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"John Briggs" was a common name in Taunton and the towns that were created from it. This resulted in designations as "Sr.," "Jr.," "the 1st," "2nd" and "3rd." Those designations changed as each died. John the 3rd would become John the 2nd when the older John died. And they weren't all related. As well as descendants of Clement Briggs, there was also a John Briggs who came to Taunton and had descendants named John in the area.
     On 5 March 1697/98, his brother Jonathan sold "John, Jr., of Taunton," a quarter of his purchase right in the old proprietary of Taunton. This John, described the same way, bought land from Mary Street in a part of Taunton that is now in the northern part of Berkley. This may have been in the "Old Prorietary" of Taunton, and thus connected to the right he bought from Jonathan. In neither case is his occupation given. Process of elimination makes it certain this was the same John who settled in what became the town of Berkley and died there in 1764. He had a daughter named Experience, not a common name, and presumably named for her grandmother, wife of Jonathan, Sr. In the deeds of 1698, he was probably called "junior" to distinguish him from the son of Richard Briggs born in 1672. There isn't a birth record for John, son of Jonathan, but with what little evidence there is for his age and that of his siblings, he surely was born in the 1670s, and plausibly after 1672. There is an erroneous birth date proposed for him on 13 April 1673, the origin of which wasn't found, but it's likely confused with the 13 February 1672 or 1673 birth of his cousin John. Taunton didn't used dual years in their records, and this date falls within the Julian/Gregorian calendar year overlap.
     The land John of this profile bought in Taunton was near adjoyneing to a place called...the Needles, which is in Taunton Great River, being on the eastward side of Taunton Great River...containing thirty acres, bounded on the westwardly end by said Needles or Great River & on the northward side by the lands of James Phillips that is from the midle of a smale creeke so called & so on a strait line from said river to the New Rhoad that leads from said Taunton to Rhoad Island, these bounds to be in all respects there as formerly layd out & possessed by my father Ffrances Street deceased and bounded on the eastwardly end by the said rhoad & on the southwardly by the lands of Israel Thresher...containeing thirty acres more or less.1 The deed is dated 15 June 1698. "The Needles" was a geographical feature at the bend of Taunton River north of Town Landing Road. The "New Road" was likely what is now Berkley Street.
     This established John in a part of Taunton that became Dighton in 1712 and Berkley in 1735. One could be from "Taunton" in 1699 and without moving, eventually find themselves in the towns of Dighton, Norton, Berkley, or Swansea. Where in Taunton John lived before 1699 isn't apparent. When Berkley was created, John was on the list of residents and founders. He was also among the founders of the Congregational Church there on 2 November 1737, but not Abigail.2 Explaining the creation of the new parish, it was stated that "They would now have no such lengths to go to wander far abroad" to attend church. Dighton was split in the middle by the Taunton River - the church was on the west side, but John and his family were on the east and would no longer have to cross the river to worship. When the meeting house was being built, men who were able carted timber to the site. John was paid for a day's work, which varied among the men between part of a day and three days.3 In March 1740 he was elected a tythingman.4 In 1741 he sold the north half of his homestead to his son John, who had just turned 21.5
     On 18 November 1690, it was ordered that John's father's estate be divided among his heirs.6 John's eldest brother Jonathan, Jr., was given the family house, home lot, accompanying meadow and other real estate, but the remaining lands weren't divided among his other sons. This wasn't done until brother Benjamin petitioned the court on 18 March 1707/8. The final division was made on 4 May 1709. John was given a piece of land in Taunton's "North Purchase," which became the town of Norton, but I've found no record of him selling the land.

The following documents are in his probate file:

In the name of God amen, I John Briggs ye first of that name of Berkley in ye County of Bristol in ye Province of Massachusetts in New England yoman - being of a sound and disposing mind and memory thanks be given to God then calling to mind ye mortallity of this body and knowing that it is appointed for men once to dye and having a mind to set and setle my estate in order before I die do make this to be my last will and testament. My soul I commit to God in Christ Jesus my saviour and onely redeemer, my body to ye earth by deasent burial at ye discreation of my executor hear after named ye worly estate that God hath lent me dispose of as followeth hereby making al other will or wills by me formerly mad and allowing this alone to be my last will and testament

Imprimis I give unto my loveing wife Abigail Briggs ye use and improvement of all my lands I am lawfully seized and possessed of during her natural life with ye improvement of all that part of ye building standing there on which I am lawfully seized of to gather with all my moveable estate of what kind or nature so ever: in particular all my cash that I may have by me at ye time of my decease and my will and meaning is that what moveables that may remain if any there be undisposed of at ye time of ye decease of my widdow shall be equally divided between my five daughters hear after named or to their legal representatives onely I would have my meaning and disposition of my moveable estate to my wife as above mentioned; not to include my wareing apparrel but intend to dispose of my wareing apparrel as hear after I shall express in this my will; my will and meaning is my widow shall not make any strip or waste of ye wood or timber standing on my aforesd homestead nor use any more there of then what she may want to burn to make her fires and to make or repair her fences; these bequests being given my widow in right of her dowry.

I Tem I give unto my son Israel Briggs ye sum of thirteen pounds six shillings and eight pence lawfull money in addition to what I have allrady given him to be paid as I shall hear after determine in this my will. My will and meaning is that not withstanding my sd son Israel may have given an acquittance to acquit himself or his heirs from all or from any part of my estate yet not withstanding I order and appoint my executor hear after to be named to pay ye sum as above mentioned to my sd son Israel as I shall hear after more particularly describe or to his legal representatives. Likewise I give my sd son Israel one half of my wareing apparrel.

I Tem I give unto my son John Briggs his heirs and assigns for ever all my homestead lands that now remaines undisposed of lying on both sides of ye country road and of which I am now lawfully seized and possessed likewise my quarter share in ye burnt ground so called in ye old propriatry in Taunton to gather with my quarter share of a purches right in ye propriatry aforesd with ye land now due to said quarter share or that may be come due upon futer divition or divitions I give my sd son John his heirs and assigns forever and my will and meaning is my sd son John shall not come into ye possetion of my land as above mentioned which lies over westerly side of ye aforesd country road nor my part of ye buildings there on untill after ye decease of my widdow. I likewise confirm what I have convaid to my sd son John by deed; and to his heirs and assigns for ever. Likewise ye one half of my wareing apparrell I give to my sd son John

I Tem I given unto my daughter Sarah Tew wife of John Tew Ye sum of twenty shillings lawfull money in addition to what she has allrady recd. to be paid I shall hear after order in this my will

I Tem I give my daughter Abigail Babbit wife of Josiah Babbit ye sum of twenty shillings lawfull money in addition to what she has recd. allrady to be paid to her as I shall appoint in this my will

I Tem I give unto my daughter Thankful Baker widdow ye sum of twenty shillings lawfull money in addition to what she has recd allrady to be paid to her as I shall appoint in this my will

I Tem I give unto my daughter Experience Paull wife of Christopher Paull ye sum of twenty shillings lawfull money in addition to what she has recd and to be paid to her as I shall appoint in this my will

I Tem I give unto my daughter Margaret Pool wife of Ebenezer Pool ye sum of twenty shillings lawfull money in addition to what she has allrady recd and to be paid to her as I shall hear after determine in this my will. I allso confirm ye land convaid by deed to my daughter Margaret and her late husband Ebenezer Reding late deceased and to their heirs and assigns for ever.

I order and appoint my sd son John to pay ye legacy given to my sd don Israel or to his legal representatives and ye legacies given to my sd five daughters each ye sum as above mentioned or to their legal heirs all in one years time after my decease

Lastly I appoint my sd son John soule executor of this my last will and testament he to pay all my just debts and funeral charge

In testiony hear of I ye sd John Briggs have hear unto set my hand and seal this second day of July and thirtieth year of his majesties reign King George ye second over Great Britain anno que domini one thousand seven hundred and fifty six signed sealed published and pronounced and declared by ye sd John Briggs to be his last will and testament

John [x] Briggs

Nathan Briggs
John Crane
Lemuel Crane

proved May 1st 1764

Apparenly there was no inventory of John's real estate, which was extremely unusual. The following is an inventory of his personal estate:

A true inventory of all and singular ye goods and chattels and credits of Mr. John Briggs late of Berkley in ye County of Bristol deceased which he died seized of shewn to us ye subscribers and prized by us ye 29th day of June AD 1764

Imprimis to one hat 1 s [shilling] =6 d [pence] one great coat 3 s one jacket 2 s two old shirts 3 s --- 0 l [pound]=9 s=6 d
this being one half of ye apparel the other half being delivered to Israel Briggs ye eldest son and of equal value to ye other half ---- 0=9=6
to cash du to ye estate ----- 2=9=4
bed [lining i.e. linens] and fethers 1 l=10 s two under beds 9 ----- 1=19=0
one coverled 10 s two sheets 9 s ---- 0=19=0
one blanket 1 s bedstead and coard 2 s four flannel blankets 8 s two sheets 10 s ---- 1=1=0
five sheets 1 l=4 s two table cloaths two pillow cases 5 s ---- 1=9=0
one coverled 12 s two bolsters and pillows 9 s coard 3 s ----- 1=4=0
old lumber 1 s great wheel7 5 s ----- 0=6=0
one warming pan 12 s one brass kittle 18 s skillet 5 s ---- 1=15=0
two iron potts two old small kittles one skillet 13 s --- 0=13=0
one old sword 1 s=6 d tongs and shovel 9 s trammel 5 s candlestick 8 d ---- 0=16=2
part of a draft chaine8 2 s=6 d whippletree chain9 2 s=6 d cops 1 s=6 d --- 0=6=6
one auger 1 s=6 d old iron 1 s cow bell 3 s ------ 0=5=6
three puter platters 12 s five plates 6 s great bason 2 s=6 d old puter 3 s=6 d ---- 1=4=0
earthen ware 4 s glas bottles 3 s other glasses 2 s ----- 0=9=0
poudering tub10 5 s poudering tub 6 s two pailes and butter tub 2 s=6 d old tub 1 s --- 0=14=6
old chest in ye chamber 6 s chest in ye lower room 8 s old chest 5 s and old box 2 s ---- 1=1=0
one can and mortar 1 s basket 2 s old table 1 s three old chares 2 s=6d ---- 0=6=6
one cow 4 l=10 s ---- 4=10=0

Being all ye personal estate presented to our view and prized by us ye day and year above said according to ye best of our judgment as witness our hands ye day and year above said

David Briggs
Ebenr Phillips
John Crane

John's wife as of 1720 and after was Abigail. I've not found a reference to her before this, so it isn't obvious she was the mother of all his children. If his daughters were born in order of how they're mentioned in his will, which is very likely, there was a wide gap between Experience, born about 1709, and Margaret, who was probably born about 1715. This suggests Abigail wasn't his first wife, but if she was born about 1675, married about 1697 and had all his children, John was born when she was at the end of the usual period of a woman's fertility.

children of John Briggs and maybe Abigail:

Sarah (supp. b. December 1699, no credible source found)
Israel, b. abt 1702-3 (from death record)
Experience, b. abt 1709 (supp. 6 November 1709, no credible source found, may be a corruption of her death date), d. 26 Nov 1791, in her 83rd year (meaning she was 82)
Margaret, abt. 1716

child of John Briggs and Abigail:

John, b. 16 May 1720 (not 7 May 1719) (Dighton town records)

sources for vital records: The death date is for a John Briggs taken from the published Berkley vital records. Although no age is given, he is called John Briggs "the aged." He was the only man of that name known to be a Berkley resident who could be considered "aged" in 1764, and probate activity for John "the 1st" begins soon after.

1. Bristol Co., MA, deed, 3:460.
2. Congo church formation
3. p. 28, image 21 23 May 1738.
4. 10 March 1739/40, 33 24.
5. 15 June 1741 38:98.
6. estate division
7. spinning wheel
8. draft refers to using horses or oxen for labor and attached to equipment
9. the whipple or whiffletree is part of draft equipment carried by horses or oxen by which chains or straps can be attached, usually to wagons.
10. a kind of clasp used with a pin.
11. tub used for salting meat.
12. taken from his will.

all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted