ancestral chart father index home

for a discussion of Thomas's parents and siblings
go to Mary Sprague's page

Thomas's signature from a 1697 petition by Freetown representatives

Thomas moved to Taunton by 18 June 1683, probably from Weymouth. See below for his likely Weymouth connection. On that day Thomas and Samuel Thresher, both of Taunton, bought 500 of the 700 acres that comprised the 18th lot of the Freeman's Purchase.1 In July that area was incorporated as the Town of Freetown. I find no record of them buying land or being in the Taunton area before this. On 24 June 1683 they sold land to Thomas Terrey, who already had land adjacent to them, but there's no description of it.2 It's tempting to think this was a mortgage, since on 29 November 1690, King and Thresher sold the property bought in 1683 to Terrey,3 but the deed reads as a quitclaim. His connection to Samuel Thresher, who was a Taunton native, is a mystery.
     Thomas was probably an original owner of land in the "South Purchase" of Taunton. The initial purchase was in 1672, and the final deed was on 18 March 1683/84. Thomas sold two pieces of land there on 25 March 1685.4 On 16 January 1689/90, King bought two pieces of land from John Hathaway, who was also part owner of the 18th lot mentioned above.5 These were two parcels on either side of Mill Brook, now known as Rattlesnake Brook. One to the east was thirty acres and the one on the west twenty, with access across the brook and on to Assonet Bay through Hathaway's land. None of these deeds help place the King's house, but it's likely they never lived there. Given that the land was surrounded by John Hathaway's property, Thomas wasn't adding to a homestead he already had there, but he certainly had a home somewhere in Freetown by then.
     The first mention I find of Thomas being settled in Freetown is in the Plymouth Colony General Court records. He's on the selectmen lists for 1685 and 1686.6 The town meeting and vital records of Freetown were chaotically recorded, with some missing in the first five years of the town's existence, at least. The first mention of Thomas I've found in the Freetown records is on 31 August 1688, when a list was presented of the rates residents should pay to repair the Assonet River bridge, which connected the town to Taunton and points west.7 Thomas King's was one of the highest, assessed at 3 shillings. He's on a list for paying the County tax the following October, although not relatively as high an amount as others.8 The first town record found of his serving an office was on 12 May 1690, when he was elected constable for the town.9 Sometime between this and 1695 he was elected a town surveyor.10
     Freetown was active in providing and provisioning soldiers during King William's War. Thomas is on a list of men contributing provisions for the local militia heading for what is now Maine, contributing a gun to Tarbo Carey on 16 July 1690 valued at £1, 7 shillings.11 John Hathaway gave a gun for John King to use of the same value. "The constable" was given 6 shillings for billeting John King, meaning he was reimbursed for lodging. This must be Thomas's son, born in 1671 and as a minor, living with his parents anyway. On 3 July there's a miscellaneous list of things given to the Town by Thomas. Some of them were people's "rates," or taxes, connected to his being constable.12 Among them were a pair of stockings and 2 yards of sack cloth. Other accounts show that the cloth was likely used to make a "snap sack," or backpack. Another tax assessement on 20 February 1690/91 puts Thomas back among the highest in town, although the purpose of this rate isn't obvious.13 On 17 February 1690/91, Thomas was again paid for billeting, although John wasn't named, and listed separately is John being given £2, 4 shillings for his service. Probably at the same meeting were Town accounts, including those for the militiamen. Tarbo Carey was given the stockings and sack cloth mentioned above, among other provisions. John King got a gun, presumably the one from John Hathaway, although the value is slightly different, also cloth for a snap sack, a hatchet and a pair of shoes. This is the last time John is mentioned. Another account dated 22 February 1690/91 says Thomas was to be reimbursed for more militia expenses including "for his truble aboute Cpt howdee."14 Capt . John Howdee of Acoaxet (once a part of Little Compton, now in the town of Westport) was a Sakonnet Native American and said to have served in King William's War, and may be the "Indian" soldier mentioned later.15 Samuel Gardiner, the Town Clerk, was also reimbursed for "billitting and carinig howdee." He's called Thomas, Sr., in an account of money owed by the Town for militia costs on 5 January 1692.16 More milita accounts on 13 July 1692 don't mention John King, but Thomas was paid for a hatchet, a horn and 8 days of billeting for Benjamin Hopping and for transporting an "Indian sowldar."17 Freetown billeted dozens of Native Americans and English who were on their way to Maine.
     Thomas was chosen either a petit or grand juror on 13 Apr 1697, 27 March 1699 and 7 September 1699.18 He returned to the selectman office and was also Town Clerk for the next year, elected on 29 March 1700.19 The following 19 August he was elected an assessor. Later that year he was one of two men chosen to meet with a committee in Taunton about the bridge.20 The last mention of Thomas in Freetown town records is on 28 March 1704, when he was again a grand juryman for the next year.21
     The Kings moved to out of Freetown about April 1709. While he was still living there, Thomas again bought a piece of land in the South Purchase, this one from Amos Briggs. This may have been an exchange of sorts, since at or near the same time, Thomas sold land to Amos in Freetown, likely his homestead, at least, since Amos made his home there. 22 On 5 October 1709 Amos was elected petit juryman in Freetown.23 By 1713, Thomas definitely had his home in the South Purchase, which was by then the town of Dighton, so he surely bought the land with the intent of settling there.
     Amos Briggs and his brothers had inherited land in the South Purchase from their father Jonathan, which was north of at least one of the lots King owned in the 1680s. These were very long and narrow pieces running east/west between what is now Williams Street on the west and the Segregansett River to the east. The Briggs lots were subdivided twice - once by a north/south division creating "upper" lots to the east and "lower" lots to the west. The other subdivision halved each of these sublots with east/west divisions. As the lots in the South Purchase were developed and in some cases sold out of the Briggs family, it becomes apparent from deeds that homesteads were created on both the upper and lower lots, but the only known road in the first third (about) of the 18th century was Williams Street. That allowed access to the far west ends of the lower lots, but the upper lots weren't bordered by any known road. What is now Center Street ran east/west through the South Purchase to the north of the Briggs land, but was separated from it by land owned by Matthew Gooding. Since it isn't plausible that the only access to the upper lots was the river, there must have been a right of way through the Gooding property and south along the boundary between the upper and lower lots. There eventually was a road there, now called Pine Street, but it doesn't seem to have followed the division line. My best guess is that the 59th and 58th lots passed through Pine Street in the vicinity of Rowland Street, but deed description are so poor and inconsistent that it would take a serious effort to sort out the myriad of small lots and transactions to pinpoint where the King homestead was.
     On 30 March 1713, the day on which James Savage claims Thomas died,24 he and Mary sold their Dighton homestead to their son-in-law John Alger.25 There was no provision for the Algers taking care of them in return, though, leaving it a mystery as to why they sold it. Since the Algers moved to Dighton from Tiverton at this time, it's reasonable to think this was the arrangement. On 23 April 1718/19, John Alger sold the property and the family moved to Rehoboth.26 On the same day, Thomas's widow Mary entered into an agreement with another son-in-law, Ebenezer Briggs (brother of Amos) in which she would pay him £50 for his homestead in return for him looking after her for the rest of her life.27 It may be a stretch to suggest that Thomas and Mary had an informal agreement with Alger to take care of them, and when Thomas died, Alger decided to back out of it, but it's plausible. Or they may have offered to take Mary with them to Rehoboth, but she didn't want to leave Dighton. In any case, she ended up living with the her daughter Comfort Briggs's family, who lived on a neighboring farm.
     Given the date of the 1713 deed, it's extremely unlikely Thomas died the same day. Savage says Thomas was born in 1643 and that the death date came from a gravestone and he was "ae 70 yrs." I haven't found any evidence to suggest a good circa date for Thomas's birth. There's a record of a possible sibling being born in 1641 and another before this if John and Mary King were his parents, so 1643 may have been a guess if Savage connected him with these parents, but he didn't. The supposed gravestone doesn't now exist, and I've found no other reference to it. Savage is the oldest source for any such information about Thomas, and all subsequent mention of him in print seems to be based on his work. Thomas left very little estate when he died, certainly no real estate, since it never went to probate, and it's rare to find heirs paying for the luxury of a gravestone when the maintenance of a widow was in question. In a later document, Mary said that £50 was "all she had in the world." I think Savage either got his information from a confused source or he himself confused information he had gathered. The 1713 deed is the last record of Thomas, so confusing it with his death is understandable if one is going to be confused, but the gravestone reference and the age at death may always be a conundrum.
     Thomas, Jr., claimed a right to part of the Dighton homestead by an unrecorded deed from his father in the "custodie" of William Sprague of Providence. He was his uncle, Mary (Sprague) King's brother. He sold this right to John Alger the same day as his father's deed.28 I've found no other reference to Thomas, Jr., and like his brother, he fades into the documentary ether. He, Comfort and Joanna, wife of John Alger, were the children of Thomas and Mary for whom there are no birth records. Their brother John and sister Mary, about whom I find nothing further, are recorded in Weymouth. Joanna is correctly identified as Thomas's daughter in an 1877 article in The New England Genealogical and Historical Register,29 but internet databases proliferate the error that she was the daughter of Thomas's brother Philip. Thomas and Mary have other children attached to them online without any reason given, none of which seem credible.
     As mentioned, Thomas had no estate to probate. Widow Mary had £50 to her name in February 1719, and her need to secure her future at that point probably means Thomas had recently died. While an educated guess says it was in the Winter of 1718-1719, it was certainly between 30 March 1713, the date of his last deed, and 23 February 1719. On the latter day (New Style date), Mary spent her £50 to buy the Briggs homestead.
     Thomas and Mary were certainly elderly in 1713, and Mary being infirm and having "£50 to her name" by 1719 suggests they weren't able to function well enough to sustain themselves. Given that Comfort and Ebenezer married several months after Thomas and Mary sold their farm to the Algers, and that Comfort was the youngest and only daughter not yet married (assuming her sister Mary had died long before), her leaving for Ebenezer's household may have prompted Thomas and Mary to seek support from the Algers, which was arranged before Comfort left the house. It would seem easier for Thomas and Mary to move to Ebenezer's house, but there's no evidence how large any of these houses were. Ebenezer was a young man who had settled on his lot several years before, and a small house can be imagined. Thomas may have built a bigger house when he moved to Dighton, big enough for himself, Mary and the Algers if they were willing to move.

Thomas and his likely family in Weymouth and Taunton

     There isn't documentary proof of Thomas's parents. It's been suggested that they were John, a mariner, and Mary of Weymouth, Massachusetts, apparently due to the Weymouth connection, but no more specific reasons have been given. I've found things that make the connection plausible aside from Thomas being there in 1670 and 1673, when his (presumed) children John and Mary were born. In particular, an Oath of Allegiance taken in 1678 and 1679 includes men of Weymouth.30 Kings on the list are John, Sr., and Jr., Thomas, Samuel, Philip and Hezekiah. Samuel and Philip are more commonly placed in John, Sr.'s, family, but they also lack proof of parents. Hezekiah is thought to have been John, Jr.'s, son. John, Sr., was the only King of is generation in Weymouth, so it's reasonable that they were all very closely related. Philip and Thomas moved to Taunton, Massachusetts, about the same time, which is significant, but moreso is that Thomas witnessed the first deed of Philip's when he bought land there on 20 July 1683.31 They are the only Kings with those names in Taunton for whom there are records as residents of at that time.

children of Thomas King and Mary Sprague:32

John, b. 29 August 1670
Mary, b. 12 June 1673
Comfort, b. abt 1687

vital records sources: The will of William Sprague of Hingham mentions his daughter Mary and her husband Thomas King. Suffolk Co., MA, probate 6:175 (p. 106 in original volume), 19 Oct 1675.

1. Bristol Co., MA, deed 2:355.
2. 2:356.
3. 2:357.
4. 2:62, lot 45 and a "small lot."
5. 3:14.
6. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, ed. Nathaniel Shurtleff, vol. 6 (Boston:1856), 168, 187.
7. Freetown, MA, town meeting record, 1:7 (LDS image 13).
8. Ibid, 8.
9. Ibid, 15.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid, 19.
12. Ibid, 20.
13. Ibid, 22.
14. Ibid, 25.
16. Freetown, MA, town meeting record, 1:25.
17. Ibid, 27.
18. Ibid, 37; Bristol Co. Court of Common Pleas vol. 1696-1702.
19. Ibid.
20. Ibid, 5 Aug.
21. Ibid, 42.
22. Bristol Co., MA, deeds 6:381, 7:73.
23. Freetown, MA, town meeting record, 1:47.
24. James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New Englandvol. 3 (Boston:1861), 26.
25. Bristol Co., MA, deed 8:115.
26. Ibid, 13:537. The date of the deed has a dual year (1718/19), which was often done to show the transition between the Julian and Gregorian calendars in Jan.-Mar. The day and month are in Julian mode.
27. Ibid, 15:264.
28. Ibid, 8:116.
29. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register vol. 31 (Boston:The New England Genealogical & Biographical Society:1877), 101.
30. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vol. 39 (Boston:The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1933), 947.
31. Bristol Co., MA, deed 1:17.
32. Vital records of Weymouth, Massachusetts, to the year 1850 (hereafter VRW), vol. 1 (Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1910), 161.

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