Bartletts in New Lands


Bartletts have left England for various reasons and in various circumstances since the early seventeenth century. For some, as the accounts which follow suggest, the new lands did provide an opportunity for a better life.

New England

The writing of the Mayflower Compact and the founding of the Plymouth Colony are taught in the United States as seminal events in the history of the nation. However, although the ships initially made land at Plymouth Rock, the early colonists soon spread out to towns around the bay, including Charlestown, Newtown, Roxbury, Watertown, and Dorchester.

These new colonists included many Bartletts. The table below shows a listing of their arrivals and where they settled.

First Bartletts in Massachusetts
  Wife Arrived Settled
Robert Bartlett Mary Warren 1623 Plymouth, Mass
Thomas Bartlett Hannah 1630 Watertown, Mass
Richard Bartlett Joanne 1632 Newbury, Mass
Robert Bartlett Ann 1632 Northampton, Mass
Richard Bartlett Abigail 1640 Newbury, Mass
Christopher Bartlett   1649 Newbury, Mass
John Bartlett Sarah ? Weymouth, Mass
Robert Bartlett Mary ? Marblehead, Mass
John Bartlett   1660 Marblehead, Mass

Many lineages of these families can be traced down to the present day. Illustrious descendents include Dr Josiah Bartlett, one of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence and later Governor of New Hampshire, Bailey Bartlett a friend of John and Samuel Adams, and Gershom Bartlett who carved the most unusual gravestones.

Bartletts are still clustered in Massachusetts. But over the years they spread through New England and beyond. Some were Quakers who had moved to the nearby state of Rhode Island where their religion was tolerated. John and Sarah Bartlett, together with their eight children, arrived there in 1683. From this Quaker stock came Elisha Bartlett, the noted nineteenth century medical writer.

The descendants of Josiah Bartlett in the mid-nineteenth century included Samuel Bartlett, who was for many years President of Dartmouth College; A.C Bartlett, who was a pioneer merchant in Peoria Illinois; and Joseph Bartlett, who settled in South Bend Indiana. His wife was active in raising funds for runaway slaves on the underground railway.

Moving On.  In 1806, Jeremiah Bartlett moved his family to new lands in Ohio. The journey, as the family account reveals, was arduous.

"The journey to Sunlis ferry on the Youghiogheny river in Pennsylvania was made in wagons and on horseback. There the men built an open boat in which they floated the wagons, luggage, and furniture, together with pigs, sheep and chickens, along the river to Hamar in Ohio.

Other men together with the women and children came through with the horses and cattle. Jeremiah's wife often told her grandson of the many hardships of this long journey on which she carried in her lap on horseback her infant son Levi. The road was an untamed path over rough country with many streams to be forded."

Twelve years later, William Bartlett, a descendant of the original Robert Bartlett, also headed west to Ohio with his family. Industry in New England was suffering then and they, like others, were looking for a new start.

In 1844, three brothers from Conway in Massachusetts arrived in Illinois and bought land in and around Wayne Township, initially for dairy farming but later for land development. Around the same time, David Bartlett moved his stove business from Boston to Baltimore and became one of that city's prominent businessmen.

Bartletts Elsewhere

Other Bartlett immigration into America is less clear-cut, a mix of wealthy gentlemen, religious dissenters, enterprising settlers, indentured servants, and transported convicts.


Virginia.  The early English presence in Virginia left Bartlett settlers there. Some Bartletts in Virginia can be traced back to the mid-seventeenth century, Thomas Bartlett in Old Rappahannock County and William Bartlett in New Kent County.

But more Bartletts from England were probably in Virginia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as indentured servants and transported convicts, generally in the tobacco fields. These people could neither marry nor have children under their contracts and, if unruly, they would generally be whipped into line. Many ran away because of the harsh conditions. In fact, the advertisements for runaways provided one of the few pieces of evidence that these people existed in America. The other was hangings. But here at least there are no Bartletts recorded.

African Americans.  Later on, these Bartletts were augmented by African Americans and mixed race children who took their master’s names. There was much evidence of this in Virginia and it probably happened elsewhere. Many of the mixed race children and their descendents lived in that sort of half-way status as "free mulattos."

The system was harsh and capricious, even for freed slaves. Re-enslavement could readily happen for those who were arrested as suspected runaways or for non-payment of taxes. This was the fate of seven members of the Bartlett family in Prince Edward County, Virginia in 1847.

The travails of African Americans, however, includes one remarkable story. Peter Bartlett was a young boy of 15, one of the 283 African slaves onboard the Antelope when it was captured in US waters in 1820. He was bound to a master in Georgia, spent seven years there, took his master's name, and then was sent back to Liberia as an indentured servant. Whether he kept his Anglicized name or reassumed an African one is unknown.

Maryland.  The Bartlett settlement in Maryland had a strong Quaker tinge. By the 1670's, the Eastern shore of Maryland had become a haven for Quaker dissenters. A Bartlett family was present at the first Quaker meeting in Talbot County in 1684. Their presence in the county continued through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Richard Bartlett was one of the signers of the Quaker petition on religious freedom in 1783. Some eighty years later, William Bartlett published three illustrated journals, which - with his childhood recollections, stories, and social observations - captured very much the flavor of those days.

There are records of these Bartletts as mill-owners in the late eighteenth century, Solomon Bartlett in Caroline County and Nicholas Bartlett in Blount County Tennessee in what was then still Indian country. A historical marker of that mill exists today. His son Jesse was one of those pioneer Texans who arrived in 1832 when it was still part of Mexico and played his part in the Texas Revolution of 1836. His fourth child Clementina Bartlett (later Millett) lived onto 1907 and died with the distinction of being called the oldest white resident of the state.

Spreading Over America

Over time, many Bartletts moved inland as the frontier began to push west. James Bartlett reached Jefferson County in 1785, Nathan Bartlett White County, Kentucky in 1810. Bartletts also moved north to Indiana, to Delaware County in the case of Elisha Bartlett and to Madison County in the case of Robert and Lucinda Bartlett (they later headed west to Kansas). Later, in 1831, Thomas and Sabine Bartlett and their family arrived in Warren County from Virginia. Other Bartletts could be found in Georgia at this time as well. 

These migrants moved first with pack wagons and, subsequently, on the newly completed railroads. A practice of the time was that local landowners could donate land in return for having the railhead named after them. Thus was created Bartlett near Memphis in Tennessee. A Major Gabriel Bartlett who owned a large plantation in the area contributed the land. Small Bartlett townships started up in Illinois, Kansas, and Texas for the same reason.

Frank Bartlett arrived in Wyandotte (now Kansas City) in what was then Kansas territory in 1857. Samuel and Jonas Bartlett moved to the northeast, near Junction City.  Samuel operated the first ferry across the Smoky Hill river and Jonas started a sawmill nearby. Two modern-day reminders of the Bartlett presence in Kansas are the Bartlett grain company, based in Kansas City, and the Bartlett arboretum in Belle Plaine near Wichita. Bartlett & Co, begun by F.A. Bartlett in 1907, is still run by its founding family. The Bartlett arboretum, laid out by Walter Bartlett, a local doctor, in 1910, has been lovingly maintained by his son, Glenn Bartlett, and his granddaughter, Mary Bartlett Gourlay, until the present day.     

The 1900 Federal Census listed 16,800 Bartletts. As the nineteenth century had proceeded, Bartletts had migrated to every state of the Union. There were prominent Bartletts in public life in California in the second half of the nineteenth century. And it was a Bartlett, Bob Bartlett, who led Alaska into statehood in the twentieth century.

And Bartletts Down Under

The first Bartletts in Australia, it must be said, were convicts. James Bartlett was on the first convict convoy which arrived in Botany Bay in 1788. More Bartletts were transported to New South Wales and, increasingly, to Tasmania over the next sixty years. Sometimes their wives followed them (as did Thomas Bartlett's wife Ann and their fourteen year old daughter in 1801); sometimes they did not.

The convicts themselves left few records. Many are buried in unmarked graves. But there was at least one happy outcome to report. Jabez Bartlett, convicted in London for theft, was transported on the William Jardine to Tasmania in 1848. He secured his release five years later, married, and became a dealer and trader in Campbelltown. One of their sons turned out bad. But their seventh child Alice Maud, inheriting perhaps more of her mother's genes, began a small dynasty of Australian musicians which has continued to the present generation.

Robert and Sarah Bartlett arrived as settlers in 1828. More started coming after assisted immigration was initiated in 1832. The numbers showed a bulge in the 1850’s (over seventy Bartletts according to the passenger records). Gold fever must have been a factor. One Bartlett, John Vigar Bartlett, did make money in silver and lived in splendour at Marlsford outside Sydney. There are charming portraits of him and his wife Charlotte that have been handed down.

The years after 1860 were the years of Australia’s “Long Boom” and represented ongoing immigration which has continued through much of the twentieth century. Most of the Bartletts in Australia probably date from these times.