Published in SGES Quarterly Volume 46, No. 194

J. G. Braddock Sr.
(Written almost entirely from records found on Heritage Quest Online)

There was a man of yore,
300 years ago and more,
Who gave himself a name
When to America he came
And ever persevered
To make of it a name revered,
A name synonymous
With deeds meritorious,
Then down through history
He passed it to his progeny.

Juliet said to Romeo, “What's in a name?” Well, what’s in a given name? John Cutler Braddock, who has a multitude of descendants in the Southeast, was given his middle name by his father, David Cutler Braddock, the first of the Southeastern line of Braddocks. His mother, Mary Braddick, nee Cutler, gave David Cutler Braddock the name. She had received it as a surname from her father. And her father, surprisingly, had given it to himself as a surname. Then, after giving himself the name, he persevered in making it a name that is synonymous with achievement.

Several Massachusetts historical records indicate that Johannes Demesmaker, chirurgeon, (surgeon) arrived in Massachusetts from his native Holland sometime in 1674 and settled in Hingham. Hingham was established in 1635 by a group of Congregationalists from Hingham , England . It was the 12th town incorporated in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Samuel Lincoln, first American ancestor of Abraham Lincoln, and his early descendants lived in Hingham at the time of Demesmaker’s arrival. In 1781 another descendant of Samuel Lincoln, General Benjamin Lincoln of Hingham , accepted the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown , Virginia , the last battle of the American Revolution.

Hingham town records show that on January 4, 1675 Johannes Demesmaker married Mary Cowell of nearby Boston . Joshua Hobart performed the ceremony. Mary’s father, Edward Cowell, was in Boston as early as 1645. He was a cord wainer (shoemaker) and a prominent man in the community. Over a period of thirty years he was elected to serve as surveyor of highways, hogreeve (in charge of town’s hogs), clerk of market, constable, chimney inspector, and overseer of chimneys. Among other official positions of early colonial Boston were: bellringer, board measurer, cannoneer, clock keeper, cow keeper, town crier, informer about deer, fence viewer, foldkeeper, grave digger, town gunner, lamp lighter, pounder, scavenger, staves culler, and water bailiff.

Soon after his marriage, Johannes anglicized his name to its English equivalent, John Cutler. It is not known what prompted his decision to rename himself. Perhaps he thought that his Dutch surname sounded too much like “the mess maker” for a surgeon to be using. He may have had some misgivings about the name change as the surnames of the births of the fist two of his children were recorded as Demesmaker while their baptisms were recorded as Cutler. With several English Cutlers in the area, at least one of them a John, he found it necessary to append “the Dutchman” when signing legal documents.

He and his new bride took up residence on South Street , near Thaxster’s Bridge, in Hingham . Seven years later he purchased a house and lot of five acres on Fort Hill Street , next door to Thomas Lincoln, direct ancestor of our 16th president.

Barely six months into their marriage, the 20th day of June 1675, King Philip’s War, named for the Indian chief who led the uprising, erupted between New England colonist and Indians of the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, and Narragansett tribes. Indians were soon attacking English settlements throughout much of New England . The most decisive battle of the war occurred December 20, 1675 when the Massachusetts regiment attacked a large Narragansett encampment in a Rhode Island swamp and killed around 600 of the tribe. The “Dutchman” was there. Among its several mentions of him, the History of Hingham, Massachusetts,” published in 1893, has the paragraph, “Dr. Cutler, known as ‘the Dutchman,’ was one of the surgeons attached to the Massachusetts regiment under Major Appleton at the great battle with the Narragansetts. In his professional capacity, the care of John Langlee and John Faxton, wounded fellow-townsmen, fell doubtless to him.” One historian suggests that Dr. Cutler, having received a pay larger than the amount received by commanders of companies, held the office of Surgeon General of Massachusetts forces. His father-in-law, Edward Cowell, served as captain of a Boston militia unit.

The war ended August 12, 1676 with the death of King Philip. By this time, six hundred colonists were dead and thirteen of their towns lay in ruins. While Hingham was not one of the destroyed towns, Indians burned five of its homes before being driven away by the Hingham militia. Indians of New England paid a much higher price. Their tribes were decimated almost to the point of extinction. They never again posed a major threat.

Almost on the heels of the war, the Committee on Foreign Affairs in England received a memorandum listing eight accusations against the Massachusetts Bay colony: (1) they were usurpers without a royal charter, (2) they did not take an oath of allegiance to the King, (3) they protected Goffe and Whaley, who had participated in the murder of Charles I, (4) “They Coyne money with their owne Impress.” (5) they had murdered some English Quakers because of their religious beliefs (6) they opposed the King's commissioners in the settlement of New Hampshire and Maine , (7) they imposed an oath of fidelity to Massachusetts Bay on all inhabitants, and finally, (8) they violated the acts of trade and navigation robbing the King of his custom duties. Upon reading the memorandum, King Charles II quickly issued an order that all males 16 years and over of the Massachusetts colony were to sign an oath of allegiance. John Cutler signed it in Hingham . Edward Cowell signed in Boston November 11, 1768.

Dr. Cutler and his family attended church at the Congregationalist Meeting House. Built in 1635, it was Hingham ’s first church. Its founding pastor, Rev. Peter Hobart, was father of no less than eighteen children. His granddaughter Sarah, having married the widowed Edward Cowell, was Mary Cowell Cutler’s stepmother. John Cutler was among those who voted May 3, 1680 to build a new meetinghouse to replace the original one. The first service in the new building was held January 8, 1682. Members sat in seats assigned by a committee formed for that purpose. Seating was segregated, with men, married women and widows, unmarried women, and young men being assigned seats in separate areas of the sanctuary. Doctor John Cutler was assigned the 4th seat of the front row in the center of the sanctuary. His wife’s assigned seat was the 4th of “Seats for the Women on the Gallery at the East End .” Their only two children at the time, John born in 1676 and Peter born in 1679, were too young to have assigned seats. The church building came to be known as the Old Ship Meeting House because the shape of the curved struts used in it resembled the construction of a ship. Today the building has the distinction of being the oldest continuously used religious structure in America .

The Cutlers had five more children in Hingham : Mary born in 1682, Hannah born in 1685, Abigail born in 1687 and died six months later, David born in 1689, and Ruth born in 1692. Some time before the birth of their next child, Eliza, who was born in 1695, the Cutlers relocated to Boston . Their last child, Abigail, was born in 1699 in Boston .

Dr. Cutler built a three story mansion valued at £1000, a large sum, whose rooms contained leather tapestry, on Marlboro St., now Washington St. Addionally, he had a place on Summer St. valued at £300 and half interest in his late father-in-law, Edward Cowell’s, house and lot on Newbury St. valued at £800.

While his accumulation of material wealth more than adequately testifies that as a doctor and surgeon he flourished in Boston , only three records of his practice there have survived through the ages. In one, the court of Boston, in determining the fitness of a citizen to serve in the military, declared:

“Upon certificate under the hand of Mr. John Cutler Chyrurgion[surgeon] that Joseph Browning of Boston hath an infirmity in his armes, which makes him uncapable of exercising or bearing armes. The court do freely acquit him from attending ordinary trainings.”

Another case, possibly the most bizarre of his career, involved identifying one James Gilliam, a crewman of notorious pirate Captain Kidd. Gilliam, who had been captured in the countryside outside Boston , claimed himself to be someone else. But the local police, knowing of Gilliam’s past, had a sure way of identifying him. They knew he had been captured years earlier by Moors and had been forcibly circumcised. Gilliam counter-claimed that his father was a Jew and he had been circumcised as an infant. The police called two men of Boston to Gilliam’s cell to examine him. The first, Joseph Frazon, a merchant and a Jew, declared Gilliam’s circumcision had not been made in the manner practiced by the Jews. The second man stated:

“I, John Cutler of Boston, above sd Chyrugion, do declare, that I find that the sd Kelley alias Gilliam has been Circumcized wch he himselfe also acknowledgeth, saying that his father was a Jew and his mother was a Christian and after the Death of his father his mother intermarried with a Christian and then he was Baptized. But so far as I am able to discern I am of opinion he was Circumcized since he was grown up into years!”

The third record reveals that he was mentor of Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, who introduced in America inoculation against smallpox.

After their move to Boston the Cutler’s attended church at King’s Chapel, within walking distance of their home. Five years before their arrival, establishment of the new Church of England sanctuary played a role in inciting America’s first revolution, if only a small-scale revolution. Some of the controls King James II imposed to assert his authority over the Massachusetts Bay Colony had already incensed the predominately independent-minded Puritan population. He lumped all the colonies as far south as New Jersey under one governmental entity, the Dominion of New England, and appointed a single royal governor to rule it. The governor, Edmund Andros, who arrived in Boston from England in 1686, ruled by executive order, including levying of taxes. Harsh penalties awaited all who resisted. To further water down the strong Puritan independent influence in the colony, James II ordered an Anglican church to be built in Boston . After finding no colonist willing to sell suitable land for the church, Governor Andros seized a corner of the town’s first burying ground for its construction. James II was overthrown in 1688. When word of the king’s overthrow reached Boston in April 1689, colonists, revolting against Andros and his rule, seized him and sent him to prison in England . A convention assembled May 23, 1689 voted to resume the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s old charter. It was decided to allow the existing regime to stay in office until the following March. Then, all who held civil and military offices before the advent of Governor Andros would be returned to them. Even small-scale revolutions have their loyalists. For voting in opposition of the convention’s acts, John Cutler, Senior and Junior, who had journeyed all the way from Hingham for so important an occasion, and a few others were deprived of returning to public positions they formerly held. In spite of all the furor over the excesses of Andros , including the high-handed manner in which he confiscated land for an Anglican church, King’s Chapel was completed and was dedicated June 30, 1689. The weddings of all seven of the Cutlers’ nine children who married were performed in King’s Chapel.

The exact date of John Cutler, Sr.’s death is not known. It was either in late 1716 or early 1717, as his wife, Mary, acting as administrator, filed on February 17, 1717 an inventory of his estate in the amount of £5,740, a considerable sum. Mary died two years later.

If the true measure of a man’s success is in the material wealth he accumulates in his lifetime, John Cutler, “the Dutchman’s,” life was a successful one. If, however, it is measured by how much his posterity is imbued with the desirable traits he possessed, then his life was highly successful. If there is any one desirable trait he passed on, it was that of being a man of achievement. The dictionary defines achievement as something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance. Precious few records, many of them over 300 years old, from which to sift out the achievements of his early descendants have survived through the years. And there are no easily accessed records from which to determine how many of his descendants of modern times held positions associated with achievement. However, these few historical records adequately bear out that up to 1900 he was progenitor of a disproportionately high number of notable achievers. These achievers included two college professors, five attorneys, four bank officers, three physicians, three ministers, two high-ranking military officers, and one senator.

Additionally, he had several descendants of considerable note:

Son John was an eminent physician in Boston and was called upon, along with five other physicians, to devise appropriate steps for citizens to take to minimize their chances of contracting diphtheria when an epidemic of the disease broke out in 1736.

Grandson John became a prosperous brass founder. A gifted musician who played the organ at Boston ’s Trinity Church for many years, he was largely responsible for the merger of the two independent Masonry lodges in Massachusetts into one lodge in 1792 and became its first Grand Master. On December 12, 1794 he installed Paul Revere, of the renowned midnight ride, as Grand Master. And in 1799, he officiated in George Washington’s funeral. John Cutler Lodge, A. F. & A. M., in Abington , Massachusetts is named for him.

Grandson David Cutler Braddock was captured by Spanish privateers in 1740 and carried into St. Augustine . He escaped and made his way to St. Simons Island , Georgia where General James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia , placed him in command of a schooner that helped repel an invading Spanish fleet. While later commanding one of South Carolina ’s two provincial galleys, he had the southern tip of Hilton Head Island and a nearby cove named for him. He was twice elected to the Georgia Colonial House of Assembly, was a successful privateer, and drew a now famous chart of the Florida Keys that is in the Library of Congress.

Great-grandson John Cutler Braddock commanded one of the three Georgia galleys that captured three British men-of-war during the Revolution. He received two grants in Bahamas for taking part in a raid that drove the Spanish from Nassau . He served two terms as a representative to the Georgia House and held numerous positions of county, state, and town government.

Great-grandson Peter Faneuil built the famous Boston landmark, Faneuil Hall and gave it to the town in 1742.

Second great-grandchildren John David, William, Mary, Ann, and Hester, children of John Cutler Braddock, were pioneers in Spanish East Florida . Between them they had 33 children and 174 grandchildren. Family researchers have been able to identify, so far, over 3800 of their descendants bearing 350 surnames. Additionally, William Braddock served two terms as legislative counselor for the Territory of Florida after its acquisition from Spain and one term as justice of the peace. John David Braddock served on Florida ’s first grand jury and two terms as justice of the peace. John David’s son Christopher was first postmaster of Nassau County , Florida .

Third great-granddaughter Julia Ward Howe, whose grandmother was niece of Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox,” wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Fourth great-grandson George von Lengerke Meyer was state legislator; ambassador to Italy; ambassador to Russia; arranged a peace conference that brought an end to the Russo-Japanese War; served as Post Master General, in which capacity he helped institute Parcel Post; and was Secretary of the Navy.

These same historical records bear out that many of “the Dutchman’s” descendants, at least the earlier ones, were aware of from whom so valuable an attribute came. In appreciation, at least twenty-five of them gave their children the name Cutler.

So, what’s in a given name? It seems John Cutler, “the Dutchman,” proved that it’s whatever you make of it.