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Those Four Early Children of Matthias3 St. John:
A Solution and a Challenge

 Matthias II ---
 Matthias III and Rachel Bouton
 Corrected List of Children
 End Notes
 Copyright Notice


Matthias3 St. John was the first person bearing that name to have been born in Norwalk, Fairfield County, Connecticut, say about 1667.[1] His grandfather, Matthias1, had been born in England, and lived at Dorchester, Massachusetts and Windsor, Connecticut before moving to Norwalk about 1654, where he died early in 1670. His father, Matthias2 St. John, who was baptized New Windsor, Berkshire, England, on 30 November 1628,[2] died at Norwalk in December 1728. Matthias3 St. John died at Wilton, Connecticut (still the Wilton parish of Norwalk until 1802) on 17 August 1748.[3]

The standard 1907 genealogy of the St. John family lists ten children for the marriage of Matthias3 St. John and his wife Rachel Bouton, namely: Ebenezer, John, Matthew, Samuel, Nathan, Matthias, Benjamin, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth, and gives estimated birth dates and spouses names for each.[4] However, four of these children are stated to have been born before Matthias3 married Rachel. Earlier, the Rev. Charles M. Selleck had given his own list of only five children for this marriage, namely: Matthew, John, Benjamin, Rachel and Matthias.[5] Still earlier, the Rev. Edwin Hall had published a list of four sons of Matthias3 St. John as being John, Benjamin, Matthias and Samuel. He cited as his source an aged descendant living in Wilton in 1847, and did not mention any daughters at all.[6] All authors were handicapped by the complete absence of any birth records for these St. John families in the surviving Norwalk vital or church records.

This article re-examines the available evidence and presents the solution to the riddle of the four early children. It then challenges you to verify the proposed listing of the children of Matthias3 and Rachel (Bouton) St. John of Norwalk.[top]

Matthias II and ___

First, we consider the family of Matthias2 St. John. and his unknown wife.

1. MATTHIAS2 ST. JOHN (Matthias1) was born in 1628, probably in Windsor, England, and died at Norwalk in December 1728. The St. John Genealogy states that administration of his estate was granted to his widow Elizabeth (____) St. John on 5 September 1732. However, this is certainly irrelevant for several reasons.

First, why would nearly four years elapse between the death of Matthias (December 1728) and the executorship (September 1732)?

Second, his wife must have been nearly his own age - 100 years or so, not a reasonable age to make anybody an executor.

Finally, Matthias St. John (1695 - 1732), the grandson of this one, married Elizabeth Trowbridge. It is his estate that is under consideration. The inventory in the probate file clearly identifies a daughter Catherine, wife of Joseph Marvin. (Thanks to Terry D. Prall)

So we must conclude that his wife is a complete unknown. Her name is not found on any primary document to this author's knowledge.

His first four children are as given by both Alexander in the St. John Genealogy and Jacobus in Old Fairfield as shown below, except where noted.[7] The death date of Ebenezer as shown, though, is not correct. Samuel is herein being added into this family for the first time, based upon reasoning to be explained later in the article:
i. MARY ST. JOHN, b. say 1658,[8] m. 10 Nov. 1677, THOMAS HYATT.
ii. EBENEZER ST. JOHN, b. abt. 1660, d. 1723/24, m. ELIZABETH COMSTOCK.
2. iii. MATTHIAS ST. JOHN, b. abt. 1662, m. abt. 1690 RACHEL BOUTON, b. 15 or 16 Dec 1667 at Norwalk.
iv. JAMES ST. JOHN, b. abt. 1674, d. at Norwalk in 1754, m. 18 Dec 1693 MARY COMSTOCK.
v. SAMUEL ST. JOHN, b. abt. 1681, d. bef. 1752, m. REBECCA OLMSTED.

Matthias, II, was the third tavern-keeper in Norwalk. He was authorized by the selectmen on 17 December 1678 "to keep an ordinary for the entertayning of strangers."[9]

This was the third ordinary in Norwalk. Walter Hoyt, the first ordinary keeper in Norwalk, was authorized in 1659/50.[10] Christopher Comstock had been authorized to keep an ordinary at the town meeting of 9 February 1671. These tavern-keeping families must have been on excellent terms. His brother Samuel married Walter Hoyt's daughter Elizabeth in September 1663. Two of Matthias St. John's sons married daughters of Christopher Comstock.

He was still an inn-keeper in 1704 when Sarah Knight, a school teacher from Boston, stayed one night at his inn on her way back to Boston from New York.[11] Although no names are mentioned, his tavern was the only one next to the meeting house. She wrote the following uncomplimentary description of the inn, Matthias St. John, and the town in general.

About 9 at night we come to Norrwalk, having crept over a timber of a Broken Bridge about thirty foot long and perhaps fifty to ye water. I was exceeding tired out and cold when we come to our Inn, and could get nothing there but poor entertainment, and the Impertinant Bable of one of the worst of men, among many others, of which our host made one, who, had he bin one degree Impudenter, would have outdone his Grandfather. And this I think is the most perplexed night I have yet had. From hence, Saturday, December 23, a very cold and windy day, after an Intolerable night's Lodging, wee hasted forward only observing in our way the Town to be situated on a Navigable river, with indifferent Buildings and people more refined than in some of the country towns wee had passed tho' vicious enough, the Church and Tavern being next neighbors.

(Presumably the "Grandfather" in the above passage is a euphemism for the "devil.")

On her way from Boston to New York she had a noon meal in Norwalk, but the tavern is not clearly identified. This was 6 December 1704.

... when about 12 at noon we arrived, and Had a Dinner of Fryed Venison, very savoury.


Matthias III and Rachel Bouton

We turn now to the family of Matthias3 St. John and his wife Rachel Bouton.

2. MATTHIAS3 ST. JOHN (Matthias2-1) was born at Norwalk in 1662[12] and died at Wilton Parish in the town of Norwalk on 17 August 1748 aged 86 years and some months.[13] His wife was RACHEL BOUTON, who had been born at Norwalk on 15 or 16 December 1667, daughter of John Bouton Sr. Since the birth date for their first child has been established as 1686 as will be shown below, their marriage date is estimated herein as about 1685, rather than about 1690 as given by all previous authors. Rachel would have been about 18 years old and her husband would have been about 23 years old in 1685 - both quite reasonable ages for a first marriage.

Using the list of 10 children's names as given in the St. John Genealogy, we now consider their candidacy for inclusion in this family:

Ebenezer was listed in the St. John Genealogy as a child in both the Matthias2 and Matthias3 St. John families. His inclusion as the eldest child in the younger family appears to have been an afterthought because of the numbering used (he was given the number 24a, while all the other children had only numerals, and the numbers 24 and 25 were already used.) Ebenezer3 St. John (Matthias2-1) was carried forward in the St. John Genealogy with his wife Elizabeth Comstock and their four children.[14] The problem seems to have been due to a clerical error in assigning a date of death to this Ebenezer St. John. In Ebenezer's main family record, the St. John Genealogy gives his death date as 1723/24. No day or month was given, and neither was any reasoning for the choice. Because of this, Orline Alexander appears to have been unable to assign a certain deed of 1730 to this Ebenezer, and needed to postulate a younger Ebenezer4 to accommodate this one piece of evidence.[15] But the wording of the same deed proves that it must have been Ebenezer3 who was the grantor,[16] and he was therefore a brother of Matthias3, not a son. He is not included in our list below.

John, the second oldest child in the St. John Genealogy list, was given an estimated birth year of 1685 (even though Alexander used the 1690 date for the marriage of his parents.) John married firstly on 29 April 1724 Eunice Hayes and secondly on 11 November 1749 the widow Sarah Scribner.[17] However, for that time and place, it is uncommon to find a first marriage at the groom's age of 39. More typically men married in their early to mid 20s.

The recollections of Bela St. John of Wilton contain - along with some erroneous dates - the following statement: Bela's "father used to say that he had been to school down town (Norwalk), when his grandfather, Matthias, was living."[18] Bela's father was the son John (born 1735) of the son John (reputedly born 1685). Their lives would have overlapped by thirteen years.

While the dates may have been in error, presumably the relationships were more important and Bela's memory of them can be better relied upon. So we conclude that this John is indeed a son of Matthias3, but was born not in 1685, but more toward 1700. He is included in the present list below, as he has been by all previous authors, but with this newly estimated date.

Matthew was listed third in the St. John Genealogy, with a birth date of 1686, based upon his gravestone data. He married Anne Whitney 13 October 1709 and died in 3 August 1755.[19] His vital dates from this information withstand scrutiny. He would have been born when Matthias3 was about 24. The Whitney Family concurs with the St. John Genealogy in the vital statistics of this couple except that the former gives his tombstone age as "in 69th year"[20] and the latter as "æ. 69 years."[21] He is listed herein as the oldest child.

Samuel married Rebecca Olmsted before January 1704/5 when he was called a son-in-law of Lt. John Olmsted.[22] He must have been, say, at least 22 years of age order to be married, so we might estimate his date of birth at no later than 1682. Matthias St. John, Sr., deeded him six acres of land in June 1701 "in consideration of the Love, good will and affection which I have and doe bare towards my Loving Sonn Samuell Saint John."[23] Samuel must have been of age and so born before 1681. The question is, though, was this grantor Matthias2 or Matthias3? They were both alive then. The repeated use of the "Senior" in the deed confirms that this is a record relating to Matthias2.

Is it feasible that Samuel was a son of Matthias2, who was born in 1628 in England? The vital statistics of his unknown wife are not known. Their first child was Ebenezer, born about 1660. Their last child, according to the St. John Genealogy, was James, born 1674. If we assume that she was seven years younger than her husband and so born about 1635 her age in 1674 would have been 39. So having another child born about 1681 (mother's age 45) is possible. To have a child in 1660 she could have born as late as 1642 and thus have been fourteen years younger than her husband. In that case she would have been only 39 in 1681, well within the range of normal motherhood. So regardless of where her actual birth year was within this range from 1635 to 1642, it would have been possible for her to have a child born in 1681.

Further evidence is found in a grant made by the town (recorded in March 1706) to Ebenezer and Samuel St. John of about four acres of islands to be held jointly.[24] And in February 1706/7 the town granted land to Ebenezer, James and Samuel St. John.[25] Later that month the town granted land to Matthias and Samuel St. John.[26] While no relationships among these men are stated they are treated equally which leads to the presumption that they are brothers with equal claims on the town.

This evidence leads to the conclusion that Samuel St. John was the son of Matthias2, not Matthias3. He was born about 1681 and had married Rebecca Olmsted by January 1704/5. He had died before she was listed as "The widow Rebeckah St. John" at the first organization of the Church at S. Salem, NY, in May 1752.[27] No evidence of her death date has been found. So this Samuel St. John (born about 1681, husband of Rebecca Olmsted) is not listed with the children of Matthias3 St. John below, but it is proposed to add him to the listing of children of the earlier Matthias2 St. John instead, as has been done above. The Rev. Mr. Selleck appears to have been correct in leaving this Samuel out of the Matthias3 family in his Norwalk.

The remaining children proposed for this family by the St. John Genealogy (Nathan, Matthias, Benjamin, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth) have not been investigated further and are therefore shown herein as possible children, pending further investigation. And this is the Challenge: Will some one verify or disprove the following children. Certainly better information is available now than in the late 1800s. The verification of the children will require a detailed analysis of all the St. John families living in the Norwalk area during the period. This author lives on the wrong coast to contribute much more to the effort.

The following table lists the corrected children of Matthias3 and Rachel (Bouton) St. John, but their order not certain. The proven incorrect Ebenezer and Samuel are not shown. The "A"column indicates whether the child is noted in Alexander's St. John Genealogy, the "S" column indicates whether the child is noted in Selleck's Norwalk, and the "H" column indicates whether the child is noted in Hall's Historical Records.
No. A S H Child
i. Y Y N MATTHEW ST. JOHN, b. 1686, d. 1755, m. ANNE WHITNEY.
ii. Y N N (possibly) NATHAN ST. JOHN, b. 1692, m. 1721 HANNAH SEYMOUR.
iii. Y Y Y (possibly) MATTHIAS ST. JOHN, b. 1695, d. 1732, m. abt. 1723/24 ELIZABETH TROWBRIDGE.
iv. Y Y N (possibly) RACHEL ST. JOHN, b. say 1699, d. 1774, m. 1721 JOHN MARVIN.
v. Y N N (possibly) HANNAH ST. JOHN, b. say 1701, d. Sharon, CT 1774, m. 1721 EBENEZER CARTER.
vi. Y Y Y JOHN ST. JOHN, b. say 1703, d. 1773, m. (1) 1724 EUNICE HAYS, m. (2) 1749 SARAH SCRIBNER.
vii. Y Y Y (possibly) BENJAMIN ST. JOHN, b. say 1708, m. (1) 1729 MARY ____, m. (2) ELIZABETH ____ widow of Richard Everett.
viii. Y N N (possibly) ELIZABETH ST. JOHN, b. abt. 1717-1718, m. EZRA HICKOK.



We therefore conclude that:
The vital dates of Matthias3 in the St. John Genealogy are incorrect. He was born in 1662, married about 1685 and died 17 August 1748. Further, of the alleged four early children of Matthias3 and his wife Rachel Bouton:

This child never existed. The entry is muddled with that of the son of Matthias2.
This child is correctly assigned to this family, but was born a decade or more later than estimated by Alexander.
This child is correctly assigned to this family and his birth year is approximately correct.
This child is really a brother, not a son, of Matthias3.

Further research is required to verify the correct placement of the other eight children.[top]


Frederick C. Hart, Jr., C.G., contributed mightily to this article. He took my initial draft, added some very relevant new information and reformatted it into the Register style. He is the Genealogist on the staff of the magazine Connecticut Ancestry. Terry D. Prall pointed out the fallacy in attributing the 1732 executorship to the wife of Matthias (1628 - 1728). The basic analysis and conclusions, though, are the author's and any errors or omissions are his. [top]

End Notes

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1. Although the name was generally spelled Sention or Sension, etc. before about 1700, the present spelling will be used throughout this article.

2. Douglas Richardson, "The English Ancestry of the Merwin and Tinker Families of New England," NEH&GS Register, Vol. CXIX, October 1995, page 411.

3. All information from Donald L. Jacobus, History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield, 2 volumes in 3 (Fairfield: Eunice Dennie Burr Chapter, NSDAR, 1930-1932, repr. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1991), 1:513-4.

4. Orline St. John Alexander, The St. John Genealogy (New York: The Grafton Press, 1907), 29-32, hereafter St. John Genealogy.

5. Charles M. Selleck, Norwalk, (Norwalk, CT: the author, 1897), 334, hereafter Norwalk.

6. Edwin Hall, The Ancient Historical Records of Norwalk, Connecticut, with a Plan of the Ancient Settlement, and of the Town in 1847, (the author, 1847, reprinted Bowie MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1997), 304, hereafter Historical Records.

7. St. John Genealogy, 17-8; Old Fairfield, 1:513-4.

8. Estimated here based on her marriage year.

9. Historical Records, 70

10. Deborah Wing Ray and Gloria P. Stewart, Norwalk: being an Historical Account of that Connecticut Town, Norwalk Historical Society, 1979, pages 28 and 29

11. Sarah Kemble Knight, The Journal of Madam Knight, originally published by Theodore Dwight, New York, 1825, reprinted Applewood Books, Bedford MA, 1992, pages 46, 61, 62

12. Matthias3 "was about 10 years old at the time of the public child registration in 1672" (Norwalk, 334) and was therefore born in 1661 or 1662. Jacobus gave 1667, perhaps to correspond to Rachel's age, or perhaps based on the St. John Genealogy, that also gave the year as 1667.

13. Wilton Congregational Church Records give his age at death as shown (Wilton Historical Society archivist, personal communication with the writer, 17 January 2001), confirming the 1662 estimate of the birth year.

14. St. John Genealogy, 29.

15. This was a deed from Ebenezer St. John to Benjamin St. John dated 1 August 1730 in which Ebenezer referred to the "Home lot of my deceased father, which he last lived in, in Norwalk, called East Nook" (Norwalk Land Records, 7:303, hereafter Norwalk LRs).

16. Since Matthias3 was still living in 1730 (and with Thomas Fitch Jr. was a witness to this important deed), the 1730 deed could not have been from his son, but rather must have been from the son of Matthias2 St. John, who had died in 1728. Several other deeds are given for Ebenezer St. John, including one of 8 July 1729 (Norwalk LRs, 6:217, as cited in the St. John Genealogy) that also disprove a 1723/24 death date. Ebenezer's actual date of death must have been after 1730.

17. Records of the First Congregational Church of Wilton, FHL microfilm 101521, item 2, marriages #839 and #841.

18. Historical Records, 304.

19. St. John Genealogy, 54.

20. S. Whitney Phœnix, The Whitney Family of Connecticut (New York: privately printed, 1878), 1:18.

21. St. John Genealogy, 54.

22. Spencer P. Mead, Abstracts of Probate Records at Fairfield, County of Fairfield, and State of Connecticut 1648-1750, 1929 (also FHL microfilm 092930), page 201, original records from Vol. 5, pages 51, 51a, 52, and 134.

23. Norwalk LRs, 2-3: 252, FHL microfilm 0005001 used.

24. Norwalk LRs, 2-3: 34, FHL microfilm 0005001 used.

25. Norwalk LRs, 2-3: 331, FHL microfilm 0005001 used.

26. Norwalk LRs, 2-3: 333, FHL microfilm 0005001 used. Matthias was called Matthias St. John Jr. when the survey was recorded. Thomas Hyatt (husband of their sister Mary, also received a layout from the town at this time.)

27. "Records of the Church of Christ in Salem, Westchester Co., N. Y." NYG&B Record, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1900, page 82.

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Copyright Notice

Initially this article was published on the web with a copyright notice. This was to protect it while we explored the feasibility of print publication. Now we have placed it in the public domain with all our other genealogical research results. "Public Domain" means you may freely use it as you wish; hopefully you will give proper attribution for your source. However, you MUST NOT attempt to copyright my public domain material for your own benefit.

Updated 22 August 2005.[top]