Henry Rowley's Two Wives

Henry Rowley, Planter of Plymouth, had at least two wives. It has been popularly recorded that his first wife was Sarah Palmer. Documentation that her name was Sarah has not been forthcoming, although it is almost certain that she was a daughter of William Palmer, Nayler of London and colonist of Plymouth[1]. It is not known precisely when she died. It has been alluded to that she succumbed to the same "infectious disease" that felled Thomas Blossom.

[NOTE: The following is a conjecture only of myself and a few other researchers that it is possible she died in childbirth while bearing Moses. Some have said he was born in England, others that he was born in 1630, etc. We know he was not old enough to bear arms in 1643, so he was less than 16 years old, and therefore born after 1627[2]. One of the factors pointing to William Palmer as being the father of Henry Rowley's first wife is Palmer's will in which he named Moyses Rowley "whom I love" as an heir[3]. On March 7, 1653/54, Moses Rowley was allowed a cow out of the estate of William Palmer, deceased, of Plymouth[4]. I can see no reason why that estate had not been settled earlier other than Moses had not arrived at the age of 21 before that date. That logic is proven in that William Palmer, born in 1638, acknowledged he had received "in full of my portion left unto me by my father's last will," 28 April 1659[5]. Carrying that conjecture further, if that were so, then she would have died just previous to that first tax roll when Henry Rowley's name was recorded in 1633. That would just about correspond to when Moses may have been born if this reasoning holds water. Therefore, I believe the cause of death may very well have been childbirth. - T. W. Rowley]

On 17 October 1633, Henry Rowley married Anne (Elsdon or Helsdon) Blossom, widow of Thomas Blossom[6]. In 1988, John Insley Coddington and Maclean W. McLean prepared an in-depth study, titled "The Blossom Family of Cambridgeshire, England, and New England." The series ran in The American Genealogist from April 1988 through January 1989[7]. At St. Clement's Church, Cambridge, Co. Cambridge, the following entry is found: 1605 Thomas Blossom and Anne Elsdon were married the 10th of November. The researchers examined the parish registers of County Cambridge extant at the time and found no other entries for Thomas Blossom. It is estimated Thomas Blossom was born circa 1580. The marriage record was the first record found.

Anne Helsdon (Heilsdon or Elsdon), was possibly "An," the daughter of Cuthbert and Margaret Elsden, baptized at Soham, Co. Cambridge, 23 June 1583. Helsdons had long dwelt in the town of Cambridge.

It appears Henry Rowley married an older woman. Should it be necessary to analyze why, there are several apparent reasons. Henry was a devout man who was one of the first members of Rev. John Lathrop's colony church. Anne was the widow of a "deacon." Henry was left with a very young child and needed a woman to help rear the child. And, realistically, there were not many marriageable ladies about. The Blossom boys appeared to move along with their stepfather, so they, too, were in need of a father figure.

[1]TAG 32:38-45.
[2] Eugene Aubrey Stratton, "The 1643 Able to Bear Arms List aka ABTA," Plymouth Colony, Its History & People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p.439-446.
[3] Plymouth Colony Wills and Inventories, I, folio 28.
[4] Records of Plymouth Colony, III, p. 45.
[5] Plymouth Colony Deeds, II, pt. 2:26
[6] Nathaniel B. Shurtleff & David Pulsifer, ed., Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, (1855-61), 1:16.
[7] TAG 63:65-77, 238-246; 64:23-31.


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