Major General Humphrey Atherton1,2,3,4,5

M, b. 4 September 1608, d. 17 September 1661
FatherEdmund Atherton
MotherMary Rudd

Slab on Humphrey Atherton's Grave - Courtesy of Star Rhodes -

     Humphrey was born on Thursday, 4 September 1608 in Lancastershire, England. His ancestry has been traced back to a Robert de Atherton, a contempory of King John [Lackland, 1199-1216]. Humphrey married Mary Wales circa 1627 in England. He and Mary were blessed with 13 children. On 23 May 1635, Humphrey & his wife, Mary, left from Bristol, England aboard the ship, "James", mastered by Captain Taylor, bound for New England. They stoped at Milford Haven, Wales, where their departure was delayed until the 22nd of June due mainly to high winds.. Among the passangers were the family of Humphrey Atherton & his wife Mary along with the families of Nathaniel Wales [Mary's brother], Matthew Mitchell, Reverend Richard Mather, Reverend Richard Denton, Thomas Armitage, Jonas Wood, Humphrey Atherton, John Lum & others. They arrived at Boston the 17th day of August after experiencing a catastrophic hurricane off the shore of New Hampshire..6 Humphrey died on Saturday, 17 September 1661 at one AM from injuries received from being thrown from his horse while attempting to ride over a cow the previos day. He was returning home from military review on Boston Commons.7 He was buried at Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, in the Dorchester North Burying Ground. The epitath on his stone reads: "HERE LYES OUR CAPTAIN AND MAJOR OF SUFFOLK WAS WITHALL
".8 Administration of his will was granted to his eldest son Jonathan, and his son-in-laws, Timothy Mather, James Trowbridge, and Obadiah Swift on 27 September 1661. His estate was quite extensive.


Mary Wales b. 30 Apr 1613, d. 17 Aug 1672


  1. [S115] Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Showing Three Generations Of Those Who Came Before May, 1692, On The Basis Of Farmer's Registar, Volume I: page 72 - HUMPHREY, Dorchester 1636, came, perhaps, from Preston in Lancash. where the name contin. so late as 1780; was freem. 2 May 1638, ar. co. the same yr. and its capt. 1650, often selectman, and rep. nine yrs. fr. 1638, but not in success, yrs. and an Assist.chos. ann. 1654 to his d. and in 1656, succeed. Sedgwick, as Major-Gen. He d. 16 Sept. 1661, says the inscript. print, in Alden's Epit. and as that was Monday, and prob. refers to the cause of his d. thrown from his horse,
    on return from milit. rev. on Boston common by rid. over a cow, I prefer to say 17 Sept. (a. one o'clock, A. M. acc. the MS. of John Hull's Diary). Capt. Johnson, in Wonderwork. Provid. of Zion's Saviour, gives him good character; and Hubbard excites our fears, that everybody did not value him
    so highly, when he remarks, that by some " the manner of his d. was noted as a judgmt" Of what sin this judgmt. was thus noted, we may hardly venture to guess, tho. when mortals direct the bolts of eternal justice, their aim is commonly unanimous. Strange, it seems to me, is the indefiniteness of our knowl. of so promin. a man; for even the name of his w. is not seen. Yet ten or eleven ch. are kn. at least by name, and one or more there may have been of unkn. names; one or more b. in Eng. one or more of unkn. sex, if we are compel, to guess by their names; and one or more d. bef. the f. Of s. the oldest was Jonathan; of ds. Catharine (sometimes call. Eliz.), but wh. of the two, both b. in Eng. was elder, is uncert. Other ch. were Rest, bapt. 26 May 1639; Increase, 2 Jan. 1642; Thankful, 28 Apr. 1644; Hope, 30 Aug. 1646, H. C. 1665, bef. ment.; Mary, wh. must not be the same as Margaret, whose dates of b. or bapt. are equally undiscov.; Watching, bapt. 24 Aug. 1651; Patience,
    2 Apr. 1654 ; and Consider. Great persev. was need, to learn, that Catharine m. 1650, Timothy Mather; Margaret m. 30 Dec. 1659, James Trowbridge, and d. 17 June 1672; Rest m. 15 Mar. 1661, Obadiah Swift; Thankful m. 2 Apr. 1665, Thomas Bird jr.; Mary m. 9 Apr. 1667, Joseph Weeks; and Patience m. Isaac Humphrey.
  2. [S296] Charles Henry Pope, The Pioneers of Massachusetts, A Descriptive List, Drawn From The Records Of The Colonies, Towns, & Churches, & Other Contemporaneous Documents., page 22 - Humphrey, Dorchester, first mentioned in records March 18, 1637; frm. and deputy May 2. 1638. Magistrate, deputy governor, active in the affairs of the United Colonies, Major-General. ['See many notices in historical works; epitaph in Reg. II, 382.] As birth records of certain children at Winwick, Eng. correspond with known facts about some ot his children, it has been inferred that he came from that parish. Nathaniel Wales, Sen. calls him brother-in-law. Wife Mary; ch. Elizabeth, (bapt. at Winwick, Eng. Sept. 28, 1628) (m. Timothy Mather.) John bapt. at. W. Dec. 26, 1629, Isabel bapt. at W. Jan. 23, 1630, (m. Nathaniel Wales, Jr.) Jonathan, Consider, Mary, (m. Joseph Weeks) Margaret (m. James Trowbridge) Rest bapt. at Dorch. 26 (3) 1639, (m. Obediah Swift) Increase bapt. 11 (2) 1641, Thankful bapt. 29 (2) 1644, (m. Thomas Bird, Jr.) Hope bapt. 30 (6) 1646, Watching bapt. 24 (6) 1651, Patience bapt. 21 (2) 1654, (m. Isaac Humphrey). He d. Sept. 17, 1661. His will not being left in legal form, admin. Was gr. 27 Sept. 1661, to his eldest son Jonathan and to his sons-in-law, Timothy Mather, James Trowbridge and Obadiah Swift. Extensive estate.
  3. [S947] Find a grave: - Humphrey Atherton was admitted as a freeman at Dorchester on May 2, 1638. He began his Massachusetts military career as a member of the artillery company in 1638, was promoted to Lieutenant in 1645, to Captain in 1650, to Major 1652, and to Major General in 1661.

    Robert de Atherton lived in the time of King John 1199-1216. From this we trace down through the centuries to Humphrey Atherton who was born Lancashire, England, about 1609, and came with his wife (Mary Wales) and their t young children, in the ship, James, from Bristol, England, in 1635, to Dorchester, in New England. ... At about the time when Humphrey Atherton arrived with his young family in Dorchester, the larger part of the Dorchester Church, with its pastor, removed to Windsor, Connecticut, and Humphrey Atherton, with his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Wales, assisted Richard Mather, (Rev) (who came in the same ship with them) in nurturing the Dorchester Church back into thrifty life again. As the years went on, Humphrey Atherton became more and more a prominent in the town and the colony, ...
    In 1644 there were "wardens" appointed to take care of and manage the affairs of the first public school in Dorcheser. Blake in his Annals says that "they were to see that both the master and the scholar performed their duty, and to judge of, and end, any difference that might arise, between master and scholar, or their Parents, according to sundry rules and directions there set down." Humphrey Atherton was one of the first wardens, who were chosen for life. Thus was inaugurated the public school, which had no precedent in America.
    In 1645, £250 was raised to build a new meeting house, to replace the earlier one (which was a rude building, thatched with straw, with a stairway on the outside), and Humphrey Atherton was one of those chosen to attend to this matter.
    He had decided taste for military affairs, organized the first training band in Dorchester in 1664, was early a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, was its captain 1650 to 1658, commanded the Suffolk regiment with title of major general, was chief military officer in New England, many years Selectman and Town Treasurer, deputy to General Courts 1638-1641, in 1659 was Speaker, and had great experience and skill in treatment of the Indians.
    Capt. Johnson in his "Wonder-working Providence" speaks of Humphrey Atherton as a "lively courageous man," and says:- "Altho he be slow of speech, yet he is down right for the business, one of cheerful spirit, and entire for the country."
    In 1645 the commissioners of the United Colonies appointed a council of war, placed Capt. Miles Standish at its head, with Humphrey Atherton as one of his colleagues. He is said to have been "a man of courage and presence of mind," for when he was sent with 20 men to Pessacus, an Indian sachem [chief] to demand the arrears to the colony of 300 fathom of wampum, Pessacus put him off for some time with dilatory answers, not suffering him even to come into his presence. Atherton finally led his men to the door of the wigwam, entered himself with pistol in hand, leaving his men without, and, seizing Pessacus by the hair of his head, drew him forth from the midst of a great number of his attendants, threatening, if any of them interfered, that he would despatch them. Pessacus paid waht was demanded, and the English returned in safety.
    Gen. Humphrey Atherton had a grant of 500 acres at Nonotucke, beyond Springfield, Mary 26, 1658 - given to him by the General Court in recognition of his public service, Nonotucke being the Indian name for the region about Hadley and Hatfield. This grant interfered with other grants previously made, and so, in Nov. 1659, the Court granted an additional 200 acres (700 in all) which were relocated at Waranoke, now Westfield. The estate of Gen. Humphrey Atherton after his death, included in the inventory a "Farme of seven hundred acres at Waronoco."
    The death of Major General Humphrey Atherton, by accident, in 1661, deprived the colony of one of its principal men.
    "While returning home in the dark after reviewing his troops on Boston Common his horse was struck by a stray cow. In the collision he was thrown and killed. Sept. 16, 1661."
  4. [S948] Richard Mather, Journal of Richard Mather. 1635. His Life and Death. 1670.
  5. [S956] Eben Putnam, Atherton Genealogy, pages 6-.
  6. [S948] Richard Mather, Journal of Richard Mather. 1635. His Life and Death. 1670., pages 6-10 - We came from Warrington on Thursday April 16, April and came to Bristoll on the Thursday following, viz. April 23, and had a very healthful!, safe and prosperous journey all ye way, blessed bee the name of or God for the same, taking but easy journeyes because of the children and footemen, dispaching 119 or 120 miles in seven dayes.
    Comming to Bristoll wee found divers of the company come before us: but some came not till after us: howbeit the last was come by the first of May. Neverthelesse we went not aboard ye ship untill Saturday the 23d of May: so that the time of or staying in Bristoll was a month and two dayes, during all wch time wee found friendship and curtesy at the hands of divers godly Christians in Bristoll. Yet our stay was grievous unto us, when wee considered how most of this time the windes were easterly and served directly for us; But our ship was not ready: so ill did or owners deale with us. ' Going.aboard ye ship in King roade the 23d of May, wee found.things very unready, and all on heapes, many goods seeing not stowed, but lying on disordered heapes, here and there in the ship. This day there came aboard the ship 2 of the searchers, and viewed a list of all or names, ministered the oath of allegiance to all at full age, viewed or certificates from the ministers in the parishes from whence we came, approved well thereof, and gave us tickets, that is, Licenses under their handes and seales, to passe the seas, and cleared the ship, and so departed. When we came to King roade (which is a spacious harbor of 5 or 6 miles broad, and 4 or 5 miles distant from Bristoll) wee found neere or ship another • ,ship of Bristoll, called the Diligence, bound for Newfound-land, riding at ancre.
    The 24th beeing the Lorde's day, the wind was strong in the morning, and ye ship daunced, and many of o1 women and some children were not well; but sea-sicke, and mazy or light in their heades, and could scarce stand or go without falling, unless they tooke hold of something to uphold them. This day Mr. Maud was excercised in the forenoone, and I in the afternoone. The wind still easterly.
    The 25th, wee that were passengers would faine have had ancre weighed, and sayle set, y' wee might have beene gone. But ye mariners would insiste that they could not stirre till ye goodes were stowed and the hatches or deck above cleared, &c. So wee were forced ££ to sit still, and fall ia hand with the goodes ; wch stay was a greater griefe unto us, because the Diligence, y' lay within 2 or 3 stones cast of us did this morning go out in or sight.
    The Tuesday morning the wind beeing easterly and the decke somewhat cleared, the mariners began to addresse themselves for going. But about nine of the clocke, when they had taken up one of their ancres, and were in a manner ready to set forward, the wind turned directly agt us, unto the west, so y' wee were forced to cast ancre againe, and sit still. This evening the Diligence, y' went out ye day before, came in againe, and cast ancre about the place where shee lay before ; and found us riding at ancre where shee left us; and another ship also bound for New England came unto us, which other ship was called the Angel Gabriel.
    On Wednesday the wind continuing still at ye west, wee having sent some of or men a shoar to fetch more bread and victuals and more water for the cattell; our Master Captayne Taylor went aboard the Angel Gabriel; Mr. Maud, Nathaniel Wales, Barnabas Fower, Thomas Armitage and my selfe accompanying him. When wee came there wee found divers passengers, and among them spme loving and godly Christians that were glad to see us there. And soone after wee were come aboard there, there came three or four more boates with more passengers, and one wherein came Sir Ferdinando Gorge, who came to see the ship and the people. When hee was come hee enquired whether there were any people there y' went to Massachusetts Bay, whereupon Mr. Maud and Barnabas Fower were sent for to come before him ; who being come he asked Mr. Maud of his country, occupation or calling of life, &c, and professed his good will to the people there in ye bay, and promised that if hee ever came there hee would be a true friend unto them.
    28. On Thursday, the wind being still at west, the Mr of the Angel Gabriel, and some of their passengers, came aboard or ship, and desired to have or company &c. This day there cattel came aboard, and or Mr and some of the saylors and passengers went a shoare.
    29. Friday morning, the wind was south-east, but or Master and some of the mariners being away, we could not set sayle ; so being constrayned to ride at ancre still, and fearing a want if or journey should proove long, some of or company were sent by boat to Bristoll, to provide some more oates for the cattel, and bread, and other provisions for or selves, wch they performed, and so came aboard again at evening. • '
    30- Saturday at morning the wind was strong at northwest ; and against or going out, and besides or Master and some of the saylors were gone ashore and not come aboard againe ; so that this day also wee were constrayned to sit still. In the afternoone ye wind waxed louder, and or ship daunced with wind and waves; and many passengers, especially women and some children, were sea-sicke.
    31. The 2d Sabbath on ship-board. The wind easterly, and directly for us; but or Master and many of the saylors beeing away, and it being also the Lords day, there could bee no going out y' day. I was excercised in the forenoone, and Mr. Maud in ye afternoone.
    June 1Munday the wind was westerly, and agt us. This day we sent some of or company ashoare to wash linnens, and some to buy more hay and provisions. Towardes night ye wind grew stronger and or ship daunced and many of ye passengers were ill through casting and sea-sicknesse.
    Tuesday, the wind still westerly. This day wee sent some of or people ashoare to provide more water, and hay for the cattel.
    Wednesday morning, the wind was easterly and good for our purpose ; but or Master and many of ye saylors went away, and those y' were aboard with us told us it was no going out till the wind was settled, lest we should be forced to come in again upon change of wind, as the Diligence was. This evening there came to ancre in King-roade another ship of Bristoll of 240 tunne, called ye Bess, or Elizabeth, bound for New-fond-land, as there had done another two or three dayes before, called the Mary, which was also bound for New-»fond-land.
    Thursday morning, the wind serving for us, and or Master and all the saylors being come aboard, wee set sayle and began or sea-voyage with glad hearts yl God had loosed us from or long stay wherein we had been holden, and with hope and trust that hee would graciously guide us to the end of or journey. We were y' set sayle together yl morning five shippes; three bound for New-fond-land, viz. the Diligence,- a ship of 150 tunne-; the Mary, a small ship of 80 tunne, and the Bess: and two bound for New England, viz. the Angel Gabriel of 240 tunne, the James of 220 tunne. And even at or setting out, we y' were in the James had experience of God's gracious providence over us, in y the Angel Gabriel haling home one of her ancres, had like, being carried by the force of the tide, to have fallen foule upon….
  7. [S115] Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Showing Three Generations Of Those Who Came Before May, 1692, On The Basis Of Farmer's Registar, Volume I: page 72.
  8. [S947] Find a grave: