ancestral chart father mother index home




vital records sources







Thomas lived in Boston with his family as a child until about 1678, when his parents and paternal grandfather sold their home and moved to Swansea, Massachusetts.1 I haven't found a record of the Sanford's owning property there, but they undoubtedly did. Thomas was supposedly chosen a fenceviewer for the town in 1693, but this is suspect since he was still a minor. I haven't yet seen the original record, but if he is named, the town clerk may have meant his father.
     When Thomas bought two tracts of land in Rawson's Farm in 1700 and 1701, which I talk about later, he's described as being of Swansea. In these deeds and many thereafter we find he was a cordwainer, or shoemaker. He was probably apprenticed to learn those skills about 1686, when he was 13, and likely in Swansea. It probably lasted to about when he married Christian.
     Christian's identity is unknown. Since their daughter was born in November 1693 and Thomas was born in April 1673, Thomas was at least slightly underage when they married, suggesting Christian was as well. I find no likely woman with that name born about the time Thomas was. The Swansea vital records are very oddly arranged alphabetically by first name. The record pages for A-C are missing. Elizabeth and Sarah are there, but Christian and Bathsheba aren't, and their mother may also be among the missing births for "C" females. Where the children are recorded, Christian is named as their mother.
     Thomas and two other men bought most of the "Rawson's Farm" property in two pieces, 740 and 800 acres each.2 The farm was an investment by Edward Rawson, Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and wasn't a part of any incorporated town. Thomas's own testimony says (as transcribed) "I removed on the Sd first of 800 acres in the 1701 that about 3 years after as I remember I came to live there."3 This is cryptic. He also says he lived on the property for 14 years.
     Thomas remarried in Medfield in 1710. Shortly before this he bought land in Wrentham,4 described as living on a farm between Mendon and Medfield, which surely was Rawson's Farm. On 29 Dec 1710, he assigned this property to Stephen Potter,5 and Thomas's residence isn't noted, but on 26 Feb 1710/11, he acknowledged the deed in front of Josiah Chapin, Justice, who lived in Mendon. Given this, he have moved between April 1710 and February 1711.
     Thomas first appears in Mendon, Massachusetts, records on 5 March 1711, when he was elected a selectman.6 He must have been well-known and respected by the Mendon freeholders who elected him. It was unusual to be one of the people overseeing the town government within a year of moving there.
     The first recorded deed of him buying property in Mendon was on 18 December 1713,7 which says he was "of Mendon." I haven't found any evidence of where in that town he may have been. He bought the 40 acre Peter Holbrook homestead. This doesn't match his above testimony exactly regardless of interpretation, but this is most likely about when he moved to Mendon, but it's not clear that he ever lived on the former Holbrook land. He sold it to John Browne 9 October 1722.8 On 8 Dec 1713, Thomas of Mendon sold his Rawson's Farm homestead to Pelatiah Smith,9 His house in Mendon, at which a Dedham Proprietor's meeting was to be held, is mentioned on 25 Feb 1714.10 It's not obvious if this was a New or Old Style year (Julian vs Gregorian calendars), but the context makes me lean toward Gregorian (1714).11 This accords with the above deeds and without any other evidence to go by, I think the family moved (a mere few miles) about December 1713.
Thomas bought more property in Mendon over the years, but I haven't found the deed by which Thomas got that land that was his homestead by 1737.12 The boundary descriptions are sometimes vague. That was after a brief move to Sutton, which I talk about later. The Mendon homestead land was in several pieces, but most of it centered on what is now Providence Street (called the road to Rehoboth) at the junction of Hartford Avenue. The house was on the point of land created south of the junction. Although a house stands there that may, in part, be 18th century, it doesn't seem to have been there before the mid 20th century. There's a house there on atlas maps up to 1898, but is missing on topographical maps starting in 1889 and until the later 20th century. Also, the size and orientation isn't right for the Sanford house. The will of a later owner infers it was lengthwise east/west, whereas the one standing is primarly north/south. An advertisement for selling the homestead, put in the Boston Gazette about May 1747,13 says the house was large, whereas the existing one is in the 1 1/2 story Cape Cod style. Mendon had plenty of 2 1/2 story houses at the time, so this wouldn't reasonably have been considered large. Confusing this is a story in a local history that puts the house in what became a field to the southeast of the Thurber house (which still stands a bit north of the junction mentioned above). I don't put a lot of credence in this, since it accompanies an oral history about a family event (which I, again, talk about later) that seems either embellished or changed in the way of a game of "telephone."





Thomas was active in Mendon town government.14 He was a selectman for many years between 1711 and 1739. He was also a tax assessor, town treasurer, town clerk, leather sealer. In 1721 he represented Mendon at the General Court of the Province, which would now be the State Legislature. He was given £10, 12 shillings from the town treasury for trips to and from Boston between 30 May and 21 July. He also served on committees on behalf of the town. He was chosen to help oversee distribution of funds loaned to the town by the King of England. He was on committees to find a new minister (1715) and the exploration of building a bridge over the “Great” River (1716). When he took over the town clerk position in 1718 from someone who died, he was one of several who met with the heirs of the former clerk and get the town records from them. He signed an agreement with the new schoolmaster on 17 March 1718. In 1728 he was on a committee to settle a disputed border area between Mendon and the new town of Uxbridge. John Farnum was on the committee for Uxbridge. His son Moses married Thomas's daughter Abigail.
     There was also considerable controversy over the location of a new meeting house, apparently those who lived nearest to the old one in what is now Milford wanted it repaired rather than a new one built. Men from various neighboring towns, who were deemed impartial, came to Mendon to help find a solution, and they were hosted for a night at Thomas’ house in late December 1729. The proposed meeting house was typical of the time: 50’ long, 45’ wide, 24’ high and “studded.” The church was begun despite a court order against it, and someone from the opposing group tried to cut down one of the corner posts. The dispute continued for many years. Thomas was on a committee to defend the town against a petition brought by Samuel Moore against the new location late in 1730. On 14 Dec 1740, spurred by the disagreement, people in what was known as the Mill River area of Mendon, where the old meeting house was, petitioned the General Court to be established as a separate precinct. Thomas was on a committee to form a letter opposing this. The petition was granted, the new precinct was called Milford, and it became an incorprated town in 1780.
     It's been generally assumed that Thomas moved from Mendon directly to West Medway to live with his daughter Christian Adams. There have been several of Thomas's life events missing in published accounts of him. On 28 May 1730 he bought land in Sutton, Massachusetts, that was probably a farm.15 He was "of Mendon" when he bought the land, but the Sanfords certainly moved there. He represented Sutton as a grand juryman in 1731.16 With the consent of Tabitha, he sold this property back to the man who sold it to him on 16 February 1731/32 ,17 and subsequent deeds show he was back in Mendon. He and his third wife Dorothy sold his Mendon homestead on 27 October 1748 and bought the house of James Sabin, Jr., in Rehoboth.18 The latter deed is undated. Thomas, now a yoeman rather than a cordwainer, was of Mendon. The deed was acknowledged by Sabin on 28 June 1749, but acknowledgements were often well after the deeds were made, so it's likely the sale was about the same time as the one in Mendon.
     The Sabin house was on the "country road" that crossed the "Great Plain." This was the oldest part of Rehoboth and later become the town of Seekonk. Thomas kept an inn there until 30 January 1753, when he sold it and moved to Attleborough.19 They moved to a 2 acre farm Thomas had bought in 1 December 1751. He and Dorothy sold it on 26 March 1756.20 I haven't located the Sabin property specifically, but Attleborough shares a border with Rehoboth/Seekonk. It may be that the properties were close enough that the Attleborough farm provided for the inn. Thomas was 80 in 1753, so it's not surprising he retired from active business. Thomas was living in Medway in 1760 when he wrote the deposition about Rawson's Farm. The record includes a postscript by Medway Justice of the Peace Jeremiah Adams (a distant cousin to Obadiah), who says "I the Subscriber when present with the above Sd Thomas Sanford in reading the above sd writen account of Sd line [this was a border dispute] and caused to relate the whole though an aged man very Senceably and with a great deal of reason relate Every perticuler in the above Declaration and discorseing with him on the land and many other things I found his memory wonderfull."21
     Given the sale of the Attleborough farm and his age, if not also hers, it was likely the Spring of 1756 that they moved to Medway. Christian Sanford and her husband Obadiah Adams had a house in the northern part of the West Medway neighborhood, and this would explain why he was buried in the old cemetery there, now a part of Evergreen Cemetery. Dorothy was likely elderly and apparently went with him.
     There's no record of Dorothy's death, and I've found nothing about her family origins. Circumstantial evidence makes Tabitha the daughter of Benjamin and Dorcas Clark of Medfield, born there on 10 December 1672. She was murdered on 12 September 1745. Contemporary records say the Sanford's "negro servant" (slave) Jeffrey had threatened her before he attacked her at dusk by one of the doors to the house. He grabbed a hatchet and struck her three times in the head and neck. Any of the wounds would have killed her eventually, but the second cut into her spine. Thomas heard the commotion and ran outside. Jeffrey threatened to kill him as well if he came at him, but Thomas did anyway and took the hatchet. Jeffrey ran away, and finding a cask of rum at a neighbor's house, drank himself delerious. He was found in that state and apprehended. He was taken to the county jail in Worcester, confessed, was tried and convicted there, and then hanged on the Worcester town common. More details are here. It's remarkable that Thomas declared his intentions to marry Dorothey about six weeks after Tabitha was killed.




children of Thomas Sanford and Christian:21

i. Elizabeth, b. 21 October 1693
ii. Sarah, b. 13 October1694
iii. Christian, b. abt. 1696 (m. Obadiah Adams of Medfield/Medway)
iv.. Bathsheba, b. abt. 16988/89
v. John, b. ca1703
vi. Abigail, b. ca1705





vital records sources: Thomas's birth is in the Boston town records. There are numerous transcriptions of the vital records. See "Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988," Boston, Births Baptisms Marriages Deaths, 1630-1699, ancestry.com, image 69 of original published page 128 of "City of Boston Report of the Record Commissioners," Document 130, 1883; also ibid, Boston, Births, Marriages and Death [sic]," image 52, from microfilm "Massachusetts Vital Records, Boston 1630-1849," comp. by Jay Mack Holbrook, 1985. His second marriage, with full information from the town records, is in "Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001," Norfolk, Medfield, BIrths, marriages, deaths 1651-1876," familysearch.org, image 144 of original mss pages of a vital records transcription volume made in 1850, married by Joseph Baxter. His third marriage isn't recorded, intentions are in ibid, "Worcester, Mendon, Births, marriages, deaths 1643-1835," image 77 of original mss vol. 1 of Mendon vital records (original records), both of Mendon. His death is in Vital records of Medway, Massachusetts, to the year 1850, (New England Historic Genealogical Society:Boston, 1905), 338, and on his gravestone, Evergreen (formerly known as West Medway) Cemetery, Deacon, in his 91st year.

1. Suffolk Co., MA, deed, 11:22.
2. Ibid, 20:88, 21:315.
3. George F. Partridge, History of the Town of Bellingham, Massachusetts, 1719-1919 (Bellingham, MA:1919), 60.
4. 3 Apr 1710, Suffolk Co., MA, deed, 25:202.
5. Ibid.
6. first selectman.
7. Suffolk Co., MA, deed, 36:34.
8. Ibid, 43:56.
9. Ibid, 29:247.
10. Duane Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, etc., vol. 1 (Philadelphia:1884), 144.
11. This date is in the overlap of the two calendars, and it was often written with a dual year for clarity. For instance, February on the Julian calendar was the 11th month, so 25 February 1713 would actually be 1714 on the Gregorian calendar, since that starts in January.
12. Worcester Co., MA, deed, 8:, describing a homestead bounding to the north of the Sanford's.
13. 19 May 1747, Boston Gazette, 4.
14. Annals of the Town of Mendon: selectman, p. 160-1. Other pages: 2 Mar 1713, selectman & assessor, p. 163; 1 Mar 1714, selectman, paid 6 sh for a “Jurney to Boston,” pp. 168-169; 7 Mar 1715, selectman., town clerk, p. 172; 28 Mar 1715, cttee to find a minister, p. 172; 5 Mar 1716, selectman, town clerk, town treasurer, cttee to see about the bridge over Great River, p. 173; 24 Feb 1716, agreement w/ minister signed by Thomas and others, p. 174-5; 4 Mar 1717, selectman, treasurer, p. 176; 24 Jan 1718, town clerk in place of Saml Read, dec., p. 177; 3 Mar 1718, selectman, town clerk. p. 178; 16 Feb 1719, moderator (apparently the first), p. 180; 25 May 1719, cttee to pet Gen Ct for compensation for loss of land from MA/RI boundary dispute, p. 182; 7 Mar 1720, leather sealer, 187; 21 Mar 1721, moderator, selectman, town clerk, p. 189; 17 May 1721, rep to Gen Ct, p. 189; 8 Sep 1721, props. mtg to discuss town debts and “rates” (taxes), p. 190; 26 Mar 1722, selectman, p. 192; 4 Mar 1726, selectman, p. 201; 6 Mar 1727, selectman, p. 202; 28 Aug 1727, ctte to decide line with Uxbridge, p. 205; 29 Nov 1728, moderator, p. 206; 4 Mar 1728, selectman, p. 206 (sig); 12 July 1728, cttee to meet w/ Uxbridge cttee regarding boundary, p. 208; 3 Mar 1729, selectman, p. 209 (sig); 29 Jan 1733, cttee on school funds, p. 225; 11 Feb 1735, town clerk, p. 227; 1 May 1736, town clerk, p. 230; 6 March 1738, town clerk, p. 232.
15. Worcester Co., MA, deed, 44:196.
16. History of Sutton, Massachusetts, from 1704 to 1876 (), 44. The records is transcribed as "Doct." Thomas. This may be a misreading of "Deac." (deacon), which was used in some Mendon records and his gravestone.
17. Worcester Co., MA, deed, 2:413.
18. Bristol Co., MA, deed, 35:504.
19. Ibid, 39:247, 41:213.
20. Ibid, 42:80.
21. this part of the record of Thomas's deposition isn't in print, but it's included in a history of the town at the Bellingham, MA, town website, visited Sept. 2021: https://www.bellinghamma.org/historical-commission/pages/chapter-1-beginning-2
22.

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