Thomas and Elizabeth 1640-1690

The work of a curious fellow
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Thomas Dustin returned to Northam to find the village in turmoil. The lawless element had become such a threat to tranquility that action was required. Some people had been driven from their homes and one man was killed in the fracas.

One of the inhabitants, John Underhill, was agitating for the formation of a government so as to create some civil authority that might be able to act in a coordinated fashion against the local terrorists. Underhill had been banished from Massachusetts for being such a nuisance that the authorities there were tired of him but the good people of Northam did not hold that against him since many were concerned that Massachusetts would try to annex the neighboring colonies.

On October 22 of 1640, forty-two inhabitants of Northam and the vicinity, including Thomas Dustin, signed the Dover Combination, the “Combination of the People of Dover to Establish a Form of Government”. The Dover Public Library holds a copy of that document. From the text it is quite clear that robbery and murder were considered inconvenient and mischievous, it opens with this statement:

Whereas sundry Mischeifes and inconveniences have befaln us, and more and greater may in regard of want of Civill Government, his Gratious Matie haveing hitherto setled no Order for us to our Knowledge:

Wee whose names are underwritten being Inhabitants upon the River Piscataquack have voluntarily agreed to combine our Selves into a Body Politique that wee may the more comfortably enjoy the benefit of his Maties Lawes. And do hereby actually ingage our Selves to Submit to his Royal Maties Lawes together with all such Orders as shalbee concluded by a Major part of the Freemen of our Society , in case they bee not repugnant to the Lawes of England and administred in the behalfe of his Majesty.

With the signing of that document Northam and surrounding settlements became Dover, NH. Shortly after the signing, John Underhill began agitating that Dover petition Massachusetts for inclusion in that colony. It turned out that the formation of a local government was a ploy by Underhill to make Dover more attractive to Massachusetts so that he might regain favor with Massachusetts by extending their domain.

Thomas Dustin found Underhill’s action intolerable and led the campaign to banish Underhill from New Hampshire. So Thomas found himself in a position of leadership in Dover.

Thomas maintained his acquaintance with the Smalls and during the winter and spring of 1640-1641. Edward, who had returned to Kittery from Sebascodegan, provided the materials for Thomas to build two shallops,


one for Edward and one for himself. The Small family needed one for their trips to Casco Bay and Thomas made the bulk of his living in buying, selling and trading so he traveled frequently.

In the course of Thomas’s travels he was often in Kittery, Gloucester, Boston and sometimes as far north as Casco Bay as well. When passing through Gloucester he usually stopped in to visit Tom Jones and Mary. In 1643 Thomas and Tom, on a little adventure together, got in trouble with the law. It was actually the fault of Thomas’s friend and frequent business associate George Walton who was involved in a feud with John Heard.

John Heard was a hard headed business man operating in the Piscataqua River valley and so was George Walton. They often collided when their enterprises overlapped. In January 1643 the collision was over a bit of property at Herod’s Cove on Great Bay. George was surreptitiously buying up the good farmland using all his friends to make the deals so that John Heard would not realize who was behind the transactions.

Tom Jones got involved because George ran out of friends before he acquired the last of the property that he wanted. John Heard held about ten acres, now nearly surrounded by George. Tom was expanding his blacksmith business in Gloucester and was short of cash so Thomas mentioned to Tom that Walton might give Tom a commission for act as Walton’s agent in a land purchase. Tom agreed and the deal went through.

In March of 1643 George Walton hired Tomas Dustin to burn the winterkill from the Herod’s Cove property and Tomas took on Tom Jones to help him. About that time John Heard realized that George Walton was in possession of one-hundred and fifty acres at Herod’s Cove. More or less out of pure contrariness, Heard swore out a complaint against Thomas and Tom for trespass on the ten acres he had sold. Interestingly this action was taken after a fire in George Walton’s office destroyed the records of the transaction.

All parties went to court in York where the magistrate was very familiar with the Heard-Walton feuds and thoroughly tired of them. He declared he would delay a decision pending more information. In May of 1643 John Heard sued Thomas Dustin, claiming Thomas owed him money on a land deal in Dover. He did this because he knew that Thomas was somehow involved in the Herod’s Cove business. Again the magistrate at York delayed.

In June Thomas and Tom Jones harvested the hay from the Herod’s Cove property and delivered it to George Walton. On June 30, once again they were hauled into court this time for cutting and removing of hay. The magistrate called both Mr. Walton and Mr. Heard to the bench.

“You gentlemen are clearly behind this dispute”, he said to them. “I am requiring you to settle this by a method of your own choosing. If by chance you choose to settle this with pistols, God grant you both excellent aim.” The court record showed the case was settled by arbitration, although there is no record of the outcome. In any event it got Thomas and Tom out of it.

Thomas sailed Tom back to Gloucester to attend to his blacksmith shop. He also wanted to meet with Tom’s father-in law, Richard North, in Salisbury to discuss a deal on some land in Charlestown, just north of Boston. In Salisbury Thomas was introduced to John Wheeler, the owner of the Charlestown property. Mr. Wheeler had immigrated from Salisbury, England in 1633 with his wife and nine of their thirteen children. They met at the Wheeler place in Salisbury where the wedding of one of the Wheeler girls, Anne, was still being celebrated. John Wheeler insisted that Thomas and Richard join the celebration. That evening Thomas and John Wheeler agreed on a price and settled on the Charlestown property.

It was nearly a year later that John Wheeler turned up at Thomas Dustin’s farm at Dover.

“Well bless me if it isn’t John Wheeler. What brings you to this part of world John?”

“I came particularly to talk to you Thomas. Actually according to custom I should talk to your father, but that doesn’t seem practical. Do you remember my eldest girl Elizabeth? She was in the wedding party of her sister.”

“I can’t say as I do. There were so many people.”

“Well at age twenty-six she is a fine woman and I thought you and her would make a good match.”

“Do you know me well enough to decide that John?”

“Well I been asking around discreetly and you are well thought of all around.”

Thomas chuckled. “I see you haven’t talked to John Heard.”

“Oh, I take powerful enemies to be a sign of ambition. I thought I would dower Elizabeth with the price of that Charlestown property if you were interested.”

“Well I confess John, at the age of thirty-eight I’ve reached the point where marriage as a general proposition appeals to me but I wouldn’t marry a woman if she would consider it a burden.”

“I wanted to talk to you Thomas before I said anything to Elizabeth because she dearly would love to marry and have a family of her own and I wouldn’t want to get her hopes up if it was out of the question. Can I go home and propose to Elizabeth that she and you bundle a night and see what happens?”

“Well that’s how my mother and father started out. It is a good way to get acquainted. I appreciate your mention of a dowry but it is not like I am a youngster who needs a start. You have probably found out that I am not rich but I am comfortable. If Elizabeth and I decide we are for each other, I will be getting enough from you without the any dowry.”

So Thomas and Elizabeth lay together a night in bed at the Wheeler place in Salisbury and talked of their past and hope and dreams for the future. In the morning they announced to the family that they would court. Late in the year of 1644 when all the customs and proprieties were accomplished they were married.

Thomas and Elizabeth set up housekeeping in Dover at the farm. By himself Thomas had never made the farm a paying proposition. He had always limited his farm work to raising hay and vegetables. Animals would have kept him from traveling about investing in this and that, which was the way he preferred to make his living. With Elizabeth’s arrival the farm began to prosper and Thomas had more time to devote to his business dealings.

In the winter of 1647 Elizabeth turned up pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy, confining Elizabeth to bed for weeks at a time. Thomas dropped his outside enterprises to become a fulltime farmer and stay with her. He also began to look for a place in town where Elizabeth would not have to work so hard after the baby was born. In this search he turned to Edward Small who held considerable property in and around Kittery.

“Oh, Thomas”, Elizabeth Small said. “We were sorry to hear that your Elizabeth is having such a hard time.”

“Thank you Elizabeth. We pray daily for a successful outcome. I am looking for a place to live down this way. The farm work is going to be too much for Elizabeth after the child is born. I think I will sell the farm in the spring and build a cottage on a bit of land near Kittery. Elizabeth is due in April so we would hold onto the farm till after that.”

“Edward, what about that parcel over by the Walton’s ferry dock?” Elizabeth asked. “Wouldn’t that do for Thomas?”

“It might be alright”, said Edward. “The land is suitable for building but there is a bit of hustle and bustle at the ferry. Do you know the piece Thomas?”

“I do. I think it would serve but I need to talk it over with Elizabeth.”

“We are leaving for summer at Sebascodegan Island in May Thomas”, Elizabeth said. You and Elizabeth could live here with the child while you are building your cottage.”

In April of 1648 Elizabeth gave birth to a healthy baby girl they named Elizabeth in honor of Elizabeth Small as well as the mother. So Thomas sold the Dover property that had been his home since he left Richmond Island and moved his family to Kittery. There he took a job with George Walton managing some of Walton’s scattered enterprises.

On January 21, 1650 a second daughter, Sara (known as Mary) was born. Also in 1650 John Heard found another opportunity to harass Walton through his employee Thomas Dustin. Elizabeth had another difficult pregnancy and Thomas frequently stayed at home to help out. Consequently they missed several church services. Heard was watching and when he saw a chance he complained and according to the record they were presented to the general court by the "Grand Jurie, for neckleckting the ordinances of God upon the sabath day" (non-attendance at church) and were fined 10 shillings, the fine for future offences to be 40s. As there were no future offences, we may assume that they were thereafter regular in their attendance.

In 1652 Thomas and Elizabeth had a son, Thomas. On November 16, 1652 Thomas Sr., in support of Edward Godfrey who was a friend to the Smalls and the Dustins, signed the “Submission” of the citizens of Kittery to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. By this time Ferdinando Gorges the Lord Proprietor of Maine had lost interest and so had the King of England so Godfrey had become convinced that it was in the best interest of Kittery to come under the administration of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Four days later Thomas was made a constable of the town of Kittery.

On June 9, 1654, by way of Edward Godfrey, he received a grant of twenty acres on the west of John White's lot in Kittery, "---- 28 X 120 rods, reaching from Crooked Lane to Spruce Creek". Godfrey was realizing the error he made in pushing for the submission to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The undeveloped 1500 acres that he was granted by Ferdinando Gorges was being challenged in court and the court was in Massachusetts and had little sympathy for grants issued by King Charles I and his agents. Civil war was raging in England. So Godfrey was granting land freely to his friends so they could occupy it.

Thomas sold his Charlestown property and used the proceeds to build a fine house on the Crooked Lane site. There he and his family lived until the summer of 1659. In the spring of 1659, Thomas lost most of an investment in an expedition to open land west of the Connecticut River. The expedition vanished without a trace. So the Dustin’s moved back into the cottage and rented the big house to Richard Downe. In January of 1660 the house mysteriously burned to the ground. When Thomas found that Downe was under the influence of John Heard he had suspicions but nothing was ever determined.

On March 2, 1660 Thomas mortgaged the Crooked Street land to John Cutt so as to obtain necessities for his family. John Cutt was a prosperous land dealer of Strawberry Bank in present day Portsmouth, NH. Thomas continued in the employ of George Walton and was making progress in paying down the mortgage when in June, 1662, he died following a fall from a tree he was pruning. On July 1, 1662, the court at York made Elizabeth the administrator of Thomas’s estate.

Elizabeth was faced with providing for herself and the children and after John Cutt demanded 10 pounds sterling for a debt he claimed Thomas owed to Nathaniel Fryer, on March 19, 1663, she deeded to John Cutt all the interest of herself and children in her late husband's property "both turffe and Twigge upon the Land" for the sum of "fourty pounds Sterlg."

Elizabeth and the children moved back to her Father’s place in Salisbury. There she was comforted in her loss by a friend of the Wheeler family from England who had settled in Haverhill, MA. Mathias Button at the age of 55 had survived three wives. He and Elizabeth married on June 9, 1663 and moved to Matthias’s place in Haverhill.

It was a fortunate marriage for Elizabeth. Matthias was a loving husband and good father to the Dustin children. He died in 1672 leaving the family well provided for. Elizabeth lived on until 1696, seeing her children married and well settled.

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