Ancestor Immigrates to Land of Opportunity

Indebted to ship’s captain, man soon becomes a freeman and his descendants add to America’s long history.

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William Fifield was the first family ancestor to immigrate to America’s land of opportunity. He arrived aboard the Hercules in April 1643 during the "great migration.". His sympathies were with the Puritans. He came indebted to the ship's captain or owner, paid the debt of his passage, and was declared a freeman in 1641. He moved to Hampton, New Hampshire, with a group that settled the town. He married; his wife's name was Mary. The town of Hampton was the family home for many generations. William was a constable, selectman (a town council representative) and an attorney or barrister. Many of his descendants were doctors, teachers, ministers and attorneys. William and Mary both lived long lives.

William's son Benjamin was killed by Indians. There were other family members who suffered the same fate. It was the custom to pay a bounty for an Indian skull or scalp when it was shown in court. If they were killed during an attack $75 was paid and divided among the heirs and wife. The Indians learned to scalp their victims from the white man.

Captain Edward and Ensign John Fifield, brothers, went to sea. They carried on commerce along the Atlantic coast and with England. Some Fifields were fishermen, others were in the navy. Fifields also fought in the Revolutionary War. They served at the battles of Bennington and Bunker Hill. Sewell Fifield was a famous fifer in the old state militia of New Hampshire.

A line of Fifield ancestors lived near Daniel Webster and his relatives in New Hampshire. Webster wrote that he had seen seven generations in the Fifield house; there were actually eight. A woman who married into the Fifield family attended Daniel Webster's birth.

The Fifields and Websters were schoolmates. Ebenezer Fifield attended Salisbury Academy and entered Dartmouth College with Ezekiel Webster, studying medicine with Dr. Nathan Smith of Hanover. When Daniel Webster went to Boston to study, Ebenezer went with him and completed his studies with Dr. Asa Ballard. The young men boarded together. On completion of his studies, Dr. Fifield went to Maine, but then returned to Boston.

In the War of 1812, Dr. Fifield joined the navy and became a surgeon on a ship of war. The vessel was captured by the French and taken to France. He was a prisoner for eight months; his health was shattered when he returned to Boston.

He taught in an academy, and later was a principal in another school He took a job in the old State Bank until his eyesight failed.

Althea Fifield Kendall
Pullman, Washington

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.