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A Remonstrance Profile

WILLIAM THORNE, SR. AND WILLIAM THORNE, JR.

Another of the combination father and son signers of the Remonstrance was the Thorne family; William Sr. and William Jr. Like so many of his friends and neighbors William Thorne Sr. followed the pathway to Flushing in order to escape the religious intolerance of his earlier New England associations.

The first New England reference to William Thorne is that of his admittance as a freeman to Lynn, Massachusetts on May 2, 1638 having arrived that year in the ship "Confidence" from England. He is also shown to have served on a Salem jury on June 29, 1641. Shortly thereafter he was convicted of giving assistance to escaped prisoners and was fined f 6 2/3 for "concealing, hiding & supplying." This display of sympathy toward non-conformists and antipathy toward existing authorities presaged an early departure from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

This finds expression in a entry of the Quarterly Court (Salem) dated February 28, 1643 referring to "Divers of Lynn Gone to Long Island and some not warned." Included in the group were the names "Goodman Thorne" and "Michael Miller". A further entry stated that "Michaell Millner of Lynn, cited for idle and unprofitable spending his time" had gone to Long Island. That William Thorne was just an ordinary person of no social pretensions is adduced by the appellation "Goodman" as distinguished from that of "Mr". The expression "not warned" apparently refers to the fact that certain of the non-conformists, sensing the imminence of interrogation by the local magistrates, took this opportunity for their hasty departure prior to being served with a summons to appear.

The evidence is very strong that William Thorne (and possibly Michael Milner) left the Bay Colony and migrated to Long Island as one of the friends and close followers of Lady Deborah Moody. Both he and the Flushing blacksmith were named among the patentees of Flushing in October 1645, Milner being identified therein as "Michael Milliard".

Lady Deborah Moody was the daughter Walter Dunch and the widow of Sir Henry Moody of Wiltshire, England, a baronet created by King James in 1622. Her father, Walter Dunch, a member of the English Parliament, who represented a city called Dunwich that has since eroded into the sea. It is presumed the name is contraction of that now defunct city. Her mother was Debora Pilkington (of the Kingsmill family). She arrived at Lynn in 1640 and in the same year united with the church of Salem. She became impressed with the views of Roger Williams and his utterances upon the invalidity of infant baptism. A strong-willed and determined woman she made no secret of her non-conformist views. Just as Roger Williams was forced to leave the Bay Colony Lady Moody was first admonished and finally excommunicated for her views that infant baptism might not be an ordinance of divine origin. Although personally respected by many of her neighbors "she removed to the Dutch against the advice of her friends", being accompanied by her son and a small group of friends.

To these emigrants there was considerable attraction in the idea of helping found under Dutch auspices and near to Fort Amsterdam, an essentially English settlement, where fellow countrymen could congregate and settle in the congenial atmosphere of a common language, customs and heritage. The Dutch were interested in stimulating new settlements and in developing trade so that Lady Moody was able to obtain a patent from Governor Kieft without great difficulty. Gravesend has the distinction of being the only settlement where the original patentees were headed by a woman, and one who enjoyed the respect and confidence of both Governors Kieft and Stuyvesant to an unusual degree.

Gravesend was first settled in June 1643, several months after the emigration from Lynn. The timing was unfortunate in its coincidence with the increased intensity of the Indian conflicts. Repeated raids necessitated the settlers fleeing to Flatlands and it is probable that Lady Moody and her adherents, including Thorne, returned to Gravesend only after August 30, 1645 when Governor Kieft and the Indian sachems negotiated a treaty of peace which brought at least a temporary respite to hostilities. Later that same year (December 19th) the Governor and Council of New Netherlands granted a formal patent to Gravesend to Lady Moody and her associates.

Only fragmentary portions of the first Town Minutes of Gravesend are in existence. Among them are records showing allocation of planters' lots i.e., farms of some 40 acres each. A number of the named allottees, including William Thorne, appear in the Lynn records prior to 1644. There is little doubt from this close association both at Lynn and Gravesend, that William Thorne was one of the original adherents and close followers of Deborah Moody.

The path taken by this titled Englishwoman and her group from Lynn enroute to Gravesend in the spring of 1643 unquestionably lay through the more sheltered passage of Long Island Sound. The original destination necessarily was New Amsterdam, there to discuss with Governor Kieft the subject of planting a colony. Confirmation of the itinerary may be contained in an entry supposedly made by John Bowne on a page now missing from his famous journal. "William Thorne came from Sandwich to Flushing 1642". The difference in dates (late 1642 as against the spring of 1643) may be explained by variations between the old and new style calendar. The reference to "Sandwich" alludes to the community within the Plymouth Colony as a possible port of embarkation for Lady Moody's entourage in their hasty exodus from Lynn. In their desire to escape the bounds of the Massachusetts Bay Colony the group may well have found neighboring Sandwich offered at least some opportunity to properly organize the venture.

The route to New Amsterdam would probably have been through the sheltered waters of Long Island Sound and a stop-over at Flushing, referred to in the Bowne Journal, could be reasonably explained as a natural desire of the group to consider the possibilities of its becoming a potential site for the colony.

The year in which William Thorne actually settled in Flushing is not clearly established. From pertinent language in the Indian deed to Flushing (April 14, 1684) it is probable that the actual settlement took place in the fall of 1644 or in the spring of 1645; more likely the later in view of the rigors of the winter season. Whether Thorne actually remained in Gravesend until 1646 when he received his planter's allotment or whether as a patentee of Flushing (October 10, 1645) he was already living in that settlement is unknown. However he had definitely become a permanent resident of Flushing in 1648 as evidenced by his appointment on April 27th as a magistrate, together with John Townsend and John Hicks.

In July 1657, the year of the Remonstrance, there are indications that William Thorne was a proprietor of Jamaica, founded the preceding year, and that he may actually have resided there, as adduced from the marriage reference to a "Sussannah Thorne" in the early Jamaica Town Records (July 10, 1667). This move to Jamaica may have been induced by the waning activity of Lady Moody in Gravesend's affairs and the natural desire to seek sanctuary from the serious Indian raids in a less exposed and vulnerable community.

Governor William Kieft, a confirmed blusterer, had been exceedingly inept in his handling of affairs with the Indians. This probably more than any other single factor led to his ultimate recall to Holland and to his being replaced by Peter Stuyvesant. As a result of Kieft's attempts to levy a tax on the surrounding tribes and the unprovoked slaughter of the redmen at Corlear's Hook the entire area around New Amsterdam flamed with reprisals against the settlers. The Indians attacked outposts in Harlem, Staten Island and Long Island, forced the evacuation of Maspeth and for five years laid waste the fields, killed cattle, burned barns and harassed settlers. Even nearby plantation were deserted as the fear-stricken farmers sought the protection of Fort Amsterdam.

The general situation is well-described in a letter of November 3, 1643 by a leading figure in New Amsterdam, Jochem Pietersen Kuyter. He said, "We wretched people, with our wives and little ones that survive must in our destitution find refuge together in and around the Fort at Manhattan, where we are not safe even for an hour as the Indians daily threaten to overwhelm us. Very little can be planted this autumn and mow much less in the spring; so it must come to pass that those of hunger and grief as also our wives and children, unless our God have pity on us".

Kuyter's earlier premonition of personal disaster was borne out since he was killed in another Indian raid in 1655, at which time Stuyvesant felt obliged to issue an ordinance prohibiting settlers from exposed locations and requiring those in isolated bouweries to come closer to the protection of the fort. Under these hazardous conditions to which outlying Gravesend was particularly vulnerable William Thorne's removal to Jamaica is understandable.

When William Thorne's name next appears on the Flushing records twelve years after his first visit, it is as a signer of the Remonstrance in which signing he is joined by his son William Jr. a child of his marriage to Susannah Booth whom he had married while at Lynn. In addition to William Jr., born circa 1639, their children included John (b 1640-43), Joseph (b 1642-46), Samuel (b 1648-55) and Susannah (Lockerson) (b circa 1645).

William Thorne Jr., son of the patentee and himself a Remonstrance signer married Winifred ------- and had three sons, William (The third of that name), John and Richard. The baptismal records of the Dutch Church identify him as "Wilt Toorn". This branch of the family migrated to Madnan's Neck (Great Neck) and is readily distinguishable from the families of the other three sons of the patentee, John, Joseph and Samuel who all remained in Flushing or a longer period.

William Jr. (the signer) is listed among the inhabitants of Hempstead in 1673, as a freeholder in 1685 and had already acquired substantial land there in 1683 as evidenced by a deed from Edmund Titus to "Will Thorne of Madnan's Neck" (Queens County Deeds Liber A, page 143). His three sons continued to add to the family's property at Great Neck. Their father, possibly in contemplation of death, deeded to his son Richard on February 24, 1698 "all and every parcel of land I have on said Great Neck together with all the housing (as above Liber A, page 165). Richard Thorne during the previous year had bought other property at Great Neck from Daniel Whitehead of Jamaica and Samuel Moore of Newtown (supra Liber B, page 77).

John Thorne, second son of the original patentee, married Mary Parsell, daughter of another Remonstrance signer, Nicholas Parsell and continued to live in Flushing. He apparently accumulated considerable property since in 1670 he sold 50 acres at Mattagarrison's Bay (Little Neck Bay) to Anthony Fielda, (supra Liber A, page 85) and sold additional land to him in 1683. In 1696 John Thorne sold 90 acres to Charles Morgan "on the south side of the hills" (supra Liber A, page ? March 12, 1696). John's will, dated July 23, 1709 indicates that his death took place about that time. By it he devised all of his housing, lands and meadows, goods and chattels to his wife and children.

Joseph Thorne, a third son of the patentee, married Mary Bowne, daughter of John Bowne in 1690 and likewise remained in Flushing. He too traded in land, selling a tract of 60 acres to Paulas Amerman of Flatbush in 1696 for the sum of f 55 (supra Liber B1, page 321). Joseph remained in Flushing throughout his life and died there "the 3rd month 1727". Three of Joseph's sons, including Israel, the eldest, moved during the period of 1725-50 to the Nine Partners Patent (northeast of Poughkeepsie, Duchess County) where they became active in the Quaker movement.

Samuel Thorne, the last of the sons of the patentee is infrequently mentioned in the early records. He too acquired property at Little Neck Bay, buying 50 acres from William Chatterton in April 1673 (supra Liber A, page 77) and as late as 1694 was still at Flushing, buying land consisting of 20 acres from Joseph Tindall (supra Liber B1, page 292).

Since the Thorne family has been so frequently identified in the records with the acquisition and sale of real property it may be timely to consider briefly the general customs of the early Dutch with respect to patents and land grants or "ground-briefs" as they were called. Using the Flushing Patent from Governor William Kieft as an example, it required that "a complete number of families (to be determined by the Governor General) shall settle within a space of two years". It Further provided that the settlers build a town or towns, together with the necessary fortifications, required that after ten years the settlers pay a rental of 10% of the revenues derived from the produce of the land and make appropriate payments in butter and cheese from their dairy herds.

In certain respects, including the affirmation concerning the right to enjoy liberty of conscience, the Flushing patent varied from others of the period. Some patents included an undertaking to provide the particular village with military protection when needed. Other stipulations agreed that when the appropriate number of families, perhaps 24 or 30, had settled they would be provided with a good, pious, orthodox minister. Still another proviso was the agreement that no other competitive village or settlement would be permitted until the prior community had obtained its requisite number of families.

Apart from the town patents, land grants or ground-briefs were given directly to individual settlers on the "out-plantations" or outlying farms somewhat removed from the communal centers. Generally within the town patent each eligible inhabitant or freeholder received by lot a grant of meadow land. Those entering the town subsequently were required to petition the town for membership or acceptance and upon becoming freeholders would thereafter share in the allocation of the undivided town lands.

The undivided lands and meadows, laid out in areas of approximately the same size were then subjected to a drawing by lot, with subsequent frequent swapping the order of the day. For example, if William Thorne drew lots 1 and 23 in the new division, he might trade with Robert Field who wanted lot 23 to go along with lot 24 which had already drawn, and hence was willing to give up lot 2 which he had also drawn. Thus each of the two participants through the exchange would emerge with two contiguous plots. Generally the complications of multiple trading were more complex than the simple example cited before any one individual could effectively assemble a substantial number of contiguous parcels.

In form and contour the plots were frequently laid out in long and relatively narrow strips fronting upon the bay, cove, steam or waterway abutting the tract to be subdivided. This was a favorite mode of dividing meadowland borrowed from Holland and gave to each farmer his settled water privileges and enabled him to remove crops by scows in the absence of available roads. Salt hay being needed for the bedding of cattle small parcels of salt meadow were allocated to each freeholder. These meadows were utilized wherever found, often at quite a distance from the house lots and were usually conveyed as a necessary appurtenance to the homesite when the latter was sold.

Many of the real estate transfers involving members of the Thorne family undoubtedly represented the assembly of various tracts into single consolidated farms or were sales of marginal parcels to neighbors who were similarly engaged in consolidating their holdings. However the most significant document of the entire period as it affects the Thornes is the one which discloses that prior to 1698 Joseph Thorne, Samuel Thorne, Benjamin Field and others had already bought 5,000 acres at Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Among the influences contributing to this rising tide of emigration to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, particularly for the Quakers, were the William Penn purchase of 1682; the well publicized offers of New Jersey plantations to be accompanied by complete freedom of religion; and the resurgence of Anglican domination on Long Island under the sponsorship of Governor Cornbury.

The twenty five year period between 1685 and 1710 witnessed the migration from Flushing and Newtown of many of the Remonstrance families including the Chews (Tues.), Blackfords, Fields, Harts, and Stocktons. Migratory trends within the respective family groups appear to have been governed primarily by religious considerations. Thus the members of the Thorne family remaining in the town of Hempstead were generally identified with the Anglican Church. This is also true of some who continued to live in Flushing, as evidenced by a petition to the legislature from Flushing on May 27, 1761 praying for incorporation of the Church of England, claiming that they had no minister of their own, that they had erected a decent church and intended to provide for the support of a clergyman. Among the petitioners were William and Benjamin Thorne, to whom particular interest attaches since they were owners of substantial property at Whitestone which shortly thereafter was acquired by Francis Lewis and constituted an important part of that patriot's 224 acre farm. That part of the Flushing branch of the Thorne family remained strongly Anglican is further evidenced by the fact that the rector of St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church in Flushing during the years 1820 to 1826 was Rev. John G. V. Thorne.

It is indeed fitting tribute to their common ancestor and Remonstrance signer William Thorne that later generation of the family included Quakers, Episcopalians, and probably adherents of other faiths. He who had learned religious tolerance under the precepts of Lady Deborah Moody in Lynn and Gravesend and who had reaffirmed that doctrine in Flushing in December 1657 certainly would not have denied that right to freedom of conscience to his own succeeding generations.

 

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Last modified on January 01, 2000.
Copyright 1997-1999, John Coutant Thorn