Tag Archives: New England Puritan

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.