John Masters

John MASTERS (1584 – 1639) was Alex’s 10th Great Grandfather; one of 2,048 in this generation of the Miller line.

John Masters and his family arrived on the Arabella as part of Winthrop’s Fleet in 1630

John Masters was born about 1584 in Aldenham, Herts, England.  His parents were John MASTERS and Elizabeth THOMPSON.  He married Jane COX before 1606 in Aldenham, Herts, England.  He arrived with his wife and children  in Salem Massachusetts Bay Colony on 12 June 1630 with the John Winthrop, Sr. fleet on one of eleven vessels.   John Masters children’s names are from the passenger list of the Arbella and from his will.  John died on 21 Dec 1639 in Cambridge  Mass.

John Masters – Coat of Arms

Jane Cox was born about 1586 in England.   Her father was Anthony COCKE (b. 1568 in Tiverton, Devon, England) .  Jane died on 10 Dec. 1639 in Cambridge, Mass., yet her husband named her in his will, suggesting an error on the clerk’s part or lack of awareness on John’s. Alternatively, Jane could be a daughter or other relative of John’s and his wife’s name unknown.

Children of John and Jane:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Nathaniel Masters c. 1606 Elizabeth Bourne
Kent, England
Ruth Pickworth
19 Dec 1639
Manchester, Mass
2. Sarah Masters 1604 Tiverton, Devon, England [__?__] Dobyson
3. Elizabeth Masters c. 1612 Edmund Lockwood
bef. Nov 1632
Cary Latham
aft 3 Mar 1634/35
Unknown Moved to New Haven, CT
4. Lydia MASTERS c. 1615 Tiverton, Devon, England Philip TABER
21 Dec 1639 Watertown, Mass.
c. 1649
5. Abraham Masters 1609
Tiverton, Devon, England
Cambridge, Middlesex, Mass

John came over in 1630, lived at Watertown.  He was a member of Watertown church by July 1632.

Later in 1633 he moved to Newtown (now Cambridge), living near Brattle Street, where for a while he kept an inn.  On 3 Sep 1635 “John Maistrs” was licensed to keep an ordinary at Cambridge.  On 4 June 1639 for some unknown offense “John Masters, having license, was discharged”

Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called the “King’s Highway” or “Tory Row” before the American Revolutionary War, is the site of many buildings of historic interest, including a Georgian mansion where George Washington and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow both lived (though at different times.) Samuel Atkins Eliot, writing in 1913 about the seven Colonial mansions of Brattle Street’s “Tory Row,” called the area “not only one of the most beautiful but also one of the most historic streets in America.”

In 1631, he was the pioneer of marine engineering in this country. He made a channel 12′ wide and 7′ deep from the Charles River to Newtown.

On 27 Jan 1631/32 Winthrop reported on an expedition made by himself and others “about eight miles above Watertown,” during which they “came to another brook, greater than the former, which they called Masters’ Brook, because the eldest of their company was one John Masters”

On 5 July 1632 Winthrop described Masters’s independent spirit: “The strife at Watertown congregation continued still; but at length they gave the separatists a day to come in, or else to be proceeded against. At that day, all came in and submitted, except John Masters, who, though he were advised by diverse ministers and others, that he had offended in turning his back upon the sacrament, and departing out of the assembly, etc., because they had then admitted a member whom he judged unfit, etc.; yet he persisted. So the congregation (being loath to proceed against him) gave him a further day; 8, at which time he continuing obstinate, they excommunicated him; but, about a fortnight after, he submitted himself, and was received in again”

OFFICES – Commissioner to settle the estate of Mr. Crispe, 27 Sep 1631 [MBCR 1:92]. Committee (for Watertown with Mr. Oldham) to confer with the court about raising public stock, 9 May 1632

ESTATE – On 5 Aug 1633 granted one-half acre for a cowyard at Cambridge

In the division of meadow on 20 Aug 1635 he had a proportional share of 1½ [CaTR 13]. In the 8 Feb 1635/36 list of houses in Cambridge John Masters had two in the Westend

In the Cambridge land inventory on 10 Oct 1635 John Masters held three parcels: seven acres in the West End with “one house with other out houses backside and planting ground”; two acres by the Pine Swampe; and six acres in the Great Marsh . By 1639 he had acquired three more parcels: one house and garden with eight acres (bought of Thomas Winckall); seven and a half acres of marsh at the Fresh Pond (granted him by the town); and five acres of marsh at Oyster Bank (purchased of Robert Lockwood)

The following is from “The Genealogy of Francis Weekes”, by Dr. Frank Edgar Weeks, Kipton, Ohio, 1939: and from “Masters, Massachusetts and English Notes”, by George W. Chamberlain, Malden, Mass., (manuscript) on file at the New England Historic Genealogical Society of Boston.

The date of John Master’s birth in England is not known: he died at Cambridge, Mass., on Dec 21 1639.  He undoubtedly came with Governor Winthrop in 1630 to Boston.

The earliest notice of him occurs in Governor Winthrop’s Journal, dated Jan 27 1631 detailing the incidents of a proposed expedition up the Charles River about eight miles above Watertown, Mass. The first brook they came to on the north side of the river, he named Beaver Brook, because the beavers had shorn down “divers great trees there and made divers dams across the river”. Thence they went to a great rock upon which stood a high stone, cleft in sunder, that four men might ge upon (through) which they named Adams Chair, because the youngest of their expedition was Adams Winthrop. Thence they came to another brook, greater than the former, which they named Master’s Brook, because the eldest of the company was John Masters: this was later called Stony Brook.

On 18 May 1631, John Masters was made freeman of Watertown. In June 1631 he engaged to construct a canal from the Charles River, through the marsh to the upland near the foot of Dunster Street, for which the General Court paid him £30.

In 1633 he removed to Newtown.
In 1635 he owned a house and seven acres of land on the weather side of East Street, near Brattle Street, Cambridge.
He married, date unknown, Jane —-, who died at Cambridge on December 26 1639.

On 14 Mar 1630/31 John Masters wrote from “Watertown, near Charles River, New England,” to Lady Barrington at Hatfield Broadoak, Essex; this letter is described as being in “excellent handwriting”

In his letter of 14 Mar 1630/31 to Lady Barrington, Masters stated that she and her family had “desired me to write of this country, and said you would believe what I should write”; he also stated that “Sir Richard Saltonstall hath put me in place to oversee his great family, with his worthy son”.  These comments, and the entire tenor of the letter, indicate that Masters had in the past been in service to one or more of the Puritan gentry families of Essex, and his origin should be sought there.

John Masters – Letter to Lady Barrington

John Masters – Letter 2

John wrote his will on 19 Dec 1639:

This is the minde & will of me John Masters.

Item – I give to my wife all my estate for the terme of her life & after hir decease I will & bequethe unto my Daughter Sarah Dobyson ten pownds.
Item – to my daughter Lidya Tabor ten pownds,
Item – to my Grand child John Lockwood ten pownds,
Item – to Nathaniell Masters ten pownds to Abraham Masters ten shillings,
Also my minde & will is that the ten pownds I give to John Lockwood, & the ten pownds I give to Nathaniell Masters shal be layde out upon somethinge that may turne to the encrease of theire portions ffurthermore my will is that these leagacyes shal be well & truly discharged wthin six monthes after my wives decease, these & all other my debt beinge discharged I give all the remainder of my estate unto my daughter Elizabeth Latham.

John doesn’t call Nathaniel and Abraham “son” or “grandson” immediately after specifying his daughters and grandchild. Although this may have been due to them having the last name Masters whereas the others did not, it was still the norm to specify sons, daughters and grandchildren in wills. There is no reason to think they weren’t relatives, but based on this document and a lack of others, they shouldn’t be assumed to be his sons. Perhaps they were orphaned nephews, giving cause to include them in his will. Abraham may have been an adult. Nathaniel and John Lockwood apparently were minors, which may have led to John’s request that the money be invested for them. Nathaniel of Wells, Maine, and Manchester, Massachusetts, was about nine at the time. This would also place him in John’s granchild generation unless he married Jane late in life and she was of childbearing age.


3. Elizabeth Masters

Elizabeth’s first husband  Edmund Lockwood was born 9 Feb 1594 in Combs, Suffolk, England. His parents were Edmund Lockwood and Alice Cowper. Edmund died 9 Mar 1634 in Cambridge, Mass.

Elizabeth’s second husband Cary Latham was born 30 May 1612 in Elstow, Aldenham, Hertfordshire, England. His parents were Nicholas Latham and Elizabeth Newman.  Cary died in 1685 in Groton, New London, CT.  Mitchell says: “perhaps b. (to Robert) and brother of William Latham Mayflower Pilgrim.

Cary Latham was an early resident of Cambridge, afterward removing to New London where he was in public life for nearly 20 years.

In 1663 he was an author of the following report to the Commissioners of the United Colonies of New England regarding the property rights of the Pequot Indians:

“Boston, September 19th, 1663

We, being desired by the Commissioners of the United Colonies to enquire of the Indians present concerning the interest of the Pequots, or respecting lands which Uncas layeth claim unto, we accordingly have endeavored the same, according to our best skill and understanding; and there being present, Cassisinnamon, Kitchamoquion and Tomasquash Ecoadno (alias,) the old honest man, Pequots; also, Womesh, Mumuho, Kaiton, Narragansett Councillors, with many others Indians; which do all jointly affirm, that long before the Pequots were conqered by the English, Uncas, being akin unto the Pequots, did live upon and Enjoy that land above a place called Montononesuck, upon which Mr. Winthrop’s saw mill standeth; also, that it was his father’s before him, and left unto him by his father; which he pssessed some time. But he growing proud and treacherous to the Pequot Sachem, the Pequot sachem was very angry, and sent up some soldiers, and drave Uncas out of his country; who fled unto Narragansett, for a while. At last he humbled himself to the Pequot Sachem, and desired that he might have liberty to live in his own country again; which the Pequot Sachem granted, provided he would be subject unto him, and carry it well. But soon after, he grew proud again, and was again driven out of his country, but his men subjected unto the Pequot Sachem; and yet again, upon his humbling, was restored, and grew proud again, and was conquered; and so five times; and upon his humbling himself was restored, and again conquered; until when the English went to war against the Pequots; and then Uncas went along with the English; and so, since, the English have made him high.”

“They further say, they know not the English fashions, but according to their manners and customs, Uncas had no lands at all, being so conquered. This they say, Uncas cannot deny, but if he should deny it, the thing is known to all the Indians round about.”

“Also the Narragansetts say that there is yet two of his men yet alive that fled with him into the Narragansett country, and have there abode ever since, who knew these things to be true. And further, they jointly affirm that Uncas had at first but little land and very few men, insomuch he could not make a hunt, but always hunted by order from other Sachems, and in their companie; which Sachems, being five brothers, lived at a place called by the Indians, Soudahque, at or near the place where Major Mason now liveth; who were the sons of the great Pequot Sachem’s sister, and so became very great Sachems, and had their bounds very large, extending their bounds by Connecticut path almost to Connecticut, and eastward meeting with the bounds of Paswuattuck (who lived at Showtackett, being a Pequot Sachem whose bounds extended eastward and took in Pachogg;) the which five Sachems, being brothers grew so great and so proud that upon hunting they quarrelled with the Pequots; at which the great Pequot (Sachem) being angry with them, made war upon them and conquered them and their country, and they all fled into Narragansett country, (leaving their country and men unto the Pequot Sachem,) from whence they never returned, but there died. So that Indians affirm all their lands and Woncas’s too, according to their customs and manners, were Pequot lands, being by them conquered, and now are the true right of the English, they having conquered the Pequots.

George Denison,

John Stanton,

Cary Latham”

He was a Deputy to the General Court from 1664 to 1670. He left a large estate at his death.


SWAMP YANKEE, by James Allyn, page 10.

He may have been the son of William Latham who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower. To provide a ferry across the “Great River” to the Groton side, the town first gave a long term lease to Edward Messenger. In 1654 he moved to farmland north of Norwich, so the lease was transferred to Latham. Messenger had only to provide a canoe the first year, and after that a boat to carry man and beast. Latham’s lease was for fifty years, so he moved across the river and built a house on Groton Bank. He probably had in mind to provide board and rooms if the weather was bad. After his death in 1685, the town took over the ferry with the income going for schools. Earlier Latham was named Town Agent (Tax Accessor) with William Douglass. One year later they were fined for not preparing a complete list. Apparently this was not to serious an offence, for he continued to hold various town positions.

SPICER GENEALOGY, by Susan Spicer Meech and Susan Billings Meech, pg. 522-527.

Cary was among the first five, after Governor Winthrop, to have house-lots laid out to them in New London, CT. These lots were located northwest of Winthrop’s Neck, on Main and William Streets. He came to New London from MA. In 1649 he had a little difficulty with a constable – he, Robert Bedell, and Isaac Willy being accused of letting go an Indian intrusted to their charge. He was one of those who helped build the “Old Town Mill”, in 1650.

In 1653 he sold the land and unfinished house, originally property of Philip Taber, his brother-in-law, who came to New London, in 1651, from “Martin’s Vineyard.”

In 1654 he was awarded a lease and monopoly of the ferry over the Pequot River at the town of Pequot (now Thames River and New London) for fifty years. He built a house east of the river before October, 1655, and became the first resident of what is now called Groton Bank. His home occupied the site of the Mitchell house, now standing.


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8 Responses to John Masters

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  8. Joyce OConnell says:

    John Masters and Jane are my 9th Great-grandparents. I have enjoyed reading all your research on him and his family. Thank you!

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