Harke Luce

Recapping: Harke Luse was named on a list of men able to bear arms at Scituate, Massachusetts in 1643 (Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed., Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England (1857), 191). Beyond this nothing is known. Everything else stated in various sources in speculative.

Charles Banks’ Theory

Banks speculated the name “Harke” might have been a copyist’s error for “Darke”; that he might have been an otherwise undocumented son of Abraham Luce and Cicely (Darke) Luce, of Horton, Gloucestershire; and that he might have been the father of immigrant Henry Luce who appeared in Scituate 20 years later.

The Internet has confidently mangled Banks’ theory in various ways. It’s worth looking at what he actually said.

“The name of Luce in this country is confined exclusively to the descendants of Henry Luce of Tisbury and with one exception, no other person of the name Luce settled in New England prior of 1750. That exception exists in the person of one “Harke” Luce who was a resident of Scituate in 1643, twenty years before the appearance of our Henry Luce in the same town. This singular baptismal name of “Harke”, which the author now believes to have been a copyist’s error for a similar name, has proven to be a clue to an English family of the name of Luce living in the west of England in 1600 near the border of Wales. The name of “Harke” Luce appears but once in the records of Scituate in a list of those able to bear arms in 1643, and an examination of thousands of English documents fails to disclose it, or one near enough like it to be mistaken for it except Harker or Hawke. In the county of England the family name of Luce has been found, namely: Gloucestershire, which borders on Wales and whose chief city Bristol, the great seaport from which so many emigrants sailed for the future homes in New England. [*”The author during recent visits to England found Luce families in Cornwall, Devon and Kent, all of them having Henry as a Christian name. Scituate, Mass. was largely settled by emigrants from Kent and in the parish of Lyminge that county is recorded in 1616 the marriage of a Henry Luce. It is here note as a reference for future investigators, but the family in Gloucestershire seems to offer the more probable solution.] A family of Luce lived in the parish of Horton, county of Gloucester, as early as 1550 and they are found there and in a number of surrounding parishes for a century and a half afterwards. Of this Horton family one Abraham Luce married 8 Oct. 1604 Cicely Darke, and this name is believe by the author to be the name originally copied in the Scituate records as “Harke”, and Darke Luce of 1643 is offered as the possible progenitor [emphasis added] of Henry Luce of the same town in 1666. If not, he was a probable near relative who influenced the migration of Henry Luce and all the surrounding circumstances make this the nearest probable origin of the Vineyard family in the matter of their English home. It should be stated, however, that Abraham and Cicely (Darke) Luce had no child named Darke and the name of Darke does not occur on the parish records of Horton. The similarity of the names, Harke and Darke, is too great to be ignored when combined with the rare name of Luce, and while other researches so far made have failed to uncover a Henry Luce in the parish of Horton, the adjoining parishes still unsearched may reveal the lost record of his baptism.” (Charles E. Banks, History of Martha’s Vineyard (1925, reprinted 1966), 3:247-48.)

To summarize: Banks noticed another Luce, a man named Harke Luce, in Scituate, Massachusetts (1643) a generation before Henry Luce appeared there (1666). This is the only mention of Harke and the first mention of Henry. Banks’ speculated Henry might have been a son of Harke, then further speculated that Harke might have been a previously unknown Darke Luce, hypothetical son of Abraham and Cicely (Darke) Luce, of Horton. Banks believed his theory was strengthened, first by a family tradition that immigrant Henry Luce came from Wales, and Gloucestershire is on the Welsh border; and secondly by the rarity of the surname Luce and the coincidence of the names Darke and Harke appearing in connection with the name Luce.

The down side of his theory, as Banks readily admits, is that there is no proof of any person named Darke Luce. Nevertheless, a Darke Luce could have been born at Horton in the period 1624-1653, for which there are no records. Harke Luce had to be at least 16 in 1643 to be able to bear arms, That would place his birth in or before 1627. Therefore, if there was a Darke Luce and if he was born in Horton, we would put his birth between 1624 and 1627. No other dating will work.

Banks’ theories have been treated in different ways by Internet genealogists. Immigrant Henry Luce is usually presented as a son of Israel Luce, as if that were proven fact.

In support of this identification, Henry named his second son Israel, and had two grandsons named Israel. However, these children might derive their names from Israel Peakes, half-brother of Henry’s wife. The case for Henry’s birth at Horton is supported by Banks’ theory that Arthur Bevan, who settled at West Tisbury in 1677, and was Henry’s neighbor there, came from Yate, four miles from Horton. However, this identification rests reciprocally on Henry being from Horton.

Leslie Pine, a noted English genealogist, has said in a letter to the author he believes Henry Luce probably came from the same family as the Luces of Pucklechurch.

Harke Luce is pushed to the side, when he is presented at all. WikiTree, for example, assigns Harke a birthdate about 1628 in Horton and a death date of 1718, despite the absence of supporting evidence. The birthdate seems calculated to modify Banks’ theory by making Harke a grandson rather than son of Abraham and Cicely (Darke) Luce (married 1604), and an older brother rather than father of Henry Luce the immigrant. This strategy allows Henry to be son of an Israel Luce, as in a family tradition cited by Banks (Banks, 3:246).

Geni.com also puts Harke’s birth about 1628 in Horton but more accurately places his death as “after 1643”. His profile there has a curator note that Harke’s parents are unknown, while simultaneously linking him as a son of Israel Luce and Israel’s speculative wife Remember Munson. Caveat emptor.

Caroline Lewis Kardell’s Theory

Caroline Lewis Kardell, sometime Historian General of the Society of Mayflower Descendants, had a different idea. She thought Harke Luce was probably an otherwise unknown Archelaus Lewis (Caroline Lewis Kardell, letter to Mrs. James E. McCourt, reproduced in Martha E. McCourt and Thomas Luce, The American Descendants of Henry Luce (1991), 10A).

Quoting: “As for the name Harke Luce at Scituate, Harke is almost certainly a nickname for Archelaus. Because of the aspirated “H” as pronounced in some parts of England, Earle became Hearle, Archelaus became Harkelas, Hercules, etc. I believe that “Hare Luce” was Archelaus Luis. John Lewis (Luis) of Dartmouth and Rochester named his eldest son Archelaus. John was a descendant of George Lewis of Scituate and Barnstable. This particular line from George were all sea-farers. I think George of Scituate has a brother Harke (Archelaus) who was a mariner and came over to Scituate as Captain or crewman on one of the early ships. Scituate records gave George Lewis two full shares. All of the other settlers received one full share. Perhaps George received a second share to hold for his brother “Harke” or “Arck”. Because he was a mariner, he may never have returned from a voyage and so, [sic] disappears from the records. . . .

“My suspicions regarding the name Luce are two-fold. First, it is so uncommon a name that it is almost certainly not the original surname, but a variant. For instance, the name Bigelow is only traced to one immigrant to Watertown, MA. The name does not exist in England or anywhere else in that form, except for the descendants of the Watertown man. It was Baguley, etc, [sic] in England, but ended up as Bigelow here. Secondly, the name Lewis was written (and pronounced) in several ways in the early records. Two men named Lewis, George and his brother John, certainly were at Scituate and probably a third brother Harke or Archelaus was there for a very short period. I believe your Henry was perhaps a nephew or cousin of the early Lewis, Luis, Lews family of Scituate and Barnstable. It is worth investigating, anyway.”

Summarizing: Kardell’s idea was that Harke Luce was a brother of George and John Lewis, and Henry Luce the immigrant a nephew or cousin.

Kardell doesn’t make it explicit, but George Lewis’ double share would not have been for himself and brother John. John Lewis received his own share, a single share.

In support of Kardell’s theory, Banks himself notes Scituate “was largely settled by emigrants from Kent” (see above; Banks, 3:347n.). Further, the same list that contains the name Harke Luse also contains the name John Lewes. George Lewes’ name also appears on a 1643 list of men able to bear arms, but at Barnstable rather than Scituate.

Thomas Luce, of Charleston

It might be worth mentioning, if only in passing, another theory regarding the parents of immigrant Henry Luce commonly found–he was a merchant and farmer born 1630 in Gloucester to Thomas Luce (1600-1670?) and Sally Monson. This information comes in part from Wilford Litchfield but no proof is offered. Litchfield says Remember Litchfield married about 1670 “Henry Luce (sometimes Lucy), who may have been a son of Thomas Luce of Charleston” (Wilford J. Litchfield, The Litchfield Family in America 1630-1900 (1901), 34).

Savage, citing Farmer, names a Thomas Luce at Charleston, whose son Samuel was born in 1644 (James Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (1861), 3:127). Banks says, “It is probable that this was Lewis” (Banks (1911), 2:55n.2). Banks seems to dismiss this clue only because he building a case for Henry’s relationship with Harke Luse. The possibility of a connection with Thomas Luce should be examined more closely.


The Internet has widely adopted the theories of Charles Banks, modified a bit, and ignored those of Caroline Kardell, probably because Banks’ theories were published and have been therefore more accessible. However, there is no obvious reason to choose one theory over the other.

It should be noted the Luce yDNA Project at Family Tree DNA takes the official position that the ancestry of immigrant Henry Luce is unknown. One day DNA might help us choose. The male-line descendants will ultimately match a Luce or Lewis family in England, and we’ll have our bearings.

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