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John (Deacon) Leavitt

John was born in 1608 in Beverly, Yorkshire, England, the first son of Percival Levett and Mary Linkley. John was the first Leavitt to settle in America.

It is uncertain the exact year that John came to America since he is not listed as a passenger of any ship. It is commonly believed he arrived here in 1628, when he would be 20 years of age.

John was an apprentice tailor in England in his youth, but he ran away from this apprenticeship when he was 19 years of age. At that time apprentice were usually freed from their service, when they reached 21 years of age. This was probably the main reason John decided to come to America.

John's uncle was Christopher Levett, who was one of His Majesty's Ship Captains, who explored the coast of New England in 1623. It can be assumed that John had heard stories of New England and America from his uncle, which may have given him the desire to come to America. It is very possible that his Uncle may have helped him or actually brought him to America. Since John has escaped from his apprenticeship it is logical that he would not be put on any ship's passenger list that brought him to America.

Christopher Leavitt returned to America in 1630 as captain of the ship "Porcupine". The first record of John being in America was in 1630, when he was present with his Uncle Christopher greeted Governor Winthrop, who had arrived from England on the ship,"Arabella". Unfortunaley Captain Christopher Levett died at sea, when he was returning to England on the Porcupine" in 1631.

It is believed that John came on a ship with a group of other settlers in 1628 and settled with them in a place called Mattapan, which was later changed to Dorchester. During that time John became a freeman because of his land holdings in Dorchester. New of this reached England and his Master (Thomas Makepeace) came to Dorchester and took all of Johns property and possessions, which he was allowed to do by English law.

In 1634-35 after all his property was taken from him it appears John went to Dover and Exeter NH. There he met up with Thomas Lovets(various spellings) family in Exeter NH. This is where he met his first wife May Lovet and they were married in 1637. It is not sure if this was actually Mary's last name because history is not clear if that was her name before the marriage to John or after she was married. Some believe that she might have been Thomas Levet's sister or niece.

It is believed that at the time of John's and Mary's wedding they were living in Hingham MA, since John again became a freeman on December 1936. History shows records of Land was granted lots in Hingham to John Leavitt in 1636, 1637 and again in 1647, 1648 and 1665. John had 5 children with Mary, 3 sons, John, Samuel and Jeremiah and 2 daughters Hannah and Elizabeth. Mary died July 4, 1646.

In Dec 1646 John married Sarah Gilman. She was the daughter of Edward and Mary Gilman. John had met the Gilman family earlier, when they came to Hingham. Sarah helped raise John and Mary's 5 children plus had 8 children of her own. John and Mary had eight children, 4 Sons Moses, Israel, Josiah, Nehemiah and 4 Daughters Sarah, Mary, Hannah and Abigail.

During his life John became a deputy town officers and a Deacon of the Church. He was a representative to the general court in 1656 and 1664, a selectman in years of 1661, 63, 65, 68, 72, 74 and 75. He was also a Magistrate, which meant a member of the Governor's Council.

John during his life increased his wealth and land holdings. He was friendly with the Indians and helped one of the Chiefs look after the burial of the chief's mother. For this, when the Indians sold some of their land to the town of Hingham they requested 10 acres of land on the north side of Turkey Hill be deeded to John Leavitt.

John was also instrumental in building the Ships Church in Hingham, which is still used today. The Oldest Protestant Meeting house in the United States. It was called the Ships Church because of its unusual roof, that resembled the hull of a ship.

John died on Nov. 20, 1691 at the age of 83.

Thank You NALF (National Association of Leavitt Families) which helped in my research.

For more information go to: NALF webpage Founding Fathers.


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