When religious and political differences in England tore the country apart with anger and hate, twenty thousand people left England and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to America. One of the people was my 7th Great Grandfather, Aquila Chase. Aquila was born about 1618 in England. Aquila may have been born about thirty-five miles from London in the town of Chesham. Today you could drive from Chesham to London in about an hour. There were no cars when Aquila was alive. If Aquila went to London, he walked, road a horse, or maybe took a carriage. The trip took a whole day. I don’t know if Aquila ever went to London, but I do know that Aquila and his brother, Thomas, sailed to America, arriving by 1640.
When Aquila and Thomas arrived, my 10th Great Grandfather, Rev. Stephen Bachiler, was already in America. The Rev. Bachiler was a tall, thin man with white hair, very dark eyes, and a prominent nose. He was obstinate and had firm beliefs. Although he moved and spoke slowly, his voice was strong and clear. In 1638, Rev. Bachiler led a group of people into the wilderness to build a new town which was named Hampton. Early the next year, Mr. Timothy Dalton, a man who later became the reverend's arch enemy, brought a new group of people to Hampton. Aquila and Thomas may have arrived in Hampton along with Mr. Dalton.
In 1640, Aquila was granted six acres of land on which he was to build a log cabin and raise a family. Aquila's six acres were south of Meeting House Green and near the marshes on the road to the Tide Mill. His acreage is part of an area that later became known as the Perkins homestead. In 1640, Aquila was 22 years old and didn’t have a wife or any children. Before too long, Aquila became engaged to Anne Wheeler, the daughter of Ann (Yeoman) and John Wheeler. Soon Aquila and Anne were married, and they had children who had children who had children and so on and so forth until I came along. Aquila Chase and Anne Wheeler are my 7th Great Grandparents.
Aquila was an active member of the community. On March 7, 1643/4, 29 men signed a petition for changing the law about military drills. Thomas didn't sign the petition. Aquila did sign it. A few months later, Aquila was granted six acres of upland meadow and swamp. In 1644, Anne gave birth to Sarah, their first child.
On February 23, 1645/46, Aquila was granted one share of the common lands, and his brother, Thomas, was granted two shares. The common lands were in the center of town and the best place to keep the livestock. By keeping livestock close to the cabins and in a common location, the townspeople could help each other protect the cattle from wild animals and other dangers.
Aquila and the other townsmen had quite a bit of land. They needed to work the land to provide for themselves and their families. There were no grocery stores. To feed themselves, they had to grow their own food, gather nuts and berries, hunt and fish, and raise livestock. People had very few tools to help them with their work and spent most of their time doing work to help put food on the table. In accordance with their interpretation of the Bible, the settlers worked very hard six days a week. On the seventh day, Sunday, they rested. On Sundays, the settlers gathered in the meeting hall to hear the preacher. Being so busy, you wouldn’t think that the people had much time to spy on each other and to quibble or get into big arguments. But history and Aquila’s story tells us otherwise.
In 1640, the Rev. Bachiler was the town's preacher. While the Rev. Bachiler impressed the townspeople with the power and the sanctity of his sermons, he got into a vicious feud with the town's teacher, Timothy Dalton. The feud led to the Rev. Bachiler leaving Hampton. The Rev. Bachiler must have left a strong impression on his grandson, William Sanborn, who happens to be my 8th Great Grandfather. Nonetheless, by 1645, the Rev. Bachiler was gone from Hampton, and William continued to live there.
In 1645, William Sanborn, was 24 years old and soon to be married. Aquila was 28 years old and the head of a family. One Sunday in 1645, Aquila, Anne, and Anne's brother, David, left the cabin and went to the fields to pick peas. They probably brought baby Sarah with them. William Sanborn and his friend, William Fifield saw Aquila in the field with his family picking peas. The Williams told everybody that Aquila, Anne, and David picked peas on the Sabbath.
Four times a year, a court was convened in Ipswich, a town about 20 miles or a day’s journey from Hampton. The court heard and made judgement on matters that were very important to the settlers. Can you believe that Aquila’s picking peas on Sunday was a matter of great importance?
On September 29, 1646, William and William told the Court that Aquila Chase, Anne Chase and David Wheeler picked peas on a Sunday. The court sent Aquila, Anne, & David a summons to come to the court on March 30, 1646/47 for picking peas. The summons was sent to Hampton.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the town of Newbury, a town which was ten miles south of Hampton, made Aquila a very enticing offer. They would give Aquila land in Newbury in exchange for his serving as a mariner for the town of Newbury over the next four years. You can find the written confirmation of their offer in the records of Newbury: "Granted to Aquila Chase, Anno 1646, fower acres of land at the new towne for a house lott and six acres of upland for a planting lott, where it can be had, and six acres of marsh where it can be had, also on condition that he doe goe to sea and do service in the towne with a boate for four years."
Aquila and Anne accepted the offer from the town of Newbury and moved to their new home. I am sure they were glad to say farewell to William Sanborn and William Fifield. By the time the summons from Ipswich arrived in Hampton, Aquila, Anne, and David were in Newbury. The following year, on March 28, 1647/48, the court in Ipswich brought closure to the pea-picking incident. They admonished Aquila and the others and remitted their fines.
Aquila’s pea-picking incident propelled him to great river adventures and a very full life in Newbury.
Aquila was the very first person to pilot a vessel across the bar at the mouth of the Merrimack River. (Joshua Coffin's History of Newbury.) After Sarah, Aquila and Anne had ten more children. Aquila was a free-holder in Newbury and had an interest in all the common lands. On May 4, 1653, Aquila and some of the other men of Newbury petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts Bay to remit a fine that had been imposed on Lt. Robert Pike. [Robert Pike is my 9th Great Uncle and a man to whom I am especially proud to be related. He was a man of reason and character who was willing to speak against some of the injustices of his time. In 1653, he argued against the persecution of the Quakers and was fined by the court. Throughout his life he crusaded for reasonable justice. He is the man who succeeded in ending the Salem Witch Trials.]
Aquila's land in the town of Newbury was located at the northeast corner of what is today called Federal Street and Walter Street. At some point, Aquila sold his land in town to Robert Rogers who in turn sold it to William Moody on April 4, 1659. Presumably, Aquila moved into a house on the site of the land he had for growing crops. These six acres are located on the north side of what is now called North Atkinson Street, about 500 feet from its intersection with Low Street.
Presumably, Aquila lived on his farm until his death on December 27, 1670. Aquila was about 52 years old. Anne and eleven of the children were living when Aquila died. Sarah was 26 years old, and the youngest child, Moses, was 7 years old. Aquila's oldest son, Aquila, my 6th Great Grandfather, was 18 years old. Aquila probably was buried in the grave yard at Oldtown.
Aquila put his mark on his will on December 10, 1670. The wording of the will demonstrates Aquila's concern for his wife, Anne, and for his children. He provided for Anne as long as she was a widow, and also provided for her in the event she married again. He provided for each of his children too: Ann, Priscilla, Thomas, Aquila, John, Daniel, Moses, Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth, and Ruth.
Eighteen months after Aquila's death, Anne married Daniel Missilloway. Anne lived until April 21, 1687, fifteen years after her marriage to Daniel. She was about 66 years old.
In 1846, a story was circulated and published in at least one newspaper that the descendants of Aquila, Thomas and William Chase, who had immigrated to America around 1629, were heirs to a huge fortune in England. The circulation of this story caused a flurry of genealogical research by some of the descendants of Aquila, Thomas, and William Chase. Unfortunately, the story of a huge inheritance was just a story, and there was no inheritance to be found. After the circulation of the story in the 1840s, some researchers claimed that Aquila, Thomas, and William were the children of Aquila Chaase and Martha Jelliman of Chesham, County Buck, England. This belief was proven to be unfounded by John Carroll Chase and George Walter Chamberlain in their book, Seven Generations of the descendents of Aquila and Thomas Chase, first published in 1928. Aquila and Thomas were brothers, but William appears to be part of a different family. On May 11, 1667, Aquila and Anne signed an acknowledgement that Aquila had sold all of his holdings in Hampton to his brother, Thomas Chase, with the exception of a dwelling and one and a half acres that he had sold about twenty years earlier. This acknowledgement is the record that tells us that Aquila and Thomas were brothers.
Aquila and Martha Jelliman of Chesham, England had many children, but there was no record of their being the parents of our Aquila and Thomas. Because the surname of Chase is not very common in England, and because the name of Aquila is even less common, it seems likely that Aquila and Thomas are related in some way to the Chaase family of Chesham, Buck County England.
Given Aquila's seafaring abilities, are Aquila and his brother Thomas the sons of Francis CHAASE? Francis CHAASE is the son of Mathew, son of John, son of Thomas CHAASE. He was baptized in Chesham, England on September 20, 1601. According to the records of the Merchant Taylor's Company of London, at the age of 16, Francis was apprenticed on December 8, 1617 for nine years to Thomas Brown, a merchant adventurer to Spain and Barbary. Could Francis have left behind a pregnant wife?
Hopefully, during my lifetime I will discover the names of Aquila's parents and learn a little bit about them. Somebody else may already have discovered clues to his parentage, and I need only find a record of their research. But then again, the mystery of his parentage may still remain for somebody else to solve.
Note: This story is based on information in Seven Generations of the Descendants of Aquila and Thomas Chase by John Carroll Chase, published in Derry, New Hampshire, 1928. John Carroll Chase asserts that Aquila Chase and Martha Jelliman are NOT the parents of the Aquila and Thomas Chase who came to America. Many places online still indicate that Aquila Chase and Martha Jelliman are the parents of Aquila and Thomas. What do you think?