L'histoire de ma famille

Humphrey Atherton

Birth: abt. 1607; Lancashire, England
Marriage: abt. 1627
Death: Sept 16 1661; Dorchester, Suffolk, MA; Buried at Dorchester North Burying Ground

The following information is to be taken with a grain of salt, as it is questionable as to whether this Humphrey Atherton was indeed the Major-General Humphrey Atherton. I've obtained the earlier information from “History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts” by D. Hamilton Hurd (1884) available here.

The Atherton family comes from Lancashire, England. Historically speaking, they were rooted in a large chunk of land for many hundreds of years, and eventually “became one of the richest families of the great commoners of England”.

Supposedly, Humphrey and Mary Wales married someplace in England (most likely Lancashire). Before coming to America, they had three children—the first being born when Humphrey was fourteen and Mary thirteen. They came to American in 1635 on a ship named “James”. Once in America, they had nine more children.

The Major-General

The history of Major-General Humphrey Atherton before his first recorded existence in Dorchester is sketchy. This lack of evidence leads to the assumption that perhaps he is indeed the Humphrey Atherton mentioned here. Anyways, Major-General had quite a track record. He was accepted as a freeman in 1638.Then he was active in the in the court and government and became the assistant governor.

He apparently was a strong believer in the evils of witchcraft, and with his position of power he was able to persecute women of witchcraft. In fact, he assisted in the persecution and execution of Ann Hibbins (who was fictionalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter).

Atherton also took part in the persecution of the Quakers. Supposedly, during the case of Wenlock Christison (the last Quaker sentenced to death in the Massachusetts colony) Atherton was told by Christison that he had seen a prophecy of Atherton’s demise which would be accidental.

The Major-General also had a history with the Indians. He was known to be sympathetic for Indians who converted to Christianity, but also displayed great prowess in battling Indians.

His death was indeed accidental, as when he was riding his horse in Boston, he ran into a cow and busted his head when he was thrown from his horse.