Biographical Insights about
Copyright 2007-2009 by Ancestry Register LLC and Terry J. Booth
(Elder) William Wentworth
(bef 15 Mar 1615 - 15 Mar 1696)
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|Immigrant, Minister, Hero of the 'Cocheco Massacre'|
(Elder) William Wentworth is the original immigrant of this notable New England family line. His descendants include many Governors and members of the New Hampshire legislature, his relatives included several early Bristish governors of New Hampshire and the colonies, and his ancestry can be traced back to William the Conqueror and before. He was also a noted preacher of his time, having come to the colonies in search of religious freedom. But he is perhaps most remembered for his life-saving quick thinking (despite being age 73 at the time) during the infamous 'Cocheco Massacre' near Dover on 27 June 1684.
The following biography, from James True's WEBSITE, is based on John D. Wentworth's The Wentworth Genealogy : English and American; Boston, MA: 1878 (3 Volumes, it is an updated reference of materials originally appearing in the 'New England Historical & Genealogical Register' roughly 10 years previous), and Ezra S. Stearn's Genealogical and Family History of the State of New Hampshire - a Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation Lewis Publishing Company; Chicago IL; 1908.
William Wentworth's Life
William Wentworth was baptized in Alford, Lincolnshire, England on 15 March 1615/6, son of William Wentworth and Susanna (Carter) Fleming Wentworth of Rigsby, Lincolnshire, England, and grandson of Christopher Wentworth and Katherine (Marbury) Wentworth. He died in Dover, NH 15 March 1696/7.
There is considerable uncertainty about the names of the wives of William Wentworth. It is speculated that he had two wives, and that Elizabeth Kenny was his first wife with the name of his second wife unknown. Another speculation is that his second wife was Elizabeth Knight, daughter of William's friend, Ezekiel Knight, but her dates place her as more likely the age of William's son, Ezekiel, who did have a wife named Elizabeth whose surname has not been found in the records. The subject of the dates of William's marriages and the names of his wives are discussed at some length in Wentworth's Wentworth Genealogy, pp. 106-109. The conclusion seems to be that unless further information becomes available, the details of his marriages must remain a matter of speculation rather than statements of fact.
Tradition says that William Wentworth left his home in England just subsequent to the time of the disposition of his father's property in England when William was about nineteen years old. Also, that he emigrated from England to America probably in the group with his kinsman, Rev. John Wheelwright. They landed in Boston 26 May 1636.
The first written evidence of William in America is that, on 4 July 1639, he, with 35 people, including Rev. John Wheelwright, signed a "combination" for government at Exeter, NH, Rev. Wheelwright who because of the contents of his sermons had been "banished from Massachusetts and had, with others, purchased from the Indians the title to certain lands on April 3, 1638." When Massachusetts extended its jurisdiction to the Piscataqua River, and thus included Exeter, NH, Rev. Wheelwright had to move again. William Wentworth went with him to Wells, Maine.
Two of William's relatives through the Marbury family, Rev. John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson, were individuals who held strong convictions, views which were contrary to those held by most of their contemporaries and even outlawed in Massachusetts. Both were banished and had to move around as Massachusetts expanded its territory.
It appears that William lived in Wells, ME from 1642 to 1649 as he was recorded in 1642 as a juror from Wells to the York County Court. He was listed as constable in 1648 and again on the jury in 1647 and 1649.
Following this, William moved to Dover, NH, where he was generally referred to as "Elder William Wentworth" by virtue of his being a ruling elder of the church. He was "taxed" there in 1650. Dover, NH, then had four parts: Dover Neck, Bloody Point, Oyster River, and Cochecho, and William settled in Cochecho, which is now the central part of the City of Dover. He became involved in lumber manufacturing at the head of tidewater on Fresh Creek where he, with others, were proprietors of a sawmill. William was a selectman over a period of about 20 years, town moderator in 1661, and commissioner (an office in which small cases were adjudged) in 1663.
It is reported that on "June 27, 1689, a Thursday, Indians attacked, and the garrisons of Peter and Tristram Coffin were destroyed, but (the) Heard garrison was saved by William Wentworth who held the door until help arrived."
Although he was a "Ruling Elder" in the Dover, NH church where he officiated as preacher, he also preached in Exeter, NH 1690-1693, where his contract read, "agreed with Mr. Wentworth to supplyu and perform the office of minister for one year, if he be able, at 40 pounds." Later, an entry in the journal of Rev. John Pike read, "Mar. 16 '96/7, Elder Wentworth deceased a few days after he was taken speechless with a sudden shivering."
William Wentworth and his first and/or second wife had eleven children, birth dates of the children not known, but estimated by assuming they were at least 21 years old when recorded as taxed:
Samuel, b. 1641/2; m. Mary Benning.
John, b. ca. 1647; m. Martha Stewart.
Gershom, b. ca. 1649; m. Hannah French.
Ezekiel, b. ca. 1651; m. Elizabeth Knight.
Elizabeth, b. ca. 1653; m. (1) James Sharpe, m. (2) Richard Tozier, Jr.
Paul, b. ca. 1659; m. Catherine Stewart.
Sylvanus, m. Elizabeth Stewart.
Timothy, m. Sarah -----.
Sarah, m. (1) Benjamin Barnard; m. (2) Samuel Winch.
Ephraim, m. (1) Mary Miller; m. (2) Elizabeth (Waldron) Beard.
Benjamin, b. ca. 1670; m. Sarah Allen.
William Wentworth is considered to be one of the heroes of the short-lived Indian Wars in New Hampshire that occurred shortly after the better known 1675-6 King Philip's War (so named after Indian leader 'King' Philip) in the Massachusetts colonies. As can certainly be appreciated in hindsight, the growing populations of new settlers in early New England rapidly displaced many of the native Americans by taking over their hunting and grazing lands. Within 50 years of the landing of the Mayflower the discontent with that loss grew, especially since most of the immigrants evidenced little concern for the original inhabitants and owners of the land. While the discontent first emerged in the King Philip's War, it lingered on in the New Hampshire area far longer, largely because the native Americans there had not been killed off or otherwise forced to leave as happened in Massachusetts following King Philip's capture and execution.
The Dover NH Public Library's website contains the following description (along with some illustrations) of 'The Cocheco Massacre', a 1684 indian uprising that killed off or scattered roughly 1/4 of Dover's population at the time. Although the community had attempted to protect itself against the increasingly hostile actions of the local native American population by building a series of garrisons, they unfortunately proved less than adequate. This important part of Dover (and Wentworth family) history is described as follows :
The Cocheco Massacre (near Cocheco River, Dover NH)
For over half a century following Dover's founding in 1623, the English settlers co-existed peacefully with the local Penacook tribe. The Indians helped the colonists to develop fishing, hunting and farming skills necessary to surviving in New England. The Indian chieftain was Passaconaway, a strong leader who commanded respect and peaceful behavior from his people. He was responsible for forming the Penacook confederacy, a unification of local tribes against the hostile Mohawks. Passaconaway's 50 year reign marks one of the most peaceful periods in the New Hampshire province. His son Wonalancet took over leadership of the tribe in 1665 and continued his father's peaceful ways.
The leader of the colonists at Cochecho was Richard Walderne (Waldron), an Englishman who had emigrated in 1635. In 1642, Walderne owned a large tract of land at the Lower Falls of the Cochecho River where he built a sawmill. That spot became the foundation of the settlement known as Cochecho.By 1666 a total of 41 families lived and worked here. Indians became a familiar sight around town when Walderne opened a large trading post.There were occasional problems with the Indians. Walderne was not above breaking laws which forbade selling liquor or firearms to Indians.
In 1676, many Indians fled Massachusetts due to bloody fighting between a confederation of Indian tribes and English settlers. By September, over 400 Indians were at the the Cochecho settlement. Half of them were strangers, the other half were Wonalancet's people. Two companies of Massachusetts soldiers arrived to recapture the escaping Indians. They were ready to battle the Indians but Major Walderne intervened.
Walderne agreed the Massachusetts Indians should be returned to Boston for punishment, but he did not want local, loyal Indians to be harmed. The major suggested a "sham battle". The Indians were invited to assemble close to town for a day of war games. The unsuspecting Indians were surrounded by four militia companies which separated out the local Indians. Over 200 of the Massachusetts Indians were taken back to Boston. Some of them were hanged or sold into slavery.
Tensions mounted between the settlers and the Penacook Indians over the next eleven years. The peaceful Chief Wonalancet was replaced by the warlike Kancamagus who bitterly resented the injustices meted out by English settlers to his people. Indians had no right to travel in the woods east of the Merrimack without written permission from Major Walderne. More and more land was seized from the Indians for paltry payments like a "peck of corn annually for each family".
In 1684, the Governor ordered that the meeting house at Dover be fortified against Indian attacks. Every neighborhood developed at least one fortified blockhouse where people could flee to safety if Indians attacked. It is estimated that there were 50 garrisons within a 15 mile radius of present day downtown Dover. Five homes at the Cochecho settlement were garrisoned at public expense. Richard Walderne's, Richard Otis's and Elizabeth Heard's on the north side of the river, Peter Coffin's and his son Tristam's on the south side. These sites were purposefully chosen because of their locations on the highest knolls of the town. The garrisons were built with foot-thick squared logs impenetrable to bullets and a second story which projected over the lower story by two to three feet. This overhang feature was designed to combat Indians who customarily attacked with fire or smoke. A loose board in the overhang could be removed in order to pour boiling water on marauders or on fires below. Each wall also had narrow slits for firearms. The garrisons were also surrounded by an eight foot palisade of large logs set upright in the ground.
The settlers at Cochecho became frightened by the large number of hostile Indians now living with the local tribe. The settlers took refuge at the blockhouse each night, and during the day, guns were kept close to hand in the fields. Major Walderne scoffed at the fears of his neighbors, boasting he could raise a militia by lifting up his finger. Loyal Indians also tried to warn Walderne of the impending massacre.
Governor Bradford dispatched a letter to Walderne on June 27, stating "Some Indians . . . report that there is a gathering of Indians in or about Penacook with the designe of mischief to the English...they have a particular designe against yourselfe and Mr. Peter Coffin which the Council thought it necessary ...to give you notice that you take care of your own Safeguard, they intending to endeavor to betray you on a pretention of Trade". The letter arrived one day too late.
On the evening of June 27, several Indian women asked to shelter at each of the garrison houses, a common practice in peacetime. They were shown how to open the doors and gates in case they wanted to leave in the night. No watch was kept as all the Cochecho families retired for the night. During the early hours, Indian women quietly opened the gates to several hundred Penacooks.
The Indians rushed into Major Walderne's garrison. He attempted to defend himself with a sword but was quickly overpowered and tied to a chair. The furious Penacooks each slashed the 74 year old man across the chest with his own sword, crying out " I cross out my account!" They hacked off his nose and ears then thrust them into his mouth. Finally, they forced him to fall upon his sword. Even in death, the Indians were not done with vengeance: they cut off the hand that had cheated them by holding down the scales during trading. The final revenge was to burn the house to the ground, and murder or take captive the rest of Walderne's family.
At Richard Otis's garrison the scene was similar. Otis, his son Stephen and daughter Hannah were killed. His wife, Grizel and three month old daughter Margaret as well as two of his grandchildren were taken captive to Canada. Little Margaret (rechristened Christine by French nuns who raised her in Quebec) later returned to Dover at age 45 and opened a tavern. The Otis garrison was also burned to the ground.
The Heard garrison was more fortunate. Elder William Wentworth was guarding the property in the absence of its owner, Elizabeth Heard.He was awakened by a barking dog and managed to close the gates against attack. This was the only garrison left totally unscathed that night. Elizabeth Heard, her three sons, her daughter, and their families were all returning from their voyage to Portsmouth with the dawn tide. After landing, they found the Main Street docks curiously deserted. They cautiously approached the closest garrison, that of Major Walderne. The smell of smoke and the chilling sound of Indian cries alerted them to their peril.
Across the Cochecho River, Peter Coffin's garrison was quickly overwhelmed by the Indians. Because of his friendly relations with the Indians they did not burn his house, merely looted it. He and his family were taken captive and brought to his son Tristam's garrison. Tristam's home was so well fortified that the Indians had not been able to penetrate it. Kancamagus' men forced him to surrender by holding Peter in front of the gates and threatening to kill him. Tristam's house was not burned, just pillaged. Both Coffin families escaped safely while their captors were busily plundering their homes.
Five or six more homes were burned as were the mills at the Lower Falls. Twenty-three people were killed and twenty-nine were taken captive.
On the morning after the massacre, survivors searched the town thoroughly, but the enemy had vanished. Swift pursuit resulted in the re-capture of three Otis daughters in the town of Conway. Added military aid from Massachusetts was soon dispatched to Cochecho, but no further attack was made.
Several years passed before Cochecho fully recovered. Houses and mills were rebuilt, but the loss of so many persons (about 25% of the population) was a severe blow to the settlement's prosperity. By 1700 however, the town had begun to resume its former importance. Although Cochecho was occasionally harassed by Indians, it was never again the target of so destructive a raid.
For the next sixty years, Indian raids continued to plague many other nearby seacoast towns: Oyster River, Salmon Falls, Lee, Exeter, Kingston, Newmarket, Rochester, York, and Eliot all suffered tragedies similar to Cochecho's. Yet by the middle of the 18th century, disease, famine, and the "white tide" had all taken their toll on the Indian population in New Hampshire. By 1770, hardly an Indian remained in the province.
1. Hurd, D. Hamilton; The History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties New Hampshire; 1882; Philadelphia PA; reissued in 2002 as PDF files on a CD-ROM.
2. Richmond, Katherine F.; John Hayes of Dover, New Hampshire - A History of his Family; Tyngsboro; Privately Publ by Katherine Richmond; 1936; 2 Vols, 448 pages & 449-911 pages.
3. Scales, John; The History of Dover New Hampshire; 1923; J.B. Clarke; Manchester NH; 499 pages
Hall, Rev David B. A.M.; The Halls of New England. Genealogical and Biographical; 1883; Albany, NY.; Joel Munsell's Sons. Over 725 pages.
4. Stackpole, Everett S. and Thompson, Lucien; History of the Town of Durham New Hampshire (Oyster River Plantation); Published by the Town of Durham; 1914; in 2 Volumes. The history is in Vol. I, all genealogies are in Vol. II with pages restarting at page 1. Book was reissued 2000 as CD-ROM by Preserved Books.
5. Stearns, Ezra S.; Genealogical and family history of the state of New Hamphire : a record of the achievements of her people in the making of a commonwealth and the founding of a nation; New York [New York] : Lewis Publishing Company, 1908; 4 Vols.
6. Various ministers and clerks; Manual of the First Church of Dover NH : Organized Dec 1638; N. E. Stiles' Job Print; 1900; Dover NH. The document - which contains numerous 18th and 19th century birth, marriage and death records - appears in 'Collections of the Dover, N.H. Historical Society', which book is available online in the ancestry.com 'Families and Local Histories' Collection.
7. Wentworth, John, LL.D., of Chicago, Illinois; The Wentworth Genealogy: English and American; Boston MA; Little, Brown & Co.; 1878. In Three Volumes. An earlier 2 volume edition, Boston MA; Press of A. Mudge & Son; 1870 can be found in the ancestry.com 'Family and Local Histories' Library, while the original NEHGR article can be found in various issues beginning on page 321 of the Oct 1850 issue (Vol. 4).