John Richards and Descendents

Eileen Olynciw
21 min readFeb 19, 2023

Waterford: John Richards and Descendents

Dorchester England was a turbulent place in 1630 when John Richards was eighteen. Religious unrest that would eventually lead to civil war drove many to flee to the North American colonies. Most of these, unlike Richards, traveled together with family groups motivated for freedom to practice their religious beliefs.

Others, like young Richards, boarded westbound ships dreaming of untold opportunities in an unknown land. They embarked on the journey to improve their fortunes in life. Religious persecution was not a factor in their pilgrimages.

When he was finally ready Richards bid good-byes to his parents, John and Achsah Richards, and boarded a ship in Southampton headed to New England. Exactly when Richards left and exactly on which ship he embarked is unknown, but there is some evidence that he may have left sometime in early spring 1630 on one of the eleven ships in John Winthrop’s fleet.

This carefully planned expedition, funded by the Massachusetts Bay Company, carried between 700 and 1,000 passengers in eleven vessels to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The group made careful preparations for their settlement. They selected people to go who represented all sorts of various trades and skills that would be helpful building a flourishing colony. A typical vessel in that fleet consisted of three decks, loaded with about 140 passengers, livestock, and cargo.

With great plans and hope the groups set off in April 1630. The journey was uneventful, however, the North Atlantic cold winds that tossed the ship around provided a rather cold voyage for the passengers. After a mostly uneventful crossing the ships arrived safely in the new settlement in Salem, Massachusetts

After a few weeks in Salem, Winthrop and his followers moved on, looking for a place to settle with fresh water. Finally they settled on a spot, they named Boston. Life in early Boston was brutal, according to a letter Winthrop wrote to his wife. “Much mortality, sickness, and trouble.” Many suffered and died, others like John Richards moved on to settle other towns.

The Winthrop group had made careful preparations for their settlement. They had selected 700 people to go who represented all sorts of various trades and skills that would be helpful building a flourishing colony. With great plans and hope the groups set off in April 1630. The journey was uneventful, however, the North Atlantic cold winds that tossed the ship around provided a cold voyage for the passengers. After a mostly uneventful crossing the ships arrived safely in the new settlement in Salem, Massachusetts

After a few weeks in Salem, Winthrop and his followers moved on, looking for a place to settle with fresh water. Finally they settled on a spot, they named Boston. Life in early Boston was brutal, according to a letter Winthrop wrote to his wife. “Much mortality, sickness, and trouble.” Many suffered and died, others like John Richards moved on to settle other towns.

Richards in Plymouth, Massachusetts

About seven years later, around when Richards was living in Eagle River, Plymouth, Massachusetts he ran into trouble with the law. “For some “slight breach of the peace,” the General Court placed him under bonds, and indentured him for one year.” It is said that youthful indiscretion was probably responsible for his troubles. A year later in 1638, he was made “rectus incuria” (free from charge) and received from the court 25 acres at Mannament Pond, due to him by indenture.

After his experience with Puritan justice, John Richards launched into what became a successful career as a merchant. He continued for 20 years as a peaceful and respected citizen in the community of Plymouth. He became dignified with the title of Mr. His wife, when he married, was addressed as “Mrs. Richards. “ This was a “very rare prefix and indicated the highest social standing, if not quality of birth” at that time.

The Richards Family History

According to notes from a genealogical and family history of the wealthy Richards family, John Richards was the brother of William and nephew of Thomas Richards, Sr. His cousins became the wives of Thomas Hinckley, afterwards governor, and of William Bradford, son of the governor, and himself afterward deputy governor.

It appears that Richards spent many years in Plymouth. It is surmised that at one point during his time in Plymouth, Richards had traveled back to England on business. Finally in 1655 he married Lydia Beman Richards and became a father, many times over. John’s first five years of fatherhood must have been a bit trying. It seems likely that like most fathers, he yearned for a son, however, year after year, one little daughter after another arrived! Finally, when his first son was born, the child was named John Richards after his father.

John Richard (2) Arrives in New London

Sometime between 1657 and 1660, John Richards and his wife arrived in New London with their family. Richards purchased two prestigious lots on the corner of State Street and Huntingdon Streets where the public library stands today. At the top of this hill overlooking the growing town, and its magnificent waterfront is where Richards built his family’s home. According to New London historian, Frances Caulkins, John Richard’s house was quite impressive. No spot in New London was more admired than the corner with Lieut. Richards’ house.

The home was large and comfortable and remained the family homestead for over a hundred years. For many years, there were no residential dwellings above his house at the top of the hill. All the other houses were built further down State Street or on side streets. Only the school house and pastures lay behind. This site gave the house a panoramic view of the town and the river.

Evidently, since neither John, nor his children had not been baptized earlier, so once he settled his family in New London, he probably felt pressured by the local church members to conform and have each family member baptized. It was probably unthinkable that someone with Richard’s standing in New London would neglect this most basic sacrament.

Church records indicate that on March 26, 1671, Lydia and John’s seven children, including John, Israel, Mary, Penelope, Lydia, Elizabeth, and Hannah were baptized. David was baptized a few years later on July 27, 1673.

In those days businesses were carried out in the homes. State Street remained a residential area for many years. Wharves began to line the Thames River shoreline, as the seafaring businesses in New London proved to be highly profitable. Few details or information are found about John’s livelihood, but most likely, like most wealthy men in New London, he was a merchant and made his fortune at sea.

Bartlett School: a gift for the children of New London

John played a small but important role in developing the first school in New London. For the first fifty years after its settlement, the only schools were simple classes held in the homes of women who volunteered to teach children their manners. There were no public schools and there seemed to be very little done in regards to schools. According to Ms Caulkins, “from the numerous instances of persons in the second generation who could not write their names, it is evident that education was at a low ebb.” Many of the second generation in town could not write their names.

As an answer to this important, but neglected need, in 1673, a New London resident, Robert Bartlett, said to be a lonely man with no heirs, bequeathed his estate to the town, to be used for the education of children. A committee was formed to look after and sell part of the estate. John Richards stepped forward to purchase Bartlett’s acres on the Thames River, in today’s Quaker Hill.

There was some pressure to build a Latin school for those kids of the wealthy families, but it was argued that such a school would not be “serving the will of the donor” which was to provide instruction for the poor in the basic skills of reading, writing, and numbers. In the end, a school for the common kids to learn to read and write, won out. A brick school was built near the junction of the present Federal and Broad Street.

The first John Richards: A life well lived

As John approached the end of his life, he probably looked back at a well-lived life. Born in the midst of a chaotic England on the brink of civil war, he took a chance on life in a new uncharted world. He arrived alone in a new country, built a substantial life, home, and family. Most importantly he left behind in this new colony a family of fine young men and women to build a new generation in this little village of New London.

An inventory of John’s personal items left behind when he died in 1687, shows that his wealth had surpassed that which any common man in New London possessed: gold buttons, silver plate, and gold and silver coins.

John left behind his wife, Lydia, who lived another 25 years with their son, Samuel. She was buried in Ancient Cemetery in New London, but the location of John’s grave has not been found.

The second: Lieutenant Richards marries Love Manwaring

John’s oldest son, Lieutenant John, born in 1666, married Love Manwaring in 1692 who was from a notable family. She was one of ten children of Oliver and Hannah Raymond Manwaring.

The Manwarings were a prominent family of recusant Catholics, ie. their ancestors refused to accept the Church of England, and attend its services. In those days it was unusual for a Catholic to choose to move to Puritan New England. However, Oliver’s father had married into a Protestant family so Oliver had been raised as a Protestant.

When Oliver was about twenty-nine years old, he relocated to Connecticut and he married Hannah Raymond, daughter of Richard Raymond c. 1664. When Love and John Richards married, Love’s uncle, Joshua Raymond, presented the couple with a house-lot, house, and other land in New London.

John (3) and Love’s Family Tragedy

Like most married couples in their era, John and Love had a large family of ten children. Tragically only four of their children, John, George, Samuel and Lydia lived to adulthood: six of their children died before the age of twenty! Considering that the death of even one child is one of the most feared things that could happen to a parent; the fact that this family lost six young children is beyond tragic!

Before advancements in modern medicine, childbearing was a risky business. Demographics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries estimate that a total of 12 to 13 % of infants would die before their first year of life. With The hazards of infancy behind them, the death rate for children slowed but continued before the age of six, and another 24% between the ages of seven and sixteen. Total of 60% by age 16.

In England, a man or woman who reached the age of 30 could expect to live to 59. In New England, however, the average man lived to his mid-sixties and women lived on average to 62.

Israel Richards

Israel Richards (1671–1728) , the second son of the second John Richards, married Rebeckah Chapman, daughter of William and Sarah Chapman. Israel and Rebecca were the parents of three sons and eight daughters. Israel inherited from his father a farm, ‘’near the Mill Pond, about two miles to the northward of the town plot.” The above direction would place the home near the present day Connecticut College campus, a prestigious area in those days.

Unfortunately this family is another example of the frequent deaths in childhood during the eighteenth century. Like his brother, Richard, and sister-in — law, Love, Israel and Rebeckah, were also among the very unfortunate who lost more than a few children in early childhood; seven of their eleven died before adulthood.


Included in the minutes of cases presented before the County Court in 1672 was that of John Lewis and Sarah Chapman for sitting together on the Lord’s Day under an apple tree in Goodman Chapman’s orchards. Nothing more was reported.

Captain George Richards

John and Love Richards’ son, George, was born March 26, 1695. George’s wife was Hester Hough, daughter of Capt. John Hough: they had at least six children, probably more. George is said to have been a man of large stature and great physical strength. Stories are told of his wrestling with various gigantic Indians and he always won the contest.

Caulkins notes that in 1717, George Richards was awarded a cash bounty for the wolves he killed. This was a customary practice in New London as it was in most Colonial towns. Wolves were prevalent as a serious obstacle to successful farming. A wolf was viewed not as a mysterious beautiful wild animal but to farmers as a serious threat to their livelihood.

As new settlers arrived in New London and farms moved further and further out from town, farmer’s sheep and other livestock became in close proximity to a greater number of wolves. These animals became a serious problem.

“The swamps around New London were infested to an unusual degree with these perilous animals…on every side of the plantation the animals abounded,” according to Caulkins.

It was a customary sport every fall for groups of men to engage in a wolf hunt. The town awarded a bounty of sixpence to any hunter who presented the head and skin of a wolf to the authorities. Caulkins lists the bounty paid one year totaling: twenty-five “howling tenants of the forest” killed within town limits. The havoc made by these “wild beasts” was a great drawback to those farmers who raised livestock for the area’s growing wool industry.

1702–1713 Fear in New London: Queen Anne’s War

For most of the eighteenth century as Britain and France each struggled to lay claim to territory on the North American continent, outbreaks of war were frequent. Expeditions against Canada that often involved regiments raised in Connecticut to fight against the French caused great panic among colonists.

During these years the sight of French ships that often appeared in Long Island Sound kept New London residents in a state of constant apprehension. Then in the spring of 1711 actual war broke out, and when French warships appeared in Long Island Sound, New London residents became especially alarmed.

Lieutenant John Richards was put in charge of a military watch over the New London harbor in the spring of 1711. Finally a year later to appease the fears of the citizens, the governor ordered that a beacon be erected at the west end of Fisher’s Island, with a guard of seven men. Nathaniel Beebe was put in charge. The men were to have a boat ready to convey important information to the mainland. It was a tough time, emotionally, for the town. Privateers were hovering on the coast, and citizens worried that they might band together and surprise the town.

Finally in 1713, The Treaty of Utrecht ended the war. France conceded some territories to Britain while retaining others; however friction persisted between France and Britain over Acadia’s borders. It wasn’t until the 1740s that the disputes over Acadia flared into open conflict again. This was King George’s War which was not resolved until the British conquest of all French North American territories in the Seven Years’ War in 1763.

Economic Growth Through Trade

New London’s “magnificent sheltered waterfront,” protected from Atlantic storms by Long Island and the smaller Fisher’s Island, has always played an important part of New London’s economy. In time, docks lined its secured waterfront. By the middle of the eighteenth century members of the merchant class, like the Richard’s family, became the regions’ most influential and powerful figures.

New London merchants like Richrds often traded directly with islands in the Caribbean, rather than relying on the triangular routes that included Great Britain. It is said that neighbor Nathaniel Shaw of New London ships traveled to almost every Caribbean port. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, John Richards’ routes grew steadily as the entire Connecticut coastline experienced a time of unprecedented growth.

Members of the merchant class became influential and powerful figures in cities like New London. Families like the Richards and Shaws dominated the culture of the region. They were powerful economically, politically, and socially.

By the beginning of the 18th century, New London’s Caribbean trade grew steadily: the Connecticut coastline experienced a time of unprecedented expansion. New London grew more affluent, food was plentiful: meat and produce were supplied by area farmers, and fish and seafood were available in the coastal towns. The waterfront was teeming with life. Dozens of ships at any one time were docked and being loaded and offloaded with cargoes. Families like the Richards, who made a considerable living in the shipping trade, built a large, elegant house in 1765 somewhere in the vicinity of today’s Eugene O’Neill Drive.

In time, a middle class developed in New London, who ran stores or small businesses. Others were skilled tradesmen or belonged to professions such as ministers, doctors, and lawyers. Families like the Shaws and Richards who derived their fortunes from trading were among the most influential and dominated the culture of the region. They were powerful economically, politically, and socially.

In time, New London area farmers realized the growing markets in the West Indies, for exporting lumber, food stuff, and livestock. Their crops and other products were shipped to the West Indies on New London ships. Seeking greater profits, Connecticut’s farmers shifted their emphasis from raising crops to raising livestock: horses, mules, cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry.

Slave and Horses Trade in Eastern Connecticut

Very quickly horses became Connecticut’s most valuable export to the islands. West Indian planters used horses, as well as wind and water to power their sugar mills. While 752 horses were exported mostly to Barbados in the 20 years between 1680 and 1700; in the four years between 1768 and 1772 the number Connecticut exported exploded to over 21,000 horses to the West Indies.

Scholarly research in recent years has pointed out the close connection between sugar plantaions, horses, and slave trading, in the islands.

Plantations in Rhode Island, along Narragansett Bay, used slaves to raise its horses and then if the horses survived the perilous ocean crossing to the Caribbean, they were traded directly for sugar molasses, and slaves.

If they survived the perilous ocean crossing to the Caribbean or South America, the horses then toiled alongside slaves crushing sugar on the plantations. In some instances, slaves only got meat in their diet when a horse died. Slaves became an essential tool to continue this lucrative trade of horses.

Slavery and Large Scale Farming in Connecticut

The extent of slaveholding in New London County was not known until recent research revealed that there were more than 2,000 slaves in this country by 1774, on the eve of the American Revolution. This was the largest slaveholding region in New England.

Samuel Brown, originally from Massachusetts, founded Connecticut’s largest plantation in New Salem. He and the next two generations of Browns continued as absentee owners. It was operated by overseers. Initially 60 families of slaves were brought in to clear the first 4000 acres of land. In 1759 another overseer, John Mumford, Jr. brought in another group of blacks to work the land. By 1774 there were more than 2000 slaves in New London County. It was the largest slaveholding region in the country at that time. Never comfortable with Connecticut’s republicanism, Brown abandoned it for Bermuda after the Stamp Act crisis of 1765. His plantation continued under an overseer.

In the mid-18th century, New London had everything it needed to succeed in this trade, beginning with a population of seasoned mariners, skilled shipbuilders and eager entrepreneurs. It also had one of the deepest natural harbors in the colony and surrounding areas containing farming communities that produced ample food, lumber and livestock for export.

During the Revolution and the British occupation of Newport the port of New London, Connecticut became the center of the horse trade.

Cattle Drives in New London

Once a sleepy town, New London’s port became a hub of activity due to its island trade. It became “somewhat of a boomtown, almost a prototype of Dodge City of Old West fame.” New London became the largest single supplier of horses, sheep and oxen to the sugar plantations of the West Indies.

On any given day, dozens of wagons might lumber through New London’s streets, carrying cargo to be loaded on three or four ships in the harbor. Teamsters and drovers were so plentiful they “had a tavern of their own near the waterfront, at which they always put up, and where their teams were stabled.”

Livestock drives began inland at the breeders’ farms, with dozens of horses or cattle from their farms, miles inland, down country roads onto New London’s main street down to New London’s port. And onto the waiting ship. It must have been “a sight to behold!”

The return ships came slaves to sell, along with molasses, sugar and cash. These products, especially molasses, were used by Connecticut merchants to buy English manufactured goods from neighboring colonies. Throughout the colonial period, island trade became the staple of Connecticut’s economy.

Connecticut had a considerable shipbuilding industry. For many years, Connecticut shipyards supplied vessels to resident merchants and merchants throughout the Atlantic World.

New London Caribbean Trader

One of the earliest mills in New London was built by Captain George Richards on Alewife Brook in 1721. Around the same time Joseph Smith obtained the necessary permit to erect a fulling and grist mill at upper Alewife Cove. This Smith, who moved out of town shortly after a few years, is the person for whom Smith’s Cove may have been named.

Guy and Elizabeth Richards

Guy Richards (1722–1782), son of George Richards, married Elizabeth Harris (1727- 1793) on January 18, 1746. While little is known about their married life, it is clear that the Richard’s family is well-known in town and are among the wealthier families in New London. Their home is said to have been a mansion located near the old town mill, where the current I-95 bridge is today.

Guy and Elizabeth’s son, Captain Peter Richards(1754–1781) died defending Fort Griswold. (More about Captain Richards is discussed later.) Another son, Guy Richards (1747–1825), was a noted merchant in New London, and was married to Hannah Dolbear Richards. They had fourteen children.

Portrait of Elizabeth

A portrait of Elizabeth was done by a talented artist, Ralph Earl, in the months before she died. Interestingly he chose to display not her elegance and refinement, but rather her forceful character. “She appears ready to instruct the viewer, at whom she gazes intently.”

The artist includes a reminder of a sorrowful moment in Elizabeth’s life. In the scene depicted through the window behind her, there is a suggestion of her husband’s wharf on the Thames River and a glimpse of what might be Fort Griswold. This would indicate a painful, but loving memory of her son Peter who died at the fort at the hands of the British at the battle of Groton Heights.

Although training had taught the artist to stress elegance and refinement in his portraits, in painting Elizabeth, the artist decided instead to place an emphasis on the elderly woman’s forceful character.

Preparations for War

In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, New Londoners followed closely the events in Boston. When Parliament shut down the port of Boston the colonies were aroused at once to action. New London, like hundreds of other towns, set up a committee of five to deal with emergency preparations for war with Britain. The group included Guy Richards, Nathaniel Shaw, Gurdon Saltonstall, Samuel H. Parsons, and Richard Law.

New London’s harbor had been a busy one at that time There were 72 locally owned sailing ships that employed a total of 406 seaman. Nearly two dozen smaller “coasting vessels”were also based at New London. The Revolutionary War meant all this very lucrative West Indies trade screeched to an abrupt halt. The port was forced to close.

Unnecessary use of gunpowder by firing at game was forbidden and a fine would be charged for the use of gunpowder. A committee was formed to provide necessities for the families of soldiers that would enlist in the continental army. Untold other necessary preparations were made.

The town clerk was directed to remove books and files of the town to a place of safety. These records were moved to the western part of town, where George Douglass was given charge of the material to be kept at his homestead until after the end of the war. Fortunately these documents did escape the destruction which swept away almost all documents kept at the custom house in the fires of September 6, 1781.

The Colonies First Naval Expedition, January 1776

The first naval expedition under the authority of Congress was fitted out at New London in January, 1776. The preparations were made with speed and secrecy. It was planned that the four vessels, carrying armaments, would cruise toward the south, and annoy the British fleet. Peter Richards and Charles Bulkley, young seamen, were among the midshipmen. Eighty of the crew were from New London. The fleet sailed about February 1, 1775 to its rendezvous in Delaware Bay.

Two months later, one ship, the Commodore re-entered New London harbor on the 8th of April with news of success. Seventy prisoners, eighty-eight pieces of cannon, and a large quantity of military and naval stores that the colonies needed were taken.

Forced to use Privaters

In 1776 the fledgling navy that each state mustered was in no shape to combat the British Navy. It made good sense to use privateers to augment the military forces on the sea. Individuals who operated privately owned vessels, called privateers, would be granted one-half of all the prizes they took from the ships they captured. Nathaniel Shaw , Jr., a wealthy merchant who owned a number of ships used for privateering, became the naval agent for both the Continental Congress and the State of Connecticut.

Lieutenant Peter Richards, son of Guy Richards, was on the first battleship of the Continental Navy, the 24-gun frigate, U.S.S. Alfred. He served under Captain Benjamin Hinman who was known for his confrontations with Benedict Arnnold. One incident took place in 1775 after Fort Ticonderoga was taken. Col. Benedict Arnold simply pronounced himself commander-in-Chief of Crown Point. When Col. Hinman arrived, Arnold would not relinquish his “command” of Crown Point, and then made some treacherous threat. Hinman immediately sent a detachment to disband Arnold’s men and ships that were under his command. Arnold was finally forced to surrender his post.

Late in 1778 Peter Richards and two others, all lieutenants on the Alfred, escaped from Fortune Prison in England where they had been confined for a few months by digging under the outerwall, and reaching the coast of France safely. They then returned home.

During the Revolutionary War, the first naval expedition under the authority of Congress was fitted out in New London in January 1776. Preparations of the fleet consisting of four vessels were undertaken in great secrecy. The ships were to cruise in the south and annoy the British fleet in that area. Peter Richards was among the young seamen on the ship. Eighty others were from the area around New London. When the ship reentered New London Harbor on April 8, it held seventy prisoners and many pieces of cannon and a large quantity of Military stores. At this same time General Wsington was on his way from Boston to New York and had stopped in New London. Washington slept that night at the home of Nathaniel Shaw.

The War Arrives in New London 1781 During the British burning of New London, Guy Richard’s family home built in 1765 was spared because his young daughter, Abby, lay ill inside. Three stores belonging to Richards on the east side of Main Street were burned. Richards was the Quartermaster of the Militia in New London.

On the other side of the river, defenders at Fort Griswold, fared no better than New London. Captain Peter Richards, a young seaman, was one of those who volunteered to defend Fort Griswold. According to local stories, he was standing alongside Colonel Ledyard when Ledyard surrendered. Suddenly the British officer lunged toward Ledyard, killing him with one stab through the heart. The Colonel fell. Richards and other brave men rushed to avenge the murder. They were all cut down in the massacre of the defenders of the fort.

In Memory of


who was willing to Hazzard

every danger in defense

of American Independence

was a Volunteer in

Fort Griswold at Groton

the 6th of Sept 1781

and there Slain in the

28 year of his Age

More more

Mrs Richards


Anna Richards

unknown — 16 Jun 1763

No grave photo

Elizabeth Richards • No grave photo

unknown — 30 Jul 1762

No grave photo

Elizabeth Richards • No grave photo

unknown — 17 Sep

Esther Richards • No grave photo

unknown — 12 Sep 1750

Bounty for wolves

customary autumnal sport. From ten to forty persons usually en-

gaged in it, who surrounded and beat up some swamp in the neigh-


Mill-pond Swamp and Cedar Swamp were frequently

scoured for wolves in November or the latter part of October.

George, son of John Richards, had a bounty of £11 for wolves killed

during the year 1717. These were probably inspired. The bounty

had been raised to twenty shillings per head. The bounty for kill-

ing a wild-cat was three shillings.

Capt. Guy Richards, for many years a noted merchant in New London, Colonel William Richards of the Revolutionary Army, and

Capt. Peter Richards, slain in the sack of Fort Griswold in 1781, are among the descendants of Lieut. John Richards.”f

Colonel William Richards of the Revolutionary army Fort Slongo

Born March 26, 1695 New London died 1750

married to Hester Hough Nov 13, 1716

Children: Guy Richards

John and Love’s other children:

John, born 1666 married Love Manwaring.

Samuel born 1699 married Anne Hough.

Lydia, born 1705, married Michawl Ewen.