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John's signature from 1703 (top) as town treasurer, and 1712, both from the Wenham town records. The microfilm images of these records at ancestry.com are very poor. I cleaned up both for clarity.


John was raised on his father's property on Manning Neck, Ipswich, Massachusetts, in the vicinity of Elm Street and Jeffrey's Neck Road. He married a daughter of Thomas Fiske. The earliest reference I can find calling her Mary is in 1882.1 He refers to her as Thomas Fiske's daughter. I haven't found corroboration of this first name, either in contemporary or published sources, but she was certainly the daughter of Thomas Fiske. Shortly before his death he gave land as a free gift to his granddaughter Mary Perkins, and if she didn't have any children, it was to go to his granddaughter Elizabeth (Perkins) Rogers, Mary's married sister.1a The land was abutted by Robert Quarles, who would marry Mary several years later. One of the witnesses to the deed was Anna Perkins. In his will,2 Thomas gave to his son-in-law John Perkins, for his children, more land that was already in John's possession, which probably meant he was occupying it, this word being used as such in other contemporary documents. There's no recorded deed of Thomas givng land to John. In the same bequest paragraph, Thomas gave Anna Perkins £5. It's not apparent why he made these bequests specifically to Mary and Ann.
     Despite the lack of proof, naming her Mary is reasonable. In the Wenham First Church records, the names John and Mary Perkins are on a list of members starting after Rev. Joseph Gerrish was hired by the town in January 1673/74.3 The first list is of communicants, followed by those who were in full communion, which was a membership progression. John and Mary are on both, and are the only Perkinses named. The names aren't grouped by family relation, but it's obvious many were married couples.
     Rev. Gerrish's member records aren't specifically dated until much later, so we don't know when John and Mary joined in either category. He numbered the names, John being #29 and Mary #64. Thomas Fiske, Sr., and Joan Fiske, John's in-laws, were #27 and #28. The first recorded baptism among their children was in 1676, no day or month given. Mary was likely their first child (see note 18). With no baptism recorded for her, it's likely it was done in Ipswich, a year for which there are no extent church records there. The most comprehensive account of Wenham vital records at this time is in the Essex County Quarterly Court records, but Wenham records there are obviously not complete. They are far more extensive for Ipswich, but Mary isn't recorded there. I put Mary's birth about 1674 partly because of Elizabeth's baptism in 1676 and that 1674 is evidently about when the family moved. They may have settled in Wenham, had Mary there soon after but were still members of the Ipswich church and had her baptized there.
     I don't find a record of John buying his homestead in Wenham, which would obviously help place when they moved. George A. Perkins doesn't speculate on this, but does mention the Ipswich (now Hamilton, MA) land John and several others bought from the Daniel Eppes estate in 1693 that bordered on the Wenham town line.4 An heirs agreement shows it was on the east and west side of what is now Highland Street (known as the way to the Saltonstall Farm, which was the north abutter in the 1693 deed) and included parts of Wenham Swamp. Horse Island is specifically mentioned (generally not named on current maps, but it's on the southwest side of Idlewild or Pleasant Pond Brook between Colt and Fowler's Islands). His Wenham land adjoined it to the south, putting it between the village center of Wenham and the Wenham/Ipswich border. This land is likely referred to in the 1694 deed where it says the southern boundary was the Wenham town line and John's own land. John and his co-owners, Daniel Kilham and John Gilbert, joined representatives from Wenham to set the town boundary line through the swamp. That was on 11 February 1696/97.5
     There was a house addressed as 75 Arbor Street in Wenham, torn down in 2011 to build a housing development after years of neglect, that was owned by the Perkins family and supposedly built in several phases. This is where John would logically have had his homestead, Arbor Street turning into Highland Street when you cross the town border. A National Register of Historic Places nomination form says the oldest part dates to about 1710-1720. This was based on a Massachusetts Historical Commission "First Period Survey." The survey was only based on interior and exterior surface elements. No historical research was done, and although it's referred to as the "John Perkins House," this probably came about from a vague knowledge of his having his homestead there. Given the information from the survey, I assume at least part of the house was built for his son Thomas after John died in 1718. Thomas was given a half interest in all his father's "housing" and land in Wenham and Ipswich on 24 May 1706.6 He was then given full rights in an heirs agreement on 31 August 1720.7 It then passed down the generations through John, Nehemiah and then Daniel Perkins, who owned it when the Beers 1872 Essex County atlas map of Wenham was published. The house has the label "D. Perkins," and based on neighbors, he can be identified as Daniel in the 1870 US census.8 The nomination form says a supposed later part of the house may have salvaged items, but without more detail about the actual construction of the house, it's now impossible to say if there was anything of John's house remaining. However, it's plausible that his house was on or very near this site.
     At the following town meetings, John was elected to serve the town in vaious offices. He was voted a selectman on 2 March 1696/979 and as such, signed an agreement about laying out a highway.10 He was a selectman again for the year starting 31 May 1697.11 He was chosen on 22 June 1696 to represent Wenham on the grand jury at the Essex County Quarterly Court.12 On 1 March 1697/98 he was elected a fence viewer "for the middle part of town."13 and again on 5 March 1699/1700.14 He was chosen to collect the minister's tax from those living on the west side of the "Country Road" on 7 March 1698/99.15 He was voted Town Treasurer on 2 March 1702/03 and 7 March 1703/0416
     His daughter Rebecca is sometimes confused as a daughter of Capt. Thomas Fiske. This is likely a misundertanding about Fiske's will, which refers to her without stating a relationship. A casual reading of an agreement between him and Rebecca's fiancee Thomas How might also have led to this. In that, he's called a relative who raised her. He was certainly her uncle, as explained above, and she must have lived with him and his wife, who had no children of their own. More about these documents is at Rebecca's page. Daughter Martha wasn't able to care for herself. The heirs agreement referrred to above specifically commits John's executors, Thomas Perkins and his brother-in-law William Rogers to providing for her, including her eventual burial. This was likely a physical disability since she must have been, by process of elimination, the Martha Perkins who signed her sister Rebecca's prenuptial agreement on 23 March 1715.
     George A. Perkins is mistaken in saying he was ever called Sergeant John Perkins. I haven't seen any primary record to support it, and it's likely he confused him with his father and grandfather.
     John died on 15 March 1717/18. He didn't have a will, so the executorship defaulted to his widow Mary and son Thomas. Mary declined on 20 March in favor of her son-in-law William Rogers, and letters of administration were given to him and Thomas the following 24 March (see note 7). An inventory of the estate is dated 27 October 1718.17

To his land att Wenham & Ipswich, old orchard, west end of ye dwelling house & east end of ye barn £335
To ye other half of his land in Ipswich & Wenham, east end of ye dwelling house & west end of ye barne & now orchard conveyed to his son Thomas £335
To wareing cloths & cane £8, 10 shillings
To 3 cows 10:10 pr steers 5:10 heifer 40/ 2 yerlings £20
To mare 30/ two swine 28/ two pigs 5/ £3, 3 shillings
To bedding & furniture £10
To bills due from his son Thomas £22, 18 shillings, 4 pence
To sundry household goods as pr inventory £22, 9 shillings
To half a sydar mill 20/ horse fetters 4/ iron
[?] £1, 9 shillings
To chest of draws given to Esther £2
To Indian & English corn £5
total
[?] £95, 9 shillings, 4 pence

John Gilbert
Saml Kimball
Nathl Gott
Nathl Brown
prizers


The inventory was brought to court and approved, also on 27 October 1718.


An agreement among John's heirs, mentioned above, was made on 31 August 1720. John and Anna Perkins (John was a second cousin) were to get two acres of salt marsh John already "posesses," (occupies or using rather than owns), which was bought by John (Anna's father) from William Rogers (his son-in-law) and two acres of swamp bounded by Deacon John Gilbert's land and Pleasant Pond Brook, which put it in Wenham Swamp. Also, Thomas Perkins was to pay them £9 and they were to have a small kettle. To Robert and Mary Quarles £22 from William Rogers and a small iron kettle. To Benjamin and Esther Gilbert £27, the person paying being obscured by a fold. To John and Sarah Edwards £6 paid by Thomas. To Thomas and Rebecca How £30 paid by Thomas. To William and Elizabeth Rogers an about three and a half acre meadow lot in the Great Meadow, two acres of swamp land in the eight-acre lot on Horse Island (in Wenham Swamp on the southwest side of Idlewild or Pleasant Pond Brook and the west side of Ipswich River), a lot bordering on the west by Pleasant Pond Brook, another evidently in Ipswich on the Wenham/Ipswich line near the swamp, another on "the north side of the twenty acre lott" on the west side of Pleasant Pond Brook and £140 to be paid by Thomas. William and Thomas were each to have one half of something of the estate, obscured by a fold and to share the "moveable estate." Together they were to pay the funeral charges and debts due from the estate and had equal responsibility to care for sister Martha Perkins, including her burial. Thomas was to have the remainder of the land. All were held responsible for maintaining the "way to the landing place" two poles wide. I assume this was some place along the waterways on the southeast side of Wenham swamp or along Pleasant Pond Brook. There's a lengthy discourse about William and Thomas having the right to build a sawmill where Daniel Davison built a dam. The only place I can see that might accomodate a dam is Pleasant Pond Brook, but I have doubts that this had enough running water through the swamp for that purpose.


children of John Perkins and Mary Fiske:18

Mary, b. abt. 1674
Elizabeth, bap. 1676
Elizabeth, b. 9 August 1679, no baptism record19 Martha, bap. 1680
Thomas, bap. September 1685
Sarah, bap. 25 September 1688
Anna, prob. b. abt. 1690, said without explanation to have been b. 1692
Rebecca, bap. 1693
Esther, b. 30 September 1695




vital records sources: His birth is from a family Bible referenced by George A. Perkins in an article in Essex Institute Historical Collections , vol. 19 (Essex Institute:Salem,1882), p. 264. In his subsequent, separate genealogy on the family (see note 1) he doesn't give this source. His death is included in Rev. Joseph Gerrish in his Wenham First Church records, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 61 (New England Historic Genealogical Society:Boston, 1907), 338. The Julian year is given (1717), but his estate probate was begun 5 days later with Mary's deferal, which has the dual year 1717/18. Next was the executor's bond dated 24 March 1718, one day after the Julian New Year.

1. Essex Institute Historical Collections , vol. 19 (Essex Institute:Salem,1882)p. 264. This article, written by George Augustus Perkins, was later printed as a separate genealogy: George Augustus Perkins, The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Massachusetts, part 1 (Salem:1884). On p. 8, he refers to her as Mary Fiske, daughter of Thomas.
1a. Essex Co., MA, deeds, 20:155.
2. Essex Co., MA, probate case 9521.
3. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 61 (Boston:New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1907), 331. A Mary Perkins is also on a list of members who had died since Gerrish's arrival, no date given but before 1705, when he starts using dates.
4. Essex Co., MA, deeds, 9:118.
5. Wenham Town Records [hereafter WTR], supplement to vol. 1, 1687-1706 (Wenham Historical Society:Wenham, 1940), 22
6. Essex Co., MA, deeds, 33:153.
7. Essex Co., MA, probate case 21341.
8. Daniel Perkins household, 1870 US census, Massachusetts, Essex Co., Wenham, household #71; NARA microlfilm roll M593 614, p. 872B.
9. WTR, vol. 3 (Wenham Historical Society:Wenham, 1929), 141.
10. Ibid, 25.
11. Ibid, 26.
12. Ibid, 136.
13. Ibid, 158.
14. Ibid, 180.
15. Ibid, 167.
16. Ibid, vol. 1 supplement, 67, 72.
17. Essex Co., MA, probate, 312:526.
18. Although many vital records are a part of the Essex County Quarterly Court (the published vital records for Essex County towns will often have a notation "cr 1" as a source), to which towns were expected to send their information, the records for some towns are far less than others. While there are some records for Wenham through the period of John's children's births, they don't appear there. For their baptisms, see New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 62 (Boston:New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1907), 34-38. George A. Perkins's two editions of his Perkins genealogy and subsequent publications based on it are the most used source for casual internet genealogists, the baptisms of John and Mary's children have gone largely unnoticed. They appear transcribed in the NEHGR as cited and in images of the mss at the Congregational Library & Archives site: http://nehh-viewer.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/#/content/Wenham/viewer/Church20records2C2016741719/1. Rev. Joseph Gerrish's Wenham church records from the late 17th century are poorly kept. The minister recorded most of the baptisms without a date or parent name, and grouped them by year. They also aren't complete. The baptisms for Elizabeth, Martha and Rebecca are year only. Thomas, Sarah and Esther have fuller dates. There is no expected baptism for Anna, while Mary may have been baptized in Ipswich, as above mentioned. John's heirs agreement lists Thomas first (his only son), then (with their spouses) Mary, Elizabeth, Martha, Sarah, Anna, Esther and Rebecca. The daughters for whom there is good evidence of approximate birth dates confirm this daughters list being in chronological order (with one exception). This was normal in probate documents, so Mary and Anna's places on the list likely show where in they were in the order of birth. The only anomoly is Rebecca appearing at the end, but this may have to do with her being the only child not living in the area.
19. recorded as Pickring, corrected later to Perkins, database at familysearch.org, "Essex County, Massachusetts, births, marriages, and deaths, 1636-1795,""1654-1795 [Essex County, Massachusetts]," film #007009706, 129, Thomas Fiske and Rebecka "Pickring" are also recorded, which certainly should be Perkins.

all text and photographs © 1998-2022 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted