Matthew Grinnell (abt. 1590-1642)
Rose French (1605-1672)
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, Grinnell family histories have built upon early work that claimed that American Grinnell lines were connected to French nobility.
This may have been due to the temptation to read coincidence as fact. As is the case with other surnames, the late Victorian period in America saw the emergence of newly created families of wealth with their preoccupation of seeking family links to European royalty. The consequence of this was that in genealogical research questionable data was often accepted as fact when it seemed to support that goal.
The American Grinnell family line may have carried such a burden with its reported connection to the Grenelle family, Lords of Pimont in Burgundy, France.
While the Grinnell family surname is now traced back to England, the progenitors could well have been French. The surname spelling, the time and the setting could have made it possible. The late sixteenth century was a period of religious unrest in France. Many became disillusioned with the ruling establishment, both civil and religious. The Catholic church and the bishopric were the power structure, reaching down to all levels of government. Thousands rebelled, forsaking the Catholic religion of their ancestors and becoming Protestants, or Huguenots as they were called in France. This act of heresy was vigorously prosecuted by the Catholic majority, ultimately causing the new Protestants to leave France for Holland and England, as many other Huguenots had done since the horrible massacres of the late sixteenth century.
So, was our Grinnell family a part of this? There is no proof.
Matthew Grinnell was born ca. 1590, probably in or near Colchester, Essex County, England. He is known to have married on 27 August 1615 "Rose ffrench" in St. Leonard's Church (Anglican) in Lexden, a short distance west of Colchester.
Matthew, Rose and their children came to America around 1631 or '32 following the birth of their son, Thomas. They arrived first in Massachusetts. Matthew was then about 40 years old.
Establishing a homestead was difficult enough, but life was compounded by religious strife in New England. This seeming contradiction requires explanation, for, after all, hadn't the Pilgrims fled to America seeking a place of "religious freedom?"
It is an undoubted fact that in those years Rhode Island was a haven for dissenters from the religious views of the day, especially those of Puritan Massachusetts. During these years, a small band of men, driven from Massachusetts by religious persecution and intolerance, had established a new colony on the island of Aquidnexk, later to become Rhode Island. The Rhode Island colony of Roger Williams and associates permitted "free thought," meaning the liberty of a person to choose not to affiliate himself with a religious congregation, and thus to escape the strict controls which, at that time the Puritans of Massachusetts exercised over all aspects of life. A free-thinker believed that a man's religion was nobody's business but his own. This was in sharp contrast to the Puritan view that everyman's religion was a vital community concern, and anyone not controlled by a religious congregation was a threat to the community. There was no special liberal denomination originating in Rhode Island. All the usual denominations of the day were represented there, all living in relative harmony, but the man who chose to have no religion at all was rare. As a result, the concept attracted persons of an independent turn of mind, often in politics as well as religion.
Landing first in the vicinity of Portsmouth, the majority of the settlers proceeded to the southwesterly part of the island, and there founded the tiny colony of Newport on the simple tenets of public rights to fishery and tolerance for doctrine. The small communities rapidly attracted newcomers, among whom was Matthew, who was "admitted" to the settlement of Newport as a freeman on 6 August 1638.
Clearing a homestead was not easy in Newport. The site was a thickly wooded swamp, with tall trees growing on the surrounding hills. These had to be cut away leaving a thick growth of underbrush. Indians were hired to help clear the land and burn the slash. In addition, much sand and gravel had to be laboriously hauled in to fill the swamp.
The life was hard, and Matthew died between 1638 and 1642, when he was about 50, leaving the widow and children. This is known, as Rose signed a prenuptial agreement with her second husband, Anthony Paine in 1643.
Matthew and Rose's children were:
Rose Grinnel bpt. 21 May 1616, St. Leonard's, Lexden. No further record; she may have died young, or married early and remained in England. Matthew Grinnell bpt. 18 July 1619, St. Leonard's, Lexden. Died young, buried 26 May 1620. Mary Grinnell bpt. 15 May 1622, St. Leonard's, London. She came to America with her parents, and married John Manchester Matthew Grinnell born after 1620. Came to America with his parents, and married Mary (?); resided in East Greenwich RI. Thomas Grinnell bpt. 30 Jan 1630 in St. Botolph's Church, Colchester. Came to America with parents but no further record. Daniel Grinnell born ca. 1636, probably in MA; died 1703. He married Mary Wodell.
Rose married (2nd) 10 November 1643 Anthony Paine, a widower with three
children. Anthony died in 1649. Rose, widowed first at about 35 with four small
children, was now widowed again at age 45 with seven children, and with only a
tiny farm for sustenance. Within a year she married (3rd) James Weeden. All
this is not surprising and not uncommon, considering the living difficulties at
Daniel Grinnell (ca. 1636-1703)
Mary Wodell (1640-1702)
Daniel as a young man lived with his mother and step-father, who was a maltster. He learned the trade, and became a maltster as an adult. A maltster was a maker of malt, hence beer or ale.
In 1656, Daniel bought thirty acres of land in Portsmouth, and at a town meeting that year was received formally into the community. He continued to live in Portsmouth for more than twenty years.
He took an active interest in public affairs, serving on the petit and grand juries, and for several years was constable. The constable was an important man in those days, collecting taxes or "rates", acting in the capacity of trial justice and as conservator of the peace.
About 1679, Daniel left the island. He moved to the mainland settlement of Little Compton, to which had also come a number of settlers from the northeast, some of them descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Intermarriages soon took place between the newcomer families and the Rhode Island families.
Daniel and Mary both died in 1702-'03. Their known children were:
Daniel Grinnell 1664-1740 m. Lydia Pabodie Richard Grinnell 1669-1725 m. Patience Emery Jonathan Grinnell 1670-? m. Rebecca Irish
Of these, Daniel married Lydia, the granddaughter of John Alden and Priscilla
Mullins, legendary characters of the Pilgrim saga. Our line, however, is
Richard Grinnell (1669 - 1725)
Patience Emery (1682-1749)
Richard was born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, as determined by his grave marker, which also notes that he died 1 July 1725 in his 56th years.
At about age 35 he married Patience Emery, daughter of James Emery and Elizabeth Washburne Emery on 25 May 1704, probably in Little Compton RI. She was a descendant of Anthony Emery, a 1635 settler of Kittery ME.
Richard and Patience spent the rest of their lives in Little Compton, Although he died rather young, he had accumulated a fair sized estate, which included two slaves.
Patience died 10 March 1749, aged about 67 years. She is presumably buried with Richard in the Commons at Little Compton, but there is no marker.
They had nine children:
George Grinnell 1704-1768 m. Mercy Sanford. Family narrative follows this section. William Grinnell b. 19 Mar 1707 in Little Compton; married Mary Sanford, sister of Mercy on 18 Sep 1726. They had seven children. William served in the American Revolution, and died in January 1778. Rebecca Grinnell b. 15 Dec 1710 in Little Compton. She married 4 May 1736 Roger White. Her death date is unknown. Elizabeth Grinnell b. 21 May 1713 in Little Compton. Apparently never married. Patience Grinnell b. 24 Apr 1715 in Little Compton. Married 30 Nov 1735 to John Woodman Richard Grinnell b. 8 Mar 1717 in Little Compton. Known as "Pirate Dick", Richard married first, Alice Church and second, Comfort Bailey,daughter of Richard and Sarah Billings and widow of William Bailey. They had twelve children. Richard also served in the American Revolution. He died 1 Mar 1789 in Little Compton. Ruth Grinnell b. 3 April 1719 in Little Compton. She was married 19 Jan 1738 to Oliver Paddock. She died 9 years later in 1747. Daniel Grinnell b. 20 April 1721 in Little Compton. He married 11 Jan 1747 Grace Palmer, daughter of John Palmer and Elizabeth Church Palmer. They had nine children. Sarah Grinnell b. 6 May 1723 in Little Compton. She married Thomas Woodman on 11 Jan 1747.
George Grinnell (1704- 1768)
Mercy Sanford (1704-?)
George was born 25 Jan 1704, as recorded in the Little Compton Town Hall records.
Mercy Sanford, born 19 Jan 1704 was a daughter of John Sanford and Content Howland Sanford.
George and Mercy were married in Portsmouth RI. The Portsmouth Town Hall record reads in part that, George Grinnell and Mercy Sanford, both of Little Compton, -- came into the Town of Portsmouth and on the third day of the fifth month (Old style) 1726 and in the evening of said day were lawfully joyned together in marriage before me, signed by William Sanford, Justice. His relationship to Mercy is unknown.
George died in 1768, leaving a will drawn the 11th day in the 32nd year of our sovereign Lord, George the 2nd (i.e. 1758). The date of her death is unknown, as is the place of burial.
They had seven children:
Lydia Grinnell b. 7 Dec 1726. She married John Simmons Aaron Grinnell b. 4 Jun 1728 in Little Compton. He married first, Elizabeth Peckham Coe on 4 Jun 1748, second, Margaret Taylor, and third in his old age, Lois Church on 3 April 1800. There were three children by Elizabeth and six by Margaret. Aaron died 18 Sep 1804 in Jamestown RI. Jemina Grinnell and Kezia Grinnell Twins born 18 Jan 1730. Jemina married John Taylor on 3 Dec 1747, and Kezia married Job Cook on 30 Sep 1755. Isaiah Grinnell b. 24 Dec 1732 in Little Compton. He married 30 Jun 1757 in Newport RI Katherine Hill. She apparently died by 1759 since he married, second, Sarah Austin in that year. This family narrative follows. Eunice Grinnell b. 2 Mar 1735 in Little Compton. No further record. Malachi Grinnel b. 2 Jan 1737 in Little Compton. He married 10 May 1760 Lydia Coe. He is recorded as dying aboard a prison ship in 1789 during the Revolution. Malachi and Lydia had seven children.
Isaiah Grinnell (1732- ca. 1780)
(1) Katherine Hill