, and adjoining at the foot of the hill, in the great meadow, one and three-quarter acres bounded north by the land of John Mason and east by the land of William Hill. He was admitted Freeman of Connecticut on May 15, 1654. Citizens were assigned duties in the management of the town's business. ELDER JOHN was in charge of cow breeding.
Further north from Windsor, on the Connecticut River, the tiny settlement of Northampton was declining. The town needed more people, especially skilled workmen. The town offered 40 acres to any skilled worker who would move there. ELDER JOHN answered the call, leaving sons John and Return in Windsor to continue the tanning business there.
About 1659, ELDER JOHN and ABIGAIL settled in Northampton, MA. He was the first ruling elder in the old First Church in its early years, and held that position for nearly 40 years, until his death in 1699. The Elder position involved church government, watching over member conduct and substitution for the Pastor when he was ill or absent.
Today, a beautiful church sits in the center of town at the same location of the original old First Church. Documents pertaining to ELDER JOHN are filed in the archives of the church. In 1930, the church dedicated a new pulpit bible to him alone.
On Oct. 14, 1660, ELDER JOHN STRONG bought from John Webb, a seven acre parcel of land lying in the Third square and bounded by land of Richard Lyman on the north and the highway on the south and on the sides bordering the land of David Wilton on the east by Samuel Allyn on the west.
He bought another parcel of land from John Webb, a home lot bounded on the highway east and north and the mill trench on the west containing two acres. Part of this land was given to his son Samuel.
He bought yet another parcel from John Webb, which lies on the south side of Mill River and bounded by the highway east and west, the sides bordering the highway south and Mill River north. This land also contained about two acres.
On Oct. 15, 1660, Northampton granted to him several parcels of land including a tan yard which was bounded on the east and west by the highway, north by Ralph Hutchinson's land and the common land, and the meeting house hill on the south. John gave this to his son Ebenezer, on Dec. 15, 1688.
The original tan yard contained one quarter acre. It was on King Street Brook a little north of Hampshire Marble Works. He was a tanner by trade and the town by vote directed all hides be taken to him to be tanned at his own price because of his reputation for honesty. The tanning business was by no means a glamorous occupation. It was a greasy, smelly business. ELDER JOHN was apparently illiterate, so tanning was a job he could excel in.
Also, on Oct. 15, 1660, Northampton granted to him his home lot which was bounded on the highway north and Mill River on the south and bounded on the sides by the land of Capt. Aaron Cooke on the east and Alexander Edwards on the west. ELDER JOHN conveyed these parcels to John Webb on Oct. 18, 1660.
The home lot granted to him by Northampton on West Street was nearly opposite the Parson's Homestead. He sold it to John Webb, and purchased John Webb's home lot at the corner of Main and South Street. The property remained in the family for 103 years.
Northampton granted ELDER JOHN another parcel of land in Manham Meadow which butts up to the Great River on the east and Mill River on the west, containing over six acres. He gave half of this lot to Ebenezer on Dec. 15, 1688.
His land extended along Main Street from Old South Street to what is now New South Street at the Academy of Music. On that valuable frontage today are business blocks, Crafts Avenue, the City Hall, Unitarian Church, Memorial Hall, Main Street Park and the Academy of Music. His tannery was located on what is now the southwest corner of Market and Main Street near the railroad depot. He owned at different times some two hundred acres of land in and around Northampton.
ELDER JOHN STRONG and ABIGAIL FORD had a family of 16 children. JOHN died Apr. 14, 1699 in Northampton, Hampshire, MA . ABIGAIL died Jul. 16, 1688 in Northampton, also. Before he died in 1699 he had about 150 living descendants. He was in or near the beginnings of Dorchester, Hingham, Taunton, MA and Windsor, CT.
In 1929, a monument consisting of a large boulder and a bronze tablet was installed and dedicated at
the Bridge Street Cemetery. The quartz boulder came from the hills of Chesterfield, in the Bisbee
section of Northampton. It stands about four feet above the ground. The tablet is inscribed:
|Children of ELDER JOHN STRONG and Margery Deane|
wife Mary Clark
wife Elizabeth Warriner
wife Hannah (Smith) Trumble
|Children of ELDER JOHN STRONG and ABIGAIL FORD|
wife Mary Hewett
wife Rachel Holton
wife FREEDOM WOODWARD
wife Abigail Bartlett
wife Mary Hart
wife Sarah Warham
wife Margaret Newberry
wife Hannah Clapp
wife Mrs. Abigail Sharp
husband Nathaniel Chauncy
husband Medad Pomeroy
husband Rev. Joseph Parsons
husband Zerubabel Filer
wife Esther Clapp
wife Ruth (Sheldon) Wright
|Josiah or Joseph||08-05-1652||infancy|
husband John Clark
husband Joseph Barnard
husband Capt. Jonathan Wells
husband William Clark, Jr.
|Ester or Hester
husband Thomas Bissell
husband Jonathan Baldwin
wife Thankful Stebbins