I is for Irish Massacre

Today’s letter is I. My ancestor Humphrey Potter was killed in the Irish Massacre of 1641.

When Humphrey was deciding where to settle and raise his family he knew that he wanted to leave England, but where to go? Reports from New England, across the vast Atlantic Ocean, indicated that colonies there were growing and thriving, with untold amounts of land available to settlers. Other reports told of acreage for the asking in Ireland, merely across the Irish Sea to the west of England, for anyone willing to work.

Humphrey and his sister Rebecca and her husband chose Ireland. Whether Humphrey married before he began his adventure, or fell in love after arriving on the Emerald Isle, is unknown. Most likely he took a wife with him. Or, maybe her parents and family joined the movement, and the couple met while working together as neighbors.

The reason land was available in Ireland is that warfare between it and England had resulted in England winning when Humphry Potter was small. Huge tracts of Irish land were, in time, opened to settlers from England and Scotland, with promises of good things for the natives. Sir Philemon O’Neal belonged to the Irish aristocracy, from whom much property was taken. Likely a plot of his holdings was issued to Humphrey Potter. As years passed, however, promises to the Irish were not kept by English authorities, unfair practices abounded, greed of officials became a great tax burden, and original local residents were treated with increasing contempt.

In 1641, after Rebecca had journeyed on to New England, many Irish banded together in various locations to show their disappointment at the way things were going and to rid their area of the intruders. Incensed mobs caused widespread devastation. Somehow Humphrey’s young daughter Ann through gods mercy escaped the bloody Massacre in Ireland wherein her father & most of his family were slain. Someone found a way to bring her back to her grandparents in Coventry.

Not much is known about how Humphrey died or how Ann got away unharmed. After some time living with her grandparents Ann moved to New England to live with her Aunt Rebecca. There she married Anthony Needham in 1655 in Salem. They are who I am descendant from. It’s hard to imagine that a family member of mine had to go though losing her parents in a large massacre. What terrify experience that was. I’ve always wanted to have ancestors from Ireland (Ann was born there) but this was not how I wanted it to end.

Humphrey and his wife Anne are forever in my thoughts. RIP.


One response

  1. Wow, to have such a close association with such an event makes it ‘real’, and very scary. Thank you for sharing.

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