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Our Family History

Our Origins
(Source: Article in Footeprints - Summer 1999 Issue -
The Foote Family Association Of America)

As far as can be determined from available publications and sources the majority of the Foote families of America are all descended with few exceptions from either Nathaniel Foote of Colchester England, who initially settled Watertown, Mass, or Pasco Foote who settled in Salem Mass.

There were two brothers, Richard (the elder) and William Foote descended out of Cornwall, England who were dispatched by their father Nicholas (who was a London merchant) to Stafford, King George County, Virginia. Richard and William are not thought to be related to Nathaniel or Pasco.

The Footes' Arrival
(source: "Foote History and Genealogy" - Book 1, By Abram Foote, Published 1907)

Accepted data from the period indicates that only a few colonists arrived in New England in the years immediately following the arrival of the Mayflower. As an example, It is known that in the spring of 1630, about 1500 people crossed the Atlantic in one expedition organized and led by John Winthrop, first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Soon after Governor Winthrop's 1630 expedition Nathaniel Foote, his family, and Pasco Foote decided to seek their fortunes in the New World. According to tradition, they left their homes in Colchester and sailed to Plymouth Massachusetts on the brig, "Fortune".

"The Colony of Massachusetts"
Some sources say Nathaniel, his wife Elizabeth, and their six children settled in Watertown, Massachusetts. Pasco settled in Salem, Massachusetts, and it is not known where John (or Caleb) lived. As far as we know, John had no children.

"Old Wethersfield"
On the banks of the Connecticut, twenty miles below its last rapids and forty miles above its mouth, at one of those graceful bends which the river makes while winding through meadows which it beautifies and nourishes, stands the ancient town of Wethersfield, - the eldest born of the many sweet villages which adorn this valley.

To this spot, then known as Pyquag, the English colonists first turned his steps in, or prior to, 1635, attracted doubtless by its fertile soil, its pure and navigable waters, and its supposed facilities for internal trade in furs and other traffic with the Indians.

And to this spot, one year later, came a portion of that "goodly company" who left the jurisdiction of Massachusetts and their newly acquired homesteads and farms in Watertown, and other settlements in the neighborhood of Boston, in pursuit of territory "further west" where they might "better maintain their ministers," "find larger accommodations for their cattle," and welcome "more of their friends from England" who were suffering for the faith once delivered to the Saints.

Among those who voluntarily placed a wilderness of one hundred miles between themselves and the settlements on the coast, and whose ashes now repose in the burying ground on which the shadow of the first meeting house fell, we find the names of Nathaniel Foote, Samuel Boardman, James Boosey, Enoch Buck, Clement Chaplin, Leonard Chester, John Deming, Robert Francis, John Goodrich, William Goodrich, John Hollister, John Nott, John Robbins, John Stoddard, Richard Treat, Thomas Wells, Thomas Wright, and others, - names which their descendants, and all the friends of civil and religious freedom, should hold in everlasting remembrance.

Some of their descendants, from generation to generation, have continued to reside on their ancestral farms, and in the old town,* whilst others early left the mother hive for land "still further west," until some of the same name and lineage are to be found in every State between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Wherever they are to be found, in prosperous or adverse fortune, their hearts still fondly turn to this fountain head of their family on this Continent,-all proud to trace back their genealogy to the heroic age of New England, and to this quiet resting place of their fathers on the banks of the beautiful Connecticut. (Source: The Foote Family or the Descendants of Nathaniel Foote, by Nathaniel Goodwin, Hartford Press of Case, Tiffany and Company, 1849.)

"Nathaniel Foote"
The first mention of Nathaniel's name is in the Records of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1633 when he took the oath of Freeman. In the records of the Grants and Possession of the Lands in Watertown, where he first located, the following entry is made:

"Nathaniel Foote"
"An home stall of sixteen acres by estimation, bounded ye north and northwest with ye highway, the south and southwest with Jeremiah Norcross, granted to him."

"Two acres of marsh by estimation, bounded ye south with ye river, the north with Henry Curtis. The east with John Firmin, and the west with John Smith, granted to him."

A few years later (about the year 1635) the General Court decided that they would allow people of Watertown to move "to any place they shall think meet to make choice, provided they continue still under this Government".

(Note: Here again sources differ. Some sources say that it was in 1633 the court gave its approval.)

Consequently several adventurers including Nathaniel, his wife Elizabeth, and their six children ranging in age from sixteen year old Elizabeth to baby Sarah, and others decided to leave from the Watertown Bay Colony. They felt conditions around the Boston area had become to crowded. The group of adventurer's, led by John Oldham, started a new settlement in the Connecticut wilderness. The new settlement was first called Pyquag. Later the name was changed to Wethersfield.

Early maps of Wethersfield (1634-44), (dubbed "the most ancient town for the valley" and the oldest permanent settlement in Connecticut,) show the homesteads of both the Smith and Foote families. Early colonists raised several crops such as corn and rye and grazed cattle on the green pasture lands. The first records describing the distribution of land include Nathaniel's name.

According to the records of "The Original Distribution of Lands around Wethersfield" recorded in 1640:

  • A short time after arriving in Wethersfield in 1633-35 Nathaniel received a ten acre house lot on the east side of Broad Street. This land was near the south end of the street.

  • Additionally, he became the owner of several other tracts laying in part in the great meadow east of his house and containing more than 500 acres of land. (see the Nathaniel Foote link above for more information on his holdings).

It is thought that Nathaniel may have taken part in the first public election held by American people held in Wethersfield on April 11, 1640. Remember the general court had stated they must "continue still under this Government." For the Adventurers to hold public elections was a direct defiance of the Royal Courts of the Crown." This election took place 135 years before the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania."

Life in the Early Settlements
(source -Foote Family, Descendants of Nathaniel Foote - by Nathaniel Goodwin)

Ever since the English first arrived in the new land, they enjoyed a favorable interaction with the Mohegan Indians. The English eventually become close allies to the Mohegans who were then under the leadership of Uncas

The family of Nathaniel Foote, as will be seen from the following well authenticated narratives, shared largely in the perils and sufferings experienced so generally by the early settlers in the valley of the Connecticut, at the hands of the Indians.

In no part of New-England were the Indians so numerous in proportion to the territory as in this valley, and traditions of the horrors of the Indian wars are linked almost with every village throughout its whole extent. For ninety years after the first settlement, there was scarcely an hour in which the inhabitants, especially of the frontier towns, could travel in the forests, work in the fields, worship God in their churches, or lie down in their beds at night, without apprehension of attack from their stealthy and remorseless foe.

The fact that the attack of the Indians were preceded by no note of preparation, gave a sense of insecurity to the members of the family at home, or the heads of the family abroad, which made the real danger, great as it was, more formidable.

The blow fell when and where it was least expected. When the Indian seemed most intent on his avocation of hunting or fishing, or in planning some distant expedition,--then the farmer in the field would be surprised by an ambuscade, or on his return home find his house in ashes, his wife or children butchered or hurried away into captivity ; or the quiet of his slumbers would be broken by the warhoop, and the darkness of midnight be illumined by the glare of the village on fire. Those were trials of which the present generation can know nothing.

From the Indians who resided in the immediate neighborhood, it does not appear that the infant colony at Wethersfield suffered any wrong. Neither Sowheag,-who resided at Mattabesick, and whose jurisdiction extended from below Middletown to Hartford, nor Sequin, the Sagamore of the pleasant meadows of Wethersfield, then called Pyquag, were hostile to the whites.

On the other hand, they seemed to have regarded their presence as a protection against the exactions and predatory excursions both of the Mohawks and the Pequods, both of which tribes seemed to have exercised the rights of conquest over the Indians of this portion of the valley.

Prelude to the Pequot Indians:War
The Pequot, the seat of whose power was on the banks of the Mystic, seemed early to have imbibed a bitter hostility to the whites, as if foreseeing that two distinct races of men, with such varying character and habits, could not together continue to occupy the same territory.

As early as 1634, they began the work of murder and pillage, and in 1636, conceived a plan to extirpate, or drive all the English from New-England.

On the 23d of April, 1637, Wethersfield was the scene of one of those Indian tragedies which finally led to the declaration of war against the Pequods and to their utter extinction as a people. A party of this tribe, under the command of Nepaupuck, (who was also called Meaaatunck,) a subordinate chieftin, surprised the people as they were going into the meadow, killing six men and three women, and taking two young girls prisoner, besides killing twenty cows and doing much other damage.

The Indians concealed themselves in the bushes on the bank of the River while the laborers were at home at dinner, and awaited their return, On their arrival at the spot before mentioned, they sprang from their ambuscade, and seized eleven, (the others, escaping by flight,) nine of whom were immediately dispatched by the tomahawk. Among the slain were two men by the name of Finch, Abraham and John, who were near neighbors of Nathaniel Foote.

The names of the others are unknown. The young girls, one the daughter of William Swaine, were carried captives to Mystic, where they were spared from death at the earnest intercession of the wife of Mononotto, who, though a savage, was, also, a mother, and felt a mother's love. She interceded in their behalf,' and finally prevailed on her husband to permit her to adopt them as her own children.

This well authenticated act of generosity and maternal love, remarks the author of Hope Leslie, is precious to all those who would accumulate proof, that the image of God is never quite effaced from the mule of his creatures, and that in their darkest ignorance and deepest degradation, there are still to be found traits of mercy and benevolence.

Every effort was immediately made by their parents and the colony to recover the girls. The only medium of negotiation with the Pequods, was through the Dutch, who were in possession of Manhadoes. The Dutch governor, receiving intelligence of the circumstance of the two English maids, sent a sloop to Pequod to redeem them by what means soever, though it were with breach of their peace with the Pequods.

The sloop offered largely for their ransom ; but nothing would be accepted. The Dutch, having many Pequods aboard, stayed six of them, (the rest leaped overboard,) and with them redeemed the two maids, who had been well used by the Pequods, and no violence offered them.

The Dutch delivered the young women at Saybrook, just before Capt. Mason and his party arrived there, who were bound from Hadford to the Pequot county,-the General Court having, on the first day of May, 1637, declared war against the Pequode.

Having declared war, the Court next resolved to raise an army and supplies for its immediate prosecution. It was ordered that ninety men should be levied out of the three plantations, in the following proportions, Hartford, 42 ; Windsor, 30 ; Wethersfield, 18. Every soldier was directed to carry with him one pound of powder, four pounds of shot, twenty bullets and a light musket. They were directed to take a barrel of powder from the fort at Saybrook.

The Pequot Indians:War
As you an see from the accounts above the Pequot Indians war in Connecticut was largely caused by the differences between the Dutch and English settlers. The English were responsible for bringing back the Indians (the Mohegan) whom the Peugeot tribe had previously driven away. As a result, the tribe launched several devastating raids on English settlements. See a complete Peqeot Indian History

Early English attempts to stop the Indians were hampered by the fact the Indians were very light on foot and could easily get away from men in heavy armor

In 1637, the Peugeot tribe attacked the settlement of Wethersfield. Shortly after an attack force along with of 18 men from Wethersfied commanded by Major John Mason, was joined by some 70 Mohegan warriors for a raid against the Peugeot village at Mystic. Uncas provided his knowledge of Peugeot territory toward that campaign. It is thought that 17-year-old Nathaniel, Jr. may have been part of the attack force.

Just before daybreak the attack force surrounded the village of Sassacus, the home of the dreaded Peugeot chief. In the first attack Mason and his men set the village on fire. By the time the attack was over more than 600 Indians (men, women, and children) were either shot or burned to death.

As a result of this campaign and the fact that the Peugeot tribe was vanquished, The bond between Uncas and the English was sealed. Years after the war, Uncas granted large tracts of land to Major Mason and many of his other English allies from the Peugeot conflict.

Elizabeth (Deming) Foote
(Source: Article in Footeprints - Spring 1999 Issue -
The Foote Family Association Of America)b

Elizabeth Deming was born in England in the last part of the 16th Century. About 1615 she married Nathaniel Foote who had a crocery business in Colchester, England. After the birth of their six children, Nathaniel decided to sell his grocery business and emigrate to the new world. By some he is considered to be the first settler of Wethersfield. Whether this is true or not we do not know. We do know he was one of the first ten men who settled along the bank of the Connecticut River and eventually named their settlement Wethersfield (see above). They are now known as the Ten Adventurers.

Nathaniel Foote was one of those named in the charter of patentees of Wethersfield. Between 1641 and 1644, he served as a Deputy to the General Assembly, as well as a member of the colony Grand Jury. The Foote family became one of the leading families of the little Connecticut Colony. He became a magistrate, a leading land owner, eventually owning more than 500 acres of land in Wethersfield, some of the great meadow, and his home on the south end of the green, next to the present Broad Street.

The family was saddened by Nathaniel's death at age 61. Elizabeth was so respected that she was allowed to be executor of his estate. Elizabeth was left a wealthy widow, but did not remain in that status for long. In 1646 she married Thomas Wells who was a widower with several children from his first marriage. Thomas Wells served as Governor of Connecticut Colony for two terms, 1655-1658. When he was not serving as governor he was a Deputy Governor. He died during his last years of being deputy governor, 14 January 1659/1660.

Elizabeth was again a widow, having two families instead of one. She was in control of a large estate from both husbands.

Elizabeth Welles was a tenacious and feisty old woman. She had not only survived a perilous voyage from England but while tending to six exuberant children and a husband, she had made a new life for herself and her family in a world they knew nothing about. This world was inhabited by Indians who were not always friendly with those pale face people. The rigors of life and managing a household did not daunt her.

Things went quite well through the intervening years since arriving on shores of the newly discovered continent, until she reached old age. In 1676 as she approached the age of 80 years, she ran into trouble with one of her step-grand children.

This was Robert Welles, a favorite of grandfather, Governor Thomas Welles when the governor was alive. Robert had arrived at the Governor's home, there to be taken care of and educated.

But now his grandfather was dead and Robert and his step-grandmother disagreed. Maybe she did not think him old enough to be married at age 24. Never-the-less it was 1676 when Elizabeth brought Robert Welles to court, because he "...hath dammyfield her Barne by Parting with the other part of the Barne that did adjoin to it."

Exactly what he did to her barn is not clear. The court's decision was clear. He was ordered to repair the barn and also to pay his step-grandmother rent for it. Elizabeth made sure the barn incident was not here last word.

Two years later, in 1678, she made sure all of the Welles were taken care of when she made her will. She left them nothing. She stated someone outside the family would be executor of her will. Everything she had she left to her own family. That is the family she and Nathaniel has raised and nurtured. The Welles family got nothing.

Elizabeth died in 1683, at the age of 88. The estate was divided among the Footes. One of the documents in the Probates Court was that of the final disposition, that during that same year Robert Welles won a lawsuit against his step-grandmother's will that he would have to be paid by those who had been named in the will.

John Deming, the brother of Nathaniel's wife Elizabeth, was also one of the first settlers in Wethersfield, Connecticut. He was one of the patentees in its charter and for many years was one of the magistrates of the Colony of Connecticut.

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Foote Family Association of America
P. O. Box 418, Middlefield, CT 06455
(Last updated 23 April 2014)