An Inheritance of Ghosts

James Mattocks and Sarah Peirce

Posted in James Mattocks, Sarah (Peirce) Mattocks, Sarah Peirce by Gregg Mattocks on 28 February 2009

James Mattocks [256]

Father: Samuel Mattocks [512]

Mother: Ann March [513]

Mattocks Family Heritage entry

Sarah Peirce [257]

Father: Isaac Peirce [514]

Mother: Grace Tucker [515]

Mattocks Family Heritage entry


James Mattocks [256] reportedly was born 4 September 1694 at Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts.  Town records record the birth of “James of Samuel and Ann Mattock” on that day but also record the death of “James of Samuel Mattox” on 3 September 1694.  It has been speculated that the recorded death was an error, but perhaps there was an earlier James who died the day before his eponymous brother was born.  The James Mattocks of this study was baptized 9 September 1694 at the First Church in Boston.

James served in the company of Captain John Penhallow, where he appears in the muster roll of “June 8th to Novem. 15th 1725.”  James was one of nineteen sentinels in Penhallow’s company.  Penhallow was from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and, during the time of James’ service, served under Colonel Thomas Westbrook in actions against Native American uprisings in the Maine area, in what has come to be known as Governor Dummer’s War.

The quarrel was between the two provinces of Massachusetts and New Hampshire and the Eastern Indians, especially those of Norridgewock.

The French openly had no part in it for the two Crowns were at peace, but when in 1724 the Norridgewocks asked for help Louis XIV wrote that while it is not expedient that France appear in this war, yet it is proper that [Governor of Canada] Sr. [Marquis ] de Vaudreuil “do secretly encourage the other nations to assist the Abenakis” by telling them that the English intend to become masters of the whole continent and to enslave all the Indian nations.  In revenge for the attempt to capture Father [Sebastian] Rale the Indians burned the village of Brunswick, and then Massachusetts declared war.  People were killed and prisoners taken from the eastern settlements and from far-away Northfield.  Norridgewock was burned and Father Rale killed, although orders had been given to spare his life.  Three of the four officers in command of the little troop had been captives in earlier wars….

There were fewer atrocities in this war.  The priest’s intervention may have prevented some, but the chief reason was [Massachusetts] Governor [Samuel] Shute’s order that non-combatants be removed from exposed places.

When M. de Vaudreuil was consulted about a peace he answered that it did not concern the French, and the Mission Indians of his country refused the belts of peace because they “wished to continue to harass the English.”  Nevertheless, in the Council Chamber at Boston in December, 1725, Dummer’s treaty — now in the State House — was signed by four eastern sagamores and Lieutenant-Governor [William] Dummer, who had been acting since 1723, when Shute ran away to England….

Family historian Alfred Little had the following to say about James’ service with Penhallow:

That this was dangerous duty is exemplified by Colonel Westbrook’s account of the experience of one of James’ fellow troopers, Sentinel Morgan Miles: “Morgan Miles from May 12th 1724 to Augt 18th 1725 put in p’ Approba[tion] of His Honr the Lt Govr; the sd Miles be taken at Arrowsick and Carrd away p’ ye Indians to Canada, who made his Escape from them and Return’d to His Post….”  [Morgan Miles served in the same company alongside James Mattocks.  Capt. John Penhallow figured prominently in the efforts of Massachusetts to protect the settlers along the Maine coast from attacks by the Eastern Indians].  Two additional excerpts from Colonel Westbrook’s letters to Governor Dummer of Massachusetts will suggest the hazards faced by troopers such as James Mattocks under the command of Captain Penhallow.  “… [I] now wait for a fair wind to send Cap Penhallow with twenty men on board the Sloop to proceed to Arrowsick & St Georges, to see whether the Indians have not attckt those garrisons …  There was sixty Indians at Blackpoint when they burnt the houses and kill’d the Cattle there, on the 29th of last April … [Falmouth, June 23d 1725].”  “… The wind came fair for Capt Penhallow to go East, which he Embract, and the Sloop had not been out of sight more than an hour before I rec’d a verbal acct from Lt Dominicus Jordan (who was out with his Scout) that the Indians had kill’d a man at Spurwick garrison, and that he heard the Guns, and was on ye spott in less than two hours … [Falmouth, June 24th 1725]….[”]  In giving instructions to the commanders of the two troops drawn out of the County of Essex to defend the towns in the County of York [Maine], Lieutenant Governor William Dummer wrote from Boston, June 21, 1721 [1725?], “The Troopers must be assured, for their Encouragement, That the Governmt will allow them 100 lb. for each Scalp, besides their Wages, for such Indians as they shall kill in their Marchings & Scoutings.”

James Mattocks was married, 24 February 1726, at Boston, Massachusetts, by the Presbyterian minister Dr.  Cotton Mather, to Sarah Peirce [257].  Sarah was born 22 May 1710, the daughter of Isaac and Grace (Tucker) Peirce.  While in Boston, James was a member of the recently opened North Church.  He may very well have worked in a trade involving woodworking, as the inventory of his estate at his death included numerous woodworking tools including a turning lathe.  James’ brother Samuel was a chairmaker, as was James’ grandson John Mattocks, so James may have worked in this profession as well.

James and Sarah removed from Boston, Massachusetts, to Middletown, Middlesex County, Connecticut, sometime between 1731 — when daughter Ann was born in Boston — and 1739 — when son Samuel was born at Middletown.  It seems likely that the migration occurred closer to 1739, as the baptism record of Samuel stated that at that time father James was still a member of the North Church in Boston.

The town now known as Middletown was settled in 1650 from parts of Hartford and Wethersfield, Connecticut.  In 1651, the General Court ordered that “Mattabeseck shall be a town.”  By 1653, the town became known as Middletown, due to “its location halfway between Saybrook and the up-river towns.”  At that time, Middletown was a rectangle bisected by the Connecticut River.

The land records of Middletown, Connecticut, establish several land transactions involving James Mattocks.  On July 26, 1745 Abijah Moore conveyed one acre of land bounded by Mill Brook to James Mattocks for 30 pounds  (11:416).  A one acre parcel bounded on one side by Mill Brook was conveyed by James to Matthew Talcott on Nov. 22, 1748 for 100 pounds  (12:178).  On March 20, 1749/50 James Mattock conveyed to Matthew Talcott one acre in the town plot together with a dwelling partly finished for 190 pounds  (13:43).  Finally, on May 14, 1754 Giles Hall deeded to James Mattocks a parcel on the west side of the river in Middletown for “Forty Pounds Money of the old Tenor”  (15:234).

Matthew Talcott, a ship-owner at Middletown, was the son of Connecticut Governor Joseph Talcott.

James died 8 May 1766 at Middletown.

James Mattocks evidently died intestate; no will is recorded nor are survivors named although one court record dated Mar. 30, 1768 refers to the “widdow’s dower” (Probate Record II B:137).  Over date of July 22, 1767, the commission appointed to settle the estate of James Mattocks found it insolvent with debts of twenty pounds and inventoried assets of eleven pounds.  The inventory, presented to the court on Mar. 30, 1768, consisted of one-half acre of land, a large quantity of woodworking tools including a turning lathe valued at 2 shillings; also a “New trundel bed sted” valued at 4 shillings, a “meet tub” at 1s, 6p, and 1 small Bible, as well as household furniture and clothing (II:419-20).

James was reportedly buried in the town’s first burial ground, Riverside Cemetery, also known as the Old North Burying Ground, located in the northern part of Middletown on the banks of the Connecticut River.  In 1848, it was written of the cemetery that:

It is terraced down towards the stream, leaving just room, outside the high wall which protects it from the freshets of the spring, for an unfrequented road.  The river here is broad, and turning abruptly about half a mile below, sweeps away to the east in a graceful and majestic curve.  Its current above is divided by an island that bends in a verdant crescent towards the further shore, while just beyond on the left a large tributary enters, spanned at its mouth by a picturesque bridge.  On the opposite shore of the river rise gently the green slopes and long pleasant village of Portland, enriched by extensive quarries, whose distant echoes ring and resound, mellowed to the ear. . . .

There are but few modern graves in this yard; the space is mostly occupied by those who were laid here before the Revolution, and on every side long rows of sombre sandstones treasure the memories of good wives and dear children and exemplary deacons.  As one wanders among them, he smiles reverentially to see the platoons of amorphous angels that grin and stare from the headstones carved in every variety of ugliness.  And at every corner strange, uncouth epitaphs excite mirth that he cannot suppress.  And yet, amid the inconsistency of merriment in such a place, he does not forget the reverence due to the stern and virtuous race whose tributes of grief have thus become jests in these modern times.

Sarah is said to have died in 1768.

Children of James and Sarah (Peirce) Mattocks:

+    256.1.  Sarah, born 15 January 1726/7.
+    256.2.  Ann [or Anna], born 12 October 1731.
+    256.3.  James [128], born perhaps in 1737.
+    256.4.  Samuel, born 30 December 1739.
+    256.5.  Mary, born 22 June 1742.
+    256.6.  Sarah, born 10 July 1744.
+    256.7.  John, born 2 August 1746.
+    256.8.  Joseph, born 21 August 1751.



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