Meet the Planters – Travis

The Quaboag Planters

Meet James Travis

Click here for the family of James

The biography of James Travis contains more adventure than that of any of the other planters. James, apparently, was a man of great hunting ability who had considerable knowledge and experience in frontier living.

To trace his family to its early beginnings, we are led back to the 12th century in Normandy. However, for our purpose, it is sufficient to begin with Samuel Travers, son of John. After having received considerable education, and obtained both Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees Daniel became the Vicar of Thorverton, County Devon. He also held many positions in the Church of England before his death in 1648.

His third son was Henry, who sailed from Southampton on March 24, 1633/4 on the “Mary and John,” Robert Sayres, Master. The certificate of those who took the “oaths of supremacy and allegiance,” contains the name of Henry, indicates that he lived at Ipswich for one year and then removed to Newbury. He received several grants of land there and married Bridgett Fitts of Ipswich. Two children were born of this marriage, Sarah in 1636 and James in 1645.

It appears that Henry Travers went to sea in 1648 and never returned. However, prior to his departure, he had made a will, dated July 26, 1648, by the terms of which his son James was to receive his house and adjoining half acre lot, and another four acre lot at “New Town,” his share of a land division, and eight acres of salt marsh, plus a copper kettle, iron pot, iron skillet, two saws, an ox, and a pair of steers.

Bridgett Travis and her son, James were now in residence at Gloucester and in 1659, Bridgett married Richard Winslow (or Window) at Gloucester. When Richard Winslow died in 1665, he left his stepson James a legacy of 30 pounds.

Sarah, the only sibling of James Travis the subject of our biography, was born in Newbury in 1636, and married Nicholas Wallington on August 30, 1654. They lived for a short time at Rowley. He was a freeman in 1670, and later a seaman. He was captured by Barbary pirates and never returned. Nicholas and Sarah had 8 children born between September 1655 and February 7, 1669/70.

James Travis was born at Newbury on April 28, 1645. He married at Gloucester on April 8, 1667, Mercy Pearce the daughter of John and Elizabeth. She was born at Gloucester in September 1650. James bought of Samuel Peacock of Boston, land and the frame of a dwelling house near “Poles,” a local name in Gloucester. In February, 1668, after the birth of his daughter Elizabeth, he sold the house and land to Thomas Millett, Sr. and moved to Brookfield.

At Brookfield, James was granted 30 acres of upland and 15 of meadow. His was the first lot beyond the commons in the eastern part of the township. We know that he paid one pound, eleven shillings and three pence for his holdings at the plantation. His account with John Pynchon extends from June 18, 1673 through June 18, 1675, and contains entries for household staples and grinding of corn meal at the Quaboag mill. The credit side of the ledger shows him to have been an adept hunter, having disposed of at least 9 wolves and received 3 pounds, 18 shillings, 4 pence bounty.

James was one of the signers of the Petition for Incorporation of October 10, 1673. He does not appear to have served the town in public office, except possibly as a member of the militia detachment.

During his residence at Brookfield, James and Mercy had two children, Mercy and James, Jr. They along with Elizabeth, the older child, were present with their parents in the besieged house in August of 1675. This must certainly have created an impression on their personalities which endured for the duration of their young lives.

After the lifting of the siege by Major Willard, on August 5, 1675, the families of Quaboag Plantation dispersed to all parts of the colony. It is very likely that James Travis established himself at or near Framingham and Holliston, where further records of his family are found.

However, James returned to Brookfield on February 29, 1675/6 as a part of a detachment of 18 men under command of Ensign Timberlake assigned to garrison the place.

A romantic tradition comes down to us which warrants being inserted here, even though unproved. The first hint comes from the records of Onandaga County, New York: “Oswego: James Travis was captured by the Indians in 1676 and held two years.” The story goes that he was captured near present day Barre, MA., and his life spared by the Indians because of their admiration for his great strength, endurance and his excellent marksmanship. He hunted, rode and shot at a mark with his captors, being very careful never to excel in any of their sports, although able to do so. After living with them for about a year, they wished him to take a squaw and settle down amongst them. He agreed and a great wigwam was built for him, and a great celebration prepared. The night before the scheduled event, he escaped, but was recaptured and sentenced to death. He again managed to escape, traveling by night and resting by day to avoid his would be captors, and finally after several days, returning to his family. His captors were probably Mohawks. True or not, it certainly adds color to the biography of our hero.