- John Balch arrived with a colony headed by Captain Robert Gorges, son of Sir Fernando, who had a large tract of land he wished to colonize. They landed at Wessegusset in the fall of 1623, now known as Weymouth, Mass. Capt. Gorges was commissioned as Governor of New England at that time.
The original settlement at Wessegusset was settled by men sent in early 1621 by Mr. Weston. They stole from the Pilgrims in nearby Plymouth and, because they prepared badly for the coming winter, stole food from the Indians as well. The Indians decided to exterminate all the white men, Pilgrims included, but the plot was revealed. In the spring of 1623, Weston’s colony abandoned Wessegusset.
Gorges left to travel to the Virginia Colony (which extended almost to present day New York). The colonists as Wessegusset were joined by some disaffected members of the Plymouth colony, including Roger Conant and the Rev. John Lyford.
In the hopes of turning a profit, the Dorchester Company formed in 1624 and sent the colony to Cape Anne to form a fishery. Cattle arrived the next year and, as the fishing business was doing poorly, many settlers returned to England. The remaining settlers, including John Balch, decided to return to agriculture. Rather than stay on the exposed part of Cape Ann, they moved to the Sagamoreship of Naumkeag and formed a town which later became Salem. In all there were 30 people, including the wives and children who had come from England. (Note this included the parents of Sarah Gardner, who married John’s son Benjamin.)
In 1626, the Rev. John Lyford determined that the group should move south to Virginia territory. To prevent this, the Puritan minister Rev. John White wrote from England on behalf of the Dorchester Company and exhorted Roger Conant not to let the colonists move. He promised that if Conant, John Woodbury, John Balch and Peter Palfrey remained at Naumkeag, he would obtain a patent to the land for them. He failed, but it was evident that these four men were viewed as leaders. In time, they became known as “the Old Planters.”
Eventually, the Dorchester Company sold its rights to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the colonists became part of the newly formed colony. Balch’s name appears in the town records of Salem as a town overseer and layer out of land, and he and the other “Old Planters” were granted 2,000 acres along the Bass River to divide amongst themselves. This land eventually became part of Beverly - at the time the source was written, John Balch’s original homestead upon it, though changed somewhat, still stood on it.
In 1636, John Balch appears on the list of the first thirteen executive rulers of Salem and then later that year he was also named one of the twelve selectmen.
Savage says: JOHN, Salem, one of the earliest sett. of Mass. from the vicin. of Bridgewater, Co. Somerset. came, it is said with suffic. probabil. in 1623, with Robert Gorges, to make establishm. at Cape Ann, or Nantasket, and on encouragem. from White the min. of Dorchester, a most earnest promoter of the colony, rem. with Roger Conant to plant at Salem, on Beverly side, then call. Bass riv. He req. adm. as freem. 19 Oct. 1630, and took the o.18 May foll. By his w. Margaret, one of the earliest mem. of the ch. of Higginson, was b. Benjamin, a. 1623, John, and Freeborn; but he had sec. w. Agnes, or Annis, nam. with those s. in his will of 15 May, pro. 28 June 1648.
The Winthrop Society (http://www.winthropsociety.com/home.php) states that he arrived in 1624 as part of the “Cape Ann Group” and was a founder or early settler of a settlement there.
The Balch House Associates in Beverly, Mass., assist in maintaining the original home of John Balch, much enlarged by his son Benjamin. (http://beverlyhistory.org/BALCHNews/index.htm) [1, 7]