Thomas Wallen/Walling: Pilgrim Rogue?

by Joan Gatturna

In 1623 Ralph Wallen and his wife Joyce arrived in the Plymouth colony on the ship Anne. They were apparently childless at that time, and remained so through 1627 when a land division took into account all individuals, even children, in figuring allotments. No child was noted for Ralph and Joyce.(Plymouth Colony Records)
Fast forward to January 22 1651 in the town of Providence when there appears one Thomas Wallen/Walling(various spellings.) According to Austin's Rhode Island Dictionary, Roger Williams wrote the following to the town of Providence: “I understand that one of the orphans of our dear friend Daniel Abbott is likely(as she herself told me) to be disposed of in marriage.'Tis true she has now come to some years, but who knows not what need the poor maid hath of your fatherly care, counsel and direction. I would not disparage the young man (for I hear he hath been laborious)...” Williams went on to urge the town to seek assurance that the young man will “forsake his former courses.” That young man was likely Thomas Walling who married Mary Abbott,daughter of the late Daniel Abbott, that very year.
Some family historians claim that Thomas is the son of Ralph and Joyce Wallen, born abt. 1630, but the Great Migration Project of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society rates the relationship as only “possible.”
Thomas Walling appears often after 1651, until his death in 1674, in Providence records. Where did he come from? I wondered if any records might place him in Plymouth prior to 1651.
The Plymouth Colony Records of court proceedings for 1650 do indeed mention him and help to explain why Roger Williams had some reservations about “his former ways.”

The fourth of Aprell, 1650. Tho Wallen, Richard Carle, Gorg Way, Katheren Warner, and Mary Mills were apprehended at Barnstable, in the jurisdiction of New Plym; and on the eight day of Aprell, aforsaid, they being examined before William Bradford,gent,Gouer, William Collyar and William Thomas, gent, Assistants, confessed yt they, the said Tho Wallen, Richard Carle and Gorge Way did healpe away Katheren Warner & Mary Mills, who were run away from theire husbands; and for yt purpose yt Richard Carle aforsaid did steale his fathers boat, which they came away in; it was therefore ordered by the Gouer & Assistants above mensioned, that the aforsaid Gorg Way, Katheren Warner, & Mary Mills should be sent from constable to constable to the place from whence they came wh is a place called Winter Harbor, near Richmans Iland to the eastward: and yt Tho Wallen & Richard Carle aforsaid bee comitted to ward; all which accordingly was forthwith pforned.

Richmans Island, or Richmond Island lies off the coast of Maine, which was then under the jurisdiction of Plymouth. The settlements there at that time were little more than trading outposts.
A check of the Genealogical Dictionary of New Hampshire and Maine reveals a Thomas Warner whose wife Katheren went “with an eloping party from Winter Harbor to Barnstable.”
By 1650 Ralph Wallen was dead, He died sometime before 1643, deduced from Plymouth Colony Records. His widow Joyce married again,as his third wife, Thomas Lumbard of Barnstable, which might explain why the boatload of runaways ended up in that place. This would seem to tie Thomas more securely to Joyce as her son.
It appears that after spending some time “comitted to ward” in Plymouth 1650, Thomas moved on to Providence in 1651. He married Mary Abbott in 1651. She died in 1669. In that same year, Thomas married Margaret Colwell. Thomas fathered six sons and one daughter who are named in his will of 1674. Four of the sons are under age 21 at the time of his death and I have not uncovered which of his wives was mother to the younger off-spring, but the oldest three being over 21 must have been Mary's. There are several indicators of turbulence in the marriage of Thomas and Mary. Some on-line excerpts from an article by William B. Saxby Jr. in the American Genealogist report that “in October of 1666 Thomas Walling was found guilty of assault on Robert Colwell and paid a bond of 20 pounds, but he failed to appear in court and forfeited his bond. It turned out that he had run away with Colwell's wife Margaret White, whom Colwell subsequently divorced.”

The Early Records of the Town of Providence also tell a story of trouble:

For asmuch as Thomas Walling, formerly inhabitant of this Towne of providence; hath departed this towne, the Towne being doubtfull of his return to take care for the Releife of the wife and child which he hath left in the Towne: This to signiffie unto all persons, that the town hath seized into their handes and Secured, all the estate of the said Thomas Walling......

There are several entries about the absence of Thomas. Mary petitions the town to be relieved of the care of an apprentice named Daniel Comstock, as she can no longer care for him. During the same year she also apprentices her own son Gerhom to Nathaniel Mowry. The entries about the apprenticeships are dated 1667, the same year as the divorce of Margaret and Robert Colwell. Mary dies in 1669 and Thomas reappears to marry Margaret Colwell.
The final chapter of Thomas's story ends with a fitting twist. After his death in 1674, his widow Margaret marries Daniel Abbott, the brother of Thomas's late first wife, Mary Abbott, making Thomas's two wives sisters-in-law.
It seems that Thomas never lost his taste for romantic adventures, and it is interesting to note that his partner in the crime of the “elopement” from Maine, George Way, became his neighbor and fellow townsman in Providence.
I think that Thomas's misadventures early in his life help to make the case for him being a “Pilgrim” child, if a very wayward one!


The following sources consulted are on-line at

Early Records of the Town of Providence
Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire
Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England,1620-33


The Plymouth Colony Archive Project

Excerpts from article “Joyce Wallen of Barnstable” by Eleanor Cooley Rue ,The American Genealogist Jan 1992 vol 67 p.27 posted by Diana M Williams on (click on mailing list archives)

Excerpts from article “Thomas Walling and His Way with Women” by William B. Saxby Jr., The American Genealogist, April 1998 pp91-100
posted at

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