John Dane and his son, Rev. Francis Dane, were early residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, having settled there by the late 1630s.
Not a lot is known about John Dane. Assuming John Dane was at least 21 when he married, he was born no later than c1584, as he married Frances (possibly Bowyer) c1605. The Danes were likely from Hertfordshire, possibly Bishops Stortford or a nearby village, as daughter Elizabeth married there in 1628 and John’s second wife, Agnes Bayford, was also from Bishops Stortford, although they married in the colonies after emigrating.
Some say Frances (Bowyer) Dane died in England before the family emigrated to the colonies. Others say she died c1642. John married (2) Agnes/Annis Bayford, 2 July 1643, Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts. She was the widow of William Chandler. Agnes/Annis married (3) John Parmenter, 9 August 1660, Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts.
John Dane was not only literate, but his will is “on file in his own handwriting” in the Boston court records.
I’m not going to even pretend that I could read the handwriting, but a partial transcript was published in the New England Historical Genealogical Register IX:37 in January 1855:
John Dane and wife Frances had only three surviving children:
- Elizabeth, born c1607, England, if she was 21 years old when she married; died 21 January 1693/94, Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts; married James Howe, 27 June 1628, Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, England. He was born c1603; died 17 May 1702, reportedly at the age of 104 years old.
- John, born c1612, England; reportedly died November 1673; married Eleanor Clarke, by 1638
- Francis, born c1615, England; died 17 February 1696/97, Andover, Essex, Massachusetts; married (1) Elizabeth Ingalls, c1640 She was born c1618, England; died 9 June 1676, Andover, Essex, Massachusetts (2) Mary (MNU) Thomas, 22 November 1677, Andover, Essex, Massachusetts (3) Hannah Chandler Abbott, c1690.
Reverend Francis Dane had quite an interesting life. He graduated from Kings College, Cambridge in 1633. A few short years later, the family sailed for Massachusetts, settling in Roxbury. Francis was an ordained minister, who was well respected and highly influential in the town of Andover, Essex, Massachusetts, where Francis made his home and raised his family.
He was appointed as the second pastor of the North Parish of Andover in 1649. He spoke up against witchcraft by 1658, when John Godfrey of Salem, Massachusetts was charged for the first of three times. (He was acquitted all three times.)
About 1680, Reverend Francis was getting up there in years, being about 65, and his parishioners decided they wanted a younger, more vibrant minister. The lives of the Dane family began to change quite dramatically at that point.
The Andover church hired Thomas Barnard to replace Francis Dane, but the court ruled that the church had to pay both men, who were to share £80. Barnard was paid £50, while Dane received only £30.
Neither man was likely happy with this outcome; tension between the two was inevitable, but further strain was put on their relationship when Thomas Barnard not only invited two of the Salem witchcraft accusers to visit an Andover prayer meeting, he went one step further.
A “touch test” was instituted by Barnard and it was unique to the Andover community. Basically, if an afflicted person was having an hysterical episode and the person who was accused of causing it touched him/her with the fit then ending, the accused was considered guilty of being a witch.
Rev. Dane not only spoke out against the witchcraft hysteria, he petitioned the governor and General Court to step in and end the witch trials. As a result, the Dane family had more of its members accused of witchcraft than any other family.
The reverend himself was accused (although not arrested) as were two of his daughters, various in-laws and grandchildren: Elizabeth Dane Johnson, Abigail Johnson, Dr. John Dane, Deliverance Dane, Hannah Dane, Phebe Dane, Nathaniel Dane, Stephen Johnson and Abigail Faulkner.
Daughter Abigail Dane Faulkner was examined twice, on 11 August and 30 August, 1692, convicted and sentenced to death. The governor reprieved her sentence because of insufficient evidence and the fact that she was pregnant. (Aside: Does that mean if she hadn’t been pregnant, he might not have issued the reprieve???)
Thus, the last few years of Reverend Francis Dane’s life were fraught with stress and worry. His will was written during this period. Rev. Dane died on 17 February 1696/97 in Andover, Essex, Massachusetts.