Tag Archives: England

The Bent Family From England to America

The Bent family of my 7th great-grandmother, Martha Bent (Howe) handed me a boxful of interesting stories.  I have been pursuing Martha’s family for a few weeks now. To help you read about Martha’s father John Bent (the pioneer) and his family and descendants, here is an index of those articles, starting with the oldest member of the Bent family–Martha’s grandmother Agnes Gosling Bent. Just click on a title to read

Great-great-great-great, etc.

Tragedy at Sea  talks  about the ill-fated voyage in 1639 of Agnes Gosling Bent (9th great- grandmother and her daughter Agnes Bent Barnes Blanchard (9th great-aunt). Other members of the extended Bent family mentioned are Richard Barnes, Elizabeth Plympton, Thomas Plympton, Robert Bent and Richard Barnes Sr.  (the latter two died before the trip) and Thomas Blanchard. Surprise sources were a footnote in a town history and the summary of a trial (that took place 13 years later) in a book of passenger lists.

John Bent Sr., Father of the Bent Family in America relates the story of this man born during the reign of Elizabeth in Penton-Grafton, Hampshire, England who founded the Bent family that spread across North America. One of the founders of Sudbury, John Bent, my 8th great-grandfather was a good friend of John Howe, another 8th great-grandfather and father-in-law of my 7th great-grandmother, Martha Howe Bent.

The 8th Great-Uncles

John Bent, Jr., Tithingman of Framingham, born in 1636, traveled with his family to America when he was only two-year-old. John Bent Jr. grew up to be a solid citizen and respected leader in Massachusetts. He was Martha’s older brother.

Peter Bent, Of Indian Attacks and Fatal Accidents. Peter Bent’s father named him for his friend Peter Noyes, who organized the group from Penton-Grafton to travel to America. Peter was an important pioneer in his own right, having arrived from England when he was eleven years old.  He seems to have been a successful business man, perhaps a trader, as he made more than one trip back to England. He joined other young men who left Sudbury and founded Marlborough. His family endured a violent Indian attack that injured a young son and killed an apprentice, he accidentally killed his younger brother Joe, and Peter died overseas.

The Short Life of Joseph Bent Poor Joseph Bent, the first of John and Martha Bent’s children to be born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, followed his older brother in the move to Marlborough and established his farm there. Joseph served as constable in Marlborough, but by 1672 , when his father died, he had moved back to Sudbury. He and his wife had five children, but he came to an untimely end at the age of 34.

I did not write about the oldest son Robert Bent, because his life was cut short at twenty-three years old, so there is very little information about him.  The second son, William Bent, leaves even fewer tracks. The Bent family history says he “probably died early.”

My 7X Great- Grandmother

Martha Bent, American Born was the youngest of John and Martha Bent’s children seven children. (Some sources claim they had ten children, but I have only been able to document seven.) She was born in Sudbury in 1643. In the small town of Sudbury, the marriage pool was limited. Martha married a member of one of the leading families, Samuel How(e) and they had seven children, including my ancestor David Howe the proprietor of the Howe Tavern which is known as Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.

John Bent Sr.–Father of the Bent Family in America

 John Bent 1596-1672

Weyhill Church

The Weyhill church where John Bent’s family members were baptized, married and buried from the 16th century.

The Bent Family in England

John Bent’s father was Robert Bent of Penton-Grafton, Weyhill Parish in Hampshire County, England. His grandfather’s name: John Bent. The small village lies about seventy miles south of London. To put the history in perspective, when John Bent was born, Elizabeth I was still Queen. He had two older brothers, Richard and Robert, and an older sister, Jane. By the time he was six years old,  three younger sisters would be added to the family.

Names are important to John Bent’s story.  His aunt Joanne Bent married a William Noyes–a family closely intertwined with the Bents in both England and America.  John’s mother’s name was Agnes, as was one of his aunts.  The Bents favored the name Agnes sometimes written as  Annis or Ann and named a bewildering array of offspring by that name. The next person I’ll talk about is an Agnes with a daughter Agnes and a grand daughter Agnes. Naturally, the Bents also recycled the names Robert and John and Richard and Joseph.

John Bent’s Family

In 1624, John Bent married Martha, whose last name I have not proven.  According to one index she was Martha Blanchard and according to another, possibly Baker. Other relatives of John Bent are married to both Bakers and Blanchards. However both indices agree they were married in England in 1624. John would have been 28 years old.

In the following eleven years, the couple had five children. (For more details about the family, see the story about John Bent Jr., born in 1636. )

In 1631, John’s father, Robert, died leaving John and his older brother 40 shillings each. That is less than left to other children, but may indicate that they had received land from their father. According to Puritan Village, John had inherited 45 acres of land. Two of John’s sons and his daughter received two ewes each, the bequest for most of Robert’s grandchildren,  and John’s oldest son received a young cow.

Robert Bent named two neighbors as “overseers” of the will–Henry Tuncks and Peter Noyes, once again emphasizing the closeness of the Bent and Noyes families.

John was a successful farmer, as was his father, Robert.  The book “Puritan Village” discusses tax rolls of the Parish of Weyhill. “(Peter) Noyes and (John) Bent were 4th and 5th in land holdings of 44 landholders (there were also 40 landless men).”

The Great Puritan Migration

About the time that John Bent turned 40 years old, the people of the village were becoming increasingly unhappy with the reign of Charles I that started in 1625.  There must have been many long, soul-searching conversations, as they looked across the Atlantic at the possibilities of a better life in the new country where the first band of dissidents had landed in 1620. Unhappiness with both civic and religious constraints stimulated the Great Puritan Migration of the 17th century.

Peter Noyes, John’s friend, must have been one of the most adamant and outspoken about the necessity to leave England. John Bent, no longer a young man, had to decide whether to make the risky journey with young children, to leave familiar surroundings and a successful farm, to leave his widowed mother and his siblings, all for an unknown future.

Then King Charles decided to raise money. Ironically, these Englishmen whose grandsons would fight to separate America from England over tax issues, found tax issues pushing them to emigrate to America. As The Bent Family in America explains:

“A glance at affairs in England will show ample cause for a change of home at that time. The rule of Charles I had become almost unbearable, and it is not at all surprising that so many looked upon ‘the American wilderness as the only asylum in which they could enjoy civil and spiritual freedom.’ The King, advised in affairs of state by Lord Wentworth (Earl of Stafford) and in religious affairs by William Land, Archibishop of Canterbury, wished to do for England what Richelieu was doing at that very moment for France. ‘put the estates and personal liberties of the whole people at the disposal of the crown and deprive the courts of law of all independent authority,’ as well as to break up all gatherings of religious dissenters. He had already ruled nine years without a Parliament and his despotism seemed nearly complete. But one thing was lacing, and that was a standing army.”

In order to fund the army, the King proposed heavy taxes on the counties along the coast that profited from shipping. Hampshire, the home of the Bents, was one of those counties.

“England, to the outward eye, verdant, calm, and peaceful, but in reality on the verge of a political and religious volcano (The explosion came with the Civil War in 1642).”

A Decision to Risk the Trip

In the end, John decided to take the risk. His elderly mother, Agnes Bent, promised that she would consider sailing to America if Peter Noyes and John decided the conditions were good.  She entrusted £ 80  to Peter to help him finance the voyage and to look for land for her.

“[Peter] Noyes sailed from Southhampton on April 12, 1638 in the ship Confidence, taking 3 servants, his eldest son and daughter, and his neighbor, John Bent.”[/plain]

John and Martha brought with them five children ranging from two years old to thirteen years old.  At that time period, they would have been traveling on a sailing ship and would have been responsible for bringing along their own food which they prepared on board. It was no pleasure cruise.

The Confidence held 110 people–a large percentage of whom were servants. Perhaps most of the servants had indentured themselves in order to pay for travel. They would pay off the debt in a few years and become regular citizens. These were not impoverished immigrants dependent upon plantation investors from the old country. They had been leaders in their English communities and were well suited for building new towns in New England. The families on board were headed for various Massachusetts Bay Colony towns, but the Bents and Noyes and a couple of other families were going to Sudbury.

The American Scene

Since the Pilgrims had arrived in Plymouth in 1620, small towns had sprung up progressively reaching westward from the seacoast, so in that eighteen-year-span other people had started to build villages. Nevertheless, Sudbury lay on the edge of civilization, connected to other towns only by Indian trails and rivers traversed by canoe. Far from their mother land where the parish church was already a century or more old, the Bent family  now lived in wilderness, surrounded by natives who while generally friendly did not always accept their presence.

John’s Family and Responsibilities Grow

The year after John and Martha Bent arrived in Sudbury, his mother and sister set sail to join him.  My next story will deal with the story of the two Agnes Bents, but suffice it to say here that in addition to the five children that the Bents brought from England, they cared for one of John Bent’s nephew, Richard Barnes, for several years. Martha also gave birth to two more children–Joseph in 1641 and her namesake, my 7x great grandmother Martha, in 1643.

Two years after John arrived, he received status of Freeman in his new community, giving him rights to vote and help rule the town.  He settled in a part of Sudbury that is now the town of Wayland, building a house on a six-acre lot 1/4 mile from the Sudbury River. The following year, he served on a committee to assign timber to citizens. In 1648, the town fathers appointed John Bent as one of three men to “end small business under twenty shillings”, a kind of small claims court. The same year, leaders chose him to lay out the highway from Watertown to Danforth Farms (later Framingham), following the old Connecticut Path. Not everything that happened in 1648 was as happy. John and Martha’s oldest son Robert, died at the age of twenty-three.

Sudbury Massachusetts

Colonial Sudbury–early 18th century–and the Wayside Inn after John Bent’s day.

As his sons grew to adulthood, John helped them settle in other places, joining the petition to form the town of Marlboro (Marlborough) for the benefit of his son Peter in 1656.

John Bent’s Will

In September 1672, at 76 years of age, John Bent Senior, wrote his will. He must have been proud of his life’s work, having accumulated wealth, mostly in the form of land, to pass on to his children and grandchildren.

John Bent Will

1672 will of John Bent, Sr., of Sudbury.

John Bent was buried in the Old Cemetery in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

John was spared the heartbreak of losing two of his sons later that decade. In 1675, as we learned in an earlier post, tragedy struck when Peter accidentally shot his brother Joseph, the youngest of the family. Three years later, Peter died while on a trip to England. And Martha Bent, John Bent Sr.’s wife, died in 1679.

John Bent’s Legacy

John Bent, by coming to America in 1638 had founded a family that would spread across the country and even to Nova Scotia. In 1760 David Bent of Sudbury moved to Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, taking advantage of land that became available when the British expelled French Acadians  out of Canada. Four years later two other Bent families followed.

John Bent’s descendants included several soldiers of the Revolutionary War.

One of those was Lt. Col. Matthias Bent of Framingham, later a Deacon.  His daughter Abigail Bent wrote The Happy Merchant and Other Tales for Sunday School teaching. (Not timeless literature, it seems to have disappeared.)

One of those soldiers of the Revolution, Lt. Col. Silas Bent of Rutland, went to Ohio as one of the first settlers–thus probably a friend and neighbor of my other ancestors who traveled with Rufus Putnam–the Israel Stone family. Silas kept on moving west, moving on to Missouri. A 3x great-grandson of John Bent, Silas Bent was a judge of the Missouri Supreme Court in the early 19th century.

The judge’s son, Charles Bent, served briefly as the first American Governor of the Territory of New Mexico.The National Park Service maintains a fur trading fort Charles Bent and his brother established on the Santa Fe Trail: Old Bent’s Fort.

Bent's Fort

Bents Old Fort, near La Junta, Colorado, founded by Charles Bent in 1833.

During the Mexican War, the fort served as a base for the troops of American General Kearney. General Kearney  appointed Charles Bent as Governor of New Mexico after the Mexican War. He served from September 1846 until soldiers of the Pueblo uprising killed him in January 1847. (For those keeping track, Charles is the 4x great grandchild of John Bent through Peter Bent. That makes Charles my 5th Cousin, 4x removed.)

Little did John Bent know when he left England, what a mark his family would make on America.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout (Anderson),the daughter of
  • Hattie Morgan (Stout), the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett (Morgan),the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Stone (Bassett) the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Howe (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel Howe, the son of
  • David How, the son of
  • Martha Bent How, the daughter of
  • John Bent, Sr.

Research Notes

  • The Bent family in America : being mainly a genealogy of the descendants of John Bent : who settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in 1638 : with notes upon the family in England and elsewhere. in North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 at Ancestry.com, Allen H. Bent, 1900. Also available at Archives.org.
  • U. S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Index, 1500s-1900s, Ancestry. Record for John Bent Sr. arrival 1638.This edition was privately printed in 75 quarto copies for W. Elliot Woodward. Same as the octavo edition of 1860 with an additional section, “The First Settlers of Plymouth,” pp. 115-122. Research originally done, 1858-1860, for The New England Historical Society.Source Bibliography:
    DRAKE, SAMUEL G. Result of Some Researches Among the British Archives for Information Relative to the Founders of New England …. 3rd ed. Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1865.
  • U.S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Index, 1500s-1900s, Ancestry. Record for John Bent Sr.., arrival 1638
  • A History of Framingham, Massachusetts, including the plantation, from 1640 to the present time with an appendix containing a notice of Sudbury and its first proprietors. By William Barry, 1847, J. Munroe & Co., Boson. At the Library of Congress. Accessed through archive.org.
  • A History of Sudbury 1638-1889, Alfred S. Hudson 1889, R. H. Blodgett, Sudbury.  Available on archives.org
  • England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, Ancestry.com 2014 (John and Martha Bent parent of James and parent of Ann(Agnes).
  • Massachusetts Applications of Freemen, 1630-91, Ancestry.com 2010, John Bent 1640
  • Massachusetts, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1790-1890, Ancestry.com 1999, John Bent 1639
  • Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, Roxbury, 1630-1867, Jay Mack Holbrook, 1985, John Bent Death 1672
  • Middlesex County, Massachusetts Probate Index, 1648-1870,Flint, James, compiler, Anestry.com 2000 John Bent, Sudbury, 1672.
  • In addition to this index, the book The Bent Family in America reprints the entire will (ref above).,
  • U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900, Source number: 76.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number of Pages: 1; Submitter Code: CGF, John Bent and Martha Blanchard, 1624, Hampshire, Ancestry.com 2004
  • FindaGrave.com, John Bent 1596-1672
  • Puritan Village: The Formation of a New England Town, Sumner Chilton Powell, Wesleyan University Press, University Press of New England, Hanover NH 1970, read in Kindle Edition.

Martha Bent, American Born

Martha Bent 1643-1680

Martha Bent’s Family

When Martha Bent’s parents John and Martha welcomed her into the world on September 5, 1643, they had lived in American only five years.  Martha, named for her mother, had five older brothers and one older sister. All but the youngest had been born in Penton-Grafton in Hampshire, England.

  • Robert Bent, eighteen, named for their paternal grandfather.
  • William Bent had been born 16 years before Martha, but may have died before Martha was born. The records are unclear, although the family history says “Probably died young.”  I have not found any other information on William, except that documents show that the parents, John and Martha, traveled from England with five young children. If the ship’s record is correct, William must have still been alive in 1638.
  • Peter Bent  a 13-year-old. Some records say Martha’s maternal grandmother was named Pierre Jean, which could explain the name Peter.
  • Agnes Bent, ten years old, named for their paternal grandmother.
  • John Bent, named for their father, seven years old when Martha was born.
  • Joseph Bent, the toddler, two years old,  the first of the family born in America.

Life in Sudbury, a Puritan Village

Drum and Fife Corps

Ancient Fyfe and Drum Companie, Sudbury, MA, photo by Joyce Isen

A year earlier, the two Sudbury families had celebrated when Samuel How was born to John Bent’s friend and fellow Sudbury pioneer–John How.  John How had been granted land in Sudbury in 1638, as had John Bent.  In the small community of Sudbury, people lived on separate lands doled out for the common good, but the life was communal in many ways.  They worshipped at the community church. They all took turns at holding public offices to be sure order reigned and taxes were collected. They helped each other build houses and clear land and protect their families against the few remaining indigenous people who were still resisting English settlement.

Although John How moved his family to nearby Marlboro, the two families remained friends. The Bent family no doubt mourned with their friends the Hows when Robert How died in the winter of 1648. The Bent’s oldest son was just 23 years old.

Martha Bent and Samuel Howe

Given their many ties, it is no surprise that 21-year-olds Samuel Howe and Martha Bent, young people whose family had been longtime friends, would marry in June, 1663. Martha’s father, John, gave the young couple a leg up by giving them 44 acres of land in Sudbury. If he wished to keep them close at hand, he succeeded, for despite the fact that the rest of his family had moved to Marlboro, Samuel moved back and stayed in Sudbury the rest of his life.

The Bents were no doubt pleased with the match, as Samuel already had started a career as a carpenter and must have showed signs of the entrepreneur he was to become. I hope that Martha had an adventurous spirit, because her busy husband had many occupations. For instance, he built a bridge over a stream on their land. He built the bridge, not as a community service, but so that he could collect a toll. And soon he also was charging people to use the meadow next to the bridge. He got permission to sell drinks out of their house, bought and sold land, held town offices and was a colonel of the Sudbury militia regiment.

You can read more about the wheeler-dealer Samuel in my earlier portrait of him. Late in his life, Samuel helped their son David build a house which became a tavern and today is Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.

Sudbury Massachusetts

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn Bar in Sudbury MA. The beam across the ceiling may be original from David and Hepzibah’s original home, circa 1702. Photo in public domain from Wikimedia.

Martha Bent How Makes a Family

Martha was kept busy on the domestic front. Their first child, a son named for his grandfathers John, was born 13 months after they married. Following the pattern of most colonial wives, Martha gave birth about every two years–seven children in thirteen years. Unlike most colonial families, Martha and Samuel lost no children in childbirth or infancy.

  • July 1664: John How, named for his paternal grandfather
  • March 1666: Mary How [Farrar;Barnes], named for her paternal grandmother.
  • May 1668: Samuel How, named for his father
  • October 1669: Martha How [Walker; Whitney], named for his mother
  • Oct 1672: Daniel How [Died when he was eight years old]
  • Nov 1674: David How [My ancestor]
  • Apr 1677: Hannah How [Barnes]

Tragedies Strike

In 1675, when Martha was 32, her youngest brother died. I will relate that tragic story later.

Indian Raid on a Puritan Village

Indian Raid on a Puritan Village

In 1676 the Indian war known as King Phillip’s War raged across Massachusetts, and Samuel and Martha became victims.  Not only was one of Samuel’s brothers killed in the fighting, but Martha and Samuel’s house and barn were burned to the ground.  In April of 1676 , my 7x great-grandmother, the mother of six children under 13, found herself without a home and probably without many of the animals she depended on for sustenance. The youngest child at that time, my ancestor David How, was a 16-month-old toddler.

No doubt the community pitched in and helped her carpenter husband rebuild. In the mean time, she and her children could stay with the many family members in the area. But think of the quilts to be made, the clothes to be replaced, the cloth to be woven to replace lost yardage. Samuel could make new furniture, but he also had to be making money to replace lost equipment and farm animals. Samuel had to replant burnt fields and he and Martha had to make all the things that today we could run down to Wal-Mart or Home Depot to replace.

Exactly a year after the tragic loss of home and barn, another daughter,  Hannah, joined the family in their rebuilt homestead. Life (and death) went on.

Two years later, Martha’s brother Peter died while on a commercial trip to England.  Another story to come.  Of her six siblings, only two remained–John and Agnes. And then the final blow–in 1679, Martha’s mother, Martha Bent, also passed away.

The Great Comet of 1680

I have not seen a cause of death for Martha Bent How, but since her eight-year-old son died the same year, in the summer, I suspect an epidemic of some sort. Noah Webster’s compendium of disasters and disease, tied to celestial events, does not mention a 1680 epidemic in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, a paper on an earlier plague by Mark Laskey, does have this something to say about 1680. The statement by Cotton Mather, sheds light on the belief system of our Puritan ancestors.

Another comet would blaze across the sky in 1680, two years after the catastrophic defeat of King Philip’s native uprising. Reverend Cotton Mather hailed its passing as “a sign in heaven … that the Lord [is prepared] to pour down the Cataracts of his wrath, ere this Generation… is passed away.” It was compared to the comet of 1618, “which appeared above three score years ago, [when] God sent the Plague amongst the Natives of this land [and] cast out the Heathen before this his people, that the way might thereby be prepared unto our more peaceful settlement here.” Mather concluded his sermon with a warning to the Christian faithful, “that we may never provoke [God] to doe unto us, as he hath done unto them.”

I wanted to end with saying that Martha dramatically went out with a comet, but alas, she died at the end of August, 1680 and contemporary viewers report the comet appeared from late autumn through December of 1680. And perhaps that is far too dramatic for this hard-working colonial wife and mother anyway. Perhaps she was simply exhausted from caring for so many children, from worrying about the attacks of the Indians–her home particularly vulnerable since it was located near the bridge that Samuel had built across the river. Perhaps losing her home and having to rebuild from scratch and then having a seventh baby was all just too much.

Martha Bent How died in Sudbury at the age of thirty-seven, joining her eight-year-old son and leaving six children between three and sixteen with Samuel How. Neither Martha’s grave nor the grave of the child, Daniel* has been identified.

*Note:  Samuel married a second time and had six children.  The second child with his second wife was also named Daniel.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout (Anderson),the daughter of
  • Hattie Morgan (Stout), the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett (Morgan),the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Stone (Bassett) the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Howe (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel Howe, the son of
  • David How, the son of
  • Martha Bent How.

Notes on Research

  • In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts by David W. Conroy, (1995), my personal library
  • As Ancient Is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn, by Curtis F. Garfield and Alison R. Ridley(1988), my personal library
  • A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E. Plumb (2011), my personal library
  • Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe (1929),  New England Historic Genealogical Society, 9 Ashburton Place Boston. 1929. This is said to be the best of the several genealogies of the family. Although I do not have a copy of the entire book, portions of it are available on the Internet at archives.org and at ancestry.com
  • Middlesex County records found on ,Ancestry.com. Birth, death and marriage.
  • Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County Massachusetts Vol. 1, ed by Ellery Bicknell Crane (1907) Available as a Google Books e-book.
  • FindaGrave.com The tombstone picture came from Find a Grave, because although I visited the Sudbury Old North Cemetery, (located in Wayland MA) where Samuel is buried, I was unable to spot his grave.
  • I also have had assistance from the archivist and a historian at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn and the historian with the Sudbury Historical Society.
  • Massachusetts, Marriages, 1633-1850, Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp Sudbury, Middlesex, Samuel How and Martha Bent, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, Film # 0599521 item 4.
  • Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, Death records: Martha How
  • The Bent family in America : being mainly a genealogy of the descendants of John Bent : who settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts, in 1638 : with notes upon the family in England and elsewhere. in North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 at Ancestry.com, Allen H. Bent, 1900
  • U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, Place: America; Year: 1638; Page Number: 58, Ancestry.com
  • U.S., New England Marriages Prior to 1700, Martha Bent How and Samuel How