Saturday, March 9, 2013

Surname Saturday ~ Prescott of Lancaster, Massachusetts


John Prescott was a blacksmith in Sowerby, in the parish of Halifax, Yorkshire, England.  He came to Barbados in 1628, and then to Watertown Massachusetts about 1640 with his wife and first four children.  In about 1645 or 1646 they removed to the Nashaway Plantation, which became the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts.  He was admitted as a freeman in 1669.  He built the first gristmill and sawmills in Lancaster.   In 1900 a bronze marker was placed near where John Prescott’s mill once stood. 

Lancaster was several miles inland from the Massachusetts coast, in an isolated area of Worcester County.  Because of the remote location it was attacked by the local Indians during King Phillip’s War on 10 February 1676, and the town was abandoned for several years.  Eventually the Prescott family removed back to Lancaster.   There are legends of John Prescott going about in his chain mail and sword to defend himself against another Indian attack.   Unfortunately he was killed in another Indian massacre in 1681, along with his grandson, Ephraim Sawyer.  There were many Indian raids through the years, killing many members of the Prescott family in Lancaster.

One of those legends is in the book The Wheeler Family of Rutland, Massachusetts by Daniel Merrick Wheeler, 1924 : “John was a sturdy, strong man of stern countenance, and whenever he had any difficulty with the Indians he would clothe himself with his coat of mail, helmet, cuirass, and gorget, which gave him a fierce and frightful appearance.  They having once stolen from him a horse, he put on his armour and pursued them; and in a short time overtook the party.  They were surprised to see him along, and a chief approached him with uplifted tomahawk.  John told him to strike, which he did, and finding the blow made no impression on his cap, he was much astonished… They gave him up his horse, thinking him to be a supernatural being.”

John Prescott has no surviving headstone, but a memorial was erected at the Old Burial Ground in Lancaster and it reads:
“Here with his children about him lies John Prescott Founder of Lancaster and first settler of Worcester County Born at Standish Lancashire England Died at Lancaster Massachusetts Dec. 1681 Inspired by the love of liberty and the fear of God This stout hearted pioneer Forsaking the pleasant vales of England And encountered wide beast and savage to secure freedom for himself and his posterity His faith and virtues have been inherited by many descendants who in every generation have well served the state In war, in literature, at the bar, in the pulpit, in public life, And in Christian homes”

There are many books about John Prescott and his family history.  There is an old book The Prescott Memorial or a Genealogical Memoir of the Prescott Families in America in Two Parts, by William Prescott, MD, 1870 that is fairly reliable.  You can read it at Google Books.   There is another book The Descent of John Prescott, Founder of Lancaster, Massachusetts, 1645, from Alfred the Great, King of England by Frederick Lewis Weis, 1948 is less reliable on the English origins of this family, as is the update published in 1957.  You will have better luck reading up on the descendants of John Prescott in the town histories of Lancaster, the town military annals, and in the various vital records of the town. 

Randy Seaver, author of the genealogy blog “GeneaMusings” is also a descendant of John Prescott, and has written several blog posts about him.  Another descendant is genealogy blogger Bill West at “West in New England”   There are many famous Prescott descendants including Colonel William Prescott of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Doctor Samuel Prescott who accompanied Paul Revere during the Lexington alarm, and William H. Prescott, historian of Mexico and Peru. 

My Prescott genealogy (note that at least five people named below died in massacres):

Generation 1:  John Prescott, born about 1604 in Standish, Lancastershire, England, died 20 December 1681 in Lancaster, Massachusetts; married on 11 April 1629 in Sowerby, Halifax, Yorkshire, England to Mary Platts alias Gawkroger.  She was born 15 May 1607 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England and died after 1678 in Lancaster, England.  Eight children, the first four baptized in England.
1. Mary, (see below)  My 8th great grandmother.
2. Martha, bap. 11 March 1632, m. John Rugg, died after childbirth in 1656
3. John, bap. 1 Paril 1635, m. Sarah Hayward
4. Sarah, bap. 1637, m1. Richard Wheeler who was killed in the Lancaster Indian massacre of 1676, m2 Joseph Rice
5. Hannah, probably b. Barbados 1639, m. John Rugg her sister’s widower.  He was killed in the Lancaster Indian massacre of 1697.
6. Lydia, b. 15 August 1641 m1 Jonas Fairbank who was killed with son Joshua in Lancaster Indian massacre of 1676. (see below)   She is my 8th great aunt and also my 9th great grandmother.
7.  Jonathan, b. about 1640 m1. Dorothy Unknown, m2 Elizabeth Hoar, m3 Rebecca Bulkeley, m4 Ruth Brown
8. Jonas, b. 1648 in Lancaster, m. Mary Loker

1st lineage:
Generation 2: Mary Prescott, baptized on 24 February 1630 in Sowerby, died in April 1716 in Lancester, Massachusetts; married on 2 July 1648 in Rowley, Massachusetts to Thomas Sawyer, born 1616 in England, died 12 September 1706 in Lancaster.  Thirteen children.

Generation 3:  Joshua Sawyer m. Sarah Wright
Generation 4: Mary Sawyer m. Robert Converse
Generation 5:  Susanna Converse m. Caleb Simonds
Generation 6:  Ruth Simonds m. Andrew Munroe
Generation 7:  Luther Simonds Munroe m. Olive Flint
Generation 8:  Phebe Cross Munroe m. Robert Wilson Wilkinson
Generation 9:  Albert Munroe Wilkinson m. Isabella Lyons Bill
Generation 10:  Donald Munroe Wilkinson m. Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)

2nd lineage:

Generation 2: Lydia Prescott, born 15 August 1641 in Watertown, d. 31 December 1723 in Watertown; married Jonas Fairbanks on 28 May 1658 in Lancaster.  He was the son of Jonathan Fairbanks and Grace Smith, born 6 March 1625 in Dedham, Massachusetts, died in the Lancaster Indian massacre of 10 February 1676, along with his son Joshua.  Six children.  Lydia remarried to Elias Barron.

Generation 3:  Grace Fairbanks m. Ephraim Bullen
Generation 4: John Bullen m. Sarah Underwood
Generation 5: Grace Bullen m. Ebenezer Healey
Generation 6: Comfort Healey m. Abigail Allen
Generation 7:  Comfort Healey m. Rebecca Crosby
Generation 8: Joseph Edwin Healy m. Matilda Weston
Generation 9: Mary Etta Healey m. Peter Hoogerzeil
Generation 10:  Florence Etta Hoogerzeil m. Arthur Treadwell Hitchings
Generation 11: Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)

This means that I am descended from John Prescott on both my maternal and paternal side!

UPDATE:   There is a great blog post with lots of photos of John Prescott's gravesite and other views of the Old Settler's Burial Field in Lancaster at Michael Auger's blog:


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Surname Saturday ~ Prescott of Lancaster, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 9, 2013, ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. My ex-husband and son are also descendants through Lydia Prescott and Jonas Fairbanks' daughter, Grace. :)

  2. As I read this, I kept thinking several of those names were familiar... Of course, we're all fishing in the same early pond, aren't we?
    John Prescott, #7 child of the first immigrant married my 7th greatgrandaunt, Elizabeth Hoar/Hoare.
    And that #8 son, Jonas - I have a Bridget Loker who married Thomas King in 1653 - wonder if the two were sisters? Thanks for giving me a few clues to fill in a bit more, Randy!

  3. Heather - my fingers were too fast, and I wrote the previous comment with Randy's name! Sorry about that error. (senior moment, I think!).

  4. John PRESCOTT (1604 - 1681)
    is your 10th great grandfather
    Mary PRESCOTT (1630 - 1705)
    daughter of John PRESCOTT
    Thomas SAWYER Jr (1649 - 1736)
    son of Mary PRESCOTT
    Elias SAWYER (1687 - 1752)
    son of Thomas SAWYER Jr
    Elisha SAWYER (1718 - 1786)
    son of Elias SAWYER
    Thankful SAWYER (1747 - 1821)
    daughter of Elisha SAWYER
    MARY "POLLY" NORCROSS (1773 - 1840)
    daughter of Thankful SAWYER
    Mary Polly Norcross Butler is my double 4th great grandmother as her son, Daniel Norcross Butler had two daughters who both became my 2nd great grandmothers.
    Thanks for the interesting information
    Cerelle Bolon

    1. Very interesting to have double 4th great grandmothers! Thanks for reading my blog, Cerelle!

  5. Thanks for mentioning those books. I am connected to this line as well. If I have it correct, it's:

    My 8th Great Grandparents Thomas Sawyer & Mary Prescott
    Elizabeth Sawyer & James Hosmer III
    Martha Hosmer & Lt John Corbin
    Asa Corbin & Mercy Harlow
    Nancy Corbin & Russell W Roscoe
    David A Roscoe & Mary C Fero
    William H Roscoe & Lena Jorgenson
    Charlotte I Jorgenson & Charles A Menke
    My Grandfather

    1. If you are relatief. To Mary Prescott then you are a direct decendant of King Alfred the Great her father John is the 28th generation