"the original Briton, the earliest emigrant of my name"
William Hathorne's grave at Burying Point Cemetery, Salem
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWilliam Hathorne's grave at Burying Point Cemetery, Salem - Credit: Dana Huff

William Hathorne (Nathaniel was the first member of the family to spell his surname with a w) became the first of Hawthorne’s ancestors to emigrate to America in 1630. Though the son of a poor English yeoman, he was an immensely talented and capable man and quickly ascended the rungs of early Salem society. He gained prosperity as a merchant before becoming a deputy to the General Court of Massachusetts. He was appointed as the House of Deputies’ first speaker and later served a magistrate at the high court. His illustrious career then saw him become the captain of the Salem military company where he led the colonists to victory in King Philip’s War, a hugely destructive conflict in which some 3,000 Native Americans were slain. He was also a zealous participant in the persecution of the Quakers. Nathaniel Hawthorne — his great-great-great grandson — would wrestle with this dubious legacy of mixed glory and shame throughout his career.