‘I was much amazed’

Elizabeth (____) Sturgis’s letter, in the Winthrop Family Papers, 1537-1990, at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Captain Daniel Patrick was a well-known and powerful figure in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of 1640. He had been a “common soldier in the Prince’s guard” in Holland, and that experience was sufficient for him to be appointed Captain of Militia in Massachusetts Bay. He commanded 40 soldiers in the Pequot War, and he and his company were notable for executing the “fighting age” Pequot male prisoners captured near present-day Ledyard, Connecticut, on 5 July 1637. Captain Patrick was clearly a formidable character.

He was also a well-known philanderer and eventually departed the colony: “For though he had a wife of his own, a good Dutch woman and comely, yet he despised her and followed after other women and perceiving that he was discovered, and that such evil courses would not be endured here, and being of a vain and unsettled disposition, he went from us… ”

One of the women who formally complained about Captain Patrick was my ancestress Elizabeth (___) Sturgis.  Circa 1641, she took the bold step of complaining to Governor John Winthrop, in writing, about the unwanted advances of Captain Patrick. “…when I lived with my master Cumines I was sent to Cap: patricks to help his wife and having busines in the seler he cam down presenlie After mee and tooke me about the midel and wold kisse mee and put his hand into my boosome at which I was much amazed by his Carage to me…”

“[He] tooke me about the midel and wold kisse mee…”

Her letter to Governor Winthrop is in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and I was recently fortunate enough to see it in person. It is remarkable not only for its boldness in documenting the assaults upon her, but also for clues it provides about her ancestry. Very little documentation exists on Elizabeth, and it has been proposed that she was Elizabeth Hinckley, daughter of Thomas and Ann Hinckley, who came to Scituate with her uncle Samuel Hinckley and his family in 1636.[1]

In Elizabeth’s letter to Governor Winthrop, it is clearly implied that her father was a resident of Watertown, both before and after her marriage. In his Great Migration sketch of Edward Sturgis, Robert Charles Anderson points out that “Examination of Watertown families for an unplaced Elizabeth born around 1620 might lead to her identification.” Following Bob’s lead, I am currently working on this prospect, and I’m currently focusing on the daughters of George Munnings and Richard Kimball as candidates for Elizabeth (____) Sturgis.


[1] Roger Faxton Sturgis, ed., Edward Sturgis of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, 1613-1695, and his descendants (Boston: Printed for private circulation at the Stanhope Press, 1914). N.B.: Online versions exist for this book at Hathi Trust and Google Books, but both only contain the first ten pages.

About Sam Sturgis

Sam was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and worked as a Human Factors researcher in automotive safety for 13 years. He entered the field of commercial software development in 1983 and acted as software developer and development manager at Wang Laboratories and The Foxboro Company. Sam joined the NEHGS staff in 2005. Sam's interest in genealogy began shortly after moving to Massachusetts, when he and his family chanced upon the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, during a vacation on Cape Cod. There he discovered that he is a descendent of the Sturgis family that settled on Cape Cod in the 1630's. Sam and his wife Gail live in Medway, Massachusetts. They have two grown children: Katie, a Registered Nurse in Wrentham, and David, a software developer in Somerville.

15 thoughts on “‘I was much amazed’

  1. Capt. Daniel Patrick … that name sounded familiar to me as I read this blog here in Greenwich, Connecticut. After he was kicked out of the Mass Bay Colony, Patrick wound up in Greenwich, which was in the Dutch territory at the time. In 1640, he negotiated at deal with Robert Feake and his wife, Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake (later Hallett), and the local Native Americans for land that became Greenwich. Elizabeth was first married to Henry Winthrop, son of Gov. John Winthrop.

    Capt. Patrick was known as an aggressive man and Indian fighter. According to a February 21, 2015 article in the Greenwich Time by Robert Marchant, “A local Indian chief, Mayano, who may have been among the sachems who greeted Daniel Patrick and the other settlers in 1640, attacked three armed European men in 1643 in what is now Riverside. Some sources say he was attacking Patrick. Mayano was cut down and killed. His head was brought to the fortress at New Amsterdam, lower Manhattan, to demonstrate the breadth of the Indian attacks. Patrick also came to a violent end in 1643. When a raid on an Indian encampment proved unsuccessful, based on his directions, he was taunted by soldiers from the detachment. Responding in his typically aggressive fashion — spitting in the face of his antagonist — he was promptly shot dead by the Dutch soldier, in the head.”

  2. Much to my surpise, there were far fewer residents of locales than we might have imagined. Thus many, if not most pockets of people in such locales intermarried with each other, not unlike current pockets of immigrants do.
    I’ve found that many early genealogical problems stem from 2nd or 3rd marriages that are improperly excluded in societies based upon male inclusion alone.
    It is a strong case for follow through in ancestor research where those relatives often show up in wills, estates, that create continuity problems, unnecessarily.

    To me, ancestry research is more genes recognizing other genes for future biomedical research, and cures, already being adopted in some cases to offer innovation in ordinary medicine. Love progressive medicine that can heal easily without aggressive surgery, etc.

  3. Elizabeth (____) Sturgis was my 8th great-grandmother. Thank you for posting her amazing letter. I have neglected this family because I found that Sturgis book years ago at the Sturgis Library, one of my favorite places and assumed that it was correct and so went on to solve other genealogical problems. I never took the time to carefully read the Great Migration sketch on Edward Sturgis which contains excerpts of the letter. In reading it now I see the clues you suggest to Watertown or perhaps a neighboring town. Elizabeth writes “…3ly sometime after I being married upon some occasion coming into the Bay to my father’s I going to Watertown to the lecture…” Searching through Bond’s Watertown Estates I found only the two men you mentioned who had a daughter Elizabeth of the correct age, but Richard Kimball moved to Ipswich in 1637 and did not return and Ipswich is not a neighboring town so this is not a likely candidate.

    1. Elizabeth was also my 8th g-grandmother! I agree that Richard Kimball is the less likely of the two men to be the father of “our” Elizabeth. I like George Munnings for several reasons, none of which are conclusive. (1) Munnings owned property abutting Daniel Patrick in Watertown, making it likely that he would encounter the Munnings family regularly. (2) Munnings lost an eye in the expedition to Block Island in 1636, I believe under the command of Daniel Patrick, adding to the Patrick connection. (3) Best of all, on 6 June 1637, “George Munnings was fined 20s for selling beer and keeping a house of entertainment without license.” On 15 November 1637, “Munings, of Watertowne, is put down from keeping an ordinary, or house of entertainment, and is referred to Watertowne to choose another.” As students of Edward Sturgis know, Edward and his sons operated an ordinary in Yarmouth for many years. I’m betting that Edward Sturgis was involved in the sale/distribution of beer, wine, and “strong water” and met Munnings in that regard. No evidence for that, but it does make a good story.

      1. One other factor in the evaluation of George Munnings as the possible father of Elizabeth is the fact that he was from Rattlesden, Suffolk, England which is only 12 miles from Groton, Suffolk where the Winthrop family came from. There may have been a previous connection between the families that encouraged Elizabeth to write the letter.

        1. Of course Richard Kimball was also from Rattlesden and came on the same ship. In the Register 57:33 there is a discussion of immigrants from Rattlesden. It includes a mention of Rev. Humphrey Munnings and his wife Elizabeth Winthrop whose father William was the cousin of John. There is no proven connection between Humphrey Munnings and George’s father Thomas Munnings. but this is an interesting connection between the Munnings and Winthrop families.

          1. Very interesting! It would also be a good idea to take a similar look into the backgrounds of Isaac Cummings (“my master Cumines” from the letter to WInthrop) and Thomas Carter, elder of the Watertown church and later minister in Woburn. Carter was presumably the “master Carter” in the letter who spoke to Capt. Patrick about the assault. Carter may have also have transcribed the letter for Elizabeth, who was probably not literate.

  4. Thank you for sharing that additional information. It does appear that there are reasons to look closely at George Munnings. Too bad the name George was not used in the family.

    1. Thoughts:

      It would appear that the sale of property by George Munnings to John Sherman and then that property went to John Sawin was really a mortgage. George does not mention either daughter in his will. It is known that Abigail married John Sawin and he got George’s land in Watertown. He might have previously given money to Elizabeth’s husband.

      It is interesting that in Elizabeth Sturgis’s statement her father is not mentioned by name. It appears that she assumes that he would be known to the reader.

      George Munnings must have had some connections. In 1641 he was appointed to look to the (Watertown) meeting house and to be free from rates. 6 May 1646 he was paid 5 pounds per annum for his service in the place of a keeper of the prison to which he was chosen over and above the appointed fees.

      Reg. 33:229 George Munnings named one of the executors of Robert Saltonstall’s will and left a gray cloak, boots, stockings. What was their connection?

      There is very little information about Isaac Cummins. He does not stay in Watertown long and goes to Ipswich where Richard Kimball settled.

      Thomas Carters are hard to sort.

      1. With the new year I decided to tackle this Sturgis problem again. This time I looked for any links between the Sturgis family and the Sawin family. I have not completed this search but I did find one link. In 1681 Munings Sawin married Sarah Stone, born 1 Oct, 1663 the daughter of Dea. John Stone (Simon). Temperance Sturgis (Edward, Edward, Edward) married Heman Stone. (Nathaniel, Simon, Simon). Nathaniel Stone originally from Watertown (class of Harvard 1690) moved to Harwich and was minister there. (Register 53:345-346). Sarah Stone and Nathaniel Stone were first cousins. Family links are found frequently in marriages.

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