Matthew Prior1,2,3,4

M, b. circa 1620, d. before 28 August 1692
     Matthew was born circa 1620 probably at County Surrey, England. By 1638, a Matthew Prior had immigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony. On 27 December of that year, at a town meeting in Salem, he was granted 6 acres of land. It is not known if this is the same person that eventually settled on Long Island. If it the same Matthew, then for an unknown reason, he returned to England where he worked as a bailiff on two manors belonging to Daniel Gotherson in County Surrey.5,6 Matthew married Mary (?) circa 1650 in England.7 Matthew's employer's primary occupation was as a trader and specualtor, and was in business with a partner. In the late 1640's the partnership ran into financial difficulties and the business was declared bankrupt in 1651. By this time, Mr. Gotherson had married Dorthea Scott who was a wealthy individual in her own right.
Apparently, in spite of the financial difficulty, Matthew continued working for the Gothersons with little or no renumeration, since in 1663 Matthew was sent to Long Island to be in charge of the lands that had been purchased from John Scott. Gotherson had arranged passage for Scott, his son, possibly his daughter, Matthew, and possibly Matthew's family.8 Matthew died in his family home in Killingworth Upon Matinecocl, Town of Oyster Bay, Queens County, Long Island, New York, between 1686 & 28 August 1692. He was laid to rest in the Prior section of the Underhill Burying Ground in Locust Valley, Town of Oyster Bay, Queens County, Long Island, New York.

Additional Notes: Daniel Gotherson: The course of Matthew’s: life were effected so greatly by his employer in England and by Captian John Scott, and the history of these individuals that it is necessary to delve deeper into the lives of these three individuals to get a true picture of the times and events surrounding Matthew Priar. Little is known of Daniel Gotherson’s early life. He was the son of Nicholas Gotherson and Joyce Brooks and was christened, as were his siblings, at St. George, Southwark, County Surrey. He was born in 1618 to parents who were farmers there in Surrey. He was married probably at a relatively young age not long after reaching his majority. The name of his wife is unknown, it is only known that he had a son from this early marriage. It is known that in his adulthood he became a partner in business and dealt in trading and speculation. He also apparently owned at least two estates, since sometime in the 1640’s he hired Matthew Prior as a bailiff of two estates in County Surrey. By the late 1640’s his business ventures had run into difficulty as he declared bankruptcy in 1649, which was finalized in 1651. His personal fortunes, however, were doing better; in the same year that he declared bankruptcy, he married for the second time. His new wife was the Lady Dorthea Scott of the Scott – hall family. His fortunes seemed to have bettered themselves as the couple were attendees of the Court, due to the inheritance of Lady Gotherson. This fact, though became their undoing as they became a target of one Captain John Scott, a con artist of the highest order, who came to the court, in 1660, with fraudulent intentions; had himself introduced to the Gotherson’s; then set about charming the Lady Dorthea and convincing her that he was indeed a kinsman of hers and of the Scott-hall family. He eventually persuaded both of the Gothersons that he had good title to more than 20,000 acres of land on the south shores of Long Island. The Gothersons gave Scott 2000 pounds for the land and in September of 1663 provided passage for Scott, the younger Daniel Gotherson and Matthew Prior to sail to Long Island, Scott in charge of the youth and Matthew to be in charge and manager of the lands and to have possession of certain lands in payment for services rendered as a bailiff. London was in the midst of bouts of the plague during this period and possibly the son was sent to get him away from the city, a daughter, Dorthea, may also have been in the party as well as Matthew’s family. The titles for the land were fraudulent and the Gothersons never saw the money or John Scott again. Daniel died in 1666, just before the Great Fire of London, believing the titles good and bequeathed the land to his family members. Shortly after her husband’s death, Dorthea also came across to Long Island, either with her daughter or to come to join her. Once here, Dorthea remarried and remained in the New World.

John Scott: Since Captain John Scott played such a crucial role in the fates that befell Matthew, it is helpful to look closer at his personal history as well.
John Scott as a young boy spent his time by creatively finding ways to harass soldiers and others who were not loyal to the king. He eventually was sent to live in New England whether to remove him from the sickness pervading London or to remove an annoying young man is not known. What ever the reason, he was taken to New England in a ship with other children by a man named Downing. Once in New England he was apprenticed to Lawrence Southwick, who had suffered persecution because of his Quaker affiliation. After his apprenticeship had ended, he moved to Southampton on Long Island by 1654. Here he attempted everything he could to raise capital for the intent of purchasing land which was extremely cheap at this time. He was at various times a blacksmith, whaler, fur trader and a sea merchant, and at some point, probably while working as a sea merchant was able to obtain the respectable title of Captain. Four year later, in 1658, Scott had plied himself into the office of tax commissioner of Southampton. He had also set up his home on land he had purchased on the south shore of Peconic Bay. While in this position, Scott worked feverishly with the local settlers and the Indian sachums to gain title to large tracts of land on the Island. He eventually would claim an area of land from shore to shore and about 20 miles wide, essentially a 20 mile by 20 mile tract of land out of the center of Long Island. He knew, however, that if the Dutch government or for that matter one of the English colonies were able to declare this part of Long Island to be their land his claims would be void. Other land owners on the Island were also nervous of these possibilities, so in 1660, Scott was able to have himself sent to England to seek status of the eastern end of the island as an independent colony.
Scott though went there with plans of his own to further his own position and to seek large financial gain. Once arriving in London, he bought new clothes and attired himself flamboyantly, made friends with servants close to the King and eventually with important officers of the Royal Court. He began to attend court and was able in this way to be introduced to the Gothersons and especially to Lady Dorthea Scott Gotherson. Scott was able to charm and to convince Lady Scott Gotherson that he was indeed a kinsman and a member of the Scott-hall family from which Dorthea had gained her inheritance. In his appearance before King Charles, Scott had requested not only an independent colony, but also that he be granted the governorship of the colony. The King, who was also duly impressed with the young Captain, seemed favorable to the request. Scott however did not receive the permission as it was denied by the king's Council of Foreign Plantations. Rumors however did go back to Long Island that in fact John Scott had been appointed Governor of the Long Island Colony. Meanwhile, Scott was plying the Gothersons with the claim of having the title of 20,000 acres of Land on the south shores of Long Island. Mrs. Gotherson with her husband’s approval, gave Scott 2000 pounds for these titles. The Gothersons of course were to never see the money again nor ever have possession of the land. Gotherson arranged for the passage for Prior, Scott, his son Daniel, and possibly his daughter as well to New England. It is not known if Prior’s family came with him at this juncture. If not, they would make the voyage in the not too distant future. On 15 September of 1663, Daniel Gotherson had a warrant drawn that declared Matthew Prior to be in charge of the lands he had possession of on Long Island and charged the Captain of the ship to have certain monies paid on their arrival, some of which was to build two houses on his lands. Prior was also to have personal possession of certain lands for compensation for services rendered in England. Scott was in charge of the young Daniel and was of course to provide Prior with the exact location of the lands purchased by the Gothersons. Prior, upon arriving on the island, set up his own residence at Mt Misery in the town of Brookhaven on lands that were supposed to be owned by Gotherson. It did not take long for Matthew to discover the fraudulent scheme of Scott. He apparently at some point was granted a home lot though as he sold land in the town of Brookhaven to his new son-in-law John Underhill in 1665. Almost from his time of arrival until late in 1668, Matthew made to pleas to various governing authorities in order to receive compensation for the land that should have been his payment for services and providing him with monies to establish him in this colony.
Meanwhile, Scott made attempts to continue manipulating the governments and the settlers, but in 1665 was arrested, escaped and fled to Barbadoes.


Mary (?) b. c 1628, d. 4 Jul 1700


  1. [S135] Clarence Almond Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, Lists reference articles on Matthew Prior.
  2. [S124] A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend & their descendants., page 73 - prior to 1673 - Walter Salter sold land in Oyster Bay to Matthew Prior and he sold it to Henry Townsend Sr. who in 1673 gave it to his daughter Susannah.
  3. [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 III: page 489 - Matthew Prior, of Salem 1638, when he had grant of land, removed to Long Island - pf Brookhaven 1665; daughter Sarah m. John Gould of Newport and next, 1711, became 4th wife of Govenor Walter Clark.
  4. [S837] George William & Cox, John Cocks, History and Genealogy of the Cock - Cocks - Cox Family Descended from James and Sarah Cock of Killingworth Upon Matinecock, in the Township of Oysterbay, Long Island, New York, pages 285-288 - Feake Section
    Appendix: pages 288-291 - Priar, Prier, Prior Lineage: Matthew Prior.
  5. [S836] Gideon Delaplaine Schull, Dorthea Scott, Otherwise Gotherson and Hogben, of Egerton House, Kent, pages 37-76.
  6. [S838] Purley, History of Salem, Massachusetts, Volume II: page 60 - ... 27 December 1638, at a town meeting, Matthew Prior admited as an inhabitant and granted 6 acres - footnote states he removed to Brookhaven prior to 1665.
  7. [S135] Clarence Almond Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, Matthew Prior married by 1651 Mary Clark or Bryer.
  8. [S837] George William & Cox, John Cocks, History and Genealogy of the Cock - Cocks - Cox Family Descended from James and Sarah Cock of Killingworth Upon Matinecock, in the Township of Oysterbay, Long Island, New York, paage 10 - Killingworth as a territorial designation first appears on the town records in the form of Kelenworth at the heading of each of the "Seven Purchased Deeds", June 22, 1667 and subsequently in the same year in deed of Captain John Underhill of Killingworth to George Denney of Oyster Bay in deed of 1669 ...