Major General Daniel Gookin (1612 - 1686/87)

by Richard N. Gookins of Salem, Oregon; typed and shared by Norm Medland

DANIEL GOOKIN, SR. (1582-1632)

    Of Daniel’s early life, little is known. He was still at Ripple, Kent, in August 1601, when, with his brother John he signed a marriage license bond for Thomas Gillowe of Walmer.  Thereafter he disappears from view until January 20, 1608/9 when, by deed indented, his father conveyed to him several parcels of land near Ripple.  This was in anticipation of his marriage to Mary Byrd, daughter of Rev. Richard Byrd, D.D. one of the canons of Canterbury Cathedral.  Daniel’s brothers were Thomas and Vincent.
    Daniel followed his brother Vincent to Ireland.  In 1616, Daniel was living in Coolmain, Parish of Ringrose, Co. Cork, on the opposite side of the bay from Vincent’s residence at Courtmacsherry.
    It has been established that the baptism of Daniel’s Son, Daniel took place in Bristol, England, 6 December 1612 indicating a visit to his family or the need to baptise Daniel on “English Soil.”
    On June 19, 1619, Daniel sold to a Kentishman, Thomas Petley, for 430 pounds sterling, 22 acres of fresh marsh in the parishes of Hope All Saints and St. Mary’s in Romney Marsh, Kent.  This was part of the transaction by which Daniel bought from Petley, for 1600 pounds sterling, the castle and lands of Carrigaline, situated about 7 miles SE of the City of Cork, down the harbor, at the head of the sea called the Oonboy River.  Carrigaline in early times was called variously, beauver, Bever, Belvoir, from the huge limestone rock, which arises abruptly from the river and slopes gradually to the land.


    In the year 1620, Daniel Gookin projected transporting cattle to the colony of Virginia and found a plantation there.  There is correspondence that says, “ about the 22 of November, 1621, a shipp from Mr. Gookin, out of Ireland, wholly upon his own adventure (The Flying Hart) which was so well furnished with all sorts of provisions (note: original was in olde English, this is not) as well as with cattle as we could wish all men would follow their example, he hath also brought with him about 50 men on that adventure, besides some 30 other passengers, we had accordingly to their desire seated them at Newport’s News.”
    On March 22, 1622, just four months after Daniel’s arrival, the great massacre by the Indians took place.  Out of a total of 4,000 settlers, 347 were slain.  Outlying plantations were urged to consolidate.  Gookin refused and successfully defended his settlement.  In late April or early May, Gookin returned to England aboard the “Sea Flower” bring first word of the massacre to the Company in London.  Upon his return to Ireland, Daniel set about dispatching another ship with planters and cattle for Virginia.  There is no evidence he made a second trip himself.  His second venture was the sending of the ship Providence.  A letter from William Hobart June 19, 1623 reported that only seven men were left, all others killed by Indians, and the plantations had fallen into decay.
    Patent for the land was not issued until January 25, 1634/5, two years after Daniels death, and it was almost three more years before it was actually executed and delivered to his son Daniel.  Daniel and John, 3rd and 4th sons were by then in Virginia, having arrived as early as 1631 when Daniel (Jr.) was only 18.


    The third son of Daniel Gookin of Carrigaline was born in the latter part of 1612 although the exact date and place is unknown.  He was christened on 6 December 1612 at the church of St. Augustine the Less, Bristol.  If he had been born at Ripple it would have been logical for the baptism to have taken place there.  In 1616, his father was living in Ireland so it may be assumed that Daniel’s boyhood was spent in Carrigaline and that he was sent to England for schooling.

VIRGINIA, 1630/31

    The earliest view of him is in Virginia at his father’s plantation, shortly after his 18th birthday.  Among records of the General Court is an indenture executed February 1, 1630/31, between Daniel Gookin of Newport Newes in Virginia, Gent., and Thaomas Addison, second manager of Maries Mount plantation, in which at Addison’s retirement, he was rewarded for his faithful service by a gift of 150 acres in the behalf of Daniel’s father, Daniel Gookin of Carrigaline.  De Vries, the Dutch Captain, wrote that on March 20, 1633 he “anchored at evening, before Newport News, where lived a gentleman of name of Goegen.”  Daniel is next seen in London.  A license was granted by the Bishop of London, November 11, 1639, for the marriage of Daniel Gookin, Gent.,, of the parish of St. Sepulchre, London, a widower, aged about 27, and Mary Dolling, of the parish of St. Dunstan in the West, London, a spinster, aged about 21, whose parents were dead.  The records of St. Sepulchre were destroyed in a fire so the precise date of the wedding in unknown.  No record of Daniel's previous marriage is known.
    In the interval of his two voyages to Virginia there is reason to suppose Daniel was for a time in military service, possible in England, more likely in the Netherlands.  Captain Edward Johnson in his “Wonder of Working Providence” calls him a Kentish “souldier,” and appelation would have hardly been given him based on his command of the trained bands in Virginia and Massachusetts.  He was already called “captain” in Greer’s list of immigrants to Virginia.


    Early in 1641 Daniel, his wife Mary and infant son Samuel, set sail for Virginia to make their home.  Territorial Lordship was now made possible by the grant of land obtained three years before.  On his arrival in Virginia, Daniel took up residency at the Nansemond Plantation and was recognized by his fellow colonists as a man of ability.  He was made a burgess and represented the upper Norfolk County in the Grand Assembly, which met in Jamestown on January 12, 1641/2.  A grant of 2,500 acres in the upper county of Norfolk, upon the northwest Nansemond River, had been issued to him the 29th of December, 1637, and a further grant of 1,400 acres on the Rappahanock River, about 35 miles on the north side, was made to “Captain Daniel Gookin” on November 4, 1642
    Among his neighbors in the upper Norfolk Co., Daniel found considerable number of Puritan families.  Services of some sort were held on the Sabbath, but the lack of preaching, which was the chief solace and intellectual diversion of the Puritans, was keenly felt.
    So on May 24, 1642 a letter was sent to the elders of the Church in Boston in the Colony of Massachusetts, calling for ministers.  Upon consideration, the elders sent Rev. William Tompson of Braintree, Rev. John Knowles from Emmanuel College, and Rev. Thomas James of New Haven.  Eleven weeks were consumed in the trip to Virginia.  Winthrop, in his “History of New England.” Says “here they found very loving and liberal entertainment and were bestowed in several places, not by the governor, but by well disposed persons who desired their company.  Daniel Gookin was prominent of those well-disposed persons.  No so by Governor Berkley, a zealous and bigoted advocate of the Church of England.
    Reception of the ministers by Berkley was frigid despite letters brought to him from Governor Winthrop.  At the meeting of the Grand Assembly in March, 1642/3, the following act was passed:  “For the preservation of the purities of doctrine and unitie of the church, it is enacted that all ministers whatsoever which shall reside in the collony are to be conformable to the orders and constitution of the Church of England and the laws therein established and not otherwise to be admitted to teach or preach publickly or privately, and that the Gov. and council do take care that all non-conformists upon notice of them shall be compelled to depart the collony with all convenience.   (Hennings “Statutes at Large”).  The governor was not long in getting rid of Knowles and James who left for New England in April telling the elders of the Boston Church of the work of the missionaries.
    Tompson was closely associated with Daniel at this time, so it appears from testimony of Cotton Mather’s doggerel:
  “A constellation of great converts there,
  Shone round him, and his heavenly glory were
  Gookins was one of these; by Tompson’s pains,
  CHRIST and NEW ENGLAND a dear GOOKINS gains.”
    Unquestionably it was Tompson’s influence that induced Daniel to remove to Massachusetts.  After the passage of the act of conformity, Virginia was no longer an agreeable place for Daniel to live, so accompanied by Tompson and others, he emigrated in the summer of 1643 to the neighboring colony of Maryland, where he acquired land in the vicinity of South and Severn rivers near the site of Annapolis.


    Although welcomed by the residents of Maryland who were primarily of the Catholic faith, Daniel felt that Maryland, under Papist rule, was not the place for him.  The sudden death of his brother John at Lynn Haven early in November 1643 broke the strongest tie that held him to Virginia.  In May, 1644, leaving his three plantations to the care of servants, he set sail for Massachusetts with his wife and infant daughter Mary.  His first born, Samuel had died before this time.  He arrived in Boston May 20, 1644 to a cordial welcome.  May 26th, 1644, he was permitted membership in the first Church and May 29 was honored with the freedom of the colony, a favor rarely conferred on persons with so short a residence.  Mary was admitted membership to First Church October 12, 1644.  They maintained affiliation until their move to Cambridge four years later.
    Their neighbor was Rev. John Eliot Sr., the famous pastor of the first church, justly known as the “Apostle” to the Indians of New England.  A man of education, Daniel was one of the founders of the free grammar school established in Roxbury in 1645.  It has been stated that Daniel was a Scholar of Hebrew.  The business of his plantations in Virginia and Maryland occupied his attention for some time.  He is known to have sold 500 acres of the plantation on the Rappahanock to Capt. Thomas Burbage.  How long he owned the remaining 900 acres and the larger plantation on the Nansemond has not been ascertained.
    In July 1648, Daniel moved to Cambridge and he was soon appointed Captain of the trained band, a command he held for nearly 40 years, being, as Capt. Edward Johnson said him, “a very forward man to advance Marshal discipline.  The practice then prevailed for a captain to retain command of his company however highly promoted, the immediate command being exercised by the lieutenant.  Thus while in later years he was Major General, he was still Captain of the Cambridge company.  (This unit comprised one of the original units from which there is direct descendancy to the 182d Infantry Regiment (182 {Regimental Combat Team} RTC) of the United States Army.  Several muster entries note Daniel’s attendance also at meetings of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston.
    In the spring of 1649 Daniel was chosen as Deputy from Cambridge to the General Court held in Boston May 2.  In July 1650 he was in London, partly on public business, and possible visited some of his cousins who he had not seen for nine years.  In the spring of 1651, Capt. Gookin and Mr. Edward Jackson were returned as deputies from Cambridge to the General Court, and on May 7 Daniel was chosen Speaker.  A the election May 26, 1652 he was chosen an Assistant, one of the council of 18 magistrates to whom, with the Governor and Deputy-Governor, the government of the colony was entrusted.  To this office he was re-elected continuously for a period of 35 years, except early in 1676 when he suffered defeat because of the populace, maddened by the Indian War then raging, misconstrued his care of the friendly Indians and include him in unreasoning indignation.


    Captain Gookin was for the third time elected Assistant on May 3, 1654 and was present at the meeting the court held that day.  Thereafter, his movements are lost sight of for more than a year:  the probability is that he was in England on private business, which was apparently an effort to secure the property left for him by his elder brother Edward, of whose estate he was appointed administrator on July 3, 1655.  The interval since Daniel’s last visit to London had seen many changes.  Cromwell had been proclaimed Protector, and now for the first time in 14 years, and election had been held, and the first Protectorate Parliament was in session.  Among the members was Daniel’s cousin, Vincent Gookin, who like himself, was a man of high aim and unswerving devotion to the path of duty.
    At this period Cromwell was much occupied by his resolution to extend the power of England.  Near Christmas he dispatched Admiral Penn and General Venables on an expedition to wrest the West Indies from Spain.  Their attack on San Domingo failed so they turned their attention to Jamaica.  A successful landing was made at Kingston May 10, 1655 and the island became an English possession.  The need was for planters to hold the island, not disgruntled military colonists but appeals were futile.  Cromwell saw an immediate supply in New England.  He sent for Daniel Gookin who was in England at the time.  Daniel landed at Boston January 20 1655/56 but his effort to obtain colonists for Jamaica was a failure, which was reported in a letter to Cromwell June 20, 1657.
    Daniel again returned to England about the time of the dissolution of Parliament February 4, 1657/58.  In June came word of the defeat of the Spanish force by the English and French and the formal delivery of Dunkirk into the hands of the English.  In September the hopes of the Puritans received a blow upon the death of the Lord Protector.  Whatever business took Daniel to England, its progress must have been slow and he looked for other occupation while waiting.  He was commissioned in March 1658/9 the Collector of Customs in Dunkirk, a position held until May 1660 when King Charles II land at Dover.  Daniel then returned to New England on the same ship with regicides General Whalley and Colonel Goffe, who considered it prudent to return to the new world.  These two are said to have taken up residence in Cambridge as the guests of Daniel Gookin. Whalley and Goffe were the subject of so much friction between the colonists and England that in 1664 the English government appointed a board of commissioners to visit New England and enforce subjection to arbitrary government.  So shrewdly was the controversy handled by the General Court, that in the end the Commissioners were discomfited and returned to England without accomplishing their object.  Credit for this is due in large measure to Daniel Gookin and Thomas Danforth.


    The extent and variety of Daniel’s public service was considerable.  He was a faithful attendant at the sessions of the General Court and the meetings of the Governor and Council.  He was engaged upon in many committees; to audit the treasurer’s accounts, to treat with the mint master, to draw up orders concerning the militia, to visit Harvard College and examine the treasurer’s accounts to name a few.  More important were designations to hold the County Courts, as for Norfolk in 1660, for Suffolk in 1663 and his appointment in 1668 as one of the commissioners for revenue for imposts.  Also there was the routine business of magistrate to attend to besides his farms and the trade with the Maryland and Virginia plantations that had to be looked after.  He still found time to do his full duty as the Captain of the Cambridge Trained Band, to attend religious meetings with regularity, to serve the town as Selectman from 1660 to 1672.
    As first Superintendent of the Praying Indians he had to spend time in journeys through the wilderness to their several settlements, besides listening to the appeals when they frequently called upon him in Cambridge, and accompanying his friend Eliot when he went among them to preach.  He wrote two books on the Indians:  “Historical Collections of the Indians in New England” completed in 1674, (published in 1792) and the “doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians” finished in 1677 (published in 1836).  He is quoted by American author Henry David Thoreau in “Walden” and excerpts from Historical Collections are included in “A Library of American Literature.”  He also wrote a history of the colony, of which only a fragment has survived.  Daniel Gookin was a man of great breadth of mind and was not too deeply touched by the narrow ecclesiasticism of the day, and was in a position to know the public events of the time.  To prevent heresies and contentions, laws were passed abridging the liberty of the press, and for a time no printing was allowed in any town under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts except Cambridge.  In 1662 Daniel Gookin and the Rev. Jonathon Mitchell were appointed as first licensers of the press, but refused to act, the only declination of public trust ever recorded of Daniel.  This open-mindedness of character was very unusual in the time.


    Soon after the restoration of Charles II to the Crown of England, a controversy began with the colonists over their charter privileges, which continued with scarcely any break for more than 20 years.  The men at the head of the colonial government were adept at clever fencing, and for a long time the crisis was averted although the tension became more acute.  In the years following the Indian War much fuel was added to the flame by the machinations of that “evil genius” of New England, Edward Randolph.  When in 1681 a royal mandate was received, directing that authorized agents be sent to London to represent the colony and answer to a land claimant, it was obvious at last that the issue had been forced.  For several years Major Gookin’s (title conferred May 1676) popularity had steadily increased.  In his opposition to the arbitrary measures proposed by the Crown, he displayed the same spirit and dogged determination with which he had adhered to the cause of the Christian Indians in the face of public delirium.  To yield to the King’s demands he clearly saw would be a fatal mistake, so he stoutly stood for a strict construction of the Charter and opposed sending the agents to England.  The submission to the General Court, February 14, 1680, of a paper presenting his opinion not only won the day for his party but also gained the author a measure of public approbation that must have seemed particularly welcome after the obloquy so unjustly visited upon him five years before during King Phillip’s War.  At the next general election, May 11, 1681, he was elected Major General, the Commander-in-Chief of all the military forces of the colony.
    The five years that Daniel held the position of Major-General was a period of ever increasing distress in the affairs of the colony, until troubles culminated in 1686 with the abrogation of the charter government by James II.  This was a blow that shattered the very foundation of the civil rights, and with a papist on the throne of England the outlook for the colony seems very dark.  Major-General Gookin’s last days were saddened by the tribulations that had befallen the colony with the loss of the charter.
    Though the greater power lay with the opposition in the long controversy, he had the satisfaction of having done all that was possible to avert the catastrophe, and his conscience was clear.  From the inflexible firmness with which he stood for every specific right of the colonists, Daniel has been called, “the originator and prophet of that immortal dogma of our national greatness—no taxation without representation.”  (Tyler, Hist. Amer. Lit.)  It was he, by his cogent arguments and fearless resistance to any encroachment upon political or commercial liberty, who did more than any other in that period to crystallize the spirit of opposition, and the doctrine that the corner-stone of democratic government,
    He died Saturday, March 19, 1686/7 and was buried in the cemetery of the First Church, opposite the gate of Harvard.  The grave is marked with a brick monument covered with a flat slab of brown sandstone, still in remarkably good condition when viewed by Richard Gookins May 22, 1965.  It bears the inscription:
Here lyeth intered
ye body of Major Genel
75 years, who
departed this life
ye 19 of March
. . . . by Richard N. Gookins of Salem, Oregon; typed and shared by Norm Medland
Click for Daniel Gookin at "Famous Americans"

Click to return to the top of this page

Click to return to the Denne Page