The South Wellfleet Areys — The First Reuben Arey

The first Arey in the English colonies was Richard, a mariner born in 1606 in Truro, England.  His name appears in documents in Salisbury and Gloucester, Massachusetts, and he purchased land in New London, Connecticut.  Eventually he settled in Martha’s Vineyard where he owned a substantial part of Chappaquidick, at one point.  Married to Elizabeth Crouch, he had two sons: Richard (2) born in 1640 and John (1645).

Richard (2) married Sarah Marchant and spent his life in Edgartown.  His son Richard (3), born in 1682, moved his family to Cape Cod — initially to Truro, but later to the north part of Eastham which is now Wellfleet.  His brother, Samuel, also moved to Eastham, married Mary Mayo, and had nine children.  Richard (3)’s wife, Lydia Norton, is buried in Eastham’s Cove Burying Ground as “Lidia Airie” — she died giving birth to triplets in 1726 or 1727.

Richard (3)’s son Richard (4) was born in 1712 and is mentioned in Eastham/Wellfleet histories. He served on the Meeting House committee in 1756 when he also served as constable.  Richard (4) died in 1763 at age 51, and is buried in the old Duck Creek Cemetery near where the town’s meeting house once stood.

Richard (4)’s two sons, Timothy and Jesse, were both property owners in Wellfleet, perhaps owning property that had been given to them by their father.  Jesse Arey, called “Captain Arey,” married twice — not unusual in the 18th Century. The family tradition indicates that he was a privateersman in the Revolutionary War.  By the end of the 1790s he sold his land to Lemuel Newcomb and others, and moved to Hampden, Maine, where he died in 1836.  Timothy Arey owned some land in common with his brother, Jesse, and also in the late 1790s sold land to Simon Newcomb and to Cornelius Hamblin.  One piece of land was on Atkin’s Neck in the heart of Wellfleet.  In 1799 Timothy Arey sold his dwelling house, other buildings and land, and presumably moved also — but exactly where needs further research.

Meanwhile, Richard (4)’s brother, Samuel — born in 1718 also in Truro — married Ruth Snow in 1743. She was the daughter of Stephen Snow of Eastham. Stephen Snow’s ancestors were Eastham founders. The Snows lived in Fresh Brook Village, a settlement in the part of Eastham that became South Wellfleet that dates back to the 18th Century.

Samuel and Ruth’s third child was the first Reuben Arey, born March 17, 1750. He is the first Reuben Arey of Wellfleet. The 1790 Federal census for Wellfleet — the first U.S. Census – –  lists Reuben Arey, his cousins Jesse and Timothy, his uncles Sylvanus Arey, and Captain James Arey, who was a mariner.  Sylvanus’ daughter, Lydia, was married to Lemuel Newcomb.

In the 1798 tax record listing dwelling houses, other buildings, and lots exceeding two acres, Reuben is the only Arey listed in Wellfleet. Since the Reuben Arey (1) house in South Wellfleet dates to that period, it might be assumed that he had his base of operations in South Wellfleet. This house still stands, and is privately owned.

Deyo’s history of Wellfleet notes that the first Reuben Arey was a resident of Wellfleet when it was incorporated in 1763. Since he would have been only 13 at the time, we do not know if his father, Samuel, moved to Wellfleet from Truro or if he was in the home of his uncle, Richard.  There is no record of Reuben Arey (1) serving in the military during the Revolutionary War.

Reuben’s first wife, whom he married in 1773, was Elizabeth Smith. The Arey genealogy in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register indicates there was one child, Samuel born in 1774, and who died in 1797.  But Samuel Smith (3) of Wellfleet, left property in his will of January 5, 1779, to the children of his sister, Elizabeth: Samuel and Elizabeth Arey.

Reuben Arey married Lydia Ward in 1777 when she was 17 years old. Their children are:

Reuben (2) (1778).

Ruth (1780)who married (1) David Wiley and (2) Major John WItherell discussed in my earlier blog.

Bethia  (1781)who married Thomas Hatch.

Mehetable (1782) who married Joseph Jones.

Asa Packard (1785) and appears to have been named for a minister named Asa Packard who considered taking the position in Wellfleet in 1784 but then declined the offer. The Lewis Family of Wellfleet who had a baby boy in 1785 also named their son Asa Packard, indicating the high regard of the minister who was also a Revolutionary War hero.  This Asa Packard died in 1804.

Solomon Arey (1787) who stayed in Wellfleet for a while, but then moved to Boscawen, New Hampshire.

Phebe (1790) who married William Rixford.

Whitefield ( 1791) who died in 1827. He’s mentioned as being “a cripple” in the Revolutionary veteran pension application of John Taylo, who married Lydia Arey in 1808, after Reuben (1)’s death.

Jonathan (1793).

Rebecca  (1796) married Ephraim Stubbs (after her sister died) and lived to 1874.

Nancy born 1798 married Ephraim Stubbs but died in 1840.

Reuben Arey (1) died January 15, 1801. His grave is not listed at the Duck Creek cemetery. But Chet Lay provided me a note from Mrs. Magenau’s family land ownership history that certain Arey graves were “moved from their homestead” at one of the times when the County Road (now Route 6) was widened –in either 1904 or in 1948.The graves were moved to the South Wellfleet Cemetery, but I do not know if they were marked after the listing of graves at the cemetery was completed. Perhaps the first Reuben was buried there.

On April 30, 1799, Reuben Arey (1) placed a newspaper advertisement which shows us a stark bit of life in South Wellfleet:

“Whereas my wife Lydia has eloped from my Bed and Board and has deserted her family and duty, I do hereby forbid any and every person from trusting her on my account a single dollar, dime, cent or mill after the date hereof, May 3.”

Lydia Arey’s life did have another chapter, and that shall be the subject of an upcoming blog!


“1790 Federal Census” database. 2010

Chamberlin, Ralph Vary. “Richard Arey of Martha’s Vineyard and Some of His Descendants”

New England Historical and Genealogical Register

Volumes 86 and 87. Issue Date 1932 (pages 391-406) and 1933 (pages 5-27)

Massachusetts Mercury, May 17, 1799. Online archive: 2011

Reuben Arey search on

Freeman, Frederick. The History of Cape Cod: The Annals of the Thirteen Towns of Barnstable County (Two Volumes), Van Piper & Co., Boston 1869.

Wellfleet chapter on line at

Deyo, Simon. History of Barnstable County, New York, 1898.   Wellfleet chapter on line at

Barnstable Patriot (various) online  archive:

eys I


Family history researcher living in New York City.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s