The Bryant name in my maternal family tree dates from the arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of Abraham Bryant (my 10th great-grandfather) and ended in 1791 with the death of Abigail Bryant Oliver (my 6th great-grandmother).
In the book, Directory of the Ancestral Heads of New England Families, 1620-1700, Abraham is listed as settling in the town of Reading in 1644, being among the first settlers of the place. He came from England, though sources differ as to precisely where; some say Devon, others say Norfolk. And one source claims he was a “Scotch minister.” But I very much doubt that. The year of his birth and circumstances of his coming to the New World are uncertain, but whatever brought him across the Atlantic brought him a fresh start and he made the most of it!
Abraham was a blacksmith, as were his four sons, and the trade was passed on through many generations.
On Feb. 2, 1664, Abraham was married to Mary Kendall. In 1666, he paid 16 shillings for a piece of land and built a house for his his wife and first child, Mary.
The young couple’s early years together were difficult, as they lost the next two children born to them, both daughters. Mary went on to bear 7 more children, all of whom survived infancy.
Abraham and Mary were admitted to the church on Nov. 22, 1669, which was for him the first step toward being elected a freeman, which took place on May 7, 1673.
The children of Abraham and Mary, all born in Reading, were:
- Mary Bryant (1666 – 1725)
- Rebecca Bryant (1668 – 1669)
- Rebecca Bryant (1670 – 1670)
- Abraham Bryant (1671 – 1714)
- Thomas Bryant (1674 – 1738)
- Anna Bryant (1676 – 1741)
- William Bryant (1678 – 1757)
- Kendall Bryant (1680 – 1764)
- Abigail Bryant (1683 – 1694)
- Tabitha Bryant (1685 – 1758)
In addition to running the blacksmith shop with his sons, Abraham served the community in a variety of positions: surveyor of fences, constable, surveyor of highways, tithing-man and selectman. He was appointed to town committees and served in the town militia where he held the rank of Sergeant.
Mary passed away on Mar. 8, 1688, and laid to rest in the Old Burying Grounds. She was only 40 years old. At the time of her death, her oldest child, Mary, had been married for four years; but her remaining children were all still at home, ranging in age from 17 to 3 years old.
With many young children at home in need of care, it didn’t take long for Abraham to go about finding himself a new wife: three months later, he married Ruth George Frothingham. She had lost her husband three years earlier and brought her own 6 children into the marriage.
Financially, Abraham did well for himself, for not only did he support a large blended family, but numerous records can be found of his buying and selling large tracts of land in and around Reading. He also contributed a fair sum of money toward the building of a new meetinghouse in town.
The latter half of the year 1693 brought a succession of events in the Bryant home. On August 17, Ruth passed away. Again, Abraham found himself with 9 or 10 children still at home, the youngest being 8 years old. And, again, he wasted no time in remarrying; shortly after Christmas he was wed to the widow Dorcas Eaton. Dorcas had lost her husband two years prior. The Eatons were close neighbors of the Bryants and no doubt Abraham and Dorcas had known each other a long time.
Also in 1693, Abraham began giving away and selling his land to his sons, who by that time were taking wives of their own. To his oldest son, Abraham Jr., his father gave two large pieces of land by deed of gift for “faithfulness, fidelity, truth & dutifulness.” The land Abraham Sr. gave to his son had been in his possession since 1687 when he drew it as part of his lot from town lands purchased from the Indians.
On that land received from his father, Abraham Jr. built a home in which he raised his family. In 1724, Abraham Bryant 3rd sold the home and it passed through several owners until it became a licensed inn during the Revolutionary War. It became known as the Parker Tavern. Loea Parker Howard published a small volume on the history of the Parker Tavern in 1930. The book, which includes lots of Bryant family lore, can be read online at The Internet Archive. The images below are from that book.
Nearly 325 years later, the home Abraham Byrant Jr. built still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places. On my bucket list is visiting the home where old Abraham, immigrant to the New World, was sure to have visited often to dine with his son and play with his grandchildren.
Abraham died in 1720, his burial place most likely the Old Burying Ground in Reading. Dorcas followed after him 8 years later.