Jeffrey Ferris arrived in Connecticut between 1635 and 1640. He would remain in that colony until his death in 1666. He, and his family, would play an important part in the history of the state and in the development of western Connecticut. Records from the era are scarce, and there are several conflicts among Ferris family researchers with respect to dates, places and persons.
Wethersfield, Connecticut, was founded in 1634. It lies on the Connecticut River south of Hartford. Jeffrey Ferris is believed to have owned land in the community in the years before 1640.
Of the five children commonly assigned to Jeffrey, two were most likely born in Wethersfield, Joseph in 1635 and Peter in 1636. Johna and Mary, both believed to have been born about 1640, have a more uncertain birthplace. James was most likely born in Stamford.
, Connecticut, was founded about 1640. Many of its first settlers were men from Wethersfield. The move west took these pioneers into a region claimed by both the English and the Dutch. One of the best, though imperfect, records of the era is History of Stamford, Connecticut, from its settlement in 1641, to the present time by Elijah Baldwin Huntington. He states [page 31] that Jeffrey Ferris was one of the original settlers, who paid for a survey of the location and received ten acres in the first allotment.
A book titled Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich, By Spencer Percival Mead, spells out the early history of that community. The book has the record of a land purchase from local Indians on July 18, 1640 in which Jeffrey Ferris is mentioned. [pages 6-7] The book contains the agreement between Stamford and Greenwich on their mutual boundary in Nov. 1641. It also has the translated agreement from April 9, 1642, where the inhabitants of Greenwich accepted Dutch citizenship.
In 1643, Dutch ill-treatment of the Indians caused war to break out and the Stamford / Greenwich area was the scene of several attacks. The war ended with the Feb. 1644 battle of Strickland Plains.
In 1656, Jeffrey Ferris was one of several settlers who petitioned the New Haven colony to admit Greenwich into the colony. Huntington has this to say about the relationship of Stamford and Greenwich in that time [page 82]:
Nor did there seem to be any serious jealousy on the part of the Greenwich people at this exercise of supervision from the Stamford authorities. Indeed, the most of the English at Greenwich had probably come originally with the Stamford colony, and in their exposure to the Indian and the Dutchman, had in some sort, relied upon their close union with Stamford for their safety and defense. The boundaries, indeed, between the two settlements appears not to have been determined. Several times in the records of those days, a person mentioned, is spoken of as living about Stamford and Greenwich.
Huntington has Susanna Norman Lockwood Ferris, wife to Jeffrey, as dying on Dec. 23. 1660, in Greenwich. He also has Jeffrey dying on Dec. 31, 1658, not 1666. [page 158]
A settlement that later became part of Greenwich was the oddly named Horseneck. In 1672, the lands west of the Mianus River were divided up and the area called Horseneck because it was in large part a horse pasture. It is now called Field Point.
Also mentioned in the old records is a hamlet or location variously called Stanwich or Stamwich. It, too, is now a part of Greenwich.
All four of the sons of Jeffrey Ferris are listed as landowners in Greenwich as of May 21, 1688.
Joseph Ferris appears to be the eldest of Jeffrey’s sons. Jim Ferris, in his epic compilation of Ferris data and lore, has this to say:
Joseph was an influential citizen of Greenwich; in 1672 he is recorded as one of the 27 proprietors and in 1688 as one of the 52 landowners. The frequent land transactions in which he was involved are indicative of increasing prosperity, which is further verified by the tax rate of 1697, his assessment at that time being second in the town.
I have Peter Ferris as the second child of Jeffrey. Of note is his participation as a juror in the witchcraft trial of either Elizabeth Clason or Mercy Disbrough in Stamford in 1692, or both.
I suspect it was Mercy’s trial. Peter, Joseph and Hannah Ferris are known too have signed an affidavit attesting to the good character of Elizabeth Clauson.
Mercy Disbrough was indicted for witchcraft on September 14, 1692. Her actual crimes would appear to be a strong will and smokin’ hot good looks. As she is supposed to have told the court:
This trial is a mockery to satisfy the ill will of jealous women, godless clergymen, and sinful men. You need all seek repentance from God.
Neither of the two women were executed and both lived to ripe, old ages after having been freed.
John Ferris is the third son and child of Jeffrey by my reckoning. He was probably the fist of the lineage to make the move to Westchester County in New York. He was one five grantees (patentee) on the original Westchester Patent, granted February 13, 1667 by Governor Nichols. John acquired Grove Farm, at Throgs Neck in what is now the Bronx, through marriage. Grove Farm would serve the Ferris family for many years.
Jeffrey’s youngest child and fourth son is James Ferris. This is one of those not uncommon situations where the lack of concrete data creates confusion. At the link, there is a comprehensive discussion of the issues. James is found in Jeffrey’s will and I accept that version of the lineage. Some of this branch of the family remained in the Greenwich and Stamford area and Ferris relatives live there today.
Ebenezer Ferris (1735-1824), a great-great grandson of Jeffrey Ferris, played a large role in the introduction of the Baptist church in Stamford. He and his wife, Abigail, left the Congregational Church in 1769 over the issue of the method of baptism. He became a stalwart of the Baptists, according to Huntington [pages 323-324]. He was made deacon in 1771. He was ordained a Baptist minister July 3, 1784.