The history of the settling and growth of the Plymouth, Massachusetts area, the
first permanent settlement in the United States, is a most heart warming and
inspiring story. When studied in depth, it will bring tears to your eyes and
tear at your heart strings. This is the one story that stands out in history as
to what can be accomplished by faith, love, determination, and hard work.
The early years of the settlement (first started by the Pilgrims in late 1620)
can only be described as rough ones. Insurmountable tasks had to be performed,
required living on reduced rations so newcomers could be fed, there was always
the Indian scare there were problems of being ill-equipped to face the cold and
the wilderness about them, and then the sadness and despair of losing many
There was a certain quality about these early settlers that makes it so
inspiring; the faith of the people, their charity towards those who differed
with them in courage in the face of danger, their ready forgiveness of those
who wronged them, and their patience under adversity. They were hard years for
these early pioneers. The hours were long and the work was back-breaking, but
they struggled to meet each challenge or set-back as it occurred.
There is a saying, "I can neither be proud nor ashamed of my ancestors as I had
nothing to do with choosing them", but I am proud of these ancestors as
you should be. I appreciate the sacrifices they made and the challenges they
met. They have bequeathed to us all a very noble heritage.
Samuel Sturtevant was one of the settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, coming to
the "New World" about the year 1639/40. No documentation can be found
relating to his birthdate, birthplace, his parenthood, or who he specifically
married. To build a biography on Samuel, It has necessitated piecing together
certain factors (like working a giant jig-saw puzzle) and making assumptions as
to what the "picture" looks like.
SAMUEL'S DATE OF BIRTH
The date of "about 1624" is the most common date found. Samuel Sturtevant
was a "Townsman
of Plymouth" in 1640 by the list submitted to the town meeting on May 18, 1688.
In 1640 "Townsman" meant "freeman and voter"; by 1688 it had more the
implication of resident". Under the earlier terminology, this could indicate
that Samuel was at least 21 in 1640 so he could have been born as early as
1618 and that 1624 is the last probable date.
Various statements have been found - none verified. Discovery of a birth or
baptismal record would very likely give a clue to parentage. A query in
Hartford Times, June 5, 1954, said "Nottingham, England", but no proofs cited.
Holmes "Ancestral Heads", page 231, says Rochester, Kent, England,
but this is not found elsewhere and evidently is unproved. Some sources say
The names of Sturtevant, Sturtivant, Sturdevant, and Sturdivant, are of English
origin, and are early nicknames given to pursuivants , harbingers, or heralds.
From the Middle English "Sterten"-- meaning "to start - plus the Anglo-French
"ava(u)nt" - meaning "forward' ... 'away" signifying "start away" for a
messenger. Early forms of the name are: Stryrtauant; Stircuant; Stircyuant; and
Writing in 1913, Walter H. Sturtevant (see Dedication) said that in the early
1600s and later there were Sturtevant families in Nottinghamshire, at Carlton
and Norwell - not far from Scrooby, but that it would be pure guesswork to
connect Samuel with them, lacking verifying records.
Samuel's parents may have been among the Pilgrims who fled from England to
Holland They may have remained there, or have died in one of the epidemics of
1610 1616, etc. They may have returned to England. There are intangible
indications that his parents were of good, middle class stock. Possibly with
family or other relationships with persons of standing in Puritan circles. The
family name "John" might have some important significance. On recording the
name of Samuel's first son, the name Samuel was first written, then crossed out
and John interlined in the same handwriting. His sixth child was also named
HOW AND FROM WHERE DID SAMUEL COME
There are no proofs or leads in known records. It is an educated guess that he
came, possibly, from London, England in his teens, as an apprentice or
indenture. Young men of good family often indentured themselves for passage
costs, and apprenticeships were a normal educational procedure of the times.
Samuel's known record after 1642 makes it seem unlikely that he jumped ship at
Plymouth, either from one of the fishing fleet that touched there or from one
of the vessels that made this port of call. He was a yeoman, and possibly
something of a small trader, but not a mariner.
To add confusion, Samuel's wife, in various records, has been listed as Ann,
Anna, and Hannah. Her identity and vital dates, except her 2nd marriage to John
Bass, have never been proved. It has been generally "accepted" that Samuel
married Ann Lee, daughter of Robert and Mary Lee. Robert Lee was a shoemaker at
Plymouth from before January 3, 1636 until after August 6, 1662. As of October
20, 1643. he had two daughters, Ann and Mary (both mentioned that date in the
will of John Atwood). John Atwood called the elder Lees "my brother and
sister". Daughter Mary Lee became the wife of John Howland, Jr., of Barnstable,
KNOWN FACTS ABOUT SAMUEL STURTEVANT
A court order dated May 3, 1642 settled a case over "corn in partnership'
between Mr. John Jenney (Plymouth's miller), Samuel Sturtevant, and Joseph
Ramsden. This order indicates that Edward Dotey, not a litigant, had agreed to
pay Samuel Sturtevant 13 1/2 bushels for his part of the crop (probably
harvested in 1641); that Jenney owed Dotey 5 1/2 bushels "for Thurston Clark";
and that Ramsden owed Dotey 8 bushels. Evidently Sturtevant was in debt to
Jenney for the miller got 13 1/2 bushels of the corn and Dotey was "freed
from any further incumbrance therein". This court record might indicate that
Samuel had come over under an indenture, had planted at Dotey's man, and was to
get 13 1/2 bushels of the crop as part of his termination award. This usual
final settlement on an indenture at that time was a suit of clothes, 20 acres
of land, and 12 bushels of corn. Dotey himself had come on the
as an indentured servant to Stephen Hopkins. About 1635 Dotey was seeking one
or more indentures from London for his service.
The next year Samuel Sturtevant and Joseph Ramsden had John Jenney in court on
a trespass action, 20 pounds damage, on June 6, 1643 Ramsden recovered, but
apparently Sturtevant got nothing. This action would indicate that Samuel was a
free man and a property owner by 1643, and also that he was born earlier than
1624 - the approximate date usually found.
Samuel was listed, at Plymouth, in August 1643, among the males between the
ages of 16 and 60 able to bear arms. Under the law of the time he was thus a
member of the Plymouth Train Band and did normal military service. There is no
record of his having combat duty. He was not listed in the small detachment
sent from the colony to the Pequot Wars. After 1645, he was assigned to the
north squadron of the Plymouth Company whose emergency assembly point was Jones
He helped lay out a route across Jones River to the Massachusetts Path prior to
June 10, 1650; was elected one of the Surveyors for Highways of Plymouth Town
on June 5, 1651; and was elected Plymouth Town Constable in 1664. He was
elected as one of the Jurymen In 1650, 1656, 1657/58, 1659, 1660, 1661, 1663,
1664, 1665, 1666, 1667, 1668, and 1669 (serving In court on July 6; 1669). At
the Plymouth Town Meeting on May 18, 1668, he was appointed on the committee of
twelve to draw up the warrant for the next town meeting to be held on February
Samuel's first recorded land purchase was on July 17, 1645 when he bought from
John Shaw, Jr. for £4:10:0 (payable in good Beaver before October 31, 1645), 20
acres at High Cliff, Plymouth, bounded south by lands of Samuel Cuthbertson,
and north by lands of John Shaw, Sr. By October 26, 1647, he had bought other
land from Kanelme Winslow, the amount and location of this yet to be determined.
On December 25, 1655, he was granted by Plymouth Town 4 acres of meadow land on
the north side of a branch of Jones River. Five years later the town granted
him 50 acres of land on the north side of Jones River on the southeast side of
his meadow. This 50 acres he exchanged in July 1667, for 50 acres at the south
end of Monponsett Pond abutting 50 acres of Mr. William Bradford's. By grant or
purchase he acquired considerable other land, and in his right some grants were
made to his widow after his death.
Samuel Sturtevant's dwelling and homelot was at High Cliff (North Plymouth),
presumably the 20 acres bought in 1645. This was later occupied by his son
John, to whom his other sons sold their rights in this homestead on April 25,
The following excerpt from a history written by Claire Sturtevant Booth (10-11)
best describes Samuel and his wife Ann.
'The whole of Samuel's Colony life of about twenty-eight years was an active
one of founding a home, providing for the needs of his family, extending his
lands, farming and serving the community In minor capacities. It is surprising
that Samuel found time to serve the community in any way considering the
demands made upon his time and strength through the support of his family. In
view of this fact, it is evident he was very ambitious and energetic, and
possessed of considerable strength and courage. While to none of his public
offices can be ascribed any particular greatness, still, each does signify a
certain amount of stability and dependability. Had Samuel not been of proven
value to the community he would not have been selected by the Governors and
their Assistants for the positions to which he was assigned. Such men of
strength as William Bradford, Miles Standish, Edward Winslow, Thomas Prince,
William Collyer, and Edmond Freeman were active in administering the internal
affairs of this Colony and their exemplary conduct to a great measure,
influenced Samuel's life through his association with them. As the years passed
over the Colony and Samuel gained the experience of age, he became a respected
member of the community and a man of moral worth in the estimation of his
Whoever Ann may have been before her marriage, she proved to be a good wife and
mother. Perhaps Samuel was growing as a man of worth In his community before
their marriage but It was not until 1647 that his name begins to appear
conspicuously in Plymouth records. Ann was undoubtedly a women of intelligence
and sensing the force of Samuel's character, in a way, assisted in directing
his perseverance and tenacity of purpose into fields of greater prominence,
Samuel did not become a great man in the Colony but he accomplished a great
deal in the way of assisting to stabilize the life of the community through his
industry and moral conduct. It may readily be taken for granted that unless
Ann had been a woman of character, of good family connection, and a real
counselor that Samuel would never have progressed to a great degree. The fact
that her boys grew to be rugged and stout hearted men would still further prove
the value of her character morals. Another indication is that her girls married
into good families, the Little's and the Waterman's."
The above text is the intoductory pages from Robert H.Sturtevant's book 'The
Descendants of Samuel Sturtevant' (published privately by Robert).