Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thankful Winslow (1715-1758) (Week 48) Theme: "Thankful"

The obvious choice for this week's American Thanksgiving theme might have been my 8th great grand-uncle Edward Winslow (1595-1655), Mayflower passenger and early governor of Plymouth Colony. He has long been associated with Thanksgiving because of his famous letter describing the "first American Thanksgiving".

Instead, I have chosen a less well-known Winslow, my 5th great grand-aunt named Thankful. Her name, unusual to modern tastes, was not unusual in her day. Early New Englanders often gave their children names of virtues that they hoped their children would emulate as they matured. Names such as Thankful, Temperance, Resolved, Mercy, Patience, Prudence, and Experience were commonplace. Others sound very odd indeed to modern ears. Imagine being called Silence or Freelove or Hallelujah! All of these are names I've encountered while researching my family tree.

Snippatuit Pond in the Rochester Area
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA

Thankful Winslow was born 2 April 1715 in Rochester, Massachusetts, to my 6th great grandparents Major Edward Winslow (1681-1760) and his wife Sarah Clark (1681-1767). (Edward's father, Kenelm Winslow was said to have been one of the earliest landowners in the Rochester area, but may not himself have ever lived there.) The house of Edward Winslow in Snippatuit was mentioned in 1726. The year prior to that, Major Edward Winslow of Sniptuit had been empowered to set up an iron mill on the Mattapoisett River.

Location of Rochester, Massachusetts
Google Earth Image

Thankful's father Edward was captain, and later major, in the local militia and took an active role in civic affairs in Rochester. He was also both a farmer and a maker/forger of iron.

Edward had married local girl Sarah Clark in the opening years of the 18th century. Their family started in 1703 with the birth of yet another Edward Winslow, followed by Mehitable in 1705, then my 5th great grandmother Sarah Winslow (1707-1771), Lydia, Mercy and Thankful, the youngest. One wonders whether Sarah had had a difficult pregnancy and was thankful for its successful outcome. Perhaps they simply wanted their young daughter to grow up remembering to be grateful for what life had to offer. However, the name Thankful does appear from time to time in this family and could simply be a family tradition.

Thankful would have been just a child when her older sister Sarah (my 5th great grandmother) married Thomas Lincoln and had three children with him prior to his death in 1730. Widowed Sarah then married my 5th great grandfather James Whitcomb and went on to have 10 additional children including my 4th great grandmother Mary Whitcomb. Other siblings would also have married and started their own families leaving Thankful as probably the last to leave home. The family all tended to remain in the Rochester, Massachusetts area.

Snappatuit Brook would have been a familiar sight to Thankful Winslow
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA

At the age of 20 Thankful married Josephus Hammond (1703-1779) and started a family of her own in Rochester. Children were born in 1736 (Parnal), 1738 (Edward), 1740 (another Thankful!), 1742 (Zuriah) and 1744 (Josephus).  She also suffered losses of her brother James Winslow in 1744 and sister Mercy in 1757.

Herring Run - Thankful would have been familiar with this terrain
Historic Photo courtesy Plumb Library, Rochester, MA 
The following year Thankful herself died on 2 October 1758. She is undoubtedly buried near Rochester, Massachusetts but her grave site has not been located.

(Bonus) Not Thanksgiving Turkey but Another Feast Story:

Not wanting to be deprived of a Thanksgiving feast story (after deciding NOT to tell the Edward Winslow story of the "first Thanksgiving" at Plymouth Colony) here is another story of a great early American feast that occurred years before the birth of Thankful, during the lifetime of her grandfather Kenelm Winslow:

I discovered this story while researching the early history of the Winslows in the Rochester, MA area. It comes down to us from Church's "Entertaining History of King Philip's War" which is described in Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts on pages 13-15.

In 1676, Awashonks, the female sachem (chief) of the Sogkonate tribe invited Captain Church to join her people in a feast and races being held on the "Sands and Flats." At the supper, "a curious young Bass was brought in on one dish, eels and flatfish on a second, shellfish on a third, but neither Bread nor Salt was to be seen at table."

Even more memorable than the all-seafood feast was the after dinner entertainment.
"A great pile of Pine knots and Tops was fired and the Indians gathered in a ring about it. Awashonks and the oldest of her people kneeling down made the first ring, and all the stout lusty men standing up made the next, and all the Rabble, a Confused Crew, surrounded on the outside. Then the Chief Captain stopped in between the people and the fire, and with a spear in one hand and a hatchet in the other danced round the fire and began to fight with it, making mention of all the several nations and companies of Indians that were enemies to the English; and at every tribe named he would draw out and fight a new fire brand, at finishing his fight with a fire brand he would bow to him and thank him." 

When he finished, another chief would step in to repeat the performance, and then another and another. They told Captain Church that they were making soldiers for him and the ceremony was a swearing in of all the young able men. This was obviously, then, not so much an entertainment as a significant ceremony. At the close of the performance, Awashonks presented Captain Church with a very fine firelock and in return received assurances of protection of the English. As a result, her tribe was protected by the English during the subsequent King Philip's War but her leadership among the Native Americans also suffered for being seen as too closely allied with the English. The feast may well have been a turning point in the eventual outcome of King Philip's War, something for which the English settlers of Rochester would no doubt be very thankful indeed.


  • "Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts: Being a History of These Towns", New York: The Grafton Press 1907
  • "The New England Historical & Genealogical Register", 1851
  • Scott, Henry Edwards (ed.), "Vital Records of Rochester, Massachusetts to the Year 1850", Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1914;
  • "Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Jan 2014), Edward Winslow in entry for Thankfull Winslow

1 comment:

  1. We'll have to talk about this one. I need to research King Philip's war first.