THOMAS BLISS

THOMAS BLISS – MARGARET HULINS

(1588-1636)                        (1595-1684)

Thomas Bliss was born about 1588 and grew up in an English town torn by religious wars and persecutions. He was a young man when Charles I came to the Throne in 1625 and fled to the American Colonies before that reign came to an end in 1649, propelled into seeking refuge there by a dramatic incident involving his father, brother and himself.

To quote John Homer Bliss in The Genealogy of the Bliss Family: "In the contest  between Charles I and Parliament, Thomas Bliss and his two sons, Jonathan and Thomas, Junior, went with a group to London to attend on Parliament. These men were thrown in prison by Charles I, and Mr. Thomas Bliss, the father, was dragged through the streets in disgrace." Casell's History of England is cited as a reference for this account.

It was not too long after this that young Thomas Bliss sold his property in England and sailed for America, in 1635. The name of the ship has not been revealed. Thomas' wife, Margaret, accompanied him, along with several of their children, born in England. The Bliss group landed in Boston, then settled for a while in Braintree, Massachusetts. In 1639 they accompanied the Thomas Hooker party to Hartford, Connecticut.

The street where they lived there was first known as Bliss Street but is now called Trinity Street. In 1646, Thomas Bliss was a member of the Hartford Train-Band  but the family removed to Springfield, Massachusetts and he died there.

A large "house lot grant" was given to the Widow Bliss in Springfield. In 1644 the widow Margaret Bliss became one of only two women recognized in her community as a "Freeman." She earned the esteem of the people of Springfield. John Homer Bliss  describes her as follows:

"The Widow Bliss was a handsome woman with broad brow, fair hair and blue eyes, who managed her family's affairs with great prudence after her husband's death (about 1639). She was considered a woman of unusual mental ability. She died in Springfield on August 26, 1688”

Margaret was then at least ninety at the time of her death. A long life indeed for her generation.  She left her name “Widow Bliss” on many of the pages of the town records, dealing mostly with land acquitions and improvements that affected her properties. On one occasion she was fined two pence for having a defect in her fences, which allowed her cattle to range on other’s property.

 One entry in the town records is interesting showing a concern on her part for the rights of the local Indians: 

Here ffolloweth Severall Grants of Land, Made by this Towne Beginning wth ye Yeare, 1665": "Widdy Bliss hath granted unto her soe much of the pond as is at ye end of her lott in Long meddow: provided ye Indians be not molested in comeing to or gathering of their pease"

In 1656, Mary, the oldest daughter of Margaret, was accused of witchcraft by some of her neighbors who were envious of their prosperity and endeavored in this way to disgrace them. She was vigorously defended by her mother, Margaret, but in 1674 a formal charge was made. She was sent to  Boston for trial, where the jury gave her a full acquittal of the crime, and she returned home to  Northampton . She and her husband removed back to  Springfield in 1679. Soon after her acquittal in  Boston , her son Ebenezer,was killed by the Indians at  Northfield (Sept. 8, 1675). Those who had been instrumental in bringing her to trial said, "Behold, though human judges may be bought off, God's vengeance neither turns aside nor slumbers."

The inventory of Thomas Bliss of  Hartford , husband of Margaret afterwards of  Longmeadow ,  MA was presented 14 Feb 1650 and appears in Longmeadow Centennial, as does his estate.  His children, Lawrence, John, Samuel, Elizabeth, Hannah and Sarah are mentioned, as well as daughter Heather who is not mentioned elsewhere. Not mentioned are the children Nathaniel, Anne, Mary, and Thomas, all of whom survived their father. It is to be presumed that they had received their share of the estate upon their respective marriages.