John Sanford, Governor of Newport and Portsmouth

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John Sanford

Birthdate: (54)
Birthplace: England
Death: June 22, 1665 (54)
Portsmouth, Aquidneck Island (Present Newport County), Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Sanford, Jr. and Eleanor Sanford
Husband of Elizabeth Sanford and Bridget Sanford
Father of Anne Sanford; Joan or Jean Scottow; Capt. John Sanford; Eliphal Stratton; Peleg Sanford, 10th Colonial Governor of Rhode Island and 8 others

Occupation: Acting Governor of Maryland, Governor of the United Towns of Newport and Portsmouth, RI, came to Boston Nov. 1631 on ship "Lyon", governor of portsmouth and newport
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About John Sanford, Governor of Newport and Portsmouth

John Sanford (c. 1605 – 1653), was an early settler of Boston, Massachusetts, an original settler of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and a governor of the combined towns of Portsmouth and Newport, in the Rhode Island colony, dying in office after serving for less than a full term. He had some military experience in England, and also was a servant of Massachusetts magistrate John Winthrop, sailing to New England in 1631 with Winthrop's wife and oldest son. After living in Boston for six years, and being the cannoneer there, a divisive religious controversy arose, and Sanford was disarmed for supporting his mother-in-law, Anne Hutchinson, who was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Compelled to leave Massachusetts as well, he and many others signed an agreement to form a government, then settled in Portsmouth in the Rhode Island colony. Here he became a lieutenant, assistant, chief magistrate of Portsmouth, then governor of the two island towns of Portsmouth and Newport in 1653 following the repeal of William Coddington's commission to govern the island. During his administration, the two island towns slowly negotiated a reunion with the two mainland towns of Providence and Warwick.

Early life

Likely from Essex, England, Sanford probably served in the English Army before emigrating from England. He was a trained surveyor, familiar with military matters, and in his inventory were listed some pieces of armour. He was mentioned in a letter dated 2 March 1629/30, just prior to the sailing of the Winthrop Fleet, written by Massachusetts magistrate John Winthrop to his wife, stating "our 2 boyes and Ja Downinge, Jo Samford and Mary M. and most of my servants are gone this daye towards S Hampton: the good Lord be with them and us all." However, earlier references by Winthrop, back to 1624, concerning "my man-servant John" very likely refer to Sanford. There was a period of time when "servant John" was not mentioned in Winthrop's correspondence, and this is probably when Sanford was pressed into military service with John Winthrop, Jr. in a disastrous campaign to relieve the Huguenots at the Isle of Rhe. Sanford became experienced in the use of artillery during this campaign in which nearly 60 percent of the English force became casualties.


After the Winthrop Fleet sailed in 1630, Sanford remained in England and was in almost constant contact with John Winthrop, Jr., serving as his business agent. He made many purchases for the New England colony, and presented his bills to Winthrop for payment. In October 1630, the younger Winthrop met Captain Pierce of the ship Lyon, and made arrangements for loading provisions destined for the colonies. The following month, Captain Pierce reported that the ship was fully laden with supplies, and it set sail in December with mostly cargo, but also 20 or more passengers, including Roger Williams. The Lyon returned to England about May 1631, and was loaded in July and early August for its next voyage to New England. In mid-August the ship once again set sail, with about 60 passengers, including Mrs. Margaret Winthrop (the wife of John Sr.), John Winthrop Jr. and his wife, John Sanford, Elizabeth Webb (the future wife of Sanford), and Rev. John Eliot. Upon arriving in New England, Sanford was made a member of the church in Boston within a month, and became a freeman the following year. In 1633 he and others were chosen to oversee the building of cart bridges over Muddy River and Stony River. With his military background, he was appointed the following year to assess the status of ordnance, powder, and shot, and to report his findings to the court. Later the same year he was chosen as cannoneer for the fort at Boston, and was paid 20 pounds for the previous two years, and the following year. In 1636 he was once again chosen cannoneer for the fort, and overseer of the arms and ammunition, being paid 30 pounds for himself and his assistant.[6]

In 1636 an issue erupted in Boston that would consume the attention of the magistrates for nearly two years. Sanford's mother-in-law, Anne Hutchinson (from his second wife Bridget), and her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, were attracting many converts to their religious views which were at odds with the rigid Puritan dogma. Both of them were ultimately accused of blasphemy for their religious opinions, and banished from the colony. In November 1637 Sanford and other supporters were disarmed when their guns, pistols, swords, powder, and shot were to be delivered to the authorities because the "opinions and revelations of Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson have seduced and led into dangerous errors many of the people here in New England." Many of these supporters fled to other colonies, and on 7 March 1638, while still in Massachusetts, Sanford and many other supporters of Mrs. Hutchinson signed a document to establish a Christian-based government. With the encouragement of Roger Williams, they bought land of the Indians and settled on the island of Aquidneck in the Narragansett Bay, naming the settlement Pocasset, but later changed the name to Portsmouth.


Sanford was in Portsmouth by May 1638 when he was present at a general meeting of inhabitants, and when he and John Coggeshall were ordered to lay out a meeting house on a neck of land. The same month he had six acres allotted to him on the north side of the "Great Cove." In 1640 he was one of the Portsmouth men selected to effect the reunion of his town with Newport, and at the same time was chosen as Constable, then the following year was made a freeman of the colony. In 1644 he was called Lieutenant for the island, and from 1647 to 1649 he served as Assistant to the President of the colony. The President at the time presided over the two island towns of Portsmouth and Newport, as well as the two mainland towns of Providence and Warwick. William Coddington, who had previously served as governor of the two island towns from 1640 to 1647, did not care for the combined government with the mainland towns. In 1651 he went to England, and was able to obtain a commission to remove the island towns from the government with Providence and Warwick. Coddington then became Governor of the island towns in 1651, and in June of that year Sanford was chosen as the head magistrate of Portsmouth. In 1653 Sanford succeeded Coddington as the governor of the island towns after the repeal of Coddington's commission. Negotiations for the reunion of the four towns of the colony took place during Sanford's administration, and the statute books and town records from the period of separation were demanded from Coddington. Also, commissions were issued to several prominent members of the colony to prepare for military actions against the Dutch, if warranted. Sanford's term was short-lived as he died in office sometime after the signing of his will on 22 June 1653, but before his inventory was taken on 15 November of that year. His widow, Bridget, later married William Phillips, and died in 1698 in Boston, leaving a will.


Sanford married twice, first to Elizabeth Webb, who at one time lived at Groton Manor, the home of John Winthrop in England; this marriage produced two children. Following Elizabeth's death, Sanford married Bridget, the daughter of William Hutchinson and his famous wife, Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson. William Hutchinson served for one year as the Judge (Governor) of Portsmouth. Sanford's oldest son with Bridget, Peleg Sanford, was the colonial Rhode Island governor from 1680 to 1683. Sanford's oldest son with his first wife, John Jr., married, as his second wife, Mary (Gorton) Greene, the daughter of Rhode Island President Samuel Gorton.



  • Gov. John Sanford1
  • M, #79421, b. circa 1612, d. 22 June 1653
  • Father Samuel Sanford b. 24 Jun 1593
  • Mother Ellenor b. c 1595
  • Gov. John Sanford was born circa 1612 at of Alford, Lincolnshire, England. He married Elizabeth Webb, daughter of Alexander Webb and Mary Wilson, circa 1631. Gov. John Sanford married Bridget Hutchinson, daughter of William Hutchinson, Gent. and Anne Marbury, circa 1637 at of Boston, Suffolk, MA.1 Gov. John Sanford died on 22 June 1653 at Portsmouth, Newport, RI.
  • Family 1 Elizabeth Webb b. 3 Sep 1585, d. 14 Jul 1635
  • Child
    • Samuel Sanford+ b. 14 Jul 1635, d. 18 Mar 1713
  • Family 2 Bridget Hutchinson b. 15 Jan 1619, d. 1698
  • Citations
  • [S5] Douglas Richardson, Plantagenet Ancestry, p. 493.
  • From:


  • John Sanford
  • Birth: 1608, England
  • Death: 1653 Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, USA
  • Born by about 1608, based on estimated date of first marriage. A magistrate who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1631 on second voyage of the "Lyon" that year. First resided in Boston; moved to Portsmouth RI in 1638.
  • Died in Portsmouth RI between 22 June 1653 (date of will) and 15 November 1653 (date of inventory).
  • MARRIAGE: (1) By 1633 Elizabeth Webb, sister of Henry Webb (in his will of 5 April 1660 Henry Webb made a bequest to "my late sister Elizabeth Sanford's sons John and Samuell Sanford."
  • (2) By 1637 Bridget Hutchinson, bp. Alford, Lincolnshire, 15 January 1619, daughter of William and Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson. She married (2) by 1656 as his third wife William Phillips (child b. Boston 18 September 1656. She died in Boston not long before 18 August 1698.
  • Source: Anderson's Great Migration Study Project
  • Family links:
  • Spouses:
  • Elizabeth Webb Sanford
  • Bridget Hutchinson Phillips (1619 - 1698)
  • Burial: Unknown
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 35342167
  • From:


  • SANFORD, John
  • b. 1605 Alford, Lincolnshire, England
  • d. 22 JUN 1653 Portsmouth, Newport, RI.
  • Family:
  • Spouse: WEBB, Elizabeth
  • Children:
    • SANFORD, John
    • SANFORD, Samuel
  • Family:
  • Marriage: 1635 Boston, Suffolk, Mass.
  • Spouse:HUTCHINSON, Bridget
  • Children:
    • SANFORD, Eliphal
    • SANFORD, Peleg
    • SANFORD, William b. 4 MAR 1643/4 Boston, Suffolk, Mass.
    • SANFORD, Esbon b. 25 JAN 1645/6 Boston, Suffolk, Mass.
    • SANFORD, Frances b. 9 JAN 1647/8 Boston, Suffolk, Mass.
    • SANFORD, Elisha b. 28 DEC 1650 Boston, Suffolk, Mass.
    • SANFORD, Ann b. 12 MAR 1651/2 Boston, Suffolk, Mass. d. 26 AUG 1654 Boston, Suffolk, Mass.
  • From:


MIGRATION: 1631 on second voyage of Lyon

REMOVES: Portsmouth 1638

OCCUPATION: Magistrate.

  1. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: "John Sampfort" admitted to Boston church as member #115, which would be late in 1631.
  2. Note: FREEMAN: 3 April 1632 (as "John Sampeford") . Founding freeman of Portsmouth, 7 March 1637/8 . Combined government of Portsmouth and Newport, 16 March 1640/1.
  3. Note: EDUCATION: He signed his deeds. His inventory included "a parcel of books" valued at £2.

OFFICES: "Mr. Samford" on committee to build bridges over Stony River and Muddy River, 6 August 1633. On 14 May 1634, with Mr. Edward Tomlyns, "entreated by the Court to take notice of the ordnanaces, powder and shot, & to make report to the next Court in what condition they are in". Chosen "cannoneer for the fort at Boston," to be paid £20 "for two years' service that he hath already done at the said fort, & for one year more he shall do".

On 8 September 1636 to have £10 for his service as cannoneer of the fort for the year preceding, and chosen surveyor of the ordnance and other ammunition . On 28 October 1636 chosen cannoneer and surveyor of the arms and ammunition for the next year, and to have £30 "for his own & his man's pains". On 2 November 1637 "John Samford is granted £13 6s. 8d. for the year past, & so he is discharged, upon delivery of an inventory to another which shall be appointed".

Various minor Boston committees, 9 February 1634/5 to 15 August 1636 ; Boston selectman (for six month terms), 14 March 1635/6, 16 September 1636, 20 March 1636/7, 16 October 1637 (attended last meeting 19 February 1637/8)

Portsmouth constable, 12 March 1639/40 . Town magistrate and town council, June 1650 . Assessor, 19 February 1650/1. Head magistrate, 3 June 1651. Committee to grant land, 12 March 1639/40, 2 February 1651/2. Committee to "determine all matters for defense and offense," 1 April 1653 . Town council, 20 June 1653.

Chosen lieutenant of the military company of Portsmouth, 15 March 1642/3.

Assistant for Portsmouth, 19 May 1647, 22 May 1649.

Deputy for Portsmouth to Rhode Island General Court, 16 May 1651. President, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 17 May 1653 (died in office).

ESTATE: Granted six acres at Portsmouth, 10 June 1638. Granted 240 acres at Portsmouth, 10 February 16[39/40?.

On 6 October 1642 John Porter of Portsmouth sold to "John Sandford of the same town all my part of the land in the Calves Pasture" [PoTR 310]. On 8 November 1648 Samuel Wilbore of Taunton sold to "John Sandford of Road Island" six acres of meadow . On 10 April 1651 Adam Mott Sr. of Portsmouth sold to Mr. John Sanford of Portsmouth "my part in the Calves Pasture lying between his house and the Claypit Field".

In his will, dated 22 June 1653 and proved 20 November 1653, John Sanford bequeathed to wife Bridget "my new dwelling house in which I live," with adjoining land and one-third of the moveables for life; to his son John certain land and the ferry; to son Samuel forty acres at Black Point with some moveables, including a great Bible; to son Peleg, at age, twenty acres at Black Point, with some moveables; to sons Restcome, William, Esbon and Elisha land at Black Point; to daughter Eliphal £100, of which £60 at her marriage and £40 at her mother's marriage; and to daughter Anne £60 at marriage, citing Sanford vs. Sanford, Newport County Court Files.

The inventory of the estate of John Sanford, taken 15 November 1653, totalled £824 11s. 1d., with no real estate included citing Sanford vs. Sanford, Newport County Court Files, 1725-27.

On 20 November 1653 John Sanford of Portsmouth gave a receipt to "my mother Brigit Sanford of the same executrix to my father John Sanford deceased" for his share of the estate. On the same day Samuel Sanford of Portsmouth also gave a receipt to his mother.

On 25 February 1653 George Parke of Portsmouth sold to "Mrs. Bridgitt Sanford of Portsmouth aforesaid all my land that lies in the Calves Pasture".

On 17 October 1663 "Bartho[lomew] Stretton of Boston ... mariner, husband to Elifall Sanford" gave a receipt to "Mr. W[illia]m Phillips of said Boston now husband unto Briggett Phillips formerly Brigitt Sanford my mother-in-law and executrix unto Mr. John Sanford lately deceased" for his wife's share of the estate. Peleg Sanford gave a receipt on 19 October 1663 and Ezbon Sanford on 17 June 1670.

BIRTH: By about 1608 based on estimated date of first marriage.

DEATH: Portsmouth between 22 June 1653 (date of will) and 15 November 1653 (date of inventory).

MARRIAGE: (1) By 1633 Elizabeth Webb, sister of Henry Webb (in his will of 5 April 1660 Henry Webb made a bequest to "my late sister Elizabeth Sanford's sons John and Samuell Sanford".

By 1637 Bridget Hutchinson, bp. Alford, Lincolnshire, 15 January 1619, daughter of William and Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson. She married (2) by 1656 as his third wife William Phillips (child b. Boston 18 September 1656. She died in Boston not long before 18 August 1698.


John was employed by the Winthrop Family. After the Winthrop Fleet sailed in 1630. John remained in England and often acted as a purchasing agent for John Winthrop.

John came to New England on the ship Lyon arriving in Boston on the 3rd or 4th of Nov 1631. On the same ship was Mrs Margaret Winthrop, John Winthrop Jr and JS wife Elizabeth Webb.

John served on many committees in Mass Bay Colony but in Nov 20 1637 was relieved of all his duties in Boston because he was a adherent to Anne Hutchinson.

In 1638 he signed the Portsmouth Agreement and left Boston and proceeded to Providence and then to Aquidneck where he was present at the first town meeting 3/13/1638.

He was a freeman of RI 3/16/1641. Appointed Town Magistrate 4/29/1650 chosen Head Magistrate on 6/3/1651.

In May 1653 John was chosen President of the Rhode Island Colony and was the 5th man to hold office, but his term was cut short by his death the same year.


John Sanford, the emigrant ancestor of this line, came to Boston on the Ship Lyon in Nov. 1631. Shortly after his arrival he became a member of the First Church of Boston and was made Freeman 3 April 1632. Between 1632 and 1637, he was a respected and active citizen of Boston, serving as cannoneer of the Fort at Boston, surveyor of ordance and other ammunition, on committees regulating cattle, and various committees charged with the laying out bounds for Roxbury, Newtown and private holdings. He was in charge of fencing in 1635 and a Selectman of Boston in 1636 and 1637.

His life changed when "on 20 Nov. 1637 he was ordered disarmed as an adherent of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, and relieved of all his duties in and around Boston. Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson, mother of John's second wife Bridget, "preached that one could achieve salvation through a direct intuition from God "Puritan leaders argued salvation could be achieved only by obeying the laws of the church and government. But Puritan leaders feared that her beliefs would undermine the church organization and erode the rigid social order. They labeled her group the Antinominians, or the lawless ones. In 1637, she was arrested and tried for sedition. Most scholars agree the trial was a travesty. The following year she was thrown out of the Bay Colony" John and his family went as well, heading for Providence about the middle of March 1638. In 1638, he was one of the signers of the Portsmouth Agreement. In Rhode Island, they purchased land from the Narragansets. Among the first rules established was "noe person within the said Colonye, at any time hereafter, shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted or called in question on matters of religion---so long as he keep the peace." Once again, John was actively involved. He held many offices including: Constable for Portsmouth and Lieutenant of the Portsmouth company. On Apr 29 1650 he was chosen a Town Magistrate at Portsmouth and on Jun 2 1650 he was a member of the Town Council. On May 16 1651 he was on a Committee from Portsmouth for the General Court. He was chosen Head Magistrate at Portsmouth Jun 3 1651. On Feb 2 1651/2 he was one of the disposers of land at Portsmouth. In May 1653 John Sanford became the fifth President of Rhode Island Colony. He died between 22 June 1653, the date of his will, and 20 Nov. 1653, when it was filed. Although the original will of John Sanford has not been found, a copy was discovered and published in NEHGR 104:304-307. He names wife Bridget and all children then living. Witnesses were John Browne, Myree Standish, William Brenton, William Baulston, Samuel Hutchinson Sr., and William Freeborne. Total estate valued at L824, 11s,1d


He may have served as an assistant on the Inquest Into The Death of Thomas Brownell Thomas Brownell


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John Sanford, Governor of Newport and Portsmouth's Timeline

June 4, 1611
Age 3
Norwich, Norfolk, England
January 15, 1618
Age 6
Alford, Lincolnshire, England
November 3, 1630
Age 19

John Sanford Sr. emigrated to the US aboard this ship in 1630 or 1631.

Age 19
Came to America on "Lyon"
June 4, 1633
Age 22
Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony
December 9, 1637
Age 26
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
May 10, 1639
Age 27
Portsmouth, Newport Colony, (Present Rhode Island)