Extracted from The Rathbun, Rathbone, Rathburn Family Historian, Volume 1, Number 2, April 1981, pages 28 – 29.

John Rathbun Jr.
John Rathbun Jr.

John Rathbun Jr. born about 1655, probably in Dorchester, Massachusetts, shortly after his parents migrated to America. He went with his family as a young boy to Block Island in 1661, and was married there January 10, 1679, to a wife whose name is illegible in the records. They had one child, a son John Jr., who was born June 22, 1680, and died ininfancy. The mother apparently also died about this time.


After the death of his wife, it appears that John, then in his late 20s, may have had what we today call “an affair” with his 19 year-old cousin, Margery Acres. When she married Daniel Tosh in 1685, Margery already had a six-month-old son later named Acres Tosh, who may have been John Rathbun’s illegitimate child. In 1735, a Rhode Island court upheld a claim that Acres Tosh was illegally in possession of Tosh property on Block Island on the ground that he was Margery’s illegitimate son by John Rathbun and therefore, not legally entitled to any Tosh inheritance. The claimant, Penelope (Tosh) Holloway, produced a witness,Sarah Potter, who testified she had seen Acres’ mother “abed with John Rathbun.”


Simon Ray, Block Island’s town clerk in 1735, protested that court’s decision and Sarah Potter’s testimony, commenting: ” … many women have done the same and after that had children lawfully begotten, and ifevery women that hath kept company with a man before marriage should make her children bastards, there will be but few lawfully begotten.”


Whatever the truth of the allegation, John Rathbun was married again November 11, 1686, “at Rochester in the Kings Province” (the temporaryname for North Kingstown, R. I.) to Ann Dodge, possibly the widow of Thomas Dodge, son of Tristram. Thomas Dodge is mentioned in early Block Island records but disappears about that time.
John Rathbun Jr. was admitted freeman of the Colony of Rhode Island May 1, 1684. (This meant he was over 21, a property owner and, therefore, had the right to vote.)


His parents, on September 21, 1679, gave John “for love etc.” 60 acres of land and their home on Block Island. This gift came into question some years later, and on January 3, 1688, they made a new deed, clarifying the first. For a barrel of pork, to be paid yearly on demand,they gave John Jr. full title to the property with the stipulation that should he ever decide to sell it, “he shall offer … the same to one or any one of his brothers, five pounds cheaper than any other persons.” Nearly 30 years later, John had his aged mother make a formal deposition further explaining the two deeds:
“My son John Rathbun desires me for as much as my husband is deceased to explain the occasion or reason for the two deeds … the full intent of my husband and myself … (was that) our son John should have it(the property) at his own disposal and that none of the other children or their heirs forever should ever have any rights or property therein.”


The property was apparently the most valuable owned by John Rathbun Sr. and the other brothers may have raised objections. In 1719, the Block Island Town Council approved “a driftway (road?) to the harbor through John Rathbun’s land,” indicating that the property was indeed strategically located.


Island records indicate that John Jr. and his youngest brother, Samuel, were the only of the five brothers who were literate and could signtheir names; the others customarily signed with “marks”.


In December 1698, two Block Island Indians, “Great James and his wife,” bound their daughter, Betsey, over to John and Ann Rathbun as an indentured servant for 18 years, receiving from the Rathbuns a gallon ofrum and a blanket at the time, and to receive another gallon and blanket each year for five years, and then a gallon of rum each year thereafter and four blankets each third year, so long as the girl remaineda servant.
John Rathbun Jr. died in 1723, aged about 68. He left all his housing and land on Block Island to his son, John, who was to pay 50 poundsto each of his four younger brothers as they reached 21, and 30 pounds to his younger sister, Anna, upon their mother’s death. He had already given 100 pounds to his son Jonathan when he was married, and hadgiven his daughter Mercy “her share” when she married Jonathan Burch in 1706.

Extracted from The Rathbun, Rathbone, Rathburn Family Historian, Volume 1, Number 2, April 1981, page 29.

A selected listing of the possessions of John Rathbun, Jr., taken from the inventory of his estate after his death in 1723: Two oxen,six cows, two heifers, two two-year-olds, two four-year-olds, five sheep, two mares and one colt.


Five pewter platters, one brass kettle, three quart pots, a baking pot, five basins, two plates, 12 spoons, a pint pot, a half-pint pot, earthenware, a jug and five bottles.


Five old chairs, two old tables, a spinning wheel, a loom, two andirns, two trammels (for fireplace cooking) two spits, a pair of tongs, chests, three boxes, four towels, six napkins and tablecloths and two brooms.
Three beds, eight sheets, a looking glass, a warming pan and a candlestick.
One bible, four other books, wearing apparel, a 15-shilling bill of credit and one ounce of silver.


Shoemaker’s tools and stool, carpenter’s tools, two barrels, a wagon,a cart and wheels, a grindstone, two pitchforks, two plowshares and an iron box.

Nine bushels of Indian corn, three bushels of barley, four and a halfbushels of beans, eight pounds of flax, three pounds of wool, one barrel of wheat, two and a half yards of fulled cloth and one rope.


Total value of personal estate – 149 pounds, 7 shillings, 10 pence.