John Townsend (Norwich)
Raynham Hall, Norfolk, England
Oyster Bay, Long Island, Province of New York
|Known for||Early settler of American colonies|
|Home town||Oyster Bay, Long Island|
John Townsend (ca. 1608–1668) was an early settler of the American Colonies who emigrated from England about 1630. Townsend was a signatory to the Flushing Remonstrance, a precursor to the United States Constitution's provision on freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights. Because of religious persecution under the Dutch authorities of New Amsterdam, many members of this family who were Quakers settled in Oyster Bay. There is no evidence in either Rhode Island or New York sources that John was a Quaker himself. John Townsend arrived in Oyster Bay in 1661 and it was there where he died and was buried in the Townsend Cemetery on his own land. Members of his family would go on to be distinguished leaders in the Oyster Bay community and on Long Island for centuries to follow.
Disagreement exists surrounding the facts of John Townsend's birth year, his parentage, and his arrival to America. The work Ancestral Heads of New England Families from 1923 states the following: 1) That John Townsend was the son of Thomas Townsend (1594-1677) and Mary Newgate (1595-1692); 2) He was born at Raynham Hall, Norfolk, England in 1608; and 3) His family emigrated to the colonies in 1637 when his father Thomas was granted 60 acres (240,000 m2) of land with Lord Brook and others in the Town of Lynn.
These facts are disputed by findings of the "Townsend Surname DNA Project," conducted by the Townsend Society of America, a well-respected member organization composed of members with Townsend lineage. These findings suggest that John Townsend was not the son of Thomas Townsend and Mary Newgate and that these families have "completely different DNA" according to Townsend Society sources. Naturally this raises questions surrounding date of birth of John Townsend, and to the date that he and his two brothers Richard and Henry emigrated to the colonies. The work A memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend, and their descendants published in 1865 is cited for more information on the topic.
While some disagreement exists surrounding origins, general agreement exists around other aspects of John Townsend's biography. John was one of the original settlers of Flushing, having been granted a patent by Gov. Keift in 1645.  He and his brother Henry Townsend settled there. Henry Townsend supported the Quakers which created political difficulties with the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant, leading the Townsend brothers moved to Warwick, Rhode Island, where they became members of the Provincial Assembly.
In 1656 Townsend and his brothers again attempted to settle in Long Island, this time obtaining the patent of Rustdorp (now Jamaica). Here too the Townsends came into conflict. John Townsend was a signer of the Flushing Remonstrance on 27 December 1657. Stuyvesant rejected the petition.
In the following year, 1658, Townsend moved with his brothers to Oyster Bay, which was out of the jurisdiction of the Dutch. Here he spent the remainder of his life, and died at Oyster Bay, in 1668.
He was buried in Fort Hill in what was to become the Townsend Cemetery in Oyster Bay, New York. A stone with marker marks this site, with the words: "This stone marks the grave of John Townsend who came from England about 1630, and settled in Oyster Bay in 1661. He died in 1668. And was buried here on his own land." Having no will prepared, his wife Elizabeth in consultation with John Townsend's surviving brothers Henry and Richard, and John and her eldest sons John and Thomas Townsend, subdivided his property among surviving heirs on 10 May 1671. John Townsend's wife Elizabeth died in 1684 and is also buried at the Townsend Cemetery
Townsend Family in Oyster Bay
John Townsend would have many famous descendants who would serve as influential figures in Oyster Bay and on Long Island. Numbers used below indicate generation following John Townsend (1608-1668). Thus the number one would be first generation indicating children, the number two would be grandchildren in the line of descent.
John Townsend (1645-1709) Family Line
1. John Townsend (1645-1709) was the son of John Townsend and Elizabeth Montgomery. He married Susanna Harcourt and had at least one son, James Townsend. John Townsend died in 1709 and was buried in the Townsend Cemetery.
2. James Townsend (1671-1729) was the son John Townsend and Susanna Harcourt. He married Audrey Almy in 1691 and had at least three children: Jacob (1692-1742), Mary (1695-1752), and Nathaniel (1698-1754).
3. Jacob Townsend (1692-1742) was the son of James Townsend and Audrey Almy. He married Phebe Seaman and had at least one son, Samuel Townsend (1717-1790).
4. Samuel Townsend (1717-1790) was the son of Jacob Townsend and Phebe Seaman. Samuel was a prosperous merchant who dealt in a variety of goods. He owned four ships that sailed Europe, South America, and the West Indies, bringing back items including lumber, molasses, pottery, wine, fabric, dye, and rum. He is most noted perhaps for purchasing the property now known a Raynham Hall in 1738. Samuel was a merchant and a member of the Provincial Congress. He favored the Loyalists during the American Revolution. Following the colonists' defeat in 1776 at the Battle of Long Island, the British army occupied Oyster Bay until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. For a six-month period from 1778 to 1779 the Townsend home served as British headquarters for the Queen's Rangers led by Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe. After the Revolution he was a member of the New York State Senate. Samuel Townsend is buried at the Townsend Cemetery on Fort Hill in Oyster Bay.
5. Captain Solomon Townsend (1746-1811) was the son of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard.
5. Samuel Townsend (1749-1773) was the son of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard.
5. William Townsend (1752-1805) was the son of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard.
5. Robert Townsend, a.k.a. Culper, Jr. (1753-1838) was the son of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard. He and his brother William operated a merchant shipping firm in New York City and was recruited into the American spy network sometime in 1778. Using his status as merchant as his cover, he moved about the docks of Manhattan without arousing suspicion. He would transmit messages through the Culper Spy Ring to George Washington about British troop movements, and alerting the possibility of attack. Their greatest accomplishment was warning of a British attack on the French fleet landing at Newport, Rhode Island. Washington was able to bluff the enemy into believing he would attack New York City, forcing the British to withdraw their attack force and allowing the French to disembark. Robert died in 1838 and is buried with many other of his ancestors at the Townsend Cemetery at Fort Hill in Oyster Bay.
 5. Audrey Townsend (1755-1829) was the daughter of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard.
5. David Townsend (1759-1785) was the son of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard.
5. Sarah (Sally) Townsend (1760-1842) was the daughter of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard. Sally is reputed to have overheard conversations between Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe and Major John Andre and then passing the information on the patriot Culper Spy Ring via her brother Robert ("Culper Junior"). She is also reputed to have received the first Valentine in America from Lt. Col. John Graves Simcoe. Sarah Townsend died in 1842 and is buried in the Townsend Cemetery
5. Phebe Townsend (1763-1841) was the daughter of Samuel Townsend and Sarah Stoddard. She married Ebeneezer Seely when she was in her forties and he in his twenties. Robert and Sally Townsend subsequently lived in Raynham Hall with Phebe and Ebeneezer until their deaths. Following Phebe's death, Seely married again and had several children by his second wife.
6. Solomon Townsend II (1805-1880) was the son of Solomon Townsend and grandson of Samuel Townsend. He married Helene DeKay Townsend in 1849. He later purchased Raynham Hall from his uncle, Dr. Ebeneezer Seely. He remodeled and enlarged the old colonial dwelling in the fashionable Gothic Revival style. The addition of a large rear wing doubled the size of the house. He renamed it Raynham Hall after an ancestral home in Norfolk, England. Initially, Raynham Hall served as a summer residence for Solomon and his family. By 1861, the family made Raynham Hall their permanent residence. Solomon like his father and grandfather, was a prosperous merchant and importer. he served in the state Legislature and at two State Constitutional Conventions, in addition to being President of the Oyster Bay Board of Education. By 1860 he was one of the wealthiest and most respected men in Oyster Bay. Solomon Townsend died in 1880 and is buried in the Townsend Cemetery. 
7. Solomon Samuel Townsend (1850-1910) was the son of Solomon Townsend II and Helene DeKay Townsend
7. Charles DeKay Townsend (1851-1922) was the son of Solomon Townsend II and Helene DeKay Townsend
7. Robert Townsend (1853-1915) was the son of Solomon Townsend II and Helene DeKay Townsend
7. Maurice Edward Townsend (1855-1927) was the son of Solomon Townsend II and Helene DeKay Townsend
7. Edward Nicol Townsend (1857-1917) was the son of Solomon Townsend II and Helene DeKay Townsend
7. Maria Fonda Townsend (1860-1908) was the daughter of Solomon Townsend II and Helene DeKay Townsend
George Townsend (1661-1697) Family Line
1. George Townsend (1661-1697) was the son of John Townsend and Elizabeth Montgomery. On 17 Nov 1684, he married Mary Hawxhurst (1664-?). George inherited his father's homestead on South Street in Oyster Bay, and they also owned property in Norwich. They had three sons: George (1687-1762), who married Rosannah Coles; Richard (1690-1750), who married Susannah Weeks; and Samuel Townsend (1692-1747), who married Sarah Cooper.
2. In the next generation: 1) Rosannah (Coles) and George Townsend (1687) had two children: Rosannah (1712) and William (1715); 2) Susannah (Weeks) and Richard Townsend (1690) had two children: George (1713), and John; and, 3) Sarah (Cooper) and Samuel Townsend had six children: Samuel (1717), Daniel, Phebe, Sarah, Joseph (1728), and Mercy (1730).
3) One line in following generations that of Samuel Townsend (b 1717) whose descendant Joseph Townsend married Hannah Youngs. Joseph died in 1812 and is buried at the Townsend Cemetery on Fort Hill in Oyster Bay. Among Hannah and Joseph's children was Mary Ann Townsend (1803-1883), who married Daniel Underhill (1798-1886). The Underhills had at least one daughter, Rebecca Townsend, who married John Merritt Sammis (1820-1908). A plaque in Christ Church, Oyster Bay recognizes several children of Mary (Townsend) and Daniel Underhill, including Judith Townsend Underhill (1828-1912), Mary Amelia Underhill (1835-1903), Hannah Youngs Underhill (1843-1906), and one grandson, Samuel Underhill Fleet (1851-1926).
Captain Thomas Townsend (unknown-1712) Family Line
1. Captain Thomas Townsend (unknown-1712) was the son of John Townsend and Elizabeth Montgomery. He married Sarah Coles and had five children: Temperance, Sylvanus, Freelove, Sarah and John.
2. Temperance Townsend
2. Sylvanus Townsend
2. Freelove Townsend, born 29 Dec 1674, married Major Thomas Jones.
2. Sarah Townsend
2. John Townsend
- Oyster Bay town records, Volume I by John Cox, George William Cocks, 1916, p. 63.
- As recounted in History of New York during the revolutionary war: and of the leading events by Thomas Jones, 1879, a direct descendant of Townsend's.
- Ancestral Heads of New England Families, Frank R. Holmes, (Originally published: New York, 1923, Reprinted: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1001 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21202-1964, 1974, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1999, Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 64-19755, ISBN 0-8063-0182-1), Page 241
- Townsend Surname DNA Project Townsendsociety.org, Townsend Surname DNA project
- A memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend, and their descendants (1865) Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend, and their Descendants
- American Ancestry, by Thomas Patrick Hughes, Frank Munsell (1887)
- Reynolds, Cuyler (1914). Genealogical and family history of southern New York and the Hudson River Valley. 3. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing. p. 1108. Retrieved 11 June 2009.
- The Flushing Remonstrance is considered a precursor to the United States Constitution's provision on freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights.
- Historic Cemeteries of Oyster Bay, by John Hammond, February 2007
- Silver, Roy (13 September 1958). "Museum Restored; Historic Mansion at Oyster Bay Gets Authentic 18th Century Facade". New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2008.
- "History". Raynham Hall Museum website. Friends of Raynham Hall Inc. 2009-05-05.
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend, and their Descendants," (1865: W. A. Townsend, Publisher, New York, NY), p 156
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend," p 156
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend," p 169
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend," p 175
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend," p 156-168
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend," p 169-175
- “A Memorial of John, Henry, and Richard Townsend," pp 175-178