James Parker  
  John Dennis Katherine Rayle
England England
1250 John Parker, Sr.
b. 25 Sep 1568
Georgeham, Devon, England
d. About 1651
Georgetown, Lincoln, Massachusetts (now Maine)

Katherine Dennis

b. About 1580
d. 1601
Bedeford, Devon, England
Relationship Events:
  Marriage John Parker married Katherine Dennis on August 23, 1600.
1160 John Parker, Jr. b. 20 Apr 1601 in Bideford, Devon, England; d, between 1651 and 1661

Mary Crocombe Nov 16, 1622 in Georgham, Devon, England; d. after 1671

James, Thomas, John, Mary and possibly others
What We Know


John Parker, Sr. our earliest ancestor to arrive in America. His place in written history begins with the voyages on which he accompanied his older brother, William, who was an Elizabethan-era privateer. These so-called Sea Dogs, distinguished for their plunders during the English and Spanish wars in the late sixteenth century, were heroes in their own country, but considered pirates by their Spanish enemies.

In 1587, Captain William Parker and his brother John joined Sir Francis Drake in the raid on Cadiz, Spain. In 1588 William and John participated in the defeat of the Spanish Armada. In the 1590s Captain Parker sailed the West Indies taking several prizes. He also plundered Puerto Cortés in Honduras in 1594 and 1595. After 1596, as owner of his own vessel, he partnered with Sir Anthony Sherley, but this relationship ended when after a time no prizes were taken. Leaving Captain Sherley behind, Captain Parker attacked Campeche in Mexico. Captain Parker was wounded in the attack but survived and succeeded in capturing a frigate carrying silver that was en route to San Juan De Ulua. Sea Dogs

John Parker married Katherine Dennis on August 23, 1600. In November, a little over a month later, John sailed from Plymouth with William on the Prudence with a crew of 130, as well as several “gentlemen voluntters.” On their way to Panama, they sacked the town of St. Vincent in the Cape Verde Islands, captured and held for ransom the Cubagua pearl-boats, and then captured a Portugese slave ship. Arriving in Portobello, they landed in a surprise attack and captured the town in February 1601. Portobello was a very important port being the departure point from which Peruvian treasure left for Spain.

Meanwhile, John Parker, Jr. had been born on April 20, 1601 in Georgeham, Devon, England. His father was at sea with his brother William, and learned upon returning that his wife had died after the christening of their son. Captain William Parker became mayor of Plymouth in December 1601 and kept that position into 1602. He took up merchant activities in Plymouth in the times the yearning for the sea didn’t lure him back.

Merchant House


In 1606, Captain William Parker became a founding member of the Virginia Company.The Virginia Company was a Joint stock company chartered by James I on 10 April 1606 with the purpose of establishing settlements on the coast of North America. The two companies, called the "Virginia Company of London" (or the London Company) and the "Virginia Company of Plymouth" (or Plymouth Company) operated with identical charters but with differing territories. An area of overlapping territory was created within which the two companies were not permitted to establish colonies within one hundred miles of each other. As corporations, the companies were empowered by the Crown to govern themselves, and they ultimately granted the same privilege to their colony. In 1624, the Virginia Company failed; however, its grant of self-government to the colony was not revoked, and, "either from apathy, indecision, or deliberate purpose," the Crown allowed the system to continue. The principle was thus established that a royal colony should be self-governing, and this formed the genesis of democracy in America.

Representing his brother William’s financial interests, John Parker on June 7, 1607 was a mate on one of the two ships, the Gift of God captained by George Popham, and the Mary and John, that were sent to the colonies by the Plymouth Company. Sailing from Plymouth, 100 to 120 English colonists landed on a windy point a half mile from the mouth of Maine’s Kennebec River. Discharged soldiers made up most of the colonists’ ranks, but shipwrights, coopers, carpenters, and a smattering of “gentlemen of quality” rounded them out. On August 18, 1607 leader George Popham and second in charge Raleigh Gilbert, son of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, and the others listened to a sermon and the reading of their royal “pattent,” then all quickly set about building a settlement they named Fort St. George. The new colony was named after its principal financial backer, Sir John Popham, and his nephew George, who was elected President after their arrival.  Documents record that at Fort St. George the colonists built a trenched fortification, a large storehouse, a chapel building, and a house for Raleigh Gilbert. Shipwrights who accompanied the voyage constructed a small vessel called a pinnace, which the colonists named the Virginia.

In December 1607, winter was coming and food was scarce. Half the colonists returned to England. The remaining forty-five colonists wintered within newly-erected Fort St. George. That same winter, George Popham died (the only fatality in the Colony). The Colony’s new leader, Raleigh Gilbert, learned with the arrival of an early fall resupply ship that his uncle had died, and as heir, the family’s estates in England were his. He decided to leave. The colonists, twice bereft of their leader, elected to abandon their attempt, and in October 1608, they left with Gilbert to return to England.

Sir Raleigh GilbertThe documents surviving on Popham Colony, although incomplete, outline its story. Factions formed from the start. President George Popham was old, “timorously fearful to offende” and “of an unwildy body. Second in charge, Raleigh Gilbert (shown left) was young, perhaps 24, “desirous of supremacy, and rule, a loose life...prompte to sensuality,” and of higher social standing than his superior.Setbacks plagued the Popham Colony. The Maine winter was unusually severe. Fire broke out in the midst of it, damaging buildings and destroying provisions. The Indian trade yielded little return, and relations with the local people, the Abenaki, were strained.

In 1888, a researcher for an American diplomat happened upon a map of Fort St. George in government archives in Madrid. Drawn and signed by Popham colonist John Hunt, it was likely snatched or copied by a Spanish spy soon after it arrived in England in 1608.

The only known detailed plan of an early English colony, the map contains sketches of trenched ramparts, a storehouse, a chapel, and various buildings—in all, more than 15 structures. Though published in 1890, the map provoked little interest for 100 years, until Dr. Jeffrey P. Brain, a Senior Research Associate at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, came upon a mention of the lost colony while vacationing in Maine. Research led him to Hunt’s map, which took him to Sabino Head, a windy promontory on the Kennebec. Topographical features seemed to match Fort St. George’s modified star-shaped contours. Conducting a test excavation on the area in 1994, Dr. Brain and his team found a posthole after several weeks of digging. Baffled by not finding more postholes, he “fiddled with the map,” rotated it 20 degrees and came up with a dead-on match with the landscape. Soon the crew was “turning up one after another” of the three-foot-wide pine mold-filled holes, eventually 19 in all, outlining the 69-by-20 foot storehouse that Hunt had depicted on his blueprint almost 400 years before. This project was completed in 2000.

The first ship built in North America by English colonists, the Virginia, was built in 1607-1608 at Popham Colony’s Fort St George. As few as 70 of the original 120 colonists built the sturdy pinnace Virginia, beginning Maine’s long tradition of quality shipbuilding. During her lifetime, Virginia crossed the Atlantic at least twice, including the trip back to serve the Jamestown colony. A replica of Virginia is currently underway.


In the spring of 1616, English Colonizer Sir Ferdinando Gorges in a colonization scheme for a part of Maine, employed Richard Vines to take charge, and he and his staff accompanied a fishing vessel on its annual summer fishing voyage to Maine. It’s possible that John Parker was a member of that company. (The Gorges family and Dr. Vines were associated with another of our ancestors, Richard Bonython,)

In 1616, Capt. John Webber, with mate and brother-in-law, John Parker, established a trading post with the Indians. He must have discovered Rosohegan early in his travels and found it fair, for the Plymouth Colony was trading with her no later than 1625.

In England, John’s brother, Captain William Parker, was made a Vice Admiral and left in the spring of 1618 on an expedition to the East Indies. He died on the voyage to Bantam on Sep 24, 1618.  John inherited the 250-acre Gorges fort site in Phippsburg following William’s death, but chose to reside on a small island on the eastern side of the river in what is now known as Sagadoc Bay. If John Parker was employed as a seaman by Gorges then he would have been making these voyages on a Gorges vessel. And since he and his son would be spending the rest of their lives managing fishing stations, he would be in good position to learn the business on these fishing voyages to Monhegan. In fact, it's quite possible that he was at this time, in 1619, in charge of Gorges’ fishing station on that island. No records have been found of Parker’s activities from 1608 when the Popham Colony failed to the appearance of John Parker, Jr. and his family at Winter harbor (Biddeford) in 1636 and John Parker first purchasing Sagosett island in 1648, but it is obvious they were present and involved during this period. (In the early 1800’s, Mark Hill wrote that between 1625 -1628, “John Parker, a fisherman from Boston or its vicinity frequent fishing from Kennevec to Monhegan and in the winter of the latter year lived on the southerly point of Erascohegan Island, now Parker’s Island.)

Winter Harbor

Between 1645 and 1651, John Parker, Jr. moved his family from Winter Harbor (Biddeford) to Sagadahoc. John Parker acquired a deed for “Sagosett alias Chegoney” from "Robin Hood," Chief Mowhatawormit. Colonists had difficulty with his tribal name, and called him Chief Robert Hood or Robin Hood (Whood), or Robinhood.

In October 1651, John Jr. made out a will. It appears that both he and his father died between then and 1654.

On Nov 22 1652, one of the John Parker's took the oath of allegiance to Massachusetts government.

Note: For a long time historians believed John Parker came over to New England as mate on the Mayflower. This misinformation was based on a deposition found in the Massachusetts Superior Court files. It was sworn to by John Phillips 3rd of Charlestown on Nov. 20, 1750 stating that John Parker, his father’s uncle “was mate of the first ship that came from England with Plymouth people. “That historian concluded that “Plymouth People” were the Pilgrims and the first ship was the Mayflower, but it was actually referring to the town of Plymouth in England and the Plymouth Company ships in 1607. 


References for this and the other Parker Pages:

  • Commoners (vol II, Popham of Littlecote) with some support/input from Visitation (Somerset, 1623, Popham)
  • Rice, Douglas W. (2005). The Life And Achievements Of Sir John Popham, 1531-1607: Leading To The Establishment Of The First English Colony In New England. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 324. ISBN 0-8386-4060-5.
  • Banks, M.L. (1904). Blundell's Worthies. London: CHATTO & WINDUS. p. 219.
  • Paullin, Charles O, Edited by John K. Wright (1932). Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. New York, New York and Washington, D.C.:: Carnegie Institution of Washington and American Geographical Society. pp. Plate 42.
  • Swindler, William F., Editor (1973–1979). Sources and Documents of United States Constitutions.' 10 Volumes. Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications. pp. Vol. 10: 17–23.
  • Van Zandt, Franklin K. (1976). Boundaries of the United States and the Several States; Geological Survey Professional Paper 909. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. p. 92.
  • How Virginia Got Its Boundaries, by Karl R Phillips
  • Andrews, Charles M. (1924). The Colonial Background of the American Revolution. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp. 32–34. ISBN 0-300-00004-9.
  • Smithsonian Magazine by Myron Beckenstein 2004.
  • Dictionary of National Biography, London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885-1900.
  • Maine State Museum
  • Athena Revie, Vol. 3, no. 2: Peopling of the Americas, Maine’s Popham Colony, by William H. Tabor.
  • Georgetown Historical Society, a Brief Historical Perspective by Carolyn F. Todd
  • Ancient Sagadahoc by E. J. Chandler
  • Varney’s Gazetteer of Maine

Special gratitude to Mark Miner for his excellent research on our mutual Parker ancestors. Miner's Descent is worth a visit.

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