The Story of Thomas Wynne
(born 1627, died 1692)
A boy who liked fractures
Dr. Thomas Wynne was a native of Caerwys in the parish of Yskeiviog, Flintshire, North Wales, where his ancestors had been landholders for at least 15 generations. He was baptized at the parish church on 20 July 1627.
As a small boy, he became fascinated with injuries and their care; whenever he heard of an accident in the neighborhood, he rushed to the scene to watch the wounded being treated for their injuries and broken bones. On some occasions, he was absent from home or school for so long on his medical excursions that his parents became worried and punished him for his lateness when he finally returned.
From cooper to doctor
His father, Thomas ap John Wynne, died when young Thomas was six years old. Because his mother could not afford an expensive education for him, he became a cooper (a barrel maker.)
Through his continued interest in chirurgery (surgery) Wynne met a surgeon named Richard Moore who noted Wynne's talent and began instructing him in the field, where his experience and skill with coopers' tools proved to be nearly the same as those needed for 17th-century dissections and surgery.
Two "anatomists", Dr. Needham and Dr. Hollins, tested Wynne's qualifications by requiring him to assemble a human skeleton out of bones, which he did with Richard Moore's guidance, and in 1659, Wynne received his license from the anatomists to practice chirurgery.
To read about Thomas Wynne's early life in his own words, click here.
Minister, jailbird and author
Dr. Thomas Wynne had little time to practice his profession before spending six years in prison, the result of his joining the Religious Society of Friends, a new movement that rejected the formalities of the Church of England. Because the King of England was also head of the Church, to become a Quaker, as the Friends were nicknamed, was close to treason.
Wynne became a "speaking Quaker" who preached to his fellow Welshmen in Wales and in London. He was arrested twice in 1661, once as part of a group for "meeting together" and once for "riotous assembly". Any gathering of Quakers was considered an illegal religious meeting.
In 1677, Wynne published a pamphlet, partly in English and partly in Welsh, explaining the views of the Quakers. It had a wordy title typical of the time, which began, "The Antiquity of the Quakers, Proved out of the Scriptures of Truth. Published in Love to the Papists, Protestants, Presbyterians, Independents, and Anabaptists".
Not all of those to whom the pamphlet was addressed greeted it with the love that Dr. Wynne professed in his title. A reply was published in London with a title insulting both to Wynne and Quakers: "Work for a Cooper. Being an Answer to a Libel written by Tho Wynne the Cooper, the Ale-Man, the Quack, and the Speaking Quaker. With a brief Account how that Dissembling People differ at this Day from what at first they were. By one who abundantly pities their Ignorance and Folly."
The writer intimated that Wynne was not even a competent "quack", and proclaimed him "much fitter to mind his ax and saw" and a long list of other barrel shop tools.
In an age of frequent battles by pamphleteers, Wynne inevitably published a reply in 1679, denouncing his critic, entitled "An Anti-Christian Conspiracy Detected, and Satan's Champion Defeated".
Complicated wedding bells
Chroniclers of Dr. Thomas Wynne's life have long been confused about his marriages. Some accounts say he was married three times; others say twice. The problem seems to be that he was his second wife's third husband, and the assorted children's names led biographers to deduce an extra wife.
The complicated truth appears to be:
Thomas Wynne's first wife was Martha Buttall, born about 1627, daughter of Samuel Buttall. They were married in 1655 in Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales, and had five daughters and a son. Martha died around 1670.
On 20 July 1676, Wynne married his second wife, 39-year-old Elizabeth Chorley; he was her third husband. Her first husband's name was Rowden and they had a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1664.
Elizabeth married her second husband, Joshua Maude, in 1667 and they had two daughters. Maude also had three daughters and a son by his first wife.
Thus, Thomas Wynne and Elizabeth Chorley Rowden Maude had a family of thirteen children: six Wynnes, one Rowden and six Maudes.
For details about Thomas Wynne's marriages and family, click here.
On to North America
Welsh Quakers, inspired by William Penn's vision of a Quaker colony in North America, were forming companies to buy land in Pennsylvania from Penn. Charles Lloyd and Company, organized by eight Quakers from Merionethshire and Montgomeryshire, signed up for 10,000 acres. Dr. Griffith Owen and Company planned to subdivide 5,000 acres among poorer Welshmen.
Dr. Edward Jones, a son-in-law of Wynne, formed a company that divided a 5,000 acre purchase among 17 investors, and encouraged emigration by selling lots for only five pounds, six shillings each.
Jones's investment may have motivated his father-in-law, for Thomas Wynne organized a company of Welsh Quakers from Merioneth, Denbighshire and Caernarvonshire to purchase land in Pennsylvania. With John ap John, on 15 September 1681, Wynne arranged for 5,000 acres to be laid out in the new colony. They began selling off small portions to other Welshmen who were potential settlers.
Edward Jones sailed to Pennsylvania to attend to the acquisition of the Welsh land, arriving 17 August 1682. His father-in-law was not far behind him. Wynne was on the Welcome, accompanying his friend and fellow Friend, William Penn. The eight-week voyage had not been pleasant: by 24 October 1682, when the little three-masted bark entered the Delaware Bay, thirty of the one hundred passengers had died of smallpox. There seems to be no record of Wynne's having treated the victims on board, as might have been expected.
Law violations and civic duties
When Penn and his party rowed into the mouth of Dock Creek, and he first set foot in his newborn city of Philadelphia, the major building in sight was William Dare's Blue Anchor Inn. It was built of timber, and stood amid pines and whortleberries on a sandy beach above the creek, one hundred yards from the Delaware River, reaching back 22 feet and partially blocking Front Street.
In 1683, Griffith Jones, another Welshman, bought the "Blew Anker" from Dare. Jones, a representative of the Free Society of Traders, a London group that was the single largest investor in the province, had purchased 5,000 acres of land in Pennsylvania in his own right, and imported 15,000 bricks and tiles, some of which he used as a facing for the inn. Three weeks after he started the remodeling, he and Thomas Wynne were among seven men charged by a Grand Jury with selling "drink & strong Liquors by Retail & suffer it to be drunk in their houses without a License, contrare to ye 40th Law of this Province". Apparently the tavern was licensed under the 1676 laws, passed during the Duke of York's possession of the territory, which began in 1664, and liquor was permitted to be sold only for consumption on the premises, not for use outside the tavern. Wynne's connection with the liquor trade is not clear.
This brush with the law, in the first week of March, didn't deter William Penn from appointing Wynne speaker of the newly formed Provincial Assembly. At its first session, 12 March 1683.
Penn had other work for his friend: Wynne was one of 26 Quakers who joined William Penn in signing a letter on 17 March 1683 to Friends in England reporting on the activities of the Society of Friends in Pennsylvania. And on 11 June 1683, Wynne was one of four commissioners Penn appointed to negotiate an understanding with Governor Samuel Jennings of West Jersey regarding the use of the Delaware River and its islands. "They have the Liberty of the River but not the Propriety," Penn instructed. The commissioners reported to Penn by letter from Burlington dated 12 June 1683.
Thomas Wynne is one of five Pennsylvanians who signed a document dated 23 June 1683, also signed by six Indian kings who had come to Philadelphia and attended meetings of the Friends. It certified that the Indians "doe grant and dispose of all our Lands Lying betwixt Pemapeck and Neshamineh Creeks and all along Neshamineh Creek and backward of the same & to run two days Journey with an horse up into the country' in exchange for wampum, guns, shoes, stockings, looking glasses, blankets and "other goods".
Legal and real estate problems
On his arrival, Penn found that his planners had named major east-west streets after the most prominent men, to whom adjacent corner lots were assigned: Claypoole, Holme, Songhurst and Wynne. His Quaker sensibilities probably being offended, Penn decreed that streets should be named not for men but for "the things that Spontaneously grow in the country". By the end of 1684, Claypoole became Walnut Street, Holme became Mulberry (now Arch) Street, Songhurst became Sassafras (now Race) Street, and Wynne's street became Chestnut Street. Whether he was annoyed by this change is not known.
Meanwhile, Wynne had not been assigned a city lot, to which his land purchases entitled him according to the practice at the time. He desired a riverfront lot, but was given the wrong river: the designated lot was on the Schuylkill, not the Delaware, and was in the name of his co-purchaser only, John ap John, although ap John did not come to America. Wynne wanted to be near the Dock, and arranged to swap some of the Schuylkill land with Dennis Rochford, a fellow Welcome passenger, for two 51-foot lots north of Chestnut Street belonging to Rochford's brother-in-law, Thomas Herriot, on Delaware Front (Front Street), the street running along the Delaware River.
Some old sources say that Wynne erected the first brick house in Philadelphia on this lot, but that distinction is unproved.
The day after Wynne settled on the Front Street deal, in December, 1683, Anthony Weston, one of the seven men fined for liquor sales in March, presented some "proposalls" to Governor Penn and his Council. Whatever Weston proposed was not well received. Weston was sentenced to "be Whypt at ye Market place on Market daye three times, Each time to have Tenn Lashes, at 12 of the Clock at noone, this being the first day". Wynne's role is unclear, but the Council charged that the "proposalls" were "mended by Tho. Wynn". He and several others were accused of "great presumption and Contempt of this Government and authority", and fined 50 pounds.
In March, 1684, the Provincial Council approved an excise tax on liquor, and the Assembly passed it in May. Wynne was one of eleven merchants "who are most of Concerned in the Sale of Liquors" who petitioned the governor to accept "a free-will-offering" of 500 pounds in lieu of taxes. The governor accepted, but by December, very few merchants had contributed to the "voluntary subscription".
His final years
The Weston affair and the anti-tax petition did not dampen the connection between Penn and Wynne. When Penn returned to England, sailing on the ketch "Endeavor" on 12 August 1684, Thomas Wynne was with him. In a sign of respect, before Wynne sailed, the Friends Meeting at Philadelphia shortened the normal time between the announcement of a marriage and the wedding so that Wynne's wife could attend the wedding of her daughter and his step-daughter, Elizabeth Rowden, to John Brock. The ceremony was on August 5th.
Wynne remained in England about two years and on his return settled in Sussex County, one of William Penn's "Three Lower Counties", which would one day become the state of Delaware. Wynne was commissioned a justice of the Sussex County courts on 3 May 1687. He also represented Sussex for the years 1687 and 1688 in the Provincial Assembly, which met in Philadelphia.
Soon after, the first wing of Wynnestay was erected (it is not known by whom). The start has long been stated to be 1689, although the date stone high on the wall says 1690.
Wynne and his wife visited in Philadelphia at about that time. His attendance was recorded at the Monthly Meeting of Friends there on 12 January 1691, (The calendar then in use began the New Year on 25 March, so by modern reckoning, it was 12 January 1692.)
Wynne was in Philadelphia for an Assembly session when he fell ill. He wrote his will, on his deathbed on 15 March 1691 (1692 according to the modern reckoning). He died on the 16th, and was buried the next day in the Friends Burial Ground at what is now known as the 30th street railroad station, but in 1692 it was Quaker farmer Duckett's farm and used by the Quakers. The Friends burial grounds at 4th and Arch street was not established yet, and would not be until 1701, until then they used Quaker Duckett's farm as their burial ground and much was written about it when the 30th street station was created and they found some graves and had to move them.
He bequeathed his Delaware house to his wife and his plantation there to his son, Jonathan.
Jonathan learned that some 1,800 acres in Philadelphia for which his father had paid had never been laid out by Penn's surveyors and ultimately acquired much of what was due. In 1701 acreage warranted to him in various locations included one hundred acres in the newly-forming Blockley Township. That tract included the site of the house at Wynnestay, which Jonathan had already begun to expand.
Elsewhere on this site, study Wynnestay's architecture and read about the Wynne descendants who occupied the house until the late 1800s.
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