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JAMES AVERY - Second Generation - 1620-1790

Captain James Avery was born about 1620 in England, was the son of Christopher Avery and came to America with his father in 1630 or 1631 and lived with his father in Gloucester for several years. He married Joanna Greenslade November 10, 1643 at Boston, she died between 1693-1698. He then married Abigail, widow of Joshua Holmes, July 4, 1698. Captain Avery is often spoken of as the founder of the family or clan that we call the Groton Averys. James was the only child of Christopher and Margery Avery.

James Avery was an early land owner at Gloucester, went to Pequot, now New London Connecticut, and purchased land there, returned to Gloucester and sold his possessions to his father in 1651 and returned to New London in March at the time the main body of eastern emigrants arrived. In the New London book of grants, 1650-1652, is a record of the various parcels given to James Avery. At the same time he was given sixteen acres of upland and in 1661 he received twenty acres of upland. In 1653 he sold his land in the first division to Mr. Blinman. About this time he was granted a farm in South Gorton but he continued to live with his family on the west side of the great river. In 1653 he secured another farm, one of the "Pocketannock grants," further up the river in what is now the town of Ledyard. About 1656 he built and occupied "The Hive of the Averys," at the head of the Poquonnock Plain, in the present town of Groton, a mile and a half from the River Thames. ("Hive of the Averys" pg. 22 )

James Avery bought and sold many parcels of land. In April of 1685 it is recorded that he disposed of his father's estate and gave it to his four living sons, James Junior, Thomas, John and Samuel Avery.

James Avery soon became active in military affairs and is generally spoken of by the title of ensign, lieutenant, or captain. In 1665 he was appointed lieutenant and in 1673 captain. During Indian wars around New London, Capt. James Avery led troops, among who were James Avery Jr., John Avery, Thomas Avery, Ephraim Avery. Of the many wars they fought was the Narragansett War and the French and Indian. November 25, 1675, Capt. Avery was appointed by the council fifth in command of the United Army which is to go against the Indians. (Conn. Col. Rec. 2:386)

The Pequot allies were under the command of James Avery. The able Pequot tribe that, a few years before, had been almost exterminated by the English. The Pequot Fort, taken in 1637 by Capt. John Mason in command of the Connecticut troops and their Mohegan and Narragansett allies, was on the Mystic River, on the eastern line of Groton.

The fair disposition and judicial temperament of James Avery are here clearly shown-qualities that doubtless gave him much of the great influence that we know he possessed with the friendly Indians of that region. For several years, the commissioners of the United Colonies of New England referred almost everything relating to the Pequots to Messrs. Denison, Stanton and Avery for adjustment. In 1668, James Avery and Cary Lathem were chosen to settle the boundary line with the sachem (chief), Uncas. For his services James Avery received many parcels of land and was often called for by the town and by individuals in the settling of such controversies. In 1678, the commissioners granted Captain Avery five pounds "for his good service in assisting in the government of the Pequots for sundry years".

James Avery was as prominent in the civil matters of town and colony as he was in military affairs. Sept. 28, 1669, a list of the names of the freemen of New London was made by order of the general court and on this list the name of James Auerye stands first.

At Pequot, Captain Avery seems to have taken at once an active part in private affairs. For many years his name was signed to deeds and grants of land, as commissioner for New London. He was appointed commissioner Oct. 8, 1663 and from that time until 1695 served continuously as one of the judges of the county court. The years 1671 and 1673 were the only years in which he did not serve. In 1871 a publication came out that of 545 representatives of the town Groton, 104 were descendants of Captain James Avery.

After the accession of William and Mary in 1688, Connecticut called her general court together without waiting for instructions from the home government. Among the few determined men who responded and served through 1689 was Capt. James Avery of New London. In the thirty years above indicated, for twenty of which James Avery was deputy, the general court passed many wise and helpful laws. The Indians were defeated or pacified and Connecticut grew from weakness into strength. Her foundations were well laid and among her master workmen was James Avery.

James Avery was prominent in matters relating to the church and the references to him in such connection are numerous. The church record kept by the Rev. Mr. Bradstreet begins October 5, 1670, the day of ordination. It opens with the following: "Members of the church, Lieutenant James Avery and. wife, Thomas Miner and wife, James Morgan, senior and wife."

In his famous diary, Thomas Minor makes frequent reference to James Avery with whom he was to be connected by the marriage of three of his children. James Avery was expected to watch the spiritual interests of the church. There was then a close union between church and state, each being a part of the other. The Congregational church was fully "established" wholly it orthodox", and the only one recognized by law. The minister's salary was raised by public tax. As early as 1678, the people on the east side of the great river (Thames), through James Avery, petitioned the general court for a church and minister of their own. In 1687, after persistent petitionings in which James Avery was prominent, it was ordered that for the future they should have liberty to invite the minister of the town to preach m their side of the river every third Sabbath during the four most inclement months of the year.

The good work that he had thus begun was continued by his sons and, in 1702, the church on the east side of the river for which he had so long labored became a reality. Although he did not live to see the happy termination of his endeavor, he is justly considered me of the founders of the First Church of New London. In the two hundred years since then four buildings have housed the organization. The fourth was completed in 1902. Its walls are built of field stone gathered from the many Avery and other farms in Groton. The memorial window in the front of the church, is dedicated, by his descendants, to Captain James Avery, in whose active brain originated the idea of a church organization east of the "Greate River."

1693 James Avery made preparation for a comfortable old age. He deeded his land to each of his sons, but he made a final provision as his deed shows: "that I the said James Avery senior, do reserve the north end of the dwelling house during my life and the life of my wife Johanna Avery and also the full moyity or one half part of the neat product or increase of all the land during my life and the life of my wife Johanna Avery." This will was dated May 6, 1693. Thus we see that his wife Johanna was living in 1693. The date of her death is not known. She was the mother of all the children of James Avery. James Avery died April 18, 1700 and was buried in the Avery-Morgan cemetery. (pg 32)

In studying the record of those days, the careful student is strongly impressed with the fact that Captain James Avery was a very remarkable man. Living as he did in stirring times, he was a leader among strong men, enjoying their confidence and respect because he deserved them. Especially is it to be noted that, although the state took cognizance of affairs that we now call private and interfered in the details of family life and personal relations in a way that would not now be tolerated, he was never censured or "presented" for any shortcoming or alleged dereliction of duty or propriety. Eminent in all the relations of life, his descendants look upon him with pride and affection as one "sans peur et sans reproche".

Children of James and Joanna (Greenslade) Avery:

HANNAH b. Oct. 11, 1644, at Gloucester, Mass.
JAMES b. Dec. 16, 1646, at Gloucester, Mass.
MARY b. Feb. 29, 1647-8, at Gloucester, Mass.
THOMAS b. May 6, 1651, at New London, Conn.
JOHN b. Feb. 10, 1653, at New London, Conn.
REBECCA b. Oct. 6, 1656, at New London, Conn.
JONATHAN b. Jan. 5, 1658, at New London;
buried. Sept. 15, 1681 at New London; unm.
CHRISTOPHER b. April 30, 1661, at New London;
d. Dec. 8, 1683, at New London; unm.
SAMUEL b. Aug. 14, 1664, at New London, Conn.

James four sons married and had twenty daughters. The four sons had thirty-two sons. At least twenty-five of the grandsons became heads of families, and there is nothing in the records to show that the other seven were not married. These twenty-five grandsons, of whose families there are records, had one hundred and two sons. Of these, at least eighty-five might have married, and it is known that sixty-nine of them did marry.