Charles Edward Banks, the author of "The History of Martha's Vineyard," concluded that this profile's Stephen Presbury was "probably" the son of John Presbury, a shoemaker from Sandwich, Plymouth County, who removed to Saco, Province of Maine before 1665. Banks's reasoning was that "John [Presbury of Saco] died in that Province before Nov. 3, 1684, leaving three sons, of whom one was Stephen, and the name is so unusual and without recurrence at that period, that we can assume the relationship fairly established."
Banks's conclusion has been disputed based largely on two arguments (1) a lack of evidence that Stephen of Saco was the same person as Stephen of Martha's Vineyard and (2) an apparent inconsistency between (i) the fact that Stephen's gravestone states that he died on May 17, 1730 in his 58th year, which would mean that Stephen had already turned 57 but not yet turned 58 and was born between May 17, 1672 and May 17, 1673, and (ii) the fact that Stephen of Saco witnessed a "deed" in Kittery on April 8, 1686, the suggestion being that he must have been at least 21 to witness the deed and was therefore born on or before April 8, 1665.
Despite these arguments (of which Banks was well aware), the theory that Stephen of Saco and Stephen of Martha's Vineyard were the same person remains reasonably plausible. The plausibility of the theory is based on the following reasoning:
∎There is no evidence of Stephen of Saco after 1686 or evidence of Stephen of Martha's Vineyard prior to 1694. This is consistent with them being the same person and having moved from Saco to Martha's Vineyard sometime between 1686 and 1694. Evidence that a Stephen of Saco and Stephen of Martha's Vineyard both existed at the same time would disprove the theory.
∎There are no records of another Stephen Presbury in New England at the time that could have been either Stephen of Saco or Stephen of Martha's Vineyard.
∎It is reasonably plausible that Stephen of Saco's father was the son of John Presbury of Sandwich. If so, then it would be natural for him to have moved back to the Cape Cod area. In addition, in that case, his parents would have been John Presbury and, most probably, Dorcas Bessey, which would explain why Stephen named children John and Dorcas.
∎The apparent inconsistency between Stephen of Saco's witnessing a "deed" in 1686 and Stephen of Martha's Vineyard's gravestone indicating he was born in 1671 or 1672 can be explained in several ways. First, while a person needed to be 21 to enter into a deed, they only needed to be 14 to witness a deed, which means that someone born in 1672 could witness a deed in 1686. Second, what Stephen of Saco witnessed in 1686 was actually not a deed, but the physical act of taking possession of the previously deeded property, which could well have had even lesser legal requirements. Third, while gravestones are highly reliable for date of death, it is not uncommon for them to be inaccurate regarding the age of the deceased. For example, as Banks noted, the gravestone for Stephen's wife, Deborah states that she died in her 73d year, whereas her Sandwich birth record indicates that she was actually in her 74d year. Therefore it is quite possible that Stephen was older at his time of death than was indicated on his gravestone.
∎Stephen of Martha's Vineyard had a daughter named Dorcas, which was probably the name of Stephen of Saco's mother.
In sum, while the evidence supporting the theory that this profile's Stephen Presbury was the son of John Presbury of Saco is circumstantial, there is no evidence that disproves it and it remains reasonably plausible. In the absence of a more plausible suggested parentage, it is appropriate to list John Presbury of Saco as the "uncertain" father of Stephen.
If John Presbury of Saco was not the father of this profile's Stephen Presbury, it's likely that Stephen was still the son of Dorcas Bessey, that Dorcas had married a Presbury other than John Presbury of Saco, and that Stephen was the grandson of John Presbury of Sandwich, based on the following factors:
∎There is solid evidence that Dorcas Bessey married a Presbury,
∎Stephen named one of his daughters Dorcas
∎Stephen married the granddaughter of Stephen Skiffe, who was a friend of Dorcas Bessey's parents and named executor of both of their wills
∎John Presbury was the only known Presbury in Sandwich and was therefore almost certainly the father of the man that Dorcas married and the grandfather of Stephen
∎Date of Birth: Several pieces of evidence are relevant to determining Stephen's date of birth:
∎Stephen's gravestone that says that he died on May 17, 1730 in his 58th year. This would mean that Stephen died after he had already turned 57 but not yet turned 58 and was thus born between May 17, 1672 and May 17, 1673. As discussed above, however, while dates of death on gravestones are highly reliable, age at death are less so.
∎Stephen's wife, Deborah Skiff, was born on July 14, 1668. it was probably most common for a first-time husband to be somewhat older than his wife, with 2 years old probably being the median and 0-5 the normal range. It was rather unusual for the husband to be younger than his first wife and very unusual for him to be more than a year or so younger. Based solely on Deborah's date of birth, one would expect that Stephen would have been born sometime in 1663-1668.
∎The birth record for his first known child, Mary, which shows she was born on August 28, 1694. Assuming she was not conceived out of wedlock, this suggests that Stephen and Deborah were probably married sometime in 1693. The most common age of first marriage for males at the time was about 23, with a normal range from 21-27. It was very unusual for a man to get marriage before 21 since it would be expected that they would have their own household, which was difficult to achieve for both legal and practical reasons. Based solely of Mary's date of birth, one would expect that Stephen would have been born sometime in 1666-1672.
The above evidence yields inconsistent estimates of Stephen's date of birth. In particular, either his age at death on his gravestone was incorrect or, at the young age of 21, he married a woman who was about 4 years older than him. It is perhaps most likely that Stephen married an older woman and was born in either in May-August 1672 (consistent with his age at death on his gravestone) or sometime in May 1671 to May 1672 (with his age at death on his gravestone off by a year, the same as his wife's), but it is also reasonably plausible that his age at death on his gravestone was more inaccurate and that, as Banks suggested, he was born as early as 1666.
Place of Birth
Based on the theory that Stephen was the son of John Presbury of Saco, he would have been born in Saco, Province of Maine.
Early Life in Maine
Again, assuming the correctness of the theory that Stephen was the son of John Presbury of Saco, Stephen's father died sometime before April 1679 and in June 1679 Major Francis Hooke was appointed as guardian of Stephen and his brothers William and Nathan. While his older brother Nathan was apprenticed first to Major Pendleton, then to Joseph Cross, and finally to Nicholas Morey, it seems likely that Stephen stayed with Francis Hooke until at least 1686 when he witnessed the delivery land by Hooke.
Emigration from Maine to Sandwich
In response to King Phillip's War and King William's War, many settlers left Maine during the late 1670s and thereafter and returned to Massachusetts. In the early 1690s, John Presbury of Saco's sons William, Nathan and Stephen all emigrated from Maine: William settled in Beverley; Nathan was probably first in adjoining Salem (where is wife lived) before moving to Boston; while Stephen seems to have moved back to his parent's hometown of Sandwich.
Stephen Presbury married Deborah Skiff of Sandwich, probably in 1693. Since Deborah's family lived in Sandwich and the births of Stephen and Deborah's first two children were recorded there, it is reasonable to assume that they were married in Sandwich and initially settled there.
By 1704, Stephen and his family were living on Martha's Vineyard. A deed dated that year refers to Stephen as "of Chilmark." Stephen was later a landowner in three towns on Martha's Vineyard and had his homestead at the head of the Lagoon near the Homes Hole.
Stephen and Deborah had the following children:
Mary, b. August 28, 1694 in Sandwich, m. January 1712/3 Thomas West
Keturah, b. April 28, 1696 in Sandwich
Dorcas, b. probably about 1698 presumably either in Sandwich or on Martha's Vineyard, m. Elisha Wollen
John, b. 1700 presumably either in Sandwich or on Martha's Vineyard, m. about 1719 Abigail Cottle, d. September 20, 1728
Abigail, b. probably about 1703 presumably either in Sandwich or on Martha's Vineyard, m. Ebenezer Perry of Sandwich
Drusilla, b. 1708, m. Thomas West
Content, b. 1711 presumably on Martha's Vineyard, m. September 5, 1735 Stephen Luce
Sarah, b. 1713 presumably on Martha's Vineyard, m. February 18, 1731 Timothy Luce
Stephen died [in TIsbury] on May 17, 1730. The diary entry of Rev. William Holmes of Chilmark for May 24, 1730 recorded his earlier death: "Mr. Presbury of Old town died last Lord's day." His gravestone can be found in South End Cemetery in Tisbury. The inscription reads:
Here lieth ye Body
of Stephen Presbury
died May ye 17th 1730 in ye 58th Year
of his age
Set forth below is a transcription of Stephen Presbury's will, made on April 6, 1730:
The Last Will & Testament of Stephen Presbury of Edgartown in Dukes County in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England &c [et cetera]. first: I Give & bequeath my Immortal Soul into the hands of God that gave it, & after my Death I bequeath my Body to be decently buried, and as to my Worldly Estate -- first: I do give & bequeath unto my Grandaughter Moriah Pres==bury [== represents a line break] ye only surviving child of my son John Presbury Deceased but five shillings to be paid out of my Estate, I having already given to my D[ear] sone John Presbury in his life time his part or Portion of my Estate. Secondly: I do give & bequeath unto my Loving wife Deborah Presbury the whole & sole Improvement of all the Residue & Remainder of my whole Estate both Real & Personal & after her Deceas do give & bequeath unto my two youngest Daughters viz Content & Sarah five pounds to be paid to Each of them out of the sd [said] Estate. & then 3ly: My Mind &Will is of all the Residue & Remainder of my Estate to be Equally Divided between my seven Daughters or their Lawfull Representatives, That is to say one seventh part there=[line break]=of unto ye Children or Representatives of my Daughter Mary Deceased one seventh part unto my Daughter Katurah one seventh Part unto my Daughter Dorcus, one seventh part unto my Daughter Abigail one seventh part unto my Daughter Drusilla, one seventh part unto my Daughter Content & the other seventh part unto my Daughter Sarah: 4th & lastly: I constitute & ordain my sd [said] wife Deborah Presbury to be my whole & sole Executrix to this my Last Will & Testament and In Witness & Confirmation hereof I have hereunto Put my hand & seal this Sixth Day of April Anno Domini 1730.
Signed Sealed & Declared to be my Last Last Will & Presbury [lined out] Testament in the Presence of Zacheus Mayhew, Abner West, ye mark of Green / Pease
Stephen Presbury [seal] [Notarial acknowledgement omitted] 
1. ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Charles Edward Banks, "The History of Martha's Vineyard, Dukes County, Massachusetts, Volume II," George H. Dean, 1911, Annals of Tisbury, p 24
2. ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Charles Edward Banks, "The History of Martha's Vineyard, Dukes County, Massachusetts, Volume III," p 410
3. ↑ 3.0 3.1 Letter dated October 1999 from R. Andrew Pierce to Tim Farr
4. ↑ 4.0 4.1 "Legal Age," Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet
5. ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 York Deeds, Book IV. Folio 134. Link to folio at hathitrust.org.
6. ↑ 6.0 6.1 Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, "Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, Volume VIII, Miscellaneous Records, 1633-1689," William White, 1857, p 111
7. ↑ 7.0 7.1 Robert Charles Anderson, George F. Sanborn, Jr., and Melinde Lutz Sanborn, "The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Vol 1, A-B," (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999, pp 266-270
8. ↑ See profile for John Presbury
9. ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 Sybil Noyes, Charles Thornton Libby, Walter Goodwin Davis, "Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire," Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1979, p 568
10. ↑ 10.0 10.1 "King Phillip's War," wikipedia.com
11. ↑ See profile for William Presbury.
12. ↑ See profile for Nathan Presbury.
13. ↑ 13.0 13.1 Ancestry.com. U.S., New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2012.
14. ↑ Their date of marriage is estimated based on the date of their first known child, Mary.
15. ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 Sandwich, Mass., Vital Records, Vol. XXIX, 1912, p 71
16. ↑ 16.0 16.1 Charles E. Banks, "Diary of Rev. William Homes of Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard, 1689-1746, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, April 1896, Vol 50, p 163
17. ↑ 17.0 17.1 Stephen Presbury (1672-1730) on Find A Grave: Memorial #8981774 Retrieved 24 January, 2018.
18. ↑ 18.0 18.1 Probate Records, 1690-1938 (Dukes County, Massachusetts); Author: Massachusetts. Probate Court (Dukes County);
Probate Place: Dukes, Massachusetts
See also: Roser, Susan E. Mayflower Births & Deaths. 1992. Volume 2. p. 332. Link to page at ancestry.com.
PRESBUREY (see Presbery, Presbury), Deborah [w. Stephen], D. Mar. 11, 1743, in 73d year G.R.6.
PRESBURY (see Presbery, Presburey), Stephen, son , May 17, 1730, age 58. [[husband Deborah] gravestone record, Company Place Cemetery Vineyard Haven]
Source: Vital Records of Tisbury, Massachusetts To The Year 1850, Tisbury Deaths To The Year 1850
Dukes County originally consisted of the parent towns of Tisbury, Chilmark, and Edgartown which are now divided into seven towns: Tisbury, West Tisbury, Chilmark, Gay Head, Gosnold, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs.
Tisbury was originally called "Middletown" until it was incorporated as the Town of Tisbury in 1671. It includes (and is now often synonymous with) the village of Vineyard Haven, which was called Holmes Hole until 1871.
STEPHEN PRESBURY. (The following is from "The Annals of Tisbury" by Dr. Charles Edward Banks, c. 1908, Vol.II)
He was probably the son of John Presbury, a shoemaker, sometime of Salisbury and later of Saco, Maine, where in 1670 he had bought a tract of land. [York Deeds, III, 42. John of Saco was probably the son of that John of Sandwich, Cape Cod, whose death in May, 1648, is recorded.]
This John died in that Province before Nov. 3, 1684, leaving three sons, of whom one was Stephen, and the name is so unusual and without recurrence at that period, that we can assume the relationship fairly established. [Ibid, V(I), 35.] This Stephen was a witness to a deed in Kittery, Maine, in 1686, and the next we learn of him is in 1704 when he was called 'of Chilmark, ' meaning that part of it known as Chickemmoo. [Dukes Deeds, III, 77; comp. York Deeds, IV, 134.] It is not known where he had resided in the eighteen years intervening, but it can be surmised that he may have gone to Sandwich, Cape Cod, where he married, about 1693, Deborah, daughter of Stephen and Lydia (Snow) Skiffe of that town. His homestead was at the head of the Lagoon within the boundary line of Edgartown, but his closer proximity to the settlement at Homes Hole, where he lies buried, makes his classification as an early settler of this region the natural one. [He was a land owner in the three towns. (Deeds, III, 114, 504; IV, 108, 217).] His residence here was absolutely without incident of any kind, as he held no offices, appeared in court once as a plaintiff (1729) and in all the twenty-five years of his life on the Vineyard he did not so much as witness a deed or document of any kind, an unusual fact. His will, dated April 6, 1730, was proved June 30, 1730, and disposes of his property to 'my seven daughters' and the children of his only son John, deceased. [Dukes Probate, II, 56.] He had died May 17, I730 in his 58th year and his widow Deborah survived, dying March II, 1743, in the 73d year of her age. [These are the gravestone records, but both seem to be incorrect. The birth of Deborah Skiffe is recorded in Sandwich on July 14, 1668, and thus she was in her 74th year. The age given on his stone would make his birth year 1672-3, but in 1686 he was a witness in Maine. He was probably older than his wife.]
22. STEPHEN PRESBURY*, (John 2-1), b. abt. 1666; res. E., of whom a biographical sketch may be found in Vol. II, Annals of T., pp. 24-5. He m. DEBORAH SKIFF (21) abt. 1693, who was b. 14 July 1668 and d. 11 Mch. 1743. [She is buried at Crossways Cemetery.] He d. 17 May 1730 and his will 5 Apr. 1730 was pro. 30 June 1730. [He is buried next to his wife.] (*The compiler found a family of this name living in the parish of St. Nicholas Cole Abbey, London, and among the children was a Stephen Presbury baptized 22 Nov. 1607.)
DEATH: PRESBURY (see Presbery, Presburey), Stephen, son ___, May 17, 1730, age 58. [[husband Deborah] gravestone record, Company Place Cemetery Vineyard Haven]