Where We All Began
It is certainly not an original statement. It could be considered somewhat hokey, but it is appropriate. The slogan “Where We All Began” was chosen for the 52nd Doane Family Association (DFA) Reunion by DFA member Brian Doane from Litchfield, NH during the general meeting of the 51st DFA Reunion in 2010 at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. The 52nd DFA Reunion was to be held at Plymouth, MA in July 2012. Brian attributed “Where We All Began” to my father, George James Doane, Sr. I like to think that it was more an honor to my father than an attribution, but nevertheless it was something my father would say. With my father’s way of thinking the Doane Family was an American family. What happened before the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by John Done was just a footnote. The real story happened at Plymouth, MA, on Cape Cod, and then to the wider continent of North America. Unlike my father, I am interested in what happened on the other side of the ocean, but we don’t know anything about John Done until he came to Plymouth, where there were records written about him. For the Doane family Plymouth, and later Eastham on Cape Cod, was where it all began.
The Doane Family-Where We All Began
We may never have a complete understanding of why John Done came to Plymouth. Was he known to the leadership at this small English settlement through the workings of the separatist congregations in England or Holland? Was he known to them through the merchant investors in London? We don’t know exactly when John Done first came to Plymouth. The first Plymouth Colony record of him occurs in 1633. The obituary of his daughter, Abigail Lothrop, found in the New England Weekly Journal dated April 14, 1735, states that her father, John Done, came to Plymouth from England with his wife in 1630. It also states that Abigail was born the next year. The memory of people can change over time, especially when one lives to over 100 years, as Abigail did. Until some other record turns up to replace it, the obituary is as good a record as we have.
When John Done did settle in Plymouth he assumed an active role in the functioning of the settlement. He was chosen an assistant to the Governor, was on a committee to revise the laws, and made a deacon of the Plymouth church. He also raised a family. Born to John Done and his wife (probably Ann) were daughters Lydia and Abigail, and sons, John, Daniel, and Ephraim. Daughter Lydia was most likely born before John Done came to Plymouth, but it is believed that the other children were all born in Plymouth.
By 1640 there was restlessness with some in the Plymouth settlement. Governor William Bradford noted that many wished to leave the settlement for reason of “the straightnes and barrenes of ye same”. Some wished to move the entire church to the place where the Nauset people lived, where some of the Mayflower party had first encountered the natives. A committee was appointed to travel to the land of the Nauset to ascertain the suitability of the place. It was decided that there was not land enough to sustain the entire population. There were seven men who decided to resettle in the land of the Nauset despite the report of the committee. Our Deacon John Done was one of those seven men.
The full extent of the reasons why these seven families left Plymouth may not be known, but about April of 1644 the first settlers made their way across Cape Cod Bay and settled about the cove area. It has been stated in some histories that there were 49 people in this “Pilgrim” settlement at Nauset in 1644/45. There were more than 30 children in this first group; most of them were under the age of ten years old. It must have been a difficult time clearing land, planting, and building shelter with all those children to take care of. It is probable that some of this work had already been done before the men had moved their families across the bay.
The Doane Family – The Early Generations
The settlement at Nauset began as a single unit with most of the land held in common. There weren’t enough grown men available for the settlement to work any other way. The population did increase steadily enough for Nauset to be made a township in 1646. In 1651 the General Court at Plymouth ordered that the town of Nauset be henceforth known as Eastham. The first division of the land to the individual purchasers was made the following year in 1652. This action seems to have enticed additional migration of families to the area.
By the 1660s the children of the original adult settlers were beginning to marry and start families of their own. This created the need for additional divisions of common or town lands. Lydia Done had already married Samuel Hicks in 1645. They had gone with her father’s family to Nauset, but by the 1660s were living in Dartmouth with their family. Son John married Hannah, the daughter of Edward Bangs, in 1662. The second son, Daniel, would marry a few years later, but to whom the records don’t state. Ephraim, the youngest son, in 1667 married Mercy Knowles, daughter of Richard Knowles.
As the years past John would remain settled near his father Deacon John Done. Daniel would raise his family south of the town cove. Ephraim, after some early difficulties, seems to have settled in the north part of the town later called Billingsgate. Daughter Abigail would remain single and is assumed to have been living with her parents. Deacon John Done himself, after a long life of farming and holding town office, composed his will in May 1678. In this will he declares his age as 88 years or thereabouts. In the will he mentions a wife, but by 1681 she is no longer living. In that year he conveys by deed his homestead with twelve acres to his daughter Abigail. Deacon John Done died in Eastham on February 21, 1685 aged about 95 years. It seems more than probable that his daughter was his caretaker in those last years of his life. Abigail would marry Samuel Lothrop in 1690 and go with him to Norwich, Connecticut.
By the end of the 17th century the third generation would be starting families. John Doane, the third of the name, left Eastham for Boston in the 1690s. He would earn his wealth by plying the coastal trade with New York, Philadelphia, and the Carolinas. He returned to Eastham and settled in that part of the town called Billingsgate, where he would lead an unsuccessful attempt at making that section a separate township. The other sons of John Jr., Isaac, Samuel, and David would raise families in the section of Eastham north of the cove called Nauset. Some of Samuel’s and David’s descendants would live on land passed down from them as late as the 1940s. David’s son Jonathan was a town leader and representative to the General Court in Boston for a number of years before independence from Britain. Another son of David, Eleazer, would end up settling in Nova Scotia by 1760.
Daniel Doane, son of Deacon John, would become deacon of the church in Eastham as his father before him. His eldest son Joseph born in 1669 would later be a deacon of that church as well as Justice of the Peace. Israel Doane, the second son of Daniel, held a number of town positions during his lifetime. His son Prence would remove to Connecticut in 1734, and his son Edmund would settle in Nova Scotia in 1761. Daniel Doane Jr., probably influenced by a group that was meeting in the area soon to become the town of Harwich, became a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). This most certainly must have caused friction within his family and community at Eastham. In 1696 Daniel, with a letter of recommendation from the Sandwich Meeting, left Cape Cod with his wife for Pennsylvania to raise a family in a community of like minded individuals.
Hezekiah Doane was a son of Ephraim born at Eastham in 1672. He would become a whale fisherman, as a number of his immediate descendants would be, be a deacon of the first church in Truro, and a leader in the incorporation of the town of Provincetown. Hezekiah’s grandson, Elisha Doane, would be a leader in the incorporation of the northern precinct of Eastham into the town of Wellfleet in 1763. Another son of Ephraim Doane, Thomas, born at Eastham in 1674, became a leader in the newly incorporated town of Chatham soon after settling there in 1713. A third Thomas Doane, a grandson of the son of Ephraim, settled in Nova Scotia in 1764.
It is unclear to me the year of death of Lydia (Doane) Hicks, a daughter of Deacon John Done. In 1700, Ephraim Doane, son of Deacon John, died at Eastham. John Doane Jr. died at Eastham in 1708, followed by his brother Deacon Daniel Doane in 1712. Abigail (Doane) Lothrop was the last of the children of Deacon John Done to die. She passed away in Norwich, Connecticut on January 23, 1735 at the age of 104. As time went by and the population of Eastham grew there was increasing demands on the limited resources of the land to sustain this population. With limited opportunities available to them many of the succeeding generations of the Doane family and other allied families left Eastham to follow the westward migration across the continent. Each of those succeeding generations from the different lines of descent from Deacon John Done, no matter where they went, have a particular story to tell, but all of those stories must begin “Where we all Began” in Plymouth and Eastham, Massachusetts.
The Doane Family Association – Where we all Began
Plymouth was not only where the Doane family began it was also where the Doane Family Association began. Alfred Alder Doane published his Doane Family genealogy in 1902. Within a few years member of the Doane family would organize, which led to a six ton boulder with bronze plaque being placed in the Town Cove Burial in Eastham to honor Deacon John Doane in 1907. At the dedication Alfred J. Doane of Jersey City, NJ spoke to those gathered and proposed that a Doane Family reunion be held at Plymouth, MA, where Deacon John Doane had made his mark. On June 26, 1909 the Doane family gathered at a meeting in Plymouth, MA held at the Plymouth Rock Hotel. At this reunion the Doane Family Association was organized. Through the years the Doane Family Association would gather and meet in reunion at Plymouth six more times. The 52nd Doane Family Association reunion will be the eighth time the family gathers as an organization in Plymouth, MA.
James Thomas Doane
Postscript: An interesting aside is that a member of the 1909 reunion committee, Charles Watson Doane, Clarence E. Doane, Chairman of the 1957 reunion (last previous DFA reunion at Plymouth), and James Thomas Doane (myself), Co-Chairman in 2012, all lived in Milton, MA at the time of their respective reunions.