John Sheldon (1630?-1690?)
Father unknown
Mother unknown
Vital Information
Born c1630 in England
Married Sarah - c1650 in England or Newport, Rhode Island
Died c1690 in Narraganset Country, Rhode Island
1 John Sheldon (c1660-1705) m. unknown

It is currently assumed that John Sheldon was born in England and later arrived in the New World, but when is unclear. We can estimate that he was born in 1630, or possibly earlier, since he already had a grown son, John Sheldon Jr, in 1679. If John Jr was 19 in 1679, then he would have been born in 1660. It could easily have been a few years earlier, but 1660 is a good round estimate for now. Give an average age of 30 to his father, and John Sr would have been born in c1630. Now regarding his place of birth, there were already colonists in the new world in 1630, but the only Sheldon was Godfrey Sheldon of Maine who did have a son John Sheldon that was the same age as our John Sheldon, but Godfrey's son is well documented in the town of Billerica, Massachusetts where he was married to Anne Thompson at around the same time that our John was married to Sarah. They could not possibly be the same person, so then it can be assumed that our John Sheldon was born in England (since there seems to be no other option of a progenitor in the colonies) and either came here when young with a father whose name has been lost to history, or came as a young adult. If he came as a young adult, then he probably did not arrive in the colonies until at least 1646 (at age 16), or more realistically closer to 1650. Our first record of him is, in fact, 1652.

I should note, although I do not subscribe to theory due to a lack of documentation, that the Rev. Henry O. Sheldon wrote in his Sheldon genealogies in the 1850's, which he published as "The Sheldon Magazine" that John Sheldon of South Kingston was the son of William Sheldon, born 1611 and that William came to Boston, Massachusetts with Governor Endicott. This should be searched further, but as of yet no documentation has been found to support it and Rev. Sheldon did not note where or how he obtained this information. Even the Sheldon Family Association, which was founded upon the research of Rev. Sheldon, no longer includes this elder William in their genealogies. So I go on with the assumption that John Sr arrived in the colonies on his own:

By 1646 the area that is now known as Rhode Island was already well under development. Roger Williams had started the first colony at Providence, RI in 1636 on land that William had purchased from Massasoit, Canonicus and Miantonomi, chief sachems of the Narragansett tribe. They drew up town agreements in 1637 and 1640, signed by all of the free men of the town, and no one by the name of Sheldon is included. In 1637 the Antinomians, the followers of Anne Hutchinson, purchased the island of Aquidneck from the Narragansett's. The Antinomians founded the town of Pocasset that year on the north part of the island, now known as Portsmouth, and a group fractured from them and founded the town of Newport on the south part of the island in 1639. There were 8 founders of this town, including Thomas Hazard who is also an ancestor, but still no "Sheldon" yet at that time.

It is, however, in Newport that we find the first record of our John Sheldon. In it John was a witness to a "covenant" between two citizens of Newport, but what the covenant, or agreement, was is not specified. It reads simply:

13 Oct. 1652 - John Sheldon and Richard Knight witness a covenant between Peter Easton and Henry Stevens, both of Newport, RI.

On January 6, 1657 he was held, under his own recognizance, on an indictment for "an afray by disoerderly carridges". Basically he was at a party at the home of Thomas Gould, apparently a friend, along with several others including Thomas Gould, Robert Griffin, Edward Audley and Thomas Wintherton, "all of Newport". They had been drinking and apparently said some nasty things about the Lord Proctor. Oliver Cromwell had been the "Lord Proctor of England" from 1653 until his death in 1658. John plead not guilty and was released as long as he promised to be more careful in the future. If he was born in 1630 as estimated, he would have been only 27 years old at this time, which fits well into his timeline. A young man, drinking with his friends and talking about politics in a heated but apparently friendly way. The full indictment reads as follows:

John Sheldon Beinge by Recognzence bownd to this Court and by the Cenrl Aturny indicted for an afray by Disorderly Carridges acted in and at Thomas Coulds howse on the 6th janr 1657. The jurry impanelled: upon the Traverce pleads not guilty And refferrs him Selfe to god and Guntry for Tryall.

The jurry returned and their answer is that the indictments came not Soe orderly to them as to justify them to give in A verditt because it had not beine passed on by A grand in quest before hand.

Thomas Gould Robert Griffin Edmund Audly John Sheldon and Thomas Winterton all of newptt Beinge bownd over to this Court for Disorders Done at Thomas Goulds house on Wedensday night the sixt of January last and the Court haveinge had A verry strict and a Searioushereinge and inquiry into the matter are convinced that the sayd persons in their then drinkinge helths intended nothing against the dignity of his highnes the lord protector, &cr thay also Solemly Denyinge any indignity intended in the same, and also confesinge their sorrow for their Rude and unorderly Caridges at the afore-sayd time and place, and of makeinge soe much disturbance therby and promisinge every one of them to Endeavour to avoyd the licke Disorderly actions againe, the Court are pleased noe longer to continue the sayd persons to stand bownd but upon paying Fees due to officers of Court thay are Discharged by proclamation in open Court."

I love this document because it shows us that John was not afraid of having a good time, even in an otherwise puritan atmosphere. It probably wasn't long after this that he married, if he wasn't already, since his son had to have been born by at least 1660, if not earlier. We know only that her name was Sarah and that she lived to an old age, her son having left provisions for her in his will of 1704, so she was probably quite young when her son was born in 1660. This gives an approximate birth date for her of 1642, (if age 18 in 1660). Since we do not know her surname, there is no way to tell if she was born in the colonies, which is very possible, or England. She could have even been a native, considering how few English women were living in the area - but this is probably unlikely since there is no mention of it. It was taboo and would have been noteworthy.

On January 16, 1664 Richard Knight (mentioned with John back in 1652) and Henry Hall, bought 2 square miles of land in the Narragansett Country from Cogamaquoant, a sachem of the area. This become known as the "Hall-Knight Purchase" and bordered on the earlier and much larger "Pettaquamscutt Purchase". The Hall-Knight purchase was located just southwest of present day West Kingstown, Rhode Island. Since Richard Knight was already a friend of John's, we can guess that John might have purchased a part of this land for himself, or moved here shortly after this purchase took place. He seems to have at least been living here at the time of the "King Phillip's War" in 1675. I'll explain:

In 1675 a war broke out between the colonists of Massachusetts and various Indian tribes. The local Narragansett's had stayed neutral to the trouble for the most part, but had been accused of harboring some warriors, women and children of the other warring tribes, and also were suspected of being behind the massacre at the home of Henry Bull. The colonists retaliated and attacked a substantial Narragansett fortification in the area of South Kingston very close, or possibly even within, the Hall-Knight Purchase. 300 natives, including women and children, were killed. This battle would become known as the "Great Swamp Fight".

The Rhode Island colonists, including the Sheldon's, did not take part in the fighting but did aide many of the Massachusetts colonists who led the attack. The Narragansett's retaliated against the Rhode Island colonists and the entire area fell into a time of incredible turmoil. The colonists would later describe how they had to live in holes (probably their cellars), that they couldn't leave the area because they had put their entire lives into the settlement and had nothing left to start over with. They couldn't leave, but surly no one new, at least no one in their right mind, would have moved into the area at this time. After three and a half years passed, the colonists plead to the King for assistance.

On July 29, 1679 forty-two residents of the Narraganset Country signed a petition to King Charles asking him to make a final judgement as to which colony the Narragansett Country belonged - Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut or Rhode Island - so that which ever the colony, they could make some change in the area and rebuilt their lives. "John Shelldin" and "John Sheldon Jun'r" both signed this petition as long time residents of Narragansett Country. So they must have already been living in the area at the time of King Philip's War. In fact, they may have been living within just a few hundred yards of the "Great Swamp Fight" were so many Narragansett's were killed. Their fortification was also located just southwest of West Kingston, within or very close to the Hall-Knight Purchase.

In 1681 forty residents of Narragansett founded the new town of South Kings Town, which included the area were the Hall-Knight Purchase and the Pettaquamscutt Purchase were located, as well as the location of the Great Swamp Fight. John Sheldon was one of the forty. On October 20, 1683 John Sheldon purchased 230 acres from Benjamin Congdon "near the Pettaquamscutt Purhcase", but this may have just been an addition to land John already had in the area, the original deed having been lost. Unfortunately for us, there is no way to distinguish whether this "John Sheldon" was the Sr or the Jr. Some believe it was the Jr and that the Sr must have already died, because if he had not yet died and there were two "John Sheldon's" in the area, that they would have written a Sr or Jr to tell them apart.

Finally we have a purchase of land on July 4, 1693 from "Henry Hall of Westerly, weaver" to "John Sheldon of Kingstown, planter". This land is described as "200 acres northwest from John Sheldon's dwelling house that Henry Hall purchased from Conganaquoant". This is, of course, referring to the Hall-Knight Purchase. I believe that the purchaser here is actually John Sheldon Jr, now with a family of his own and living within the actual village of Kingstown, rather than the outlying parts were the Hall-Knight Purchase was located. And that the "John Sheldon's dwelling house" mentioned is that of his father John Sr. But they do not refer to him as "the late" John Sheldon, so I think that he may have still been alive at this time. Either that or both of the John Sheldon's mentioned are the some person, the son having already inherited the land of his father, and wanting to expand upon it. Also, old maps and a Sheldon Cemetery description, both indicate that the Sheldon property was located within the Hall-Knight Purchase, and more specifically at the corner of modern day Route 2 and Liberty Lane, just across the street from where the memorial to the Great Swamp Fight stands.

After John Sheldon Sr died, whenever that may have been, his wife Sarah continued on. In 1704 John Jr wrote in his will that his heirs, specifically his son John (III), was to take care of his "honoured mother Sarah Sheldon". He referred to owning two separate residences, one in Kings Town and one being "the dwelling house I now live in" which I believe was the property on the Hall-Knight Purchase, his fathers house and were his mother was most likely still living. John Jr left his home in Kings Town to his son Isaac, who was probably already living there as almost all of Isaac's records refer to him in Kings Town, and he left the rest of the estate, including John Sr's home, to his son John III. Since John III was also left in charge of caring for his grandmother Sarah, it makes sense that he would inherit her house as well so that she did not have to move in her old age.

And so ends the first known generation of the Sheldon family in New England. A man and his wife, and their one son.