Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Infamous Nicholas Hart (1610-1654?)

Nicholas Hart, the first Hart of this line in America, and the first known Hart of this line--period, is my eight times great grandfather. He is currently one of my top five favourite ancestors, along with Herbert Charles Saunders, Emma Green Cook, Melvin J. Hart, and Captain Charles Wright. This is not only because he is the first known Hart of the line and I carry his surname, or because he was part of the first great wave of emigration to Colonial America in the early 1600’s, but also because he was a bit notorious. I am still researching him, but I will tell you what I know so far.

Where and when he was born and died is not certain. It is likely that he was born around 1610 in England. Where he was born has not been ascertained with certainty, but London and Devon are candidates. His father may have been named “Richard”. Nicholas’s name does not seem have been recorded as one of the passengers on the early ships of the “Great Migration”, but this is not unusual. We do know that he was married to Joanna Rossiter of Massachusetts, youngest daughter of Edward Rossiter, who was an assistant to the first governor of the colonies, John Winthrop. The Rossiters appear to have come from London, England. Whether Nicholas and Joanna were married before or after they came to America is not certain. They appear to have had only one child, Richard, likely born in America. Nicholas was a merchant living in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1642. He then moved to Boston in 1643 where he lived until 1648, and from there moved to Warwick, Rhode Island. He is known to have served in the colonial wars of 1643 as a soldier in Captain William Pool’s company. He appears to have died in Warwick in about 1654.

Nicholas was excommunicated from the Puritan Church in about 1642, and I have not yet discovered why. When I was still thinking that Nicholas’s son Richard had married the daughter of Sarah Dudley, daughter of Governor Thomas Dudley, I discovered some references to Nicholas Hart having attended Sarah’s excommunication in October 1647. (Sarah was not only the Governor’s daughter, but also the sister of the first published poet in America, Ann Bradstreet). I also discovered that she was accused of having had an affair with “a man from Taunton”, and I naturally wondered if this man could be Nicholas. I later did find some references flatly stating that the man was indeed Nicholas Hart, and that they had fallen into “scandalous, lewd, and odious unclean behaviour”. I wonder if Nicholas’s decision to move to Rhode Island from Boston was precipitated by the scandal. I look forward to doing further research into both excommunications, and hope to read the detailed accounts. (Sarah’s excommunication appears to have been recorded in the records of the First Church of Boston). I am sure we will never know if they were really heretics and adulterers. Sarah’s husband certainly believed she was unfaithful, according to the letters he wrote about her. He did admit that he had no evidence, however. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who knows anything further about Nicholas. 


John Hansen said...

So cool to find this blog. Nicholas Hart was my nine times great grandfather. I have a great geneology written by a great aunt back in the 1950s. Contact me if you want a copy.

Unknown said...

Great article! For the history of the Rossiters, see Meredith B. Colket, "Edward Rossiter, Colonist of Dorchester, Mass., and the Rossiter English Lineage", NEHGR 138 (1984), pp. 4-16.