An American Family History

Mary Fry Harris

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Fry Family Table of Contents
Alternate spellings of Fry: Ffrey, Frie, Frey, Frye

New London County, Connecticut was one of four original Connecticut counties and was established on May 10, 1666, by an act of the Connecticut General Court.
Europeans who made the voyage to America faced a difficult journey of several months.

The New Haven Colony was an English colony in what is now the state of Connecticut. The colony was from 1637 to 1664.

Mary Fry Harris was born about 1600 in England.

She married Walter Harris.

Their children included:
Elizabeth Harris Weeks (1621, married Ammiel Weeks),
Mary Harris Lawrence (1626, married Nicholas Lawrence),
Gabriel Harris (1629),
Sarah Harris Lane (1632, married George Lane),
Susannah Harris (1634), and
Thomas Harris (1636).

The family came to America on the ship William and Francis which arrived in Boston on June 5, 1632. They settled in Weymouth.

When her brother, William Fry, died in 1642, he left Mary’s son, Thomas Harris, a kid.

In March, 1645 their son, Gabriel married Elizabeth Abbot who he met when a ship from England anchored near the isolated Harris home. Gabriel invited the immigrants to their home. One of the immigrants was Elizabeth and by the time the party ended Gabriel and Elizabeth were engaged. Soon after they immigrants left, Gabriel followed the ship in his father's pinnace to marry and bring his bride home.

Their son, Thomas, was engaged to Rebecca Bruen, but before the marriage was sent to England to recover some property. He was never heard of again and was assumed lost at sea.

In 1649 they moved to Dorchester and by 1652 they were in New London, Connecticut.

Walter died on November 6, 1654.

Mary's will was dated January 19, 1655 and she died on January 24 in New London, Connecticut. Her will is the oldest existing will in America. It indicates that the family was prosperous. She left silver spoons, a gold ring, clothing, and household items to her family. It also includes a touching bequest to her lost son, Thomas, and his intended wife:

I give to my sonne Thomas, ten shillings, if he do come home or be alive. I give to Rebekah Bruen, a pynt pott of pewter, a new petticoate and wascoat, which she is to spin herselfe; also an old bible and a hatt which was my sonne Thomas, his hatt.

A Puritan woman's clothing consisted of underpants, stockings, linen, shift, petticoat, chemise (underblouse), bolster (a padded roll tied around the hips under the skirt), bodice, skirt, apron, coif (cap), outer gown and shoes. A woman might wear a ruff or bow and an apron. Cloaks were worn instead of coats. Women carried a small cloth draw-string bag or reticule and perhaps wore a chatelaine.

Old Style Calendar
Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.

The Fry Siblings:
  • William Fry
  • Thomasin Fry Meigs
  • Mary Fry Harris
  • Hannah Fry Rawlins
  • Weymouth is the second oldest town in Massachusetts. It was established in 1622 and incorporated in 1635. The town was a fishing and agricultural community. 

    Boston was founded in 1630 by Puritan settlers from England.

    Connecticut's first European settlers were Dutch.






    Genealogy of the Kennan Family by Thomas Lathrop Kennan published by Cannon Printing Co., 1907

    The first record of Walter Harris, the American ancestor, is found in a large volume of Vellum at the Rolls Office Chancery Lane, London. The title reads:

    A Book of Entry for Passengers by ye Commission and Souldiers Passing beyond the Seas.

    Among the list of names of the men who embarked for America were the names of Walter Harris and Edmond Wynslow afterwards famous in the history of the Massachusetts Colony. The ship William and Francis arrived at Boston upon the 5th of June, 1632.

    The Harris family settled at Weymouth, Mass., shortly after they reached this country. Walter acquired a large landed estate called the Harris estate to this day. While at Weymouth, he married Mary Fry. In 1649 he removed to Dorchester and in 1652 we find him in New London. Walter Harris died on the 29th of January, 1656, and his widow survived him but three months.

    The will of Mary Harris is said to be one of the oldest extant in America. The will mentions the two sons Gabriel and Thomas.

    Gabriel [Harris] went to New London with his father and on March 1654 married Elizabeth Abbot at the town of Guilford. Early in the year a ship from England bound for New Haven put in at New London for shelter and anchored near the lonely dwelling of the Harris family, which stood upon the Riverside. Gabriel went off in his fishing boat and invited the immigrants to his father's house. The whole party accordingly landed, and a great part of the night was spent in feasting and hilarity. One of the immigrants was a young woman, to whom Gabriel was so assiduous and successful in his attentions, that when the party returned to the vessel they were betrothed lovers. Some, indeed relate that a clergyman or magistrate was present, and the young couple were actually married that night. But the more reliable tradition is to the effect that the immigrants went on their way, and the young man shortly afterwards rigged up and painted his father's pinnace and following the wake of the vessel through the Sound, came back merrily, bringing a bride and her household gear.

    ye is an archaic spelling of "the."
    Pewter is an alloy composed mainly of tin, but can include lead. It was used for dishes and utensils. Some colonists suffered lead poisoning from using it. It dents easily and lasted about ten years. It was expensive and wooden dishes were used most often.
    American colonists continued to use British monetary units, namely the pound, shilling and pence for which £1 (or li) equalled 20s and 1s equalled 12d. In 1792 the dollar was established as the basic unit of currency.

    Record of the Descendants of Vincent Meigs by Henry Benjamin Meigs

    Harris, Walter, embarked March 5, 1631, came to Plymouth upon an engagement with Mr. John Atwood, of London, under command of Mr. John Done, of Plymouth for five years; was transferred to Henry Howland April 8, 1633.

    Walter, of Dorchester, frm. June 2, 1641, signed the inv. of John Pope in 1649. (P. of M. p 215.)

    Walter Harris died Nov. 6, 1654. A vessel called the William and Francis came to America in 1632, bringing among its passengers, Walter Harris, who settled in Weymouth, where he remained about twenty years and then came to Pequot Harbor. On his first application for a house lot he is styled of Dorchester, which makes it probable that his last temporary abiding place had been in that town.

    He had two sons, Gabriel and Thomas. His wife, whose maiden name was Mary Fry, survived him less than three months. One inventory and settlement of estate sufficed for both. The non-cupative will of Mrs. Harris will be given at large omitting only the customary formula at the commencement. It is one of the oldest wills extant in the County and is rich in allusions to costume and furniture. From a clause in this will it may be inferred that Thomas Harris had been betrothed to Rebecca, daughter of Obadiah Bruen. This young man, according to tradition, had been sent to England to recover some property that had fallen to the family, and was supposed to have been lost at sea, as he was never heard of afterward.

    The last Will and Testament of Mary Harriss, taken from her owne mouth, this 19th day of Jan., 1655;
    I give to my eldest daughter, Sarah Lane, the bigest brass pan, and
    to her daughter Mary, a silver spoone, and
    to her daughter Sarah, the bigest pewter dish and one silken ribon.
    Likewise, I give to her daughter Mary, a pewter candlestick.

    I give to my daughter, Mary Lawrence, my blew mohere peticote and my straw hatt and a fether boulster, and
    to her eldest sonne I give a silver spoone.
    To her second sonne a silver whissle
    I give more to my daughter Mary, my next brass pann and a thrum cushion, and
    to her youngest sonne I give a pewter Sassen,

    I give to my youngest daughter, Elizabeth [Weeks],
    a peece of red broadcloth, being about two yeards, alsoe
    a damask livery cloth,
    a gold ring, a silver spoone,
    a fether bed and a boulster; alsoe I give to my daughter Elizabeth,
    my best hatt, my gowne,
    a brass kettle and
    a woolen jacket for her husband; alsoe I give to my daughter Elizabeth,
    thirty shillings, alsoe
    a red whittle [which is a short cloak],
    a white apron and a new white neck cloth; alsoe

    I give to my three daughters aforesaid, a quarter part to each of them of the dyaper table cloth and ten shillings apeece.

    I give to my sister Megges, [Thomasin Fry Meigs] a red peticote, a cloth jacket, a silke hud, a quoife [cap], a cross cloth and a neck cloth.

    I give to my cozin Calib Rawlins, ten shillings.

    I give to my two cossns [nieces], Mary [Fry Pierce] and Elizabeth Fry [Fiske], each of them, five shillings.

    I give to Mary Barnet a red stuff wescote.

    I give to my Daughter Elizabeth, my great chest.

    To my daughter Mary, a ciffer [some kind of cap or head dress] and a white neck cloth.

    To my sister, Hannah [Fry] Rawlin, my best cross cloth.
    To my brother Rawlin, a lised band.

    To my two kinswomen, Elizabeth Hubbard and Mary Stevins, five shillings apeece.

    I give to my brother Megges, his three youngest children, two shillings, sixe pence apeece.

    I give to my sonne Thomas, ten shillings, if he do come home or be alive.
    I give to Rebekah Bruen, a pynt pott of pewter, a new petticoate and wascoat, which she is to spin herselfe; also an old bible and a hatt which was my sonne Thomas, his hatt.

    I give to my sonne Gabriel, my house, land, cattle and service with all other goodes, real and personal in Pequot or any other place, and doe make him my sole executor to this my will. Witness my hand.
    The mark of (X) Mary Harriss.
    Witness hereunto
    John Winthrop.
    Oradiah Bruen.
    Will Nyccolls.

    John Winthrop (1587/8 – 1649) was a leading figure in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He led the first migrants from England in 1630 and served as governor for twelve years. His vision of the colony as a Puritan "city upon a hill" dominated New England's development.
    It was common for bequests to include wearing apparel.
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    ©Roberta Tuller 2020
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