Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Joseph Bent: Bang! You’re Dead

Joseph Bent, 1641-1675

Joseph Bent, the sixth child of John Bent and his wife, and the first to be born in the new world, arrived in the springtime.  John and his wife Agnes and their five children had arrived in Boston from England a year earlier, in April 1640, hoping for a life more peaceful than in old England.

When Joseph joined the family, the other five children, all born in Penton-Grafton England, ranged between 5 and 16 years of age. My 7x great-grandmother, Martha Bent (Howe) would join the family two years later.

Having toiled for a year establishing a new home in Sudbury, his parents surely saw Joseph’s May birth  as one more springtime blessing .  Spring in New England, and the seeds they had planted would have been just breaking ground, trees and flowers blooming and new life all around.

As Joseph grew up, playing with his sisters and brothers and other children of Sudbury, parents surely cautioned to be careful of the Indians who might be lurking in the woods, but they had acres of meadow and woods and streams in which to play.  I can imagine Joseph and his brothers playing “English and Indians”, waving make believe swords and firing make believe guns with cries of “Bang, you’re dead.” At the age of six, Joseph experienced death in the family. His older brother, just twenty-two years old, died.

(We will learn more about Joseph’s and Martha’s older siblings in the future.)

Joseph Takes His Place as an Adult

By the time Joseph was 19, Joseph gave a disposition in the courts of Middlesex County, although I have no idea about the subject.  Joseph did not marry as young as some in the Massachusetts towns, but on June 30 of 1666, at the age of 25, he married the 20-year-old Elizabeth Bourne of Marshfield in Plymouth County.

A Move to Marshfield

His new wife Elizabeth came from a distinguished line related by marriage to Pilgrim leaders. The couple resettled in the oceanfront town Marshfield after Joseph sold off his Sudbury lands and buildings. Records show he sold  13 acres of upland in Sudbury adjoining the common (Surely a very propitious location), houses, barns and two acres of meadow land.  Not bad for a twenty-five year old.

Joseph and Elizabeth named their first son, born in 1667, after Joseph. Sadly, baby Joseph died in infancy.

By 1669, the people of Marshfield chose Joseph as their Constable. I like this explanation of the historic job from the website of today’s Massachusetts Bay Constables Association.

The constable had to be of good character and an actual resident of the parish he served. The office was a personal, not a pecuniary one. No salary was attached to it. His personal presence in the parish was indispensable, for he was presumed to be known to all the inhabitants of the parish, and they were all bound to obey his orders and to aid and assist him whenever called upon, in the exercise of his lawful authority. In short, he was a public officer, well known in the community, and exercising an indispensable governmental function. The importance of the office did not arise wholly, however, from the broad powers attached to it, but largely from the close contact which the constable had with the life of the people among whom he dwelt. Strangers could not long remain in the community without his knowledge, nor little could go on without coming to his ears. This combination of official authority with intimate knowledge of the character and habits of the members of the community was well adapted, in earlier times, to preserve a wholesome respect for law and order, and to foster the belief that violators of the peace would be marked and punished.

The Joseph Bent Family Returns to Sudbury

I do not know how long he served as Constable of Marshfield, but when his father died in 1672, Joseph moved his family back to Sudbury, probably to live on the family property.

While Joseph and Elizabeth lived in Marshfield, they added to their family. After their first child died, they had a son named Experience (born in 1669) and two daughters whose names and birth dates are unknown. When they returned to Sudbury,Elizabeth, named for her mother, was born in 1673.  Elizabeth gave birth one more time in 1675, to a son who they named Joseph.

Records show that all five of these children survived until at least 1684 because John Bourne, Elizabeth’s father, mentions them in his will written that year. However the lives of the two unnamed daughters of Joseph and Elizabeth Bent remains a mystery.

An Accidental Death

The family had barely settled in Sudbury, and Joseph Jr. had been born in May 1675, when Joseph Bent’s life came to an unexpected end. He was only thirty-four years old in the summer of 1675. Joseph’s older brother Peter accidentally shot and killed Joseph. With Indian unrest growing, Peter may have been showing his brother a weapon he had ordered from England.

Although there is no direct record of when Joseph died, the Bent Family History reports that he acknowledged a deed on June 14, 1675 and the probate inventory of his property was taken on August 10, 1675.  That would lead me to conclude that the accidental shooting happened in the second half of June, because it generally took a few weeks for the court to complete probate business.

Elizabeth Bent pulled up stakes once more and moved her family back to Marshfield where her family lived. According to the Bent Family history, the probate inventory valued Joseph’s house and lands in Sudbury at £95. Elizabeth must have died soon after, because her father (John Bourne)’s will, written in 1684, clearly states that he is the  caretaker of her five children.

Post Script

Normally, I would end the story here, but I found one other interesting story related to Joseph’s wife and oldest surviving son.  The first immigrants–the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth–relied on investors to fund their journey.  The settlers were in effect indentured servants, expected to send goods back to England to repay the investors.  But the later wave of immigrants in the  1640s owned property in England, and funded their new plantations themselves.

Elizabeth Bourne Bent had a very wealthy grandfather, Thomas Beesbeech of Sudbury, who wrote a will in November 1672.  I say very wealthy, because in addition to owning lands in Sudbury worth £45, he owned lands valued at £400 in Kent, England and £30 of marshland in Marshfield in Plymouth Colony.  His will specifies that he also owns “a considerable estate in the hands of John Bourne, his son-in-law in Marshfield.” That John Bourne was the father of Elizabeth Bourne Bent.

Although Beesbeech makes no bequest to his granddaughter Elizabeth Bourne Bent,  he does leave funds for her mother Alice Beesbeech Bourne. But the thing that caught my attention is that he left a bequest of 5 shillings to “Experience, the son of Elizabeth Bent, wife of Joseph Bent of Sudbury.” Why?  Experience, I learn by checking the dates, was the first great-grandson of Thomas Beesbeech. At the time he wrote his will, he had a great-grand daughter, who also got 5 shillings. No other great-grandchildren had yet been born.

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
  • Samuel and Martha Bent How, the sister of
  • Joseph Bent

Notes on Research

  • 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
  • Massachusetts, Marriages, 1633-1850, Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp, Ancestry.com
  • Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, Roxbury, 1630-1867, Jay Mack Holbrook, Compiled by Ancestry.com in a larger index. This is an alphabetical listing of all marriages. Groom, bride, date. Holbrook Research Institute: Oxford MASS. 1985 Joseph Bent birth
  • Middlesex County, Massachusetts Deponents, 1649-1700, Sanborn, Melinde Lutz, comp, Ancestry.com Joseph Bent, age 20, 1660.
  • Middlesex County, Massachusetts Probate Index, 1648-1870, Flint, James, comp, ancestry.com, Joseph Bent, Sudbury, 1677
  • The Great Migration (1999) developed as part of The Great Migration Study of The New England Historical and Genealogical Society, Boston. Sketch of Thomas Beesbeech.

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

The Bent Family-Tugging on a New Family Line

Sometimes I follow an orderly path through my ancestors, carefully unravelling my mother’s side, or my father’s. I fully intended to get back to my father’s side in the early months of 2017. But sometimes, despite my best intentions, a family line presents itself that contains so many interesting stories, that I cannot resist stopping to visit a while.  Honestly, I had not intended to visit the maternal Puritan-era line of the Bent family.  After all, in 2014, I had pursued the wonderful early Colonial and Revolutionary period stories of the Howe family in Sudbury Massachusetts. I thought I had “done” New England Puritan villagers. But apparently not.

Bent family home town

Holy Trinity Church at Penton Grafton in Hampshire County, England where many Bent family members are buried. Photo by Colin Bates

A Howe relative on Facebook recently mentioned visiting a 14th century churchyard in the village of Penton-Grafton in Hampshire County, England.  She saw a gathering of graveyards for the Bent Family.  I recalled that although I had spent months poring over the Howes, I had never looked into the family of one of the Howe wives–Martha Bent. And I was off to the races.

When I wrote about Samuel Howe, the firsts How/Howe to settle in Sudbury Massachusetts, and the first tavern keeper in the family, this is all that I said about his wife:

At the age of 21, Samuel Howe married Martha Bent. Martha’s father was one of the early settlers in Sudbury– a fellow founder and good friend  with Samuel’s father, John How.  Mr. Bent gave Martha and Samuel 44 acres  of his land in Sudbury, incentive for the young couple to settle there.

Perhaps because it is March, Women’s History Month, I felt guided to write about a female ancestor and her roots. Perhaps I just discovered some “low-hanging fruit” in the family history search.

As I started looking for clues to the Martha’s family, I found an amazing book. Published in 1900, “The Bent Family in Ameria, Being Mainly a Genealogy of the Desendants of John Bent Who Settled in Sudbury Massachusetts in 1648,” it grabbed my attention. The author, Allen Herbert Bent not only had a flair for telling a story and painting the backdrop of the Bents, he also carefully documented the facts about his (our) family. That careful sorting of truth from legend makes the book stand out among the multitude of family genealogies that were so popular around the turn of the century.

The Bents lived in interesting times–as did the Howes.  They escaped a native land in uproar, and arrived to work hard carving farms and civilized towns out of wilderness. John Bent, his wife and the five children who sailed to Boston in 1628, plus the two children who were born in Sudbury, lived through chaos. First the Indian Wars, while they were trying to invent government and organized religion on a new world. Their male grandchildren marched with local militias under the British. Their male great-grand children fought in the Revolution and later fought in the French and Indian War. From the time the family first arrived, members kept moving to new territory in order to have more room for their enterprises.

My 7x Great Grandmother, Martha Bent How, the baby of the family, started life in Sudbury. She gave birth to seven children there after her husband settled on the land gifted by her parents. Among them, David, my ancestor who founded the Howe Tavern (Longfellow’s Wayside Inn) next to youngest, was only six when his mother died.

Longfellow's Wayside Inn

 

Coming Attractions

After introuducing Martha, I intend to talk about each of Martha’s brothers and sisters–as much as I can dig up about them, and then move back to her parents, and sketch the early ancestors from England. Stacks and stacks (virtual and concrete) of fuel the flow of stories.

  • I have wills to help undertand some of the people.
  • I’ll rely heavily on the History of the John Bent Family.
  • New England records provide great material.

A Few of the Stories to Come

  • There’s the woman who did not quite make it to America–dying on the boat.
  • There’s the man shot (accidentally) by his brother.
  • There’s the one who traveled back and forth frequently to England, making a will before one of those dangerous trips.
  • There are the ones killed by the rebelling Indians in King Phillips War.
  • There are the ones who went to Nova Scotia to take advantage of available land where Acadians had been forced to leave.
  • Farther down the line, we could find the first Governor of New Mexico Territory.

Oh yes, I think the Bent Family will keep us entertained for a good while, now.