The History of Martha's Vineyard by Dr. Charles E. Banks:
Volume II Annals of Edgartown: pp. 54 - 58

Sketches of the Early Settlers:


For sixteen years prior to his settlement on the Vineyard, about 1651 or 1652, Nicholas Butler had resided at Dorchester, Mass., whither he emigrated in 1636 from England. The ship's list names Nicholas Butler with three children and five servants as coming from Eastwell, Co. Kent, in that year, of whom John, who came here, probably with his father, and Lydia who married John Minot of Dorchester, May 19, 1647, are two. The third child is not known, as the son Henry did not reach New England for several years after, perhaps with his mother Joyce, and therefore is not to be counted at that time. Nicholas is first mentioned in the records under date of May 8, 1653, when he participated in one of the divisions of land. Two years prior to that, on Oct. 15, 1651, he had made his "well-beloved sonne John Butler" his attorney to collect and pay debts, which may be the most probable indication of the time of his leaving Dorchester and entrusting the settlement of his affairs there to his son. When he came to the Vineyard, he was well into middle life. Though the date of his birth is not known, vet the knowledge existing of his children's ages enables us to proximately fix his birth about the years 1595 - 1600, and his age at fifty-five when he took up his residence at Edgartown. That he was a man considerably above the social average is shown by the number of his servants, the fact that his son Henry was a graduate of Harvard College (class of 1651),and this standing was at once recognized in his new home, for he became in 1653 one of the "five men to end controversies," that is magistrate. The next year he was again chosen and in 1655 he was re-elected and called "Assistant" to the chief magistrate. In all the records he is called Mr. Butler or Mr. Nicholas Butler, a use of which prefix is distinctive. In December, 1661, he was fined for absence from town meeting and "for Going away Disorderly." Beyond the usual duty on juries and an occasional trivial litigation his name does not further appear upon the town records. The following is the account of his landed possessions:—

This is a True Record of the petickeler parcells of Land of Mr. Nicolas Butler, which Lands are upon Marthas Vineyard Partickraly as followeth: first my house Lott with that Lott which I Bought of Mr. John Bland: adjoining to it is Twenty acres More or Less with one acre of Meadow I Bought of Mr. Browning, Bounded by the Sea on the East, Mr. Blands Lott on the South, the Plaine on the West, John Butler on the North: with my Divedent att Catemy forty acres, More or Less, Bounded By the Sea on the East, the Sea on the South, Mr. Blands lands on the West, the Plaine the Sea on the North North: More two thach Lotts, one Lying (at) Meshackett Bounded by John Foulger on the West, John Doggett on the East: the other Lying att Monaqua Bounded By Thos Doggett on the West, John Pease on the East: this hath four acres of upland Joyning to itt More or Less: More one Ten acre Lott upon the Line Bounded by Thomas Burchard on the East, the Common on the South, Thomas Doggett on the West, the Common the North: More Two acres of Meadow Lying att Chapequideck Bounded By the Pond on the North Lying over against my house, Mr. Mayhew the youngers Meadow on the South: this Meadow is two acres More or Less: More four Acres of Meadow to two Given to my house Lott and two I Bought of Thomas Joanse Lying on the North end of Chapequideck John Wakefield Now in Possession By his heirs Joyning to Mine is More or Less: More three acres of Meadow one Bought of Peter Foulger and Two of John Pease: this Meadow is More or Less Lying att the East End of Chapequideck Joyning and Bounded By Richard Smith on the North, By John Foulger on the South: with a full Commonage and a Six and Twentyth part of fish and whale: More three acres att Crackatuxett Bounded By Mr Mayhew the Elder and Thomas Birchard.   [Edgartown Records, I, 159.]

His homestead lot was near Swimming Place Point, and consisted of twenty acres. Here he lived having as a next northerly neighbor his son John, from whom descends all of the name on the Vineyard. Nicholas Butler died Aug. 13, 1671, the day after his will was made. That he was an old and feeble man seems to be clearly evidenced by the curious reference to the "mark" which he used to indicate his signature, "his sight as it were Gon." The will reads as follows:

[Dukes Deeds, I, 313]

Mr. Nicholas Butler Deceased the 13th of August in the year of our Lord one thousand Six hundred Seventy one

The Record of his will:

This doth testify that I Nicholas Butler Being at present Sound in memory doe Now by this my last will give my Estate Whatsoever that I left after I Shall be buried like a Christian wholly unto my wife Joyce Butler, uppon serious consideration for her to dispose of to hir children and my children as shee shall see good, and hereunto I praise [god] being of memorie as aforesaid Sound. I doe witness with my hand this 12th of August 1671.

This will is witnessed
by us
The marke of Nicholas Norton
His sight as it were
the mar  X  of

Mrs. Joyce Butler is By the worshipful Govornour and Assistants Sitting in Court this 26th day of June 1672, admitted Administratrix & Executrix uppon the Estate of Mr. Nicholas Butler deceased.

The Inventory of the Estate.


To one common & half with house, fence & all priveledges     
to fiveteen pound of pewter at IS 8d                                     
to twelve pound of pewter at IS 2d
to 8 pound of pewter at IS 6d
to one Silver Boule
to a Brass Candlestick
to 3 brass kettles at IS pr pound
to two Iron posts, one frying pan and dripping panne
to one trammell, 2 payer of tonges, one payer of Andirons
  & Spitt



The inventory of the estate, amounting to £92-0-6 is remarkable for the paucity of articles which should belong to a gentleman of his standing in life. It may be that he had given his household furniture, etc., to his children during his life.

Whether his wife Joyce was the mother of all his children is placed in the doubtful category by the apparently careful way in which he refers to "her children and my children," as though she had been a widow with children or that he had children by a former wife. No allusion is made in her will to children by a former husband. She survived as Nicholas Butler's widow for eight years, and died between March 13 and Oct. 28, 1680, leaving an estate valued at £165 - 2 - 0, which she bequeathed to her descendants in the following will:—

[Dukes Deeds, I, 314.]

I, Joice Butler being through Gods blessing at present, of sound memory and understanding, doe make this my last will, and testament: Revoking all former whatsoever; and first my will is and I will and bequeath to my son Hennerie Butler, my Silver Boule and a carpet, & to each of his three sonnes, one Silver Spoone:

Nextly, I will and bequeath, to my Grandson John Butler, all the brass of the kitchen; and to my Grandson Thomas Butler one iron pottage pott, an Iron Kettle, and my bead, Beadstead, and all the furniture belonging to it, as it is in present use, as two pair of blanketts, two pillows &c— And I Give more to my Grandson John Butler, all the Bead and Beading above stairs:

Nextly, I will and bequeath, all my linnen, to be Equally devided Between my Grandchildren, John and Thomas Butler, and Mary Athearn.

And Nextly, I will and Bequeath, to my three Grandchildren aforesaid, all my Great Cattle, to be Equally devided among them, that is to say, John Butler, Thomas Butler, and Mary Athearn: Except only that my Grandson Thomas Butler, shall have two more to his part; and one heifer, before the devision set apart, which heifer I doe will and bequeath to my Grandson Samuell Minott:

And my will is, and I bequeath all my Sheep to my two Grandsons John Butler, and Thomas Butler' to be Equally devided between them:

Nextly, I will and bequeath to my Grandson Thomas Butler, my Dwelling house, with the long Table and hanging Cupboard, and to my Grandson John Butler, my cupboard, and Chest which was Joseph Butlers: and to my Granddaughter Mary Athearn, my Chest and two joint Stools: and as to my Chaires, I give the table Chaires to my Grandson Thomas Butler: the remainder of the Chaires, I leave to be Equally devided between my Grandchildren, John, and Thomas Butler and Mary Athearn.

Nextly my will is, and I doe oblige my two Grandsons John and Thomas Butler that they shall pay to my Grand Daughter Hannah Chadduck, two hundred weight of fleece wooll, yearly fivety pounds, untill it is payed which is within four years:

And as to Lands, I will and Bequeath, all my lands with the privelledges and appurtenances, to my Grandson Thomas Butler and my pewter, I will to be Devided, as my linnen as abovesaid, viz: between my Grandchildren John and Thomas Butler and Mary Athearn.

And lastly I Appoint my Grandson John Butler to be Sole Execcutor and Administrator, to this my last will, and my will is, and I doe Request my friendes Mr. Richard Sarson, and Matthew Mayhew, to be overseers that it may be performed:

And in witness of this my last will and Testament I the said Joice Butler have put hereto my hand and Seall, this thirteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord, one Thousand, Six hundred Seventy & nine, Alias Eighty

her I B marke

The inventory of the Estate of Mrs. Joice Butler deceased taken by Joseph Norton and Thomas Trapp Octobr: 28th : 1680.

the lands and accommodations

a five and twentieth lot
half a commonage
land at the Short Neck
two shares & halfe of Meadow not of said accommodations
The moveable Estate valued at 102 pd 12S
Valued at 40 - 00 - 00
08 - 00 - 00
02 - 00 - 00
12 - 00 - 00
102 - 12 - 00



[See also The Butler Family of Martha's Vineyard
for information about the descendants of Nicholas Butler.]


Are you descended from this family? Do you have additional information that should be added to this page? Comments? Questions? Corrections? Suggestions? Let me know!

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