Tag: Puritans

Isaac Phelps and his Blended Families

The grave of Capt. Isaac Phelps, 1638-1725, in Westfield’s Old Burying Ground

This is the fourth in a series of posts about four generations of my ancestors in colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. It includes the Bagg, Burt, Phelps, Moseley, Stanley and other related families between 1635 and 1795.

My seven-times great grandfather Isaac Phelps (1638-1725) was like the Energizer bunny: he never seemed to stop. For much of his life, he worked hard as a farmer and he held many offices in his home town in New England, but he also became a school teacher at age 64 and was named a captain in the militia at age 71. Only death seemed to slow him down, at age 87, and his tombstone is almost as legible now as the day it was carved.

Isaac was born in 1638 in Windsor, Connecticut, the eldest son of George Phelps and Philura Randall,1 both of whom were newcomers to New England, part of a wave of Puritans who fled England, hoping to follow their religious beliefs without persecution. By the time he was nine years old, Isaac had four younger siblings, but that year, 1647, two of them died. The following April, his mother died.2 Families needed two parents to share the work of running the household and the farm, so his father did not wait long to remarry. George Phelps’ second wife was Frances Dewey, whose second husband, Thomas Dewey, had died two days before Philura.3

From age ten, Isaac grew up in what we would describe as a blended family. The household included his father and step-mother, his brother Joseph, Mary Clark (Frances’ daughter from her first marriage) and the five Dewey children, Thomas, Josiah, Anna, Israel and Jedediah. Eventually, there were three more half-brothers: Jacob, John and Nathaniel Phelps. Isaac’s other brother, Abraham, was adopted by Randall relatives who were childless.4

The Puritans wanted to be able to read the Bible themselves, so education was considered important in colonial New England. Perhaps Isaac went to a neighbour’s house for tutoring.

Meanwhile, everyone in the community attended church for the whole day every Sunday. In 1662, Isaac Phelps married Ann Gaylord.5 (See note i) Isaac’s and Ann’s eldest child, Isaac Jr., was born in 1666 in Windsor. The family moved to Westfield, Massachusetts around 1670 and the rest of their 11 children were born in that frontier settlement. (See note ii)

Dewey House, built 1735, is home to the Western Hampden Historical Society

Ann (Gaylord) Phelps died in 1689 or 1690, when the youngest child was still a toddler. Sometime before 1694, Isaac married his neighbour, widow Mary (Newberry) Maudsley,6 who had eight children of her own. (See note iii) Once again, Isaac was part of a big, blended family.

Members of the extended Phelps/Dewey family were also living in Westfield, including George and Frances and Isaac’s half-brothers and step-siblings. Perhaps these families saw more opportunities to acquire fertile farmland in the new settlement, which was founded by settlers from nearby Springfield and a handful of families from Windsor.

Isaac and his father were amongst the first settlers in Westfield, choosing prime home lots located near the Little River in 1667.7 The colonists purchased the land from the indigenous people and Westfield was incorporated in 1669.

Because Westfield was quite isolated, the residents were afraid of attacks by the indigenous people, especially during King Phillip’s War (1675-76). When colonial authorities in Boston told the residents to go to Springfield because of the danger, Isaac Phelps was one of four people to sign a letter refusing to do so. Instead, Westfield residents built a two-square-mile wooden palisade around the town and dug an underground cellar where the women and children could hide.8 Westfield was not attacked, although Springfield was, and some individuals were.

Map showing Westfield’s first meeting house and fortified area

Westfield’s citizens maintained a militia for decades to counter the threat that was fueled by ongoing wars between the English and the French and their Native American allies. In 1709, Isaac became a captain in the militia.

Westfield had about 150 residents in 1676, and the town continued to grow. The Dewey brothers built a mill on one of the many nearby creeks, there was a tavern in the town and a road that led to Springfield. Most important, the town had a minister: Reverend Edward Taylor, a graduate of Cambridge University and of Harvard University, served the people of Westfield from 1679 to 1726. Isaac was one of the founding members of the church, and a deacon.9

Isaac also played a role in Westfield’s civic life. He served as town clerk, assessor, surveyor and town treasurer,10 and, although he was not a scholar, he took on the duties of school teacher at age 64. He was also a legislator of the Massachusetts General Court.

He died in 1725 and was buried in Westfield’s Old Burying Ground. He is my ancestor through his daughter Hannah Phelps, who married Daniel Bagg in 1693.

Photo credits:

Janice Hamilton

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “George Phelps of Windsor and Westfield,” Writing Up the Ancestors, April 18, 2018, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2018/04/george-phelps-of-windsor-and-westfield.html

Janice Hamilton, “A Visit to the Old Burying Ground of Westfield, Massachusetts,” Writing Up the Ancestors, April 4, 2018, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2018/04/a-visit-to-old-burying-ground-of.html


i. The Gaylord family. Ann Gaylord’s grandfather William Gaylord (also spelled Gayler, Gaylar, Gaylor, Gailead and Gailer) brought his family from England to Dorchester, Massachusetts aboard the Mary and Johnin 1630. At the time, he and his wife (name unknown) had six children ranging in age from about four to 15.11

William Gaylord played an important role in Dorchester, initially as one of two deacons of the Congregational church that the colonists and their pastor, John Warham, established there.

William was one of four men who signed early town orders in Dorchester, he was chosen as a selectman (town official) for several terms between 1635 and 1637, and he was appointed assessor in 1636. Two years later, the Gaylord family followed Rev. Warham and a number of other Dorchester families to Windsor, Connecticut. There, William was granted a 20-acre home lot and several tracts of agricultural land. He served as deputy for Windsor to the Connecticut General Court for many years. His wife died in Windsor in 1657; William Sr. died in 1673.

Their second child, William Jr., was baptized in Crewkerne, Somersetshire, in 1617, and married Anna Porter in Windsor in 1641.12 John Porter’s family had come from England and settled in Windsor in 1639. After Anna died in 1653, William married Elizabeth Drake. William Jr. died in 1656, leaving seven children, the oldest of whom was Ann, born 1645. Ann must have shouldered a lot of responsibility helping to raise her younger brothers and sisters.

She married Isaac Phelps on March 11, 1662/63.

ii. Isaac’s and Ann’s children born in Windsor:
Isaac, b. 1666, m. Mary Moseley.

Those who were baptized in Westfield were:
daughter b. 1669, d. young.
John b. 1672, married Thankful Hitchcock;
Hannah b. 1674, m. Daniel Bagg in 1693/4 (my direct ancestors);13
Hezekiah b. 1677;
Joseph b. 1679;
Daniel b. 1681, d. 1690;
Noah, b. 1684, d. 1731 at Housatonnuc;
infant, b/d 1686;
Ebenezer, b. 1687, m. Susanna Burbank.14

iii. Some 19th-century genealogies suggest Isaac did not remarry after Ann’s death, but it would have been unusual for a widower with a houseful of young children not to look for a new wife. An article proving Isaac did remarry appeared in The American Genealogist in 1993 (TAG vol. 68, p 239-241). In such a small community, there were multiple connections between some of these blended family members. After Isaac Phelps married Mary (Newberry) Maudsley, his son Isaac Jr. married her daughter, Mary Maudsley.

iv. Windsor and Westfield kept good records and these databases are available online from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Several books have been written about the area and its residents, mostly by amateur historians and genealogists in the 19th century, and the information in these books need to be checked against the databases. Keep in mind that often several individuals living about the same time had the same name. For example, besides the father and son I have mentioned, there were three other men named Isaac Phelps. See TheNew England Historical and Genealogical Register 163 [2009]: 117.


  1. Connecticut: Vital Records (The Barbour Collection), 1630-1870 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.) From original typescripts, Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection, 1928. https://www.americanancestors.org/DB414/i/12316/224/138422806, accessed April 7, 2018
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Oliver Seymour Phelps and Andrew T. Servin, compilers, “George Phelps the Emigrant, 1630,” The Phelps Family of America and their English Ancestors, and other interesting papers, coats of arms and valuable records, volume II (Pittsfield, MA: Eagle Publishing Company, 1899), p. 1270.
  5. Burton Spear, compiler, Search for the Passengers of the Mary and John, 1630, vol. 5, Gallop – Greenway (Toledo: The Mary and John Clearing House, 1987), p 18.
  6. The American Genealogist. New Haven, CT: D. L. Jacobus, 1937-. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009 – .) https://www.americanancestors.org/DB283/i/12963/239/24672606, accessed April 7, 2018.
  7. Rev. John H. Lockwood, Westfield and its Historic Influences 1669-1919: The Life of an Early Town (Springfield, 1922, Printed and sold by the author), p. 58, https://archive.org/stream/westfieldandits00lockgoog#page/n80/mode/2up accessed April 1, 2018
  8. Kay Delli Bovi, Barbara Trant, volunteers in public schools, The Westfield Story, printed in 2006, http://www.cityofwestfield.org/DocumentCenter/View/236accessed April 7, 2018.
  9. Lockwood, Westfield and its Historic Influences 1669-1919, p. 94. https://archive.org/stream/westfieldandits00lockgoog#page/n120/mode/2up, accessed April 1, 2018.
  10. Phelps and Servin, The Phelps Family of America and their English Ancestors, p. 1269.
  11. Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, 3 volumes, (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society), II: 742.
  12. Connecticut: Vital Records (The Barbour Collection), 1630-1870 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.) From original typescripts, Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection, 1928.  https://www.americanancestors.org/DB414/r/138416737, accessed April 10, 2018.
  13. New England Marriages to 1700. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.) Originally published as: New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015. https://www.americanancestors.org/DB1568/r/426875386, accessed April 10, 2018.
  14. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2013.) https://www.americanancestors.org/DB202/r/245392558, accessed April 10, 2018.

George Phelps of Windsor and Westfield

This is the third in a series of posts about four generations of my ancestors in colonial Massachusetts and Connecticut. It includes the Bagg, Burt, Phelps, Moseley, Stanley and other related families between 1635 and 1795.

For many of the colonists who fled England to become pioneers in New England in the 1630s, rebuilding their lives once was enough. But not for George Phelps. He helped to found the town of Windsor, Connecticut and raised his family there. Thirty years later, he started over as a founding settler of Westfield, a new town on the edge of the Massachusetts wilderness.

His date and place of birth in England are unknown, but he was probably born around 16131 and he probably came to New England on the ship Recovery in 1634.2 Most of its passengers were from southwest England, and George may have been from the same area.

He initially settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Some people in Dorchester complained that the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony were too elitist and autocratic.3  They wanted to be part of a more democratic society. In 1635, a group of unhappy colonists left Dorchester with their minister, Reverend John Warham, determined to found a new community they called Windsor, Connecticut. George was one of them.

A trading post had been built at the spot where the Farmington River flows into the Connecticut River several years earlier, and the indigenous people in the area were friendly to the newcomers and willing to sell them land. The spot was well located for trade and its riverside meadows were fertile, so Warham’s group decided to settle there. 

Map of Windsor. The Phelps’ house was left of the spot where the Farmington River flowed into the Connecticut.

Sixty men, women and children travelled overland with their farm animals, while their possessions were shipped by water. The first winter was so difficult that many of the cattle died and some of the would-be settlers fled back to Dorchester, returning to Windsor in the spring, accompanied by additional settlers.

In 1637, the Pequot Indians began attacking the New England colonists, so the settlers surrounded their houses with a protective wooden palisade. By 1639, the danger had subsided and the people of Windsor constructed the most important building in the community: the church and meeting house. George married Philura Randall, the daughter of Philip Randall, although there is no surviving record of their marriage. They lived in an area known as the Island, overlooking the Farmington River, but not only was that area prone to flooding, in 1640, the house burned.4

Like most of his neighbours, George supported his family as a farmer. According to a 1640 inventory of Windsor properties, he owned nine different tracts of land, including several acres in what was known as the Plimouth Meadow, several properties on the other side of what people called the great river, and several narrow tracts of land that stretched three miles back from the water.5

As well as wheat and Indian corn, George may have grown tobacco, a crop that has been grown in the area since 1640, and he planted 500 apple trees. Apples had been imported to the colony from England and were a staple of the New England diet.

Old Corn Mill, Windsor, built around 1640, as it appeared in 1910

He signed land deeds and his will with a mark, so George probably did not know how to write, however, he did own books.6 He served as a constable in Windsor in 1645 and was on juries a number of times between 1649 and 1667.

George and Philura had five children, including Isaac (my direct ancestor), born 1638, Abraham, born 1642, and Joseph, born 1647.The years 1647 and 1648 were particularly difficult, with many deaths in the community. Two of the Phelps children died in 1647, and Philura died on April 29, 1648.7 George remarried six months later. His second wife was Frances Dewey, the widow of Thomas Dewey, who had had also died in April. Frances had a daughter from her first marriage and five young children from her marriage with Thomas. She and George went on to have three children together: Jacob, born 1649, John, born 1651, and Nathaniel, born 1654.8

In the late 1660s, the Phelps family left Windsor and helped to found Westfield, Massachusetts. Some of their Windsor neighbours made the same move, joining several families who had come from Springfield, Massachusetts to establish the new town. Life was not easy in Westfield, wnich was the westernmost town in Massachusetts, nevertheless, these self-reliant pioneers survived the many hardships they faced and the town grew.

When George Phelps died on May 8, 1687,9 he left his bedding, household goods, some money and the use of part of the house in Westfield to his wife. Frances died in Westfield three years later.

His son Jacob received a four-acre section of the home lot in Westfield that included the house, barn and orchard. To son Isaac, he left “the best coat of my wearing apparel and my mare.”10 He distributed money and his remaining land in Windsor and Westfield between all his sons.

Photo sources:

map: The History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, vol. 1, p. 149
Corn mill: photo by Katherine Parker Drake; Windsor Historical Society collection. 


All the sources for this article are secondary. The article on George Phelps in The Great Migration series by Robert Charles Anderson, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), includes references to numerous other sources.

The chapter on George Phelps in The Phelps Family of America was recommended to me by a senior researcher at the NEHGS. Another NEHGS researcher, Alicia Crane Williams, discussed this book on the blog Vita Brevis (https://vita-brevis.org/2018/03/pulling-it-all-together/#more-10613), noting that it was written by a gentleman genealogist in the 19thcentury. Books of this type often contain errors and, in this case, the information about George’s origins in England is wrong.

I used both the book and the online version of The Great Migration Begins. Links to the other digital books about Windsor can be found on ConnecticutHistory.org, https://connecticuthistory.org/towns-page/windsor/

The organization Descendants of the Founders of Ancient Windsor has published a list of the early settlers of Windsor on its website, http://www.ancientwindsor.org/index.html. See http://www.ancientwindsor.org/founders-list.html.


  1. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010), (Originally published as: New England Historic Genealogical Society. Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III, 3 vols. 1995), p 445. https://www.americanancestors.org/DB393/i/12107/539/1415511879, accessed March 25, 2018.
  2. “The Origin of George Phelps” Phelps Family History in America, http://www.phelpsfamilyhistory.com/research/george/index.asp, accessed March 24, 2018.
  3. Howard, Daniel. A New History of Old Windsor, Connecticut. Windsor Locks, CT: Journal Press, 1935. http://www.archive.org/stream/newhistoryofoldw00howa#page/n5/mode/2up, accessed March 29, 2018.
  4. Stiles, Henry. The History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut Including East Windsor, South Windsor, Bloomfield, Windsor Locks, and Ellington. 1635-1891, Vol. 1. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, 1891, p. 163. https://archive.org/stream/historygenealogi11stil#page/n357/mode/2up, accessed March 24, 2018.
  5. Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, p 446.
  6. Oliver Seymour Phelps and Andrew T. Servin, compilers. The Phelps Family of America and their English Ancestors, and other interesting papers, coats of arms and valuable records. Volume II.  Pittsfield, MA, Eagle Publishing Company, 1899. “George Phelps the Emigrant, 1630,” p. 1267.
  7. Connecticut: Vital Records (The Barbour Collection), 1630-1870 (Online Database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.) From original typescripts, Lucius Barnes Barbour Collection, 1928, https://www.americanancestors.org/DB414/i/12316/224/138422806, accessed April 7, 2018
  8. Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, p 449.
  9. Massachusetts Vital Records. 1621-1850 (online database: AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2016.) https://www.americanancestors.org/DB190/r/253013871, accessed March 21, 2018.
  10. Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, p 447.