About Edward Converse, Deacon
From all that has been ascertained respecting the religious character of Edward Converse, we readily infer that he was a man of strongly marked idiosyncrasies. Prompt, clear-headed, devout, conscientious, outspoken and unflinching, and yet prudent, self-contained, and uniform, are the adjectives that best describe his whole career. A single curious incident, mentioned by Johnson in his Wonder-Working Providence, well illustrates a trait which often seem to manifest itself. It occurred more than twenty years after his removal from Charlestown to Woburn, and only about three months before his death. "In May, 1663, Isaac Cole, constable, and Edward Converse, one of Capt. Johnson' associates in the board of selectmen at Woburn, were arraigned; the former for refusing to take and publish the King's letter, and the latter for having spoken of it as Popery. The Court, after haring, discharged Converse, on the ground that his language did not reflect on his Majesty's letter. This account assumes the Converse did speak of the king's letter as popery, but in language so carefully guarded that even papal servants of the king could not easily make out a case again him.
"But though the good old father of the town came forth from his arrest by the officers of the king unscathed and apparently untroubled, there was one passage in his busy life as a citizen which seems have seriously disturbed him, and which resulted in an arbitration between him and one of his neighbors. The erection and operation of his mill on the Abajona River so overflowed the adjacent meadow of Robert Hale as to be an insuperable obstacle in the way of the latter's improvement of his own land. This naturally led to complain and difficulty. But at length an honorable arbitration seems to have happily ended the controversy in a very fair and Christian way."
Deacon Edward CONVERS (I) came to [the colony of] Massachusetts in the ship "Lion" with WINTHROP, in 1630, and settled in Charlestown, where he was one of the selectmen and established the first ferry to Boston, which he donated for the support of Harvard College, whose founder, John HARVARD, was his personal friend. He joined others in founding the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, and establishing the first church of Woburn, of which he was made deacon; served the town as selectman; and in 1660 was deputy to the general court.
(XVIII) Edward Convers, son of Christopher Convers or Conyers (17) was born at Wakerly, county Northampton, 1590, died in Woburn, Massachusetts August 10, 1663. He came to New England in 1630 with wife and three children, and his name is fourth on the list of thirteen inhabitants of the new town of Charlestown. All these settlers united with the First Church of Boston. He was also one of the charter members of the Charlestown Church, organized November 2, 1632. He established the first ferry at Charlestown, for which he paid a rental of forty pounds a year in 1631 and for a number of years after, until he finally surrendered his rights for the benefit of Harvard College. He was at the head of the commission of seven from Charlestown appointed by the Church to arrange for the settlement of Charlestown village, later Woburn. The church in Woburn was organized before the town and he was one of the first deacons. He was one of the most prominent citizens of Woburn as long as he lived. For nineteen successive years he was elected on the board of selectmen. He was appointed commissioner to end small causes by the general court in 1660. His house was situated on main street, Woburn, and was thirty by thirty-five with nineteen windows, at a time when windows were luxuries. On the opposite side of the street was the Convers mill, which was conducted by several generations of his descendants.
He married Jane Clark, of Theckenham, England, who died before 1617. He married (second) Sarah ____, in England. She died January 14, 1662. He married (third) Joanna Sprague, September 19, 1662. She died February 24, 1680. His children were: Josiah, born in England, 1617, died February 3, 1689; married, March 16, 1661, Esther Champney; James, see forward; Mary, born 1622, married Simon Thompson, (second) John Sheldon; Samuel, baptized January 12, 1637, married June 8, 1660, Judith Carter; their son was the founder of Thompson, Connecticut.
DEACON EDWARD CONVERS,1, was one of the select company of Puritans who came from England to this country in the fleet with Winthrop, whose ship, the Arbella, preceding the other vessels of the fleet, arrived at Salem 12 June 1630, after a stormy passage of sixty-three days. With him came his wife, Sarah, and children, Josiah, James and Mary. They settled first in Charlestown, Mass. "Edward Convers and Sarah Convers, his wife," were among the first members of the church received on the Sunday following its organization in Charlestown 30 July 1630, and which included in its Congregation members on both sides of the river, the majority of whom had removed to Boston within a few months This Was the First Church of Boston, and from it Edward and Sarah Convers and thirty-three other members were dismissed 14 October 1632, to be embodied as the First Church of Charlestown, entering into mutual covenant for this purpose 2 November 1632.
The name of Edward Convers appears among those Who "desire to be made freemen" 19 October 1630, and took the oath as such 18 May 1631 these being the first to be admitted to the company in New England.
He established the first ferry between Charlestown and Boston under the vote of the General Court of 9 November 1630, and 14 June 1631 was authorized to charge, for ferrying, " two pence for every single person, and one penny apiece if there be two or more." This lease was renewed 9 November 1637, for three years, Mr. Convers agreeing to pay therefor forty pounds each year into the Colonial treasury. This ferry crossed the river where the Charlestown bridge now crosses it, and was called the "Great Ferry," to distinguish it from the ferry operated by Thomas Williams between Charlestown and Winnisimmet. Mr. Convers held the lease of the "Great Ferry" until 7 October 1640, when it was granted for the support of Harvard College. Rev. John Jay Putnam, the author of the valuable monograph entitled "Family History in the line of Joseph Convers of Bedford, Mass.," says that this surrender of the lease of the ferry for the benefit of Harvard College has been ascribed to an acquaintance with John Harvard, whose generous bequest to the college led to the adoption of his name as its title, and this is probable from the fact that they were fellow (1)
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townsmen, and, moreover, in 1638, Harvard owned 120 acres of land in Waterfield (Charlestown Village) not far from the location where Convers so shortly after established a home.
In the Colonial records the name of Edward Convers appears 28 September 1630 as one of a jury impanelled to inquire concerning the death of Austen Bratcher. We also learn therefrom that 7 October 1640, he was appointed, with two others, to " sett the bounds betweene Charlestown & Mr. Cradock's farme on the other side of the Mystick Ryver;" and in December 1641 it was ordered "that Lieft Sprague and Edward Convers should repair the bridge at Meadfoard over Mystick Ryver & the same to bee paid for out of the treasury."
Edward Convers served Charlestown as selectman from 1635 until his removal in 1640 to the new town, in the projection of which he was active and prominent, and which afterwards was called Woburn. It was first called Charlestown Village, and consisted of a grant by the General Court of territory two miles square on the western border of Charlestown. This was afterwards enlarged to four square miles, and included what is now Woburn, Winchester, Wilmington, and Burlington. Edward Convers was one of a small company who went in May 1640, and in September and November of the same year, to explore the new territory. On one occasion they narrowly escaped death by the fall of a large tree under which they had rested during a great storm in the night and on another were overtaken and lost in a snow storm. He was one of the committee of thirteen chosen by the town of Charlestown, 4 November 1640, to "sett the bounds betwixt Charlestown and the Village, and to appoint the place for the village." It was, however, by the instrumentality of seven commissioners appointed by the church of Charlestown that the establishment of the town and church of Woburn was effected. Sewall's History of Woburn says that the name of Edward Convers stands at the head of these seven commissioners appointed by the Church for effecting the settlement of Woburn, and that he appears to have been ever zealous and persevering in his labors for this end, and that after the incorporation of the town in 1642 he became one of its most popular and useful citizens. After the Church in Charlestown had aided as she did in the plan of establishing the new settlement as a distinct town, she became alarmed lest the project would tend to depopulate Charlestown, and interposed some opposition to the plan. But, as Sewall, in his History of Woburn, says:--"She soon found that the spirit of emigration which she herself had helped to raise and foster she could not check or put down at will.
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She therefore prudently yielded to circumstances; and within a fortnight from the time she began to frown upon their work, full power was given to Edward Convers and Company to go on with it anew." Many other disheartening difficulties and trials were encountered in effecting the new settlement. The History of Woburn shows the first settlers to have been a courageous, hardy, industrious, charitable, sober and pious race of men.
Rev. Leander Thompson in his sketch of Edward Convers referred to below, says that "to the persistent energy of Edward Convers more than to any other one man, the success of the seven commissioners seems to have been due." Also, "outstripping all others in his zeal" he built the first house in Woburn previous to 4 January 1641, which was at the mill once called by his name in the South Village, now Winchester. He also built this first mill there,-a corn mill. Of the first bridge built in Woburn (10 February 1640-1) and the first house built there, Sewall says, in History of Woburn :
"This bridge, the first that was built in Woburn they called Cold Bridge. It was in after times better known as the
Convers Bridge' from the name of the proprietor of the adjacent mill, and, as it is said in the records to have been laid over against EDWARD CONVARS' hows,' it is inferred that that house, which continued many years in the occupation of that distinguished family, and the site of which is still well remembered, was either already standing when the bridge was built, or that it was erected immediately after, and before the entry just quoted from the records was made, and that it was the first built dwelling house in Woburn."
In the back of this book will be found an Historical Sketch of Winchester, Mass., which contains a picture of this house, and many references to Deacon Edward Convers. The Winchester Record, of October 1885, contains a picture of the site of Deacon Edward's house.
Upon the organization of the town of Woburn, 13 April 1644, Edward Convers was chosen one of the seven selectmen, he being named second in the record; and he continued to serve the town as selectman until his death in 1663. On 3 March 1649, he was one of four selectmen appointed to negotiate with the town of Charlestown the matter of the disputed boundary between the two towns.
From 1649 to 1660 he was one of the three commissioners for the trial of small causes. Of these officers Sewall's History of Woburn says:-
"The appointment of these commissioners was sanctioned by law in all towns where there was no magistrate, and they constituted an inferior Court
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of Justice, having the power of magistrates (except that of committing to prison) to hear and determine according to their own best judgment all causes in which one of the parties belonged to the town in which they presided, and in which the debt, trespass, or damage did not exceed forty shillings. In Woburn Records they appear to have been elected by the people with other town officers, but the law required them to be licensed by the County Court, or by the Board of Assistants. They continued to be appointed in this town, though not uniformly every year, till 1674; were frequently the same persons as three of the Selectmen; and were always men of great weight of character, and of principal influence in the town."
In 1660 Edward Convers was Deputy to the General Court.
He was one of the first two deacons chosen by the Church in Woburn, and continued in that office until his death.
He was also one of the tithing men, who, Sewall says, were wont to be men of the first respectability in the town.
In May 1663, Isaac Cole, Constable, and Edward Convers, one of Captain Johnson's associates in the board of selectmen at Woburn were arraigned; the former for refusing to tale and publish the King's letter, and the latter for having spoken of it as Popery. The Court, after a hearing, discharged Convers, on the ground that his language did not reflect on his Majesty's letter.
An evidence of Deacon Edward Convers' high sense of justice and honor has come down to us in the record of his satisfactory settlement of a difference with a neighbor, Robert Hale, because of the overflow of the latter's adjacent meadow in 1649, in consequence of Deacon Convers' erection and operation of his mill oil the Abajona River.
Deacon Edward Convers was known as a man of influence, energy, strength of character and of substantial estate. The Following is from a sketch of his life written by Rev. Leander Thompson of Woburn, and published in the Winchester Record in October 1885:-
"Among the first settlers of Woburn Edward Convers has always been regarded as a pioneer and leader . . . A man of more than usual enterprise, we find him from the very outset ever restlessly pushing forward some new work . . . . It is hardly too much to say that he was on every committee and had a part in every movement that had the new settlement in view.
Six of the seven commissioners were on the town committee of thirteen, and to these six men, with Edward Convers at the head; was due the success of the enterprise they had in view . . . . From the time of the organization
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of the town of Woburn until his death he appeared, as ever before, to have been a foremost man in all public business . . . . As a member of the Church he was ever prominent . . . . From all that has been ascertained respecting his religious character we readily infer that he was a man of strongly marked idiosyncrasies. Prompt, clear headed, devout, conscientious, outspoken, and unflinching, yet prudent, self contained, and uniform are the adjectives that best describe his whole career."
This sketch of Deacon Edward Convers is taken principally, by permission of Mr. Wm. G. Hill of 84 Converse Avenue, Malden, Mass., from " Family Records of Deacons James W. Converse and Elisha S. Converse," edited by Mr. Hill, and privately printed in 1887. From that book, also by Mr. Hill's permission, comes much of the record herein of Deacon Edward Convers' descendants in the line of his grandson, Samuel, Jr.,3 down to the fourth generation inclusive.
Mr. Hill, in his book, gives an account of what he states he had proof was the English ancestry of Deacon Edward Convers, the place of his residence in England as Wakerly, County of Northampton, the date of his birth as 30 January 1590, and his first wife as Jane Clarke, who died probably before 1617 and was the daughter of William Clarke of Theckenham , Worcestershire, England. Mrs. Sarah Convers died 14 January 1661-62, and Deacon Edward again married, 9 September 1662, Joanna Sprague, the widow of Ralph Sprague of Charlestown, Mass.. the last two dates being from Woburn Records.
Richard Frothingharn, in his History of Charlestown, Mass., says: "She (Joanna) may have been Edward Convers' third wife." She bore no children to him, and she died 24 February 1679-80.
Deacon Edward Convers died in Woburn 10 August 1663. His will was dated August 1659, and recorded 7 October 1663. His estate was valued at £827. In his will he mentions his wife, Sarah; his sons, Josiah, James, and Samuel; Edward, the son of James; his daughter Mary and her children by her first marriage; his "kinsman, Allen Convers;" "his kinsman," John Parker; and his " kinswoman" Sarah Smith. Mr. Eben Putnam suggests that Sarah Smith may be the Sarah Converse named in the will of Samuel Fuller of Plymouth, the good physician who relieved the sick at Salem and Charlestown, dated and probated in 1633. The reference is as follows: "whereas there is a childe comitted to my charge called Sarah Converse, my wife dying as afore I desire my Brother Wright may have the bringing up of her. And if he refuse then I comend her to my loving neighbor and brother in Christ
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Thomas Prence* . . . to performe the duty of a step Father unto her and bring her up in the Fear of God as their owne which was a charge laid upon me by her sick Father when he freely bestowed her upon me." Nothing has thus far been discovered to show the relationship between Allen Convers and Deacon Edward Convers other than that the latter mentions Allen Convers in his will as a "kinsman," and made him an overseer of his will. Allen Convers was first in Salem. Land was granted him there in 1639. He was in Woburn in 1642, taxed there in 1645, made freeman in 1644, appointed Commissioner of the Rate in Woburn in 1666, taught school there in 1676, and died 19 April 1679 (Sewall's Woburn). His widow, Elizabeth, died 9 August 1691. Rev. Mr. Putnam, in " Family History in line of Joseph Convers of Bedford, Mass.," says that the children of Allen Convers and wife, Sarah, were Zechariah (born 11 October 1642), Elizabeth, Sarah, Joseph, Mary, Theophilus, Samuel, Mary again, and Hannah. Judge Parker L. Converse (born Woburn 14 February 1822, died there, 21 April 1899), author of "Legends of Woburn," was a descendant of Allen Convers. A genealogy of this family will be found in the New England Historical Genealogical Register, Vol. 50. A brief genealogy of the immediate descendants of Edward Convers, especially connected with Woburn will be found in "Woburn Marriages," pp. 325-331, published by the town and compiled by Alfred C. Vinton. Children of Deacon Edward and Sarah Convers:
JOSIAH CONVERS,2 Deacon, born in England probably in 1618; died in Woburn, 3 Feb. 1689-90; married Esther Champney. (2)
JAMES CONVERS,2 Lieutenant, born in England probably in 1620; died in Woburn 10 May 1715; married Anna Long. (3)
MARY CONVERS,2 born in England in 1622; married, 1st, Simon Thompson; married 2nd, John Sheldon. (4)
SAMUEL CONVERS,2 Sergeant, baptized in Charlestown, Mass., 12 March 1637; died 20 Feb. 1669; married Judith Carter. (5)
- Afterward governor of the colony.
Source: Charles Allen Converse
More About Edward Convers:
Fact 1: 1630, From England to Massachusetts with the Winthrop fleet
Fact 2: 1631, Established the first ferry from Boston to Charlestown
Fact 3: 1640, Founder of Woburn, Massachusetts
Fact 4: 1660, Deputy to the General Court -------------------- Known as Deacon Edward Converse. Arrived in Salem,Mass on ship "Arbella", June 12, 1630. with 1st Church of Boston, made freeman in 1631
Deacon Edward Converse's Timeline
February 23, 1588
Navestock, Essex, England, United Kingdom
January 30, 1590
Stanford Rivers, Essex, England
Wakerly, Northhampton, England
June 29, 1614
October 30, 1618
Sheffield, Essex, England, (Present UK)
November 29, 1620
South Weald, Essex, England, (Present UK)
September 4, 1622
June 12, 1630
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, United States
Arrived in Salem, Mass on ship"Arbella" on June 12, 1630
became freeman in 1631
March 12, 1637
Charlestown (within present Boston), Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)