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Jonathan Dunham of Plymouth

A Short Biographical Profile

by Timothy Mayfield

University of Virginia, USEM 171, Spring 1997


Jonathan Dunham arrived in Plymouth from Leiden, Holland, with his parents John Dunham, Sr. and Abigail Barlow in 1632. He was about seven years old. There is no record of his returning to Europe.


He was the fifth child of John Dunham. Based on the date which he first appeared on a voters list (1646) he was born around 1625. He married Mary Delano in 1655 and Mary Cobb in 1657. There is no record of the death of Mary Delano or a divorce. Divorce was probably a lot less likely because that would certainly have appeared in the court record whereas the death of a woman was not so noteworthy in that time period. There is no record of his having any children.

Public Life

No occupation is ever mentioned in the Plymouth Colony Records. He could have possibly been a weaver like his father. We know that he had many acres of land. It is likely that this land would have been used for grazing sheep. He was a deputy for the town of Middleborough for three years, 1673-1675, which suggests that he was respected in his community. This is in fact the last mention of him. There is no record of his life or death after his listing as a deputy in 1675. No record has been traced to indicate that Jonathan Dunham left a will, nor was his estate inventoried for probate purposes.

There is no record of his employing any servants.

There is very little record of anything surrounding the life of Jonathan Dunham. This could mean that he lived out of the public eye. He was never sued for anything or made to stand trial or fined. From the records we have available he appears to have been a fine upstanding citizen.

Primary Source References

1625. No Specific Date. Anderson 1995, I: 599. The approximate date on which Jonathan Dunham was born.

1632. No Specific Date. Anderson 1995, I: 599. Migration from Holland to Plymouth Colony.

29 November 1655. PCR 8:17. Married Mary Delano.

3 June 1657. PCR 3:17. Admitted a freeman at the annual court of election.

1658. No Specific Date. PCR 7:197. Listed as a freemen from Plymouth.

7 June 1659. General Court of Election. PCR 3:162. Jury member at the Grand Inquest. There were a great number of cases most of which were land grants. A case that stood out was Richard French who was accused of bodily uncleanness. He was ordered to pay for the child if it appeared to be his.

5 March 1662. General Court. PCR 7:102. He was on a jury at a case where the executers of the estate of Mistress Sarah Jennings accused Constant Southworth of disposing of a mare that they claimed belonged to the heirs of Sarah Jennings.

1 March 1664. PCR 8:115. On a jury that heard several cases involving John Barnes accusing William Newlands daughter of being pregnant. He accused her of having "layed it to three men." Barnes later retracted this statement and issued a written apology.

7 June 1665. General Court of Election. PCR 4:95. Granted 30 acres in the Majors Purchase.

1 August 1665. PCR 4:104. Owed the court 6:13:04. This was a share in a bail-bond of 20 for his older brother John, Jr who was fined for abusing his wife.

11 August 1670. PCR 5:48. Land on southwesterly side of his property granted to John Morton.

5 June 1671. PCR 5:56. He was a jury member at the Grand Inquest. Two interesting laws were made at this meeting. A law was made against selling powder and shot to Indians. Another was made so that ordinary keepers could be fined for not turning in names of drunken individuals in their ordinaries. "It is further ordered by this Court, yt some two or three men be appointed in every jurisdiction to have the inspection of the ordinaries or in any other place suspected to take notice of such abuses as may arise in reference to the pmises or otherwise, and make report therof to the Court." Jonathan Dunham was appointed from Middleborough. The boundaries to his land in the Majors Purchase were set.

4 March 1673. PCR 8:174. Dunham was on a jury which heard a case where Joseph Bartlett accused James Clarke of stealing hay from his meadow. "The jury find for the defendant."

15 September 1673. PCR 5:135. Served as Deputy from Middleborough.

3 June 1674. PCR 5:144. Appointed Deputy from Middleborough.

1 June 1675. PCR 5:165. Appointed Deputy from Middleborough.

Jonathan Dunham: His Network of Relationships

Cobb, Mary: His second wife. Married in 1657.

Delano, Mary: His first wife. Married 29 November 1655.

Dunham, John Sr.: His father.

Dunham, John, Jr.: His half brother. It was his oldest sibling. He posted bond for him when he was John was jailed for beating his wife.

Morton, John: Land on southwesterly side of his property granted to John. 11 August 1670.


Primary Sources

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England [PCR]. 1855-61. Ed. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer. New York: AMS Press, 1968.

Secondary Sources

Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633. Great Migration Study Project (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995). 3v.