By: Patricia M. Schaefer
In the last newsletter, I wrote about a few children who have headstones in the old burying ground without there being a stone for parents or other members of the family. This time we’ll cover two other children, both named Thomas, who do not have other family members with headstones in the burying ground. Both were named after their fathers, although the circumstances of their lives were quite different.
The first of them is Thomas Avery, whose headstone reads, “Here lyeth the body of Thomas Avery, who departed this life July the 3rd, 1712, in the 8th year of his age.” “Eighth year” meant that he was seven. Joshua Hempstead’s diary gives more information: “Thursd. 3d fair hot. I was at Groaton all day with Brothr Plumbe Laying out Lots att Nowayank [Noank]. a very hot day. Little Thomas Avery drownded in a Swimming.” On Saturday 5th he records, “Tho Avery was buryed yesterday after Lecture.” Lectures were held on a Thursday or Friday before a Sunday on which Communion, or “Sacrament” as Hempstead called it, was served to full church members during the Congregational worship service.
Thomas was the son of Thomas and Ann (Shapley) Avery, part of the vast clan of Averys who lived locally. Thomas and Ann lived in New London. They had been married in 1704. Son Thomas was born March 31, 1705, and baptized July 22 of that year. Daughter Ann was born May 12, 1707, and baptized May 25th. She grew up and married, first, Samuel Griffin, and in 1737 Sylvanus Miner.
The senior Averys appear to have lived in what became New London North Parish in 1723, and the separate town of Montville in 1784. Thomas Sr. was the son of another Thomas and his first wife Hannah (Miner), and was born in 1679. He sold land in Saybrook in 1703 and 1706, the first time referring to himself as “of Saybrook” and then “of New London.”
Thomas senior died about two years before his son. His widow, Ann, married Jonathan Roff November 24, 1711. The inventory of Thomas’s estate was taken a couple of weeks later. The Roffs had at least four children baptized in the First Church, the last one being Jane in 1722. The others were John, Mary, and Jonathan. I do not know if there were no other children or if the Roffs also lived in the North Parish and switched membership when the church there was gathered in 1723. Ann was taken into the church at New London (became a full member) in June of 1718
The Roffs had a few more years together than the Averys had had, but June 15th of 1729 Ann was published to James Morgan of Groton, and married June 24th. Hempstead had business dealings with her a couple of years later, which was unusual. Usually wives were mentioned only when acting for their husbands, but March 23, 1731, Hempstead says, “…I Paid Ms Ann Morgan formerly Roff £4 8s 0d for Jos Lesters debt for Sheep & Rent. 6s 0d of it I pd Brother Plumb & 7s 11d to my Self Roffs Debts.” She seems to have been managing her late husband’s property, possibly as executor of the estate and guardian of the children.
Ann died June 17, 1751. Hempstead says on the 18th, “yesterday Died Ms Ann Morgan of Groton Relict of Deacon James morgan Decd. aged about 68 I Supose. She was Daughter of Benjamin Shaply ye first of this Town. … I Set outt for Stonington by ye way of Poquonuck in order to attend the funeral of Ms Morgan wch by the desire of her Children was deferred untill to morrow at one of the Clock P. M.” He did not attend the funeral. Probably he considered showing up at the expected time to be enough of a show of respect. Ann Morgan is buried in the Morgan/Avery Cemetery off Rte. 1. The Morgan children would have been baptized at the Groton Congregational Church, the one of which their father was deacon. I was unable to locate any online records of their baptisms. The original records are at the state archives in Hartford.
The other Thomas’s headstone reads, “Here lyeth the body of Thomas Fergo, who Died July the 7th, 1734, aged 5 years ___ mo. ___ Ds.” Hempstead again provides more information, “Mond. 8th [July, 1734] fair & hot. … a Bastard Child of Mary Dartes Daughter of Ricd Darte was buried 3 or 4 yr old an Idiot Sd to be Thos fergos.…” (Hempstead was frequently off by a year or two on the age of someone who had died, especially children.)
It would be interesting to know who paid for Thomas’s headstone. Hempstead’s telling of the situation indicates that not only did Thomas Fergo not marry Mary Dart, but he refused to acknowledge paternity (“sd to be”). This means either that Mary did not sue him for support of the child, or that she did and lost the case. The legal system of that day was concerned with bastardy because of the possible charge on the public. If Thomas was not compelled to pay for the child’s upkeep, Mary, and presumably her father, would have been responsible until the child was around five, when he could be “bound out” to another family to raise. If she or they could not support the child, some arrangement would be made for either family members to chip in, or the town to pay for his expenses until age five. Since the child was considered an “idiot”, which was a legal term signifying an inability to maintain one’s self when an adult, it might have been hard to find a family willing to take him.
It is difficult to be certain of much information about either of Thomas’s parents, especially Mary. Hempstead has several mentions of a Mary Dart(e), but they do not appear to be the same person. Thomas we can find out a little more about, with the caveat that all of the mentions of him in Hempstead’s diary appear to be the same person, but may not be.
Moses Fargo, Thomas’s father, was born in Wales in 1649, and came to Connecticut in 1668. He married a Sarah, last name unknown, and they had nine children, of which Thomas was the eighth. He was born in 1699. Moses lived in the North Parish and died, as Hempstead says, “an old man above 83 in the 84th,” in August, 1732.
Hempstead’s mentions of Thomas begin in January of 1725, when he found him and his brother Ralph “getting Timber for Staves” on Mr. Winthrop’s land. His next mention is of the death of Mary Dart’s child. Three years later, “an Infant of Thos Fergoes Still born buried between meetings” on Sunday, March 20th 1737. Unfortunately, there’s no mention of when Thomas was married, which would let us know if he had been married when he fathered Mary’s child. (Adultery was a very serious crime, but it depended solely on the marital status of the woman. Since Mary was not married, they would have been committing the lesser crime of fornication.) The next couple of entries about him were concerned with measuring land and retrieving a cow.
On June 14, 1741, Thomas was one of nine “Grown persons Baptized” by Mr. Adams. This was during the Great Awakening, a religious revival that had a powerful effect on many who had not bothered with baptism or church membership before. An Ann Fergo was listed by Hempstead right next to Thomas in the baptisms noted. This probably was Thomas’s wife, but he did have an older sister named Ann.
The next few diary entries mentioning Thomas were again about land, then in December, 1755, “Thos Fargoes Eldest Son aged (Died).”[sic] Three months later, on March 27, “Thos fergoes youngest Son about 10 or 12 yr old was buryed.” There is nothing further about Thomas in the diary.
Two Thomases, two very different short lives. All that they seem to have in common is that someone loved them enough to arrange for a headstone.
- Barbour collection of vital statistics. This is not a complete listing of people in a town, since it relied on family reporting, not modern birth and death certificates:
- Blake, S. LeRoy, The Later History of the First Church of Christ, New London. New London: Press of The Day Publishing Co., 1900.Caulkins, Frances Manwaring,
- The History of New London, Connecticut to 1860. New London, CT: New London County Historical Society, 2007.
- Hempstead, Joshua, The Diary of Joshua Hempstead, 1711-1758. New London, CT: New London County Historical Society, 1999.
- Prentis, Edward, Ye Antient Buriall Place of New London, Conn. New London: Press of the Day Publishing Co., 1899.
- “It’s About Time”- Colonial History Timeline compiled by Bill DeCoursey 1700-1983. This has multiple references to Averys, most apparently from The Groton Avery Clan, by Elroy McKendree et. al., 1912.
- Covering 1650-1698 – CTgenweb.org
- “Our Folk: Fargo Family Genealogy” by Albert D. Hart, Jr. Since the senior Thomas was not an ancestor of Mr. Hart, he is mentioned only in the record of births to Moses and Sarah.