Captain Nathaniel Turner

Copyright, Plagiarism, and Disclaimer

Copyright: The material on this website is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.

Plagiarism: Please give credit where credit is due and properly cite your source.

Disclaimer: Mistakes and errors are inevitable. Caveat emptor.

For more information, please see this page.
ListsGenealogy Notes
Great Migration Directory
ChartsAncestors of Edward Ambrose Cooke
Captain Nathaniel Turner, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), was born about 1601.1,2 He died at sea in January 1645/46 on a return trip to England.3,4,1,2

It is certainly not conclusive, but Watson shows a Nathaniel Turner married Margery Haukslye at St. James, Clerkenwel, London, 26 Oct 1620, and Rebecca, daughter of Nathaniel and Margery Turner, baptised at St. Andrew, Holborn, London, 29 May 1629. This is compatible with the estimated date of Rebecca of New Haven, the estimated birth dates of his other children, and being a contemporary of Isaac Johnson, who called him "cosen" in his will.5,6

Captain Nathaniel Turner's origins are unknown, but he was at Lynn by 19 October 1630 when he requested freeman status, thought this was not granted until 3 July 1632 (as Mr. Nath: Turner). This gap may indicate brief return trip to England. Later he was on the List of Freemen of the Court of New Haven and an original signer of the New Haven fundamental agreement. He took the oath of fidelity 1 July 1644. Based on the wide range of high civil and military offices he held, he appears to have been well-educated:
Constable of Lynn, 4 September 1632;
committee to set bounds between Charlestown and Cambridge, 7 November 1632 and 6 March 1632/3;
committee to lay out land for John Humphrey;
captain of the military company at Lynn, 4 March 1633/4,
deputy to the Massachusetts Bay General Court for Lynn, 14 May 1634, 14 March 1634/5, 6 May 1635, 2 September 1635, 3 March 1635/6, 25 May 1636;
committee to lay out fortifications, 3 September 1634;
committee to settle bounds between Boston and charlestown, 4 March 1634/5;
appointed customs officer, 4 March 1634/5;
committee to establish bounds between Ipswich and Newbury, 6 May 1635;
committee to layout a farm for Mr. Dummer, 6 May 1635;
comittee to establish bounds between Salem and Ipswich, and between Ipswich and Newbury, 3 March 1635/6;
magistrate for the Salem court, 25 May 1636;
committee to levy the country rate, 25 May 1636.

He removed to New Haven about 1638 and continued his active involvement in civic affairs:
Deputy to the magistrate in all courts, 25 October 1639;
committee (as "Captain Turner") to consider laying out lots for inheritance, 3 November 1639;
committee (as "Captain Tuner") to treat with the Hartfordshire men about their lots," 3 November 1639;
arbiter, 3 April 1640, 7 September 1642;
Deputy, 29 Oct 1640, 25 March 1644, 19 August 1644, 31 March 1645, 22 October 1645;
Deputy to the court of combination, 26 October 1643;
viewer of lands, 1 May 1644;
committee regarding the mill, 21 October 1644.

At New Haven, he continued his military service:
Captain of all martial affairs of the plantation, 1 September 1640;
"Captain Tuner to order and appoint the general trainings (with the Governor), 39 March 1645;
There was discussion, 23 February 1645/6 whether the "military affairs of the town may be comfortably carried on without a captain, or whether it were not convenient to choose a captain instead of Captain Turner, not knowing when he will return. Ultimately, Mr. Malbon was chosen captain with liberty to resign his place to Captain Turner at his return.

He was a fairly wealthy man, being credited in the New Haven list of estates in 1643 with seven persons, and an estate valued at £800, which included 57 1/2 acres in the first division, 11 1/2 acres in the neck, 43 1/2 acres of meadow, 174 acres in the second division, and a yearly rate of £3 6s. 6d. About 1644/5 he was granted the right to choose the location of his second division meadow "that he may the better attend the public service in his military office."

Several court records add "color" to the life of this valuable citizen:
A difference between Mr. Craine and Captaine Turner was refered to arbiters, 2 September 1640;
"so far as Captaine Turner hath reference to the civil stae and employed therein, provided that his place be supplied in his abasence, the Court hath given free liberty to him to go to Delaware Bay for his own advantage and the public good in settling affairs there." Mr. Malbon was chosen to order the watches and all martial affairs in Turner's absence, 4 August 1641.
The court decided that since Margaret Poore, alias Bedford, now wife to Nicholas Gennings, had run away and gotten married before her time of service to Captain Turner was up, her husband Gennings was to make two fold restitution to Turner, 2 August 1643.
John Meggs admitted his error in charging Capt Turner, Thomas Pell, and Thomas Robinson with extortion or sinful unrighteousness, 3 June 1645.
He had a formal disagreement with Mrs. Stolion about cloth, 3 December 1645.

His wife is unknown but she did marry second, Samuel Van Goodenhousen.1,3,4,5

Captain Nathaniel Turner died at sea, aboard an unnamed, newly-built, but apparently unsteady, ship captained by George Lamberton. Several notable men from New Haven died on the voyage, and with certainty, many lesser known as well. Cotton Mather included an account of the event in Magnalia Christi Americana. Longfellow later used it as the basis for his poem, "The Phantom Ship."
Behold, a Fourth Colony of New-English Christians, in a manner stoln into the World, and a Colony, indeed constellated with the many Stars of the First Magnitude. The Colony was under the Conduct of as Holy, and as Prudent, and as Genteel Persons as most that ever visited these Nooks of America; and yet these too were Try’d with very humbling Circumstances.
Being Londoners, or Merchants, and Men of Traffick and Business, their Design was in a manner wholly to apply themselves unto Trade; but the Design failing, they found their great Estates to sink so fast, that they must quickly do something. Whereupon in the Year 1646, gathering together almost all the Strength which was left ‘em, they Built one Ship more, which they fraighted for England with the best part of their Tradable Estates; and sundry of their Eminent Persons Embarked themselves in her for the Voyage. But, alas, the Ship was never heard of! She foundred in the Sea; and in her were lost, not only the Hopes of their future Trade, but also the Lives of several Excellent Persons, as well as divers Manuscripts of some great Men in the Country, sent over for the Service of the Church, which were now buried in the Ocean. The fuller Story of that grievous Matter, let the Reader with a just Astonishment accept from the Pen of the Reverend Person, who is now the Pastor of New-Haven. I wrote unto him for it, and was thus Answered.

Reverend and Dear Sir,

In Compliance with your Desires, I now give you the Relation of that Apparition of a Ship in the Air, which I have received from the most Credible, Judicious and Curious Surviving Observers of it.
In the Year 1647, besides much other lading, a far more Rich Treasure of Passengers, (five or Six of which were Persons of chief Note and Worth in New-Haven) put themselves on Board a New Ship, built at Rhode Island , of about 150 Tuns; but so walty, that the Master, (Lamberton) often said she would prove their Grave. In the Month of January, cutting their way thro’ much Ice, on which they were accompanied with the Reverend Mr. Davenport, besides many other Friends, with many Fears, as well as Prayers and Tears, they set Sail. Mr. Davenport in Prayer with an observable Emphasis used these Words, Lord, if it be thy pleasure to bury these our Friends in the bottom of the Sea, they are thine; save them! The Spring following no Tidings of these Friends arrived with the Ships from England: New-Haven’s Heart began to fail her; This put the Godly People on much Prayer, both Publick and Private, That the Lord would (if it was his Pleasure) let them hear what he had done with their dear Friends, and prepare them with a suitable Submission to his Holy Will. In June next ensuing, a great Thunder-storm arose out of the North-West; after which, (the Hemisphere being setene) about an Hour before Sun-set a SHIP of like Dimensions with the aforesaid, with her Canvas and Colours abroad (tho’ the Wind Northernly) appeared in the Air coming up from our harbour’s Mouth, which lyes Southward from the Town, seemingly with her Sails filled under a fresh Gale, holding her Course North, and continuing under Observation, Sailing against the Wind for the space of half an Hour. Many were drawn to behold this great Work of God; yea the very Children cry’d out, There’s a Brave Ship! At length, crouding up as far as there is usually Water sufficient for such a Vessel, and so near some of the Spectators, as that they imagined a Man might hurl a Stone on Board her, her Maintop seem’d to be blown off, but left hanging in the Shrouds; then her Missen-top; then all her Masting seemed blown away by the Board: Quickly after Hulk brought unto a Careen, she overset, and so vanished into a smoaky Cloud, which in some time dissipated, leaving, as everywhere else, a clear Air. The admiring Spectators could distinguish the several Colours of each Part, the Principal Riging, and such Proportions, as caused not only the generality of persons to say, This was the Mould of their Ship, and thus was her Tragick End: But Mr. Davenport also in publick declared to this Effect, That God had condescended, for the quieting of their afflicted Spirits, this Extraordinary Account of his Soveraign Disposal of those for whom so many Fervent Prayers were made continually. Thus I am, Sir
Your Humble Servant,

James Pierpont

Reader, There being yet living so many Credible Gentlemen, that were Eye-Witnesses of this Wonderful Thing, I venture to Publish it for a thing undoubted, as ‘tis wonderful.
But let us now proceed with our Story. Our Colony of New Haven apprehended them-selves Disadvantageously seated for the Affairs of Husbandry; and therefore upon these Disasters they made many Attempts of removing into some other Parts of the World. One while they were invited unto Delaware-Bay, another while they were invited unto Jamaica; they had offers made them from Ireland also, after the Wars there were over; and they entred into some Treaties about the City of Galloway, which they were to have had as a small Province to themselves. But the God of Heaven still strangely disappointed all these Attempts; and whereas they were concerned how their Posterity should be able to live, if they must make Husbandry their main shift for their Living; that Posterity of theirs by the good Providence of God, instead of coming to Beggary and Misery, have thriven wonderfully: The Colony is improved with many Wealthy Husbandmen, and is become no small part of the best Granary for all New-England. And the same good Providence has all along so preserved them from annoyance by the Indians, that altho’ at their first setting down there were few Towns but what wisely perswaded a Body of Indians to dwell near them; whereby such Kindnesses passed between them, that they always dwelt peaceably together; nevertheless there are few of those Towns, but what have seen their Body of Indians utter Extirpated by nothing but Mortality wasting them.

The Phantom Ship

In Mather's Magnalia Christi,
Of the old colonial time,
May be found in prose the legend
That is here set down in rhyme.

A ship sailed from New Haven,
And the keen and frosty airs,
That filled her sails at parting,
Were heavy with good men's prayers.

"O Lord! if it be thy pleasure"---
Thus prayed the old divine---
"To bury our friends in the ocean,
Take them, for they are thine!"

But Master Lamberton muttered,
And under his breath said he,
This ship is so crank and walty
I fear our grave she will be!"

And the ships that came from England,
When the winter months were gone,
Brought no tidings of this vessel
Nor of Master Lamberton.

This put the people to praying
That the Lord would let them hear
What in his greater wisdom
He had done with friends so dear.

And at last their prayers were answered:---
It was in the month of June,
An hour before the sunset
Of a windy afternoon,

When, steadily steering landward,
A ship was seen below,
And they knew it was Lamberton, Master,
Who sailed so long ago.

On she came, with a cloud of canvas,
Right against the wind that blew,
Until the eye could distinguish
The faces of the crew.

Then fell her straining topmasts,
Hanging tangled in the shrouds,
And her sails were loosened and lifted,
And blown away like clouds.

And the masts, with all their rigging,
Fell slowly, one by one,
And the hulk dilated and vanished,
As a sea-mist in the sun!

And the people who saw this marvel
Each said unto his friend,
That this was the mould of their vessel,
And thus her tragic end.

And the pastor of the village
Gave thanks to God in prayer,
That, to quiet their troubled spirits,
He had sent this Ship of Air.7

Captain Nathaniel Turner died intestate, and on 7 December 1647, the widow presented the inventory of Nathaniel's estate and declared:
she conceives her husband made a will and left all he had to her dispose, as two of her daughters can testify the same. Rebecka Turner saith, that when her father was to go away, her mother desired him to make a will, but he answered that he would make no will, but he judged her faithful and had found her faithful, therefore left all to her and wished her to be good to the children, and wished the children to bear witness. Abigaile Tuner testfyeth the same.

The inventory had been taken 3 December 1647 by Francis Newman, Richard Miles, Thomas Hull, and William Andrews and totaled £457 7s. 3d.

Samuel Goodanhousen was called to give security for the portions of his wife's children on 4 September 1649. Mr. Yale had accepted £35 in full satisfaction for his wife's portion, and Thomas Meekes had been offered nineteen acres "for the portion of Rebecca Turner, now his wife." Portions for theother children were to be handled later.

A special court was held 13 Jan 1661/2 "for the issuing and settling the business concerning the portions remaining due to some of the children of Captain Nathaniel Turner deceased." The court recounted it's actions of 5 March 1649/50 when portions were given to Nathaniel, AIsaac, Abigail, and Hannah Turner. Nathaniel was now deceased, so the court divided his portion amng is brother & four sister in equal shares. Mr. Yale, Mr. Hudson, & Hannah Turner, assigned their portions to their brother Isaac, but Thomas Meekes wanted "his due out of the estate of his deceased brother-in-law, for the discharge of what was due to Isaac Turner."3,1,8


  • Mary Turner3,4 b. say 1626, d. 15 Oct 1704
  • Rebecca Turner+4,3 b. say 1629, d. 1731
  • Abigail Turner3,4 b. say 1631, d. 1693
  • Nathaniel Turner3,4 b. say 1633, d. bef. 13 Jan 1661/62
  • Hannah Turner3,4 b. 17 Nov 1639
  • Isaac Turner3,4 b. 7 Jun 1640, d. 27 Mar 1699
This person was last edited on27 Nov 2017


  1. [S759] Harrison Black, The Ancestry of Frances Maria Goodman (1829-1912): Wife of Learner Blackman Harrison (Boston, Massachusetts: Newbury Street Press, 2001), 514-517, further cited as Black, Ancestry of Frances Maria Goodman.
  2. [S2052] Robert Charles Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet: Massachusetts Bay Company Immigrants to New England 1629-1630 (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012), 641, further cited as Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet.
  3. [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), 3:1847-50 (Nathaniel Turner), further cited as Anderson, GMB.
  4. [S53] Donald Lines Jacobus, Families of Ancient New Haven, 9 vols. in 3 (1924-1932; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1974), 1866-1867, further cited as Jacobus, New Haven Families.
  5. [S2115] Ian Watson, "John Ramsdell, John Ravensdale, Isaac Johnson, and Nathaniel Turner," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 171 (Summer 2017): 189-198, at 197, further cited as Watson, "John Ramsdell/John Ravensdale."
  6. [S2052] Anderson, The Winthrop Fleet, 639-643 (Nathaniel Turner).
  7. [S1945] Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana: or the Ecclesiastical History of New-England, from Its First Planting in the Year 1620, unto the Year of our Lord, 1698 (London, England: Thomas Parkurst, 1702), I: 25-26, further cited as Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana.
  8. [S1946] Winifred S. Alcorn, "Abstracts of the Early Probate Records of New Haven, Book I, Part I, 1647-1687," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 81 (April 1927): 121-135, at 133, further cited as Alcorn, "Early Probate Records of New Haven."