MEIGS, Vincent - I30155

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Vincent MEIGS

The name was early spelled Meggs, and the New England family is traced to Devonshire and Dorsetshire, England, more immediately from Bradford Peverell, in the latter county, where the immigrant was born. His father was Lawrence Meggs, whose ancestry is traced back to William Meggs, draper, of London, who died 22 July 1559. In the line is William, an alderman of London, who married Judith West, sister and heir of Thomas West, Bishop of Ely; Thomas Meggs, born 1507, who lived in Devon, Isle of Ely, and married Anne Coppleston, daughter and heir of Sir John Coppleston, Gentleman, of Exeter; and Nicholas Meggs, born 1527, who lived in Dunham, Isle of Ely, and married Jane Peverell, daughter and heir of William Peverell in the County of Dorset, England, and who held the Manor of Bradford Peverell, said to have been in the Peverell and Meggs families from 1410 to 1610.[1]

Meigs Coat of Arms

Lawrence Meggs, son of Nicholas and Jane (Peverell) Meggs, married Anne Wood, daughter of Richard Wood, of Ashbridge, County Devon, England. There was a coat of arms confirmed to the Meggs family, thus described: Or, a chevron azure between three mascels gules, on a chief of the last a wolf passant argent. The one we reproduce in connection, with this sketch is an illustration of "quartering" or combining of inherited arms -a custom often practiced by English families. In this case, the first and fourth quarters show the above mentioned arms of the Meggs family; the second quarter (upper right of beholder) are the arms of the West family, described thus: Argent, a chevron sable between three roses seeded and leaver proper. The third quarter shows the arms of the Peverell family: Gironny of eight argent and goles. The "quartered" coat-of arms may be found in Stevens Genealogy, Ellis Stevenson (1904), 61, and a description, ascribing the same to, Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs may be found in the Old Northwest Quarterly 8: 222.

I. Vincent MEIGS, born 1583 in Bradford Peverell, Dorsetshire, England, married in 1608 ???? Churchill, who died before the family came to America.[2] "The name Churchill is historical. John Churchill was raised to the peerage by his grateful sovereign for distinguished military service with the Duke of Marlboro, and other members of the family attained high rank in England."[3] In a "Roll of Battle Abbey," giving names of Norman noblemen alive after the historic battle fought in Sussex on 14 October 1066, is found the name "T. de Courcy." A footnote concerning this name, says: "Claimed as ancestor of the Churchills, who, according to Ledeard, were of the best blood of France, and renouned long before the Norman Conquest. John, son of Sir Winston Churchill, was one of the ablest generals England ever had, and attained its greatest honors under the Duke of Marlboro," etc.[4]

Vincent Meigs came with his sons to New England, evidently about 1634. They embarked, it is supposed, from Weymouth, England, and are recorded at Weymouth, Massachusetts, in 1639, where a son was born to John Meigs, son of Vincent, in 1641. Later they went with Reverend Samuel Newman's company to Rehoboth, where John's name is found in a division of woodland, in June, 1644.[5] Apparently they left that year, however, making a short stop at Hartford, Connecticut, and finally arriving in New Haven, where John is recorded as taking the oath of fidelity that same year. Here, also, Vincent is recorded two years,later, on 6 October 1646, as neglecting to “trayne" on 15 June 1646, and was fined two shillings, 6 pence. "But if he bring proof," runs the quaint old record, "that he trayned twice in one fortnight, the fine is to be remitted." He was recorded in the same year as being "an old man with only two children known to us."[6] In spite of his age, Vincent seems to have moved about a good deal with his sons. They were in Guilford in 1647, signing the Patentee Charter there. About 1654, the family of John, with the old father, removed to East Guilford, then called Hami nonassett, now Madison, where a house was built on property later owned and occupied by Sergeant Daniel Meigs, a prominent descendant.[7]

Here the pioneer died, on 1 December 1658, his will being probated next day. He was the first to be buried in the town[8], though the oldest gravestone to be found in the cemetery now bears the date of 1682. Descended in the fifth generation from Vincent Meigs, was Return Jonathan Meigs, Colonel of the Connecticut Regiment in the Revolutionary War, and in the sixth generation, was Major General John Meigs.[9] A romantic story is told concerning the origin of the name Return, which has been borne by several generations of the Meigs men. One Jonathan Meigs, an ardent but unsuccessful suitor, upon being rejected for the steenth time, sadly left the house of his much desired. Glancing out the window, the young lady, struck by the dejection and despair of his demeanor as be walked across the lawn to his horse, was swept by a revulsion of feeling, and rushing to the door, she called to the unhappy swain, "Return, Jonathan!" And that bewildered youth afterwards said no sweeter or more welcome words bad even fallen on his cars, and in gentle memory, he named his first born son, "Return Jonathan."

CHILDREN of Vincent:

  1. Vincent, born in England 14 December 1609. Contracted to build a mill at East Hampton, Long Island, in 1653. Was resident of North Sea in 1657, recorded as bringing as action there on 2 June of that year. It is presumed he died, unmarried, on 3 November, 1700.[10]
  2. John, born in England, Wednesday, 29 February 1612; married Tamsen FRY.
  3. Mark, born in England 1614; was with father and brother John in New Haven in 1646; to Southampton, Long Island, in 1651 - 1658, marrying there a wife, Avis. He was granted a lot in East Hampton, but left it before December 1651 and removed to Huntington, farther west on the island, where he died, in his will, probated in 1673, giving all his property after the decease of his wife Avis, to Samuel, the son of John Lum, of Southampton.[11]


II. John MEIGS, born in England 29 February 1612, was married in England in 1632, to Thomasine (Tamsen, Tarrizin, Thimmerziam) FRY, of Weymouth, England. She was the daughter of William and Sarah (Hill) Fry, and granddaughter of James and Judith (Jourdaine) Hill.[12] Her brother, William Fry, her sister Mary, wife of Walter Harris, and her sister Hannah, wife of William Rawlins, also came to New England, some of them having come on the William and Francis in 1632. It is thought letters from Walter and Mary Harris, sent back to England, influenced the coming of John Meigs and his family, about 1634.[13]

The will of Mary(Fry) Harris who survived her husband less than three months, "is one of the oldest wills extant in the country, and is rich in allusion to costume and furniture." [14] A few extracts are here presented of the will, made 18 January 1655, in which mention is made of some of her relationships. Mentions oldest daughter

"Sarah . . . daughters Sarah and Mary. . . . daughter Mary Lawrence . . . her eldest sonne and second sonne and youngest sonne . . . youngest daughter Elizabeth Weekes . . . to my sister Migges , a red peticoat, a cloth jacket, a silke hud, a quoife (cap), a cross cloth and a neck cloth . . . my cosen Calib Rawlyns . . . my two cosens Mary and Elizabeth Fry . . . Mary Barnet . . . my sister Hannah Rawlin and my brother Rawlin . . . my two kinswomen Elizabeth Hubbard and Mary Stevens . . . my brother Migges, his three youngest children . . . my soon Thomas, "if he doe come home or be alive" . . . to Rebeckah Bruen a pynt pott of pewter, a new peticoate and wascote wch she is to spin helselfe, alsoe an old byble, and a hatt wch was my soon Thomas his hatt . . . my son Gabriell . . ."

John and Tamsen(Fry) Meigs brought one child with them when they came. They settled first in Weymouth, Massachusetts[15], and then in Rehoboth, where they lived until 1644, and removed to New Haven, Connecticut, where John took the oath of fidelity that year.[16] In 1648, he bought a lot fronting New Haven Green, known today as Cutler Corner, one hundred thirty nine feet on Church Street, and two hundred thirty five feet on Chapel Street, in the main business part of the city "the lot along the fronts of which pass daily the greatest number of feet, and on which towers the largest private building yet erected in this city."

John was a shoemaker by trade, also a Currier and tanner. He bought considerable property about New Haven, as well as having acquired woodland in Rehoboth shortly before leaving there. He was more or less renowned for possessing many books, among them a Greek and Latin dictionary. He was the first of the family to spell his name Meigs. In 1647 he was admitted as a planter at Guilford, signing the Patentee Charter as one of the twelve men selected and authorized to so do. The same year he was a representative to General Court at Hartford, "standing for Guilford." He purchased much land there and elsewhere, and at his death was possessed of an unusually vast estate.[17]

He seems to have been somewhat unpopular, judging from the several suits at law in which he was involved. In the record of one of these, he is called "the quarrelsome John Meigs."[18] These suits seem to have been varied in nature, such as being sued about some shoes he had made which did not wear to suit the purchaser; suing others for debt, for payments on land sold, or because their hogs got through his fences, etc. Once he got into trouble through a failure to observe strictly one of the "blue laws" of his day. The record brings a smile: With all the strictures of the observance of the Lord's Day, we find but one accusation against any one of violating it. This is a most curious complaint, and characteristic of Puritan morals.

On Dec. 4, 1657, John Meigs was brought up for having come "with his cart fr' Athomonossock on the Lord's Day (Saturday night) making a noise as he came with his cart, to the offence of many y heard it." He plead that "he was mistaken in the time of day, thinking that lie had time enough for the journey, but being somewhat more laden than he expected, and the cattell came more slowly than usual, and so cast him behinde, it proving to be more late of day than lie had thought." "But he professeth to be sorry for his mistake, and the offence justly given thereby, promising to be more careful for time to come."

The Court "seeing the matter seemed to be done upon a surprisall," passed it over with a reproof, and commanded him to make a "publique acknowledgement of his evill on the next lecture or fast day."[19] When the settlement of Hammonassett was begun, 3 March 1653, John Meigs was admitted planter there, upon the purchase of a hundred pound allotment.[20] When trouble arose with Connecticut, he took active sides with Connecticut usurpation, and accepted an appointment as constable of Guilford, from the Connecticut authorities, in defiance of the New Haven jurisdiction. This was in May, 1663.

It was a year before this, however, that he made his famous ride on horseback in the night of 12 May 1662, riding from Guilford to New Haven, and reaching that place in time to "notify the Rev. John Davenport that agents of the King were at Guilford, on their way to New Haven, to seize the regicides, Whalley and Goffe, who were then in hiding at Mr. Davenport's. The judges, warned in time, hurried away to another of their mysterious hiching places, and John Meigs was considered to have saved their lives. He is also said to have carried food to them in their hiding places." This interesting episode is quite fully described in The Regicides, by F. H. Cogswell, and The Judges Cave Romance of New Haven Colony, by Margaret Sidney Chak.[21]

Several years before his death, John Meigs removed to Killingworth, where he and his son John are named in a list of freemen in 1669. Here he died, 4 January 1672. His will, dated 26 August 1671, indicates that, of his family, only his daughter Elizabeth had preceded him in death.


  1. Mary, born in England, 1633; married 3 March 1652/3, William, son of John and Mary Stevens. She was the mother of two daughters and five sons, one of whom, John, the eldest, called "Skipper John" was killed in King Philip's War. She died 30 April 1703, and he remarried (2) Sarah, widow of David Carpenter, of New London.[22]
  2. Elizabeth, probably born in America about 1635. She married in 1650, Richard Hubbell, of Stratford, Connecticut. She died after 1655, when she was mentioned in the will of her aunt, Mary (Fry) Harris.[23]
  3. John, born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, 29 February 1640/1; died 9 November 1713. Was elected deacon of First Church of Guilford in 1696. He married (1) 7 March 1665, Sarah, daughter of William Wilcoxson, of Stratford. She died 24 November 1691, and he married (2) XXXXLydia Crittenden. His son John was elected deacon of the Congregational Church in Guilford, 1707, and died 19 February 1718, aged 48.[24]
  4. Concurrence, born in Weymouth, 1643; married about 1663, Captain Henry Crane, born 1635; died 22 April 1711. They lived in Killingworth, and were parents of four sons and five daughters. She died 9 October 1708, and he married (2) 26 December 1709, Deborah (Jones) Champion, widow of Henry CHAMPION, of Lyme.[25] See CHAMPION sketch for the biography and continuation of this family line. After the death of Captain Crane, Deborah married (3) at Haddam, 6 March 1716/7, Richard TOWNER.[26] See TOWNER sketch for the biography and continuation of this family line.
  5. Tryal, born 1646; married Andrew WARD, Jr.

Tryal MEIG

III. Tryall MEIG born 1646, married at Guilford, Connecticut, 1668, See WARD sketch for the biography and continuation of this family line.

  SOURCE:  The Ancestry & Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale by Audentia Smith Anderson (1926)


  1. (Boston Transcript, 22 August 1900.)
  2. (Meigs Family in America, Henry B. Meigs, Appendix 1 a.)
  3. (Hudson and Mohawk Valleys Genealogy, Reynolds, 2: 876.)
  4. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 2: 34.)
  5. (Vital Records Rehoboth, 911.)
  6. (Meigs Family, 8.)
  7. (Ibid. 8.)
  8. (New Haven Company, Rockey, 203)
  9. (Connecticut Genealogy 1: 550.)
  10. (Meigs Family, Meigs, 8.)
  11. (History of Southampton, L. L, Howell, 432; Meigs Family, 8.)
  12. (Boston Transcript, 30 April 1923.)
  13. (Meigs Family, Meigs, 8.)
  14. (History of New London, Caulkins, 269.)
  15. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 8: 348)
  16. (Meigs Family, 9.)
  17. (Fifty Puritan Ancestors, Nash, 136.)
  18. (History of Guilford, Steiner, 97.)
  19. -History of Guilford, Steiner, 88.
  20. (History of Guilford, Ralph D. Smyth, 19.)
  21. (Fifty Puritan Ancestors, E. T. Nash, 135.)
  22. (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 56: 356.)
  23. (Meigs Family, 9.)
  24. (Connecticut Genealogy 1: 550; History of Guilford, Steiner, 292, 36o.)
  25. (Boston Transcript, 8 January 1.923; History Ancient Woodbury, Cothren, 2: 1484.)
  26. (Genealogy of Towner Family, James Towner, 1910)