Thursday, January 27, 2011

John Cragin, Scots Prisoner of War 1651 in Woburn, Massachusetts

After the heavy snows of the previous week, this weekend perfect for a drive in the countryside. One of our favorite rides is to the Frye Measure Mill in Wilton, New Hampshire. Since the weather had been bad, I Googled the website for the Frye Measure Mill, and found the schedule and directions, but then (of course!) I was sidetracked by the link labeled “history”. After clicking there, I became enthralled with the story of Daniel Cragin, the founder of the Mill. I was even more surprised to find his ancestor had been a 1651 passenger on board the “John and Sara”.
The Frye Measure Mill
in winter is absolutely beautiful!

I knew the sad story of the “John and Sara” because my own ancestor, William Munroe (1625 - 1718), was on board the same ship. It was full of prisoners of war, Scotsmen captured during the English Civil War, bound for Boston to be sold into servitude. It is one of the few ships of this era to have a fairly complete passenger list, because the human cargo was actually valuable merchandise. For this reason only, the proprietors made a list. Other ships of the era did not keep passenger lists.

wooden measures
According to the Frye Measure Mill website, and the Wilton, NH town history, John Cragin had small pox during the voyage, and was going to thrown overboard. A young English woman, Sarah Dawes, asked for his life to be spared. However, this is easily disproven by one look at the passenger list. There are no women on the list, and no English passengers. The truth is more interesting. Sarah Dawes was a servant to John Wyman in Woburn, and was with child with her second bastard child by another servant in the Wyman household, Daniel Mecrist. She was sentenced to twelve stripes in 1657. He could not marry her because he was already married to a woman he left behind in England. John Craggin married her in 1661, and took in her two illegitimate children, Mary and Benoni Mecrist.

In looking at my own family tree, I saw that John Cragin and Sarah Dawes had eight children, and two of the Cragin siblings married two Skelton siblings, grand children of my own ancestor Reverend Samuel Skelton (1593 – 1634) of Salem, Massachusetts. John Wyman (1621 – 1684), Sarah’s master in Woburn, Massachusetts, was the brother to my own ancestor, Francis Wyman (1617 – 1699). Another one of John Cragin’s daughters, Sarah, married Francis Nurse, Jr. (the son of Rebecca Towne Nurse, hung as a witch in 1692 Salem, her brother Edmund is my 10x great grandfather), my first cousin ten generations removed. There are many, many connections between my own family tree and John Cragin’s descendants.

The Cragin/Craggen/Craggin Family

Gen. 1. John Cragin, b. Scotland, died 27 October 1708 in Woburn, Massachusetts. He was captured at the Battle of Worcester in 1652 and sent to America as a prisoner of war on board the “John and Sarah” to be sold into servitude; married on 4 November 1661 to Sarah Dawes, at Woburn, Massachusetts. Eight Children.

Gen. 2. John Cragin, born 29 September 1677 at Woburn, Massachusetts; died 26 January 1703; filed an intention to marry Deborah Skelton on 13 April 1700. Three children.

Gen. 3. John Cragin, born 25 Mar 1701; married Judith Barker of Concord, Massachusetts settled in the part of Concord which is now Acton, Massachusetts, and then removed to Temple, New Hampshire. Nine children.

Gen. 4. Francis Cragin, born in Acton; married Sibyl Piper. Ten children.

Gen. 5. Captain Francis Cragin, born 24 October 1773; married Sarah Cummings,

Gen. 6. Augustus Cragin born 19 July 1802; died 21 June 1886; married on 14 December 1830 to Almira Boynton, born 5 December 1807, and died 30 October 1883. . Removed to Temple, New Hampshire from Merrimac, about 1837. Ten children.

Gen. 7. Daniel Cragin, born 31 December 1836 in Merrimac; married 20 March 1859 to Jane L. Dolliver, daughter of John Dolliver and Lucetta Draper of Lyndeborough. Was apprenticed at age 17 to John Newell, cabinet maker, of Lyndeborough, New Hampshire. He was engaged in a furniture shop in Wilton three years later. Then he returned to Lyndeborough, with a partner, and purchased John Newell’s business in 1858. In 1876 he began the manufacture of dry measures at his own mill.

Frye's Measure Mill
Wilton, New Hampshire
Frye’s Measure Mill, in Wilton, is on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s 2008 list of “Seven to Save”, among the most endangered Granite State properties. It dates back to a time when mills were made of wood, not brick like those in Manchester, and located along the streams and small rivers of backwoods New Hampshire, not just along the mighty Merrimack. Local manufacturing and locally made products were the backbone of the American economy in the 1800’s. Frye’s Measure Mill has been run by only three families over the years, Cragin, Frye and Savage. There is still a continuing battle to maintain the mill, dam, ponds and outbuildings. In 1982 the Measure Mill was accepted to the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1878 by Daniel Cragin, the Frye Mill still produces wooden ware measures, similar to Shaker style boxes also produced there. Using an elaborate system of wooden cogs and leather belts, the energy produced from a small waterfall turns the lathes and machinery that cuts, shapes and shaves the wooden containers that become “measures.” Measures were made in sizes from a dry cup to a quart, and each can be considered a small work of art. The shaker boxes and measures are still made of native maple, hand bent around wooden molds and fastened with copper tacks.

Frye’s Measure mill is one of the few waterpowered mills still operational, and the only measure mill still operating in the United States. Woodenware produced at Frye’s is still made by the mostly water powered equipment. It is located on 12 Frye Mill Road in Wilton, New Hampshire

There is a small display of historical information
about the Mill inside the gift shop, including
information on the Cragin, Frye and Savage families
For more information on the Cragin family or Frye’s Measure Mill:

History of the town of Wilton, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, by Abiel Abbot Livermore and Sewall Putnam, Lowell, Massachusetts: Marden & Rowell, Printers, 1888 (the Cragin Genealogy is on page 353)

The American Genealogist, Volume 15 (1838-9), page 218- 220

Woburn Massachusetts Vital Records

History of Woburn, Massachusetts, by Samuel Sewall, Boston: Wiggin & Lunt, 1868

"Francis and Sarah Graggen Nurse of Reading Massachusetts; with notes on John and Sarah Dawes Craggen of Woburn, Massachusetts and Benoni MacKrest of Salisbury, Massachusetts", by Barbara J. Matthews, The American Genealogist, 1994, Volume 69, pages 81 - 85.

websites:  the passenger list for the “John and Sara” which left London 11 November 1651. the website for Frye’s Measure Mill, Wilton, New Hampshire with historical data, how to book tours of the mill, and shop information

Disclosure:  I have not been compensated in any way by the owners and proprietors of Frye's Measure Mill


To Cite/Link to this blog post:  Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "John Cragin, Scots Prisoner of War 1651 in Woburn, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted January 27, 2011, ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. Very interesting article. And, I love the mill, you went at a perfect time, the photos are really nice. Never been there, so it is now on my list. Thanks for posting this.

  2. I had no idea any water powered mills were still operating. All the mills in CT where I grew up were converted to homes, inns, or other commercial sites. Unfortunately some of them have not survived the difficult economy of the last few years.

  3. Well, I just feel dumb as a brick... in a hundred years, Heather, I don't think it would have occurred to me that those wooden containers were for measuring. Duh!!

  4. Hi Heather,

    My own family tree goes back to John Cragin and Sarah Dawes. Looks like we are related through Gen. 5. Captain Francis Cragin, born 24 October 1773; married Sarah Cummings. My line is then through Archelaus Cragin (1798 - 1886)
    Son of Capt Francis. Loved learning about this story and the story of the mill.
    Best, Maura Campbell

  5. Thanks for posting this. My Family tree is also connected to the Cragins. My grandmother was a Cragin and we trace our family through one of the nine children of John Cragin and Judith Barker. That is a great story about the mill. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks Patricia Tegan

  6. really enjoyed your posting and the history.
    My family tree goes back thru Eveline Cragin, daughter of Archelaus Cragin, brother of Augustus.
    I have photos of several of these Cragins posted on my tree at ancestry.

    Eveline was my 2nd great grandmother

    Louis Roth

  7. Wonderful story! John and Sarah Cragin were my 6x great grandparents through their son John. Thank you for the information on their daughter Sarah's mother-in-law Rebecca Nurse...this I did not know from my research. Also thank you for the information on Daniel Cragin. I now want to visit the mill he built. Barb from MN

    1. Barb, I hope you come soon to New Hampshire to visit the measure mill, and I hope you have time to explore the places in Massachusetts where your earlier ancestors lived, too. Thanks for your kind comments!

  8. I actually planned on going to Massachusetts and New Hampshire next spring to visit my partners family for the first Im so anxious to explore where it all began for my ancestors. Looks like Daniel Cragin is a distant cousin to me and can't wait to see the mill he built :)

  9. I'm glad I found this. I'm working on my genealogy, and I'm descended from Benoni Macrest (there are a lot of different spellings of that name) who was one of the two illegitimate children borne by Sarah Dawes. Now I understand why John Cragin's name kept appearing as the father.

  10. 5000 Scots taken by Cromwell after the Battle of Dunbar were force marched to Durham. 2000 men dropped dead along the way. 1700 men died inside Durham Cathedral. Cromwell closed it to the public and transformed it into a very inhumane prison. Those who survived the transatlantic voyage, were able earn their freedom back and sire a large family were very fortunate indeed.

  11. Thanks for posting this. It appears we are related through one of John and Sarah's daughters (Mercy) and grand-daughters (Mary). Mercy married a Skelton too. The more I learn about the lives our ancestors lived, the conditions they were forced to endure, the more I am in awe of their fortitude and thankful for their good luck.

  12. Hi there,
    This information was very cool to me because I am a Cragin!!!!
    John Cragin is my great great great great great great great great great great grandfather, I grew up hearing the story of him and Sarah Dawes and how his was a Prisoner of War from Scotland. My siblings and I are part of the 13th generation of Cragins from John and Sarah and my daughter,niece and nephew are part of the 14th.
    I am a descendant of Benjamin Cragin, who was one of John Cragin the 3rd and Judith Barkers 9 Kids.
    4th Gen: Benjamin born on July 8th 1740, married Mercy Robbins born March 1st 1744. They had a son,
    5th Gen: Benjamin Cragin Jr born May 4th 1767, he married Rebecca Farrar born in 1765. They had a son
    6th Gen: Benjamin Cragin the 3rd born Nov. 15th 1793, he married Mahala Boynton born July 27th 1793. They had a son
    7th Gen: Adna Cragin born Sept. 26th 1826, he married Lucinda E Langon (her birth date is unknown, death date is December 1893 in Lorain Ohio). They had a son
    8th Gen: Adna Cragin Jr. Born Sept 5th 1851 in Loraine, Ohio, died Nov. 24th 1932 in Seattle, Wa (where I live and visit his and his wives graves on memorial day). He married Ella Starr born Dec 8th 1851 in Lorain Ohio. Died Nov 18 1908 in Seattle Wa. They had a son
    9th Gen: Louis Cragin born Dec. 13th 1878 in Loraine, Ohio. Died Dec. 3rd 1949 in Seattle, WA. He married Mary Cardin born 1879 in Minnesota, Died July 16th 1941 in Seattle WA. They had a son
    10th Gen: Truman Cragin born April 19th, 1908 in Seattle, WA. Died Jan. 31st, 1965. He married Sally Crocker born July 9th, 1906 in Tacoma, WA. They had two Sons, one of them my grandpa!
    11th Gen: Truman Cragin Jr. born Jan. 2nd 1936, still living. He married my Grandmother, Shirley Gilbert born May 27th, 1938, also still living :) They had 5 sons, their 4th is my Father.
    12th Gen: Todd Cragin born May 21st 1964, married Adrienne Norman born June 11th 1965. They had 4 children, one being me!
    13th Gen: Chelsey Cragin(me)born Sept. 5th 1995. Not married, have 1 child
    14th Gen: Alexis Cragin born Jan. 12th 2014

  13. I read your posts about Fryes Mill with interest for one particular reason: the Savages, Harland and his son Harley, too over ownership of the mill decades ago. Recently, I read that Harley, the most recent owner, passed away in 20-6. He was one of my childhood friends from the 1950's in Wilton.

    1. Small world! I remember you said you were from Wilton.

  14. I'm a descendant of Benoni Mecrist. Great write up, it helped me out so much in my research!

  15. I, also am a descendant of John Cragin I. His son, John II went to Temple NH, where several of his descendants took part in the Am Rev. There is one error in your report - Scottish prisoners on the John & Sarah were captured at the battle of Worcester in 1651, not Dunbar in 1650. This mistake is found in many of the Cragin family histories and should be corrected.

  16. Hello...I'm also from Cragin and Dawes. I come from their son John Cragin and Deborah Skelton. I can't wait to visit the mill. I'll be out that way around May...