John Hayden of Dorchester and Braintree,

Massachusetts Bay Colony

by William J. Dowell

Copyright 2002 William J. Dowell

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Again and again we read that Gideon Haydon and Margaret Davy of Cadhay House, Ottery St Mary, Devonshire, were the parents of John Hayden, the 1632 immigrant to Dorchester, Massachusetts.

However, tracing the origins of an early New England immigrant ancestor can be an extremely challenging exercise, not least because, in the past, genealogists have often reached firm conclusions based upon very inadequate evidence, such as a coincidence of names and dates. Frequently, New England settlers have been identified as members of gentry families in England, who were generally well documented. However, relatively few immigrants came from a gentry background; they were mostly tradesmen or yeomen. Thus the Gideon Haydon genealogy has gained wide acceptance among John Hayden's descendants in America, but without any proof beyond a coincidence of name and date.

On the other hand, there are two strong arguments against this genealogy. First, the Gideon Haydon family of Cadhay were adherents of the Church of England, and their sons, Gideon Haydon (1609-1680) and Nicholas Haydon (1620-1676), were ardent Royalists during the English Civil War, whereas our John Hayden was clearly a Puritan. Second, coinciding with John Hayden's arrival in Massachusetts is the presence there of William Hayden and James Hayden. There is the possibility that either or both of these men were brothers of John. In that case, however, it is unlikely that they were children of Gideon Haydon, because no record exists of a child named William born to Gideon and Margaret Haydon. Gideon and Margaret had a child named James, but this son died in infancy.1 Of course it is equally possible that these three were cousins, or even strangers, which would not necessarily upset the identification of John Hayden as the son of Gideon and Margaret Haydon of Cadhay.

The story of Cadhay House begins not with the Haydons but with another family. Cadhay dates back to Saxon times, when a thane called Cada held the land. Cadhay is derived from the Old English, meaning "Cada's enclosure," or land enclosed by a hedge (O.E. [ge]haeg or hege). The earliest documented title to Cadhay refers to the ownership of Thomas de Cadehaye in 1320. In 1322, John de Cadehaye granted the estate to his brother, Richard, and his heirs, "with all common pasture for his animals in all the moors and hills of Cadhay, and, also turbary and furze…."2 The Cadhay estate eventually passed to Joan de Cadhay, who married Hugh Grenville (or Grenefeld), and on the death of their son, Robert, the estate passed to his widow, Elyn. Her only daughter and heiress was Joanna, who married John Haydon of Ebford in 1527. Cadhay was included in Joanna's marriage settlement, and so passed into the Haydon family, which held it for two hundred years.

Joanna's husband was John Haydon of Ebford, near Topsham and Exeter, in Woodbury parish. He was the second son of Richard Haydon of Woodbury, who died in 1521. These Haydons were an old Devon family, descended from John Haydon de Boughwood in Harpford parish, who was living there in 1325. Boughwood is identified with the present village of Bowd near Ottery St. Mary; Bowd appears to be a corruption of Boughwood, or bow wood, from which bows were made for archery. John Haydon of Ebford became an eminent lawyer of Lincoln's Inn in London. After this he became sheriff and alderman of London. He obtained a charter from Henry VIII and incorporated the town of Ottery St. Mary, near Exeter, in Devon. There he lived with his wife, Joanna, at the medieval hall named Cadhay.

Tristram Risdon in his Survey of the County of Devon (1620) recorded that John Haydon "builded at Cadhay a fair new house and enlarged his demesne."3 The fine new Tudor mansion built by John Haydon was apparently erected on the site of the former medieval hall. John Haydon built it about 1550.

John Haydon became the first governor of Ottery St. Mary, and there he founded a grammar school, the King's School. Also in Ottery St. Mary is the famous Anglican Church of St. Mary, which was consecrated in 1259 and modeled on the great Norman Cathedral at Exeter. Bishop John Grandisson, who made it into a collegiate church, rebuilt it in 1338-42. In 1545, John Haydon was made one of the first four governors of the church; he built the church door, and the plate of the old iron ring on the great south door bears his initials and the date, "J.H. 1571." Above the door is the inscription,

He that no Il will do
Do nothing yt lang yto,
           Anno Domino 1571.
(He that does no ill, does nothing that belongs thereto.)

John Haydon left a will dated February 12, 1587/8, died in March 1587/8, and is buried beneath the north choir aisle in the Church of St. Mary. His wife Joanna died in 1592. They had no children.

Cadhay passed to John's great-nephew, Robert Haydon of Devon, son of Thomas Haydon, who also inherited several other family estates. Robert Haydon married Joan Paulet (Pawlet, Powlett), the eldest daughter of Sir Amyas Paulet, a zealous Puritan of Hinton St. George, near Merriott in Somerset. Sir Amyas Paulet had been Governor of Jersey, ambassador to France, and a privy councilor to Elizabeth I, and was custodian of Mary Queen of Scots during the three years leading to her execution in 1587. Robert Haydon died, and left Cadhay to his eldest son, Gideon.4 Gideon Haydon (born ca. 1587, Devon) married on June 18, 1603, to Margaret Davy, daughter of John Davy (or Davie) of Sandford, near Crediton in Devon, and Margaret Southcott. John Davy served three terms as the mayor of Exeter.

Gideon and Margaret Haydon had fifteen children. The names and christening dates of the children are recorded in the parish registers: Robert, bap. August 17, 1604; Johanna, bap. 1605; John, bap. November 2, 1606; Mary, bap. September 17, 1607; Margaret, bap. August 7, 1608; Gideon, bap. June 25, 1609; Thomas, bap. June 23, 1611; Frances, bap. September 1, 1612; George, bap. September 11, 1614; Dorothy, bap. May 9, 1616; Amias, bap. April 30, 1618; James, bap. May 17, 1619; Nicholas, bap. May 19, 1620; Elizabeth, bap. August 3, 1621; and Richard, bap. May 22, 1623. Gideon does not seem to have acquired the Puritanism of his grandfather, Sir Amyas Paulet, for, as already noted, the family were ardent Royalists during the Civil War and Restoration. Indeed, in 1649, Gideon's son, Nicholas, was fined the huge sum of 69 "for delinquency in adhering to the forces raised against Parliament." And in 1679, a Nicholas Haydon led a mob to break up Puritan meetings at Ottery St. Mary. And in 1681, one Gideon Haydon of Cadhay persecuted Puritans under the Clarendon Code, for their refusal to take communion according to the rites of the Church of England.5 Nevertheless, some researchers have concluded that we may be descended from Gideon and Margaret's third child, John, bap. November 2, 1606.

Gideon Haydon died in June 1634.6 His oldest son Robert Haydon was his heir.7 Cadhay was then briefly held by Robert, who died in November 12 of the same year.8 After the death of Robert, Cadhay passed to Robert's brother Gideon, John's next younger brother. Cadhay House is still standing, and is now the residence of the Powlett family.9

The Puritans' Great Migration began in 1630, and, until its close in 1640, brought 25,000 English Puritans to Massachusetts Bay Colony. A great fleet of ships containing one thousand settlers sailed in 1630. On March 20, 1630, they sailed from Plymouth, England, including the Mary and John, three hundred tons, Capt. Squib, master. William Hayden may have been a passenger on the Mary and John. It was the first ship of the 1630 fleet to arrive at Massachusetts Bay. The company was put ashore at Nantasket (Hull) on May 30, 1630. The settlers in this fleet founded the Massachusetts Bay towns of Dorchester, Boston, Charleston, Medford, Watertown, Roxbury, and Lynn. It is not known whether John Hayden was related to William Hayden, or whether John Hayden sailed with this fleet. There is no record of John Hayden sailing on the Mary and John.10

According to Kuhns, William Hayden was born in England about 1605, "coming from a family of first respectability."11 He became a freeman at Dorchester in 1634, moved to Windsor, Connecticut in 1640, and settled later at Killingworth, where he died September 17, 1669. He married first to a sister of Sarah, wife of Francis Stiles. Their three children were Daniel (born September 2, 1640, died March 22, 1712/3, married 1664 to Hannah Wilcockson, died 1722, daughter of William and Margaret Wilcockson), Nathaniel (born February 2, 1643/4, died 1706, married 1667 to Sarah, died 1717, daughter of John Parmelee of Guilford), and Mary (born June 6, 1648, married Judah Evarts of Guilford). William Hayden's first wife died in 1664, and he remarried in 1665 to Margaret, widow of William Wilcockson. He had no children by his second wife. He fought in the Pequot War in 1637. During the War he was credited with saving the life of Captain John Mason, leader of the colonial militia. Mason entered a wigwam and was attacked by several Indians. William Hayden, supposing some Englishmen might be in trouble inside the wigwam, entered through an opening, but fell over a dead Indian. William recovered himself just when an Indian was about to shoot Mason in the head with an arrow. William cut the bowstring with his sword. His sword is in the collection of the Historical Society of Hartford.12

There is a third Hayden, James, who settled in Charlestown, where he was admitted to the church in 1635, and admitted as a freeman March 9, 1636/7. He was a ferryman. His wife was Elizabeth, and their children were James (born December 13, 1637), John (born October 26, 1639), Ruhamah (born September 18, 1641), Elizabeth, Joshua, Mercy, and Thomas. An inventory was taken of his estate December 12, 1667, and filed by his wife, Elizabeth. There is no evidence that James Hayden was related to either William Hayden or John Hayden of Dorchester. Everything we know about James suggests that he was an ordinary Puritan tradesman, and not the scion of the gentry.13

John Hayden was shown as a proprietor of Dorchester, granted a sixteen-acre Great Lot on January 16, 1632/3, admitted as a freeman of Dorchester on May 14, 1634, admitted to the church at Dorchester, and married to Susanna Pullen, also around 1634. He was before the General Court "for entertaining a servant unlicensed," and his fine was remitted on June 6, 1639, because the offense "being done ignorantly."14 John received a grant of land in Braintree (now Randolph) in 1640, and he and Susanna moved from Dorchester to Braintree about 1640. The General Court assisted them financially, from 1647 to 1655, in the care of Joseph, a child "bereaved of his senses." They had seven children: John (born 1635, Dorchester, died May 1718), Samuel (died 1676), Joseph (died 1678), Jonathan (born May 1640, died 1718), Hannah (born April 1642, died July 1669), Ebenezer (born September 1645, died February 1718), and Nehemiah (born February 1648, died December-January 1717/18). Nehemiah Hayden is our ancestor.

The final proof on the question whether John Hayden, of Dorchester and Braintree, Massachusetts, is the same man as John Haydon, son of Gideon and Margaret Haydon of Cadhay, is to be found in the parish registers for Woodbury parish, Devon. According to the Woodbury parish registers, John Haydon, son of Gideon and Margaret Haydon of Cadhay, did not go to Massachusetts, but was married and buried in England.

As I have shown, our ancestor, John Hayden, was in Dorchester, Massachusetts at least as early as January 1633, and married Susanna Pullen in Massachusetts around 1634. Returning to John Haydon of Ottery St. Mary, Devon, we find a marriage for John Haydon to Eleanor Waringe in the nearby church at Woodbury, Devon, on November 26, 1634.15 This is almost certainly the son of Gideon Haydon, as Ebford in Woodbury parish had been the ancestral home of the Haydons since 1397.16 At least four generations of Haydons are buried at Woodbury, as far back as the burial records go.17 Of John Haydon's siblings, two were baptized at Ottery St. Mary and eight at Woodbury, suggesting that Ebford in Woodbury was the family's principal residence.18 Haydons continued to hold the property at Ebford until 1700.19 And the only John Haydon or Hayden baptized in Woodbury or Ottery St. Mary during the years 1595-1620 was John, son of Gideon, baptized at Ottery St. Mary on November 2, 1606.20 Children of John Haydon and Eleanor Waringe Haydon were baptized at Woodbury in 1638, 1642, and 1644.21

On July 12, 1658, John Haydon was buried at Woodbury.22 In 1676, Nicholas Haydon, younger brother of John Haydon, was also buried at Woodbury. He is expressly identified in the parish register as "son of Gideon Haydon of Cadhay."23 This shows the continued use of Woodbury by family members of that generation. It appears certain, therefore, that John Haydon, son of Gideon and Margaret Haydon of Cadhay, did not go to Massachusetts, but rather lies buried in Woodbury churchyard, Devon.


1 James Haydon, bap. May 17, 1619, Ottery St. Mary, bur. July 18, 1619, Ottery St. Mary. Ottery St. Mary Parish Register. For Gideon and Nicholas Haydon as Royalists, see John A. Whitham, Ottery St. Mary (Chichester, Sussex: Phillimore & Co. Ltd, 1984), 48-49, 88-89.
2 John A. Whitham, Ottery St. Mary, 86, 112. Turbary and furze was the right to dig peat and cut gorse for fuel on another man's land.
3 Quoted by John A. Whitham, Ottery St. Mary, 87.
4 J. L. Vivian, ed., Visitation of Devon, 1620.
5 Puritan meetings had been outlawed under the Conventicle Act of 1664. John A. Whitham, Ottery St. Mary, 48-49.
6 Ottery St. Mary Parish Register.
7 J. L. Vivian, ed., Visitation of Devon, 1620.
8 Ottery St. Mary Parish Register.
9 Cadhay is opened by the owners to the public each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in July and August, and on Sunday and Monday of the spring and summer bank holidays. For information contact Lady William-Powlett, Cadhay, Ottery St. Mary, Tel. (0404) 812432.
10 Maude Pinney Kuhns, The "Mary and John" (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1971), 5, places William Hayden on the Mary and John. Charles Edward Banks, The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968), 103, does not list any Haydens as passengers on the Mary and John. Banks does not identify any Haydens among the colonists of the Winthrop fleet. Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England 1620-1633 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995), identifies only one Hayden (John) as arriving prior to 1634.
11 Maude Pinney Kuhns, The "Mary and John," 41.
12 Maude Pinney Kuhns, The "Mary and John," 41, 42, 53, 185-187.
13 Charles Henry Pope, The Pioneers of Massachusetts (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969), 223.
14 Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, vol. 2, 892.
15 Woodbury Parish Register. William C. Hayden of Bandera, Texas, first developed this line of research. Email from William C. Hayden to the author, March 15, 1997.
16 Frederic Colby, Visitation of Devon, 1620 (1872). Original manuscript prepared by a royal agent who interviewed the gentry to establish their pedigrees and present family members. J. L. Vivian published another edition of 1620 Visitation in the 1880s. He annotated births, marriages, and burials from parish registers, which presumably he examined in the original.
17 J. L. Vivian, ed., Visitation of Devon, 1620.
18 Ibid.
19 Ursula W. Brighouse, Woodbury – A View from the Beacon.
20 Ottery St. Mary Parish Register. J. L. Vivian, ed., Visitation of Devon, 1620.
21 Woodbury Parish Register.
22 Ibid.
23 Ibid. J. L. Vivian, ed., Visitation of Devon, 1620.