Murder in New Netherland

Week 31: #52 Ancestors – Oldest

By Eilene Lyon

I consider myself a family historian. Genealogy is a tool I use to construct my family stories. For this reason, my family tree does not wander back to the hinterlands of history. Most of the people I research date from the 18th century forward. In fact, until this article, I didn’t even have a category on my blog for the 17th century.

Also, DNA research has revealed that illegitimate conceptions may spring from the cellular realm to take me by surprise. That makes my biological family tree look a bit different from the paper-trail one. The further one goes back in time, the more likely a family tree branch is pure fiction.

Richard Maxson is currently the oldest known ancestor on my tree (wink, wink). He was born in Manchester, England, in 1602, but I do not have any record supporting that date and place as fact.

Richard is the ancestor of two of my 6th great-grandfathers. His son, John, my 9th great-grandfather, has the distinction of being my oldest ancestor born on American soil, in about 1639.

Parts of the following story have been handed down through the centuries without documentation. I do not vouch for it being 100% accurate:

Richard Maxson immigrated to Boston, Massachusetts about 1634, along with his wife and two children and other extended family. He worked as a blacksmith for James Everall, a shoemaker who had a tannery. Richard was admitted to Boston church on October 2, 1634.1

Richard’s wife was Rebecca Marbury, a sister of Ann (Marbury) Hutchinson.2 Ann Hutchinson was a popular religious leader (some say prophet) in Boston who ran afoul of the church patriarchs. She was put on trial in 1638 and banished from the colony.3

Ann was persuaded to move to Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The Maxson family was part of the group that migrated with her. They settled on Aquidneck Island, which was later named Rhode Island.4 It was here that John Maxson became the first white child born on the island.

In 1639, the new colony went into political turmoil. The original leader, William Coddington, was ousted and Ann Hutchinson’s husband was put in charge.5 Richard Maxson was one of the 39 men who signed a new compact governing the group.6

About 1642, fearing the Massachusetts Bay Colony would take over Rhode Island, Ann Hutchinson decided to move her family to Eastchester, New Netherland (now part of The Bronx, New York City).7 She was unaware that the Dutch purchased the land from natives elsewhere. The resident Siwonoy people were likely unaware of the transaction and were hostile to white settlement in their territory.8

The Maxson family apparently also moved around that time to a nearby location now known as Throgg’s Neck.9 At the time, it was known as Maxson’s Point. The Hutchinsons and Maxsons did not heed a warning by the Indians not to build homes in that area.

Throggs Neck

Google Earth image showing the area the Hutchinsons and Maxsons attempted to settle.

In August 1843, the Siwonoy went on a rampage to burn down the houses, possibly expecting to find that the settlers had left after being threatened. Instead, they found the Hutchinson family and proceeded to massacre them all. (I’ll spare you the gory details – they can be found on Wikipedia, if you’re so inclined.)

Only one of Ann’s daughters, away picking blueberries, escaped the slaughter. Susanna had hidden in a cleft boulder where she was later found and kidnapped by the Indians.10 She was reportedly spared because of her fiery red hair.

SplitRock.EastFace.LookingWest.20110820

Supposedly the split rock where Susanna Hutchinson hid from the Indians (Wikimedia Commons)

The Maxson family, fearing the Indians’ wrath, hid in a shallop* and escaped the massacre. But Richard and his 13-year-old son, Richard, decided to try and aid the Hutchinsons (other reports indicate they went to retrieve personal belongings). When they went back to land the next day, they were also murdered by the Indians. Rebecca, with her other children, was able to row the shallop to safety.11

*Definition of shallop. 1 : a usually 2-masted ship with lugsails. 2 : a small open boat propelled by oars or sails and used chiefly in shallow waters. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shallop

Feature image: Massacre of Anne Hutchinson (Public domain)


  1. Brown, Walter Leroy. 1954. The Maxson Family: Descendants of John Maxson and Wife Mary Mosher of Westerly, Rhode Island. p. 1. Online at Ancestry.com. 
  2. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=102252438&ref=acom (unsourced) 
  3. Morris, Richard B. 1981. “Jezebel Before the Judges.” In Bremer, Francis J. Anne Hutchinson: Troubler of the Puritan Zion. Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, Huntington, New York. p. 63. Cited in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Hutchinson 
  4. LaPlante, Eve. 2004. American Jezebel, the Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman who Defied the Puritans. Harper Collins, San Francisco. pp. 208, 212. Cited in Wikipedia. 
  5. Anderson, Robert Charles. 2003. The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England 1634–1635. Vol. III G-H. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston. p. 483. Cited in Wikipedia. 
  6. Anderson, Robert Charles. 1996-2011. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Volumes 1-3; The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volumes 1-6. Boston: New England Historical and Genealogical Society. Vol. 5, p. 102-103. Online at Ancestry.com. 
  7. Champlin, John Denison. 1913. “The Tragedy of Anne Hutchinson.” Journal of American History. 5 (3): p. 11. Cited in Wikipedia. 
  8. Bolton, Reginald Pelham. July 1922. “The Home of Mistress Ann Hutchinson.” New York Historical Society Quarterly Review. VI: 44. Cited in Wikipedia. 
  9. Brown, p. 1. 
  10. LaPlante, p. 239. Cited in Wikipedia. 
  11. Brown, p. 1. 

18 thoughts on “Murder in New Netherland

Add yours

  1. Such difficult, yet fascinating times. I admire your ability to find these stories and share them here. 1639?! That makes you so far beyond the DAR criteria that it is crazy. And I love it.

    Like

  2. As usual, very well written and documented. However I tend not to agree with your statement: “The further one goes back in time, the more likely a family tree branch is pure fiction.” I have successfully built and documented my father’s line to 1140 and my mother’s to well beyond that.

    It is true that documentation is harder to find the farther back you go but it is not impossible for the diligent researcher. It is of course somewhat easier if your family (such as my mother’s) is well known in history. My mother’s family (Allen) came to America aboard the Mary and John in 1633. Their history in England before that date is very well documented.

    Liked by 1 person

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