Nicholas Danforth (1589-1638)


Nicholas Danforth was the son of Thomas Danforth (? - April 20, 1620), grandson of Nicholas Danforth (? - November 12, 1585), and the fifth generation of William Danforth, all of whom were born, died, and were buried in Framlingham, Suffolk, England. He also was born in Framlingham in 1589, was baptized there on March 1, 1589 and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in April 1638. He married Elizabeth (Symmes?), who died February 22, 1628, and was buried in Framlingham.

Cotton Mather in his Memorablia,II 59, describes him as "a gentleman of such estate and repute in the world that it cost him a considerable sum to escape the knight-hood which King Charles I imposed on all of so much per annum; and of such a figure and esteem in the church that he procured that famous lecture at Framlingham, where he had a fine manour; which lecture was kept by Mr. Burroughs and other noted ministers in their turn; to whom especially he proved a Gaius, and especially when the Laudian fury scotched them."

In Framlingham the parish register and records indicate that Nicholas was one of its leading citizens and that he became a church warden in 1622. This was a most important position as these wardens made the assessments on all properties of the townspeople, collected the taxes, and performed many other secular duties now carried out by local governmental bodies. He also was a member of the "Court Baron of Burrough Lect Jury," according to the records for the year 1629.

In 1937, Dr. Edward P. Danforth, of White Plains, New York, while doing postgraduate work in England spent a weekend at the old Danforth home-site, being received by the townspeople with great interest and a warm reception. He reports: "The old Danforth manor house, with a now dry moat around it, still stands, and was, at that time, being occupied by a retired brewer and his family. He was a bit of a country gentleman farmer with several tenant farm houses on the estate..."

In the summer of 1969, Mr. Charles Danforth Saggus, of Augusta, Georgia, made a two day visit to Framlingham, conferred with the present Rector of Saint Michael's Church and called on Miss Hilda Fulcher, who owns the old sixteenth century New Street Farm, which he was told had been the former property of Nicholas Danforth. Apparently this farm was one of the "tenements" of "closes," of which Nicholas owned several.

In 1634, when 45 years of age, Nicholas Danforth left Framlingham, England, and arrived at Boston, Massachusetts on the good ship Griffin, accompanied by his three sons, Thomas, Samuel, and Jonathan and his three daughters, Anna, Lydia, and Elizabeth, all of whom had been born and baptized in Framlingham. His reasons for leaving England are not known but it is surmised that he was influenced by the death of his wife five years before; the desire to escape the knighthood offered by King Charles !; and because, he being a Puritan, the heat was on him and those other non-conformists, who could not stomach the manner in which the church was being administered by the powerful bishops, supported by the Popish kings.

Nicholas Danforth left Boston soon after his arrival and took up residence at Cambridge, Massachusetts, where at once he became prominent in the affairs of the community. He is mentioned in the town records of 1635 as a proprietor and freeman (meaning eligible for Colonial office and to vote on matters of general government). The same and the following year he purchased several parcels of land. He made his house on what is now Bow Street, near Mount Auburn Street.

"He was chosen a deputy or representative of the General Court in 1635." On March 3, 1635-36 he was with others deputed to set out the bounds of the newe plantacon above Charles Ryver (Concord). The Committe made its report April 13, 1636. In September following he was appointed to a similar duty to measure and sett the boundaries of Roxbury and to sett those between Dedham and Dorchester. When the important committee to take order for a college at Newtown, November 20, 1637, Mr. Danforth was one of those selected. Another land boundary was submitted to him with associates, 6 (1) 1637-38. He was also one of eleven men (one to a town_ whom the Court, by its vote of March 12, 1637-38, allowed to sell wine and strong water----. No one else to sell by retail without liscence from the council, so great was pressure to provide places where these articles could be bought and so many the abuses of the retail traffic, that they sought to place the traffic in the hands of their first citizens."

The Society of Colonial Wars in its publication (New York 1898) lists Nicholas Danforth (1585-1638) as a captain in the Pequot War of 1637.

The disposition of Nicholas Danforth's property is not clearly revealed by the records but minutes of the proprietors and the recorded wills of his sons indicate that his children were the principal heirs.