Cliff McCarthy, 2016
Last Updated 7 October 2016
The Drakes of Piscataway, New Jersey are the direct descendants of Francis and Mary Drake, who moved there about 1668 from the Province of New Hampshire. Francis Drake, the immigrant ancestor, was born around 1615 in England. The identities of his birthplace and parents are presently unknown, although it is probable that he was born in Devonshire. Since 1635, a Drake family had lived on the banks of the swift-flowing Piscataqua River, which divided New Hampshire from the Province of Maine.
Among the first of this surname to settle in that New England locality was Robert Drake. This Robert was baptized at Halstead, England on 23 July 1581, and emigrated to Exeter, New Hampshire and then to Hampton, New Hampshire in 1645. For decades, there has been speculation, based only on circumstantial evidence, that our Francis Drake was Robert’s son. The circumstantial evidence was compelling: Portsmouth records show that Francis resided next-door to Nathaniel Drake, Robert’s son, and served with him on several committees and grand juries; they were elected Surveyors at the same time; and both signed the same petitions in 1665. All of this reinforces the supposition that Nathaniel and Francis were brothers and sons of Robert Drake. However, DNA evidence from a Drake family surname study shows several present-day descendants of Robert as having a totally different DNA signature than the many participants who are descended from Francis. There are several possible explanations for this, however, it does call into serious question the assumptions of the past. To see the Drake DNA Study Results .
Given the name, Francis Drake, some have naturally speculated as to a familial connection between our ancestor and Sir Francis Drake, the great Elizabethan Admiral. Again, there is absolutely no proof to substantiate this claim. Some claim that our Francis Drake was the grandson of Sir Francis Drake’s brother Thomas, to whom the Admiral left his valuable estate. Others say he was Sir Francis’ nephew. Robert Drake, mentioned above, was contemporary with Sir Francis, his birth occurring in 1580, the same year the great navigator sailed around the world, at the age of thirty years. Both Robert and Sir Francis hailed from Devonshire, England, where the Drake estate was established shortly after the conquest of William of Normandy.
Our Francis Drake first appears in the records of the New World at Portsmouth in April 1646, when he was one of twenty-one men who signed an agreement to have a committee lay out lands for settlement. He lived in an area called Old Strawberry Banke — a neck between two creeks that grew to become Portsmouth. He married Mary, surname unknown, around 1650. While some sources have mentioned that her surname was Walker, I have seen no documentary proof to support such as assertion. They had at least three, but probably four, children. He served in the militia, and was made an Ensign in July 1661. In 1662, he was brought to court for mowing another man’s meadow.
In 1665, Francis was a petitioner at Dover, New Hampshire for protection to his property and religious rights. He signed two petitions to the Commission for Affairs of New England in America and to the King asking that Portsmouth be removed from the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. That colony was known for its rigid Puritanism and its assertion of jurisdiction conflicted with others, and caused a number of land disputes in the area. Francis eventually found permanent residence there unendurable. This same year, the proprietors of East Jersey offered liberal concessions to entice people to settle in that region. On 18 December 1666, four men from the Piscataqua region of New Hampshire acquired a grant of 40,000 acres on the Raritan River in New Jersey, at a place later called Piscataway, Middlesex County; Francis decided to avail himself of the generous invitation. On the 5th of August 1668, Francis and Mary sold their lands in Greenland, New Hampshire (near Portsmouth) and moved to Piscataway, N.J., where they were among the first settlers. Francis spent all the rest of his life there, until his death in 1687, accompanied by his wife and three sons, Francis, George and John, who were all born in New England. Son John became renown as the first pastor of the Piscataway Baptist Church, which he served for fifty years. Baptists were not tolerated in New Hampshire. The three Drakes were listed among the settlers of Piscataway, as of 1670.
In the Founders of New Jersey, published by the Descendants of the Founders of New Jersey (2016 edition), the founding of Piscataway is described this way:
Hugh Dunn, John Martin, Hopewell Hull and Charles Gillman from New Hampshire answered the call in 1666 to immigrate to New Jersey. Traveling from Elizabethtown they explored southwest along Indian paths to the Raritan River, there they found a few log huts on the site of an old Indian village (across the river from what is now New Brunswick). Pleased with the area they purchased 40,000 acres, from Daniel Pierce, a third of his share in the Woodbridge acquisition, on 18 December, 1666. On 30 May 1668, John Gillman, Benjamin Hull, Robert Dennis and John Smith were joined by endorsement to the deed as associates. Less than two years later they were joined by Francis and Mary Drake who came from the vicinity of Portsmouth.
They called their purchase New Piscataqua, after Piscataqua County, an area lying between Maine and New Hampshire River. Here they founded the township of Piscataway for the purpose of colonization; a provision of the deed was the speedy settlement of the territory. In addition to their own families the associates brought numerous other families from Piscataqua, in New Hampshire (now Maine) as well as other areas of New England. In 1677, the area that became the village of Piscataway was purchased from two Indian chiefs, Canackawack and Thingorawis.
He owned a considerable tract of land in Piscataway. His name appears on the 1675 list of patent holders with 245 acres. He is listed on another compilation that same year as having a 68 acre right “besides homelot and meadow.” He was a weaver and cloth maker by profession. At his death, his account books showed that almost all of the prominent families in town owed him money for his work. In addition, on 15 July 1673, he was granted a license to keep an ordinary (tavern).
On 15 July 1675, Francis was commissioned the Captain of the New Piscataway Militia Company. He was discharged at his own request on 30 May 1678, probably because of his advancing age. He died 24 September 1687 in Middlesex County. On October 28 of that year, letters of administration of his estate were granted to his son George Drake and Benjamin Hull of Piscataway. It appears that the value of his estate was £67.07.00. His wife had preceded him in death in 1685.
Children of Francis & Mary DRAKE
FRANCIS DRAKE was born Abt. 1615 in prob. Devonshire. England, and died 24 September 1687 in Middlesex Co., NJ. He married MARY (poss. WALKER). She died 1685. The Children of FRANCIS DRAKE and MARY WALKER) are:
i. FRANCIS DRAKE, b. Abt. 1651.
ii. ELIZABETH DRAKE, b. Abt. 1652; m. HUGH DUNN.
iii. GEORGE DRAKE, b. Abt. 1653; m. MARY OLIVER.
iv. JOHN DRAKE, b. Abt. 1654, near Piscataqua River, probably New Hampshire; d. Bet. 7 April 1740 – 30 September 1741; m. (1) REBECCA TROTTER, 7 January 1676/77; b. 5 July 1655, Newbury, MA; m. (2) ELIZABETH (BONHAM) SLATER, Abt. 1700.
- “1666 – Founding of Piscataway,” in Founders of New Jersey, by Dr. Evelyn Hunt Ogden, e-book published by the Descendants of the Founders of New Jersey, 2016 edition.
- “Bio of Francis Drake (c. 1615-1687) NH,” anonymous, Genealogy.com website, (http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/drake/1048), accessed 20 November 2016.
- Brown, James F., “Piscataway Baptist Church, Piscataway, New Jersey,” Historical Narrative, 1871, on the Baptist History Homepage, (http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/1871.hist.pcwy.nj.html)
- History of the First Baptist Church of Piscataway with an Account of Its Bi-Centennial Celebration and Sketches of Pioneer Progenitors of Piscataway Planters (Stelton, N.J., 1889).
- Leonard, O. B., “Pioneer Planters of Piscataway, N.J. During the First Half Century of Their Settlement, 1666-1716,” New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, Vol. 29, January 1898.
- Monnette, Ozra Eugene, “The Hull Family in America — New Jersey Branch,” The Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly, Vols. XII & XIII, 1909-1910.
- Thompson, Alice Smith, Drake Family of New Hampshire (New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, N.H., 1962).