It’s All Relative: Hepzibah Death

Hepzibah Death 1680-1769

I mentioned Hepzibah Death when I was talking about the odd names that I have come across in my family tree. I’d like to know more about this 6 X great grandmother than just her odd name, but sadly, the activities of her husband make the history books (at least the local Sudbury ones) and she, being just a woman, is relegated to the traditional three mentions–birth, marriage and death.

Of course, since women’s lives are often reflected in their children, we also know when she gave birth and when her children left the nest. At least we know how many children she had and because of her husband’s activities, have some idea of her life between 1680-1769. (It’s what you do during that hyphen between the two numbers that really counts. )

Hepzibah was the second child of John (who came in the middle of a long string of John Death’s) and Mary Peabody Death of Sudbury. The Death family were early Puritan immigrants from England. Hepzibah had an older brother named–wait for it–John!  Her parents had moved to Sherborn two years before she was born in the summer of 1680, but her birth is recorded as being in Framingham.  Two sisters plus a brother who died in infancy followed Hepzibah.

On Christmas day, 1700, Hepzibah married David Howe, a very good catch as the son of community leader Samuel Howe. Soon David’s prospects got even better. In 1702, Samuel Howe  announced that his youngest son David was to inherit the land that Samuel had acquired on the west side of Sudbury.

The newlyweds lived with her father-in-law for a short time, until David and his father could complete a new house on the 130 acres of “New grant land” his father gave him.  The 130 acres lay west of the main settlement of Sudbury, which came in time to be called East Sudbury, and is now the town of Wayland.

I picture the couple walking cautiously on Indian paths through the woods, along the stream and waterfall, and envisioning their future in this still wild country.  Indians were still a threat. One of David’s uncles would be killed by Indians in Sudbury in 1676. Two sisters who were his cousins had been attacked in 1692 in Lancaster–one killed along with three children, and the other held captive for months. Another uncle would be captured by Indians in 1744.

Hepzibah’s own son Israel (my 5 X great grandfather) would die at the hands of Indians in Rutland when he was only thirty-six. These incidents, in addition to the several Indian fighters in the family underscore how constant and very personal was the danger.

But the thick woods, as beautiful as it was, also held other threats–namely bears and wolves.  It was in this atmosphere that David and Samuel built the two story house with one big room on each floor, that would be Hepzibah’s new home.

Sudbury Massachusetts

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

It is believed that the old bar of the present Longfellow’s Wayside Inn occupies the original portion of the old house, and I’ll be checking that out personally in September, when I visit Longfellow’s Wayside Inn  in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

The new house was finished in time to provide safety and shelter to babies born in 1703–Thankful How, and in 1706–Hepzibah How.  Sons Elaphelet (speaking of odd names!)* and  Israel and daughter Ruth were all born before David and Hepzibah opened a tavern in their home in 1716. (Which makes Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury the oldest operating inn in the country.)

Of course, the Howe’s would need more space to entertain guests, and David built what is probably the front parlor of the present inn and the bedroom above it.

At this time, Hepzibah had five children under 13 years old, and she was pregnant with her sixth, Ezekiel, who would eventually inherit the tavern.   With six children,  Hepzibah did not really need more responsibilities–like cooking and serving drinks to travelers and cleaning the bar room and the bedrooms. The children must have been pressed into service to help care for the traveler’s horses and do what they could for their mother as well as help their father with the farm and their father’s lumber mill.

Not that her husband, David was a shirker. We’ll hear all about him next week.

Five years after the tavern opened, in 1723 to be exact, Hepzibah’s oldest daughter–who probably had been a great help caring for customers– was married to a cousin–son of David Howe’s brother Samuel, Jr. Six years later, Hepzibah Death Howe’s then-23-year-old daughter, Hepzibah Howe also married. Daughter Ruth married a cousin (2nd cousin once removed if you must know) of Bathsheba Stone who would later marry Ruth’s brother Ezekiel.

I know, I know, your eyes are glazing over. Just one more example of how inter related all of the families of the small communities of Massachusetts were. David Howe Jr. married Abigail Hubbard, who was the sister of Elizabeth Hubbard who married my 5 X great grandfather, Israel Howe.

Eliphalet married a woman named Hepzibah (whose  last name I haven’t discovered) and they had at least five children. Like Israel, he settled in Rutland.

Hepzibah’s husband David died in 1759, and left a will that took good care of her. She lived on in the home he left to her for ten more years, probably lending a hand to son Ezekiel and his wife Bathsheba as they continued to run the tavern and care for ten children. Hepzibah Death Howe died in April, 1769 at the rare old age of 89.

*An alert follower on Facebook–Angels Storey has informed me that Elaphelet was one of the sons of King David.  How appropriate that the son of David Howe was named Elaphelet!  And I think we can assume that perhaps Hepzibah and definitely David were devoted Bible readers.

How I am related

  •  Vera Marie (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 (Basset), the daughter of
  • Elizabeth Howe (Stone), the daughter of
  • Israel How, the son of
  • David Howe and Hepzibah Death Howe

Notes on Research

  • In Public Houses: Drink and the Revolution of Authority in Colonial Massachusetts by David W. Conroy, (1995)
  • As Ancient Is This Hostelry: The Story of the Wayside Inn, by Curtis F. Garfield and Alison R. Ridley(1988)
  • A History of Longfellow’s Wayside Inn by Brian E. Plumb (2011)
  • Howe Genealogies by Daniel Wait Howe (1929), Massachusetts Historical and Genealogical Society. 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.
  • Middlesex County records found on 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.
  • I also have had assistance from the archivist and a historian at Longfellow’s Wayside Inn.


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11 thoughts on “It’s All Relative: Hepzibah Death

  1. Bro

    RE: Flip and terror: David’s uncle was probably one of several relatives killed during King Philip’s War in which over 600 white men, women, and children colonists (and probably even more Indians) were dispatched in raids and counter-raids between 1675 and 1678. Some historians have given as one reason for the hostilities the settlers’ failure to stem the flow of more (extra-treaty) white settlers. Recently politically correct commentators hold Philip up as a popular freedom fighter (so did Washington Irving in one of his more romantic moods), a sort of William Wallace/Braveheart type (see the unreliable PBS film documentary “We Shall Remain”), but a large number of Indians (Mohigans [sic], Pequots, etc.) hated him and fought as allies of the colonists. He was killed by an enemy Indian warrior, then beheaded and drawn and quartered –a la Wallace. The war petered by 1678, but he had been successful in a statistical sense in shocking back white expansion (albeit briefly) with the great civilian death toll, the destruction of 12 white towns, and the decimation (1/10th) of the white males of military age. It cost the colonist beside blood about 100,000 pounds! to put down this rebellion. No wonder the survivors had to knock back so much “flip”! For a great (I almost wrote “hair-raising”) white captive narrative, see the chillingly inspiring account of the unbelievably tough Mary Rowlandson.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Yes, King Phillip’s War was horrific, and yes, Uncle John How was killed at the Fight of Sudbury–part of King Phillip’s war. Unfortunately scattered members of our family tree were killed or captured by Indians for a period of nearly 150 years. The French and Indian War (1689-1763) stirred things up, for instance. In 1725 the citizens of Rutland appealed to the Governor of Massachusetts for help because they were unable to harvest due to attacks.
      We do tend to romanticize the struggles of the pioneers and the plight of the Indians, but I can’t stop thinking about how much these former Englishmen treasured their liberty in order to keep pushing into the “untamed wilderness.”
      I plan to write later about the Indian Wars, but for now, I’ll just mention that a brief summary of New England experience I found on the web lists various clashes from 1622 to 1768.
      Also, one of our great-grand-uncles also wrote an account of his capture by Indians. I am hoping to locate it, perhaps in the Sudbury Library or Wayside Inn archives. On line at

  2. Marilyn Wood

    Enjoyed reading your blogpost about Hepzibah Death. She is my ancestor too! I am from Thankful Howe who married Peter Howe (both were grandchildren of Samuel Howe Sr.) Their son Phineas Howe married Susannah Goddard. They were parents of Rhoda Howe whose son Phineas Richards was my 3rd great grandfather.

  3. Kathy

    Ditto to Marilyn, we are related as well! And I live just a few minutes from the farm Hepzibah was born at. She was my children’s favourite ancestor, due to her name.:) Thanks for keeping her memory alive.

  4. Susan Saunders

    I’m Susan Saunders from Melrose, MA and am related via Hepzibah Howe Keyes (who is my 7 times great grandmother). As I get the time I plan to visit as many as possible graves of my ancestors. I find this all very fascinating and exciting!

  5. Martha Stone

    I too am related to Hepzibah! Her daughter Ruth married Hezekiah Stone and I am Martha Stone in Baltimore Maryland.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      What fun! Then we are doubly related, because I also trace my Stone ancestry back to Gregory Stone as my 9th Great Grandfather. I have not worked a lot on that Stone line, but they are a wonderful bunch! When I get back to them, we need to share information.

  6. Beth Halbrooks

    Thank you for your insightful article! I am also a descendant of Hepzibah Death & David Howe through their daughter Thankful Howe, my 7th great grandmother, who married her first cousin Peter Howe. Living in New England, I’ve had the opportunity to walk the land around the Wayside Inn many times and attend the annual colonial fair in the fall. It is one of my favorite places.

    I have not been able to discover graves for David, Hepzibah, Thankful or Peter. David Howe’s father Samuel is buried in nearby Wayland, MA. At least David & Hepzibah are remembered through the home they built at the Wayside Inn.

  7. Steve Cutler

    Hepzibah was a great grand aunt. Her sister was my great grandmother… Lydia Death ,I believe. I will double check. As I am remembering it, Lydia Death’s daughter, Abigail Reed, was my 5th great grandmother married to James Cutler descendant and Parker’s Revenge participant, Minuteman Thomas Cutler from Lexington. I will double check. If I have made an error somewhere, I will make an apology.

  8. Tisha Wood

    Wow! I just started following my grandmother’s family today. It led me here. She was my great grandmother x8 or9 ( I have lost count at this time.) Her son Cyprian How we got all the way to Kansas blows my mind. T


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