Timothy Dalton graduated from St. John’s College, Cambridge in 1615. He married a Ruth Leete at Gislingham in Suffolk and became Vicar of Wolverston, near Ipswitch. He then got into trouble with Bishop Laud and slipped away from England to America, as did so many of his compatriots. His wife Ruth joined him there in Hampton, New Hampshire in 1637 or 1638. They had no children that survived them. Timothy died in 1661 at the age of 84 and Ruth dies in 1666 aged 86. She left in her will legacies to sic of “the children of my sister Phoebe Parkhurst”. So, being unable to find out anything about Timothy’s birth, I sought information about his wife, a girl Ruth Leete, with a sister called Pheobe. Searches of the parish records round Gislingham gave no result, but a search in the University Library for any mention of Leete produced a book called “The Leete Family” by Joseph Leete published privately in 1906. This showed that the Leete family were well known in West Cambridgeshire in the 1600’s and had a coat of arms described as a silver shield with three coiled lighted fuses, and a green bar with a martlet bird on it.
The earliest record of the family showed that Gerard, son of Lete held land at Morden in Cambridgeshire in 1209. In the crusades there is a tradition that four brothers served, between 1213 and 1230 as knights crusaders, Peter, Nicholas, Radmond and Walter. The lighted fuses on the family arms suggests service in the Crusades.
The known family tree starts with John Leete b. Eversden 1551, m. Ellen Burgoyne and had five sons, William who became a Doctor of Civil Law at Cambridge and lived at Melbourne, Edmond, and Robert of Eversden who married Alice Grundy at Eversden in 1573 and was a Fellow of St. John’s College, Henry, and Thomas who moved to Bury St. Edmonds.
Robert and Alice had seven children, according to the Parish Registers, Symon 1573, Judeth 1574, Debora 1576, Ruth 1579, Mordecheas 1581, Susan 1583, and Pheobe 1585. Here was a connection with St. John’s College and a girl called Ruth with sisters called Debora and Pheobe. No burial of a Ruth Leete was found in any neighbouring parish records, so this must be the right family.
Ruth’s brother Simon became a churchwarden at Great Eversden in 1607 and so started a long period of service to the Eversden churches by this family. Simon had two sons, William b1607 and churchwarden in 1635, and Israel b1610. He also had seven daughters. William married Elizabeth Barron of Little Eversden and they had three sons, William 1636, Robert 1640, and John. This Robert and his wife Judith produced three sons, Robert, Simon who married Elizabeth Gayler and was churchwarden in 1721 and William.
Robert had seven children and Simon had nine. His eldest son was also Simon who was churchwarden at Guilden Morden from 1734 to 1774, Robert who was churchwarden in 1731, John b. 1708, Samuel b. 1712 and four others.
Simon and Mary had a large family in Guilden Morden, one of whom was churchwarden there for over thirty years. Robert and Honour had five children at Little Eversden and John and Elizabeth also had large families some of whom moved to Orwell in Cambridgeshire and to Melbourne.
There is a fine monument in Little Eversden Church to Lydia Leete, born at Quarry Farm, died in Westminster MDCCCLIV, aged LXXVI years. By her will she gave to the poor of the parish three hundred pounds in consols, the interest from which is to be given at Christmas in clothing and fuel, and also to Addenbrooke’s Hospital one hundred pounds in consols, on condition that one patient be admitted annually from this parish, free of all expense. Two graves commemorate William Leete, son of Charles and Susanna Leet, died April 17 1865 aged 84 and Charles Leet died October 30 1825 aged 81.
But to return to the emigrant sisters, Ruth, Pheobe, and Debora in Hampton, New Hampshire. There are no emigration records for Timothy and Ruth, which is not surprising as dissident Puritan priests had to slip out of the country quietly, by small boat to sympathizers in Holland, and then to America, with all their wealth in gold hidden in body belts. Timothy founded a Puritan Church in Hampton, known as the Church of Jesus Christ, which still exists today. He left Ruth behind at Wolverston for a short time, and she joined him sometime in 1637. She had a nephew at Oakington, William Leete, who was churchwarden there in 1636, emigrated to Guildford, Connecticut in 1639, became the Governor of New Haven, Conn. In 1676 and died there in 1683. It is possible that he took his aunts with him.
Pheobe married George Parkhust and bore him several children, as we have seen. She died in Watertown, Mass. About 1644. Of Debrorah, the third sister, we have no records, but a Deborah Dalton or Leete, born about 1625, married a George Blake in 1648 and bore him 12 children in New Hampton. Timothy Dalton calls her his sister, but it seems she was far too young to be a sister of either Ruth or Pheobe. Perhaps she was a child of some other branch of the Dalton of Leete families who was adopted by Ruth, following the death of her own child Deborah Dalton at Wolverston in 1624. Alternatively she could have been Timothy’s daughter, whom he called ‘sister’ meaning ‘sister’ in Christ, as St. Paul has it.
There are several wills in the Ely probates, of the Leete family. Amoung these, we may mention letters of administration granted to Ellen Leete, widow of John Leete of Eversden and Thomas Leete his son in 1564. Also, letters of administration of William Leete, John’s eldest son, of Melbourne, granted to his widow Flower Leete in 1560; the will of Edmund Leete of Eversden in 1551 leaving possessions to his brothers William, Thomas and Robert, who inherited copyhold land at Eusden, the old name for Eversden. Letters of administration were granted to Alice, the widow of Robert, in 1597. Flower Leete of Kingston, Cambridgeshire, in her will of 1580 left legacies to her daughters, Marie Rogers and Ellyn Widdows, and to Gyles Leete her son. They lived at “The Sparrows”, Melbourne. Gyles Leete was Master of Peterhouse in 1572 and died in Kingston, Cambridgeshire, in 1626.
Joseph Leete who was writing the family history in 1905 was a direct descendant of John Leete who died in Eversden in 1566. So the Leete family has lived in this area for seven hundred years, from 1200 to 1900. It would be interesting to know if there are any descendants of the Leetes still living in Cambridgeshire today.