Col. John Pynchon

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John Pynchon, Col.

Birthplace: Dorchester, Dorset, UK
Death: Died in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Son of William Pynchon, Founder of Springfield, MA and Anna/Agnes Pynchon
Husband of Amy Pynchon (Wyllys)
Father of Joseph Pynchon; Lt. Col. John Pynchon; Mary Whiting; Mercy Pynchon; William Pynchon and 1 other
Brother of Annes Smith; Mary Holyoke; Margaret Davis (Pynchon); Pynchon and Hester Harding

Occupation: Major
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Col. John Pynchon


"PYNCHON, or PINCHEON, JOHN, Springfield, only s. of William, b. in Eng. 1625, brot. with three sis. and their mo. by his f. in the fleet with Winth. 1630, m. 30 Oct. Hartford rec. says 6 Nov. 1645, Amy, d. of George Wyllys of Hartford, who d. 9 Jan. 1699, had Joseph, b. 26 July 1646, H.C. 1664; John, 15 Oct. 1647; Mary, 28 Oct. 1650; William, 11 Oct. 1653, d. in a few mos.; and Mehitable, 22 Nov. 1661, d. young. He was freem. 1648, rep. 1659, 62, 3, and 4, in 1665 an Assist. and ever aft. to the abolit. of the old form of governm. 1686; next of the Counc. to Andros, major of the Hampsh. reg. from its format. and during the usurp of A[ndros] call. col. and was the chief man in all the W.[?] yet Mather unwisely dictat. to the king who took somebody else for the honor of counc. in his new chart. 1692, but the people next yr. correct. that blunder, and he was chos. until 1702, every yr. exc. 1699; and Phips made him Judge of Pro. in June 1692. He d. 17 Jan. 1703."

--- James Savage, *A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England*, 1860-62, v 3, p 497-8. Joseph Charles Pynchon gives (1898) the date of death of William as 1654, and of Mehitabel, 24 Jul 1663.

"The fur trade, heart of New England's commercial relations between Puritans and Indians hit its peak in the mid-forties, then suffered a steady decline until the outbreak of King Philip's War. Several unrelated factors came together to undermine the trade. A decline in the fur supply played a part; once the beaver had been taken from the New England streams and lakes the source of supply was at an end. The beaver, kingpin of the New England trade, was an animal of low fertility, and the New Englanders were so hemmed in by physical and political geography that they could not probe the interior of the continent for new supplies. Needless to say, the beaver of New England did not disappear suddenly or completely, as John Pynchon's account books make abundantly clear. Moreover, when the English civil war of the 1640's temporarily dampened commercial relations with the mother country, New England merchants increasingly turned to the West Indian trade, whee there was no market for furs, and to fishing. (P) The decline of the fur trade meant in arge part the decline of the Indian trade. First Plymouth, then Rhode Isalnd, and finally the Bay Colony, saw their commerce with the Indians dwindle down to a shadow of its 1640 dimensions. The Puritans, too, contributed to the trend; through an intelligent self-interest not unmingled with the Puritan ethic, they had imposed costly restraints on themselves and had refused to exploit the most enticing prospects for quick profit. By 1647 Governor Winthrop complained that the New England restrictions on weapons were tjhe "occasion whereof the greatest part of the beaver trade was drawn to the French and Dutch." And Roger Williams, in some respects the most thorough-going Puritan of them all, insisted on supplying the Indians only with goods that tended to civilize them. (P) While it lasted the thriving commerce with the Indians had given the Puritan colonies a badly needed economic base. ..... Not only did the traffic in furs prove a tonic to the infant economy of New England, but Indian trade played an important part in settling the upper Connecticut Valley. To a somewhat lesser extent it also helped settle the interior sections of the Bay area. The early traders, in keeping with the Puritan ethos, were town builders as well as merchants. (P) The most useful by-product of commerce with the Indians was wampum. This was no mean asset to a people, accustomed to an active internal commerce, who found themselves abruptly deprived of their familiar circulating currency. Some form of money was needed to permit a ready exchange of goods within the English colonies as well as between the colonists and their Indian neighbors. It was the red man who provided the solution. But for the curious polished beads, the wheels of New England's economy would have turned at a far slower pace. (P) What impact commercial relations with the white man had on the Indian is harder to measure. While today's needs and standards place little value on an iron hoe or a metal knife, these were items of overwhelming significance to a native. A durable hoe or an iron plow could vastly increase the yield of his cornfields, while a metal knife or hatchet could aid him in countless ways --- peaceful and otherwise. And European cloth offered comfortable clothing at far less effort than finding and curing an animal skin. By the 1670's the New England Indian was dependent upon a continuing supply of certain European commodities; his everyday life had been changed more than the white man;s by their commercial reltions. (P) Of this the Puritan was largely unaware. He had engoyed the trade in furs and other goods as long as they had brought comfortable returns, but bythe time King PHilip's War put a temporary stop to interracial commerce, he had found other sources of profitable trade. Further, beginning at about the time that the fur trade was passing its crest, a new relationship with the Indians began to arouse keen interest in New England. For it was in 1646 that John Eliot and his associates first carried the Gospel to the natives. From then until the holocaust of 1675-1676, missionary activities would be the most significant aspect of Indian-white relations in New England."

--- Alden T. Vaughan, *New England Frontier, Puritans and Indians, 1620-1675*, Boston (Little, Brown & Co.) 1965, p 232-234

"Direct contact with farming settlers was minimal for those interior Indian bands engaged in large-scale fur trading. As immigrants filled up the area around Boston in the early 1630s, English traders moved their posts inland, positioning themselves on major water routes. Of these, the most successful were the Pynchons, father William and son John, who moved from Roxbury to found Springfield on the Connecticut River in 1636. Ethnohistorian Peter Thomas has shown how the elder Pynchon declined to join the new Connecticut Colony, instead preferring political ties with the more safely distant Massachusetts Bay. As a result, he was made a magistrate over the Connecticut Valley with virtually dictatorial powers to match the economic power he brought in the form of capital and trade connections. The Pynchons traded cloth and other goods not only for pelts but also for land for themselves and the town at Springfield, maize to supply their employees, and wampum --- in heavy demand both by Indians throughout the Northeast and by currency-hungry settlers. During the peak *recorded* years between 1632 and 1658 --- the volume in years preceding was probably higher --- John Pynchon's shipments of beaver pelts alone weighed nearly 14,000 pounds, bringing gross profits of nearly #7,000 [pounds]. While insignificant compared to that of the Dutch on the Hudson or of the French on the St. Lawrence, Pynchon's volume made him one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in New England. For the Pocumtucks, Norwottucks, Woronocos, and Agawams of the middle Connecticut Valley, direct contact with the Pynchons brought the power and prestige that came from overseeing the flow of goods between southern New England and Indians on the north and west."

--- Laurence M. Hauptman and James D. Wherry (editors), *The Pequots in Southern New England; The Fall and Rise of an American Indian Nation*, Norman OK and London (Univ of Oklahoma Pr), 1990, "Indians and Colonists in Southern New England after the Pequot War: An Uneasy Balance" by Neal Salisbury, p 82-83

"JOHN PYNCHON'S date and place of birth are uncertain but it seems probable that he was born at Springfield in Essex in 1626. It is doubtful that he arrived in New England with the remainder of the Pynchon family. The records do not reveal the nature or extent of John's education, which may have been under the tutelage of John Eliot at Roxbury and of the Reverend Moxon at Springfield. In October 1645 he married Amy Wyllys of Hartford, daughter of the late Governor George Wyllys of the Connecticut colony. He became a freeman of the Bay colony on April 13, 1648. Upon attaining maturity, he presumably participated in the fur trading and other pursuits of his father.

"However, few facts are known as to John until November 1650 when he first held public office, being elected a selectman and also town treasurer of Springfield. He was chosen selectman again in 1651 and 1652, but was discharged from this office on November 27, 1652, when he, Samuel Chapin, and Elizur Holyoke [DIRECT ANCESTOR], by order of the General Court, took their oaths before the selectmen as commissioners for the town of Springfield. In the same month Pynchon was also chosen recorder, to record lands, town orders, and "the publike occasions of the Towne."

"John Pynchon was named in each of the commissions issued by the General Court after November 1652 for the administration of justice in Springfield and its environs. Presumably by virtue of certain of these commissions he sat initially on the County Court for Hampshire which heard its first causes in March 1663. In May 1659 and again in May 1662 and the two succeeding years Pynchon was chosen deputy for Springfield. On May 3, 1665 he was chosen an assistant -- an office which he retained until May 1686.

"During these twenty-one years Pynchon held court at Springfield by virtue of his authority as magistrate; he sat on the County Court, with associates (and for part of the period, another assistant, Peter Tilton), by virtue of such position; and, of course, he sat on the Court of Assistants (although not too frequently), and participated in the judicial work of the General Court. As a member of the General Court Pynchon appears to have played a minor role. In his years as assistant he was named to only a few committees, apart from those relating to protection and settlement of the frontiers of the colony. In February 1659/60 he was again chosen town treasurer, serving for three successive terms, and clerk or recorder of Springfield. He was also elected selectman in which capacity he served the town for most of the next eleven years. Lastly, he was chosen moderator to preside at town meetings; with a few intervals he continued in this office until 1694.

"During the period between 1660 and 1685 scarcely a year passed that Pynchon was not appointed to some *ad hoc* town committee. These committees dealt with such matters as town rates, town boundaries, accounts of selectmen, settlement of the county government, county rates, laying out of highways, disposition of town lands, establishment of mills, lands at Woronoco, poor relief, Indian matters, a new meeting house, defense measures, lands at Freshwater Brook, and land grants to the minister.

"On the county level Pynchon headed the County Court for Hampshire. The records of this court, and those of the later Court of General Sessions of the Peace, in a number of instances show him charged with the duty of providing for or maintaining the house of correction at Springfield.


"In most New England histories John Pynchon makes but a fleeting appearance, usually as a military leader in King Philip's War and in later defensive actions against Indian and French marauders. Under the First Charter he was successively confirmed as lietenant (1653), captain (1657), and sergeant major (1671) in the military establishment of western Massachusetts. However, prior to the outbreak of King Philip's War Pynchon was rarely called upon to act in a military capacity. In August 1664 Captains Thomas Clarke and Pynchon were dispatched by the General Court to inform the English commissioners engaged "in reducing the Dutch at the Monhatoes into the obedience of his Majestie" of the military assistance to be furnished by the Bay colony. As deputies, both men were signatories to the articles of capitulation consented to later in the month at New Amsterdam.

"John Pynchon took no conspicuous part in King Philp's War as a field commander; his role was largely confined to pressing the Bay and the Connecticut authorities for succor and to coordinating the activities of the local, the Bay, and the Connecticut forces. When, on August 4, 1675, he confirmed Indian intelligence of the attack on Brookfield by the Nipmucks, Pynchon immediately sent to Hartford for aid in securing Springfield, succoring Brookfield, and giving "present chase" to the Indians, stating:

"We are very raw and our People of this Towne extreamely scattered so that our owne Place needs all and how soone these Indians may be upon this Towne we know not."

"On the same date he informed John Winthrop, Jr., of the presence of Philip and a small band of followers at Ashquoash, no more than twenty-three miles from Springfield, having escaped from the Pocasset swamp on the night of July 29. He urged swift action to destroy Philip, but the Connecticut authorities were skeptical of the intelligence.


" ... The first combat along the River took place when a party of English was ambushed on Augut 25 below Deerfield while pursuing some River Indians who formerly occupied a fort on the west bank of the River between Northampton and Hadley. Although disarmed by the committee of militia, these Indians, pretending great fidelity to the English and promising that they would fight against Philip, had been rearmed in the hope they might do the same service as the Mohegans and Naticks. When it became plain that they were not trustworthy, the council at Hadley demanded their arms on August 24 but met a show of defiance which culminated in their quitting their fort. Advice to Pynchon from the Connecticut Council to forbear from forcibly disarming the Indians, "least it might prove to be provoakeing or discourageing to our Indian Neighboures," arrived too late. Pynchon, who was "of a differing mind" from those favoring disarming, thus offending some, wrote that "when I Recollect things: I cant but conclude that this was a Contrived busyness of the Indians."

"All the marching and countermarching provided no effective answer to Indian tactics which uncluded an attack upon Deerfield and the ambushing of forces marching to the relief of Northfield, for, as Pynchon despondently noted, " when we go out after the Indians they doe so sculk in swamps we cannot find them and yet do waylay our people to there destruction." Perhaps influenced by Pynchon's pessimistic attitude in matters military, a council of war on September 8 decided to give up operations in the field and only garrison the towns. This view proved unacceptable to Connecticut which urged a more aggressive campaign. However, a few days after the initial decision bolder counsels had prevailed at Hadley and, a vigorous campaign having been agreed upon, Major [Robert] Treat {son of DIRECT ANCESTOR] was sent up the River with a large force of Connecticut troops. .....

"On September 21 the council of war at Hatfield was notified by the Commissioners for the United Colonies at Boston that they had decided to raise a thousand men. Pynchon was appointed commander-in-chief; the council chose Major Treat as second in command.


"In a letter to Governor Leverett, dated October 8 [1675] ... Pynchon declared:

"Sir I am not capable of holding any Command being more and more unfit and almost confounded in my understanding, the Lord direct your Pitch on a meeter person than ever I was: According to Liberty from the Councill I shall devolve all upon Captain Appleton unless Major Treat return againe."


"Pynchon received the news that he had been relieved by Captain Samuel Appleton [DIRECT ANCESTOR] on October 12, "the Councill having seriously considered the earnest desires of Major Pincheon and the great affliction upon him and his family."


"Under Appleton, who lacked tact and personal ties, the reluctance of Connecticut to have its troops remain in garrison in Massachusetts towns, intensified by fear that Hartford and Wethersfield would become the scene of hostilities, constituted a serious operational handficap.


"Pynchon's military duties did not end with King Philip's War. In April 1677 Pynchon and James Richards of Hartford made a "long, troublesome and hazardous" journey to Albany on behalf of Connecticut and Massachusetts to renew ancient friendships with the Mohawks and to settle and conclude a "league of Freindship and amity between the English of New England" and the Mohawks, looking to protection for the "friendly Indians" and destruction of "enemy" Indians allied with the French.


"In addition to holding many offices and engaging in numerous activities on the public behalf, John Pynchon was the foremost trader, merchant, and landowner of western Massachusetts. While the fur trade in the Connecticut Valley declined in importance after 1652, it still remained an important source of income for John Pynchon until a few years before King Philip's War. Most of his fur trading activities were carried on through agents at such locations as Westfield, Northampton, Hadley, and Albany.

"In 1659 Pynchon joined a number of influential merchants of Salem and Boston to form a company having as its objective a share in the western fur trade and an end to the Dutch monopoly. .....

"Pynchon, through his "country-store" activities, was the principal supplier of manufactured goods to Springfield and the upper towns, By sale or barter he obtained quantities of products such as corn, wheat and other grains, peas, flax, hay, beef, pork, tar, and timber. These products plus those from his own extensive lands were shipped from Warehouse Point to Boston and other New England ports, to New York, and even to the West Indies. Cattle might be driven overland to points such as New London and even Boston. John Pynchon, Jr. was a merchant in Boston for a number of years but the integration of the commercial enterprises of father and son has not been studied. John Pynchon was also a partner in land speculation with James Rogers, the foremost New London merchant of the sixties and seventies, and it seems likely they were engaged in joint mercantile enterprises. At various times Pynchon owned and operated grist-mills, corn-mills, and sawmills.

"John Pynchon's far-flung ventures included an interest with Samuel Wyllys and Richard Lord of Connecticut (c. 1682-87) in a sugar plantation called Cabbage Tree in Antigua in the Leeward Islands. During the period between 1652 and 1689 he owned or had interests in at least five vessels, apparently engaged largely in the coastal trade. In 1692 he had an interest in a plant for the distillation of turpentine and the production of rosin. ..... At a November 1700 Suffield town meeting the undertaking of Pynchon and John Eliot of Windsor to set up an ironworks was approved. Pynchon might also finance local artisans, such as blacksmiths, who could furnish goods useful in the Indian trade.

"Pynchon was also interested in several mining ventures. ..... As already indicated, Pynchon was a large landowner. ..... Although Pynchon has been accused in effect of immoral, if not illegal, conduct in using his "monopolistic" position to accumulate extensice land holdings, no evidence has been found supporting such accusations. ..... However, the statement has been made that Pynchon and James Rogers of New London, as partners in land speculation, "engrossed" over 2000 acres in Groton from small holders.


See this link for images of Pynchon's Landholdings and other articles on him;

Major John Pynchon was the son of William Pynchon, who was born in Springfield, in England on October 11, 1590. William's mother was Frances (Brett) Pynchon, and William was the grandson of Jane Empson.

There is no evidence that William attended university in England, although it is agreed by historians and biographers that he was very well-educated. This is based on his own writings and extensive knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew writers. William held numerous offices of responsibility in the colony and he kept journals of records of all kinds, a practice which his son John carried on. William spent a good deal of his later life thinking and writing on religious matters.

In England William was a member of the group of Adventures which later became the Massachusetts Bay Company. William's father, John went to school at New College (Oxford) with the Rev. John White of Dorset, and William was probably acquainted with him before becoming a member of this group of Adventures.

William came to New England with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 with his wife Anna Agnes Andrews and four children. Ann was the daughter of William Andrew of Twiwell, Northamptonshire, and was a member of a old Warwickshire family.

They settled first at Roxbury where he was the principle founder. Anna died there in the first year and he later married Widow Frances Stamford. He was the first member to join the newly formed Congregational church of Roxbury in 1632.

In 1636 he led a party from Roxbury, among whom were Henry Semith, his son-in-law, Jehu Burr, and Miles Morgan, to the Connecticut River, and began the settlement of Agawam, which he named Springfield, after his hometown in England. He was a magistrate there for many years and made a good deal of money in the beaver trade. He did very well at trading with the natives, becoming the second largest trader in new England.

Willam served as a Massachusetts Bay Magistrate from 1630-36, and again from 1642-50/51, and as Treasurer 1632-33. Oddly he did not become a Freeman until August 11, 1642, yet he had always behaved as one from the day of his arrival. It may be that it was an oversight, that may have been noticed in May of 1642, when William was elected Magistrate again. The first time he had served in a colony office since his removal to Springfield in 1636.

He was in England in 1650 to oversee the publication of his book, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption. This book held views contrary to the prevalent Calvinistic view of atonement. The publication caused quite a stir in the magistry. The General Court condemned his book as false, heretical, and erroneous, and ordered Rev. John Norton to answer it. The Court ordered the burning of his book in the marketplace of Boston. They also threatened to prosecute William unless he retract his statements publicly and in writing both here and in England. Upon his return to New England, he was hauled before court.

In May, 1651, Pynchon appeared and explained or modified the obnoxious opinions. The judgment of the Court was deferred till the next session in May, 1652. Hoping to give him time to change his mind and attitude in these matters. William, fed up with the persecuting and intolerant spirit of the authorities in the Bay, returned to England, with his wife and son-in-law, Henry Semith, before his court date. Henry returned and he and Ann moved to England late in 1654. He left his son John to care for the business in Springfield. There in 1655, he published a new edition of his book, with additions and other books concerning religion. He died in England in October 29, 1661, at the age of seventy-two. He is buried in the church yard at Wraysbury. He outlived both his wife and daugter Ann who died within a few days of one another in Oct. 1657.

William was the primary force responsible in the establishment of the first court in western Massachusetts and the administration of justice in the region until 1651.

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Downloaded 2010 from

Major John Pynchon (son of William Pynchon, the settler), b. in England in 1625, came to New England with his father when but 5 years old. He. m. Oct. 30, 1645, Amy Wyllys, b. in England in 1624, (dau. of Gov. Geo. Wyllys of Hartford, Ct., and Mary -----). He was a man of very superior talents, character and social position. He represented the town of Springfield in the General Court in 1659, '62 and '63, and was for 21 years (1665-86) an "Assistant" in it. He was spoken of and addressed by the title of "The Worshipful." From 1652 to 1660 (when Hampshire Co. was incorporated) he, with two others, had a joint commission to hear and determine causes, and from 1692 to 1702 he was Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas for Hampshire Co. He was a large farmer and landholder, and owned several saw-mills and grist-mills, and was much engaged in public business. Even as far off as New London, Ct., then was, he bought 2,400 acres there, in company with James Rogers.

In King Philip's war, in 1675, his brick house, built in 1660, was used as a fort for defense. At the beginning of the attack in June he was in Hadley.

He d. Jan. 17, 1702-3, aet. 76. His wife d. Jan. 9, 1698-9, aet. 74.

--The History of the Descendants of John Dwight of Dedham, Mass. by Benjamin W. Dwight, Vol. II, 1874, page 630.

John Pynchon (1626-1703) was born in Springfield, Essex County, England, and came to New England with his father, William, in 1630. His family settled in Roxbury and relocated when his father founded the town of Springfield in 1636. The village was the northernmost trading post of the Connecticut Colony, seated on major trading routes including the Connecticut River. In 1652, William Pynchon returned to England, leaving the management of Springfield and of the family business to John, then only twenty-six. John expanded his father's holdings, establishing trading posts to the west (Westfield) and northward (Northampton, Hadley). John expanded his business interests to include Boston and Barbados, and directly shipped Connecticut Valley furs to England on the company's own ships. He ran the town of Springfield and represented it in Boston. He was captain of the Springfield militia and fought in King Philips' War (1675-76). By the time of his death, he was the wealthiest and most powerful landowner in Massachusetts.

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Continued in the family fur trade business from Springfield, Mass.

Trade additionally included the Hudson Valley (agent was Timothy Cooper) < see page 18 of Traders and Gentlefolk (Cynthia A. Kierner) ISBN 0-8014-2638-3 (1992)

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Col. John Pynchon's Timeline

Dorchester, Dorset, UK
July 26, 1646
Age 21
October 15, 1647
Age 22
Springfield, Hamden, Massachusetts
October 28, 1650
Age 25
United States
October 11, 1653
Age 28
November 22, 1661
Age 36
January 17, 1701
Age 76
Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts
Age 76
Age 76
Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA