Friday, January 6, 2017

The Gott Ancestry

The well, pictured in the foreground.
Postcard courtesy of the Sandy Bay Historical Society.
The conservative power of the Gott House held off indoor plumbing until the 1970s. Current owner Steve Amazeen recalls that, during his youth, everyone drank from a common dipper at the well across the street.

A plaque inside the beehive oven.
Steve Amazeen photo
Nine generations of the family have lived with the above inscription. Stern ancestors embraced life and stared at death as elements of the ground they walked daily. They also carried a heritage of service to, then rebellion from, the English Crown.

Charles Gott arrived in Salem in 1628 aboard the ship Abigail as a part of the Puritan contingent led by John Endecott, the first governor of Massachusetts.1 Charles became a distinguished citizen at Wenham. His grandson Samuel, listed in Town records as a weaver, purchased land on the sparsely settled northern tip of Cape Ann in 1702. There were no roads to Halibut Point. Until fourteen years previously it had been held in common for the citizens of Gloucester. The townspeople voted to divide unsettled land into six-acre lots in 1688, awarding the lots by lottery to male inhabitants over age twenty-one, to encourage husbandry of both the land and the populace. As private property, ownership could now and did change hands speculatively to accommodate the aspirations and burgeoning growth of colonial families.

Samuel Gott (1677-1748) purchased eight of the 6-acre lots on Halibut Point from an Essex resident.2  He carried the title Lieutenant from his militia service. Indian Wars were still a vivid part of New England life and the territorial claims among European monarchs in America had not yet been pacified. At about this same time a Native American named Samuel English claimed ownership of a considerable portion of Essex County, as the grandson and heir of Masconomet the Sagamore of Agawam. A delegation of Gloucester men succeeded in obtaining a deed "assigning forever all Indian rights and title" within the entire township of Gloucester, for the sum of seven pounds paid to Samuel English in 1701.3 The following year Samuel Gott bought his eight lot parcel for sixty pounds.

Samuel Gott arrived from Wenham in 1702 with his wife Margaret (Andrews) and two young children. He quickly sold three of the lots to Margaret's brother William who established the adjacent Andrews farm. Margaret's sister Elizabeth married Joshua Norwood of the Garrison (Witch) House, the next settled property toward Pigeon Cove and one of the few houses in the area constructed earlier than the Gott House. With these contiguous holdings the extended family established an apparently snug enclave on the northern edge of Gloucester.

Map from Pigeon Cove, Its Early Settlers &Their Farms, 1702-1840 2
The industrious Gotts added ten more children to their household until Margaret died in 1722. Samuel thereupon married Bethany Cogswell of Ipswich. She bore twin boys Benjamin and Joseph in 1725, to complete the progeny. When Samuel died in 1748 he left a complex estate. Benjamin and Joseph jointly inherited the house and 59 acres on the north side of Gott Avenue with a charge to take care of their mother for the rest of her life. Women could not own property in that era.

The twins did not look forward to a lifelong partnership. They sought counsel to divide their inheritance evenly and part ways. The resulting property line split the house through the middle of the front door and the chimney. Benjamin liquidated his half and moved to Annisquam. When Captain William Norwood acquired it he moved into the western side where he sired fifteen children. Ultimately Joseph recovered the western half of the house but not the 27.5 acres that had been sold with it.

Joseph married Deliverance Pool in 1745. Their son Joshua (1754-1846) came of age just as the War for Independence began. Joshua enlisted with the Revolutionary Army as it was being formed in Boston. When the British evacuated in 1776 he joined General Washington's forces in the unsuccessful defense of New York. He stuck with Washington through the bleak battles of Trenton and Princeton that winter, then shipped on a series of privateers for the remainder of the War, twice enduring capture and imprisonment in the West Indies but also triumphs of adventure and prize money enrichment in the disruption of British shipping throughout the Atlantic. He returned home to lead a long and useful life as farmer and fisherman, referred to as Captain Gott. "Indeed, such was the general state of his health, that had not his death been occasioned by the mortification of a foot which was frostbitten while he was in the army, he bade fair to have survived some years longer." 4

Joshua had married Deborah Pool in 1779 during a visit home from his privateering expeditions. Their son Joshua (1798-1873) became executor of his father's estate in 1846, and the next owner of the Gott House. Both he and next door neighbor David Babson, Jr. served as founding directors of the Pigeon Cove Harbor Company in the 1830s-40s, initiating the granite seawalls that vastly improved safe anchorage for local fishing boats.5 Perhaps because of these endeavors, or a life at sea, he like his father was known as Captain Gott.

Headstone of Joshua Gott (1798-1873)
Locust Grove Cemetery, Sharron Cohen photo
Joshua the Second married Susanna Story in 1820, resulting in a daughter Phoebe (1835-1911) who married Charles McLellan (1821-1892). Their son Kenneth married Lizzie Mae Orne, Steve Amazeen's great-grandmother, bringing the family chronology into the memory of the present owner of the Gott House.

1. Phillip Porter Gott, Ancestors & Descendants of an Ohio Gott Family 1628-1972.
2. Allen Chamberlain, Pigeon Cove, Its Early Settlers & Their Farms, 1702-1840, first published in 1940 on the centennial anniversary of the Town of Rockport; 2nd ed. 1999, Sandy Bay Historical Society.
3. Sidney Perley, The Indian Land Titles of Essex County, Massachusetts, Salem, 1912.
4. From an account of the career of Joshua Gott in the Gloucester Telegraph, September 18, 1850.
5. See advertisements in the Gloucester Telegraph, December 24, 1834 and October 20, 1841.

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