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Capt. John Underhill

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

Learning the roles our ancestors played in history is probably the best part of genealogy. Before I began researching my family's history, none of my living relatives seemed to know anything beyond three or four generations and few seem interested. I, however, am interested and for the past twenty years I've been following the bread crumb trails my ancestors left and I simply cannot believe how much valuable history had nearly been lost to the family.

The past week, I spent some time researching my Underhill ancestors. The line has been well documented and was fairly easy to trace back to the 13th century, thanks to the work of Josephine C. Frost, printed in her books "Underhill Genealogy". This image, from her book, shows the place where the family and surname originated in Bushbury, England.

Colonial Families of the United States of America, Vol VII, page 464 gives an in depth report of Capt. John Underhill's life, summarized into a list here:

Capt. John Underhill, born in Bagington, Warwickshire, England, on 7th October, 1597; died in Matincock, New York 21st July, 1672.

  • Came to Boston with Winthrop's fleet as Captain of any military force that may be employed.

  • Speedily joined the church.

  • Previously served under the great Dutch Prince in the war of the Netherlands.

  • Sworn in as Freeman; Officer of Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, Boston.

  • Deputy to First General Court, Massachusetts (Legislature).

  • Appointed Selectman.

  • Appointed by General Court with Daniel Patrick and Robert Feake to fix upon a site for a fort on Castle Island in the Bay.

  • Ordered by the Magistrates, with a shallop, to bring Roger Williams from Salem to Boston on account of murder of Captain Oldham by Block Island Indians. Governor Vance and Council ordered sent thither ninety men, distributed by four commanders, Capt. John Underhill, with commission to put to death the men, but spare the women.

  • Commander with Captain Mason in Pequot War.

  • Colonial Governor of Dover and Exeter, New Hampshire.

  • Representative from Stamford, Connecticut, in General Court.

  • Led the Dutch against the Simaroy Indians.

  • Appointed member of Council of New Netherland.

  • Commanded by the Director to attack and subdue certain hostile Indians on Long Island, which was done.

  • Elected one of the eight men of New Amsterdam to adopt measures against the Indians.

  • Governor Kieft grants to Capt. John Underhill, Meutalers (Bergens) Island.

  • Sheriff of the North Riding on Long Island.

  • Magistrate at Flushing.

  • Command by Rhode Island, Newport and Providence Plantations to Privateers to go against the Dutch, Capt. John Underhill made Commander in Chief of the land forces.

  • Appointed Deputy by Governor Nicholls, with sober and discreet powers, etc.

  • He led several expeditions against the Indians and the last one compelled a peace.

  • "At Stricklands Plain not far from Stamford a deciseive battle was fought."

  • "It was a stunning blow for the Indians and it ended the war and saved the Colony."

  • "Kieft proclaimed a Public Thanksgiving for the results of Underhill's Expedition."

Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer in her History of New York says:

"The most conspicuous Englishmen in New Netherland in the time of Governor Kieft were Isaac Allerton and John Underhill". See above History Vol. 1, page 215.
"That he had served with credit in the army in the low Countries, Ireland and Spain." Same History and Volume, p. 216.

Sherman Williams in his book called "New York's Part in History", at page 124, referring to the Indian Wars of New Netherland and particularly to the Battle of Stricklands Plain where the Colonists were led by Capt. John Underhill says:

"The Colony was saved from utter destruction chiefly through the efforts of John Underhill."

New York's Part in History, by Sherman Williams (1846-1923), p. 124:


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