Thursday, February 23, 2012

Escaping Persecution in England – Michael Metcalf

B. about 1590 in Tatterford, England
M. (1) 13 Oct 1616 in Hingham, England
Wife: Sarah Elwyn
M. (2) 13 Aug, 1645 in Dedham, Massachusetts
Wife: Mary (Sothby) Pidge
D. 24 Dec 1664 in Dedham, Massachusetts
Emigrated: 15 Apr 1637 on the ship John and Dorothy

Michael Metcalf was a highly successful businessman who was forced to leave 17th century England because of his religious beliefs. He was born in about 1590 in Tatterford, England, which is in Norfolk. His parents were likely Leonard and Amy Metcalf, but this has not been definitively proven.

On October 13, 1616, Michael married Sarah Elwyn in Hingham, a town near Norwich. The couple settled in Norwich where Michael became warden of St. Benedict's church. They had 11 children born between 1617 and 1635, two of which died as infants. Michael was a cloth weaver and had a company where it was said he employed 100 workers. They made damask cloth, also known as dornix, so Michael became known as "The Dornix Weaver." The dornix was used for making carpets, curtains and wall hangings.

But even though Michael was doing well financially, he faced the hardship of religious persecution. With Catholics in charge of England, Protestants, and especially Puritans, were often victimized. A cleric by the name of Bishop Wren took over Norwich who was "a vigorous opponent of Puritanism," and he went after Michael, taking his property away and accusing him of treason. So Michael took the drastic step of leaving for America. He told his story in a letter, which survives:

"To all the true professors of Christ’s Gospel within the city of Norwich:
. . . I was persecuted in the land of my father’s sepulchres, for not bowing at the name of Jesus, and observing other ceremonies in religion, forced upon me, at the instance of Bishop Wren, of Norwich, and his chancellor Dr. Corbet, whose violent measures troubled me in the Bishop’s Court, and returned me into the High Commissioner’s Court. Suffering many times for the cause of religion, I was forced, for the sake of the liberty of my conscience, to flee from my wife and children, to go into New England; taking ship for the voyage at London, the 17th of Sepr 1636; being by tempests tossed up and down the seas till the Christmas following, then veering about to Plymouth in Old England, in which time I met with many sore afflictions."

"Leaving the ship, I went down to Yarmouth, in Norfolk county, whence I shipped myself and family, to come to New England; sailed 15th April, 1637, and arrived three days before midsummer, with my wife, nine children and a servant."

In a postscript Michael added:

"…my enemies conspired against me to take my life, and, sometimes, to avoid their hands, my wife did hide me in the roof of the house, covering me over with straw."

On arriving in America, the Metcalf family settled in Dedham, Massachusetts. Michael was admitted as a Townsman on July 14, 1637, was made a freeman on May 13, 1640, was chosen a Selectman of Dedham in 1641, and headed a committee to design a new meeting house. By 1641, Michael owned one of the principal clay pits on Dedham Island, the clay being used for brickmaking. In 1657, Michael was appointed schoolmaster of Dedham.

Michael's wife Sarah died on November 30, 1644 at Dedham, and on August 13, 1645, Michael married Mary (Sothby) Pidge, a widow from Roxbury. Michael and Mary had no children, although Mary had children from her previous marriage.

Michael died on 24 December 1664 and was buried three days later. He left a long, detailed will naming many children and grandchildren.

Famous descendants of Michael Metcalf include Beach Boys Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson.

Children (all by Sarah Elwyn):
1.  Michael Metcalf – B. 13 Nov 1617, Norwich, England; D. young

2. Mary Metcalf – B. 14 Feb 1619, Norwich, England; D. 12 Feb 1682; M. Henry Wilson, 24 Nov 1642

3. Michael Metcalf – B. 29 Aug 1620, Norwich, England; M. Mary Fairbanks, 2 Apr 1644

4. John Metcalf – B. 5 Sep 1622, Norwich, England; D. 27 Nov 1675; M. Frances Chickering, 22 Mar 1647

5. Sarah Metcalf – B. 10 Sep 1624, Norwich, England; D. 25 Dec 1671; M. Robert Onion

6. Elizabeth Metcalf – B. 4 Aug 1625, Norwich, England; D. 11 May 1711; M. Thomas Bancroft, 15 Sep 1648

7. Martha Metcalf – B. 27 Mar 1628, Norwich, England; M. (1) William Bragnell; (2) Christopher Smith, 2 Aug 1654; (3) _____ Stow

8. Thomas Metcalf – B. 27 Dec 1629, Norwich, England; D. 16 Nov 1702, Dedham, Massachusetts; M. (1) Sarah Pidge (~1638-1678), 12 Sep 1655, Dedham, Massachusetts; (2) Anne Chickering (1633-1688), 2 Dec 1679; (3) Mehitable Hands, 22 Jan 1689

9. Ann Metcalf – B. 1 Mar 1631, Norwich, England; D. young

10. Jane Metcalf – B. 24 Mar 1632, Norwich, England; M. Samuel Walker

11. Rebecca Metcalf – B. 5 Apr 1635, Norwich, England; D. 8 Dec 1667; M. John Mackintosh, 5 Apr 1659

Genealogical notes: or Contributions to the Family History of the some of the first settlers of Connecticut and Massachusetts, Nathaniel Goodwin, 1856
Metcalf Genealogy, Isaac Stevens Metcalf, 1898
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]

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