MAYHEW, Thomas (Governor ) 1
- Born: 31 Mar 1593, Tisbury, Wiltshire, England 1
- Christened: 1 Apr 1593, Tisbury, Wiltshire, England 1
- Marriage (1): PARKHURST, Abigail in 1619
- Marriage (2): GALLION, Jane in 1634 in Medford, Middlesex, MA
- Died: 25 Mar 1682, Martha's Vineyard, Dukes Co., MA at age 88 1
Baptism: Parish Register of Tisbury, Co. Wilts cited in Banks, Vol I, p 108 Spelling is 'Maho'
The connection to the father is based not only on the baptism records of Tisbury, but also by the connection of place names of Martha's Vineyard original family place names in England: Tisbury and Dinton.
Little known of his education, presumably at Tisbury. Became a merchant at Southampton, going out into the business world after the death of his father when he was 21(1614). Became known to Matthew Cradock, a London merchant who was an entrepeneur of colonial trade, and for whom he became an agent.
6 Mar, 1631/2: earliest record of him in America: Records of the General Court of MA - he is chairman of a committee to settle a boundary dispute between Charlestown and Newton. Since this is a report it would be safe to say he emigrated in 1631.
Thereafter there are many evidences of him in the political and business life of the colony.
Lived at Medford until 1637, when his association with Cradock terminated in unlitigated charges by Cradock that Mayhew was cheating him. (letter of 13 Jan 1636 from Mathew Cradock to Gov. Wintrop which pleads Winthrop to look into the matter and bring him some justice and satisfaction) Vol I, p121
Removed to Watertown in 1637 - elected Deputy to the General Court to represent Watertown in the Colonial Assembly. Reelected in '38 through 1644.
In 1641 he took advantage of the opportunity to acquire the title and sovereignty of Martha's Vineyard, and henceforth the biography of Governor Mayhew becomes the history of Martha's Vineyard. There were three conflicting claims to the islands: The royal grant to Ferdinand Gorges of Maine, the grant to Lord Stirling, and the Indians. Thomas Mayhew took pains at this point to secure the patent from both Gorges and Stirling and insisted, in the usual Puritan way, on purchasing the natural claim for land from the natives.
While his son Thomas evidently moved to the Vineyard sometime in 1642, Thomas Sr. was not known as "of Martha's Vineyard" until late in 1647.
Remembering that in the first years of settlement the young colony had a population of a skant 100 English people, all settled at Great Harbor (later known as Edgartown), Thomas Sr. ran the colony as he saw fit, with little formal government.
The first semblance of a government appeared in 1653, when a governing body six men was formed. For the next five years this board functioned as a General Court, with Thomas Sr as the chief magistrate and 5 to 7 men as his assistants.
At the death of Thomas Jr, when his father was 65 years old, a significant change occured in the governing of the island, with Thomas Sr. consolidating his singular role as chief magistrate without assistants. The colony was growing and in 1661 Thomas, in a further effort to consolidate his power, had a number of people sign a curious document that constituted sort of a submission to his power. As Banks says: "It is apparent from internal evidence that the settlers must have begun to chafe under this personal government of the patentee, and the eighteen men who "submitted" included those who in later years openly rebelled against him and his government." Vo1, p135
(John Daggett was the first signer -see the notes on his biography and the conflict that he was in the midst of with Thomas Sr over the 500 acre "farm'.)
In 1663 the Stirling grants were sold a member of the royal family, James, the Duke of York. With the signature of the King, the lands under Thomas' domain became part of the 'small empire' put together by the Duke of York, the territory of the patent covering what is now New York, New Jersey and Delaware, territory which was then under the control of the Dutch, but which would soon be English. By 1671, Thomas was fighting for the ownership and control of his island through several changes of 'lordship' and acting governors.
This was resolved at the Conference at Fort James in New York in the summer of 1771, when Thomas presented, over a period of six days, his claims to the governor of New York, Francis Lovelace, and Matthias Nicolls, a representative of the Duke. The matter was resolved in Mayhew's favor, and he was granted "...Governor for life, Chief Justice of the Courts of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, Lord of the Manor of Tisbury and collector and receiver of the customs for the Vineyard."
"Dutch Rebellion" of 1673: In 1673, a brief retaking of New York by the Dutch was all a number of "rebels" on Martha's Vineyard needed to challange the right of Thomas to rule with the iron hand he had been wielding. An appeal to both the Governor and to the council of the Massachusetts Bay to return to the form of government originally intended in the Lord Stirling grant met with no success, Governor Mayhew refusing to the petitioners, who represented over half of the landowners on the island. Failing any concern from the Massachusetts Bay council over the matter, the 'rebels' attempted to form their own independent government, succeeding with the dual government for little over a year. During this time, Governor Mayhew "...was quietly putting the screws on individuals where he could, fining them so heavily that it amounted to a sequestration of their property. No doubt Mayhew acted in this particular from an honest, but exaggerated point of view as to his dignity, and he probably considered them all as traitors to the duke whom he represented." Vol 1, pp161-2.
(one of the 'rebels', John Pease, was also an ancestor. John Pease's daughter Sarah married John, the son of Thomas Daggett and Hannah Mayhew. When it was apparent that Mayhew was going to win this battle with the rebels, "John Pease, foreseeing the coming of the storm, made his will on March 4, 1674, and was thus prepared for the next world and what might happen in this." Vol 1, p166)
Restoration of Mayhew's authority, 1674: Mayhew didn't so much have to deal with the rebels except with reprisals, for the new Royal governor of New York, Sir Edmund Andros, dealt with the problem following the reestablishment of English order from the Dutch. No doubt the problem had been represented to him that the rebels not only favored the Dutch rule, but were enemies of the duke. In any case, he issued an order (Warrants, Orders, Passes, Vol III, 21) dated Nov. 7, 1674 that gave the Governor and his assistants the power to ..."call to Account and Punish according to Law, all such offenders and Transgressors...the Crime not extending to Life Limbe or Banishment: But in Cases of such High Crime which may Deserve those Punishments to secure the offenders and send them hither by first convenience."
This gave the Governor all he needed to institute reprisals and reestablish his authority. Banks asserts, with a convincing argument, that the passion for reprisal was no doubt that of even an 81 year old man: "It may be thought that in this the aged governor, then eighty-one, was under the influence of his grandson, about twenty-five years of age and then at a period in life likely to develop hot-headedness, or of his son-in-law Daggett, but no one who has studied the governors' character can fail to accord him the actual credit for all that he did, or had done in his name, down to the hour when he drew his last breath. He was a man who ruled his family as he ruled others, without brooking disobedience, and he could and did get into violent passions..." Vol I, 165
What followed were a number of reprisals, fines and indictments of various members of the community, men who "...were simply being punished for seeking political freedom, and naturally had the sympathy of those in other colonies where the ballot was the poor man's weapon against oppression and arbitrary rulers." Vol I, 168 The reprisals were such that a number of the men were deprived of their property and effectively banished from the island. Charles Banks asserts that the whole matter was an attempt to engraft a medieval manorial system on a people who had left such things behind, or supposed they had, when they crossed the ocean to build up a new political system of democratic government, where hereditary privileges whould have no place.", Vol I, 169)
A council of magistrates was reestablished in 1675 consisting of the governor, Richard Sarson (a son-in-law), Matthew and Thomas Mayhew (two grandsons). This council proceeded for five years until it was questioned by Governor Andros for failing to make annual reports of the elections. An order to make such reports remained unanswered, and as nothing was done to loosen the family control of the island, the situation remained as such until the Governor's death at the age of eighty-nine.
Thomas Mayhew Sr, known even to this day on Martha's Vineyard as "The Governor", immigrated to Massachusettes in 1631/2 as an agent for a London merchant. He quickly entered into prominance in the political and business life of the 'boom' years of Puritan immigration, the 1630's. In the 1640's he acquired the title to Martha's Vineyard and followed an advance settlement of that island by his son by several years. There he established a minor 'fiefdom' of his own, ruling the island with singular authority and nepotism. Following the death of his son Thomas in 1657, he continued the missionary work to the Indians begun by Thomas, establishing the basis for 5 generations of missionary work to the natives. He also entrenched his political authority on the Island when the lands of Martha's Vineyard were transferred to the Duke of York in 1663 by petitioning the Duke and once again being granted sole authority on the island. Surviving, at the age of 81, a rebellion against his autocratic rule by over half the population of the island in 1673, he left firmly established family control of Martha's Vineyard to his grandson, Matthew Mayhew. 1
Thomas married Abigail PARKHURST in 1619. (Abigail PARKHURST died in 1630-1631 1.)
Thomas next married Jane GALLION in 1634 in Medford, Middlesex, MA. (Jane GALLION was born in 1602 in London, England and died in 1666-1682 in Edgarton, Dukes Co., MA.)