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The story of John Locke, Rye, New Hampshire

John Locke was baptized at London’s White Chapel on 16 September 1627, as the son of Thomas Locke and Christina French. In 1916 Arthur H. Locke published “A History and Genealogy of Captain John Locke of Portsmouth and Rye, New Hampshire and his descendants.” In this book it is theorized that his brother Nathaniel was baptized there at White Chapel on 11 November 1629, and they both removed to New Hampshire.

John Locke settled in Dover, and then New Castle, and then finally in the part of Hampton that is now Rye, New Hampshire. According to tradition, he framed the first meeting house in Portsmouth about 1654. This church was removed in 1750, and it stood on South Mill Bridge.

According to the Hampton records "John Locke Senior was killed by the Heathen in his lott at work upon 26 August 1696." And on 1 January 1801, Reverend Porter of Rye said in a public address "In 1694 John Locke being at Locke's Neck was ambushed and killed by the Indians as he was reaping grain in his field." The spot where this happened is along the seashore, and can be seen by turning off Ocean Boulevard onto Locke Road. The Locke Burial Ground is there, with John and Elizabeth Locke and several generations of Lockes. There is a marker on a granite post, labeled 1934, and a memorial roadside marker, which now reads:

“Locke’s Neck- named for Captain John Locke who settled here before 1665 with his wife, Elizabeth Berry, born in London in 1627. He landed in Portsmouth ca. 1644 and according to tradition framed the first meeting house there about 1654. As Captain of militia he was noted for his defensive actions against hostile Indians. He was killed here August 26, 1696 by Indians as he worked in his fields with only a sickle for defense. His sons and grandsons were instrumental in the creation of the parish of Rye in 1726.
This area has been called Joselyn’s Neck, Locke’s Neck and Straw’s Point. In 1978 Rye’s annual town meeting officially named this area Locke’s Neck in honor of that pioneer family.
Erected by the Locke Family Association, 1984”

The best part of the story is not from the archives, nor the memorial markers, but is an anecdote from the Locke genealogy (which means that the best part is probably a myth!) According to the family myth, when the Indians ran up to scalp Locke, he summoned his last breath to cut off the nose of one of the Indians. This has spawned several versions of the ending to the story. One said that a son met an Indian without a nose while out hunting, who told him “Old Locke cut it off” and the son thus murdered the Indian. Another version said that a grandson met an Indian who was “rendered talkative by liquor” who boasted of killing Captain Locke, so the grandson killed him and tossed him down a well.

In the New Hampshire Historical Society Museum, in Eagle Square, Concord, New Hampshire, John Locke’s famous hand sickle, which he was supposedly using as he reaped grain on that fateful day in 1696, is on display in a glass case. The very obliging curator of the museum, Doug Copely, told me that as a descendant, he could also take Captain John Locke’s sword out of storage and show it to me. He also said that although it may be myth, the docents tell the tale of Captain Locke and the Indians to visiting children at the museum. Both items were donated in 1890 by George Locke of Manchester, New Hampshire. I’m sure that many generations of school children have been thrilled by this bloody story and have carefully examined the sickle for any signs of gore. I know that my daughter did!

Locke Genealogy:

Generation 1: Thomas Locke, born about 1600 in Yorkshire, England, d. 14 August 1628, London, England; married on 26 July 1624 in London, England to Christina French.

Generation 2: John Locke, born in 1627 in England, died on 26 August 1696 in Rye, New Hampshire; married about 1652 to Elizabeth Berry. Eleven children:

1. John Locke, b. 1654; married to Elizabeth Unknown (my ancestor)
2. Elizabeth Locke, b. 1656; married to Nehemiah Berry
3. Nathaniel Locke, b. 1661; married to Dorothy Blake
4. Edward Locke , b. 1663; married to Hannah Jenness
5. Tryphena Locke, b. 1666; married to John Webster
6. Rebecca Locke, b. 1670
7. Mary Locke, b. 1675; married to William Hepworth
8. William Locke, b. 17 April 1677; married to Hannah Knowles
9. James Locke, b. 1678; married to Hannah Philbrick
10. Joseph Locke, b. 1679; married to Salome White
11. Alice Locke

For more information:

“A History and Genealogy of Captain John Locke, 1627 – 1696” by Arthur H. Locke, A. M., 1916, The Rumford Press, Concord, New Hampshire

“History of the town of Rye, New Hampshire: from its Discovery and Settlement to December 31, 1903” by Langdon Brown Parsons, 1905, Rumford Press, Concord, New Hampshire (page 251 -2 for the story of Locke’s murder)

The Locke Family Association

New Hampshire Historical Society Museum
Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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