The Story of John Cragin and Sarah Dawes, John Cragin's Will


The following is an excerpt from the book "Genealogy of Joseph Teel Mary Stetson Alexander Their Ancestors and Descendants" by Ethyl E. Beieler Gould.

Submitted by Kirby Parker


First Generation

John Craggin, the immigrant, was born in 1634 in southern Scotland. When he was about sixteen years of age he was pressed into the service of Charles. On 3 September 1650 he was taken as a prisoner of war and Charles was terribly defeated by Cromwell at the "Battle of Dunbar" on 5 September 1650. During this battle 4,000 were slain and 10,000 were captured. Some were sent to Liberia, others to America.

From Collier’s Encyclopedia: The Battle of Dunbar was an engagement fought 3 September 1650 between 11,000 English under Oliver Cromwell and about 22,000 Convenanters under David Leslie (1601 - 1682), later known as Lord Newark. Cromwell, retreating from before Edinburgh, had established himself near Dunbar in a narrow plain between the Lammermuir Hills and the sea. Leslie was strongly encamped in the hills and also blocked the road south to England. The Scots felt so sure of victory that the Leslie yielded to the exhortations of Presbyterian ministers to attack the English. A smashing assault by Cromwell on the right wing of the Scots outflanked their center and caught their entire army between the hills and a ravine. The Scots had 3,000 casualties and lost 10,000 as prisoners, and the whole southwest Scotland fell into Cromwell’s hands.

This is the battle in which John Craggin was taken prisoner.

John Craggin, along with 272 other prisoners were taken by the ship "John and Sarah" mastered by Captain John Green, to Charlestown, Massachusetts. The ship left the London port on 11 November 1651.

While aboard the "John and Sarah" smallpox broke out. When John Craggin contracted the disease and was about to be thrown overboard, as there was no one to care for him, a young girl aboard pleaded for his life and nursed him back to health. This girl was Sarah Dawes who was not listed as a passenger as the ship only listed male passengers. She had no family with her.

John Craggin, among others, was consigned to Thomas Kemble and sold as a slave as punishment for what the English called "rebellion". John and the other slaves were treated well, working 3 days for their owner and 4 days for themselves until the "expenses of transport" had been paid.

The following was written by Rev. John Cotton from Boston to Lord General Cromwell and dated "Boston in N.R., 28 of 5th, 1651. The Scots whom God hath delivered into your hands at Dunbar, and whereof sundry were sent hither, we have been desirous to make their yoke easy. He who bought most of them, I hear, built houses for them, with land, and required them to work 3 days for HIM, and 4 days the THEMSELVES, promising them their liberty as soon as they should repay the money laid out for them."

From a newspaper article by J.R. Nevarez entitled "The Steel Mill on Saugus: Common labor at the works was performed, among others, by a group of around 100 indentured Scots. They had been taken as prisoners by Cromwell’s forces in his victory over the Royalists at Dunbar and sold into indentured services for seven years in exchange for passage, clothing, and food.

The workers toiled to make pots and pans, nails, bolts, chisels, mattocks and other implements needed in the Colonies. In good times they turned out about six tons of manufactured goods a week--compared to the present 2,000,000 tons weekly in modern times."

While John Craggin I worked hard at repaying his indenture for seven long years, Sarah Dawes worked as a servant for John Wyman of Woburn, Massachusetts. Also, working for John Wyman as a servant was Daniel Mecrist. The two became friends and Sarah was expecting Daniel’s child. They were convicted of sin of fornication. Both Sarah and Daniel acknowledged the fact. The reason Sarah and Daniel did not marry is given in Daniel’s examination "more over he confesseth that he was a married man in Scotland...and has left his wife and two small children alived about seven years & half since." Again on 3 October 1659 Daniel Mecrist was convicted a second time with Sarah Dawes for fornication.

On 7 April 1657 Sarah Dawes appeared in court and was sentenced to twelve stripes but was reprieved when Francis Kendall paid her fine of 40 shillings. The second offense the court record states starkly "Daniel Mecrist, Scotchman being convicted of committing fornication the second time with Sarah Dawes they are both sentenced to be openly whipt twenty stripes apiece."

Sarah named her first child, a son, Benoni, which means "son of my sorrow" which was often given to sons in circumstances that made the name appropriate, e.g. their fathers died before the child was born, their mother died giving birth, or they were illegitimate.

John Craggin and Sarah Dawes were married 4 November 1661 in Woburn after John had made all his payments for his transportation, clothing, food, etc. Evidently John Craggin welcomed Sarah’s two children, Benoni Mecrist and Mary Mecrist, which were born while she was a servant of John Wyman and his wife Sarah Nutt Wyman. Beside these two children, John and Sarah had eight children--a total of 10 children to raise.

Sarah Dawes was born about 1639 probably in Scotland or England.

John Craggin I was taxed in the County Rate made 26 August 1666, and is numbered on 3 April 1668 with those who had the right in the common lands of Woburn, Massachusetts.

John Craggin I died 27 October 1708 in Woburn, Massachusetts. His will was executed on 30 May 1704 and proved on 29 November 1708 (Middlesex County, Massachusetts).

I, John Craggin of Woobourne in County Midds, of Worburn, in her Maj(es)t(y’)s province of Massachusetts Bay in New England Husbandman, being very aged & much decay(e)d in my strenth, do make and publish this wrighting to be my last will and testament, hereby disalowing and declaring all formed will(s) made by me at any time, I give my soul to god that gave me, and my bode to the earth to be desently buried in hopes of the glorious Resurection to Life again; thro(ug)h the Faith and merrits of Christ Jesus my lord and only Savio(u)r.

Major: I hereby make over all my housing and lands to my four sons-in-law, namely John Knight, Stephen Fish, Francis Nurse and Thomas Skelton, they having given me by hand to provide for me and wife while we live and to allow us a decent buryal when we dye, and therefore I say no more but that I do confirme all my housing and lands to my s(ai)d Sons-in-law to them their heires and assignes for ever, they paying the twenty pounds to John’s widow & children.

It(e)m. I give unto Deborah Craggin, my son John’s widow and his children twenty pounds, two cows at five pounds grant of the s(ai)d twenty I do give her in hand, and do order my Exec(uto)rs herein after named to allow and pay her five pounds more towards the bringing up of s(si)d Sons children, but to be delivered her at the desecration of my Exec(uto)rs, so that they be sure to reserve ten pounds for the s(ai)d children to be Equally distributed among them as they come of age. I have given my son John considerably in my life time and can give him no more now, also if Benjam(in ) Craggin dye in his nonage, then I give my muskit to John Knight jun(io)r my Granson.

It(e)m. My will is that my daughter Anna Having promised to alow Equall part with my sons-in-law towards the maintenance of my Selfe and my wife She performing the same, I give her all my movable Estate Undisposed of Excepting one Cow which I give to my Exec(uto)rs & to Anna one fifth p(ar)t of my lands or the value thereof, she performing as above s(ai)d.

It(e)m. My will is and I do give unto my daughter Elizabeth two shillings, she having her full portion already, but I desire my wife would remember to give her forty shillings of her clothes when she dyes.

It(e)m. My will is and I do hereby nominate and appoint my four sons-in-law namely John Knight, Stephen Fish, Francis Nurse and Tho(ma)s Skelton all Joynt Exec(uto)rs to this my will, ordering them to pay Deborah Craggin and my sons three children th(a)t twenty pound I have given them, of which those two Cows above-mentioned is to be receued as part, and Anna Craggin having her portion assigned her, my other daughters have had something formerly, and the rest no in full in the lands I have made to their s(si)d husbands and I give then no more this 30th day of May in the third year of her Maj(es)t(y’s) Reigne Anno Domini Seventeen Hundred and four.

the mark of


John Craggin

Signed Sealed and published by John Craggin to be his last will and testamet before me.

John Reed

Timothy heyman

Sam(ue)l Converse, jun(io)r

Sarah Dawes Graggin died 23 December 1725 at Woburn, Massachusetts.

Benoni Mecrist was born 1657 in Woburn, Massachusetts, the step son of John Craggin I. Benoni married Lydia Fifield on 12 September 1681 at Salisbury, Massachusetts. Lydia was born 12 January 1654/5, the daughter of William Fifield and his wife Mary. Benoni Mecrist died 7 August 1690 at Salisbury, Massachusetts. There were no children.

Mary Mecrist was born in 1659 in Woburn, Massachusetts, the step daughter of John Craggin I. Mary married Stephen Fish on 22 November 1680 at Salem, Massachusetts. He was a soldier in King Philip’s War. He lived in Reading, Massachusetts after their marriage. He was accepted as a son by John Craggin and listed as son-in-law to be one of four sons-in-law to be a Joynt Executor of John Craggin’s will. Stephen Fish died 28 February 1716/7 in Reading, Massachusetts.

Abigail Craggin was born 4 August 1662. SEE JOHN KNIGHT V

Sarah Craggin was born 10 August 1664 in Woburn, Massachusetts. Sarah married Francis Nurse II about 1685/6. Francis was born 3 February 1660/1 in Salem Village, Massachusetts. He died 5 February 1715/6 in Reading, Massachusetts. Sarah died before 26 1747. They had 10 children, all born in Reading.

Elizabeth Craggin was born 4 August 1666 in Woburn, Massachusetts. She married John Shepard II, 19 March 1689/90, in Concord, Massachusetts. John was born 26 October 1661 in Concord, the son of John Shepard I and Sarah Goble. They had two daughters born in Concord, Massachusetts.

Mercy Craggin was born 25 March 1669 in Woburn, Massachusetts. Mercy married Thomas Skelton I, the son of Joseph Skelton and his wife Deborah Howe. He died in 1750 and Mercy died after 1750. They had 4 children, all born in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Anna Craggin was born 6 August 1673 in Woburn, Massachusetts. She was living in 1704.

John Craggin II was born 19 September 1677 in Woburn, Massachusetts. He married Deborah Skelton, their marriage intentions being published in Woburn. He died at the age of 26 on 26 January 1703/4 in Woburn, leaving his young family to the guardianship of William Barker of Concord, Massachusetts.

Rachel Craggin was born 14 March 1680 and died 18 March 1680 in Woburn. She was a twin to Leah.

Leah Craggin was born 14 March 1680 and died 18 March 1680 in Woburn, Massachusetts. She was a twin to Rachel.

References and Source Information



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