James Davis

James DAVIS (1583 – 1679)  was Alex’s 11th Great Grandfather; one of 4,096 in this generation of the Miller line.

James Davis - Coat of Arms

James Davis was born in 1583 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England. His parents were John DAVYS and Agnes SAMON. He married Cicely THAYER 11 Jun 1618 in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England. The marriage is recorded in the records of St. Mary Parish, “James Davisse to Sysley Tayer, at Gloucester.”  James died 29 Jan 1679 in Haverhill, Essex, Mass.

James brother Thomas Davis also immigrated,  He was born in 1585 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England and died 27 Jul 1683 in Essex, Mass

Cicely Thayer was born 1 May 1600 in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England.   The genealogical research on Cicely was in error for many years because her name was misread as “Evelyn” in the will of her father. Her name was actually spelled “Cicelye” in her father’s will and was spelled “Sicely Tayer” on the baptismal records in England.  Her parents were Edward THAYER and Joan LAWRENCE. Cicely died 28 May 1673 in Haverhill, Essex, Mass.

Children of James and Cicely:

Name Born Married Departed
1. James Davis 4 Jul 1619
Marlborough, England
Elizabeth Eaton
1 Dec 1648
2. John DAVIS 28 Jan 1621
Thornbury,  Gloucestershire, England.
10 Dec 1646
Haverhill, Mass
18 Jul 1694 Haverhill, Essex, Mass.
3. Sarah Davis 23 Dec 1623 Died Young
4. Judith Davis 1625 Samuel Gile
1 Sep 1647
May 1667
5. Samuel Davis 26 Nov 1640
Haverhill, Mass
Deborah Barnes (Daughter of our ancestor William BARNES)
17 Dec 1663 Haverhill
10 Sep 1696
6. Ephraim Davis c. 1641 Mary Johnson
31 Dec 1659 Haverhill
28 Sep 1679
7. Sarah Davis 1643
John Page
18 Jun 1663 Haverhill
7 Jun 1714

James came to New England as early as 1634 and was one of the original settlers of Hampton, 1638. Removed to Haverhill, 1646, being one of the twelve who petitioned the General Court for authority to settle at Pentucket where they founded the present city of Haverhill, Mass.

James was made a freeman in Newbury, Essex, MA, 4 Mar 1634/35 and lived in Hampton, Rockingham, NH, in 1639, before settling in Haverhill, Essex, MA, in 1640. He was one of the original 12 settlers. James, along with his brother, Thomas, was one of the first five selectmen, chosen in 1646. He was awarded 20 acres of “accommodation” land in 1667, as was his son, James Davis Jr. His will was dated Mar. 17, 1675/76, with a codicil dated July 22, 1678.

Oct 1638 – The reverend Stephen BACHILER and his company, who had received permission from the general court when united together by church covenant, commenced a settlement at Winicowett. He was at this time residing in Newbury. On Mr. Rawson’s request, the place was called Hampton. The following persons, residents of Newbury, went with Mr. Bachiler. John Berry, Thomas COLEMAN, Thomas Cromwell [Giles CROMWELL‘s brother], James DAVIS, William Easton, William Fifield, Maurice Hobbs, Mr. Christopher Hussey [BACHILER’s son-in-law], Thomas Jones, Thomas Marston, William Marston, Robert Marston, John Moulton, Thomas Moulton, William Palmer, William SARGENT, and Thomas Smith. Smith, however, soon returned to Newbury. A few went to Salisbury.

First called the Plantation of Winnacunnet, Hampton was one of four original New Hampshire townships chartered by the General Court of Massachusetts, which then held authority over the colony. “Winnacunnet” is an Algonquian Abenaki word meaning “pleasant pines” and is the name of the town’s high school.

In March 1635, Richard Dummer and John Spencer of the Byfield section in Newbury, came round in their shallop, came ashore at the landing and were much impressed by the location. Dummer, who was a member of the General Court, got that body to lay its claim to the section and plan a plantation here. The Massachusetts General Court of March 3, 1636 ordered that Dummer and Spencer be given power to “To presse men to build there a Bound house”.

The town was settled in 1638 by a group of parishioners led by Reverend Stephen Bachiler, who had formerly preached at the settlement’s namesake:Hampton, England.  Incorporated in 1639, the township once included SeabrookKensingtonDanvilleKingstonEast KingstonSandownNorth Hampton and Hampton Falls.

James with twelve others, under the lead of Rev. John Ward, secured a grant from the government and settled what is now Haverhill ; they went there in 1640. Samuel Gile, who seven years later became his son-in-law, was among the twelve. They went about clearing the woods off and making a settlement. In 1642 they bought out the rights of the Indians to the land, and Thomas Davis, a brother of James, was one of the witnesses to the deed. This Thomas was a sawyer and came from Marlborough, England, soon after James did. James must have been a man of considerable wealth for those times, for in 1643 he was one of three in the settlement that were worth over £200*, and in 1646 James Davis paid the largest tax. When the town elected its first selectmen in 1646 they were: James Davis, Thomas Davis, Thomas Hale, Henry Palmer and William White. In 1645 there were thirty-two land-holders in the town, and James Davis, James Davis Jr. and John Davis were among them; also John Eaton and Joseph Peasley, whose daughters married James Jr. and John Davis. The first meeting house was built in 1646, and “Thomas Davis was given £2, to ground-pin and daub it. He to provide the stone and clay.

* In 1650 a law was passed that forbid any person whose estate did not exceed £200 from wearing any gold or silver lace or buttons, silk hoods, ribbons or scarfs, under penalty of 10 shillings.

In the second division of land, made in 1652, James Davis had 10 acres, James Davis Jr. 10 acres, John Davis 6 acres, Thomas Davis 8 acres, John Eaton 10 acres.His wife was Cicely or Sissilla . His wife and three of the children must have come over with him, for James, John and Judith were born before his arrival in this country. He died 29 Jan., 1678/79, and left a will which was proven in 1680. His wife died 28 May 1673, at Haverhill.

Witch Trials

James Davis Sr. and his son Ephraim signed a paper presented to Ipswich Court, February, 1658, against John Godfrey, accusing him of witchcraft.  In 1658 when the subject of witchcraft first came to his attention, he came down decidedly against the concept. When John Godfrey was charged with injuring the wife of Job Tyler by “Satanic acts,” Francis Dane judged against the probability

John Godfrey Was Tried 3 Times For Witchcraft – 1658, 1665 & 1669, Each time he was acquitted.   Prior to the Salem witchcraft trials, only five executions on the charge of witchcraft are known to have occurred in Massachusetts.  Such trials were held periodically, but the outcomes generally favored the accused.   A bad reputation in the community combined with the accusation of witchcraft did not necessarily insure conviction.  The case against John Godfrey of Andover, a notorious character consistently involved in litigation, was dismissed.  In fact, soon after the proceedings, Godfrey sued his accusers for defamation and slander and won the case.

Yet another accusation of witchcraft surfaced in 1680, this time involving John  but focusing on a Rachel Fuller , their neighbor in Hampton, New Hampshire who was accused of killing John’s infant son by witchcraft.

John Godfrey arrived in New England in 1634 and from then on, was a transient resident of several Essex County towns, including Haverhill, Newbury, Andover, Ipswich and Salem. He had a local reputation for his feats of strength, boastfulness, sleight of hand and claims of occult powers. He was first tried as a witch in June, 1659, in Andover, when Haverhill and Andover residents claimed they had suffered “losses in their persons and estates, which came not from natural causes but from ill-disposed person, who they affirmed was John Godfrey”. He was acquitted.

From 1658 to his death, John Godfrey was in court at least once a year and in some years many times. As suit and counter-suit piled on top of each other, his record of legal actions became extraordinary, even by the standards of a highly litigious society.  I don’t think the depositions of James DAVIS and son Ephraim still survive , but here is the gist of the 1658 case.

The Tyler Family and The Salem Witchcraft Trials By Bruce M. Tyler Ph.D. October 1997

John Godfrey was not a nice man. He apparently was a roving herdsman who demanded jobs and threatened people when he did not get them. He also caused accidents to happen to these animals, but was never caught doing it. He was also accused of arson, suborning witnesses and theft.

He did not limit his activities to extra legal and illegal acts. He also liked to sue people. He usually won, but that did not stop other people from suing him.

While most of these suits involved property, in the spring of 1658 Godfrey sued Abraham Whitaker of Haverhill for debt. In the next few months a number of interrelated cases began that included other people in Haverhill and Job Tyler. In 1659 the court decided the cases in favor of Godfrey. Immediately he was accused of witchcraft.

“The deposition of Job Tyler aged about 40 years, Mary his wife, Moses Tyler his son aged between 17 and 18 years and Mary Tyler about 15 years old. These deponents witness, that they saw a thing like a bird to come in at the door of their house, with John Godfrey, in the night, about the bigness of a blackbird, or rather bigger, to wit, as big as a pigeon and did fly about, John Godfrey laboring to catch it and the bird vanished as they conceived through the chink of a jointed board, and being asked by the man of the house wherefore it came, he answered it came to suck your wife.” All of that implied that John Godfrey was a witch since witches were (according to Massachusetts Bay law) usually accompanied by “familiars,” birds or animals that traditionally liked to suck on people.

We can only wonder why Godfrey was not able to control his familiar if he was indeed a witch. Perhaps when the door opened and the bird flew in, Godfrey tried to catch it. The bird, realizing the jam it was in, was able to get out through a hole in the wall .

The various depositions seemed to work. Godfrey was apparently indicted and tried for witchcraft. He seems to have been acquitted, though he did spend some time in Ipswich jail. When he got out he countersued for slander

In 1661 John Godfrey sued Job Tyler for debt. He said that Job owed him for 27 days labor on Tyler’s farm, along with running errands and for back loans. Job countersued, saying that there were debts on Godfrey’s side as well.

Moses Tyler’s deposition spells it out: “Moses Tyler deposed that his mother dressed John Godfrey and washed his clothes about twenty weeks in one year, and that his father found Godfrey’s diet for eleven weeks, which was never satisfied” . The Tylers lost their suit and all their property in Andover. Part of that loss, though, was the result of Job’s house burning down (Essex County, 4:404, June 1662). Did John Godfrey play a role in that?

From this it looks as if John Godfrey had worked for Job Tyler and had even lived on the Tyler farm after 1659. So it seems that Job and his family had hired and provided board for someone they had accused of being a witch. And they would accuse him again. In 1665 they again introduced their 1659 deposition as part of a witchcraft accusation that Job and John Remington made. The jury acquitted Godfrey reluctantly, saying “We find him not to have the fear of God in his heart. He has made himself suspiciously guilty of witchcraft, but not legally guilty according to law and evidence we received” .

Considering the fact that witchcraft was a capital crime, people in general and Job Tyler in particular, were distinctly casual in their use of that accusation. People accused of witchcraft sometimes countersued for slander or defamation, civil actions.   If accusations of witchcraft regularly made their way to the court system, how many even more casual accusations never made it that far? People in Essex County evidently had a number of reasons for believing others to be witches or for actually accusing them of being witches.

Motives seem to be far ranging, as the various historical theories suggest. Those motives seem to be distinctly personal as well. It looks as if Job was using the accusation of witchcraft to get back from John Godfrey what Job had lost to him in the various civil actions. And Godfrey felt the same way. As part of the 1665 trial Nathan Parker told the court that “John Godfrey came into my house and discussing Job Tyler.   Godfrey said that he could afford to blow on Tyler and not leave him worth a groat.” (A groat is a coin of little value.)


James made his will 17 Mar 1675/76, and it was proved 5 Nov 1680. He gave to son John “my third division of land in Haverhill.”  To James Davis “son of my son John,” one half of “my fourth division of upland in Haverhill.” To son Ephraim Davis thirty acres which “he hath built upon joyneing to ye great plaine in Haverhill;” also the east meadow; also such sheep and cattle as were then in his hands; “two Ox Commons and also five Cow Commons.”  To Stephen and Ephraim, sons of son Ephraim, half of fourth division of upland.  To son Samuel “my second division of upland and one Ox Comon and also three cow Comons all in Haverhill. To daughter Sarah, wife of John Page Jr., one half of my Pond meadow,” and all his goods in possesion of her husband, “excepting only my warmeing pan.”  To Janmes Gild, son of Samuel Gild, one half of pond meadow.  To son James (executor) all other estate.  In a codicil added 22 July 1678, he made Wm. White and Nathaniel Saltonstall both of Haverhill “overseer of this my will” with a special injunction that “If I outlive the — among (you) I thought ot spend, justice, according to proportion in my Will mentioned may be done to my eldest son James before any legacies are paid [The old gentleman’s apparent expectations of the need of interposition were not unrealized. The children pretty generally wanted each a thicker slice of the estate.  Accompanying papers show that John (who is said to have removed “to Pascataqua above twenty years since” had some altercation regarding land of his own which he had once authorized somebody to sell–that a variety of others claimed land which their father, they knew, always intended to give them, and that one claimed handsome share for taking care of his feeble old mother; these little things however, were settled by a peremptory decision against John, a denial of all “intended” gifts except one to Samuel which was proved clearly enough, and by an inherited rebuke to the son who manifested such filial affection to his mother, the affairs were settled in 1680.]


1. James Davis

James’ wife Elizabeth Eaton was born 1625 in Stratford. Warwickshire, England. Her parents were John Eaton and Ann Crossman. Elizabeth died 21 Jan 1683 in Haverhill, Essex, Mass.

James Davis Jr. -- Source: Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury (1938)

2. John DAVIS (See his page)

4. Judith Davis

Judith’s husband Samuel Gile (Guile) was born 1620 in England. His parents were [__?__] Guild and Margery Jordan.  Samuel died 21 Feb 1683 in Haverhill, Essex, Mass.

5. Samuel Davis

Samuel’s wife Deborah Barnes was born 1 Apr 1646 in Salisbury, Essex, Mass. Her parents were William BARNES and Rachel LORD. Deborah died 14 Jan 1719 in Haverhill, Essex, Mass.

6. Ephraim Davis

Ephraim’s wife Mary Johnson was born 1638 in Andover, Essex, Mass. Her parents were John Johnson and Susannah [__?__]. Mary died 4 Apr 1679 in Newbury, Essex, Mass.

Ephraim Davis Source: Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury (1938)

7. Sarah Davis

Sarah’s husband John Page was born 11 Jul 1641 in Hingham, Plymouth, Mass. His parents were John Page and Mary Marsh. John died 27 Jun 1714 in Haverhill, Essex, Mass.


James Davis 1 Source: Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury (1938)

James Davis 2

James Davis 3





Entertaining Satan: witchcraft and the culture of early New England pg 38 – 56  By John Putnam Demos 1982

Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury (1938) By Holman, Mary Lovering, 1868-1947; Pillsbury, Helen Pendleton Winston, 1878-1957

This entry was posted in 90+, Immigrant - England, Line - Miller, Pioneer, Public Office, Witch Trials and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to James Davis

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  16. Elissa Ertwine says:

    Hello, James Davis is my 13th Great Grandfather and I would like to see where we meet through the tree.

  17. Tina Greenaway says:

    I am also a descendant James being my 11xGreat Grandfather on my Paternal side.

  18. Beverly Ann Farnham says:

    I am a direct descendant of james DAvis 1583 John born 1621, on my mothers side of my family. My Grandfather Charles Davis shook hands with Abraham Lincoln. As a child I was pretty proud of that. Now knowing more of the family story, it has given me a reason to write a story on my family. Any great links to stories, I would love it. I have 5 Grandchildren that love old time stories

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