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The Townsend family of Long Island

The Townsend family in early America

    The three brothers, John, Henry and Richard came to New Amsterdam ca 1640. John already had wife Elizabeth, born in Ireland.  The brothers resided in New Amsterdam until the tragic Indian War of 1643. There were friendly Indians living among the settlers and when threatened by a hostile tribe, the friendly Indians fled toward the fort at New Amsterdam. Willem Kieft, the then governor, did not let the friendly Indians in but instead had them fired upon. This led to a senseless war that left little standing of the fledgling colony.
    After living in an overcrowded fort for two years, Willem Kieft granted to the English settlers a tract of land which we now know as Flushing. Forever at odds with the Dutch over many things like not having English officials such as sheriff, magistrates, and having to pay tithe to the Dutch Church, most of the colony left and went to Providence Plantation, Warwick, Rhode Island. One big issue was the treatment of Quakers. Massachusetts threw them out and they came to the Dutch Colony
to be with other English speaking peoples. The Dutch would have none of it. The Townsends were not then Quakers (some did become so at a later date) but they objected to the terrible treatment handed out to their countrymen. Henry Townsend went to jail no less than 3 times and paid terrible fines.
    After about ten years the Townsends returned to Long Island and this time they settled in what we now know as Jamaica. Again, they were soon at odds with the Dutch. In 1661 they folded up and moved to Oyster Bay which was beyond Dutch rule. By this time, Oyster Bay was in the territory under the jurisdiction of the Connecticut Colony. The land that the brothers owned in Jamaica was later sold by their children. The record of what happened to their land in Flushing is unknown since all the records were burned...
    The were not Quakers, although some descendants of them did belong years later. The main body of the New York Townsends have always belonged to the Anglican faith. Most of our good marriage records come from St. George's Anglican Church in Hempstead, NY

The Townsend Society of America has preserved artifacts and written materials illustrative of many facets of the nation's history.
Membership is open to all who share an interest in the goals of the society

Contact Information
Townsend Society of America
21 West Main Street
Oyster Bay, NY 11771

Phone: 516-558-7092



Reception Area
The TSA encourages those interested in Townsend genealogy to check out the  Townsend E-mail List  on RootsWeb.

The following is taken from a Memorial of the Townsend Brothers.


    These brothers came form Norwich, County of Norfolk, England. The time of their emigration cannot be precisely fixed. It was, however, several years before 1645, as in that year Governor Kieft gave a patent for the Town of Flushing to John Townsend and others; and from a petition of his widow to Governor Andros, we learn that he had previously taken up land near New York, and "peaceably enjoyed the same divers years," but alarms from the Indians, and other difficulties which she does not specify, induced him to  leave his improvements , and commence the settlement of Flushing, where he was joined by Henry. The Townsends were Friends and were soon at variance with the Dutch authorities: the differences between them, However, seems to have had their origin quite as much in politics as religion; for John Townsend is named by Governor Stuyvesant among the principal persons of Flushing "who resist the Dutch mode of choosing Sheriff, pretending against the adopted course in the Fatherland, and who refuse to contribute their share to the maintenance of Christian, pious, reformed ministers." He, with the others named, was summoned to appear, 23d of January, 1648, before the Director-General, Governor, and council, at Fort Amsterdam. If they decline, they are to be apprehended and prosecuted by the Attorney-General. Thompson, in his History of Long Island, says that on account of these difficulties, with the Government, the Townsends, left Flushing and went to Warwick, R. I., where they were, all three, members of the Provincial Assembly, beside holding municipal offices. In 1658, they determined once more to attempt a settlement on Long Island, and in that year obtained, with others, the patent of Jamaica, then called. Rusdorp. Very soon, however, the old religious difficulties best them. Henry seems to have made himself particularly obnoxious, although, as already shown, John neither concealed nor
compromised his opinions. In 1657, Henry was sentenced to pay £8 Flanders, or to leave the Province in six weeks, for having "called together coventicles." The people of Flushing held a meeting and addressed a remonstrance to the Governor, written by the Town-Clerk, and signed, among others, by Tobias Feake, Sheriff, and Noble and Farrington, two of the magistrates, and presented by the Sheriff. He, the Clerk, and magistrates were arrested, and John Townsend also, upon a charge of having induced the magistrates to sign, and he was ordered to find bail in £12 pounds, to appear when summoned. Henry was brought before the
Council, January 15th, 1658, and condemned to pay £100 Flanders, and to remain arrested until it be paid. We are not told how this was settled; but he was in Oyster Bay during this year, as his signature as witness to an Indian deed proves. In January, 1681, two of the magistrates furnished the names of twelve persons, including John and Henry Townsend and their wives, "who countenanced the Quakers." Henry was again imprisoned, but there is no indication that John was molested. This account of the Townsends, before they came to Oyster Bay, is taken entirely from Thompson's History of Long Island. He probably received it from Dr. Peter Townsend, whose Note-Book shows conclusively the reason why Henry was so much more involved in these difficulties than John, who was also a
Friend, attended "conventicles," and "countenanced Quakers," but Henry went from door to door, urging people to attend their meetings, which gave great umbrage, especially as regarded young people and children. From the date of the Mill grant, September 16, 1681, the history of the brothers and their descendants has been taken from the Town Records, and from family papers, and for that we are responsible. There we have only inferences and conjectures to give, we offer them as such.


    Settled in Oyster Bay, between  the middle of January and the 16th of September, 1661. As he was living in Jamaica at the first date, and his name being upon the Mill grant, he must have been admitted as a Townsman in Oyster Bay before the last. There is an entry upon the Records, that he bought his house in South street in February, 1661, but the deed, in the possession of J. C. Townsend, is dated October. It is as follows:
    "Oyster Bay, this 5th day of the 10th month, 1661. Be it known unto all by these presents, that I, Jonas Halstead, of Oyster Bay, on Long Island, in America, do hereby acknowledge that I have sold and delivered all my right, title, and interest of all the housing and land that is here named, as follows: - Richard Holbrook's house or houses, built by him or me, and house, lot, and the shares of meadow on the north side of the Town, and a share of meadow at Matinecock, and one right of meadow at the south, and twenty shares of the Great Plains, that is on the east side of the footpath, near the wood edge, and also all the rights, appurtenances, and privileges that do fall to, or any way belong to the aforesaid house lot, within the Town bounds. I say, I have sold and delivered it all in quiet possession, for full satisfaction already received, unto John Townsend, of the said Town and place, and do also hereby engage to make good the sale of the aforesaid house and lands, against any person or persons that may any wise lay claim thereto: and I do hereby further acknowledge that I have fully sold all the said houses and lands from me,
my heirs and assigns, unto him, his heirs and assigns forever, to enjoy without molestation by me, or any from me, as witness my hand, this day and year first above written.      Jonas Halstead."

    John Townsend must have been quite advanced in years when he settled in Oyster Bay; having led a most active and laborious life since his emigration, he had made three different homes in the wilderness, if not four, before he found a final resting-place. His widow in the petition to Governor Andros, above mentioned, says:
" Your Honor's petitioner's husband, many years last past, was seized of a certain parcel of land, containing eight acres by estimation, lying and being at the Fresh Water (Collect), New York, then called New Amsterdam, where your Honor's petitioner's husband did build, and make large improvements, and peaceable enjoyed the same divers years in the time of great calamity, being daily alerted by the Indians, and other difficulties attending upon your Honor's petitioner's husband, and
afterwards got no better reward than such discouragement's as caused your Honor's petitioner's husband to leave his good improvements. However, your Honor's petitioner is well contented at present, hoping her husband and others, by their adventures, and running through many fiery trials of affliction, has been in some measure instrumental to bring a chaos into goodly fields, buildings, and gardens; and instead of your Honor's petitioner's husband reaping the fruits of their labors, but on the contrary, was forced to hew a small fortune out of the thick wood, with his own hands, for himself, wife and children." Her object in this petition was to reclaim the eight acres taken up by her husband; but as it had been thirty years since he left it, never having had any title but possession, it is not surprising that her
petition was not granted. Perhaps she might have fared better if it had been written in the clear, condensed style of her son Thomas, instead of the clumsy, involved, tedious, and inelegant document elaborated by George Cooke. As we have seen, after leaving this home, he, with others, settled Flushing in 1645, and Jamaica in 1656. At his age, and after such toils and privations as he had undergone, it is not surprising that he should have retired from all public concerns, and have left the burden of organizing and managing the new settlement to younger men, especially as he had two sons of and age to take his place. The office of Overseer is the only one he is known to have held here. In 1663, he bought from Thomas Armitage the homestead next south of his own and his name frequently appears on the Records as a purchaser of property. His wife was Elizabeth Montgomery. He died in 1668, and was buried on his own place, probably the first person laid in the graveyard on Fort Hill. As he died intestate, his widow, according to a custom prevailing here, divided his estate, with the advice and consent of her older sons, and her husband's brothers. We give this document below. The solicitude which she shows for the comfort and welfare of "the lads", as she calls her two younger sons, is very touching.

    "These presents declare unto whom it may any wise concern, that I, Elizabeth Townsend, widow of the late deceased John Townsend, in Oyster Bay, in the north riding, on Long Island, because my said husband deceased without any will, I herein, with the advice of my husband's two brothers, Henry and Richard Townsend, and with the advice and consent of my two oldest sons, John and Thomas Townsend, all of Oyster Bay, above said, have together parted my said husband's estate amongst his six younger children, for their portions, instead of a will, by which will, each of the children, namely, James, Rose, Anne, Sarah, George, and Daniel may know what shall be, and what to claim for their portion of their father's estate, and this to stand firm and unalterable by me, or any through, or by me, but to remain for a settlement of peace between me and my Children, which is as followeth . .    Imp.
1st.  Unto my son James, I give for his portion out of the estate, in present possession, in lands, beside cattle and horses he have in hand already, first three acres of land and three-quarters, lying on the south side of that was old Armitage's lot, in Oyster Bay, lying or adjoining to the highway on the eastward and western sides, with commoning and common privileges to it, of wood, land, timber, as other such lots have; and he is to have the land upon part of his common right, that his father did improve, on the east side of Matinecock Creek, joining on the south of his uncle Henry's land, and two shares of meadow lying on the west side of the Creek, or Beaver Swamp, and one share of meadow on the east of the said Creek; and he is to have six acres of Plains, and a quarter of a share of meadow at the south, and so much of the south side of the swamp at the rear of my house as proves to be mine, of which swamp Josias Latting hath a part. To my daughters I do engage to give to each of them thirty pounds a piece, for their portion, and to my eldest daughter Elizabeth, although not above mentioned, yet she is to have, with what she hath already received, thirty pounds, all at such pay as passes between man and man, after the rate of Indian corn at three shillings a bushel, and wheat at five.
2d. To the said Elizabeth, or her husband, Gideon Wright, towards her portion, I give with what her father had before given her already, first two cows, ten pounds; a young horse, five pounds; a bed and furniture, ten pounds; two sheep, one pound; one kettle, one pound; in all twenty-seven pounds; and Gideon, her husband, is to have three pounds more; and that will be thirty pounds in all.
3d.    To my daughter Rose I give half a share of meadow at the south, with two cows and two calves she hath already received, and commoning in Oyster Bay, with twenty-six acres of land, and three pounds in Richard Townsend's hands, and a yearling mare colt, it all being called by us at thirty pounds.
4th.    To my two youngest daughters, Anne and Sarah, their portions are to be thirty pounds apiece, out of the stock or in lands, as they may desire, if their mother decease before their portions are paid; but if they be disposed of in marriage while I remain a widow; I have liberty to pay to each of them their portion in cattle or land, as I see they have most need and I able to do it, or part one, part of the other.
5th. It is my will, and I do fully agree that my two youngest sons, George and Daniel, shall have these two homesteads I now possess, with the privileges belonging to them, after my decease, but they are to be mine and for my use,  to possess and enjoy for my use and comfort, during my life, and at my decease to be theirs as above said, with privileges as follows:  to each part is nominated his particular interest.
6thly. To my son George I give for his portion as above said, being the eldest, the house and house lot that I now possess, and orchard which then shall be
on it, and two shares of meadow that lie in the Town of Oyster Bay, which was bought with the lot, and six acres of Plains, with commoning and common privileges, in the First Purchase of the Town.
7th.    To my youngest son, Daniel, above mentioned, after my decease above said, is to have the other lot, or that part of land lying between his brother James's lot and his brother George's lot. It was bought of old Armitage. I say, he is to have it, with the privileges belonging to it; namely, two shares of meadow lying on the north side of the town, which was bought with the lot of the said Thomas Armitage, and six acres of Plains, and twelve acres of land, and common privileges. And I do by this will and appoint, that if I decease before these my two youngest sons be of age, that two of their eldest brothers take them and bring them up, and to have the use of the boys' land and what other goods and chattels fall to them. The goods and chattels are to priced when they receive it, and delivered back to the said boys the same price or value again, when they go from their brothers, whether they be of age or not; for I do appoint my brother, Henry Townsend, their uncle, to have the oversight of them if he outlive me, and to remove one or both to the rest of their brothers or sisters, with the lands and estates to make use of toward the bringing up
of the said lads; but when they go away to have their whole principal returned to or with them, but not to remove them without their complaint to him on good grounds, for the said removal, of hard usage. And I do by this will and appoint that, at my decease, unalterable by me, or any through or by me, all my estate undisposed of, as goods, household stuff, and cattle, are all to be equally divided amongst all my living children; and I further order and appoint that, if any one or more of my said sons or daughters die under age, undisposed of in marriage, the deceased's lands and estates are all to be divided equally amongst all my living
sons and daughters; but it is still to be understood that whoever have the bringing up of the two young lads, and the use of their estate towards their maintenance, their lands and houses is with fences to be delivered up in good repair as when they received it, and the property of lands and houses, and orchard, is not to be altered to or from either of the said lads, although the property of other goods or chattels may be altered upon just and honest terms. And further, it is agreed that my
eldest son, John, is to have such land at Hog Island, at my decease, or at south, if I leave any undisposed of, to my youngest daughters, Anne and Sarah, above said. But a lot on Hog Island, of the third division, number ten, my husband gave my son Thomas. Unto all the promises and engagements above mentioned, I do hereby engage to perform, under my hand and seal, the twenty-third year of the reign of Charles the Second, King of England, and the tenth day of the fifth month, 1671. Before signing was entered in the fifth and eighth lines, that I now as witness my hand and seal,
                                   "Elizabeth Townsend.

"In the presence of us,
          "Moses Furman,
          "Benjamin Hubbard.

"I do own my brother Richard did consent to the substance of which is above mentioned, and with my advice also, as witness my hand.
                                    "Henry Townsend.

     "And we consent to the above said.
     "John Townsend,                    James Townsend
     "Thomas Townsend              Gideon Wright."

    Richard Townsend must have died after this settlement was agreed upon, but before its execution. The thirty pounds allotted to each of the daughters seems to our ideas, a very small fortune, while the Fort Neck estate, given by Thomas Townsend to his daughter Freelove, we regard as a munificent portion; but we must
remember that thirty pounds would have bought two such estates. John's daughters, however, received nearer one hundred pounds than thirty, for Rose sold her land for thirty pounds, the cattle and money allotted to her were worth at least twenty, and her dividend, at her mother's death, must have been very considerable; for the widow Townsend appears very often on the Records, buying land and receiving allotments, and was evidently a woman of great energy and ability. So that, no doubt, her daughters were among the greatest fortunes of their day, as it was not expected that any girls should share equally with their brothers. Rose married John Wicks, or Weeks, of Warwick, Rhode Island, the brother of Richard Townsend's second wife. After his death she married Samuel Hayden. Nothing is known of her family. Of Anne and Sarah, nothing whatever is known.

     Nothing is known of this youngest of the Townsend brothers until he appears at Jamaica, in 1656.  The first time his name occurs on the Oyster Bay Records is in 1668, when he bought land at Lusum, of Robert Williams.  It is only in connection with that, and other purchases and allotments, that he appears upon the Records.  His first wife was a sister of Henry's wife, and a daughter of Robert Coles.  The second was Elizabeth Wicks, or Weeks, of Warwick, R.I., whose brother John married Rose, daughter of John 1st.  The date of his death is not known, but the settlement of his estate,  ... is dated early in 1671, and as his son Richard was then but twelve weeks old, he could not have been dead a great while.


During his father's life, John 2nd lived in South Street on the east side, north of the Summers house. In 1698 the name of his wife was Phebe, but there is reason to believe that his first wife, the mother of his children, was Susannah, daughter of Richard Harcurt, or, properly Harcourt. Shortly after his father's death, in 1668, he sold his house to his brother  Thomas, and bought land of Robert Williams, at Lusum (now Jericho), of which he must have been one of the first six settlers. After
living at Lusum sometime, he removed to West Neck, where, as well as at Unkoway Neck, he made many purchases of land. It is probable that he returned to Lusum before his death, the date of which is not known, but he was still living in 1715, when he was not less than eighty years old. He is called, on the Records, John Townsend, Senior. Issue, Solomon, James, Thomas, Nathaniel, and probably three daughters. Of the daughters nothing is known, unless it be that the name of one of
them was Hannah

From "A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend, and theirdescendants," 1865:

The information on the Line of  Thomas Van Zandt was provided by Eric Van Zandt - 49 Rue Lacepede 75005 Paris.