Gilbert in the Swamp - By Teddy H. Sanford, (c) 17 June 2020

Readers of this essay may be surprised to learn that there was more than one Endecott family who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s. The first was that of Governor John Endecott (1588-1665) who lead the Puritan Migration out of England in 1628 and became one of the founding fathers of New England. The second family were three brothers from Marldon in Devonshire who arrived more than forty years later. Their stories and experiences were quite different from those of the Governor’s family but they succeeded in shaping their own lives and those of their descendants, who have blended into the American fabric and are still with us to this day.

The Father of Us All

Thomas Endecott (1566-1621), who I believe was the father of Governor John Endecott (1588-1665), married twice and had children resulting from both marriages. His first son, John Endecott, the future governor, was born in 1588 on one of the family estates near Chagford. His mother did not survive and he was raised by his father Thomas along with his great uncle William Endecott (1543-1630) and his wife Anne Ellis. Although John Endecott had no siblings of his own, his great uncle

William and Anne Ellis soon had two children of their own – Jane Endecott in 1590 and Henry Endecott in 1591. The three children were brought up together at Middlecott Manor near Chagford as siblings.

The Second Marriage of Thomas Endecott

By the year 1610, the future governor, John Endecott, was 22 years old and had left home to pursue climbing the leadership ladder of the Puritan movement in England. His cousin, Jane Endecott, became the wife of John Currie in 1611 at the age of 21. The same year, the future governor’s cousin, Henry Endecott, married a girl named Hellmet at St. Andrews Parish Church in Stoke-in-Teignhead and the couple’s only daughter, Judith, was christened there on 24 December 1612. Among those attending the wedding was Thomas Endecott, and it is likely that this was when he met Alice Blackaller Andrews (1573-1643), a local widow. She and Thomas were married at St. Andrews the following summer on 17 July 1612. She brought to the marriage six children and a stepson. Over the next four years, Thomas and Alice had two children of their own. The first was Margaret Endecott (1613-1637) and the second was another John Endecott (1616-1683). The two half-brothers, Governor John Endecott (1588) and John Endecott (1616), would go on to very different lives.

We definitively know that John Endecott (1616-1683) was born and brought up in Stoke-in-Teignhead in Eastern Devon. His father, Thomas Endecott, died there in 1621 when he was just five years old. His mother was not without means and raised the boy as well as some of her own children including Walter, age 15, and Thomas, age 12. All of her other children were adults tending to their own lives.

Lawsuit against His Grandfather’s Estate

In 1636, John Endecott (1616) made a court filing against the estate of his grandfather, John Endecott (1541-1635), claiming that he was the rightful heir since his father, Thomas Endecott, who had died 15 years before, was the oldest son of the grandfather and therefore, rightful heir before his death. He also claimed that his father’s second oldest brother, Robert, along with the wife and widow of his grandfather, Johana, and their friend, Henry Hooper had taken deeds and improperly influenced the grandfather in his old age. The Chancery Proceeding did not take place until 25 November 1638. John Endecott (1616) did not appear. His claims were rejected, and the court affirmed the will.

At one time, historians such as Sir Roper Lethbridge believed that Governor John Endecott (1588-1665) was the one suing his grandfather’s estate, and that the rejection by the court was evidence that the governor had been disinherited and that is why he left for the New World. This was not the case at all. In 1636, the Governor was leading the initial attacks against the Pequot Indians on Block Island, and was commanding the newly formed East Regiment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia during the Pequot War in New England. My personal belief is that Governor John had already received his inheritance from his grandfather in the form of money for the purchase of the patent for the Massachusetts Bay. After that, the grandfather’s will was modified to eliminate any reference to the governor and to distribute the bulk of the estate to his uncles who, in fact, did acquire most of it.

Founding a New Family Line

John Endecott (1616) is an important link to our understanding of Endecott history in that he founded a completely separate line of the family that would find its way to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

John Endecott (1616-1683), at some point later, moved from Stoke-in-Teignhead to nearby Marldon, where he married Julian Peter (1610-1679) at St. John the Baptist Parish Church on 26 January 1640. The scribes in this parish church variously wrote the Endecott name as Indecott, Andecott, and Indecot in the parish register. On the headstones of the couple the names are written as John Andecott, died on 24 February 1683 and Julian Indecott, died on 12 April 1679.

John and Julian Indecott had four children. The three sons of the couple were John Indecott (7 Aug 1642-1711) who died in Boston, Mass.; Gilbert Indecott (12 Oct 1648-18 Oct 1716) who died in Canton, Mass.; and William Indecott (1 Feb 1658-1709) who died in Canton but is buried in Boston, Mass. There also was a sister Anne born on 9 Feb 1645, but there is no additional information on her.

There is no definitive information on when the three boys may have left England, but given the birthdate of 1 February 1658 for the youngest, William, they probably did not arrive in the Massachusetts Bay until about 1672 when William would have been 14. This date also corresponds to the period when most of the emigrants coming from England were loyal members of the Church of England. This included the Indecott brothers, and here is what we know of them in the New World.

The eldest son, John Indecott, owned an inn in Boston and was also a cooper, a maker of barrels. He first married Elizabeth in 1669, probably in England, and they had six children including Elizabeth (b. 17 December 1670); Ann (b. 7 October 1674); Thomas (b. 21 February 1677); Sarah (b. 15 March 1679); John (b. 2 April 1686; d. 8 August 1694); and Joseph (b. 1 November 1687). After the death of his wife, Elizabeth, he married for a second time to Mary Talbot (b. 1655; d. 1718). There were no children from this marriage. Later in life, he became the Junior Warden of Kings Chapel in Boston in 1698-1699 and the next year, 1699-1700, was the Senior Warden of Kings Chapel. When he died in 1711, he was buried at King’s Chapel as John Indecott.

The youngest son, William Indecott, initially moved to Boston and probably worked for his older brother. Later, he moved to the Canton area, married a girl named Elizabeth, and had three children of his own including William (b. 25 September 1686); Elizabeth (b. 26 July 1690); and John (b. 23 December 1693). The skills he learned from his older brother came with him and he became an innkeeper. When he died in 1709, his body was brought from Canton to Boston and he is buried at King’s Chapel. His older brother, John, would be buried next to him two years later.

The middle son, Gilbert Indecott, was more adventurous than his brothers, and his life reflects the difficulty and danger that faced all the early immigrants to the New World. No better example of this are the trying times of the major conflict known as King Philip’s War of 1675-1676.

Gilbert Indecott and King Philip’s War

King Philip’s War, fought in 1675-1676, is considered by many scholars to be the deadliest war in the history of European settlement in North America, in proportion to the total population. Among the colonists, 8 percent of adult males were killed. Of the 90 towns existing in New England at that time, 25 were attacked and pillaged and 17 were burnt to the ground. On the Native American side of the conflict, out of a prewar population estimate of 20,000, the Indians lost 2,000 warriors dead in the fighting; 3,000 died from disease or starvation; 1,000 were shipped out of New England as slaves, and additional thousands fled to Canada or the West. Most of the tribes never recovered.

King Phillip was the name the colonists gave to the Indian Chief Metacom, who was the Grand Sachem of the Pokanokets and the Wampanoags. The outbreak of hostilities was on 24 June 1675 when warriors killed 10 settlers.

As more attacks occurred over the next six months, colonial militias and native Indians raiding parties engaged in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, leaving burned colonial towns and Indian villages and resulted in hundreds of deaths. To some extent, Metacom was achieving some success at bringing more tribes into the conflict, but the colonists were determined that this should not occur with the still powerful Narragansett tribe, which to this point had remained neutral. The colonists were, however, receiving reports of Narragansett Indians being part of some Indian raids. As a result, the united colonies of Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, and Plymouth gathered their militias together. This comprised a force of about 1,000 men and also including 150 Pequot and Mohegan Indians, who acted as guides and scouts.

Gilbert Indecott and the Great Swamp Fight

Gilbert Indecott was a soldier in the 2nd Infantry Company under Captain Samuel Mosely, one of seven companies in the regiment provided by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On 8 December 1675, under the command of General Joshua Winslow, the Governor of Plymouth Colony, the force marched south and west into Rhode Island territory with the intent of taking the Narragansett out of the war.

Fighting a war in the midst of a New England winter is not a prospect to look forward to. Marching through blizzard conditions for several days, scouts were reporting that the Narragansett tribe was occupying a large palisade in the middle of the swamp. The weather, however, had frozen the swamp, making it far easier to cross to close on the palisade. When they reached their attack positions, the militia had to endure a brutal night sleeping in the open with no tents, no winter gear, and very little food.

In the dark of the early morning hours of 19 December 1675, the attack against the palisade began. There was three feet of snow on the ground, and the militia engaged with pickets as they advanced. As faint light appeared in the early morning mist, they saw the fort for the first time. It was situated on an island about five acres in size and was constructed from tree trunks and strengthened by a 16 foot thick brush and clay barrier. There were watch towers, and the entire construction was surrounded by a moat. Entrance to the fort was across several large tree trunks spanning the moat. As both sides began firing, one of the militia companies tried to cross one of the tree trunk bridges but was thrown back, and at least one of the company officers was killed.

Major Samuel Appleton, who commanded the Massachusetts Bay Colony Regiment of six infantry companies and one cavalry troop, along with Captain James Oliver, commander of the regiments 3rd Infantry Company, formed their commands into attack columns, narrow front and long column, and charged across the tree trunk bridges. Before long, nearly 400 Englishmen were within the fort. After three hours of fighting, the surviving Indians were over the walls and into the swamp. It was a very costly battle. Of the 13 infantry companies, 1 cavalry troop, and 1 company of Indian scouts, there were 8 dead infantry company commanders along with 70 of their men.

The Capture of a Traitor

Captain James Oliver also captured a white man at the Narragansett fort. He was Joshua Tefft and he fought against the united colonies militia. He managed to kill Captain Nathaniel Seeley, commander of the 3rd Infantry Company of the Connecticut Colony Regiment under Major Roger Trent. An Indian source also said that Tefft brought with him a scalp upon arrival at the fort, supposedly from a miller killed by him. It was also reported that “he did them good service and killed and wounded five or six English in the fight.”

The Execution of Joshua Tefft

Joshua Tefft was extradited to Wickford in Rhode Island in custody of General Josiah Winslow, the Governor of Plymouth Colony on 16 January 1676. He was executed for High Treason two days later. He is the only person executed for High Treason in New England history.

This type of execution had been performed as early as King Henry III (1216-1272) but became a statutory penalty after the Treason Act of 1351.

The convicted traitor was fastened to a wooden panel and drawn by horses to the place of execution. He was hanged almost to the point of death, emasculated, disemboweled, beheaded, and quartered. Major William Bradford of Plymouth, the commander of the Plymouth Regiment during the Great Swamp Fight and who also suffered wounds simply said, “The Englishman that was taken had his doom yesterday, to be hanged and quartered, which was done effectually.” This method of execution was not abolished in England until 1870. It had lasted as a law for a total of 519 years.

Gilbert Indecott after the War

Once the war was over, Gilbert Indecott moved north into what is now the state of Maine. He married Hannah Gooch (1673) on 28 April 1686 when she was 13 years old and Gilbert was 38. They probably would have settled in Maine, but Hannah was a survivor of a family massacred by the Indians late in  King Phillip’s War in 1676 when she was just three years old.

After only two years of marriage, the next conflict began with King William’s War (1688-1697). While this was a much bigger conflict in Europe, in North America it came down to New England pitted against New France (Arcadia), which included Eastern Quebec, the Maritime Provinces, and Maine South to the Kennebec River. Much of the fighting was done by Native American tribes, with the Wabaneki Confederacy supporting France against the Iroquois Confederation, which was supporting England. The first major battle was the Siege of Pemaquid (Bristol, Maine), where the French and Indians were victorious. In months to come, the fighting drifted down the coast, with Indian raids against Falmouth all the way down to current day Havenhill, Massachusetts. In the fall of 1689, two families were massacred during a raid at Kennebunk. This was too close for comfort for Gilbert and Hannah, with their respective backgrounds from the King Philip’s War, and they departed Maine.

Back in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1690, they soon had two sons. John, the oldest, has disappeared from history, but their second son, James Indecott (10 March 1696-21 October 1767) was born in Reading and came to Canton in 1700. He would stay there for the rest of his life. James Indecott married Esther Clapp on 26 November 1723 in nearly Milton, Massachusetts. They had one son, another James Indecott. After Esther died, James married for a second time to Hannah Tilden from Stoughton, Massachusetts. There is no record of any children born to this marriage. When James Indecott died on 21 October 1767, he was buried near his father, Gilbert Indecott and his mother, Hannah Gooch.

After settling in Canton, Massachusetts in 1700, the Indecott family was finally home to stay. Gilbert had a tavern and appears to have run it for the rest of his life. When Gilbert died on 18 October 1716, he was the first person buried at the Canton Corner Cemetery, where his tombstone still stands and can be easily read. On it, his name is spelled Gilburt Indicott. He was a remarkable man living in desperate times, and he produced a family that has grown and spread over the centuries since. He certainly is a man of whom his family can be proud.