The orphan children of John Potts of Llangurig

John Potts was a Quaker of Llangurig, Montgomeryshire, who died there around 1698. He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Pott, one of eight children.1 Thomas had been persecuted for his Quaker beliefs. In 1675 he was brought before a jury for failure to attend services at the parish church.2 Thomas died before 1683, when Elizabeth immigrated to Pennsylvania with her daughter Jane in 1683. Three of her other children also came to Pennsylvania, but John did not live to immigrate.

John did not leave a will and his wife’s name is unknown, but she must have died by 1698 as well, because they left behind five known children, described as orphans, who were brought to Pennsylvania under the care of Quakers. The children came on the William Galley. In March 1698, the ship was hired by David Powell and John Morris, both of Radnor, who agreed to pay £5 for each passenger over 12 years old, and 50s for each child.3 The owner and master of the ship were to provide food and drink. The ship was to leave in May. Powell and Morris between them paid for 17 passengers.4 It is unclear who paid for the orphans of John Potts.

In 1699, John Austin told the Philadelphia meeting that “several orphans, children of John Potts of Wales, came here last year, their passage being paid, this meeting desires Edward Shippen and Anthony Morris to speak with the persons concerned, and see for convenient places in order that the Children be bound out apprentices by the next Orphans Court.”5 In early 1700 the meeting reported that “There are two orphan children of one Potts to be put out, Thomas Potts, being their uncle.”6 Mary was placed with Isaac Shoemaker for two years. In 1702 he requested an extension. “A Friends child named Mary Potts, having been with Isaac Shoemaker for two years, the time agreed is near out and she wants learning. That she may have what learning is sufficient, he desires to have her bound to him for some time.”7

Her brother John was apprenticed to John Austin to be a ship carpenter. Apparently he did not like it, since in 1703 he asked the meeting to find another place for him. In 1708 he complained to the meeting that he had served out his time of apprenticeship, but that his mistress would not discharge him.8

Children of John: born in Wales, around 1680 to 1690, “the orphans”9

Thomas, born about 1680, died 1752.10 He lived first in Germantown, where he worked as a butcher or innkeeper, possibly working for his father-in-law Peter Keurlis.11 In 1699 Thomas married Metgen (in the English-form Martha), daughter of Peter and Elizabeth, in a Quaker ceremony. Thomas bought and sold land, moving his family to Philadelphia and finally up to Colebrookdale, where Thomas Rutter had built an iron furnace on Manatawney Creek. Potts invested in the furnace, and later bought much of Rutter’s house, land, and estate. After Martha died, Thomas married a woman named Magdalen.12 He died in 1752, leaving a large estate. His will named his wife Magdalen and five living children: Thomas, David, John, Mary and Elizabeth.13

John, born about 1682, died about 1721. As a youth, after his arrival, he was placed as apprentice to his uncle John Austin, a ship carpenter. He married a woman named Rebecca and they are believed to have had four children, none of whom survived infancy.14 John died about 1721.

Eleanor, born about 1685, d. 1766, m. 1705 Thomas Roberts the emigrant, under the care of Abington Meeting. He was a stone mason. They lived in Bristol Township, Philadelphia County, where he died in 1756. Children: Thomas, Mary, Sarah, John. She died about 1766 in Bristol Township.

Mary, placed as an apprentice with Isaac Shoemaker, married first in  1707/08 Matthias Tyson, son of Rynear and Margaret, lived in Abington. With Matthias, she had eleven children, six of whom lived to marry.15 The children were Margaret, Mary, Rynear, John, Sarah, Elizabeth (died young), Isaac, Martha, Elizabeth, Matthew. Mathias died in 1727 and in 1732 Mary married Thomas Fitzwater Jr, son of Thomas and Mary. The Tysons and Fitzwaters were the largest landowners in Abington, digging and burning limestone as well as farming. He had six children, named in his will of 1748.16 Mary survived him.

Margaret, married Evan Morgan in 1709 at Christ Church, Philadelphia. In 1714 they sold a tract of land in Bucks County to Margaret’s brother Thomas .17 Three years later Evan was dead. Letters of administration were granted to Margaret (as Margery), her brother Thomas, and her brother-in-law Mathias Tyson. The inventory of the estate (taken by Thomas Fitzwater) was rather sparse, with a value of £49. It is not known whether Margaret married again.

  1. The name was always spelled Pott in the records in Wales, according to researcher Claudia Davenport-Sullivan, and as Potts in the Pennsylvania records. The generation of John Pott’s children seems to be the point of change.
  2. Thomas M. Potts, The Potts Family of Great Britain and America, 1901.
  3. “Welsh Emigration to Pennsylvania: An old charter party”, Penna. Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 1, 1877, pp. 330-332.
  4. Thomas Jerman paid for three passengers. Some of the Jerman or Jarman family came from Llangurig, the same town where the Quaker Potts family lived.
  5. Thomas M. Potts, Potts Miscellanea, 1907, p. 87.
  6. Thomas Potts was a miller and traveling Quaker minister. He did not marry until late in life, and may have found it difficult to keep a household of children. He had four siblings living in Pennsylvania: Jane (married to John Austin), Jonas, Margaret (married to Jacob Shoemaker), and David. In the end, John Austin took in one of the children. A cousin of Jacob Shoemaker took in another. One of the orphans was old enough to live on his own. It is not known where the other two, Eleanor and Margaret, lived before they married.
  7. Philadelphia Monthly Meeting records, on Ancestry, US Quaker Meeting Records 1681-1935, Philadelphia MM.
  8. Philadelphia MM records.
  9. Thomas Maxwell Potts, The Potts Family, 1901; James, Isabella, Memorial of Thomas Potts Jr, 1874; Ancestry tree of Claudia Davenport-Sullivan at
  10. John Futhey and Gilbert Cope, in their History of Chester County, claimed that Thomas came in the Shield in 1678, landing at Burlington. They were confusing him with the unrelated Potts family of Cheshire. Thomas M. Potts devoted a chapter, “Solution of the Old Potts Puzzle” to discussing the confusion; he strongly believed that this Thomas was from the Llangirig family, murmuring that anybody who had “given the subject intelligent study” would see this.
  11. Daniel Graham, Good business practices and astute match making, 1997. Chapter 1 covers Thomas Potts.
  12. Her last name is often said to be Robeson, but there is apparently no primary evidence for this.
  13. Philadelphia County wills, Book J, p. 464. A daughter named Martha died before her father.
  14. According to Thomas M. Potts, they had four children, none of whom survived infancy (named Rachel and Rebecca and an unknown son and another Rebecca). The widow Rebecca later married William Darby in 1724.
  15. Mathias left a will, Philadelphia County wills, Book E, p. 46.
  16. Philadelphia County wills, Book G, p. 340.
  17. Philadelphia County deeds, Book E7, v9, p. 214. Evan was a yeoman of Philadelphia County, while Thomas was a butcher of the city of Philadelphia. Margaret signed by mark.

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