Biography of Capt. John AYRES
Died 1675, Brookfield, MA
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Quaboag Plantation - Alias Brookfield: A Seventeenth Century
Massachusetts Town by Louis E. Roy, M. D., West Brookfield, MA;
Worcester, MA: Heffernan Press, Inc., 1965.
The following information has been transcribed as found.
In Chapter VII is an excellent biography of Captain John Ayres
(pages 222-230) along with other information.
The NUMBERS in parenthesis are FOOTNOTES found
at the END of this page.
In late October 1963, there was raised on Foster Hill in West
Brookfield, a memorial to Sergeant John Ayres. This was erected by
Colonel Fairfax Ayres of Shaftsbury, Vermont, an eighth generation
direct descendant of John Ayres, in permanent remembrance of the head of
that family which had such a vital influence on the early course of
events at the Quaboag settlement. John, though not the earliest arrival
at Quaboag Plantation, was certainly one of the most influential persons
in its brief history.
The memorial reads as follows: “John Ayres, killed by the Indians,
2nd-1675-Aug. By graunt of the Great & General Court, 1660 a founder of
Quaboag Plantation an isolated frontier outpost, now Brookfield. First
Sergt. Ayres, Pritchard and Coy were massacred ‘on an affayre to meet
with Indians who declare themselves to be enemyes and reduce them.’
‘Set upon, scalped and none left to bury them.’ ‘Ayres Tavern was the
fortified hous wherein tounefolk defended themselves as flaming roof and
walls, from brimstone shot with arrows, balls of wildfire, carts aflame
heaped with flax. Water to slake thurst was spent to quench fires.’”
The early history of the Ayres family appears to be lost in
confusion over names. Certainly, the antecessors of this family prior to
the arrival of John at Ipswich, cannot be easily traced. The prime
biographer of the family, William Henry Whitmore, in his excellent
genealogy states flatly: 'I know nothing of his parentage' (1). In an
article which he wrote for the New England Historical and Genealogical
Register in 1863 he says thus: 'Having spent some time in tracing
the early generations of two distinct families of Ayres and Ayers I
desire to preserve the result. Savage, (renowned biographer of early New
Englanders), in his account, makes a mistake which escaped my notice
till my attention was called to it by Mr. Melvin Lord. Captain John
Ayres of Ipswich and Brookfield was not the son of John Ayres of
Haverhill. I have carefully examined the deeds of Salem, and have
careful copies of the town records of Ipswich and Haverhill, and these
show that the mistake had been made by confounding two persons of the
same name. It has been suggested that he was the John Eyre, grocer of
Norwich, England, age 40 in 1637, who went to Holland, but this seems
highly improbable (2).'
And so we are left without any definite leads as to the place of
origin of the family prior to the immigration to New England. The first
concrete fact we were able to associate with the family, is the
appearance of the name of John Ayres in the early records of Ipswich.
This appears in the year 1643, which indicates the approximate date of
coming to Ipswich (3), but not neccessarily exactly, since grants were
frequently recorded sometime after they had been made. He was also
listed as an inhabitant of Ipswich in 1648 (4), and married Susanna,
daughter of Mark Symonds of who's (Mark Symonds) estate he was appointed
administrator (5). In such capacity, on November 24, 1659, he sold a
house and a three acre lot to another son-in-law of the deceased, Edward
Chapman (Ipswich Deed 3:351) (6). He was allowed the privilege of
commonage in February 1667, and admitted a commoner at Ipswich in March
of the same year (7).
Captain John, as he was known at Ipswich, came to Quaboag
Plantation before May 1667. The time of his removal can be estimated
fairly accurately from known facts. He was named one of a prudential
committee for the new plantation in the Regrant of 1667. At the time of
his removal, he has his full family, consisting of seven sons and one
daughter, all of whom came with him to Quaboag. They were: John Jr.,
about 18; Samuel, about 17; Thomas, 15; Joseph, 12; Susanna, about 11;
Edward, 9; Mark, 6; and, Nathaniel, under 3 years of age.
This father and head of family certainly had need for provisions to
maintain his large dependency, and it is not long after his arrival that
he begins what is to be an extensive trade with John Pynchon of
Springfield. The first entries in the Account Book on July 14, 1668 are
for bacon, corn, salt, and white meal - all household necessities (8).
John Ayres was owner of much land within the Plantation. The
amount which he paid John Pynchon for his original grant was 5 Li 12s
6p, or four and a half times the value of a single house lot with its
usual allowance of meadow and planting ground (9). In addition to this,
he leased a large meadow (Matchuk-19 acres) from John Pynchon from June
28, 1671, until the time of his death. Record of this appears in his
account on: June 28, 1671; November 28, 1672; October 23, 1673; and,
August 18, 1674 (10). This large acquisition and usage of land
indicates that he had grown sons, that he was relatively wealthy, and
that he was capable of maintaining such an amount of this most precious
commodity. He can certainly be classified as a substantial husbandman.
Probably from the time of construction of his home and
establishment of himself at Quaboag, he provided accommodations for
travelers. Although his first actual license for maintaining a tavern
was not granted until the Fall of 1671, the following entry leads us to
believe that he offered food and shelter prior to that time. On June
28, 1671, the following: 'By my expense at his house last summer and
once this Spring 00 12 00' (11).
That Ayres was a respected planter is confirmed by the following
found in the Record of Hampshire County Court for September 26, 1671:
‘Goodman Ayres of Quabauge licensed to sell wine, etc.’ (12). This
permit was renewed on September 24, 1672: ‘Goodman Ely of Springfield
hath his license continued for the year ensuing to keep ordinary and to
sell wines and strong liquors, providing he keep good rule in his
house. Also Goodman Ayres of Quaboag hath his license continued on the
same terms’ (13). And for the last time on September 29, 1674: ‘John
Aires of Brookfield hath his license renewed for the year ensuing’ (14).
As we know, this tavern was still in operation at the time of the
Indian assult on August 2, 1675, and being the strongest building at the
Plantation, was converted into a fortified house to provide protection
during the siege which followed.
In addition to his maintaining a large farm and keeping the tavern,
John Ayres found it advantageous to devote much of his time to the mill
of John Pynchon. He was associated with this most essential enterprise
from the very beginning of the constuction of the mill. The first link
with the project comes in the following account of the Plantation with
John Pynchon: ‘The Towne Dr. Aug. 1669 2 li steel G Aires had for Web
more 4 li Steel G. Aires had Nov. 8, 1669’ (15). Also, on November 8,
1669, Goodman Ayres received delivery of nails and a ‘spindle in Rine’
for the mill (16). On June 28, 1671, he was paid 2 Li 1s 8p for his
part in building the mill house, and 12 Li 14s 7p for other matters
relating to the mill, by John Pynchon (17). The large amount of money
involved certainly indicates that Ayres either sold a considerable piece
of property or rendered valuable services to Mr. Pynchon in connection
with the mill.
In November 28, 1672, is recorded the beginning of a business
arrangement with John Pynchon which was to last for the remainder of his
(Ayres) life: ‘Agreed with G. Aires, to keep my mill at Quabauge
and tend it, to grind corn brought there, for one year, he to take the
tole allowed, viz., one half peck out of a bushel, on all the corn that
shall be ground by one and all; and for his tending the mill, he is to
have one third of the tole, I am to have the rest for my part paid. He
is to grind all the corn at the mill except Gdm. Pritchard's corn. Gdm.
Pritchard having liberty to grind his own corn only’ (18).
On December 18, 1673, this agreement was renewed ‘for the year
coming or longer on the same terms as formerly’ (19). The final
determination of this contract is recorded as follows (Date probably
Aug. 28, 1675): ‘Goodman Aires owes me more for corn of mine, which he
had at the mill, as he told me being, in June 1675, when I left my
expenses at his house on acot, he spoke of eight or ten bushels to allow
me for, and what he had about 14 bushels 1/2 as he gave me an acot on
April 28, 1675. That he did not proportion that wheat because he said
it would be more, he having disposed of it, and would give me an acot of
altogether; and malt of mine, he took it all, so that I acot he owes me
near about 4 li, whereof I have received as per contra about 2 li so
rests due to me about 2 li’ (20).
The account was settled by discount of 1 Li 7s 11p on August 28,
1675. This last was of course after the violent death of John Ayres at
the hands of the Indians. John Ayres, farmer, taverner and miller, still
had time and energy left to devote to civil affairs of the infant
plantation. As mentioned previously, he was one of those appointed by
the General Court in 1667 to the committee to oversee the affairs of
Quaboag Plantation - a position of considerable responsibility. He
continued in that capacity until the incorporation in 1673.
His name appears on the ill-fated petition of October 9, 1670,
requesting a grant of additional lands at Quaboag to provide an
inducement for increased settlement. The Petition for Incorporation
contains the names of John Sr., John Jr., and Samuel Ayres, indicating
the importance of the family in the affairs of the community.
John Sr. served as Constable for a period, as revealed by the
following in the Magistrate Book on November 2, 1670: ‘James Hovey and
Priscilla Warner of Quaboag joined in marriage. Constable John Aires
attesting their legal publication’ (21).
In a controversial court case between John Younglove and the
inhabitants of Quaboag Plantation on June 19, 1672, John Ayres and
William Prichard represented the interests of the people in a losing
battle with their unstable minister. However, in an other encounter
with Mr. Younglove on March 31, 1674, he was more successful: ‘John
Ayres, Sr., of Brookfield being complained of to this Court for that he
refuses to pay certain arrearages of which he has been assessed toward
Mr. Younglove his maintenance. Also, he brings the fact to make his
defense sayeth: It was for that the arrearages for which he is now
assessed for keeping the ordinary formerly: the Court doth acot that
such arrearages ought to be paid by the people therein, in general some
other way, and it is belaid on him for keeping the ordinary past: And as
to the question, the Court they should like that Mr. Younglove may have
his due. The Court decrees that the law doth - determine it. Therefor do
accordingly order that which is to be yet due him his acot, for to the
selectman there to assess the inhabitants there for it, in the way which
they formerly paid by hand, levy the same by the Constable according to
On the same day, March 31, 1674, John Ayres along with Thomas
Parsons were referred to by the Court as available consultants for the
committee appointed to construct a bridge over Coy's Brook, as a
connecting link of the Hadley Path, then under construction (23). Here
again we find our subject busy in the affairs of the community.
The personal affairs of the family saw changes in the years 1672
and 1673. On August 28, 1672, John Ayres Jr., married Abigail Hovey, as
recorded in the Magistrate Book (24). Soon after this, in November
1672, John Sr., sold all his lands and rights in Ipswich (25). On
November 28, 1672, he purchased a lot at Quaboag for his son Samuel for
a few shillings more than the customary price for a single house lot
(26). The entry specifies that the lot contained 30 acres. On December
18, 1673, John Sr., and John Jr., ‘Tooke the Oath of Fidelity to This
On June 18, 1675, an action in the office of Magistrate Pynchon
substantiates the strength of character of the subject of this
biography. This man had no intention of sitting back and allowing the
Selectmen of Brookfield to force upon him what he considered to be an
unjust restraint. He used a legal form of appeal for review by higher
authority of the actions of town officials. Here is the record in the
Magistrate Book: ‘June 18th, 1675. John Aires Sen. of Brookfield
plaintiff (according to Replevy) against William Pritchard & Samuel
Kent, Selectmen of Brookefeild: for unlawfully distreining some pewter
dishes of his, which the Constable did by occasion of their order:
William Pritchard and Samuel Kent appearing & putting it upon, profess
that they gave order for the distress, and plainly not owning it, and
John Aires not proving it: I allowed theire charges vis., for 3 days
each, which is sixe shillings apiece, in all 12s for Jo Aires to pay to
William Pritchard and Samuel Kent, and likewise sixe shillings for
Corporall Coy's appearance as a witness by warrant:’ (28)
In addition to his other activities, Sergeant Ayres was commander
of the small detachment of militia. Although he held the rank of
captain during his residence at Ipswich, he had had to accept the lower
rank at Quaboag because of the small size of the military contingent.
He was assisted in his duties by Second Sergeant William Prichard and
Corporal Richard Coy.
The Indian ambush and subsequent siege make up a separate section
of our history and so will not be dealt with here in detail. John Ayres,
as commander of the local detachment of militia, and his subordinate
non-commissioned officers Sgt. Prichard and Corp. Coy, were the ones to
accompany Captain Wheeler and Captain Hutchinson in the mission of peace
to the Indians on that fateful August 2, 1675. All three of these
valiant men were to die with others of the military troops sent from
Marlboro to treat with the Indians. Even the death of John was not
to end the contribution of this man to the welfare of the community,
since it was to be his house which was to provide a haven of relative
safety and to be occupied and defended by the surviving inhabitants and
soldiers through those three gruesome days in August 1675. After
the Indian siege of Brookfield had been relieved by the arrival of Major
Willard and his troop, the inhabitants left for scattered areas, looking
for security and peace. Suzannah Ayres and her children returned to the
familiar surroundings of Ipswich where still remained some of her
She presented to the Court at Salem an inventory of the estate of
her deceased husband amounting to 195 Li 13s and 6p. In 1678, she is
found as the owner of a house in Ipswich (29). Among those of the
family listed as residents of Ipswich in 1678, in addition to Suzannah,
we find John Jr., Joseph, Samuel Sr., Samuel Jr., and Thomas Ayres
(30). In 1682, a former resident of Massachusetts Bay Colony, named
Samuel Hall, left a bequest of 100 Li to be distributed among the
victims of the great fire in Boston and of the Indian wars in the
Colony. Suzannah received 33s of this, but died soon after on February
2, 1682-3 (31, 32).
In 1703, Samuel, John and Thomas were appointed executors of the
estate of John Sr. On January 14, 1716, as recorded in Worcester in
1741, the land formerly possessed at Brookfield by John Ayres Sr., was
conveyed to Joseph Ayres of Ipswich by Thomas, Mark, Edward, and
Nathaniel, sons of Sgt. John; and by Samuel, son of Samuel and grands on
of Sgt. John; and by Robert Day, son of Suzannah (Ayres) (Day) Waite and
grandson of Sgt. John.
There apparently was discord, for on October 28, 1717, appeared the
following petition to the General Court, which summarizes the situation
and will be quoted in toto: The petition is dated June 17, 1717, but was
read in the House of Representatives on October 26, 1717:
‘A petition of Thomas Ayres, Joseph Ayres, Mark Ayres, Nathaniel
Ayres and Edward Ayres sons and heirs of John Ayres heretofore of
Quaboag, alias Brookfield, deceased intestate, showing that in or about
the year 1660, the petition of father with others bought and purchased
of the Indian natives tract of land of about eight miles square then
known and called by the name of Quaboag, after which, viz in the year
1673, the General Court erected the said land into a township by the
name of Brookfield, then in the year 1675 a war broke out with the
Indians, who killed the petitioners’ father and several other
inhabitants, and the rest being drawn off by order of the government,
the whole town was left desolate, and all the houses burned down by the
enemy, after which, about 1690, the said town of Brookfield was in a
likely way to be settled. And in the year 1703, the petitioners having
obtained an administration on their father’s estate lying in Brookfield
aforesaid, petitioned the General Court that a committee might be
appointed by make inquiry and cause a record to be made of the lots,
rights, and proprieties of land within the said plantation belonging to
the ancient settlers thereof, that so the petitioners might have and
enjoy what belongs to them in the right of their father, which prayer of
the petitioners was accordingly granted, and Samuel Partridge Esq., and
others appointed a committee were ordered to make inquiry and cause a
record to be made of the said lands, rights, and proprieties, but the
said committee neglecting in that service, then petitioners renewed
their petition to the General Court, who appointed a hearing thereon;
however the petitioners withdrew their petition at the request of the
said committee, and upon their promise that they would forthwith proceed
to settle the petitioners in their rights which accordingly they did to
the satisfaction of the petitioners, who were at the expense of 150 Li
at least in obtaining the said settlement, but after all the committee
did at last declare all their proceedings in the premises to be null and
void under no other pretense, but that the said lands were not improved
by the petitioners, and the very lots that the petitioners father died
possessed of, and particularly his home lot which he defended against
the Indians at the loss of his life, are granted by the said committee
to other persons very unjustly and contrary to the order of the General
Assembly, by all which the petitioners are kept out of the possission of
Upon the whole the petitioners pray the honorable Court will confer
upon them the lands which the said committee have laid out to them
containing by estimation no more that 1,500-1,600 acres, although they
have heard their father and many others say that he had 2,000 acres of
land in Brookfield. Which lands so laid out by the said committee they
shall rest satisfied and contended, unless the Court shall please to
make them some further consideration:
Read in the House of Representatives October 26, 1717 and ordered
that the Committee of Brookfield be served with a copy of this and the
petitioners former petition, and that they appear before this Court on
the second Thursday of the next May session, to show reason why they
declared the petitioners land to be forfeited.
Sent up for concurrence. Read and concurred.
Consented to: Samuel Shute’ (33).
1. Whitmore, William Henry. A Record of the Descendants of Captain John
Ayres of Brookfield, Mass. Boston: T. R. Marvin & Son, 1870, p 9.
A xerox copy of this book is in the possession of Gloria ODOM (55 pages total).
A copy of this book is in the Pennsylvania State Library, Harrisburg, PA and in
1984, the book was litteraly crumbling; in 1997 the book would be 127 years old.
2. Whitmore, William Henry. Article “The Ayres and Ayer Families” from
New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Vol. XVII (17), Oct.
1863, pp. 307-309. A xerox copy of this article is in the possession of
Gloria ODOM (pp. 307-310).
3. Waters, Thomas Franklin. Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay
Colony. Two volumes, published by Ipswich Historical Society, 1905, p.
4. Hammatt, Abraham. The Early Inhabitants of Ipswich, Mass.,
1633-1700. Printed Ipswich, MA, 1880, p. 13.
5. Waite, Henry E., Esq. Article “Early History of Brookfield, Mass.”
from New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Vol. XXXV (35),
Boston, p. 337. A xerox copy of this article is in the possession of
Gloria ODOM (pp. 333-339).
6. Waters, p. 365.
7. Hammatt, p. 14.
8. Pynchon, John. Account Books of 1651-1705, six volumes. Vol. III,
9. Ibid., Vol. V, p. 324.
11. Ibid., Vo. V, p. 325.
12. Pynchon, John. Hampshire County Court Records (Wastebook). Apr.
1663 - Jan. 1672. Connecticut Valley Historical Society Library,
Springfield, Mass., p. 89.
13. Ibid., p. 103.
14. Ibid., p. 120.
15. Account Books, Vol. III, p. 26.
16. Ibid., p. 27.
17. Ibid., Vol. V, p. 325.
20. Ibid., Vol. V, p. 324.
21. Pynchon, John, Magistrate Book, 1639 - 1702. Photostats courtesy
Connecticut Valley Historical Society, Springfield, Mass., p. 255.
22. Wastebook, p. 114.
24. Magistrate Book, p. 255.
25. Whitmore, p. 9.
26. Account Books, Vol. V, p. 324.
27. Magistrate Book, p. 149.
28. Ibid., p. 159.
29. Hammatt, p. 13.
30. Waters, p. 94.
31. Felt, Joseph B. History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton.
Cambridge, Mass, 1834, p. 62.
32. Ipswich Vital Records, Vol. II., p. 485.
33. Whitmore (A Record of Descendants...), pp. 10-12.
This data transcribed by Gloria ODOM 1/98