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Jeremiah Norcrosse, abt. 1592 to 1657

Jeremiah was born about 1595

Jeremiah Norcrosse is listed in the records of the Clothmakers Guild of London as a member of that Guild.

The brothers John and Jeremiah Norcrosse migrated with some members of their family, we are not completely certain as to who came and who was left behind,  sometime between in 1633 and 1638 to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  We have assumed 1638 based on the limited evidence available.

Jeremiah was first mentioned in 1633 in the Records of the of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as holding land next to Nathaniel Foote. It is possible he owned the land but had not emigrated until much later.   It is known that in 1642 he was settled in Watertown.  He was a Selectman of Watertown in 1649.  He was admitted as a Freeman in 1653.

Jeremiah was a proprietor, owning a homestead of 26 acres situated on the Charles River and twelve other lots of land.  The first great dividend of lots in Watertown was made in 1636 so that he was not an original grantee, but obtained his land by purchase. The town records from his time show a great activity in his land holdings.  It can be surmised from this activity he made his living as a real estate agent and speculator, selling to newly landed immigrants and then repurchasing property as they decided to move to other locations across Massachusetts.

He is often mentioned in the records as Mr. Norcrosse.  Out of 215 Selectmen of Watertown from 1634 to 1809, only three have the title of "Mr." and one of these was Mr. Norcrosse. 

In 1654 he made his will and sailed for England to visit his family.  He died in in England in 1657.  In Court on 6 October 1657, Deacon Stone and Charles Chadwick testified that Mr. Norcrosse, deceased, declared his will before he went to England.  His inventory is dated 16 September 1657.  The will was signed June 7, 1654 or 15 September 1654, and proved on 6 October 1657.

There is a record of a gift to the parish of Sunbury near London on 1 November 1636, and of his being a landowner in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1639. 

Copy of the Will of Jeremiah Norcrosse of Watertown, Massachusetts

In the name and by the help of my Lord Jesus Christ, I Jeremiah Norcrosse being well in my body and mind (thanks be to God) but going to sea do make my last will and testament.

First, I give my soul into the hand of the father of spirits who gave it to me, and my body to the elements to be committed for a time out of which it was made in sure and certain hope ( with the word of him who cannot lie) of my resurrection of both soul and body together unto everlasting life purchased by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

And for such worldly Estate as the Lord hath lent me and left me, my will is that they be appraised when I am dead and divided into three equal parts.

The first third I give to my beloved wife Adrean Norcrosse.

The second third I give unto my children Nathaniel, Richard and Sarah Massy, the wife of Francis Massy, assigning my eldest son, Nathaniel as his due a double portion.  Nevertheless for as much as Sarah my daughter had a full share (and more as it now falleth out) of my Estate, I will that, that shall be in full of her portion.

And of the last third of my Estate I give as followeth, I give and bequeath unto my daughter the wife of my son Richard, one ewe sheep, and her daughter, my grandchild, a like ewe sheep, and to the wife of my wife's son John Smith one like ewe sheep.  To my brother's daughter Anna Davis, the wife of Samuel Davis a like ewe sheep (in specie) and to her daughter Hannah her eldest child one like ewe sheep and unto the poor members of Jesus Christ in Watertown, I give two ewe sheep to be delivered into the pastors and deacons hands to breed as a stock, the males to be sold at the fittest season to give to the poor as they need and the females to be kept for the purpose of breeding.

As a testimony of my love to my Lord for all his love to me I give (as a cup of cold water wishing I had better for them) unto his ministers Mr. Sherman, Mr. Symes, Mr. Mather, each of them twenty shillings.

And for my grandchildren in Old England, if the Lord brings me or if goods I have with me I shall distribute myself or appoint.  I will and ordain my son Richard Norcrosse my sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament and I entreat my brother Charles Chadwick to be overseer and help unto him, and I do give him as a small token of my love, twenty shillings, and pronounce this to be my last will and Testament, revoking all other Wills heretofore made.  In witness whereof I set to my hand and seal this 15th day of September 1654.

Inventory of the Estate of Jeremiah Norcrosse, 16 September 1657

Dwelling house with a barn and four score acres of upland with 13 acres of meadow with 20 acres of upland upon the other side of the river, all containing 113 acres, more or less  110

Other remote lands with 6 acres of remote meadow 20

10 milch cows 30

4 oxen 20

8 sheep, 1 Ram, 2 ewe lambs 15

1 mare 2 years old 10

1 colt 2 years old 5

1 colt from above mare 4

1 parcel of book 2

1 table in the parlour 16

1 bedstead, 2 chests, 1 musket

1 corselet, 1 clothes stool and a Hulbert 10

In debts 73 14 7

Total 276 15 7

Found since the appraisement:

1 hive of bees

1 old canoe

1 Queen Fort

1 old sow

Mr. Richard Norcrosse appearing before the County Court held at Charlestown 28 December 1858 and being sworn do say that this is a true inventory of all that Estate in this country whereof his father died seized and if any more do appear he will disclose the same as to cause it to be added hereunto.

The Ministers mentioned in the above will.

It should be noted that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the recipient of Puritan immigrants from England fleeing religious wars between Charles I and the Cromwellian Roundheads.

Reverend John Sherman was the third Minister of Watertown, Phillips being first, and Knowles second. He was born in Dedham, England in 1613, earned an A.B. Trinity College at Cambridge , England in 1629 and an A.M. in 1633, (Congregational)

Reverend Zechariah Symes was the second Minister of Charlestown. He came to this country in 1634. He was a graduate of Cambridge University 1620.

Reverend John Wilson was the first Minister in Boston and the first meetinghouse was erected in 1632. One more commodious replaced it in 1640, which was destroyed by fire in 1711. The society now occupies its elegant church on Barkley Street. (Anglican)

Reverend John Norton was the third Minister of the first Church in Boston. He was a graduate of Cambridge University, England and came to the United States in 1635.

Reverend Richard Mather was the third Minister at Dorchester and came to the United States in 1635. He was born in Lancashire, England in 1596. He was a student at Oxford. He was the father of Increase Mather and grandfather of Cotton Mather. (Congregational)

Reverend John Elliot was the celebrated apostle to the Indians. He was the first Minister in Rexburg. He came to the United States in 1631, having graduated from Cambridge University in 1622. He died in 1690, aged 86 years.

The Gift of Jeremiah Norcrosse to the Church (St. Dunstan's, London) before his arrival in the United States - 1 November 1636.

I do give unto the vicars and church wardens successively the white mare and mare colt with the white star on the forehead which I bought of Walter Crans, for the use of the poor in the Parish in the said Parish of Sunbury for ever instructing and appointing the said Church Wardens to see to them as their own, and what issue it shall please God to give them, to sell the male issue at the fullest time of age and pay the money to the poor of the said Parish and to keep the females for breed, and I appoint the good man Piper the elder and George Blundell and whom they shall name in their place when they die to see this to be duly executed according as I have appointed and if the church wardens be negligent to do as I appoint, they to admonish them to amend and if they do not mend after reasonable warning I do give the said Piper and Blundell power to sell them and to give the money to which poor they think fit.

The Homestead of Jeremiah Norcrosse

Jeremiah's homestead of 26 acres which was the 14 acres purchased of E. Mason, 7 acres of Robert Locke, and 5 acres of Segar, the original grantees, was bounded on the south by the Charles River, west by the way to the meadows, east by H. Cutriss, north by John Smith and William Barsham and was purchased by Jeremiah in 1642. It was beautifully situated on the Charles River (see Bond's map in his History of Watertown where his lot is marked out) and was where the United States Arsenal grounds are now situated. The Arsenal grounds (says Mason's Gazetteer) "occupies an area of about 40 acres". At the death of Jeremiah in 1657, it passed in to his son Richards possession where it remained until his death in 1709. After the death of Richard, it was sold by Jeremiah and Mary, the executors, to Nathaniel, son of Richard. After the death of Nathaniel in 17?1 it passed into the hands of his son Josiah. After the death of Josiah in 1801, his heirs Nathaniel, John, Joshua Cooledge (husband of Jemima Norcross) , Aaron Dana (husband of Abigail Norcross) sold it in 1803 to Daniel Stone. In 1816 it passed into the hands of the United States government for an Arsenal.

Parents: Thomas Norcrosse Thomas Norcrosse
Mary Chappell
Adrean () Bland Smith Norcross

Adrean is said to be Jeremiah's second wife.  It is not known if she was the mother of any of his children listed below, nor if the children below are all of his children.

unknown
unknown
Children: Sarah Norcrosse born about 1608 unknown
Nathaniel Norcrosse born about 1618 10 Aug 1662
Richard Norcrosse born 11 Dec 1621 Oct 1709
Mary Norcrosse 5 Sep 1626 7 Sep 1626

There is also involved in Jeremiah's story a John Bland/Smith.  Adrean is apparently the second wife of Jeremiah and Jeremiah is apparently her third husband.  Her first husband, it is supposed, was a Mr. Bland by whom she bore John Bland into this world.  She next married a Mr. Smith and the child, being very young, was called by Mr. Smith's last name.  He did not take Jeremiah's surname, probably because he was an older person by that time.  It appears that Jeremiah and John did not get along very well.  John was not remembered in Jeremiah's will, although John's wife in Watertown was given one ewe sheep.  There is a record that John Bland/Smith moved to Nantucket with a group of disgruntled newcomers very shortly after settling in Watertown.  In Nantucket he raised a new family and used the name John Bland. He never spoke of his prior family relationships.  It appears that he abandoned his first family in Watertown, perhaps just a wife, and married again in Nantucket where he raised a substantial family.

John Bland/Smith came with Jeremiah (his stepfather), Adrean (his mother) and his step-brothers Nathanial and Richard and step-sister Sarah to the new world. 

The reader is reminded of the history of England, especially the City of London during the period of this story (1550 to 1650) when plagues were common and there was much warfare between the Roman Catholic Papists, the Roman Catholic King's Men (the Anglican Church origins) and the many non-conformist and protestant religious groups.  In London especially, death was widespread and commonplace (about 30% to 40% of the populace in London) with each outbreak of plague and remarriage was a necessity for those who survived.  It was an ugly period and place to live in.  Edward Rutherfurd's magnificent novel "London" pictures the period well.

 

Copyright 2004, Philip Norcross Gross

For more information please contact me at info@norcross.ca.  All this information is based on family stories, or documents listed in the References.  Official documentation is not common except for recent generations (1850 or later) and may not necessarily be referenced herein.