While much attention has been paid to the life and times of Governor John Endecott (1588-1665), not much has been researched and published on his second wife, Elizabeth Cogan (1607-1676), an omission this essay attempts to rectify. Here is a quick listing of her lineage that I have been able to trace through wills, essays, and through internet sources:
In summary, Elizabeth Cogan came from a wealthy old merchant family of Puritans that lived in Chard, Somerset, which was a hotbed of Puritanism. She and her sister Mary would move to the Massachusetts Bay Colony where she promptly married another ardent Puritan, Governor John Endecott.
The Cogan family line in Chard, Somerset goes back to at least 1383. From that point forward, the surviving wills make it evident that the family were merchants and quite well-to-do even before 1485, which was the date of of the Battle of Bosworth Field - the event that marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. (This date is the conventional dividing line between the Medieval and the Early Modern period in British history.) In a will dated 6 March 1468 and probated in 1474, John de Cogan (1398-1474) states, “To Robert Cobald, merchant of London and my daughter, his wife, 40 pounds ($27,431 in 2020 dollars): to son Thomas Cogan, 40 pounds ($27,431), a standing gilt cup, and a furred gown; to son William Cogan, 20 pounds ($13,715) and a furred gown.” He also left significant sums to his servants such as “—to servant Phillip, 5 pounds ($3,428) and one of my gowns.”
The family continued living in Chard through many generations, including John de Cogan’s son, Thomas (1428-1489); his grandson, William (1460-1494); his great grandson, Nicholas (1489-1545); his great, great grandson Thomas (1530-1580); and finally to his great, great, great grandson Philobert Cogan (1563-1641) the father of Elizabeth Cogan. Thomas Cogan, 1530-1580
Thomas Cogan was born in Chard, Somerset in 1530 and died in London on 8 November 1580. He is buried at St. Martin of the Fields Church in London. He was married twice but nothing is known about his first wife and there is no record that indicates they had children together. His second wife was Elizabeth Fisher (1638-1680), daughter of Edward Fisher (1504-1572) and Elizabeth Todd (1506-1565). Elizabeth Todd was born in St. Oswald’s Elvet in County Durham which is in the extreme Northeast part of England near the Scottish border, and over 300 miles North of Chard. After Thomas Cogan and Elizabeth Fisher married in circa 1558, they had four children including Thomas (1559); Robert (1561); Philobert (1563); and Margaret (1565).
Thomas Cogan (1530-1580) was born into wealth, and this is demonstrated in surviving documents. By the time that he was 20 years old in 1550, he bought half of a burgage in Bowtell Street in the town of Mountague which is some 30 miles northeast of Chard. A burgage was an old name for a town rental property, which usually consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land with a narrow street frontage. He must have made the move to the village because on 26 October 1551, “Thomas Cogan of Mountague, merchant, gave a statute merchant bond for 400 pounds to a Thomas Champneys.” A merchant bond was a record acknowledging a debt between two traders that had been witnessed by the mayor. The modern-day value of 400 pounds in 1551 is $194,759. Thomas Cogan also sold “a fourth part of the manor of Ivelton; and lands in Ivelton; Somerton; Wullavyngton; and Ivelchester.” Fourteen months later, on 14 January 1553/4, the will of William Hodges of Ivelchester showed that “Thomas Cogan of Mountague as a heavy debtor.” In yet another will, this one for John Sydenham, Knight, dated 8 April 1557, he discusses “lands in the Borough of Chards” which he had recently purchased from Thomas Cogan of Mountague.
These finds demonstrate that Thomas Cogan was a very active merchant who made his living as a middleman, coordinating the buying and selling of goods. This could have very well included the wool trade which was an important economic staple of Somerset. He also bought and sold houses, manors, and land during very dangerous times in England. After only 19 years of the establishment of the Protestant Church of England in 1533, Queen Mary, the oldest daughter of King Henry VIII and an avowed Roman Catholic, took the throne in 1553. Over the next five years of her short reign, she attempted to restore the Catholic religion to England and over 300 Protestant leaders were burned at the stake. Calvinists and Puritans who had fled England prepared the first edition of the Geneva Bible. With the ascension of a Protestant Elizabeth I, the Church of England was once more restored but the Genie had escaped the bottle, and with it, the rise of Puritanism had begun.
Thomas Cogan survived and prospered. In his will, dated 31 October 1580 and probated 17 days later on 16 November 1580, he is described as a wealthy man with many assets. He left his brother, Robert Cogan, “— 4 pounds per annum out of leases.” Four pounds in 1580 was $1,623 in today’s money. He went on to say that if his son, Robert, “—discharged his debts and lived civilly and orderly, then he was to have 100 pounds paid by his executors.” Robert Cogan was the second son, born 1561, and was 19 years old at the time of his father’s death and 100 pounds then was worth $40,575 today. His father’s words sound like someone describing a troubled teenager and Robert probably never received the 100 pounds. He was dead at the age of 22. To his eldest son, Thomas Cogan, born in 1559, and to his third son, Philobert Cogan, born in 1563, Thomas Cogan left “— all other leases divided equally. Deeds are to remain in a locked chest with two keys and locks, each of them to have one key.” To his daughter and youngest child, Margaret Cogan Sellwoods, wife of Philobert Sellwoods, he left 24 pounds per annum which is $9,738 today. Margaret was 15 years old in 1580 and already a married woman. She was dead at the age of 18, three years later. Thomas Cogan also left generous amounts to others including Henry Lopus of Chagford in Devon who received 120 pounds which equates to $48,670 in today’s money.
This brings us to the life of Philobert Cogan (1563-1641), the third son of Thomas Cogan (1530-1580) and Elizabeth Fisher (1538-1580). While we know that his father was active in buying and selling houses, manors, and land in a 30 mile radius of Chard, Philobert retained the home in Chard where the family had lived for over 200 years. The emergence of Puritanism took root in Somerset in the late 1500s and grew to be a powerful force in the first half of the 1600s. Distribution of Puritans, however, was very uneven across England. They were more likely found in London, Essex, Sussex, and East Anglia in the South and East and in the west counties of Somerset, Dorset, and Devon.
In Somerset, the Puritans were centered at Taunton which is a mere 14 miles North of Chard. It was marked by a heady mixture of Puritanism and the volatile wool trade. This town would come to known as “the most revolutionary town in the country.” This persisted for the remainder of the 17th Century through the exit of many from Somerset to the Massachusetts Bay from 1628-1640; the English Civil War (1643-1649); the Commonwealth of England (1649-1660); and the Restoration of the Kingdom in 1661 and thereafter. The town was even in open rebellion against the government in 1685 and again in 1688 with dire consequences.
Philobert Cogan and his wife, Ann Marshall were married in 1602, probably at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Chard, Somerset. Originally built in the 11th Century as a Roman Catholic Church, it was rebuilt in the 15th Century. By the early 1600s it was an Anglican Church, part of the Protestant Church of England. Many of the Rectors and congregants in many of these churches were actually Puritan. Although there are no supporting records that Philobert Cogan had an earlier marriage, he was already 39 years old when he married Ann Marshall who was 26 years old. Together they had seven children including one boy and six girls. Here, the focus of this essay will be on two of the sisters who found their way to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and their own spot in history.
Mary Cogan was born in 1604. She grew up in Chard, Somerset and married Roger Ludlow at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on 18 December 1624. Roger Ludlow (1590-1664) was born in Dinton, Wiltshire. He was the second son of Sir Thomas Ludlow (1555-25 November 1607) of Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire and his wife Jane Pyle (1560-6 July 1650), sister of Sir Gabriel Pyle. They had five children including four boys and one girl. Roger Ludlow was the third child. Dinton, Wiltshire is just 54 miles East of Chard. Roger Ludlow was a very well educated man having matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford in 1610 and being admitted to the Honorable Society of the Inner Temple in 1612 where he studied law. Roger was already an active Puritan and at some point came in contact with John Endecott (1588-1665) who was also ascending the ladder of leadership in the Puritan movement as he embraced the Puritan Presbyterian doctrine seeking reform within the Established Church of England rather than separating from it. This was the philosophy of Reverend John White (1574-1648), christened in Stanton, St. Johns in Oxford shire on 6 January 1574/5; was a Fellow of New College, Oxford; and studied for the priesthood at the Wykeman’s School. He would become the Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Dorchester in 1605. Later, he would champion the selection of John Endecott to lead the Puritans to the Massachusetts Bay. It was also the philosophy of Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) who attended Trinity College, Cambridge from 1567-1570 and was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1572. He, too, would come to know two of the future Puritan leaders in the colonies, John Endecott and Roger Williams (1603-1683). While Edward Coke never came to the colonies himself, it’s known that he was associated with the two men and probably helped shape their philosophy on governance.
Two years after Governor John Endecott made landfall in the Massachusetts Bay, Roger Ludlow and Mary Cogan arrived with the Great Migration fleet aboard the “Mary and John” on 30 May 1630, two weeks ahead of the main fleet under John Winthrop (1588-1649). They brought with them 140 Puritan immigrants including Mary’s sister, Elizabeth Cogan, a widow, who would write her own history in the colony in the years to come. There is very little information on the children of Roger and Mary and none appear on the passenger list of the “Mary and John.” There may have been as many as seven or as few as one. Their only daughter, Sarah Ludlow, was born in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1639; grew up and married the Puritan minister Nathaniel Brewster in 1654; and died in Brookhaven, New York in 1695.
After spending seven years in the Massachusetts Bay Colony including a year as Deputy Governor in 1634-1635, Roger and Mary would depart the colony and move south where Roger became the founding father of the Colony of Connecticut. Over the next decade, Roger served as Lieutenant Governor three times. Then Roger tired of colonial life and he and Mary returned to England. In 1668, he was appointed Master of Chancery in Ireland. Mary died there on 3 June 1664 just a short time before the death of her husband. Records of his death no longer exist. Mary had been a wife of an important Puritan leader and explorer; a mother; a co-founder and early resident of the new colony of Connecticut; and a witness to new ways of thinking and organizing life that would weave its way into the soul of a new nation yet to come.
Elizabeth Cogan was born at the family home in Chard, Somerset in 1607. There was an early marriage to a man named Gibson. This name is of Scottish origin. It is not a name that was frequently found in Somerset during the early 17th Century. The only first name proposed for this individual was Nathaniel but this is highly speculative and that mystery continues. In any case, Mr. Gibson appears to have died in the late 1620s and Elizabeth became the widow Elizabeth Cogan Gibson. There were no children born to this marriage. Soon after, Elizabeth heard from her sister Mary, that she and her husband, Roger Ludlow, were escaping the persecution against their Puritan faith in England and going to sail to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Elizabeth came to a decision to go with them. They all booked passage on the “Mary and John” and traveled to the Massachusetts Bay arriving there on 30 May 1630, two weeks before the main fleet led by John Winthrop (1588-1649). Almost immediately, Elizabeth met Governor John Endecott (1588-1665) who, himself, was a recent widower. During the hard winter of 1629-1630, his wife, believed to be Jane Francis, had died along with the majority of the small community. It was only two and a half months after they met that John Endecott and Elizabeth Cogan Gibson were married by Reverend Samuel Skelton (1592-1634) on 17 August 1630.
Now that Elizabeth Cogan Endecott was married to John Endecott, one of the most powerful leaders of the Puritan movement, she soon moved to his Orchard Farm, a 300 acre country estate just three miles Northwest of Salem on the Waters River. Today this is in the community of Danvers. John Endecott officially acquired the property on 3 July 1632 from the Court of Assistance. Here, in relatively comfortable surroundings, Elizabeth Endecott gave birth to two sons over the next five years. Her oldest sister, Mary Ludlow and her husband, Roger Ludlow, who had accompanied Elizabeth on her journey to the Massachusetts Bay, was living nearby and was probably a great comfort during her pregnancy and birthing of the two boys. Elizabeth’s first son was John Endecott, Jr. who was born at about the time Elizabeth moved to Orchard Farm in 1632. Even though Elizabeth had faced persecution in Somerset England for the Puritan faith of her fathers, she would now have to survive and raise these two small sons during the conflict between colonist and the Pequot Native American tribe that primarily was fought in Southern Massachusetts which later would become the Colony of Connecticut.
In 1634, Elizabeth’s husband, John Endecott, was one of the military commissioners for the six year old colony. At that time, each of the growing communities in the Massachusetts Bay had its own militia and there was not much coordination on how to arm, equip, and train all elements of the militia into a fighting force. John got in trouble late in the year for removing the Cross of St. George from the colony banner with his sword (see The Endicott Flag). He was admonished by the General Court and denied public office for one year. He retired to the Orchard Farm where Elizabeth once more became pregnant and produced their second son, Zerubbabel Endecott in 1635.
When John Endecott completed his year’s punishment, he returned to public service in 1635 just before the outbreak of hostilities between colonist and Indians that became known as the Pequot War. The history of this conflict is well known and does not need to be repeated here. However, the actions of Colonel John Endecott and his brother-in-law Roger Ludlow during the war in 1636 and 1637 had profound consequences for them and their families.
After the death of a trader, John Oldman, at the hands of members of the Pequot tribe, Governor Henry Vane, who had only arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in August of 1635 and became governor on 25 May 1636, ordered militia Colonel John Endecott, to take 90 men and attack the Indians living on Block Island to dissuade them from conducting any further outrages against colonists. As Endecott and his men approached the island, they were resisted at the shoreline by some 100 warriors. Over the next several days, the colonists killed up to fourteen Indians and burned their crops and villages.
Then Colonel John Endecott and his troops went to the Saybrook Fort at the mouth of the Connecticut River and enlisted their support in destroying Indian supplies. After that, Colonel Endecott and his troops returned to their homes. Meanwhile, the Pequot tribe responded by conducting more than 20 attacks on the Saybrook Fort, the first fortified settlement in New England. During a siege that lasted from September of 1636 to March of 1637, the Pequot’s managed to kill 30 soldiers and settlers.
While this was going on, Colonel John Endecott and the military commission of the Massachusetts Bay Colony reviewed the shortcomings of the militia system as it existed at the time and decided to consolidate control of the separate militia elements into three standing regiments. On 13 December 1636, the three new regiments formed for the first time with Colonel John Endecott commanding the East Regiment consisting of the militia elements from Saugus, Salem, Ipswich, and Newberry. This was the beginning of the Army National Guard.
After the end of the siege against Saybrook Fort in March of 1637, the towns of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield sent a 70 man force led by Captain George Mason and supported by Indian allies to attack a fortified Pequot village on 26 May 1647. The result was the Mystic River massacre which took the lives of 700 Pequot Indians including men, women, and children. While Roger Ludlow was not there, he took part in the decision to send the force.
The final battle of the war soon followed on 13-14 July 1637 at the Fairfield Swamp Fight. Captain Mason and his troops were once more involved. Nearly 100 Pequot warriors were killed and 180 non-combatants were captured. The survivors were forced into slavery.
During the war, Roger Ludlow had the opportunity to view the new towns and the surrounding country of what would become Connecticut which he found pleasing. A few months later, he would leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his wife Mary Cogan Ludlow and found the new colony of Connecticut. This was a move of 177 miles to the South through often hostile wilderness and the family probably traveled by ship along with all that they owned. Mary was pregnant and the couple had a daughter shortly after founding the new community of Fairfield.
Elizabeth Cogan Endecott continued to live with her husband, John Endecott at Orchard Farm and was active in raising her two sons, John Jr. and Zerubbabel Endecott. While the General Court of Massachusetts was generous with land grants to the once and future Governor, in 1640, Governor Winthrop made the observation that “cattle and all commodities grew very cheap.” Governor Winthrop also heard from Emmanuel Downing who “— reminded Governor Winthrop that he was helping out Mr. Endecott with money.” Shortly after this conversation, the General Court granted John Endecott 40 pounds for the next two years. While this was a significant sum equating to $10,166 in today’s money, the value of the pound continued to decline as the English Civil War got underway (1643-1649). In 1650, 40 pounds would only be worth $6,615 and its value would remain volatile in the decade to come.
The two sons of Elizabeth Cogan Endecott and Governor John Endecott came to very different fates. John Endecott, Jr. (1632-1667) married Elizabeth Houchin on 9 November 1653 when John was 21 years old. She was the daughter of Jeremiah Houchin. The wedding vows were probably made before a Justice of the Peace. In 1647, the Puritans had outlawed the preaching of wedding sermons because they saw marriage as a secular institution. In any case, the couple failed to have any children and after a 14 year marriage, John died in 1667, only two years after the death of his father, Governor John Endecott, on 15 March 1665.
The younger son of Elizabeth Cogan Endecott and Governor John Endecott was Zerubbabel Endecott (1635-1684). He was a surgeon, which usually meant that he had followed a healer on his rounds for some period of time and had picked up on the remedies he saw practiced. Sometimes, he came up with cures of his own. Zerubbabel married Mary Smith in 1654 and they had ten children between 1657 and 1677. Mary Smith (1630-1677) was from the family of Samuel Smith (1602) and his wife Sarah from Great Yarmouth, England, who had arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the “Elizabeth of Ipswich” on 30 April 1634. Their children included Samuel Smith, Jr. (9); Elizabeth Smith (7); Mary Smith (4) and Philip Smith (1). Almost all the Endecott and associated family lines who went on to settle the American nation trace their heritage back to Zerubbabel Endecott and Mary Smith; and then to Governor John Endecott and his wife Elizabeth Cogan Endecott.
When Mary Smith died on 20 June 1677, Zerubbabel Endecott sought another wife and soon married Elizabeth Winthrop, the widow of Reverend Antipas Newman and the daughter of Governor John Winthrop of Connecticut. He also began writing a set of remedies that he called Synopsis Medicinae, or a Compendium of Galenical and Chemical Physick showing the Art of Healing according to the Precepts of Galen and Paracelsus Fitted Universally to the Whole Art of Healing. His remedies have survived and are on display in Boston nearly three and a half centuries later.
The second marriage produced no children. When Zerubbabel Endecott died on 27 March 1684, Elizabeth became a widow again and stayed that way until her death 32 years later on 17 December 1716. Gov. John Endecott’s Estate
After the death of Governor John Endecott on 15 March 1665, his will revealed that his estate was worth about 1600 pounds or $360,431 in money today. However, while he had been wealthy in land, he was also “land poor” in that he was often without liquid assets and in debt. In the “Diary of John Hull” he commented on the death as follows,
“Our honored Governor, Mr. John Endecott, departed this life – a man of pious and zealous spirit, who had faithfully endeavored the suppression of a pestilent generation, the troublers of our peace, civil and ecclesiastical, called Quakers. He died poor as most of our rulers do, having more attended the public than their own private interests. It is our shame, though we are indeed a poor people, yet might better maintain our rulers than we do. However, they have a good God to reward them.”
This indicates that a significant portion of the 1600 pounds that measured the worth of his estate was used to pay off his debts.
In May of 1671, six years after the death of Governor Endecott, the General Court “being informed that the widow of the late honored Governor, Mr. John Endecott, Esquire, is reduced to a very low condition which is not honorable for this Court, do therefore order that the thirty pounds per annum by this Court allowed to her, being expired, shall and is hereby anew granted to her during her widowhood.” Elizabeth Cogan Endecott lived on until 1676 and is believed buried in the Granary Cemetery in Boston, not far from her husband. Her legacy lives on in the lives of her thousands of descendants throughout America and across the world.