Richard Wright

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Richard Wright, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), was born at England, before 1596.1 He died after 15 March 1667/68.1,2

Richard married (1) Margaret (…), whose parents are unknown (or not traced), before 1621;1,3,4 he married an unknown second wife, before 1643.1

Davis notes that Wright is a very common surname, and Richard is a favorite given name among the Wrights. That said, he notes a will of one Rev. Richard Wright, rector of Everdon, co. Nothampton, dated 1 April 1633, leaving a house and land in Wargrave., co. Berks. to his wife Frances for life, and after her death to his son Richard "if he be in England." Other children were Francis, Theodore, John, Samuel, Nathaniel, and Anthony. None of those names appear among the descendants of this Richard Wright.5

His origin uncertain, Richard Wright came to New England in the Winthrop fleet of 1630 "in the Imploy" of Col. John Humphrey. Although the ships of the fleet are known, there is no known list of the passengers or which ship carried them.

John Humphrey was named Deputy Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay on 20 October 1629. Although a native of Dorset and interested in the colonies by his marriage to Lady Susan Fiennes, daughter of the Earl of Lincoln, a known Puritan, it was likely in London where Humphrey met and engaged Richard Wright to be his advance agent. Humphrey received a large grant of land in the area of Saugus, now Lynn, and Wright was sent to prepare the "estate" for Col. Humphrey and his family.

Richard did not own much land, but mostly he leased estates from wealthier colonists. He managed Humphrey's estate at Lynn to about 1639. Then, he removed to Mt. Wallaston, and leased the Baintree farm of Thomas Newberry, deceased, for four years. He was in Rehoboth by 1643, and made a return trip to England in 1646, returning to Boston in 1649. Subsequently he is found at Ipswich in 1652, Twelve Mile Island on the Connecticut River by 1662 where he was a lessee from John Leverett, and at Podunk, Connecticut in 1666.

His first wife seems to have died previously in England. When Richard's daughters, Ellen and Abigail, gave depositions in 1701, they stated they had come with their father in the first fleet, with no reference to either a mother or grandmother being with them. A "Margarett Wright" was admitted to the Boston church in late 1630 or early 1631, and at Roxbury, 17 10m [Dec] 1678 "Old Mother Wright died of old age, being neere an hundred years old." Anderson and Davis think Margaret was Richard's wife (Davis used the term "undoubtedly"); Bowen and Harris think she was his mother. The death record does not show her given name, so she need not be the Margaret Wright of 1630. For the sake of argument, I follow Anderson and Davis and show Margaret as Richard's wife, but there is plenty of room for doubt about that conclusion.

Bowen collected an exhaustive set of records regarding Richard Wright, and together with Davis and Harris provide a fairly complete picture of this most interesting immigrant.

Early, Richard has some issue with one of workmen, John Legge, who struck him "when he came to give him correction in his master's work," and Legge was sentenced to be severely whipped in Boston, 3 May 1631, and in Salem the next day. Shortly thereafter he was named commissioner in Saugus by the General Court, and was one of two delegated from Saugus to confer with the Court "about raiseing of a publiqe stock," by an order of 9 May 1632.

Shortly after arrival, it is said he was appointed Captain of the Saugus military company, but Nathaniel Turner was the first known captain of the Lynn train band, and four years later Captain Turner and "Goodman Richard Right" were named as the Lynn members of a committee on the bounds between Lynn and Salem. Wright may have earned the title "Captain" later in life. There are several additional references to a Capt. Richard Wright, but Anderson feels these references to his activities are somewhat out of character and may refer to another man.

In 1633 he contributed four hundred four inch planks for the construction of the "Sea Fort" at Boston. That year he also had some difficulty, perhaps over boundaries, with John Dillingham and Thomas Dexter.

Col. Humphreys and his family arrived in 1634, and Richard begins to make his own way in Boston and the surrounding area. In May 1634 he was made freeman of the Bay Colony, and by 1636 was called "of Boston" when he gave 6s. 8d. toward the maintenance of a free-school master. He was active in Essex county by laying out plantations, including Wessacucon (later Newbury), and at Muddy River (Brookline) for Rev. John Cotton, Elder Thomas Oliver, and Elder Thomas Leverett, and to view Mount Wollaston (Braintree) and farms for Mr. William Coddington and Edmund Quincy. He and Coddington laid out 250 acres for Mr. John Wheelwright in 1637. By 1638 he had secured some land there himself, for he was fined £6 for selling 130 acres without the consent of the town authorities.

Wright returned to Saugus, 20 November 1637, to testify as to the boundary between that plantation and Salem which he, Capt. Turner, Mr. Conant, and Goodman Woodbury had determined several years before, and to serve on a committee to run the lines of Mr. Humphrey's farms.

The Boston church dismissed him to Mount Wollaston in 1639 so he may have still owned property there at that time, but in June of that year he also leased from Rev. John Warham, pastor of the church at Windsor in Connecticut, and his wife Jane, executrix of the will of her father, Mr. Thomas Newberry, a messuage and farm with nine cows on the south side of nearby Aponsett [Neponset] River. The rent was £60 per year, and he agreed to sublet to no one except Rev. John Wilson, pastor of the Boston church. He built a water mill there and was granted exclusive grist-milling rights by the town. On 15 October that year, he bought 600 acres from William Cheezeborough for £400, though the next day he sold back a third of it, and another third to William Tyng. Possibly these latter two transfers were in the form of mortgages. The town granted him a narrow strip between the water-mill he was building and the fresh brook. About this time Richard acted as agent of Mr. Coddington, who had left Massachusetts Bay for Rhode Island, arranging Coddington's gift of his Mount Wollaston land to the town for the support of public schools.

The General Court appointed Wright a magistrate for Mount Wollaston in 1640 and 1641. He was authorized to settle cases involving 20s. or less. The Court also, in a genreal stock-taking of the entire colony, appointed him to value the domestic animals of the town.

He was back in Saugus in 1640, setting a price on Mr. Humphrey's cattle prior to leasing the "plains farm" to Zacheus Gould. On 13 September 1640 he sold the water-mill and forty acres at Braintree to Governor Dudley, for five cows; there probably was additional consideration, not specified in the deed.

By 1643 he was at Seekonk (Rehoboth) in Plymouth Colony where the list of estates for that year show him as the richest man in town. On 28 April 1643, he and Humphrey exchanged mutual acquittances and ended their long association.

Richard was one of the leading men at Rehoboth, and it was originally thought that town was in the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Bay. However, the United Colonies decided that Rehoboth belonged to Plymouth Colony, and Richard and the other settlers from Braintree were forced from their positions of leadership and most left town. It appears that Richard actually returned to England for his name disappears from the records for a time. In 1647, Thomas Alcock of Boston received a letter from his sister, Elizabeth Whitehead of Leamington Priors, near Warwick, about 90 miles northwest of London, stating, "I heard not from you a greate while until mr Richard Wright brought me news that you were well, but he could tell me nothing concerning my children." Alcock is another who came with Winthrop in 1630 and it is reasonable that Wright knew or was associated somehow with Alcock.

Apparently he was back in Boston by 3 November 1649 when he acknowledged himself indebted to Mr. Edward Bendall (also of Boston and in the 1630 migration) for £50 for two thousand weight of tobacco, to be paid to Mr. Henry Hooper, upholsterer, at the Sun and Globe, Cornwell, London, twenty days after the first ship's arrival from Boston in New England.

By 1652 he was in Ipswich where he arranged to farm 14 acres belonging to Thomas Scott Sr., probably in partnership with Scott's son Thomas of whom Wright required a bond, 21 Sep 1652 "to secure Richard Wright from all damages from his father Thomas Scott, Sr., of Ipswich." The next year, Wright sued the bondsmen, Richard Betts and Robert Beacham, and Thomas Scott sued Wright for money due him for seed, wheat, hay, six oxen, use of a horse, and for not plowing the 14 acres according to promise.

The lessor of the 1639 lease at Braintree was William Gaylord, whose son William had married Elizabeth Drake. After William died, Elizabeth married John Elderkin in 1660. Elderkin had been at Lynn until he sold his mill there in 1643. Elderkin is also one with a very interesting history which is given elsewhere. Elderkin was at Haddam, adjacent to 12 Mile Island when Richard Wright entered into his lease agreement with Leverett. Wright knew well Capt Leverett's father, Elder Thomas Leverett of Boston, as Richard was one of four men designated to layout Leverett's farm-land allotment at Muddy River (Brookline) in 1635. When Elder Leverett's widow, Anne, died in 1656, the lands in Boston's neck and at Muddy River went to her son, Capt. John Leverett. The associations with Elderkin and Leverett, and Wright's tendency to lease, led Harris to the conclusion that Richard Wright of Rehoboth and 12 Mile Island are the same man.

The medical journal of John Winthrop Jr. shows he treated Richard Wright "of 12 mile Iland" in May and July, 1666. Shortly after that, and at what appears to be the termination of his lease, Richard is at Podunk with his daughter Sarah and newly married husband, Thomas Harris. The last record of Richard Wright is dated 15 Mar 1667/8 when Winthrop gave him a prescription for "giddiness," and another for his three-year old grandson, Thomas Harris Jr. At that time they were at "Hockanum," the south part of East Hartford near Harrris's saw mill in Glastonbury. They had apparently been there for over year, since Jan 1666/7, and by September the Harrises, and probably Richard Wright as well, were living with Thomas Burnham's family at Podunk.

Podunk. . .  was inhabited in the seventeenth century by a few English settlers and a small community of western Niantics under the general suzerainty of the Mohegan Sachem, Uncas. The location was once occupied by an Indian fort on a Riverett emptying into the east side of the Connecticut River above Hartford, Conn., which, in February 1636/7, "by the Indians is called Podanke" in the first leagally established boundary between Hargford and Windsor. After some stream shifts and controversial boundary adjustmens, the mouth of Podunk Brook is still near the line between the towns of East Hargord and South Windsor, an area known for its remote location across from the main settlements on the west side of the Connecticut and for its genealogical difficulties.

Harris also describes Twelve Mile Island as ". . . a large "farm" far down on the same side of the River near the line dividing the modern towns of Lyme (part of Saybrook until 1667) and East Haddam (then called Thirty-Mile Island). Genealogical mysteries connected with that place's inhabitants match anything Podunk has to offer."2,6,1,7

Family 1

Margaret (…)
  • Elinor/Elizabeth Wright2 b. 1620
  • Ann Wright2 b. abt. 1622
  • Abigail Wright+3 b. 1622, d. bef. 31 Oct 1707

Family 2

  • Sarah Wright2 b. say 1644
  • Elizabeth Wright2 b. say 1645
  • Ann Wright2 b. say 1646
This person was last edited on16 Dec 2017


  1. [S2281] Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I–III, 3 vols. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995), 3:2072-74 (Richard Wright), further cited as Anderson, GMB.
  2. [S1061] Gale Ion Harris, "Captain Richard Wright of Twelve-Mile Island and the Burnhams of Podunk," The American Genealogist 67 (Jan 1992): 32-46, further cited as Harris, "Captain Richard Wright."
  3. [S1052] Ellen F. Vose, Robert Vose and His Descendants(Boston, Massachusetts: p.p., 1932), 15, further cited as Vose, Robert Vose.
  4. [S1872] Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011), 1727, further cited as Torrey, New England Marriages (2011).
  5. [S246] Walter Goodwin Davis and Gary Boyd Roberts, Massachusetts and Maine Families in the Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis (1885-1966): A Reprinting, in Alphabetical Order by Surname, of the Sixteen Multi-ancestor Compendia (Plus Thomas Haley of Winter Harbor and His Descendants), 16 vols. in 3 (1916-1963; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1996), 3:656, further cited as Davis and Roberts, Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis.
  6. [S1458] Richard LeBaron Bowen, "Early Rehoboth Families and Events: Richard Wright," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 99 (July 1945): 227-242, further cited as Bowen, "Early Rehoboth Families."
  7. [S246] Davis and Roberts, Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis, 3:656-660.