John Upton was born in the early 1600’s in or very near Scotland. He was likely one of the prisoners taken by Oliver Cromwell at either the battle of Dunbar on September 3, 1650 or at the battle of Worcester in 1651. Cromwell later sent John Upton and other prisoners to New England. His name on the prisoner list may be listed as John Rupton. According to Upton family tradition he was sold (indentured) upon his arrival in Massachusetts to a woman who lived in what is now West Peabody near the Upton Tavern. It is said that several of the early fruit trees on the Upton farm were brought over from England by her. John obtained his freedom and became a man of means and property. He was a blacksmith and is associated with the early Saugus Iron Works.
John’s Scottish wife, Eleanor Stuart was said to be an adherent of the royal house of Stuart. Family tradition suggests that Eleanor Stuart seems to have anticipated Upton’s coming to New England, and was here upon his arrival, where they married. Their first child, John III was born in this territory in 1654.
The Upton family has a lengthy history in North Reading and West Peabody. John Upton purchased upwards of 200 acres of land in Salem (now West Peabody) from 1658 through 1671. The first parcel of 70 acres was purchased from Henry Bullock in 1658. It is recorded on this transaction that John Upton was "sometime of Hammersmith". Hammersmith was the name given to the Saugus Iron Works. Two years later, in 1660, Upton built a dwelling house on the site of the present homestead on Lowell Street. Upton purchased 80 acres from Daniel Rumball in 1662 and another 70 acres in 1671 from James Hagg.
It was around 1678 that John Upton moved from his 200 acre farm in the area now known as Upton’s Hill. His sons, William and Samuel Upton continued on the farm in West Peabody with the dwelling house on Lowell Street near Birch Street. The West Peabody dwelling became known as the Upton Tavern. A noted feature of the house is the large kitchen fireplace with a hearth measuring 8 ½ feet in length and projected into the room 5 ½ feet. This homestead was used as a tavern before 1774 by Ezra Upton and continued by his son, Jesse, until his death in 1825. The tavern farm remained in the Upton family until 1837, when David Upton sold it to Daniel P. King and Daniel Brown.
Around 1680, John Upton is listed among the first six families located in the territory now constituting North Reading. Our Peabody source reports that in 1676 John Upton bought a large acreage in North Reading and built a house there around 1678. Eaton’s History shares that he lived on the farm that was occupied in 1874 by Mrs. Sylvester F. Haywood. In 2016 The Hayward Farm area runs along Route 62 near the Thompson Country Club. This area is close to the Ipswich River near West Peabody. He became a “freeman” of the colony just a few years before his death in North Reading in 1691.
"Upton Tavern" Lowell Street West Peabody
photo by Bob Upton
Genealogical History of the Town of Reading, Mass: Including the present towns of Wakefield, Reading and North Reading from 1639 to 1874 by the Honorable Lilley Eaton 1874.
The Peabody Story: Events in Peabody’s History 1626-1972 by John A. Wells 1972
The Upton Memorial: A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of John Upton of North Reading,MA by John Adams Vinton 1874