Friday, January 17, 2014

52 Ancestors - Week 3: Francis Plummer

I love that years and years later, the mundane events of life become fascinating reading to others.   I also love seeing some of the practices, laws and norms that existed in the past.....

Which brings me to my 10x great grandfather - Francis Plummer.   He did nothing that appears in history books, yet led a very interesting life.  At least to me - reading about it almost 400 years later!   I am fortunate in that because he was an original settler of Newbury, Massachusetts - there are many mentions of him in the historical records of the town.   In addition, Massachusetts has kept vital records since the 1600's so we are able to view things like land transactions and wills over 400 years later.

Francis and his wife, Ruth came from England in to New England in about 1634.   With him was at least 3 of his children.    There is apparently some controversy as to where, specifically, he came from in England - so I'll just leave it as - England.   He was a linen tailor or lynnen weaver.

He arrived in Ipswich, Massachusetts and spent the summer there.  In fall, along with several others of the company he arrived with, he moved a few miles north and helped settle what is now Newbury, Massachusetts.

The founders of Newbury drew up a plan for the settlement and allocated sections of land to each of the settlers.  The lots varied from 1/2 acres - along the square in the interior of the settlement, to 4 acre sections along the streets.  Francis selected a larger plot - along Merrimack Street.   Later, founders were allowed additional land, and Frances was able to acquire the 2 adjoining plots to his land and his homestead consisted of 12 acres.  In the years to come, Frances acquired more and more land.

In 1635 he was selected by the townspeople to become the innkeeper.   It appears he held this position for only 2 years, as town records show John Knight appointed as innkeeper in 1637.  Innkeepers were an important designation in early American history and only prominent citizens were allowed to become innkeepers.  You can read more about the role of an innkeeper here.

Francis was primarily a farmer, but was likely still doing some weaving for the community.   His homestead would have been like living in the wilderness at that time.

Other events recorded for this Francis Plummer's life:
  • In 1637 - he was fined 10 shillings for "defect of fences" and that amount was added to his taxes.
  • In April 1638 he was fined 2 shillings and sixpence for failing to attend a town meeting.
  • In 1642 he is listed as having 5 shares in the ox and cow commons.
  • In 1647, his wife Ruth died.
  • In 1649 he married Ann Palmer, the widow of William Palmer.
  • He served on the grand jury for The Quarterly Court - at Ipswich in 1646, 1653, 1654 and 1658.
  • In 1653 he became involved in a civic matter involving his former neighbor Robert Pike.   Mr. Pike was a magistrate and had served as a member of the general court.    Mr. Pike criticized the general court regarding intolerance in religious worship.  He was convicted - I'm not sure of what - and his sentence prohibited him from holding any public office in both the town and commonwealth, and prohibited him from pleading any case before the court - except his own.  He was also fined 20 marks.
Members of the community were not happy about this turn of events and began circulating petitions demanding the revocation of the sentence against Mr. Pike.   Frances Plummer, and  2 of his sons, Samuel and Joseph, signed the petitions.  The court was not amused, and convened a commission of 6 people to investigate those that had the audacity to sign a petition and their reasons.  Of those that signed the petition, the commission referred 15 to the court.  One of those was Francis Plummer.  The 15 were referred to the court for either failing to provide a reason for signing the petition, or for "asserting their rights to petition whenever they saw fit, denying the right of any person or body of persons to interfere."  (Quote from The Plummer Genealogy by Sidney Perley).  The trial of these men never happened.
Petitions are common in this day and age - but taking this stand in the 1600's was unusual!   This was not the end of Mr. Plummer getting involved and speaking up in civic affairs  Francis and his sons were involved in a dispute involving their pastor in 1679/1680 as well.

  • In 1659, Francis Plummer's military obligations were waived, provided he pay 8 shillings per year to support the use of the military company.
  • In 1662, his son Samuel represented him in a civil suit in which he prevailed, against Richard Dole for cutting and removing hedging from his property.
  • In Mary 1663 he was selected to be a Fence Viewer for his section of the town.  I had never heard of a Fence Viewer before I started looking into family history.  If you are not sure what this public office entails - here is a link.    In short - Fence Viewers were city officials who enforced the fence laws of a community, inspected fences, and settled disputes.
  • In October 1665 his second wife died, and 43 days later he married another widow - Beatrice.   She is described as being "a disagreeable woman", yet he defended her - saying that "if he had sought all ye world over he could not have found a better wife.".  (Quote from The Plummer Genealogy by Sidney Perley )

Francis died on January 17, 1672.   The final listing of his assets  is preserved, so we can see what possessions he had.   It is interesting to me - the things that are part of daily life - that become part of settling his estate.   In the list of his the list of his final assets include things like:  A featherbed, 2 pillows, a coverlet and and blanket from the parlor.  a table and onboard in the hall, 2 pairs of gloves, an Iron Kettle and pot, 2 pounds of feathers, 4 pounds of flaxen yarn, a grind stone, 4 flitches and a half of bacon, quarter of a barrel of pork, 28 pounds of cheese, and 3 pounds of butter.

Images of Francis Plummer's final assets below:


  • The Plummer Genealogy, by Sidney Perley, 1917.  link


  1. I'm also related to Francis Plummer and loved this post. Where is the innkeeper stone located? I'm hoping to travel to Newburyport soon and would like to find it. Lots of fascinating stuff here. Thanks for posting this.

  2. thank you Michelle!! Beautifully done!!!
    He is my 9th great grandfather on my father's side.

  3. Robert PIke was my 9th gr-grandfather. See and

  4. Thank you Michelle! My ancestor, too