Saturday, February 24, 2018

Surname Saturday ~ TOWNE of Salem and Topsfield, Massachusetts

Topsfield, Massachusetts 1872


William Towne, my 10th great grandfather, was baptized in the Saint Nicholas Church at Great Yarmouth in England on 18 March 1598/9, the son of John and Elizabeth Towne.  He married his wife, Joanna Blessing in Great Yarmouth, and six of his eight children were born there before they came to Salem, Massachusetts.  On 11 October 1640 his first land was in a part of Salem called Northfields “Graunted to William Townde a little neck of land right over against his howse on the other side of the riuer to be sett out by the towne.”

In 1652 William Towne removed his family to "New Meadows", now called Topsfield, where he bought forty acres, and bought more land in 1656.  He gave his youngest son, Joseph, two thirds of his Topsfield land in 1663 when he married Phebe Perkins.  I descend from the third son, Edmund Towne (about 1628 – 1678), who married Mary Browning, my 9th great grandparents. 

William’s mother-in-law (Joanna’s mother), Joanne (Priest) Blessing, had been accused of being a witch in England.  During the trials, Ann Putnam testified that three of Joanna (Blessing) Towne’s daughters were witches because her mother was a witch.  [Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 2016, page 28]   Mary (Towne) Easty was accused on 1 April 1692, and hanged on 22 September 1692.  Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was accused on 2 May 1692 and hanged on 19 June 1692.  Sarah (Towne) Cloyse was accused on 3 April 1692. She spent four months chained in jail, and her case was dismissed in January 1693.   A fourth daughter, Susannah, died in 1678, before the trials began, or she probably would have been accused, too!

In his youth, Edmund Towne was an apprentice to Henry Skerry of Salem.  He was known as “Sergeant Towne” in the Topsfield records.  He was part of the militia, and in 1674 he formed a committee to petition to form a military guard for Topsfield, which was considered the frontier.  Edmund Towne died without a will.  His wife, Mary, was named administrix, and she divided the estate among the daughters. 

In the next generation, I descend from Samuel Towne, my 8th great grandfather, who married Elizabeth Knight. He also died without a will, and his wife divided the estate between herself and the four children.   Their youngest daughter, Rebecca Towne, is my 7th great grandmother, who married Stephen Johnson in 1730. Stephen died in 1734, leaving her with two small children, and Rebecca remarried to her second cousin, Joshua Towne, the son of Jacob Towne and Phebe Smith.

Some TOWNE resources:

The TOWNE Family Association:  

“TOWNE Cousins” on Facebook:  

Towne Family, William Towne and Joanna Blessing, Salem, Massachusetts, 1635, Five Generations of Descendants, by Lois Payne Hoover, 2011, from the Towne Family Association.

(An older compiled genealogy) The Descendants of William Towne: Who came to America on or about 1630 and settled in Salem, Mass., by Edwin Eugene Towne, 1901, reprinted by Higginson Book Co., 2006.

Some of the Towne Family and the Salem Witchcraft Delusion, by Joseph L. Wheeler, 1969
Gary Boyd Roberts, “Notable Kin:  The Progeny of “Witches” and “Wizards”: Some Descendants of George Burroughs and William and Joanna (Blessing) Towne, Parents of Mary Easy and Rebecca Nurse”, NEHGS, NEXUS Volume 9, pages 108 – 11 which was also printed in his book Notable Kin, Volume Two, pages 79 -86 (descendants of fifteen 1692 Salem witch trial victims).

My TOWNE genealogy:

Generation 1:  William Towne, born about 1598, probably in England, died about 1672 in Topsfield, Massachusetts; married on 25 April 1620, St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England to Joanna Blessing, daughter of John Blessing and Joanne Priest.  She was born about 1594 in Great Yarmouth, and died 1682 in Topsfield.  Eight children.

Generation 2:  Edmund Towne, born about 1628 in Yarmouth, England, died before 3 May 1678 in Topsfield, Massachusetts; married on 25 March 1652 in Salem to Mary Browning, daughter of Thomas Browning and Mary Unknown.  She was born 7 November 1637 in Salem, and died about 1717 in Topsfield.  Seven children.

Generation 3:  Samuel Towne, born 11 February 1673 in Topsfield, died 1714; married on 20 October 1696 in Topsfield to Elizabeth Knight, daughter of Phillip Knight and Margaret Wilkins.  She was born 25 January 1677 in Topsfield, and died 17 May 1752 in Topsfield.  Four children.  Elizabeth remarried to Elisha Perkins on 4 April 1715 in Topsfield.

Generation 4:  Rebecca Towne,  born 8 February 1699/1700 in Topsfield; married on 2 December 1730 in Topsfield to Stephen Johnson.  He was born about 1700 and died 29 August 1734 in Topsfield.  Two children.  Rebecca remarried to her cousin, Joshua Towne, on 7 August 1739 in Topsfield, and had one more child.

Generation 5:   Ruth Johnson married Richard Cree
Generation 6:  Stephen Cree married Hannah Smith
Generation 7:  Sara Cree married James Phillips
Generation 8:  Hannah Phillips married Thomas Russell Lewis
Generation 9:  Hannah Eliza Lewis married Abijah Franklin Hitchings
Generation 10:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings married Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 11:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings married Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ TOWNE of Salem and Topsfield, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 24, 2018, ( accessed [access date]). 

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