Tag Archives: Penton-Grafton

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.

Bent Brothers Building the Old West

Bent’s Fort tells the story of brothers William and Charles Bent, two key figures in the building of the American West in the early 19th century.  They carry on the dramatic and tragic story of the Bents in Colorado and New Mexico.

Tragedy At Sea: Agnes Bent, Agnes Bent 2 and child

Agnes Gosling Bent,1570(Probable birth year)- 1639 and Agnes Bent Blanchard, 1602-1639

Old Agnes is Cautious

As we learned in the story of John Bent, the first  of the Bent family to arrive in America, his mother, Agnes Bent approached the idea of relocating with caution in 1638.  Her husband Robert had died seven years before, leaving her with enough land and money to support her in her old age. Her entire life had been spent in rural Hampshire County as the wife of a farmer. When Peter Noyes organized a group from Penton-Grafton England to travel to America in 1638, Agnes had reached the age of 68, definitely old age for the 1600s.

And sailing was dangerous.  She had heard the stories of ships lost at sea. She lived inland and she probably had never had reason to be on a boat. The prospect of three weeks or more on the heaving waves of the Atlantic would give her pause.

The marker here shows Penton Grafton’s location in relation to London and the port of Southampton.

For historical background–England was ruled by Catholic King Charles, hated and feared by the reform Christians like those we call Puritans.  The restrictions on religion by his father King James was a motivating factor in the emigration of the Pilgrims to New England in 1620.  Since then, the trickle of emigres had turned to a gusher that we call The Great Migration. Despite the hardships of taming the wilderness in the New World, the prospects seemed preferable to the religious restrictions and the high taxation of King Charles. Civil War was brewing in England. As more English families fled England, the first Pilgrim villages expanded throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Agnes Bent sailed for Massachusetts

Massachusetts Pay Colony 1630

John was Agnes’ only remaining son, and possibly the only child in addition to young Agnes.

Family of of Agnes Gosling and Robert Bent

  • Jane/Margery Bent (Plympton) 1590-1631 (after Aug 1631) Her husband Robert Plympton died in 1637.
  • Richard Bent 1592- Died Bef. Aug. 1631*
  • Robert J. Bent 1594-Died Bef. Aug.1631*
  • John, 1596-1672
  • Maria 1598-1599
  • Denys/Dennis/Dennys (female) 1599, married 1626 (Death unknown.)
  • James B. Bent abt. 1602-Died Bef. Aug. 1631*
  • Agnes 1602-1639

* Not mentioned in father Robert Bent’s will in July 1631

When her husband Robert died in 1631, Agnes moved in with her son John in the Hampshire village of Penton Grafton. Even though widow Agnes’ son John,  was leaving  England in 1638 with his wife and his five children, she hesitated. However, she entrusted Peter Noyes with 60 pounds to check out the possibilities of settlement and possibly purchase land for her in Massachusetts.

Peter Noyes, himself, had left some of his family members in England, but his first year in America persuaded him that the move was the correct thing to do.  So in 1639, he returned to England to complete selling his property there and to round up his family and book them on a ship with him as he returned to his new home in Massachusetts.

When the widow Agnes’ son John left for America, one source speculates that she may have been “placed” in Andover, presumably with one of her children. In 1637, Agnes’ youngest daughter married Thomas Blanchard.  In early 1639, the widow Agnes went to live with the family of Thomas Blanchard. They lived in London and the move must have been in preparation for the trip to America, since Thomas Blanchard, and widow Agnes’ daughter, the younger Agnes, were also gong to America.

Although the widow Agnes was well fixed, a source reports that there was a “gathering of Christians” in “Sarum” to help raise the passage for  Thomas and Agnes Blanchard. Widow Agnes’ daughter Denys and her husband lived in New Sarum in Wiltshire County, so they may have organized the fund raising.

The Young Agnes Bent (Barnes, Blanchard)

The younger Agnes, probably the last of Agnes’ children, was baptized in July, 1602.  She and Richard Barnes were married in the township of Weyhill, location of Penton-Grafton, her home town in April 1630. Her son, Richard Barnes Jr., was born before July 1631, as he is mentioned in his grandfather’s will. However, Agnes’ husband Richard did not live long after the wedding. He may have died before Robert Bent’s July 1631 will, since he is not mentioned there and other sons-in-law are. [Note; Several sources claim that the couple had a daughter, Elizabeth, however, I am not convinced.  I will put a short note separate from this post explaining.]

Agnes Bent Barnes did not immediately remarry when her first husband died, but records show she married Thomas Blanchard on May 15, 1637. By the time they were married, the couple must have been thinking about sailing for America.  Agnes gave birth to a child in late 1638 or early 1639, and once the money had been gathered for the voyage, they set sail with their mother and the party of Peter Noyes on the Jonathan.

The departure date April 12, 1639 must have been a day of great excitement as well as some concern. Eight-year-old Richard  Barnes would be filled with excitement. Young Agnes would have been concerned not only for her infant, who was still nursing, but also for her mother, who was not well.  Additionally, I believe young Agnes had the responsibility for the orphaned Elizabeth Plympton, her sister’s child.

Illness and Death Aboard the Jonathan

Near the Bank of Newfoundland, just a few days out, Widow Agnes fell ill, and for the rest of the voyage she was confined to her cabin.  This put an extra burden on her daughter and son-in-law, because the passengers had to prepare their own meals.

The first tragedy began 15 days out. In late April, 1639, the younger Agnes fell sick and died at the age of 37. The passengers on the ship had a meeting and found volunteers to nurse the infant.

A few days later, the baby also died.

The death of young Agnes left the mourning husband, Thomas Blanchard, to care for his wife’s son, Richard, her niece Elizabeth (17), and nephew Thomas Plympton (13) and Thomas Blanchard’s very ill mother-in-law.  Apparently he worked hard at that task and was admired by the other passengers for his care of his mother-in-law.

The Record Left in a Court Case

Thirteen years later, the young boy, Richard Barnes sued his father in law, Thomas Blanchard in Massachusetts court to recover £20 promised him by his mother.

The wife of “Goodman Cook” and  Samuel Hyde, fellow passengers on the Jonathan,testified about Thomas Blanchard and Agnes Bent.  [Note; The ‘weake girl’ must have been Elizabeth Plympton, widow Agnes’ 17-year-old grand-daughter.]

Goody Cook: Thomas Blanchard did wholly take care and paynes with his wives mother all the way over (except some little help some time of a weake girl who was a kinsman of hers) and the old woman what with her age and what with her sickness for she was sick all the way his trouble and payns with her was such that it was unseemly for a man to do but there was no other save that little helpless girle his kinswoman and continued his care and payns with her all the way from London to Nantaskith (Nantucket?)  and anchored there and this deponent came away before she was dead.

[NOTE:  Sue Taggert, a descendent of Thomas Blanchard sent me an email suggesting the reference to Nantaskith probably means Nantasket, a town just south of Boston.  Makes more sense than my guess of Nantucket.  Thanks Sue]

Samuel Hyde: “The old woman stayed in her cabin and never came out. The big girl didn’t do much for the old woman but Thomas Blanchard did much about her.

In fact, knowing that Thomas Blanchard was poor, the other passengers took up a collection to help him.

Old Widow Bent Succumbs

At some point, the ship’s surgeon was called to assist, but Widow Agnes Bent continued to worsen.  By early May when the ship approached Boston, and her long-awaited reunion with her son, John Bent, she still had not emerged from her cabin.  At last the ship docked and the passengers began to debark.  Then, so close to the new life in the New World, Agnes Gosling Bent died, never having seen the country she sailed to.

Her son-in-law, Thomas Blanchard, took charge of burying her body in the Boston area, and found a home for young Richard with John Bent in Sudbury.

The Costs of a Journey

A receipt shows that Peter Noyes paid  £5  per adult and £ 2.50 per child, a total of 50 pounds for 9 adult and 2 half-passengers. He also paid £8 ,10 shillings for freight and  £17 , 18 shillings for “mele”, 4 firkins of butter [about 11 gallons per firkin] and 2 cases licorice.

The passengers enumerated with that receipt are

  • Peter Noyes
  • John Waterman [neighbor from Penton-Grafton]
  • Nicholas Noyes
  • Doreyti Noyes
  • Peter Noyes (Jr.?)
  • William Stret [There is a William Streete who is a brother-in-law of widow Agnes’ husband. This might be a son from that family.]
  • Anie (Agnes) Bent [widow Agnes]
  • Elizabeth Plemton (Plympton)
  • Richard Barnes
  • Agnis Blanchet (Blanchard) [young Agnes]

I am not sure why Thomas Blanchard is not on this list. Peter Noyes later testifies that he paid for the passage of Agnes Blanchard and Thomas Blanchard out of her estate, plus loaned money to Thomas once they landed, so apparently another receipt no longer exists.

A separate accounting gives the amounts that Agnes Bent reportedly paid as £17  for passage plus  £1, 10 shillings for transporting her goods and 10 shillings for the surgeon. (Note: this does not quite line up with the 5 pounds per adult and £2 .5 for a child, nor does it specify for whom she paid, or why Peter Noyes is credited with paying for Agnes Bent’s passage.)


John Bent , son of the elder Agnes, became a leading citizen of Sudbury and friend of another of my great-grandfathers, Samuel Howe.  You can read about him here.

Peter Noyes returned to Sudbury where he was a leader and friend of John Bent the rest of his life.

Elizabeth Plympton, grand-daughter of Agnes Bent, married John Rutter and  lived in Sudbury until she died in 1689. John Rutter was one of the deponents in the Barnes-Blanchard court case.

Thomas Plympton, Settled in Sudbury. Married a daughter of Peter Noyes when he was twenty-nine. Lived in Sudbury until he was killed at 52 on April 29,1676 in the Indian attack on Sudbury part of King Phillip’s War.

Thomas Blanchard remarried and lived in various places in New England.

Richard Barnes, grandson of the elder Agnes Bent, as mentioned above, first lived with John Bent. Later he had another guardian. When he reached adulthood, he became an important member of his community, married Dorothy Dix in 1667 and started the Barnes line in America.  In March 1652, Richard had filed suit against his stepfather to recover his legacy from his mother. The finding of the Cambridge Court said the jury found for the plaintiff, giving Richard damages of £20 and costs of court–thirty shillings. Thomas Blanchard contested the decision, but the books that relate the details of the case, do not say if his appeal was successful.  Richard moved to Marlborough and lived to 1708, a long life.

For a complete guide to all the articles I have written about the Bent family, go here.

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. and Agnes Gosling 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. Also available at Archives.org. Contains will of Robert Bent
  • 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. This book has a footnote on page 181-182 detailing much of the information I relate about the two Agnes and other on the Jonathan.  The Footnote specifies that the information came in part from the court files of Middlesex County.
  • The History of Sudbury, Massachusetts 1638-1889, Alfred S. Hudson 1889, R. H. Blodgett, Sudbury.  Available on archives.org Page 45 contains a sketch of John Bent and family. (It incorrectly states that he returned to England and came back on the Jonathan) and information on activities and land throughout. Page 52 talks about Thomas and Elizabeth Plympton, including the information that Thomas was probably the brother of Elizabeth, because he was mentioned in his grandmother’s will and  worked for Peter Noyes, and married his daughter. It also details how he was killed.
  • History of the Town of Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Charles Hudson, 1862, read on archives.org. Page 314: Thomas Barnes sketch and information throughout book. Bent family members throughout.
  • The Sudbury Fight, April 21, 1676, An Address Delivered before the Society of Colonial War, at the Battle Ground, Sudbury, Massachusetts, June 17, 1897 by Edward Webster McGlenen. Boston, 18. This address, printed in book form, mentions the death of Thomas Plympton.
  • The Planters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: A Study of the Emigrants and Emigration in Colonial Times: to which are Added Lists of Passengers to Boston and to the Bay Colony; the Ships which Brought Them; Their English Homes, and the Places of Their Settlement in Massachusetts. 1620-1640. “Passenger and Vessels That Have Arrrived in America, page138-140.” Section seen at Ancestry.com  The section on the ship Jonathan, instead of having the regular list of passengers, has very detailed information from the trial records of Barns v.Blanchard.  It is the most complete record I have discovered of the trial, although I have written to the Massachusetts Court Archivist to try to discover the original. The testimony given by passengers on the Jonathan provides a good picture of the last days of the two Agnes Bents.

  • New England Historical and Genealogical Society Register, Vol. 41, 1887, p. 81-82, “New England Gleanings”  Entire passage: “Massachusetts Archives-Petition of Thomas Blancher [Blanchard] 2-4-1646 says whereas Anne (Agnes Bent Barnes) of Way-hill in Hampshire England gave her son Richard Barnes 20 pounds and Anne (Agnes Gosling Bent) grandmother to said Richard gave him 16 pounds committed to trust of John Bent with whome the said Richard hath been “maintained since his coming to New England about seven years: John Bent gives security for payment when said Richard is twenty-one, signed by Thomas Blancher [Blanchard], John Bent and Peter Noyes.
  • U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s, Agnes Bent,  King, Carol Tyler, Ancestry.com
  • U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900, Ancestry.com, Source number: 93.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number of Pages: 1; Submitter Code: NV1, Ancestry.com; Agnes Gosling Bent and John Bent.

  • U. S. Find a Grave, Agnes Gosling Bent
  • Puritan Village, Sumner Chilton Powell, Wesleyan University Press, 1970, Hanover, New Hampshire. Author’s collection. Read in Kindle version.
  • England and Wales Marriages, 1538-1988, An Barnes and Thomas Blanchard, Place: Salisbury, Wiltshire, England; Collection: St Edmond; -; Date Range: 1587 – 1650; Film Number: 1279311, Ancestry.com
  • U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900, Agnes Bent and Richard Barnes, Source number: 3416.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number of Pages: 1; Submitter Code: RH1, Ancestry.com

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 first 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 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 introducing 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.

Update: For a complete guide to all the articles I have written about the Bent family, go here.