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Matthew was probably born in Little Compton, Province of Massachusetts Bay (but now in Rhode Island), and raised in neighboring Tiverton, also a town eventually transferred to Rhode Island. He and his presumed siblings moved to Rochester and Dartmouth, Massachusetts close to the border between them. I haven't found evidence that their parents moved there as well. Matthew, Sr., owned a homestead in Tiverton, but deeds aren't clear which of the properties he owned was their home. It may have been the large property he sold in 1715. If he moved to Rochester or Dartmouth, there isn't a recorded deed to show it. Esther, of Rochester, was the first in records to marry, and did so in Tiverton before a Justice of the Peace in January 1719/1720. Edward Howard married about the same time or a little later and started having children in Dartmouth in 1722. William Howard married in 1723 in Rochester. William's residence isn't given, but his children were born in Dartmouth. Matthew and his wife, both of Dartmouth, married there in 1726, and their first four children were born in Rochester. This flip-flopping between towns is surely due to their living very near the border and not owning property in either at that time. Esther marrying in Tiverton may have been a nod to her parents, but it doesn't seem logical for all the children to have moved away to about the same place, but all on their own, as young adults, especially a single woman.
     It was undoubtedly Matthew, Jr., who was brought to court in December 1724 for not going to church.1 Living in Rochester, he said he was poor, had lost his horses and went to meeting in Mattapoisett and elsewhere when he could. This sounds like a single man. He was in court again in March 1726 for defaulting on a note held by James Winslow of Rochester.2 He owed the substantial sum of £12, and was ordered to pay about half that plus court fees. In November of that year he married Phebe Burges (Burgess), both "of Dartmouth," but Phebe grew up in Rochester. The Burgess family was another example of fluidity between the two towns.
     By June 1732 Matthew was back in Rochester between the Dartmouth town border and Mattapoisett. He bought land there,3 but the deed says he was also an abutting property owner. I can't find a deed by which he got this land, which would help date his return to Rochester. By this time he was called a "husbandman" or farmer and was presumably no longer poor. Phebe was baptized at the Mattapoisett church in 1741,4 but in January 1742, Matthew sold their Rochester farm,5 with Phebe's consent. Matthew acknowledged this deed (which calls him a mason) in Dartmouth in February 1743, showing they moved across the border once again. This was the final time, but when Matthew bought a piece of land in what is now the Boston Road area of Fairhaven in March 1750,6 he was described as a laborer of Rochester. What appears to be a confirmatory deed made eight years later says he was a "yoeman, alias mason" and was living on the land.7 He bought another lot in the area in 1763 according to a later deed,8 but the 1763 deed apparently wasn't recorded.
     Given where he lived, and if the deed is correct, he wasn't a full-time mason but primarily a farmer. The addition of masonry skills might have raised him above "poor" status though, and enabled him to buy real estate. Matthew and Phebe's son Abner continued to live on this land and added to it. I don't know where his house was or if he continued to live in his parents' house, but the presence of Howards in the area of Boston Neck Road and Charity Stevens Lane in Fairhaven on an 1871 map roughly confirms the boundary descriptions in the 18th century deeds. The Stevens family were neighbors to the north of Abner, according to an 1801 deed.
     The last mention of Matthew was when he acknowledged his deed giving his land to Abner on 10 November 1779, the deed itself dating to 1772.9 Given that this was his homestead, if Phebe were alive she would have given her consent, since it would have been part of her dower right if Matthew died before her.

children of Matthew Howard and Phebe Burgess:10

i. Sarah, b. 21 February 1727/1728, recorded at Rochester
ii. Elizabeth, b. 22 May 1731, same
iii. Mary, b. 21 April 1735, same
iv. Abner, b. abt 1737-40, Rochester (based on his parents' residence)
v. Susannah, b. abt 1741-43
vi. Phebe, b. abt 1746-47

vital records sources: His marriage is in marriage is in Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vo. 2 (Boston:1929), 247.

1. Plymouth Court Records, vol. 2 (Wilmington, DE:1978), 39, from General Sessions of the Peace record. Case introduced in the December 1723 session, heard and decided in the March 1724 session.
2. Ibid, vol. 5 (Wilmington, DE:1979), 151, Court of Common Pleas record.
3. Plymouth Co., MA, deed 27:131.
4. 1 Nov 1741, Second Precinct, Rochester, MA, (Mattapoisett) church record, in Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts (New York:1907), 383.
5. Plymouth Co., MA, deed 35:177.
6. Ibid, 54:293.
7. Ibid, 54:295.
8. Ibid, 67:342, referring to Seth Marten grantor to Matthew Howard, grantee, 3 Sept 1763.
9. see note 8.
10. Vital Records of Rochester, Massachusetts: to the year 1850, vol. 1 (Boston:The New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1914), 186.

all text and photographs © 1998-2021 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted

8 Feb 1732/33, Joseph Alever to MH, of Rochester, husbandman, Rochester, 1 acre of Alever's homestead, MH land to the east, 31-209 27 June 1732, Joseph Lasbee to MH of R, husbandman, Rochester, part of JL's homestead, 26 acres, south end 6 Jan 1741(prob./42), Matthew, mason, sells with Phebe's consent his homestead in Rochester to Nathan Tupper, acknowledged in Dartmouth 28 Feb 1742/3 Matthew acknowledged the deed to Abner on 10 November 1779. 67:342 bought part of it from Joseph Ellis on 11 March 1750 and Seth Marten 3 Sep 1763 Phebe, wife of Matthew, baptized at the 2nd Precinct or Mattapoisett church 1 Nov 1741
Mattapoisett and Old Rochester, Massachusetts, 383 both of Dartmouth when married by Samuel Hunt