Frances Latham

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Frances Latham
Bornbaptized 15 February 1609/10
DiedSeptember 1677
Newport, Rhode Island
Resting placeCommon Burying Ground
Other namesFrances Dungan
Frances Clarke
Frances Vaughan
OccupationColonial wife and "Mother of Governors"
Spouse(s)(1) William Dungan
(2) Jeremy Clarke
(3) Rev. William Vaughan
Children(surname Dungan): Barbara, William, Frances, Thomas; (surname Clarke): Walter, Mary, Jeremiah, Latham, Weston, James, Sarah
Parent(s)Lewis and Elizabeth Latham

Frances Latham (1610 - 1677), was a colonial American woman who settled in Rhode Island, and is known as "the Mother of Governors." Having been widowed twice, she had three husbands, and became the ancestor of at least ten governors and three deputy/lieutenant governors, and is related by marriage to an additional six governors and one deputy governor.

Born in Bedfordshire, England, she was the daughter of Lewis Latham, a falconer for King Charles I. She was first married to William Dungan, with whom she had four children. Dungan died at an early age, and she soon married Jeremy Clarke who brought her and her Dungan children to New England where they settled in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Clarke was a prominent merchant who became the President of the colony for a year. With Clarke, Frances had seven children, the oldest of whom, Walter, later became a governor of the colony.

Jeremy Clarke died when all of his children were still minors, after which Frances married her third husband, the Reverend William Vaughan of Newport. Frances and her last husband both died at about the same time in 1677 in Newport, and Frances was buried in the Common Burying Ground there. She leaves a legacy of thousands of descendants, many of whom reached great prominence during their lives.


Baptized in Kempston, Bedfordshire, England on 15 February 1609/10, Frances Latham was the daughter of Lewis Latham and his wife Elizabeth.[1] Her father, born about 1584 in Elstow, Bedfordshire, was a Sergeant Falconer under King Charles I.[1][2][3]

Lewis Latham, father of Frances

Frances' first husband was William Dungan, who was a perfumer living in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields, now a part of London.[4] With Dungan she had four children, but he died in 1636, being buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 20 September of that year, leaving a will with Frances as executrix, and naming each of his four minor children.[4] Within two years she was remarried, this time to Jeremy Clarke of London, a nephew of Richard Weston, 1st Earl of Portland. Soon thereafter the couple immigrated to New England with Frances' four young children, and in 1638 Jeremy was admitted as an inhabitant of Aquidneck Island (Portsmouth) in what soon became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.[5] Following turmoil in the government of the island in 1639, her husband was one of the nine signatories of an agreement to form the settlement of Newport at the south end of the island.[5] He held a number of important positions in the town and colonial government, and in 1648 became President of the entire colony, serving for a year in this role. Clarke died in January 1652, with his death being recorded later in the Friends' (Quaker) records. He was buried in the "tomb that stands by the street by the water side in Newport,"[5] now lost, but his governor's grave medallion is in the Clifton Burying Ground where several Quaker Rhode Island colonial governors were later buried.

About a year after her second husband's death, her father, Lewis Latham, also died, leaving Frances a small legacy in his will.[5] Frances was again a widow with many young children, and within a few years she had married her third husband, the Reverend William Vaughan of Newport.[6] The time of her marriage to Vaughan was before January 1656 when she made an agreement with her oldest Clarke son, Walter, through his guardians, John Cranston and James Barker, settling inheritance issues, now that she was no longer widowed.[7] Vaughan had been ordained in 1648 as a member of the First Baptist Church of Newport, but in 1656 he and others formed the Second Baptist Church. He was a highly respected citizen of Newport, so much so that in April 1676, during King Philip's War, he was one of 16 colonial leaders whose counsel was requested by the General Assembly during "these troublesome times and straits."[7] Others named in this request for counsel were former governor Benedict Arnold, former President Gregory Dexter, and future deputy governor James Barker.

Frances died in 1677, at about the same time that her husband died.[7] In September of that year Samuel Hubbard of Newport wrote to his children in Westerly, "For news, Mr. Vahan is gone to his long home and his wife is like to follow him if not dead."[7] Frances was buried in the Common Burying Ground in Newport, and on her stone was placed the following inscription, "Here Lyeth ye Body of Mrs. Frances Vaughan, Alius Clarke, ye mother of ye only children of Capt'n Jeremiah Clarke. She died ye 1 week in Sept., 1677, in ye 67th year of her age."[7]

Family and legacy[edit]

Late 19th century genealogist John Osborne Austin proposed that Frances had first been married to a "Lord Weston" as a teenager, but strong evidence against this was presented by New Haven genealogist Louise Tracy in 1908.[8] Frances had 11 children by her first and second husbands, and leaves behind numerous descendants, many of them prominent. Her oldest daughter, Barbara Dungan, married James Barker, who served as deputy governor of the colony.[4] Her second daughter, Frances Dungan, married Randall Holden, a signer of the Portsmouth Compact, and one of the founding settlers of the town of Warwick.[4] Descendants through this daughter include William Greene, an early governor of Rhode Island shortly after the Revolutionary War, his son, Honorable Ray Greene, and his grandson William Greene, a lieutenant governor of the state.[9]

Her oldest Clarke child, Walter, served for more than 20 years as deputy governor of the colony, and also served several years as the governor. Her daughter, Mary Clarke, married John Cranston, another governor of the colony, and they were parents of the longest-serving Rhode Island governor, Samuel Cranston.[10] Frances' son Weston Clarke married Mary Easton who was a granddaughter of two other governors, John Coggeshall and Nicholas Easton[11] Her son, Latham Clarke, married Hannah Wilbur, the daughter of Samuel Wilbur, Jr. who was one of seven purchasers of the Pettaquamscutt lands, and who was also mentioned in Rhode Island's Royal Charter of 1663. Her youngest child, Sarah Clarke, married colonial governor Caleb Carr as her second husband.[12]

Other Rhode Island governors who are direct descendants of Frances include Nehemiah R. Knight, Henry Lippitt, Charles C. Van Zandt, Charles W. Lippitt, John Chafee, and Lincoln Chafee, as well as a governor of the state of Washington, John R. Rogers. Additional deputy or lieutenant governors that descend from her are Rhode Island's John Gardner and Samuel G. Arnold, while another Rhode Island governor related to her by marriage is William Wanton.[10]

Besides governors, many other prominent individuals descend from Frances, including Rhode Island Attorney General Daniel Updike and American Revolutionary War Colonels Christopher Lippitt and Christopher Greene. Additional descendants are Rhode Island congressman Tristam Burges, writer Julia Ward Howe, and British Navy Vice Admiral Sir Jahleel Brenton.[10]

A small book about Rhode Island history through the eyes of Frances, The True Story of Frances, the Falconer's Daughter, was published in 1932.[13]

"Mother of Governors"[edit]

The following governors, deputy governors, or lieutenant governors either descend directly from Frances, or married one of her descendants:[10]

Governors who are direct descendants:

Deputy or lieutenant governors who are direct descendants:

Governors who are related by marriage:

Deputy governor related by marriage:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Justice 1920, p. 132.
  2. ^ "Lewis Latham family". Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Latham Ancestry". Archived from the original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Austin 1887, p. 67.
  5. ^ a b c d Austin 1887, p. 44.
  6. ^ Austin 1887, p. 211.
  7. ^ a b c d e Austin 1887, p. 212.
  8. ^ Tracy 1908, pp. 8-9.
  9. ^ Tracy 1908, pp. 16-17.
  10. ^ a b c d Tracy 1908, p. 17.
  11. ^ Austin 1887, pp. 44-5.
  12. ^ Austin 1887, p. 45.
  13. ^ "Tom Jones blog". Retrieved 30 December 2011.


External links[edit]