At Colchester, New London County, Connecticut

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Somewhat back from the North Sea, on the Essex border of England, stands the old, old city of Colchester. It is conceded that it is the oldest Roman Colony of England, but Wm. Andrews (British) takes it back to —5 B.C. However that may be, 43 A.D. we are sure of, and the great wall built by the Romans still stands today. He says also,

"In the Civil War, Colchester stood for the King. In 1645 it was besieged by Lord Fairfax, but its thick old Roman walls made it a sort of fortress, and it was able to resist for three months."

Near this big city there was, and is, a small place called Shalford. On January 27, 1608, a man lay dying there. He was Robert Foote, our earliest known ancestor. Conscious of his approaching end he dictated the will following. Robert, Jr., was made Executor, [211] and on February 15, 1608, he proved and probated the document, showing that Robert, Sr., lived scarcely three weeks after it was written. From its provisions Robert must have been what was then called "a man of large substance." I have had to omit a good deal that seemed unnecessary, but all that follows is verbatim.

Will of Robert Foote. 1608

Being sick in body, and commending my soule to the mercy of God in Christe, I do hereby dispose ordayne and make this my last will and testament.

1st—a sum of money to be distributed to the poor of Shalford and Wethersfield, at the discretion of the Church-wardens and Overseerers of the poor.

2d.—To my beloved wife Joan,—the rent during life of a certain tenement which I hold through the grant of Sir Chester Knight,—also a yearly annuity of lawfull money,—also to my beloved wife, such part of my movable goods, and household stuff as hereinafter recited, viz.—my best bedstead, best featherbed and bolster, four paires of my best sheets and pillowberes,—two tablecloths and a dozen napkins.
  • Note—I have been taught that as early as 1608 even the great nobles had few table cloths and no napkins. I have not time to follow it up, but in the Cannon Library I get: "History of Table Setting," by C.Q. Murphy, page 8—"Hands were usually wiped on the sides of the tablecloth, for napkins were not in general use." Relative to spoons—"Guests in the very old times were obliged to carry their own spoons, whether they staid for one meal or many." Poor folks as well as rich must carry their own spoons. These were of tinned iron, and were called Latten spoons, but their owners were placed near the salt (which divided the table) while they who could only bring wooden spoons were placed at the farthest end. Joan is given not only brass spoons, but silver, so that they must have sat far above the salt when they went abroad. Next, Joan is given:
. . . My next best table but one,—three stooles, and six greate cushions, towels—many sortes of platters, three stooles and six great cushions, [212] towels—many sorts of dishes, platters and bowls,—also a yearly amount of wood, as long as she resides in my house.
  • Looks as if Joan was not to marry again. There are nine children named in the will, five of the names are constantly repeated in the Foote genealogy down to my great-great-grandfather, Daniel (b. 1717). They are Robert, Daniel, Mary, Elizabeth, and Nathaniel, especially Nathaniel, which came straight down for eleven consecutive generations, and is still extant in our Hon. Judge of Rochester, who rescued this precious will. And there may be many others I know not of.

To return to the paper. Each child is given a sum of "lawfull money" and several servants and friends are left varying amounts of money.

Next—To Joseph my son, I bequeath my hop ground of Plomley, with all the hop poles thereon, beside 250 hop poles, which I have at home. Next—To my son Robert, I leave my Mansion wherein I now reside, with all the appurtenances thereof, together with all the lands belonging to the same, as the same is now in my occupation, with all my stock of hop poles, being upon any of the hop grounds of the premises,—as well new poles as ould. Lastly—My legacies paid and my body decently brought to earth, the residue is to be equally divided among all my children.
  • As Robert was the father of nine children, he must have been born rather early in the 1500's and lived in the days of Good Queen Bess, as well as have been a contemporary of Shakespeare, who did not die until 1616, eight years later, and who, instead of leaving Anne Hathaway his best bed and sheets, etcetera, left her only his second best. A little low of Shakespeare, it seems to me, especially as he had only three children to Robert's nine, and they were married, or dead like Hamlet. Perhaps this would be the place to put down the fact that Robert had a brother living in London, whose son. Sir Thomas Foote, was Lord Mayor of London in 1649-1650, who would have been (he first cousin of our settler, Nathaniel.)
Through the courtesy of Supreme Court Justice Nathaniel Foote of Rochester, N. Y., I have access to this will, which he rescued after considerable effort on both sides of the Atlantic, with details for which my editor refuses me space.