Remembering Our Ancestors: Ann Potter

Ann Potter’s story is fairy-tale material, I dare say.


Today we remember our 10th great-grandmother Ann Potter, who was born in Ireland in 1632 and died in Salem, MA, after 22 July 1695.  So she, like her husband Anthony Needham, were among the early settlers who came to the colonies from England or Ireland.  Ann’s story is a sad and a happy one at the same time, and since what we know about her starts on December 23rd, 1641 in County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, we chose this week to introduce her.  Ann’s great-great granddaughter Eunice married Robert Andrews Sr. in 1781, which is where the Needham line merges with the line of our great-grandmother Alice Andrews.

Have a look at this excerpt from “English Origins of New England Families”:

English Origins of New England Families
Excerpt from “English Origins of New England Families” Vol III, p. 628.

Massacre in Ireland?  Indeed.  Our 11th great-grandparents Humphrey Potter and his wife Ann were among the English planters that were settled in Northern Ireland in the early 17th century.  Humphrey Potter, as you can read above, was born in Coventry, where his father, Sir Thomas Potter, had been mayor at some time. Together with his wife he had then settled in County Tyrone on Sir Felim Rua O’Neill of Ceann Ard‘s land, the latter being more commonly known as Phelim Roe O’Neill, an Irish Roman Catholic nobleman who led the Irish Rebellion of 1641 in Ulster which began on 22 October 1641.  In the course of this uprising of Roman Catholic Gaelic, or Irishmen, against the English and Scotch-Irish Protestant planters, a great number of these farmers were killed.  In our particular case, Humphrey and Ann met this fate thus:

On December 23rd, 1641, just before Christmas, [Nechtim O’Hugh and his band of 20] rebels (…) went to [the home of] Humphrey and Ann Potter, where they were also killed.

I will spare you the gruesome details of how their neighbors had died shortly before the group invaded the Potter’s home, or any closer analysis of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, for that matter.  Here is how the record continues, though:

Somehow their only daughter, Ann survived, and was taken by friends and relatives back to England to live with her grandfather (Sir Thomas Potter). The rebels headed by Nechtim O’Hugh went on to murder the rest of the Englishmen and their families that same night.

So little Ann, aged 9 at the time, spend some time with her grandfather in Coventry after becoming an orphan just before Christmas.  Some time later, her father’s sister Rebecca, who had married William Bacon and left for the new world to settle in Salem, MA in 1642, invited her to join them there.  Ann Potter arrived in Salem, MA around 1650 when she was 18 years old.  She lived with her aunt until Rebecca died in 1655, leaving Ann a “considerable sum” – the number 500 lbs sterling is mentioned – as well as the use of her estate until Rebecca’s son became of age.

In the same year that her aunt died, in 1655, Ann married Anthony Needham, with whom she had twelve children.  Anthony, who had arrived in Salem around 1652 at age 24, was soon well involved in town affairs in Salem.  Both of them were Quaker Puritans, and while, when in England, Anthony (with his family, according to tradition,) took an active part in the reformation work under Cromwell, he was not very active anymore in the New World.  Ann, on the other hand, was said to have become an enthusiastic Quaker.

Anthony lived to be 84 years old, and Ann, who was younger, lived to be nearly as old.  They were buried in the Needham family cemetery, near the homestead.  Simple field stones marked the two graves.  It is said that “The exact date of the death of these pioneers is not known, but there is every reason to believe that their ashes, and those of their children, rest in the sunny burying ground in the southwest corner of the homestead farm.”

How’s that for a Happy Ending?

I would like to close this post with a few words about one of their sons, Anthony Needham Jr., our 9th great-grandfather, and the house he built.  The old Needham house, between the turnpike (I-95) and railroad on the northerly side of Lowell Street in Peabody, MA, was built by him in 1686.  He was a yeoman, and lived here.  He died in the winter of 1757-1758, and bequeathed the house and estate to his son, and thus the homestead farm was passed on in the family until around the time between WWI and WWII.  After being lived in for over 300 years by Needham descendants, the old Needham house in all its splendor with its many additions and beautiful murals that were painted within its walls was torn down to make room for a turnpike.  Shame, that.

Below are four photos of said home, copied from Anthony Needham Jr.’s memorial on Find-A-Grave, where I also found the information about the house.

The Old Needham house
The old Needham house
needham house 1
Minna P. Brooks, Needham descendant, in her bedroom in the old Needham house.
She painted the murals seen here and below.
needham house 2
Mural of a windmill and ship over the fireplace, almost looks like a Dutch scene
needham house 3
Swans mural in the dining room


3 comments on “Remembering Our Ancestors: Ann Potter”

  1. It’s awful what is lost in the name of ‘progress’! About 3 years ago, where I live a beautiful, 400-year-old heritage live oak was cut down for a grocery store right-of-way.

    We are still pretty hot about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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