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Robert and Mary Reynolds of Boston, MA

Chapter 1
edited by Susan R. Clement
© Reynolds Family Association, 1992

The following genealogy of Robert Reynolds of Boston and his descendants is compiled from a number of previously published books and articles on this family. The first genealogy of Robert and his family appeared in the 1907 RFA Annual. Several additional articles containing additions and corrections were published in Annuals in 1915, 1916, 1922, 1924-25 and 1935-36-37.

Marion H. Reynolds, who was a descendant of Robert, published two books on this family. The first was published in 1928 by the RFA and was titled The History and One Line of Descendants of Robert and Mary Reynolds (1630?-1928) of Boston, Mass. The second, a larger volume, was published in 1931, with the title The History and Some of the Descendants of Robert and Mary Reynolds (1630?-1931) of Boston, Mass. It is this second book which most researchers on this line generally refer to.

One would assume that this second volume would be the most accurate and up-to-date genealogy of the family, but this is not necessarily so. The 1935-36-37 RFA Annual contains only two minor corrections/updates not significantly impacting the published work of 1931. In some entries in the book for some individuals, the reader is referred back to one of the previous Annual articles and the individual and/or family is dropped completely from any further discussion. In other entries, dates are changed completely from the previous articles without any word of explanation or source reference.

Without doubt, the 1931 History and Descendants is the authority for the descendants of Robert Reynolds of Boston. For the purposes of the following genealogy, all Annual articles have been updated using that source. However, Annual articles were used to supply information when lacking in the 1931 volume, and other corrections have been made when available source material indicated. It would be wise to verify dates with source records if available. (See records of Boston MA in the "United States Source Records" section of the RFA Centennial Collection.)

The following genealogy is by no means meant to be exhaustive. Because of the general availability of the 1931 volume in various libraries, it was decided not to reprint it in its entirety here. Rather, the following outline of the first six generations should enable many researchers to connect with this line if appropriate, and the various towns and cities mentioned where members of this family settled should provide some clues for others. Additional generations have been included when they were not followed in the 1931 book, but appeared in various RFA Annuals.


Robert Reynolds was born in England about 1580 according to previously published sources, although there is no authority for this date. He is known to have been in Boston as early as 1632, and perhaps was a part of the Winthrop fleet in 1630. At least he was a part of the great immigration which streamed over to New England in the few years after 1630. With him came his wife, Mary (maiden name unknown), a son, Nathaniel, aged about five, four daughters, and probably his supposed brother, John Reynolds of Watertown, whose wife Sarah Reynolds is believed to have sailed in the ship "Elizabeth" of Ipswich in 1634 [Hotten, Early Immigrants].

In Genealogy of New England, Mr. Charles Nutt of Worcester, Mass. asserts, without stating the ground for his assertion, that Robert came from Aylesford, County Kent, some thirty miles southeast of London. The parochial records of that town now extend back to only 1660, earlier records having been lost. [Ed. note: Other sources list various places of birth for Robert. Charles Edward Banks in The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 (Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1989) states that Robert was "probably from Boxford, co. Suffolk." Col. Stephen Tillman in Christopher Reynolds and his Descendants, 1959, states that Robert was born 1586 in Kent Co., England and was the son of George and Thomasyn (Church) Reynolds, data taken from George's will. A source reference for the will is not given, nor is the will abstracted.]

Upon his arrival in the new world, Robert settled for a short while in Boston, where he was admitted to membership in the First Church of Boston Aug. 10, 1634, and made a freeman, or citizen, Sept. 3, 1634 [NEH Gen Reg 3:93]. Then he removed to Watertown, Mass., with his brother John. On March 29, 1635 or 1636 [NEHGR 13:301] he, with the Rev. Denton and several others, was dismissed from the church in Watertown to form a new church in Wethersfield, Conn., where his brother John followed about 1635-36. John and his family remained in Connecticut, but Robert did not stay there long. He probably returned by December of 1635 according to Boston records enumerating on 8 Jan 1637/8 those who were inhabitants of the town on the "14th day of the 10th month 1635." Robert took his family back to Boston, where he acquired considerable property and lived the rest of his life. His wife Mary was admitted to the Boston Church Oct. 4, 1645. His occupation is frequently mentioned in various records as "cordwainer" (shoemaker), and property owner.

Robert Reynolds acquired just about 1640 ["Book of Possessions" compiled 1643] or shortly previous - the early pages of the "Book of Possessions" have been lost - a pretty large piece of land, which he afterward divided up into several lots, on the site of the southeast corner of Washington and Milk Streets [Shurtleff, History of Boston ch. LI] (then called High and Fort Streets, respectively) on the corner across Milk Street from the Old South Church, then part of Governor Winthrop's home lot. On one of these lots of the Reynolds estate, Josiah Franklin about 1685 became the tenant of Capt. Nathaniel Reynolds, then living in Bristol, and apparently remained there until about 1712. It was thus on Reynolds property that Benjamin Franklin was born Jan. 6, 1705/6. Though most of the other lots of the original homestead passed out of the hands of the Reynolds family before 1700, this particular Franklin lot was not disposed of until May 21, 1725, when the widow of the third Nathaniel Reynolds conveyed it to John Fosdick, son-in-law of Captain Nathaniel Reynolds.

Robert Reynolds also owned land at Muddy River (modern Brookline), which he conveyed in 1645 and 1653. In 1638 he was mentioned as owning land "bounded on NW with Newtowne" [Boston Record Comm. 2:29]. In 1640, Robert Reynolds is mentioned as selling land on Hogg Island. Robert's name is often found in the county records of land transfers, as a witness to legal papers, as an appraiser of estates, etc.

At the time the sharp old Capt. Robert Keayne and Mrs. Shearman went to law over a stray pig in 1642, an excited public opinion turned upon the old captain, and judges wrangled over what has become a notable case in the history of bicameral "courts" or legislatures, Robert Reynolds apparently lent his voice to the defense of Keayne [see Palfrey, "Hist. New England" 1:618]. Some years later (Nov. 14, 1653) the following paragraph appears in Keayne's will [NEHGR 6:156]: "Unto our brother Renolds, shoemaker, senior, twenty shillings; not forgetting a word he spake, publiquely & seasonably, in the time of my distresse, and other men's violent opposition against me."

About 1650, Robert's only son, Nathaniel, rapidly came to be a young man of importance, being elected in 1658 to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company; marrying in 1657; and commanding a company at Chelmsford, 1676, in King Philip's Indian war.

In 1658 Robert, "being stricken in age," realized his end to be approaching, for on April 20, he drew up and signed his will with his own hand, and died a year and seven days later on April 27, 1659. His wife Mary died January 18, 1663. Until a generation or so ago the original will was on file in the Suffolk Registry of Probate in Boston and was copied into the volume of early wills and also published in the New England Genealogical Register [NEHGR 9:137-8], but it has evidently long been stolen. The yellowed original inventory of his estate, 1659, taking minute account of pots, rope-ends, shoe soles, etc. is still to be seen at the Registry. Following is a copy of Robert's holograph will, as nearly exact as can be had from Registry copies. The fact that its English is comparatively good would indicate that he had a fairly good education.

(Suffolk, Mass. Registry of Probate, Book I, p. 324)

Will. Now Liuing in Boston. ITEM: I give to my wife, my house with all that appertaine unto it, with my Marsh ground at Muddy River, with one Lott of Ground at Long Island, so Long as she Liveth, with all my house hold stuffe whatever is in my house, and what money there is left, and after her decease I haue given my house & Orchard to my sonne Nathaniell and to his heyres foreuer, and if he should dye without Children, or any one Child Lawfully begotten of his owne body, then his wife to enjoy the said house and Orchard so long as she Liueth, and after her decease, to Returne to my fowre daughters Children, that is to say, one part to my daughter Ruth Whitney and to her Eldest Sonne; a second part to my Daughter Tabitha Abdy & her sonne Mathew Abdy, and if he should dye, to her two daus. one part to either of them alike; a third part to my daughter Sarah Mason and her sonne Robert Mason, & if he dye, to her daughter Sarah; and a fourth part to my dau. Mary Sanger & her sonne Nathaniell & if he dye to her next child, either sonne or daughter; likewise I give to my daughter Ruth Whitney twentie pounds to be payd in good countrey pay & likewise I give to my Daughter Tabitha twentie pounds & also I give to my daughter Sarah twentie pound & likewise I give to my dau. Mary twentie pound, & for the payment of these Legacies I have eight accres of marsh Land, which if my sonne Nathaniell will pay £20 in good pay towards this fowre score pound, then he to haue and enjoy my Marsh land and his heyres foreuer; but if he refuse to pay the twentie pound, then to be devided equally to my fower daughters & to theire children, that is to my daughter Ruth & her Children one part, and to my daughter Tabitha & her Children one part, & to my daughter Sarah and her Children one part, and to my daughter Mary & her Children one part, or else that it may be sold for as much as it will yeeld, and devided among them equally as I said before, & the other three score pound to be raysed out of my owne estate, & what is ouer and aboue, my will & desire is, my wife shall haue, and so I do make her my Executrix to pay all my debts and receive all my debts, and also I joyne my sonne Nathaniell with her, to be as helpefull to my wife, his mother, as possibly he can, and these legacies to be payd within one yeare and a day, and if it should please God that I doe Liue so Long as any of my Estate should be spent, as it is likely it may, I & my wife being stricken in age & are almost past our Labour, then, for euery one of them to abate proportionably alike. Written with my owne hand the 20th day of the 2d month 1658.

Robert Reynols                            

At a Countie Court 27th July 1659. Thomas Grubb and Nathaniell Bishop deposed, that being a vissiting of Robert Reynols, a little before his death, the said Reynols, in their prnce, declared this paper to be his Last Will & Testament, & yt he was of a sound and disposeing minde when he so declared it to theire best knowledge.

The Children of Robert and Mary Reynolds

Because of their early marriages, and because there are no discovered American records of their births, all the five children of Robert and Mary are supposed to have been born in England before 1632. In order of their marriage, they are:

2. RUTH REYNOLDS d. bef. 1685, m. John Whitney of Watertown, approx. 1642. Ten children, surname Whitney:
      John b. 17 Sep 1643, d. 1726; m. Elizabeth Harris
      Ruth b. 15 Apr 1645; m1. John Shattuck; m.2 Enoch Lawrence
      Nathaniel b. 1 Feb 1646/7, d. 7 Jan 1732/3; m. Sarah Hagar
      Samuel b. 26 July 1648; m. Mary Bemis
      Mary b. 23 Apr 1650, d. unm. after 1693
      Joseph b. 15 Jan 1651/2, d. 4 Nov 1702; m. Martha Beach
      Sarah b. 17 Mar 1653/4, d. 8 June 1720; m. Daniel Harrington
      Elizabeth b. 9 June 1656; m. Daniel Warren
      Hannah b. 1658; unm. in 1693

Benjamin b. 28 Nov or June 1660; m Abigail Hagar; m 2 Elizabeth ---

3. TABITHA REYNOLDS d. 1661, m. Mathew Abdy about 1646. Three children, surname Abdy:
      Mary b. 24 May 1648
      Tabitha b. 24 Nov 1652
      Matthew b. 1654-58, d. 1730; m Deborah Stimson; m 2 Ruth ---

4. MARY REYNOLDS b. prob. 1620-25, d. after 1711, m. Richard Sanger, about 1648. Several children. Made a legatee in her brother's will in 1708, so that she was probably then the sole survivor of the original immigrant Reynolds family. Eight children, surname Sanger:
      Mary b. 26 Sep 1650; m. John Harris
      Nathaniel b. 14 Feb 1651/2, d. abt 1735; m Mary ---; m 2 Ruth Cooper
      John b. 6 Sep 1657; d. bef 1706; m. Rebecca Park
      Sarah b. 19 Jan 1661/2, d. 21 Mar 1661/2
      Sarah b. 31 Mar 1663
      Richard b. 22 Feb 1665/6. d. 1 Apr 1731; m. Elizabeth Morse
      Elizabeth b. 23 July 1669
      David b. 21 Dec 1671, d. 20 Aug 1691

5. SARAH REYNOLDS m. Robert Mason about 1653. Six children, surname Mason:
      Robert b. 1655
      Sarah b. 20 Aug 1657; m. Samuel Phillips
      Nathaniel b. 23 Dec 1659
      Philip b. 16 July 1662, d. 3 Aug 1663
      Elizabeth b. 23 Feb 1666/7, d. 3 Aug 1668
      Elizabeth b. 29 July 1669

6. CAPTAIN NATHANIEL REYNOLDS, the only son, and probably the youngest or next youngest of Robert's five children, who became a soldier, shoemaker, and landowner of Boston and Bristol, was born in 1627, in England, and died July 10, 1708, Bristol, RI. He was probably buried in Bristol.

He and father Robert witnessed a deed in Boston 1650 (verifying thus that he was then of age). March 13, 1654, chosen "Sealer of Leather" and in 1655 made Boston constable. In 1656 he subscribed £1 toward the building Town House, Boston. Again "sealer" (inspector) of leather, Boston, March 14, 1663, for 1 year; 1670-1; 1674-5; and town records of March 1, 1679: "Lt. Nathaniell Reynolds was chosen to inspect & take an Accompt of all hides intended to be transported according to a law of ye Countrie made 15th of May, 1672." March 12, 1665, chosen "Chief Counstable" (Chief of Police), Boston. He had been more or less regularly a subordinate constable for some years, as appears in various court documents of the period. On May 3, 1665, Nathaniel was made a "Freeman" or voting townsman of Boston. Pay of Nathaniel as Constable of Boston Feb. 23, 1666, was £1-15. July 4, 1672, "Nathanell Reynalls" as juror signed a verdict of Guilty on an inquiry over an Indian, Pungatowhen.

On May 29, 1677 Nathaniel was 6th on a list of 129 craftsmen of Boston praying for protection in their several callings against strangers. He was usually described as "cordwainer." On Suffolk court records are various references to accounts for shoes sold by Nathaniel Reynolds. He went bond for Saml. Phillips, 1667, in the case of Wilson vs. Phillips, debt.

on Dec. 12, 1666, brother-in-law John Brackett, willed £10-0-0 to Nathaniel and his wife Priscilla (Brackett) Reynolds. He inherited his father's considerable property on the corner of Milk and Washington Streets upon Robert's death in 1659. For many years Lieut. Nathaniel was landlord of Josiah, father of Benjamin Franklin, and certainly until Nathaniel's death in 1708. At a meeting of Boston Selectmen, Apr. 27, 1691:
      Libertie granted to Josiah Frankline to erect a building 8 Foote squae upon the Land belonging to Lt. Nathaniel Reynolds neere the South Meetinge house."
      Tax list, Boston, 1687, reads: "Houses, mills, wharves, etc.-6. Tax, 2 sh. 2 d.
      He is on Boston tax lists in 1681 and as late as 1695. He still owned the Boston property at his death, though Josiah Franklin rented one house and Nathaniel's son-in-law, John Fosdick, occupied another. Nathaniel willed this property to Nathaniel 2nd, who continued to hold it from 1708 and on. The property was appraised in 1708 at £150.

Josiah Franklin moved out of this house in 1712. It may be that Nathaniel 3d moved into the little house, and this Nathaniel almost certainly occupied it after his marriage in 1716, as he bought for £100 a quitclaim from his brothers John and Philip, after their father Nathaniel 2nd and mother Ruth (Lowell) Reynolds, both died during 1716-17. Nathaniel 3d, aet. 26, died in 1719, and his will gave it to his wife Mary (Snell) Reynolds, who soon thereafter removed to Brockton, MA, and sold it in 1725 to her uncle-in-law John Fosdick.

In 1683, May 9, Nathaniel was administrator of Estate of his deceased son-in-law, Thomas Bligh, first husband of his daughter Sarah, "in behalf of the widow of the deceased at her request."

He was elected a member of the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company of Boston in 1658 and took an active part in its parades and musters. His son was probably the "Lieut. Nathaniel Reynolds" elected to membership in 1681.

At the beginning of King Philip's Indian War (1676) Nathaniel held title of "Lieutenant" of 4th (Capt. Wm. Hudson's) Co. of Major Thos. Clarke's Suffolk Regiment. He led several expeditions into the Indian country, and commanded a company under Colonel Church. He commanded a garrison at Chelmsford (now Lowell), MA on Feb. 25, 1676. Inhabitants there petitioned the Massachusetts General Court that Lieut. Nathaniel and his company be allowed to remain that fall and winter as they feared the Indians. Nathaniel's nephew, Robert Mason, son of his sister, Sarah, served in his Company at Chelmsford, 1676. Bodge, Soldiers of King Philip's War, 1676, mentions him as "Captain Reynolds," as do the Bristol, RI Town Records.

August 24, 1676 his name appears for £4-0-0 military service. May 12, 1672, MA General Court confirmed him as Lieutenant in Capt. Wm. Hudson's Co.

Probably as an aftermath of his expeditions into the Indian country about Narragansett Bay where he saw promising new farming land, he removed permanently to Bristol about 1680 with all of his family, save his married daughter, Sarah Reynolds Fosdick, and his eldest son, Nathaniel Jr. who remained behind on the Boston property. Nathaniel Sr. became "Ensign, Bristol County Militia", and on June 6, 1684, became "First Lieutenant" of that Militia. He may have acquired his title of Captain in it later, or it may have been a left-over from King Philip's War.

The exact date of his removal from Boston to Bristol is disputed, but it was very close to 1680. Bristol was then a part of Bristol County, Massachusetts. He witnessed a deed in Boston as late as June 5, 1680, but may have removed permanently in that year. Many of the old records of the time, including Nathaniel's will, are recorded at Taunton, the county seat. Bristol was annexed to R.I. from MA about 1746. Captain Nathaniel's last three children were born in Bristol, all others in Boston.

He built his house on the northeast corner of Bradford and Thames Streets. His son, Joseph, who died 1759, built the present ancient Reynolds house [still standing in 1992] on High Street. Nathaniel was probably among the founders of Bristol, as on August 27, 1680, he received 1/32nd part in the original lay-out. When Bristol was named he was fourth in a list of 80 inhabitants.

He was apparently among the Dissenters from the Established Church of England, and was fifth on the list of founders of the First Church of Bristol, Congregational, on May 3, 1687. On June 28, 1686, he signed a remonstrance against the over-zealous minister Rev. Woolbridge. Nathaniel may have been at one time of Presbyterian faith. In Boston he had been a member of the First Church of Boston, 1665, where it is possible his parents are buried in that graveyard.

He was active in town politics in Bristol, being appointed Grand Juryman, Sealer of leather, Selectman and Committeeman from 1687-1705.

His long will is preserved and recorded in Bristol and is interesting for the considerable light it throws upon his family. His sister, Mary Sanger of Watertown, mentioned in his will was then the sole survivor of the original Reynolds emigrant family from England and was still alive in 1711.

He married twice: First wife, Sarah Dwight, of Dedham, then about 19 years old, dau. John and Hannah Dwight, on Dec. 30, 1657 (or on another record Jan. 7, 1657-8). She was born June 17, 1638, died July 8, 1663 in Boston. The record of her death is in Medfield, MA town records. Their children:
      7. Sarah b. July 26, 1659, d. Jan. 1, 1718; m. 1st Thomas Bligh abt. 1680; m. 2nd John Fosdick abt. 1683
      8. Mary b. Nov. 20, 1660, d. Jan. 8, 1663 "aet. 2 yrs. 2mos."
    *9. Nathaniel b. Mar. 3, 1662-3, d. between 1716-17; m. Ruth Lowell

He married 2nd Priscilla Brackett, probably about 1664 and certainly before Feb. 21, 1666. She was dau. of Peter and Priscilla Brackett. She died in Bristol Jan. 8, 1740. Their children were:
      10. Mary b. abt. 1665, d. Sep. 27, 1718; m. Capt. John Woodbury of Bristol May 18, 1694
      11. John b. Aug. 4, 1668, d. Jan. 30, 1757; unmarried
    *12. Peter b. Jan. 26, 1670, d. between 1726-32; m. Mary Giles about 1699
      13. Philip b. Sep. 15, 1674, d. bef. 1706, probably in infancy
    *14. Joseph b. Dec. 29, 1676, d. Jan. 16, 1759; m. Phoebe Leonard 1718
      15. Hannah b. Jan. 15, 1681; m. Samuel Royall 1704
    *16. Benjamin b. May 10, 1686, d. Aug. 4, 1770; m. Susanna Rawson 1709
      17. Ruth b. Dec. 9, 1688, d. July 3, 1737; m. Joseph Cary 1710

-- To be continued --