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Nicholas and Mary (Bronson) Disborough



The real orgins of Nicholas Disborough (also spelled Disbrowe, Desborough) are somewhat obscure. Because he only had daughters, with no sons to carry on the family name, chroniclers and genealogist have shown little interest in him. He was born in England, perhaps in Saffron Walden, Essex, June 16, 1620. Nicholas was an immigrant ancestor coming to Hartford, Connecticut.

Nicolas fought in the Pequot War of 1637, and was later granted fifty acres of land for that service. (The Perquot War was a moonlit pre-dawn in May 1637. English Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Connecticut Colony, with Mohegan and Narragansett allies, surround a fortified Pequot village at a place called Missituck (Mystic). But within an hour, the village is burned and 400-700 men, women, and children are killed. The Pequot War was the first major conflict between European colonists and Native Americans in northeastern America, and its influence on colonial and United States Indian policy extended well beyond the region and the period. Although a small conflict by today's standards, it set the stage for the ultimate domination of all northeastern Native tribes by English colonists and set the policy for the treatment of other tribes throughout the country over the next three centuries. The underlying causes of the War are complex and its consequences are far-reaching. For the first time, northeastern tribes experienced the total warfare of European military methods. For the first time, the English Puritans realized they held the power to dominate the people they saw as Godless savages. The battle cuts the heart from the Pequot people and scatters them across what is now southern New England, Long Island, and Upstate New York. ) His homelot in Hartford was on the east side of the road to the cow pasture, which later became North Main Street. He was an early member of the First Congregational Church of Hartford.

He married Mary Bronson on April 2, 1640, probably in Hartford. Mary was baptized on March 6, 1622/23, in Lamarsh, Essex, England, shortly before her mother's death. She was the daughter of Robert Brownson of Earl's Colne and his wife, Mary Underwood.

Mary was raised by her stepmother Margaret, and was an extremely rebellious and "high-spirited girl - to the point of being a juvenile delinquent. She accompanied her older brothers, John and Richard, to the New World when still a very young girl. Once there, she apparently lacked adequate adult supervision. In the Spring of 1640, four boys (John Olmstead, Jonathan Rudd, John Pierce, and Nicholas Olmstead) got into trouble with the authorities for "wanton dalliances, lacivious caridge, and fowle mysdemeanors at sundry times with Mary Brunson." Mary and the first three boys were "corrected;" Nicholas Olmsted was fined and pilloried.

Nicholas and Mary had five daughters: 1. Mary born about 1641 and married Obediah Spencer 2. Sarah born about 1642 and married Samuel Eggleston 3. Hannah born December 20, 1644 and married John Kelsey 4. Phebe baptized in December 1646 and probably died young 5. Abigail born February 1, 1648/9 and married (1) Robert Flood and (2) Matthew Barnes/Barnard.

His name does not appear often in the colonial records. He was appointed Surveyor of Chimneys in 1646/7, and again in 1654/5, 1661/2, and 1668/9; and was appointed Surveyor of Highways in 1665. Nicholas was a carpenter and cabinetmaker by profession. On 28 March 1660, he received permission to build a carpenter's shop on the highway next to his own fence. His name appears on the Hartford list of freemen dated 13 October 1669.

Mary died by 1670, probably in Hartford. In late 1670, Nicholas married Elizabeth (Shepard) Spencer, the daughter of Edward and Violet (------) Shepard of Cambridge, the mother of five children and the widow of Thwaite Strickland who died in Hartford shortly before June 21, 1670. Administration of Thwaite's estate was granted to Nicholas on September 1, 1670.

Nicholas was freed from training in the militia on March 6,1672/3, probably because he had reached his sixtieth birthday.

One of the last episodes in Nicholas' life was perhaps the most disturbing for him. In 1683, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), one of the most renowned Puritan clergymen of his time, tells how Nicholas was beset by witchcraft:

"In the year 1683, the house of Nicholas Desborough, at Hartford, was very strangely molested by stones, by pieces of earth, by cobs of Indian corn, and other such things, from an invisible hand, thrown at him, sometimes thro' the door, sometimes thro' the window, sometimes down the chimney, and sometimes from the floor of the room (tho' very close) over his head; and sometimes he met with the in the shop, the yard, the barn, and in the field. There was no violence in the motion of the things thus thrown by the invisible hand; and tho' others besides the man happen'd sometimes to be hit, they were never hurt with them; only the man himself once had pain given to his arm, and once blood fetch'd from his leg, by these annoyances; and a fire, in an unknown way kindled, consum'd no little part of his estate.

This trouble began upon a controversie between Desborough and another person about a chest of cloaths, which the man apprehended to be unrighteously detain'd by Desborough; and it endur'd for divers months; but upon restoring of the cloaths thus detain'd, the trouble ceased.

At Brightling in Sussex, in England, there happened a tragedy not unlike to this, in the year 1659. 'Tis recorded by Clark in the second volume of his "Examples.""

Nicholas died in August of that same year. An inventory of his estate dated August 31, lists among his effects the following:

" his Wearing Clothes & Lining & money, Bedsted & cord a Bed & 3 Boulsters . . . a rugg . . . a Trundle bedsted & 2 Hatchets . . . Tin wear earthen ware 8 glass bottells . . . 12 Spoones & wooden ware Two churns Tubs & payles, 2 Iron potts & pot Hookes a chaffin dish . . . tosting Iron & Tongs, Hooke & Tramill a frying pann an hower glass & Chamber pott . . . Gun & old Pistole & a Sword & ammunition 2 payre of gloves . . . Bibles & other bookes Two tables . . . 2 Table cloathes & 4 pillowbeers 5 napkins 2 Toweles, 3 payre of Sheets, five pound of Ginger . . . & 5 Cushions, In meale English & Indian old Hogsheads & Barrills . . . Three howes & an adze . . . Two Smoothing Irons . . . Indian corn upon the ground Hay in the Barn, a mans Sadle & bridle . . . The dwelling house & Barn & out houses Home lott & orchard 65.00.00, Three acres of pasture & Land adjoyning 20.00.00, [?] upland over the great river 4 acres & a halfe 40.00.00, A cannew halfe a bushel of oat meale . . . a grindstone . . . a bason a pint pott & a chamber pott, one bed an old [?] a Blanckett & a payre of sheets a boulster & 2 pillows, An old Spade & a payer of [?], his part in the Mill 2.00.11, his Lott at [?], Debts owing to the Estate Mr [?] Nath Cole."

The total value of the estate was 210.07.11, with debts against the estate owed to several individuals totaling 81.15.00. As he died intestate, the administration of his estate was granted to his step-son Joseph Strickland (since he had no sons of his own) on December 18, 1683. His second wife Elizabeth, by whom he had no children, died in Hartford and was buried on March 30, 1694.

References:
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Rich Houghton (email rich_houghton@thomas.senate.gov)