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Several years after Ebenezer Briggs died, his children under 14 were put under the gaurdianship of Thomas Briggs, very likely their uncle, and Elkanah Babbit. They were probably living in the household of their stepfather Pasco Chubb, but Ebenezer had real estate when he died, and guardians were usually appointed when real estate was divided among minor heirs. John, "second son" of Ebenezer, was given about 7 1/4 acres of his father's cultivated and wood land and the eastern room of the family's house. His mother was given the western room. This must have been a really small house, since estate divisions were usually detailed about shares of houses. Of his father's personal things he was given a cow and £4, 3 shillings worth of things not described. His oldest Ebenezer, as usual, got the best: his father's silver buttons with his monogram, a cow, his gun and his best clothes. When his real estate was divided among his heirs in Apr 1739, John was given a 3 1/2 acre part of the homestead, which was cultivated or "improved" land and a 3 3/4 acre wooded lot. Ebenezer got land but also the house, such as it was.
     John married Charity Hathway later in 1739. They moved from Dighton to nearby Berkley, Massachusetts, probably by the time first child Lydia was born in 1740, but there's some confusion about this move. When a town record was made of the births of the children, only Prudence, their second child, has a notation that she was born in Dighton, and this was after Berkley was separated from Dighton as a distinct town. Lydia was born in March 1740, supposedly in Berkley. Deed records, or the lack of, add to the confusion. The first recorded deed of land bought by John in Berkley was in April 1754, but he's described as already being "of Berkley" (and a "cordwainer," or shoemaker). The property was 15 acres, with no house or other buildings mentioned. He certainly had homestead land there, so the deed for it may not have been recorded. John's interest in his father's real estate was sold by October 1749, when brother Samuel mentions in another deed that he bought it. So sometime between April of 1739 and October of 1749 John sold his Dighton land and likely bought his land in Berkley, both apparently in unrecorded deeds.
     In 1792, John's will gave all his real and personal estate to be divided between John, Jr., and hathway, except that hathway was to get the house. In 1796, John and Charity gave their sons John and hathway each a half part of their Berkley homestead "for good considerations of us moving," which was a commonly used phrase probably meaning an arrangement that didn't involve money. It doesn't mean they moved. The most likely arrangement was that the parents wanted the sons to take care of them in old age. The 1800 census has John and hathway living next to each other, and John had a woman over 45 in his household. Since his second wife wasn't yet 45, this was likely Charity. hathway sold John his share of the homestead in 1801. It's possible both John and hathway were living in a blended household in their parents' house up to this time, although it would have been crowded. Both sons had families of their own. Descriptions of this property put it between Berkley village and the neighborhood of Miricks, near the Taunton border.
      John, Jr.,'s Revolutionary War pension file says that his father served for two months in the war, occupied by "taking down barracks at Winter Hill & moving them to Dorchester Heights."1 This was around the time of the Seige of Boston. He had signed up for four months but John, Jr., served the remaining two as his substitute. Being about 57, he was unusually old to go to war as a private. He might have over-estimated his abilities.
     The following is John's will. An inventory was ordered, but it either wasn't made or wasn't recorded:

In the name of God, amen, the first day of July in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and ninety two, John Briggs of Berkley, yoeman, being of a sound mind and memory, thanks be given unto God: therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testement, that is to say, principally and if not of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the earth , to be buried in decent Christian burial at the discretion of my executors, nothing doubting but at the general resserrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God, and as touching on the worldly estate where with it hath pleased God to bless me in this life, I give, demise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form

Imprimis, I give and bequeath to Charity my dearly beloved wife, the one half of the improvement of my dwelling house & the one half of the improvement of all my lands during her natural life as also all my houshold goods for the same term

Item, I give to my two sons John and hathway their heirs and assigns forever all my lands in Berkley or els where together with all my buildings, except my dwelling house, which I give wholly to my son hathway, the remainder to be equally divided between the afore said two sons John & hathway as also all my farming tools & wearing appearal to be divided between the said John & hathway in the same manner as my lands

Item, I give to my three sons Ebenezer, Richard & Joel six shillings each, to be paid them by my executor here after named in one year after my decease

Item, I give to my daughters Lydia, Prudence, Margaret, Rachel, Hannah & Jerusha all my indoor moveables & household furniture to be divided equally between my afore said daughters after the death of my wife

Item, I further give to my son John all my debts due by book notes or bond & all my stock of what name or nature whatsoever, and do likewise constitute him the said John my sole executor of this my last will and testement, he to pay all my just debts, legacies before named & funeral charges, and I do hereby utterly disavow, revoke and disanul all other wills & executors by me named, willed and bequeathed, ratified and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testement. In witness where of I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written

John Briggs

signed, sealed, published, pronounced and declared by the said John Briggs as his last will & testement in presents of the witnesses

Ebenr Paull
Samuel Tobey
Apollos Tobey

Augt 6 1799 approved

children of John Briggs and Charity Hathway:2

i. Lydia b. 19 March 1739/1740
ii. Prudence b. 29 May 1742 (in Dighton)
iii. Ebenezer b. 6 December 1744
iv. Richard b. 21 May 1746/1747
v. Margaret b. 2 March 1748/1749
vi. Rachel b. 5 May 1751
vii. John b. 31 August 1753
viii. Hannah b. 29 March 1756
ix. Joel b. 6 July 1758
x. Jerusha b. 23 February 1761
xi. Hathway/Hathaway b. 12 December 1763? (bap. 18 Mar 1764 - The Berkley town records say 12 Dec 1766. He said he was 75 in a July 1838 Revolutionary War pension file affidavit for his brother John, putting his birth in 1762 or 1763. Based on when his siblings were baptized, it's unlikely John and Charity waited well over a year to baptize him.)

sources for vital records: John and his siblings' gaurdianship paper very likely lists them in order of age, which is general practice in probate records, placing John's birth probably between 1716/1718. He was the oldest John Briggs of Berkley after 1764, necessitating a birth before John the 2nd, who was born in 1720. John's death is estimated from his will being probated 6 August 1799, Bristol County Probate (transcribed in vol. 36, p. 313 & 315, but records for this biography are taken from original probate papers, no file number assigned. An inventory was ordered, but none was found, original or transcribed, nor are there any administrator accounts). His marriage record is from the published Berkley vital records?

1. file #R1208.
2. Berkley vital records, The Mayflower Descendant. Prudence's birth appears in both the Berkley and Dighton records, but the Berkley record says she was born in Dighton, while her siblings presumably were all born in Berkley. Prudence may have been born at the house of her grandmother Comfort (Kings) Briggs Chubb, who, if still alive, was likely living in Dighton.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted