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Three Generations of Perkins in Ipswich, MA

3 Generations of Perkins

First Generation: Quartermaster John and Elizabeth Perkins
John Perkins Jr was part of the local militia, called the trainband, and served as its Quartermaster (kept track of military supplies). As a result, he is called Quartermaster John Perkins which helps differentiate him from his father and other John’s. Nevertheless, there is still some confusion which John Perkins is associated with some events. Elizabeth Perkins may be the former Elizabeth Eveleth born England to John and Jane (Silvester) Eveleth. It may be a huge coincidence, but there is a place in Chebacco Parish called “Perkins Hill” in early maps, but it is now called “Eveleth Hill”.

He was almost ambushed by some local Indians, when Ipswich was a very young town. Fortunately a young Indian named Robin tipped him off. After discussions with John Winthrop, it was decided that 6-8 men would hide in the brush, and scare the attackers with guns and drums. Quartermaster Perkins was credited with saving the town in those early years. The following is from a paper by Rev. Thomas Cobbet:

“About 5 or 6 years after (an intended attack upon “Nahumkeick” by the Indians) in the first planting of Ipswich (as a credible man informs me, namely Quartermaster Perkins), the Tarratines or Easterly Indians had a design to cut them off at the first, when they had but 20 or 30 men, old and young belonging to the place (and that instant most of the men had gone into the bay about their occasions not hearing thereof). It was thus one Robin, a friendly Indian, came to this John Perkins, then a young man, then living in a little hut upon his father’s island on this side of Joefrye’s Neck, and told him that on such a Thursday morning, early, there woudl come four Indians to draw him to go down the Hill to the water side, to truck with them, which if he did, he and all neare him would be cut off; for there were 40 burchen canoues, would lie out of sight, in the brow of the Hill, full of Armed Indians for that purpose; of this he forthwith acquaints Mr. John Winthrop, who then lived there, in a howse near the water, who advised him if such Indians came, to carry it ruggedly toward them, and threaten to shoot them if they would not be gone, and when their backs were turned to strike up the drum he had with him beside his two muskets, and then discharge them; that those 6 or 8 young men, who were in the marshes hard by a mowing, haveing theyr guns each of them ready charged, by them, might take the Alarme and the Indians would perceive theyr plot was discovered and haste away to sea againe; which was accordingly so acted and tooke like effect; for he told me that presently after he discovered 40 such canowes sheare off from under the Hill and make as fast as they could to sea. And no doubt many godly hearts were lifted up to heaven for deliverance, both in that deliverance at Salem and this at Ipswich.”

Quartermaster John Perkins owned the first Publishing house and Inn in town. Liquor licenses were strictly allocated so John was fortunate to get one. With John’s military background, it became a watering hole for the local men after training days. Not surprisingly, it was the scene of public displays of drunkeness and gaming that did not go over well with the locals. Sometimes shots were fired.  Complaints were brought to court. One wonders if his staid parents would have approved of this establishment.

There is a Perkins Island in Ipswich that is likely named after him. You can canoe to this island as it is now located within the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. This island is different from the larger Perkins Island (now Treadwell Island), owned by his father.

Second Generation: Isaac and Hannah (Knight) Perkins
Isaac Perkins was born in Ipswich MA then in 1769 married Hannah Knight, daughter of Alexander and Abigail (Tuttie) Knight. Isaac Perkins presents a quiet profile compared to his father. He appears to be a successful farmer (references to him go by “Mr. Isaac Perkins”, a show of respect) able to accumulate a lot of land. His property was centered in Chebacco Parish on 100 acres of land given by his father.

The region known as Chebacco Parish is located a short distance from Ipswich. Back in the day, the First Church in Ipswich held control over the region. They required its member to attend church and to pay tithing. It was difficult and dangerous travel for people outside Ipswich so they naturally wanted to establish their own church, but the First Church was reluctant to lose a revenue source. A petition was filed in 1677 and rejected in 1679 stating that “no man shall raise a meeting house”.  So some enterprising women built a structure with the help of men from nearby communities. Ipswich government officials, having no sense of humor, arrested the women. However, the meeting house was built and eventually, in 1682, the local people were able to form Chebacco Parish. According to Essex History by 1700, Chebacco had a population of 300 and “consisted of a church, a school, a military company, five sawmills, one shipyard, three bridges, two causeways. Farming, fishing, and boat building the major occupations”. Chebacco was still under Ipswich government control until 1819 when the town of Essex was formed.

Hannah Knight was the daughter of Alexander and Abigail (Tuttie) Knight. Alexander was a prominent man who fell on hard times in Ipswich, including the death of his son in a house, possibly due to negligence. However, the town felt pity for him, due to his previous high standing and ordered that a small, basic house be built. Since the documents provided a description of the new house, and since the house represented a typical small house of the time, in 2010 the Ipswich locals decided to rebuilt the house using original tools and techniques. In the Alexander Knight house you can visit the actual replica of our ancestor’s house that was painstakingly built by the people of Ipswich.

Third Generation: Abraham and Abigail (Dodge) Perkins
The biography of Abraham Perkins is quite brief. Land is becoming more scarce, but Abraham is able to hang onto land from his father and add land from his uncle who appears to have had financial difficulty. Competition with brothers for land was not as great since only brother Jacob was a farmer. The other brother, Isaac, was a mariner. From “The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Mass: Complete in three parts” by George Augustus Perkins:

“Abraham Perkins was a farmer in his native place, Chebacco, and acquired a large property in farming lands. His homestead and farm adjoined that of his father. This property he bought of his uncle, Nathaniel, in 1700. His father gave him, by deed of gift, a parcel of upland and marsh, Feb. 21, 1717-18. We have no record of the time of his death, or of that of his wife.”

Abigail Dodge was granddaughter of Richard and Edith (Brayne) Dodge, a Puritan who emigrated from East Coker, Somerset, England and settled in North Beverly Mass. Richard’s brother, William Dodge, first settled the region in 1632. Richard and his son Joseph Dodge (Abigail’s father) were prominent farmers in the area. The area has many tributes to the Dodge name, including Dodge Row Road and Dodge Row cemetery where the old family farm was located.

Other Notable Perkins Stories
Any mention of the name “Perkins” in Essex County, Massachusetts during pre-Revolutionary War times will undoubtedly involved an uncle, aunt, cousin, nephew, niece of ours.  Here are a few example stories.

Perkins in the Salem Witch Trials
The Salem witch trials were between February, 1692 and May, 1693.  Mary (Perkins) Bradbury, sister to our ancestor, Quartermaster John Perkins, was accused. She was, in reality, a nice old lady who made butter for a living. However, the Bradburys’ had a long standing tiff with another local family. As might be expected, the charges were a little outlandish. She turned people in blue boars and caused shipwrecks due of poisoning of her butter. Nevertheless, she was found guilty and sentenced to die, despite a petition signed by a hundred townspeople. However, being a crafty witch, she managed to escape the prison days before her execution. Actually, the locals help her to escape.

Other Perkins were also connected to the Salem witch trials. Isaac Perkins and Nathaniel Perkins, sons of Quartermaster John Perkins, signed a petition supporting John Proctor. It did not help much because Proctor hanged. Not every Perkins was so noble. Thomas Perkins, son of Thomas and Phebe (Gould) Perkins, and therefore a nephew of Mary Bradbury and a cousin to Isaac and Nathaniel, was juror on the trials. He later signed a declaration of regret for his part in the incident.

The Burning of the Original John Perkins House
The story goes that Mehitable Brabrooke, a 16 year old serving maid, started a fire from the tobacco of her pipe. The original house of John Perkins, now owned by son Jacob, was burned to the ground on August 1668. She was prosecuted for arson. The chief witness, John Williston, 16 yr, stated the “that as they were going into the meadow to make hay Mehitable told him her mistress was angry and she had fixed her by putting a great toad into her kettle of milk.” It sound like John Williston was a possible boyfried that turned on her. They were probably going to cut grass, although the other type of “making hay” sounds more tawdry. She was sentenced to a severe whipping and a hefty fine. Mehitable survived the proceedings. She ultimately had a respectable marriage. The house was not so luckly. After it was rebuilt, it was struck by lightning in 1671.

Summary
Essex county MA offers all manner of family related activities. You can drive down Perkins Row Road to rent a canoe to paddle for lunch on Perkins Island.  You can visit the Alexander House and enter the home of a direct ancestor. You can visit the Whipple house, and hold the cane and bible owned by John Perkins Sr. You can drive down Dodge Road to access the old family farmland at Dodge Row cemetery.