RALPH DAYTON, Immigrant Progenitor

"The Record of a Family Descent from Ralph Dayton and Alice (Goldhatch) Tritton, Married June 16, 1617, Ashford, County Kent, England
A Genealogical and Biographical Account of One Branch of the Dayton Family in America
by Edson C. Dayton - Privately Printed, 1931 - Copyright 1931 by Caroline K. Dayton


     I use the above heading to associate this ancestor with, and at the same time to distinguish him from, the family group who came over with him. As his children were young, it was probably his spirit that prompted him and carried through the great adventure. That spirit was born of the times and conditions in England and in the world at large. Westward the course of civil and religious liberty took its way. It was a rising spirit and nothing could daunt it: the long and perilous ocean voyage, a harsh climate, a wilderness unsubdued, the severing of family and social ties, the departure from the country of childhood and of forefathers never to return. It was no small matter. We are satisfied in our genealogical inquiry not to go further back than to the generation which gave up England for America in the seventeenth century.
     There can be no doubt the subject of this section was of humble origin. He was a shoemaker by trade. The time was coming, however, in the development of "the new world" when Henry Wilson, a Massachusetts cobbler, should become Vice President, and Andrew Johnson, a tailor, should become President, and William L. Dayton, a descendant of Ralph, should be the candidate of a great party for the second office in the
government. Not only is this true, but it is also true that in coming to this country Ralph Dayton accomplished more for himself, for his family and for his neighbors than he could have done by remaining where he was. Frontier life has a marvelous power to develop an admirable self-sufficiency which can take care of almost any situation, no matter how limited the equipment. Fortunately associated as he was with men of high character and unusual ability, he acquired a respectable and useful influence on widening lines until he died.
     Perhaps there should be introduced at this point a caution. It is easy to underestimate the standing among their neighbors of Ralph and those who were engaged in the various manual trades. I quote from a friend whose studies of social, political and economic conditions of the colonists have been pursued for many years:
"In a body of strong-minded, honest yeomanry, the carpenter, mason and cordwainer (shoemaker) were respected and sometimes honored members of the community." As we go along we shall meet with abundant confirmation of this statement.
     In a recent trip through the eastern half of Long Island I stopped at a farm house for directions. A gentleman of large physical proportions and hearty manner, answered my questions in a very simple and intelligible way, and then invited those with me and myself to look at "a few real things", as he styled them. He took us to a common farm outbuilding and called our attention to one thing after another of a large collection of ancient implements: wooden moldboard plows, yokes, hand looms, guns, etc., all in working order; largely, perhaps all, identified with the early history of the eastern half of Suffolk County. He reminded us, that what the original settlers had, they made. The machinery, the utensils, the tools, inside and outside their dwellings, all their wearing apparel, were home-made. They had to clear and break the ground. They knew how to use the gun and the axe, though theirs was not "the pen of the ready writer." For two or three generations after the coming of the immigrants there were many who could not sign their names, but resorted to the use of a mark; but without the education that comes from schools, they, nevertheless, observed, they looked within, they thought things out, they took their place in the government of the small state of which they were a real and conscious part. How shall we sum it all up? What in a word gives us a true background, or setting, for a brief account of the colonists? One of our number referred to their hardships. Descended from them, having familiarized himself with all the details of their daily life, with a profoundly sympathetic understanding of his forbears and their fellows, he drew himself to his full height, filled his lungs and then in a low voice but very impressively vented his feelings in two meaningful words: "THEY WORKED."
     The writer would like to add for himself that his recent genealogical and biographical studies have increasingly impressed upon him the greatness of the pioneers, men who illustrated the old Greek phrase:
"By Worth and Work."
     The men. and women we thus honor in our thought came very largely from the great English middle class. That was not the class which a  hundred years later sought to oppress us with unjust laws and then to subjugate us in the War of the Revolution. It was the class which after nearly another hundred years, took in the principles at stake in the Civil War, sacrificed its own material interests and welfare, restrained its own government from interference and extended constant moral support to the government at Washington.
     I do not know the year of Ralph Dayton's birth, but the year 1588, more often given than any other, probably approximates pretty closely the true date. I do not know the place of his birth. There is no reason to think it was Ashford as his name does not appear on its register prior to his marriage. He may have come originally from the neighboring parish of Maidstone and one might possibly find his name on its register. As Ashford was an early name for Brookhaven, Long Island, where Samuel, one of Ralph's children settled, so Maidstone was an early name for East Hampton, Long Island, where, after a decade in and about New Haven, Ralph and his married daughter, Alice Baker, and her younger brother Robert, finally made their home. Many of the first residents of Brookhaven and East Hampton, came from County Kent, England, from Maidstone and Ashford, and in more than one connection the name of Maidstone persists in the present very attractive village of East Hampton. Indeed, in laying out their main street in East Hampton the settlers imitated a street in Maidstone, running it northwest and southeast, "as the hand on the clock points at the hour of eleven."
     I do not know the ship on which this English family sailed or the year when they arrived. There are not wanting assertions on these points but they are hardly convincing. It is likely that the port was Boston, and the year between 1635 and 1639.
     From 1639 to 1649, Ralph was a member of the New Haven Colony. The last to be settled of the five New England colonies was New Haven. The founders were Englishmen, some of them well-educated and of considerable means, and fortunate was it for the place they made their residence in the spring of the year 1638. The character of these pioneers appears from the fact that "they wished to form a little state by themselves, with no law except that which could be found in the Bible." In carrying out their purpose they adopted what was called "A Fundamental Agreement and Covenant of Habitancy." While Ralph Dayton was not among the original signers, his autograph signature was appended the following year, 1639, upon his arrival in the young colony.
 There may have been some accumulation through allotment and purchases of land and labor expended upon them, in the ten years that followed in New Haven; but it may be the most important event of a family kind was the marriage of Alice to Thomas Baker, June 20,1643. Born in England, September 29, 1618, he was enrolled "free planter" November 29, 1639, in Milford, Connecticut.  For fifty years, from 1650 to 1700, he was a highly honored citizen of East Hampton, Long Island, rendering valuable service to that community on various lines and leaving behind him an example worthy of emulation. He filled office after office, headed and helped conduct missions, and was a true friend of the family into which he had married.
     It may be noted that there exists a list of the people given sittings in the New Haven meeting. house, read in court and ordered recorded, March 10, 1646, on which list occurs the name of Goodman Dayton but not that of his wife. Just what significance attaches to the absence of her name the writer does not know. It is believed by persons more familiar with colonial customs, to whose attention he has called this omission, that it does not indicate her death. It is obviously not conclusive of  it, and there are certain considerations which look the other way. Among them are the facts that Ralph had a wife in 1655, that there is no record of a second marriage prior to that date and no known reference to the death of Alice. Feb. 13, 1655, Ralph made over the use of certain property to Robert, in which instrument occurs this paragraph: "And after the decease of me Ralfe Daiton and my wife I do give all the other partes of my land, meadoe and housing that be above mentioned to him and his heirs lawfully begotten of his body forever. In witness whereof I set to my hand." It is probable that the wife to whom he refers soon died, as the middle of the next year he married Mary Haines, the widow 6f James Haines of Southold. The weight of probability is therefore strongly in favor of Ralph having had two wives and two only, Alice Tritton and Mary Haines. It looks as if Alice was with the family both in New Haven and East Hampton.
 Leaving New Haven in 1649, tarrying by the way in Southampton, the same being true of Thomas Baker and his family, Ralph and the Bakers were on the ground  in East Hampton, L. I., in 1650. Robert joined them later.
     In a recent publication, Ralph has been credited with being "the founder of East Hampton." He was unquestionably one of its early settlers; and he, Thomas Baker and Robert signed "the Original Compact or Civil Combination." It is also true that in 1650, Ralph went by appointment to Connecticut "to procure the evidence of their lands and a code of laws." The report he brought back was adopted.
     There was a General Court, so called, and a Court of Three. Ordinary transactions were decided by the Court of Three. Larger matters and matters appealed, were considered and acted on by the General Court. The first three justices were John Mulford, Thomas Baker and Robert Bond. John Lyon Gardiner, descended from Lion Gardiner, the first proprietor of Gardiner's Island, wrote in 1798 an invaluable paper on the early days and happenings in East Hampton. In that paper he has this to say of a certain official: "The constable was always a reputable citizen and had great authority: he by law moderated the General Court." On the Town Records is this entry: "Oct. 7th 1651 Ralph Daiton is chosen constable for this yere." He was called to other offices and other services as the years went on. He was mentioned, probably the last time, in the Town Records June 24th, 1658. His will is dated July 25,1658.
     He passed away very soon thereafter. "Sept. 22, 1658. At Quarter Court, the will of the late deceased Ralph Dayton was brought into the Court and approved by the magistrates." I have read that document in the original, and in it he remembers his "Son Robert", his "son baker", his "son Samuel" and his "son brinlye's children"; and returns to his wife the portion she brought with her.
     The question arising at this point is: What are we to understand by the phrase "my son brinley's children" in the will? I have given a good deal of thought to this question. I suggest the following explanation as possible. A similar phrase immediately precedes the one being considered: "my son Baker." Baker, we of course know, was a son-in-law,  the husband of Alice. It is logical to suppose that Brinley was a son-in-law. On that supposition who was Ralph's daughter, wife of Brinley and mother of Brinley's children? Why may it not have been the Ellen whose name appears on the Ashford Registers after Samuel's and before that of Robert? As was said earlier in this monograph, the Ashford Registers have no entry of her burial or marriage, so it would seem likely that she came with the others. We find the name of Brinley at Southold and on Shelter Island. It would appear further from the will, signed late in July 1658, that Ralph and his wife were at that time living in the house he owned at North Sea and bequeathed to Samuel. It is therefore quite possible that he died, and he may have been buried, at North Sea.
     The late Judge R. P. Hedges, a distinguished citizen of Bridgehampton, descended, however, from one of the first planters of East Hampton, the commemorative orator at East Hampton on the two hundredth and then on the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its founding and furnishing by request of the committee of editors in charge, the introduction to each of the five volumes of its Town Records, has in one connection this to say of the East Hampton Daytons: "The family has generally a good record for intelligence, industry, purity and worth. Many have achieved eminence."
     In that early day and community, there were a number of strong and able men: Mulford, Osborne, Hedges, Ralph and Robert Dayton; but perhaps it would not be invidious in view of their great capacity for service and their marked magnanimity if we assign pre-eminence to Lion Gardiner and Thomas Baker.
     On the Main street of East Hampton, in the center of the street, stands the old "South End" cemetery,-where they laid away the fathers. The most notable monument is that of a recumbent statue erected to the memory of Lion Gardiner, possibly the first Englishman to establish his home within the territory of what is now the State of New York, a civil engineer by profession, of large wealth, of superior intelligence, who turned Gardiner's Island over to his son, removed to East Hampton and identified himself with its people and their interests, social, business, governmental, in the days when it stood in need of such a friend. The descendants of Thomas Baker have erected a stone, which preserves some interesting facts. One item inscribed, states that there is no stone to the memory of Ralph Dayton and none to the memory of his son Robert. Another fact recorded, is that Alice is buried at Amagansett, a hamlet three miles east of East Hampton. Then there is a long list on the stone of the public offices Thomas Baker had held.
     There is a well kept rural cemetery at Amagansett, and a stone firm and erect and perfectly legible recalls her who, born in England in 1620, came to this country and lived until 1708, in the 88th year of her age. It is the only stone that marks the burial place of any one of that family group 6f Daytons who came -f rom Ashford and settled on Long Island. A house, said to have been built by Robert Dayton and now known as the "John Howard Payne Memorial Place," still stands.
     The Ashford shoemaker, having migrated to America, became one of the early settlers of New Haven, an "interpreter to the Indians" and a trusted founder of East Hampton, the progenitor of twenty generations that the writer knows of, of a large numbei of descendants bearing his surname and carrying it from ocean to ocean and beyond.

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