The Legends of Augustine and Mary Bearse

Augustine and Mary (Hyanno) Bearse were my 8th-great grandparents on the Crosby side.   Augustine was a full-blooded Gypsy and Mary was a full-blooded Wampanoag Indian Princess. So it is written…

The legend goes that Augustine Bearse was born in Europe around 1618 and is reputed to have been a “full blooded Gypsy of the Romany race”.  The British government supposedly deported Augustine to Massachusetts, in 1638, aboard the Confidence of London.  Augustine was from the Heron (or Herne) tribe and only crime was being a Gypsy on British soil.

When Augustine arrived in Cape Cod he found himself ostracized due to his race and religion. He was shunned by the women of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and could find no woman to marry. Augustine was forced to move to the more distant ends of the colony and there he took an Indian maiden for his wife. In the Summer of 1639 Augustine married Mary “Little Dove” Hyanno in the Indian village of Machatache, under “Pagan Indian ceremonial rites”.

The area where Mary Hyanno was from is now called Hyannis Port. If the legend is true, then the town was named for Mary's family.

Mary “Little Dove” Hyanno was born 1625 and the daughter of John Hyanno, the Sagamore (chief) among the Indians; and the granddaughter of Highyannough, the Sachem (high Chief) of all the Cape Cod tribes.  Mary’s mother, it is written, was the daughter of the Sachem at Gay Head, Martha’s Vineyard. Mary, as it goes, had lovely flaming hair — that’s right, the legend says she was a red-headed American Indian.

The legend becomes even more strange, because Augustine and Mary were permitted to join the church in 1650 and  Augustine was made a Freeman of the church in 1652; a title of great distinction. Evidently the parishioners, who were really not very tolerant of other religions, overlooked the alleged Gypsy and Indian blood.

As unlikely as most of the legends surrounding Augustine and Mary sound, they still persist.  No source citations are included with the writings where the legends are mentioned. With the benefit of the Internet the legends have spread and finding sites that debunk the myth, is difficult; but they do exist.

Here are the known facts:

First and foremost, there is no documented proof that Augustine ever married a woman named Mary. Further, there is no cited information anywhere that Augustine’s wife was Indian. However, there is no documented proof Mary was not his wife, or that she was not Indian. But absent proof, I believe the tale to be too fantastic. (It would be interesting if DNA testing uncovered Indian genes though.)

Augustine Bearse, also known as Austin Bearce, arrived in America in 1639 aboard the Confidence of London and he settled in Barnstable, Cape Cod.  Augustine was very religious and had all of his children  baptized on the first Sunday following their birth.  His son Joseph was born on January 2nd and taken to be baptized the same day, a trip of about two mile and in the winter.

Augustine Bearse's house.

Augustine’s house, at 38 Church Hill Road, is the oldest dwelling in Centerville, MA.  During a remodeling of the home a 1689 coin was found among the beam, and another beam was marked 1692. The custom at the time was to place a coin in newly built homes.

Augustine was a ship’s Captain and was the master of the ship Two Marys.  Augustine’s date of death is not known, but he was known to be still living in 1686 and to have died by 1697.

My lineage from Augustine Bearse (and possibly Mary “Little Dove” Hyanno) is:

Priscilla (Bearse) Hall > Experience (Hall) Rider > Experience (Rider) Crosby > Edward Crosby II > Edward Crosby III > John Crosby > John A. Crosby > Roy Crosby > Maurice Crosby > Me



  • Contribution to the Genealogy of the Bearse or Bearss Family in America: 1618-1871 John Bearse Newcomb 1871.
  • Centerville Shipmasters and Seafaring Days  Florence Winship Ungerman, 1977
  • Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, Amos Otis 1888
  • Genealogical Note of Cape Cod Families Vol 5 & 24 Browson, Held & Norton, 1966
  • Augustine Bearce and His Descendants,
  • “America The Great Melting Pot” ; Mary Hyanno
  •   Presilla Bearse; Memorial #9688972
  •   Mary Hyanno; Memorial #28165235

*Note: The first 4 sources can be found at  (for free!)




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23 Responses to “The Legends of Augustine and Mary Bearse”

  1. Reigh Crosby
    November 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    Your father would be my great uncle, my grand father was Adelbert Avery Crosby.

    two questions first do you have a definitive father for Edward (married Experience), and do you have anything on Adelbert Avery”s wife Mary Elizabeth Muise. Any info would greatly appreciated.

    Thanks Reigh

    • Renee
      April 4, 2013 at 1:16 am #

      To Reigh; Muise is a French Acadian surname that was derived from the family of Philllipe Mius D’Entremont; Baron de Pombomcoup (I think I am spelling that barony wrong); which is up in Canada. Two of Phillipe’s sons married Native American women; many lines from those sons took the Muise part of the family name over the generations; those who came from Phillipe’s children who did Not marry Natives kept the D’Entremont name; so the D’Entremont (or nowadays d’Entremont) & Muise/Muse/Miuse (and a few other variations) are all related; MANY MANY sites found online can help you to find out more about your Muise line. I myself; one of my 4th great grandmothers was Venerante D’Entremont; daughter of Joseph D’Entremont, (son of Jacques D’Entremont; son of Jacques Muis D’Entremont; son of Baron Phillipe Muis D’Entremont). Hope I have helped and good hunting!
      If you need any further help I would be glad to try~
      LadyAlaise at gmail dot com

  2. Moe
    November 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    My father had a brother named Adelbert Avery. It wasn’t until I discovered your grandfather’s name that I learned Adelbert was a family name.

    Here is a link to a post specifically about Simon Crosby. At the bottom is a list of sources. The last source is a book about Simon and it is available, for free, on-line. I hope this helps.

    Also, I have Adelbert Avery’s wife as Elizabeth Muise, and nothing else about her.


  3. Renee
    April 4, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    P.S. :)
    I am also a descendant of Augustin Bearce and wife; on my mother’s side; the Acadian lines come from my father’s.
    Augustin is my 10th Great Grandfather; down through Hamblin/Hamblen to Hadley to Higgins line, then down to my mother :)

  4. Renee
    April 4, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    P.S.S.; Good sources for the Acadian Muise/D’Entremont lines and any other related lines you may find;
    Any work by Stephen A. White (Universite de Moncton, NB, Canada)
    and Lucie LeBlanc Constantino’s websites;

  5. Jason Clark
    May 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    The Romani & Native connections to the Bearse family, were the invention of Franklyn Bearce. In 1933, he imposed himself into Schaghticoke politics, he attempted to have himself accepted as a Schaghticoke native, and pursued a land claim against the government. Neither the government, nor the Schaghticoke, accepted him as being native. 11 out of 15 of his native princess fabrications can be proved outright false. He was a charlatan and a fraud.

    Any who believe the Romani & Native connections are falling for a con that the original people it was intended to fool, didn’t fall for.

    • March 4, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

      Thanks, confirms my suspicions, and my negative for Native American DNA test. This Mary is my supposed 9th generation great grandmother, and I thought the whole thing seemed faked up. I’ve seen it several times now on genealogy sites, romantic notion, and fanciful desires to defendant from Royalty and such.

  6. L. Crosby
    December 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm #

    Very good site you have. Born, raised and still living in Barnstable, I am very familiar with these stories. Austin did marry Iyannough’s daughter. I think the thing that needs to be remembered is that the members of the Barnstable and Plymouth church were NOT PURITANS.

    They considered themselves Separatists. There was a big difference that seems to have been forgotten over the centuries. If you read the writings of Rev’s Robinson, Brewster, Lothrop and Crosby one will find that they are in fact very similar to the original Baptist denomination.

    I would suggest reading the books by the Rev Isaac Backus. ( the greatest hero of Massachusetts) Every time we call them all Puritans I feel the earth under my feet move as our forefathers roll around in their graves.

  7. Brian Hurlburt
    October 4, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    I may be naive, but don’t think so! I do believe in the Romney / Wampanoag relationship, and happy to have Augustine Bearse & Mary Hyanno as my 9th Great Grandparents, if only by Adoption. I also believe that when their 2nd Great Grandson, Elisharama Elderidge, was named it was likely to preserve the Rama/Romney Ancestry. Elisharama Eldridge came from multiple Elisha’s, the name Elisha continuing uninterrupted through his paternal line for many generations. Yet, Elisharama had the “Rama” added to his name. Considering Elisharama’s Grand Mother, Martha Hall, was the Grand Daughter of Augustine & Mary and likely wanted to preserve this Family History.

  8. Lynnora Bierce
    November 22, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    This is my line:
    Augustine Austin Bearse 1618 (Mary Little Dove Hyanno)
    James Bearse 1651 (Experience Howland)
    Shuball Bierce 1685 (Thankful Ford)
    Hezakiah Bierce 1730 (Deborah Sturtevant)
    William Bierce 1753 (Abigail Bell) (Revolutionary War Vet)
    William Whiting Bierce 1793 (Lucinda Culver 1st wife)
    Joseph Bierce 9/1831 (Alice Hogaboom) (Civil War Vet)
    Elmer Bierce 1/1884 (Catherine Proffitter)
    Robert Elmer Bierce 1910 (Bertha Elizabeth Jackson 1st wife)
    Kenneth Robert Bierce 11/1934 (Jane Chapel)
    Lynnora Bierce 11/1964 (me)

    We also have an oral tradition about the Roma/Native American connection of our family. I don’t think that that tradition comes from Franklin Bearse, but that he probably took some liberties with the story, therefore it’s difficult to know what is fact or fiction. However, this word of mouth is all we really have. And why does it seem so important to note? There are plenty of interesting facts I have found out while looking into the family line which didn’t make it into the oral tradition. I think we’re supposed to remember. One of our forefathers thought it was important to remember our heritage. Fact or fiction I hold onto it because the oral tradition is a personal gift. The Wampanoag accept us.

  9. Jason Clark
    February 10, 2016 at 5:13 pm #

    Unlike Ancestry, or other sites, WikiTree is trying to stick to what is provable.

    Augustine Bear(s)e:

    Franklyn Bearce:

    Franklyn was quite the charlatan. Some 13 Indian Princesses, and a Gypsy one for good measure, in his fake genealogy. He couldn’t even keep his own family tree straight after a couple generations.

    • Moe
      February 15, 2016 at 9:55 am #

      Great. It’s nice to know the Internet can self-correct!

  10. Doug Jones
    February 11, 2016 at 11:49 pm #

    I am a descendant of Pracilla Bearse. My DNA has no native American genes. Others in this line have any either.

    • Moe
      February 15, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Great! Thank you for confirming what I believed. My DNA shows no signs of Native American genes either, which puts to rest legends on both sides of my tree.

    • Tyler
      September 20, 2016 at 6:29 am #

      Native American DNA is not detectable after a couple generations.

  11. March 4, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

    This Mary is my 9th generation back great grandmother. Both my sister and I have had DNA testing, and show zero Native American. It is a fanciful romantic notion that this early English settler married an Native Indian maiden, makes a lovely story, but it is obviously not true.

  12. September 25, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    Mary “Little Dove Hyanno” married William Cornell.
    The first known union of an English settler to an American Indian.

  13. Susan
    February 26, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    I am also researching Augustine Bearce as my direct ancestor. DNA testing does not always reveal native ancestors it can be a hit or miss. Of my husbands two brothers only one showed that there is native DNA and the other didn\t. Also my sister-in-law knows for a fact her 5ggrandmother was East Indian and that did not show up either so really DNA testing may not prove where some of your ancestors were from as it just didn’t show up with you.

    Putting that aside, I find all these stories fascinating and wish everyone the best of luck searching back through our family tree.

  14. Juanita Brown
    March 17, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    I had my DNA done, and it says I have Native American DNA. The only reference I have to any is Augustin Bearse and Mary Hyanno. I descend three times , twice on my grandmother and once on my grandfather. Sisters Rebecca and Sarah Bearse.

  15. Juanita Brown
    March 17, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    DNA that far back does not always show unless you descend more than once which increases the chances of Native American showing up.

  16. Kevin Reinholz
    November 23, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    I have “Broadly East Asian or Native American” DNA according to 23andMe, and Mary “Little Dove” Hyanno is the only potential source according to my family tree. Augustine Bearse and Mary (Hyanno?) are my 10th great grandparents. I’m descended through their daughter Priscilla Bearse, who married John Hall.

    I think the thing to keep in mind is that all of the “admixtures” and ethnicity estimates available through autosomal DNA testing companies are just that–estimates–and the absence of an ethnicity in your reports doesn’t prove a negative, so to speak. This is especially true when you go that many generations back. It’s pretty hit or miss which genes got dropped and which made it into you. Remember, you only have 50% of each parent’s DNA, and a pretty random assortment at that (e.g. after 8-10 generations, one sibling could have Native American DNA while his or her brother could have none).

    I’m not saying any of the “legend” is true, but I’m not saying some or all of it is false, either. Unless someone has DNA samples of both Mary “Little Dove” Hyanno and Augustine Bearse, it’s pretty hard to confirm or deny a genetic connection to either of them.

    I’ve seen nothing to suggest the Cornwells have a stronger claim to the Hyanno line than the Bearses. In both cases isn’t the claim based on “Native American marriage rites” and oral tradition about the childrens’ paternity? Could she have had a sister, and thus both families are Hyanno descendants? Getting enough folks DNA tested ought to be a step toward answering some of these questions.


  1. Noli Irritare Leones » Settlers and Indians - February 17, 2014

    [...] like her flaming red hair, grew in the telling. Or she may not have been Native American at all. This blogger is skeptical. First and foremost, there is no documented proof that Augustine ever married a woman named Mary. [...]

  2. Gregory Smith - October 5, 2014

    I love your blog…

    I have read this article and enjoyed it…

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