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Our Plural History | Springfield, MA
Son of Springfield founder and businessman William Pynchon, John Pynchon would take over for his father and became an important political and business figure in Western Massachusetts.
Courtesy of Pamela Patrick White and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA)

colonial period

John Pynchon

John Pynchon, the son of Springfield founder William Pynchon, exerted a tremendous influence over the Connecticut River Valley in the late seventeenth century. Once his father returned to England in the early 1650s, John took over and expanded the family's lucrative fur-trading business. John also shipped local corn, fish and lumber throughout New England, and acquired land holdings in Northampton, Hadley, and Deerfield. As the operator of cider and turpentine mills, flour and corn mills, a lumber mill and an iron foundry, John Pynchon employed much of Springfield's population.

John held numerous local political posts, and his marriage to the daughter of the Connecticut Governor in 1645 extended his sphere of influence in and beyond the Springfield colony. He served as a broker and mediator between Springfield and the Connecticut colony, longtime rivals in trade, and as an ambassador of sorts in relations with the local indigenous communities. Known as "Brother Pynchon," he helped maintain the peace with regular visits to native villages offering provisions of gunpowder, cloth and tools in exchange for furs to be shipped back to England.

During King Philip's War, John Pynchon assumed command of the Valley's militia and rose to the rank of Colonel in the Hampshire Regiment. The war with the native people reached Springfield in the fall of 1675, after Pynchon had sent his troops north to Hadley. Caught by surprise, Pynchon dispatched 30 men to return and defend the city, but the order was too late, and much of Springfield was burned to the ground. As a consequence, Pynchon's reputation suffered, as he was blamed for the town's misfortune during the war.

By the time of his death in 1702, John's reputation had been restored. The Northampton reverend who delivered the eulogy at his funeral lauded Pynchon as an exemplary leader in civil and military affairs who had rendered great service to his country. Because of his vast business holdings and his political influence, John Pynchon is recognized today as one of the colonial elite responsible for giving shape to early American society in the Connecticut River Valley.

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