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The following was written and contributed by Nancy Thomson:

The First John THOMSON

  The first John Thomson is coming to life for me. I've been developing a "psycho-profile" of him. I'll share it with all of you just for fun. (I've compiled it from memory, so I may have scrambled some facts.)

  Around the age of 4, John was taken from the relative comfort of England on a long, dangerous and uncomfortable voyage to the wilderness of New England. He left behind grandparents and possibly even his older sister Priscilla. He grew up in a hostile, untamed land, where food was scarce, winters were long and freezing cold, comforts were nil, and there were few, if any, other children to play with. He would have had to pitch in and work hard to help his family survive.

  His ambitious father died after only a few years, never having realized his dream, leaving John, his only son and heir. His mother quickly remarried a younger, powerful, equally ambitious man. She set up housekeeping with his stepfather and they started their family. A few years later, John was sent away, probably at age 14, to apprentice as a seaman. He spent his early adult years, for the most part, living apart from his stepfather and mother's family, in London and at sea. Did he ever feel like he fit in anywhere? Was New England home? Or London? It's hard to imagine two more different places. Civilized London was one of the world's great cities, New England the roughest sort of frontier.

  There was some degree of tension between him and his stepfather, possibly between him and his own mother as well. He entered into some business dealings with his stepfather and half brother(s). His step father was accused of cheating him. His stepbrother was accused of cheating his stepfather. His mother was accused of not looking out for his interests. His mother was also at odds with his grandfather, William Cole of Plymouth, Devon, England. He had younger (more favored?) half brothers who apparently were not sent away to sea to apprentice as he had been. His stepfather and mother had so many difficulties of their own to contend with, they probably could not be much help to John, financially or emotionally.

  He chose (or had chosen for him) the difficult and dangerous profession of being a sea captain. As such, he would have to contend with harsh weather, crudely made ships and the expenses of supplying them, rudimentary navigation techniques, the command of seamen, poor diets and illness aboard ship, dealing with investors, thwarting pirates and privateers, and the competitive triangle trade--slaves, molasses, rum--Africa, New England, England.

  It seems he didn't have a head for business--or maybe he just had a long run of bad luck. His inheritance (Thompson Island) was virtually taken from him by the town of Dorchester, regained with difficulty, then finally lost through his own failed business dealings when he tried to turn a profit cod fishing--and lost. Did he renege on his promises to deliver slaves for his investors because of moral scruples or (more likely) due to some problem(s) during the voyage?

  Finally, the Anglican religious beliefs he was raised with would have made him an unwelcome and persecuted "outsider" in Puritan New England. Did he turn him back on his beliefs to become a freeman? Was it a pragmatic step taken to assure the well-being of his family in New England? Or was it a true religious conversion?

  Forced to make a go on land after his career as a seaman fell apart, he supported himself and his family farming (something he could only have known little about) and as an inn-keeper on the then frontier of civilization, Mendon. They escaped with their lives--but probably lost everything else--during King Philip's War. The one bright spot seems to have been his wife Sarah who, according to his will, was "beloved." This term might have simply been used as a legal convention, but somehow I don't think so. Maybe I'm just being a romantic. On the other hand, we're all here. So there was definitely something between those two!

Nancy Thomson