Bouvier and Kauffman Families

Jonathan Danforth

Person Chart


Father Date of Birth Mother Date of Birth
Nicholas Danforth Elizabeth

Person Events

Event Type Date Place Description
Birth Feb 1626 Framingham, Suffolk, England
Marriage 22 Nov 1654 Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Marriage 17 Nov 1690 Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States
Death 07 Sep 1712 Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States
Burial Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States


From (

One of the most influential surveyors in the Merrimack River Valley and its lower tributaries (in Massachusetts and New Hampshire) of the late 1600's and early 1700's was Captain Jonathan Danforth.  Born in Framingham, High Suffolk, England on February 29, 1627/28 to Nicolas and Elizabeth Danforth.  Jonathan moved with his family to Cambridge, England about 1634.  His father was a minister.  The date of Jonathan's arrival in New England is not known, but records in Boston indicate that he married an Elizabeth Powter in that city on November 22, 1654.  Within five years, Jonathan and Elizabeth moved to Billerica, where they raised their eleven children.  Elizabeth died there on October 7, 1689, and Jonathan married Esther Champney of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on November 17 of the following year.
New Hampshire records show that Jonathan Danforth was active as a surveyor as early as 1659.  Most of his known surveys date from the 1660's, though his last known plan is dated March 1702 (he was then 74 years old).  He gave bearings according to the 32-point compass (i.e. "South and by East, East North East", etc.) and distances in poles.
The late 1600's was also a period of heightened Indian raids in Massachusetts.  Like most able bodied men on the frontier, Danforth trained with the local militia, becoming a captain.  He also served his community as the town "recorder" (clerk) for more than 30 years.
Jonathan Danforth died at the age of 85 on September 7, 1712.  His surveys on the New England frontier helped define accurately what were once remote parcels, but are now the very densely populated towns of Nashua, Hudson, Litchfield, Amherst and Milford in New Jersey, and portion of Massachusetts north and northwest of Boston.
Return to the Interesting People page

About 1654 he went to Billerica with the first settlers and built what was perhaps the first house erected in the Indian village of Shawshin, on the north side of what was to be West street. The house became the garrison home in 1676 for three families and six fighting men, including himself, his son Jonathan, 17, and Samuel Manning. Watch was kept day and night during the period known as Philip's War. Danger of Indian attack was ever present and the settlers lived in fear. Jonathan and three others had the responsibility of fortifying the town, and the 48 families of the pioneer community were assigned quarters and hastening to designated posts when the alarm was sounded. Following King Philip's War in 1676, many Indian captives, especially children, were sold or divided among the colonists as servants until they became of age, and a boy of 12 was bound out to Jonathan Danforth. Known as John Warrick, he was styled "the Indian servant of Captain Jonathan" when he died at Billerica, Jan. 15, 1686. Jonathan's land grant was in 1749 part of the estate of his grandson Samuel.

Known as "Father of Billerica", Jonathan had extensive land holdings and showed an interest in every need of the town, serving as town clerk from 1665 until 1686, as deputy to the General Court 1684 and 1685, first captain of the town's militia in 1675, and chairman of the selectman in 1676 when he signed a petition asking for a reduction in taxes. He was one of three appointed in 1678 by the Governor's Council to suggest rules of safety for the outlying towns of Middlesex County. He was most famed as a land surveyor and for forty years he probably surveyed every land grant in Billerica, his land descriptions filling some 200 pages in his clear and handsome handwriting in the first volume of Land Grants. His services as surveyor were in demand all over Massachusetts and much of his work is preserved in the State Archives.

Jonathan was the "life-long and trusted friend of the Rev. Samuel Whiting of Billerica, and though he joined the Chelmsford Church May 12, 1661, he continued his support of the faltering Billerica congregation and left two portfolios of church records and sermons by Mr. Whiting. To his great credit, he defied subpoenas of the Court, refusing to witness against accused witchcraft victims including Martha (Allen) Carrier who was hanged when she refused to confess guilt. He had the courage of a strong and independent nature, and historians refer to him as "the wise and good Jonathan Danforth", Billerica's "leading citizen of his generation", and "the most noted surveyor of his time in the colony." They write of his "energy and wisdom", his "eminent ability and unaffected piety".@S55@