Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#34--John Richards—Continuing a Family Tradition of Service

Last week, I blogged about Edward Richards, one of my emigrant ancestors, who came to Massachusetts in 1632.  This week I thought I would continue that line and blog about his oldest son, John, who was born to Edward Richards and Susanna Hunting on May 1, 1641.  On August 1, 1672 at the age of 31, he married Mary Colburn, daughter of Nathaniel and Priscilla (Clark) Colburn.  John and Mary had five children:  John, Jr., born July 20, 1673; Mary, born June 23, 1675; Deborah, born, Jun 1, 1679, Joanna, born, 1681; and Hannah, born March 3, 1684.  Mary Colburn, died on December 17, 1685.  John then married Mary Fuller, and they had Samuel, born January 1686.

John became a freeman on May 31 and was active in the Dedham community.
He was appointed to view fences.  Since his father was also a viewer of fence, I was interested in finding out exactly what this job involved.  After a quick search of the web, I learned that fence viewer is one of the oldest appointed positions in New England.  The viewer’s job was to make sure that fences were maintained properly and to settle disputes over property lines when a person believed that his neighbor’s fence was on his property.  John was also elected constable and collected taxes from the town’s property owners.  John and his brother, Nathaniel, lent the town money.  According to the Dedham Town Records, Vol. IV, p.190 “A bill is given to Deacon Aldis of ten shillings of jams Sharp constable in may to pay part of five pouds which was Borrowed of John and Nath Richards.”

New England towns had an interesting way of dealing with young single men to ensure that they behaved appropriately and did not cause any trouble—the town required that they live with established and respected families.  On two occasions young men were sent to live with John and his family.

John died on December 21, 1688 at the age of 48.  His wife was appointed the administratrix of his estate which was valued at €327.  I tried to find out how much that would be worth in today’s dollars and several web sites, including one from Colonial Williamsburg, indicated that given the complexities of economics today and in colonial times, such a value would be meaningless.

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