Alice Goble, the First Wife of Nathaniel2 Woods of Groton, Massachusetts

Allan Gilbertson

In a Register article published in 1910,[1] Henry Woods stated that Nathaniel2 Woods of Groton, Massachusetts, son of Samuel1 and Alice (Rushton) Woods, had four wives: Eleanor _____, Alice _____, Sarah Brown, and Mary (Blanchard) Derbyshire. This article will show that Eleanor and Alice were the same woman, and that she was not Alice Whitney, daughter of Joshua2 Whitney, but that she was almost certainly the daughter of Daniel2 (Thomas1)and Hannah (Brewer) Goble.

An examination of the town records of Groton shows that Nathaniel Woods’s eleven children, born between 1694 and 1716, were recorded with “Alles” as their mother. Three of them, Aaron, Moses, and Reuben, born 1707–1711, also have baptismal records in which their mother was called “Eleanor.” In the original handwritten town records, all the children of Nathaniel and Alles were recorded on one page.[2] Since the same children are given with mother Eleanor only in the church records, “Alles” and “Eleanor” apparently were the same person.[3]

The 1895 Whitney genealogy stated that Alice/Eleanor was the daughter of Joshua2 Whitney. This idea apparently was originally published in 1860 in Henry Bond’s Watertown genealogies.[4] In the list of Joshua Whitney’s children, Bond includes “dr. Woods, mentioned in her father’s will; perhaps Alice, wife of Nathaniel Woods of Groton.”[5] However, Bond was mistaken. Joshua Whitney made his will 17 April 1713, in which he mentioned his ‘five daughters now living, Mary Peirce, Eleanor Shepard, Sarah Juell, Martha Williams and Elizabeth Farnsworth.” He also mentioned “eldest daughter wife to Thomas Woods.”[6] No daughter Alice was mentioned, and it was Thomas Woods, not Nathaniel, who married one of Joshua’s daughters. Although not listed by name in the will, other sources indicate that Thomas Woods’s wife was Hannah Whitney. Since she was not listed among his five living daughters, Hannah had apparently died. Robert L. Ward of the Whitney Research Group concluded that Alice is “very unlikely to be a daughter of Joshua Whitney.”[7] While there is no record of Joshua having any daughter named Alice, he did have a daughter Eleanor, wife of Samuel Shepard. However, she could not have been the wife of Nathaniel Woods as she was living in 1713 at the time of Joshua Whitney’s will.[8]

Was Alice the Daughter of Daniel2 Goble?

The gravestone of Alice Woods in the Old Cemetery in Groton says that she died 10 January 1717/8 in her 45th year.[9] Assuming her gravestone was correct, her birth occurred between 10 January 1672/3 and 11 January 1673/4. This birth span makes sense, as her first child was born 19 October 1694 and her last child was born in 1716.[10]

Only one candidate meets these narrow criteria: Alice Goble, daughter of Daniel2 (Thomas1) and Hannah (Brewer) Goble, born in Concord, Massachusetts, 11 September 1673.[11] This Alice Goble did not die in infancy, as she made a deposition to the Middlesex County Court in 1690, stating her age as 17.[12] Nathaniel Woods had a son named Daniel Woods,[13] and no Daniels are found in the previous generation of the Woods family [14] Further evidence, moreover, has been found in probate records, as described below.

Daniel Goble was executed 26 September 1676 for killing friendly Indians.[15] He left a will naming wife Hannah and four children: Daniel, John, Hannah, and “Ellis.”[16] A year later, on 20 November 1677, the widow Hannah married Ephraim Roper in Lancaster, Massachusetts, where they settled. Hannah, Ephraim, and their 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth were killed in the Indian attack on Lancaster on 11 September 1697.[17] Three of their other children survived, including their youngest son, Ephraim Roper Jr., who was taken captive but soon was returned (apparently ransomed) to Massachusetts.[18]

Ephraim Roper [Sr.] did not leave a will, but intestate probate documents detail the distribution of his estate. No children of Hannah’s first husband are mentioned; however, the records include two papers which mention Nathaniel Woods. One, dated February 1699[/1700], is a list of charges made in December 1699 to the estate by Nathaniel Woods for his expenses in obtaining the release of Ephraim Roper from captivity. The second, also dated February 1699[/1700], appears to be a receipt listing the money paid by the executors to Nathaniel Woods of Groton for the same.[19]

In the first list of expenses, apparently written by Nathaniel Woods, he explicitly stated his relationship to Ephraim: “Charges for my brother Ephraim Roper,” for [releasing?] “out of captivity in mony, time & provisions.” Included were expenses for journeys to Lancaster and to Charlestown[20] An almost certain interpretation is that Nathaniel Woods had married by 1699 Alice Goble, half-sister of Ephraim Roper. Jr.

Daniel Goble: Murder and Execution

Daniel Goble was the only New England colonist to be executed for murdering friendly Indians during King Phillip’s War.[21] On 7 August 1676, three Christian Indian women and three children were picking berries at Hurtleberry Hill, in the woods near Concord. They encountered a group of English soldiers who “called to them, exchanged bread and cheese for fruit then moved off.” Four soldiers remained behind: Daniel Goble, his nephew Stephen Goble, Daniel Hoar, and Nathaniel Wilder. Probably Daniel Goble, perhaps aided by his nephew Stephen, murdered the Indians, and “leaving the bodies where they fell—after first stealing their coats—the men rode home.”[22]

All four were arrested. Daniel Goble was considered “the ringleader” in this “atrocious murder.”[23] Daniel Hoar and Nathaniel Wilder pleaded for leniency, and were pardoned.[24] Perhaps they were only witnesses to the murder.

The gallows were said to be “on the Boston and Roxbury Neck.”[25] Daniel Goble’s nephew, Stephen Goble, was executed earlier in September.[26] Daniel was supposed to be executed the same day, but was sick. Samuel Sewall wrote in his diary: “1676 Sept. 26. Tuesday Sagamore Sam & Daniel Goble is drawn in a cart upon bed cloaths to execution. . . . One eyed John, Maliompe Sagamore of Qupaug, General at Lancaster & Jethro (the Father) walk to the gallows.”[27]

The execution was also recorded in the diary of Increase Mather: “This day Sagamore Sam was hanged at Boston. And the sick Englishman that should have been executed the last Week (whose name was Goble) was hanged with him. It seems a mad woman got away the rope which should have hanged the English Man, wherefore he was hanged with the very same rope wh hanged the Indian just before.”[28]

Genealogical Summary

Daniel Goble was baptized in Charlestown, Massachusetts, 18 July 1641, son of Thomas1 and Alice (_____) Goble. He married in Sudbury, Massachusetts, 25 February 1663/[4], Hannah Brewer.[29] She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 18 January 1644/5, daughter of John and Anne (_____) Brewer.[30]

As stated above, Daniel died 26 September 1676 in Boston, hanged for murder. He left a will, dated 20 September 1676, in which he mentioned wife Hannah and four children: Daniel, John, Hannah, and “Ellis.”

The widow Hannah (Brewer) Goble married second, as his second wife, in Lancaster 20 November 1677, Ephraim Roper. He was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, 23 12th month [February] 1644/5,[31] son of John1 and Alice (Reynolds) Roper.[32] Ephraim’s first wife, Priscilla (_____) Roper, had been killed by Indians during the first attack on Lancaster, in February 1675/6.[33]

Hannah and Ephraim, along with their 14-year old daughter Elizabeth, were killed 11 September 1697 when the Indians again attacked Lancaster.[34] His intestate probate records list his heirs as Ephraim Roper, Ruth “ye Eldest daughter,” and Bathsheba “ye youngest daughter.”

Children of Daniel and Hannah (Brewer) Goble, born in Concord:[35]

  1. Hannah Goble, b. 13 Nov. 1666; no further record
  2. Daniel Goble, b. 21 May 1669; m. Sarah Houghton, b. Lancaster 30 7th mo. [Sept.] 1672, d. by 1733, daughter of John1 and Beatrix (_____) Houghton. Supposedly Daniel moved to Hanover, Morris Co., N.J.[36]
  3. John Goble, b. 20 July 1671; no further record.
  4. Alice Goble, b. 11 Sept. 1673; almost certainly identical with Alles/Alice/ Eleanor, who m. by 1694, as his first wife, Nathaniel2 Woods of Groton, b. Groton 23 March 1667/8, d. there 20 June 1738 in his 71st year, son of Thomas1 and Alice (Rushton) Woods.[37] Alice d. Groton 10 Jan. 1717/8 in her 45th year, and he m. (2) Groton 3 July 1721, Sarah Brown of Stow, Mass., b. Sudbury, Mass., 20 May 1680, d. Groton 3 March 1724 in her 45th year, daughter of Jabez (?Thomas1) and Deborah (Haynes) Brown.[38] Nathaniel m. (3) Groton 14 Sept. 1725, Mary (Blanchard) Derbyshire, b. Chelmsford, Mass., 23 Sept. 1674, daughter of John (?Joseph1) and Elizabeth (Hills) Blanchard, and widow of John Derbyshire.[39]

Children of Ephraim and Hannah (Brewer) (Goble) Roper, born in Concord:[40]

  1. Priscilla Roper, b. 5 2nd mo. [April] 1679; apparently d. young as she was not mentioned in the division of her father’s estate.
  2. Ruth Roper, b. 7 1st mo. [March] 16[80]/1; d. after June 1700 when she was mentioned in the division of her father’s estate.
  3. Elizabeth Roper, b. 17 1st mo. [March] 1682/3; d. 11 Sept. 1697, killed along with her parents in the attack on Lancaster.
  4. Bathsheba Roper, b. ca. 1685; d. after June 1700 when she was mentioned in the division of her father’s estate; probably the Bathsheba who m. ca. 1707 Samuel Stone, of Framingham, Mass., b. 23 May 1685, d. ca. 1720, son of David3 (John2, Gregory1) and Susanna (_____ Stone.[41]
  5. Ephraim Roper, b. ca. 1687; taken captive 11 Sept. 1697; returned from captivity about 1699, with the help of Nathaniel Woods; d. 16 Feb. 1730[/1?], bur. Worcester, Mass.;[42] m. Sybilla Moore, b. Sudbury 2 Sept. 1694, daughter of Richard3 (Jacob2, John1) and Mary (Collins) Moore. Sybilla m. (2) Elijah Chamberlain.[43]

Allan Gilbertson of Sterling, Virginia, is a descendant of Nathaniel and Alice (Goble) Woods. He may be reach at ahgilbertson@yahoo.com.


1 Henry E. Woods, “The Woods Family of Groton, Mass.,” Register 64 (1910):35. Mr. Woods was editor of the Register 1902–1907 and “designed the vital records series subsidized by the Commonwealth” (John A. Schutz, A Noble Pursuit: The Sesquicentennial History of the New England Historic Genealogical Society [Boston: NEHGS, 1995], 74–77, 85, 230, 257). In addition, Ryan J. Woods, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of NEHGS, is descended from Nathaniel and Alice (Goble) Woods.

2Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620–1988, images 346 and 441 of Groton vital records, online at Ancestry.com; Vital Records of Groton, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols. (Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1926), 1:258–264.

3 According to Robert L. Ward of the Whitney Research Group, “she may have been known by the nickname Allie or Ellie (pronounced almost identically, especially with an English accent), and the record keepers tried to supply what they thought was the proper form. The minister or his clerk may have thought Ellie was short for Eleanor” (personal communication from Robert L. Ward to the author, dated 5 April 2016).

4 Frederick Clifton Pierce, Whitney: The Descendants of John Whitney (Chicago: the author, 1895), 25, repeats the idea, without providing any evidence, that Joshua Whitney had a daughter Alice who married Nathaniel Woods. Probably this identification was first published in Henry Bond, Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the Early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts, 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1860), 1:644.

5 Bond, Watertown [note 4], 1:644.

6 Middlesex County Probate, File 24703, Joshua Whitney.

7http://wiki.whitneygen.org/wrg/index.php/Archive:Joshua_Whitney’s_Wives_and_Children.

8 Samuel Shepard and Eleanor Whitney were married about 1702 and he died in 1724 (Gerald Faulkner Shepard, The Shepard Families of New England, Donald Lines Jacobus, ed., 3 vols. [New Haven, Conn.: New Haven Colony Historical Society, 1971–1973], 1:12, while Nathaniel Woods and his wife Alles/Eleanor had children recorded in Groton born between 1694 and 1716.

9 Samuel A. Green, Epitaphs From the Old Burying Ground in Groton, Massachusetts (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1878), 2; Vital Records of Groton [note 2], 2:281; photograph of the gravestone online at FindaGrave.com, memorial no. 21183910.

10 The date of birth of the youngest child, Jonathan Woods, has been interpreted as 9 March 1716 or 9 June 1716 (Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620–1988, images 346 and 441 of Groton vital records [note 2]). Vital Records of Groton [note 2], 1:262, says 4 June 1716.

11Concord, Massachusetts, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1635–1850 (Concord, Mass.: the town, 1895), 17; Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634– 1635, Volume III, G–H (Boston: NEHGS, 2011), 3:81–83 (sketch of Thomas Goble).

12 Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Ages from Court Records, 1636–1700, Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk Counties, Massachusetts (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003) 88, citing Middlesex Court Record Folio 145. Her brother Daniel also gave a deposition at the same time.

13Vital Records of Groton [note 2], 259.

14 Woods, “Woods Family” [note 1], Register 64:35–36.

15 Daniel Allen Hearn, Legal Executions in New England: A Comprehensive Reference, 1623–1960 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999), 52, is one of many sources about this execution; some are included below.

16 Middlesex County Probate, File 2934, Daniel Goble.

17 Henry S. Nourse, ed., The Birth, Marriage, and Death Register . . . of Lancaster, Massachusetts, 1643–1850 (Lancaster, Mass.: W. J. Coulter, 1890), 16.

18 Ella E. Roper, The Ropers of Sterling and Rutland (East Orange N.J.: Roper Association, 1904), passim; Kenneth Lawrence Roper, The Ropers: A Biographical Record from circa 1300 to 1982 (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1983), 40–45, 48–49.

19 Middlesex County Probate, File 19502, Ephraim Roper. The first account is missing from the file as microfilmed.

20 These probate records are cited in Ella Roper, The Ropers of Sterling and Rutland [note 18], and Kenneth Roper, The Ropers [note 18]; however, neither author could explain the meaning of “my brother Ephraim Roper.” Although in records of the period, “brother” could sometimes mean brother in the church, this explanation is not relevant here since Ephraim Jr. was only a child.

21 Jenny Hale Pulsipher, Subjects Unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 149.

22 Ibid., 148.

23 Henry Stedman Nourse, ed., The Early Records of Lancaster, Mass. 1643–1725 (Lancaster, Mass.: W. J. Coulter, 1884), 117. Two other men, Nathaniel Wilder and Daniel Hoare, who were involved in the attacks, were originally convicted but pardoned, likely because they were not directly involved in the killings.

24 Henry S. Nourse, “The Ancestry of the Hoar Family in America,” Register 53 (1899):194.

25 George Sheldon, Half Century at the Bay 1636–1686: Heredity and the Early Environment of John Williams (Boston: W. B. Clarke Co., 1905), 64.

26 Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, in the County of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1629–1818 (Boston: David Clapp & Son, 1879) 1:411.

27 Nourse, Early Records of Lancaster, Mass. [note 23], 117; M. Halsey Thomas, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674–1729, 2 vols. (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), 1:22, 23.

28 Introduction and notes by Samuel Green, Diary by Increase Mather, March 1675–December 1676 (Cambridge, Mass: John Wilson & Son, 1900), 47. Although this diary entry begins with “22,” I believe this date must be a transcription error, because it immediately follows an entry for “21” describing the other executions, which Mather said occurred “last week.”

29 Anderson, Great Migration, 1624–1635, Volume III, G–H [note 11], 3:83.

30 “Early Records of Boston,” Register 8 (1854):345: “Hannah [Brewer] dau. of John & Anne, borne 18 (11) 1644” [in Cambridge]; Dorothy Brewer Erickson and Jane Fletcher Fiske, Descendants of Thomas Brewer (Boston: NEHGS, 1996), 534.

31 Robert Brand Hanson, ed., The Vital Records of Dedham, Massachusetts, 3 vols. (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1989), 1:3.

32 Leslie Maher and Nathan W. Murphy, “The English Ancestry of Alice Reynolds, Wife of John Roper of Dedham, Massachusetts,” The American Genealogist 85 (2011):222–234.

33 Nourse, Birth, Marriage, and Death Register of Lancaster [note 17], 16. An infant daughter, also named Priscilla, was killed at the same time.

34 Gov. William Stoughton wrote, “a party of Indians to ye number of about Forty as was judged, about twelve o’clock the same day, Suprized and kild about 26 persons at Lancaster, of which the minister of the Town was one, burnt two Garrison houses and two Barnes, the Garrisons being left open and ye inhabitants suprized in their Fields” (Nourse, Early Records of Lancaster [note 23], 133).

35Concord Births, Marriages and Deaths [note 11], 12, 14, 15, 17.

36 Annie Lane Burr and Thomas Hovey Gage, “John Houghton of Lancaster, Mass., and Some of His Descendants,” Register 79 (1925) 393–394. Some internet pages claim that he had moved first to South Carolina, and that he died in 1733, but no evidence of this migration has been found.

37 Woods, “Woods Family” [note 1], Register 64:35–36.

38Vital Records of Groton [note 2], 2:189 (marriage), 282 (Sarah’s death); Vital Records of Sudbury, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston: NEHGS, 1903), 27 (Sarah’s birth); James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, 4 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1860–1862), 1:267, 276 (Brown); Frances Haynes, Walter Haynes of Sutton Mandeville, Wiltshire, England, and Sudbury, Massachusetts . . . (Haverhill, Mass.: Record Publishing Co., 1929), 61.

39Vital Records of Groton [note 2], 2:189 (marriage); J. Crawford Hartman, “Joseph Blanchard of Boston, Mass., and Some of His Descendants,” Register 93 (1939):162–166; Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Directory: Immigrants to New England, 1620–1640: A Concise Compendium (Boston: NEHGS, 2015), 32.

40Concord Births, Marriages and Deaths [note 11], 13, 224, 25; Nourse, Birth, Marriage, and Death Register of Lancaster [note 17], 452.

41 J. Gardner Bartlett, Gregory Stone Genealogy (Boston: Stone Family Association, 1918), 85–86, 103–104. This identification is a conjecture but seems probable since Samuel Stone and his heretofore unidentified wife Bathsheba (born about 1685) had children named Priscilla and Ephraim.

42 W. S. Barton, Epitaphs from the Cemetery on Worcester Common (Worcester, Mass.: Henry J. Howland, 1848), 5.

43 George Franklin Marvin, The Descendants of Reinold and Mathew Marvin (Boston: T. R. Marvin, 1904), 36; Ethel Stanwood Bolton, “Some Descendants of John Moore of Sudbury, Mass.,” Register 57 (1903):303–304; 58 (1904):177; L. Effingham De Forest, William Henry Moore and His Ancestry . . . (New York: De Forest Publishing Co., 1924), 327. No primary evidence has been found for the marriage of Sybilla Moore and Ephraim Roper Jr., although his probate papers indicate that his wife’s first name was Sybilla. In addition, upon Ephraim’s death, Sybilla’s father, Richard Moore, was named guardian of their children Ephraim, Abigail and Ruth (Worcester County Probate, Files 51199. 51181, and 51225).