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John Dunham, Senior of Plymouth

A Short Biographical Profile

by Timothy Mayfield

University of Virginia, USEM 171, Spring 1997

Migration to Plymouth

John Dunham (Dunhame) arrived in Plymouth from Leiden, Holland in 1632 with six children and his wife Abigail. There is no record of his ever returning to Europe.


John Dunham arrived in Plymouth with his second wife Abigail Barlow and six children. He fathered three children with his first wife Susanna Keno. His three children by her were John (b. 1616), Humility (b. 1618), and Thomas (b. 1619). Of these John and Thomas came to Plymouth. There was no further record of Humility after Holland. She either died or did not accompany her parents to the New World. He and Abigail had four children together before arriving in Plymouth. They were Samuel (b. 1623), Jonathan (b. 1625), Abigail (b. 1627), and Joseph (b. 1631). He had four more children while living in Plymouth. Hannah (b. 1634), Persis (b. 1635), Benajah (b. 1637) and Daniel (b. 1639). The fact that he had children and grandchildren named John and Jonathan made research confusing at times.

Job and Country

John Dunham was a weaver by trade. He had land for grazing cattle and sheep. On the inventory that was taken when he died a loom and weaving equipment was listed as well as cotton, sheep wool, and linen yarn. He was granted land several times by the town of Plymouth for grazing sheep. He was deputy from Plymouth for many years and served on law making committees. This indicates that he was a least moderately educated. Although he signed documents with a mark, books were listed in his inventory. These books were religious in nature. At the entry that marked his death in the court records, Dunham is referred to as a "deacon of the church of Christ att Plymouth." He was an important man.

Primary Source References

1632 No Specific Date. Anderson 1995, 599-603

Migration from Holland to Plymouth Colony.

1633. No Specific Date. PCR 1:3 Included on list of freemen in Plymouth

25 March 1633. PCR 1:10

Taxed nine shillings. This was an average amount.

1634 27 March 1634. PCR 1:27

Taxed nine shillings.

1 October 1634. PCR 1:31

The court determined that he should enter into a trade partnership.

1636 14 March 1636.PCR . 1:40 .

Granted land: "That Joh. Dunham have for the sheepe the watering place & the skirt of vpland at Goose Point & about the first & second brooke." .

7 June 1636. PCR 1:42

Served on a jury that found Helin Bellington guilty of slander and determined that she should be whipped in the stocks. Stephen Hopkins found guilty of battery of John Tisdale and was fined.

7 November 1636.PCR 1:46

Land next to John Dunham's granted to John Wood, Rich Sparrow, Sam Eady, Web Addy, Josiah Cooke, Thomas Atkinson, and Josuah Pratt.

1637 7 March 1637. PCR 1:52

Appears on list of freemen.

20 March 1637 PCR 1:54

Served on Grand Inquest

20 March 1637. PCR 1:56/12:27

Granted land: "To John Dunhame, for the sheepe, the hey ground hee had the last yeare, and what more can be spared at Goose Poynt."

1638 5 March 1638. PCR 1:78

Land on west side of John Dunham's property granted to William Pontus.

2 April 1638. PCR 1:82

Property bordering John Dunham's is granted to Gabriell Fallowell

5 June 1638. PCR 1:87

At a Grand Enquest John Dunham was on the jury, at this trial Web Adey was found guilty of working on the Sabbath and sentenced to sit in the stocks. John Stockbridge was fined for making disgraceful speeches in contempt of the government. William Renolds was fined for drunkenness.

1639 16 May 1639. PCR 1:121

"...the townsmen of Plymouth mett, & according to the order & act of the Court, elected foure comittees to bee added to the Gor & Counsell to make lawes, & c', vizt, Mr John Done, Manasseth Kempton, John Dhname, & John Cooke, Jun."

This is when he was first made deputy.

4 June 1639. PCR 1:126

Listed as Deputy from Plymouth.

1640 6 January 1640. PCR 1:138

Witness for a land exchange

1 June 1640. PCR 1:154

Made deputy again.

5 October 1640. PCR 1:163

He is granted a parcel of land lying at the head of his lot and to the highway southeast and bordering William Pontus' land on the northwest

1641 1 February 1641.PCR 2:7

The government commissioned a highway to be built from the meadows of John Dunham and William Pontus.

2 March 1641. PCR 7:19

He was on a jury. There were no exceptional cases.

1 June 1641. PCR 2:16

Dunham was on the grand inquest jury at the annual election. At this meeting new officers and freemen were sworn in. There were three pages of typical civil cases.

16 September 1641. PCR 2:26

"John Dunhame, the elder, is graunted threescore acres of vpland lying at the Swann Holt on the north side thereof, and eight acres of meddow toyt there."

31 December 1641. PCR 2:30

"John Dunhame is granted a pcell of meddow at Swanholt, and some vpland to yt, at the discretion of those that shalbe appoynted to view yt."

1642 4 January 1642. PCR 2:32

John Dunhame is appointed with William Paddy, Mr Atwood, Nathan Souther, Mr. John Jenney, Thomas Willett, John Barnes and Josuah Pratt to survey the land so that paths into the woods can be constructed for cattle and other purposes.

1 March 1642. PCR 2:34

He was on a grand jury that deliberated on three pages worth of typical civil cases.

27 September 1642. PCR 2:45

He represented Plymouth as Deputy at a council that discussed the war with the Indians.

1643 6 March 1643. PCR 2:53

He represented Plymouth as Deputy at a civil court.

6 June 1643. PCR 2:56

Jury member. There were several interesting cases. John Walker was asked to appear at the next court to answer a charge of "lying with a bitch." William Halloway was asked to appear to answer about charges about eating stolen vegetables. It was ordered that "The first Tewsday in July the matrats meete, and eich towne are to send such menes they shall think fitt to joyne with them to consult about a course to saueguard ourselves from surprisall by an enemie."

10 October 1643. PCR 2:63

Deputy from Plymouth.

1644 5 June 1644. PCR 2:72

Appointed as Deputy again.

20 August 1644. PCR 2:74

Deputy from Plymouth

1645 3 March 1645. PCR 2:82

"It is ordered, that Mr. Miles Standish, Mr John Done, & John Dunhame shall take the account of Mr Thomas Prence for his treasureship of his receipts and payment, and certefye the Court thereof."

July 1645 PCR 12:110

Land bought from Edmond Tilson. This entry was crossed out and there was no explanation.

20 October 1645. PCR 2:94

At court of election made deputy from Plymouth

1646 7 July 1646. PCR 2:104

Deputy from Plymouth

Fined for absence as Deputy.

1647 19 January 1647 . PCR 12:149

He granted six acres of land to his son Samuel Dunham . . He also granted land to James Glassie ..

1 June 1647. PCR 2:117

Made deputy again.

1648 7 June 1648. PCR 2:124

He was on a jury that heard a huge amount of cases (six pages). None of these were particularly interesting or noteworthy.

4 October 1648. PCR 2:134

At a grand inquest he was on a coroners jury for the execution of Allice Bishope who was found guilty of killing her daughter Martha. They found that she was "true hanged."

1649 8 June 1649. PCR 2:144

Made deputy for Plymouth

25 October 1649. PCR 2:145

He was on a committee which was ordered by the court to zone Aquetnet Island and dispense the land.

1650 18 February 1650. PCR 12:203 .

. His son Samuel Dunham . sells John Dunhame his house and land. .

4 June 1650. PCR 2:154

Made deputy for Plymouth

5 June 1650PCR 11:56

He was on a committee appointed by the court for the purpose of reviewing certain laws. At two later dates this committee was referred to. Their minds remained unaltered.

1652 3 June 1652.PCR 3:8

Made deputy for Plymouth.

3 September 1652. PCR 3:16

He was on a coroners jury that determined James Glasse was sailing and driven to shore in his boat during a storm. He was thrown overboard and drowned. His body washed up and they found no other wounds.

1653 1 March 1653. PCR 7:64

Jury and review.

7 June 1653. PCR 3:31

At the court of election he is once again elected deputy from Plymouth.

6 December 1653. PCR 7:64

Was a member of a jury.

1654 6 June 1654. PCR 3:49

Made deputy

3 October 1654. PCR 7:72

Was a member of a jury.

1655 8 June 1655. PCR 3:79

Made deputy

4 October 1655. PCR 7:75

Was a member of a jury.

1656 5 March 1656. PCR 7:77 .

. Was a member of a jury. .


3 June 1656. PCR 3:99

Made deputy.

5 October 1656. PCR 7:81

Was a member of a jury.

1658 2 March 1658. PCR 3:129

John Dunhame was a jury member for a court with many interesting cases. Arthur Howland was fined for holding Quaker meetings in his house. John Barnes was fined for drunkenness. Zoeth Howland was sentenced to sit in the stocks for an hour for "speaking opprobriously of the ministers of Gods word. Crowd fined for tumultuous carriage. Captain James Cudworth was discharged for being a Quaker.

1 June 1658. PCR 3:142

Appointed by the court to set range between Nathaniel Warren and Robert Bartlett on the lands on which they live.

16593 May 1659. PCR 7:93

Was a member of a jury.

7 June 1659. PCR 3:162

Made deputy from Plymouth.

2 August 1659. PCR 3:169

Appointed to settle controversy on boundary of land between Thomas Pope and William Shirtlife. John Howland and Francis Cooke were also on this committee.

6 December 1659. PCR 3:179

"Att this Court, John Dunham, Senir, and Henry Wood, in the behalf of themselves and others, complained of injustice in the proceedings of the rators for publicke charges for the towne of Plymouth; but because none of the said rators appeered to answare for themselves, the Court apointed Mr Southworth and Mr William Bradford to treat with them about the pmises, and to issue the said difference and put and end if it may bee, to the said greivance."

1660 6 June 1660. PCR 3:187

Appointed Deputy from Plymouth.

7 August 1660. PCR 3:198

Deputy at a court case.

1661 5 March 1661. PCR 3:210

Owed the King 10

4 June 1661. PCR 3:214

Made deputy from Plymouth.

1662 3 June 1662. PCR 4:14

Made deputy from Plymouth

1664 8 June 1664. PCR 4:60

Made deputy from Plymouth for the last time. He was 75 years old.

1668 2 March 1668. PCR 8:32

John Dunhame died. He was about 80 years old. An inventory was taken. The inventory itself is on the following pages.

1669 No Specific Date. PCR 8:32

"John Dunham, Senir, of Plymouth, aged about fourscore yeares, died the 2cond of March, 1668. Hee was an approved servant of God, and a vsefull man in his place, being a deacon of the church of Christ att Plymouth." This is a much longer statement then usually accompanies the lists of deaths in this book. This suggests that he was in some way more significant than average.

1 June 1669. PCR 5:22

"...tres of administration granted vnto Abigall Dunham, Senir, widdow, to adminnester on the estate of John Dunham, Senir, deceased."

John Dunham: His Network of Relationships


Addy, WebLand next to Dunham's granted to him 7 November 1636

Atwood, Mr. Appointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Barnes, JohnAppointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Cooke, John Jr. Served as Deputy with Dunham beginning 6 May 1639

Cooke, JosiahLand next to Dunham's granted to him. 7 November 1636

Done, JohnServed as Deputy with Dunham beginning 6 May 1639

Ordered to take the account of Thomas Prence with Dunham. 3 March 1645

Dunham, SamuelHis son. John Dunham granted six acres of land to him. 19 January 1647

Sells his father back this land as well as his house. 18 February 1650

Eady, SamLand next to Dunham's granted to him 7 November 1636

Fallowell, GabriellLand bordering Dunham's granted to him. 2 April 1638

Glassie, JamesDunham granted land to him. 19 January 1647

Dunham was on the coroners inquest that determined Glassie drowned when his boat capsized. 3 September 1652

Jenny, JohnAppointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Kempton, ManassethServed as Deputy with Dunham beginning 6 May 1639

Paddy, WilliamAppointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Pontus, WilliamLand on west side of John Dunham's property granted to him. 5 March 1637.

Pratt, Josuah Land next to Dunham's granted to him. 7 November 1636

Appointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Prence, ThomasDunham, Standish, and Done were appointed to take account of his treasureship.

Souther, NathanAppointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Sparrow, RichLand next to Dunham's granted to him. 7 November 1636

Standish, MilesOrdered to take the account of Thomas Prence with Dunham. 3 March 1645

Willet, ThomasAppointed on committee to survey land with Dunham. 4 January 1642

Wood, JohnLand next to Dunham's granted to him. 7 November 1636

Wood, HenryComplained with Dunham about injustice in the proceeding of the raters for public charges.


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.

Davis, William T. Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth. (Boston: Williams, 1883). In two parts. Part I: Historical Sketch and Titles of Estates. Part II: Genealogical Register of Plymouth Families.