Monday, August 4, 2014

Deacon John Tufts Mystery part two

Do you like a good mystery? Are you a genealogist or amateur researcher? I need help with this mystery of the shipwreck of Irish immigrants in 1737. In part one I told the story of Deacon John Tufts of Windham, New Hampshire and Belfast, Maine.
What I seek now are similar stories in other families and any information on where these survivors settled when they were brought from Nova Scotia to New Hampshire or Massachusetts.

Deacon John Tufts (1723-1802) is debated to be either a son of a known family of the Peter Tufts clan of Massachusetts that I often write about, or a shipwreck survivor from Northern Ireland.

I recently discovered a news article that confirms a Mr. and Mrs. John Tuft perished in the shipwreck.

The shipwreck story is from a researcher and descendant who provided the transcription of Mary (Campbell) McMillan given to a family member and handed down through the family. Mary was said to be the granddaughter of “Jonathan Tuffs”. It describes the families settling Belfast, Maine, the shipwreck, and states that her grandfather was troubled by the sight of his mother dying in the shipwreck for all his years. The story can be found on some McMillan family trees on and at Patricia Thompson’s site:

The father of Susanna Tuffs (wife of Dr. Alexander McMillan), whose name was Jonathan Tuffs, was born in Belfast, Ireland, and also of Scotch Covenanter blood. He started to this country with his widowed mother and her infant babe when he himself was fourteen years old. They were shipwrecked on the way. His mother, mother like, seeing that all could not be saved, gave her chance for life, also her purse and a God Speed in the New Country, should he reach it, to her son. The last he saw of her was when two pieces of the ship came together crushing her and her babe, then sank to rise no more. I have heard grandma tell how her father said that that was the last sight he saw when he closed his eyes and the ocean roar was always in his ears.
Jonathan Tuffs lived near what was afterwards Belfast, Maine and took up large tracts of land, giving the plot. of ground on which to build a town, which the people wanted to name for him, but he told them that was too (tuff) a name but if they must honor him thus they might name it for his native place, Belfast of Ireland, hence the tender interest every McMillan or Tuffs has in either place of that name.

Most historians and genealogists will admit that stories or legends handed down through generations are often inaccurate. There are some differences but the story appears to have a factual base.

There was a second version of the shipwreck story which was reported in Tufts Family History in 1964 by Jay Franklin Tufts. That was from a different branch of Deacon John Tufts’ descendants. Here is where I need help. That story was from the family of Deacon John’s son Joseph Tufts detailed here. If you are a descendant of this family please let me know if you have heard of this story.
b.  7, Aug. 1764 in Windham, N. H.
d. 16, July  1844 in Waterford, Pa.
married; in Londonderry, NH to SARAH DOAK, Sally   
dau of James and Janet (Boyes) Doak
b. 13, Nov. 1769 in Londonderry, NH, died? in Warsaw, N. Y.
had 1) Mary, 2) Sarah, 3) Sarah, 4) Catherine, 5) Aurella, 6) John. 7) Joseph, 8) Orpha, 9) Catherine, 10) Leman G.
The family of the son of Leman G Tufts below was said to be the source of the shipwreck story in Tufts Family History 1964.
b.   2, Aug. 1846 in Rushford, NY
d. 20, May  1922 in San Diego, CA
m. 29, Nov. 1880 in to EDITH MAE ELLS
dau of Alfred and Hannah Elizah (Palmer) Ells
b.   7, Mar. 1860 in Rockford, IL
d.   5, Dec. 1924 in San Diego, CA
had  1) Mamie C., 2) Annie L., 3) Patricia E. M., 4) Charles A., 5) Robert G.
This Robert G Tufts had a copy of the shipwreck story but the True descendants of his daughter Clarissa have never heard of it. Clarissa’s husband, William True was in the 101st Airborne in WWII and was co-author of the book “The Cow Spoke French” which mentions Freeling Tufts Colt.

Without listing every little detail that may be inaccurate, I will present the basic and pertinent data and list some possible research areas that could solve this mystery or at least uncover the rest of this story.

It is clear from the recent news article discovery that a John Tuft originating in Ireland could have survived the shipwreck where his mother died.
Now that I have seen this new article I have searched harder for John Tuft. There are records of a Tuft family in Northern Ireland. Thomas Tuft was listed as a Presbyterian minister in Ballyclare in County Antrim from 1681-1713 and a John Tuft is listed as a linen draper in Derry in 1725. (
Could this be our John? There are more records of Tuft families from later than 1737. A William Tuft is on the Hearth Tax list for County Armagh in 1664. In 1732 John Tuft was a Magheralin Parish Churchwarden (County Armagh, again). More research is needed.

The name issue is interesting. I have seen all variations of the name used. I have seen Tuft from the news article which could be wrong but led me to research and find the TUFT families in Ireland while so many searches have never discovered any John TUFTS. The name TUFFS was used in many of the Brookfield MA families.
 Herbert Adams searched extensively and paid researchers in Ireland to search as well. Professor James Hayden Tufts searched as well and found none. He was a descendant of the John TUFFS of Brookfield Massachusetts who the professor claimed was from Ireland. It would be interesting to know if the shipwreck story exists in his family. Adams originally stated John of Brookfield was married in Londonderry NH but changed that after further research to Newbury MA. (Some quotes of his 1975 Kinsmen edition can be found online.) Adams credits John’s family’s claims to Irish heritage as originating with John’s wife Agnes Foote who was said to be clearly Scots-Irish but no record of her can be found. Perhaps she also survived the shipwreck with no family and was absorbed into a Londonderry family until adulthood. There are records of Foote families in the other Ulster-Scot communities, but none of Agnes.

The John Tufts born in 1723 in Medford, MA is well recorded and researchers over the years have had different versions of his life. Some of the first thought he died young but Adams discovered his father’s will of 1725 which devised benefits to him through his Uncle Nathaniel Tufts. His mother remarried and died in Chelsea in 1760 leaving him named in her will as well. Adams claims this John moved to Windham, NH by 1745 and bought his cousin’s farm in 1752. The deed records I have found do not exactly confirm this. They can be found at
 1742      James Campbell sold to John Tufts of Londonderry land in Chester: “messuage or tract of land #116 in third division, 80 acres formerly of Jacob Gilman etc.. witnessed by Peter Tufts and Robert Boyes. It could be this Peter Tufts was a surveyor and/or just a witness or if this is John of Medford, he is in Londonderry but could be in the part that became Windham in 1742.
 1743      John Tuffts of Londonderry sold to Horner the same lot. He is clearly called John Tufts in the first deed and John Tuffts in the second and is called a “Labourer of Rec’d (record?) of Londonderry”. John made a profit of thirty pounds in one year of owning this land.
1744       Daniel Calfe (Calef) sold to John Tufts of Newbury, (Trader) 2 parcels in Chester 57 acres more or less.
1746       John Tufts of Newbury sold to Robert Calef, (quit claim deed) same parcels bought of his brother, Daniel. This john Tufts of Newbury could be Reverend John Tufts the son of Peter Jr. who left the church in 1738 and died in 1750 or John Tuffs/Tufts of Brookfield. He is called “of Newbury” by Kinsmen and said to have married Agnes Foote there in 1731 but I have not found that record.
1752       John Tufts of Charlestown (MA) sells 2 parcels of land in Bedford to a Robert Calef and secondly to Moses Barron. Research would be needed to see if these are 2 parcels which came to our John Tufts of Charlestown from his father’s estate which would clearly put him in Charlestown in 1745, not Windham.
1752       Jonathan Morrison sold to John Tufft of Windham, “2 pieces of meadow in Windham and bordered by Londonderry meadow, original right of Col. Tho’s Westbrook and Thomas Armstrong (13 acres)”. This is supposed to be the farm John bought from his cousin Ann but does not describe a home or farm. The deed describes the bounds of land with no mention of a mill or “messuage”. Jonathan Morison and Nancy (Ann) Tufts Morison had no children. They were married in 1741 and moved to Peterborough NH when they sold the farm to John. It would not be irregular for them to have taken young John into their home to work the farm but still does not answer which John that would be.
1754       James Reid sells to John Tufts of Windham and James Wilson meadow tract known as flat rock meadow.
1758       John Tufts of Frankfort (Maine) sells 2 lots in Bedford to 2 different Moore’s, Robert and Daniel. This is our Charlestown John’s cousin John, the son of Nathaniel Tufts.
1762       John Tuffts and James Wilson of Windham sell meadow tract called lower flat rock to John Morrow.
1774       John Tufft of Windham sold to James Gilmore 105 acres of upland in Windham (Bounded with flat rock meadow). The deed is signed by John and Mary Tufft.
1777       John Tufft of Belfast sells to James Gilmore 13 acres tract in Windham. These last 2 appear to be the sale of his farm or mill when he moved to Belfast ME. His mill operation is recorded in Windham history in 1755. He was a selectman there in 1752 and 1761. (History of WindhamNH) There is some confusion about exactly when he moved to Belfast. In researching his home in Belfast, researchers there feel he arrived after the Revolution and that his son built the home there they now consider the oldest home in Belfast. His son John, the ship’s captain of Newburyport, took some settlers and died young enough that his children were raised in Belfast. One trip is said to have run aground and damaged some goods including the Peter Tufts family bible.
These deed records could be researched more thoroughly. Some records of Nutfield/Londonderry NH reference Haverhill MA, as that town laid claim to parts of southern Rockingham County NH in that time period. There were also records of John Tufts of Bedford, NH but he was another second cousin from Newmarket, NH, the son of Henry (the tailor). It certainly seems some deeds are missing as John sold more land when he moved to Belfast than he is recorded as purchasing in previous records.

This Tufts family bible was said to be the convincing item that John of Belfast was from our Massachusetts family. I just cannot figure how Deacon John would have the bible of Peter Tufts if he was the survivor of the shipwreck.
                I have not been able to find the bible today. I have seen letters in Mr. Adams’ collection which describe it being destined for Tufts University and have contacted one person there with no result. The letter in Adams’ collection is from Christie (Tufts) Page and mentions the Tufts bible donation to Tufts University. She mentions in the letter a son Ted Page, grandson Charles Clifton Page and visiting with Glenn and Gladys.
“I have taken the liberty of sending your letter on to Glenn so she can locate the archivist at Tufts College and leave the Tufts Bible. I am sure she and her husband will be glad to deliver it.”
 Mr. Adams said they would probably just stuff it in an attic. It could be there in some library corner but their website does not state it is there. A field trip to the University is in order. The following pages of Adams Tufts Kinsmen newsletter show the bible story.

Where will the proof of either claim be found? Will it be in deed records or wills? Will it be in someone’s old diary in a library somewhere? Perhaps in some old file in a historical society in Windham or Londonderry. I had hopes John’s grave marker might say born in Ireland but even epitaphs can be incorrect and the stones in the cemetery he is probably in are not maintained. I would like to believe the shipwreck story and many people do. I see proof of that story in the news articles and the existence of the story in more than one family descended from John.

 Genealogists previous to me have worked hard to straighten out all the Johns but could certainly be mistaken. There are just too many Johns to be certain about. It is certainly possible that there were 2 Johns in Londonderry and Windham. There is also the possibility that the shipwreck survivor was brought up in Londonderry in another Ulster-Scot family like the Morison’s and later claimed he was from the “Boston” Tufts rather than admit to being Ulster-Scot as they were referred to as Irish and looked down upon. These “Scots-Irish” were called the worst kind of Irish….”Scottish”.