Saturday, January 14, 2017

Deacon John Leavitt of Hingham (ca b.1608-12 – d. 1691)

Do you have Leavitt, Levett, Levit or even Lovet in your family tree?

My 7th Great Grandfather, Deacon John Leavitt of Hingham, son of Percival Levitt, the older brother of Captain Christopher Leavitt is the immigrate ancestor of most all Leavitt descendants today. Deacon John, instrumental in the development of the Old Ship Church in Hingham, was an upright and conscience citizen and family man.

Anderson, in his Great Migration publication indicates John immigrated in to the Massachusetts Bay Colony based on his receiving a land grant in 1634 but there are other theories that indicate he might have arrived earlier and into a different area.

It is believed that John Leavitt was in Salem prior to his immigration to Dorchester. His uncle, Christopher Leavitt was captain of the Porcupine, one of the ships in the Winthrop Fleet. Captain Christopher Leavitt was a bit of a historical figure himself. In 1623, in the employee of Sir Fernando Gorge was hired to explore and survey the coast of New England.

Taking this into consideration, one can add a little credence to the theory that since John Leavitt was in his teens, he didn’t travel without family. He was with his uncle when both he and Christopher met Winthrop in 1630 when the Arabella docked in Salem. However, Captain Leavitt died at sea as he sailed back to England in 1631 leaving John without family.

Emigrate to Dorchester

It is also believed that John was in a group of settlers who followed Rev John White from Salem into Dorchester. They settled in Mattapan, later called Dorchester. John was granted a house lot in 1634. It was required that settlers as they reached the age of 21 take the Freeman’s Oath, swearing loyalty to the Crown and be upstanding righteous citizens. John took his oath in 1635/6 in Dorchester and then again in 1678 in Hingham. The results of the first act changed the course of his life.

It was customary to list the names and locations of the settlers who took the oath in English publications. It seems that John had skipped out on his last 3 years of apprenticeship with a master tailor in England. Around 1634/5, his former master saw the Dorchester list and came looking for him. The master went to Dorchester and claimed John’s house and property for compensation of the missing last 3 years of servitude owed to him. This was legal at that time. In March, 1635 a deed was drawn selling his property to Thomas Makepeace. 

Settles in Hingham

After losing his home, John went to Exeter, NH before taking up permanent residence in Hingham. By 1636 he and his first wife Mary [Lovet?] were married and over a nine year period had 5 children. Mary died 4 July 1646, just a few months after their last child was born. He married again 16 December 1646, not only to have a caretaker for his 5 motherless children, but through the course of their marriage bring 8 more children into the Leavitt household. Sarah Gilman, John’s second wife was only 24 at this time of their marriage.

Sixteen year old Sarah arrived in Boston Harbor with her family in 1638 on the Diligent. They made their way to Hingham to meet up with old friends and relatives who came before. Becoming active in Church and civil affairs, the Gilman family worshiped under Rev. Peter Hobart (Hubbard). By this time, John Leavitt was a leader in the Church and became Deacon. 1647, a year after Sarah and John were married, her father Edward Gilman, removed to Exeter to start a saw mill. John, Mary with Mary’s sister, Lydia and their families were the only ones who remained in Hingham.

The Old Ship

Old Ship Church, 1681,
Hingham, Massachusetts
John Leavitt, founding deacon
By 1681, Hingham had grown and was in need of a new meeting house. Deacon John forcefully argued the need for the building and its constructed. Rev Hobart’s brother, Joshua gave the land and the town appropriated the money for the building. The new meeting house was scheduled to be built. After 44 years of being the town minister, Peter Hobart never got to see it completed.  He died on January 20 1679, the night before construction started on the new building. Deacon John’s dedication to Hingham and the Old Ship is still seen today. His pew that was designated for him as a parishioner is still set aside.

Deacon John’s children – all born in Hingham
1st wife Mary __
1) John – m. Bathsheba Hobart 1664
2) Hannah - m John Lodbell 1659 – Deacon John was ordered to provide for his Granddaughter Hanna’s education after the death of her father.
3) Samuel – m Mary Robinson 1665
4) Elizabeth- m. 1) Samuel Judkins 2) Richard Drake
5) Jeremiah – not mentioned in his father’s will dated 10 Nov 1689
2nd wife Sarah Gilman
1) Israel – m. Lydia Jackson 1676/7
2) Moses - m. Dorothy Dudley 1681
3) Josiah – m. Margaret Johnson 1676
4) Nehemiah –Alice (widow of Daniel Gilman) aft. 25 Nov 1684
5) Sarah - m 1) Nehemiah Clapp 1678; 2) Samuel How(e) 1685
6) Mary - m 1682 Benjamin Bates, New London 1682 
7) Hannah m 1) Joseph Loring 1683; 2) Joseph Esterbrook 1693
8) Abigail m 1) Isaac Lazell 1685/6; 2) Isaac Johnson 1692

My line from Deacon John LeavittSARAH LEAVITT - 1658 - 1726
MARY HOWE -1715 - 1794

Sources – New England, The Great Migration and The Great Migration Begins, 1620-1635, Anderson;

Excerpt from the book “From Hingham to Hatley: a Leavitt family chronicle of five generations” by Anne Okerlund Leavitt 

Wikipedia: Old Ship Church; John Leavitt


  1. Hi Nancy, Deacon John Leavitt is my eighth great grandfather (11th generation ) if I have that correct:
    John Leavitt 1608-1691 Hingham MA
    Caleb. (All from Hingham)
    David Franklin Leavitt
    David Franklin
    David Franklin
    Maurice Nash Leavitt (my grandfather)
    David Nash Sr
    David Nash Jr

    Thank you for your article,
    Dave Leavitt, Jr ( Fort Collins, CO)

  2. Hi Nancy. Deacon John Leavitt & Sarah Gilman are my eight great grandparents. I'm descended from their son Moses Leavitt and Dorothy Dudley (daughter of Samuel Dudley and gr. daughter of Thomas Dudley (3 x Gov. of the Mass. Bay Colony)
    John Leavitt (1608-1691) Sarah Gilman
    Moses Leavitt / Dorothy Dudley
    Joseph Leavitt / Mary Wadleigh
    Jonathan Leavitt / Ruth Cram
    Dorothy "Dolly" Leavitt / John Hunt
    John Hunt, Jr. / Nancy Lord
    Emily Hunt / Perry Grimes Emmitt
    George Washington Emmitt / Ruby Coger
    Jessie Agnes Emmitt / Robert Duford
    E. Arloa Duford / John Paton Blake
    Lyn R. Blake

    1. Are any of your relatives in Canada now?

    2. Not to my knowledge. Tha k you for reading my blog.

  3. My great grandfather is Lloyd Leavitt, New Brunswick, Canada. I think from Deacon John it would be about 8 generations. My grandmother was a Leavitt until she married in the 70’s.