Archive:Who Was Capt. Benjamin Whitney
Capt. Benjamin Whitney - Most Wanted
by Colleen Knights & Diana Cala
Captain Benjamin Whitney lived most of his adult life in Westminster, Windham Co., VT. His marriage to Jerusha Brockway, daughter of Wolston and Anna (Brooks) Brockway, is certain. Though no record of this legal bond has been found, a Petition for Alimony was heard on August 1, 1809 at Newfane in Windham County, Vermont.
Benjamin "Wheetney" was amongst those who petitioned Governor Wentworth to form the new town of Surry in Cheshire Co., NH on July 4, 1768, proposing to join the westerly part of Gilsum and the northeasterly part of Westmoreland. History of Surry indicates that Benjamin Whitney was of the Westmoreland leg. This petition was granted, and on March 9, 1769 the Charter of Surry was issued.
From History of Surry:
Benjamin Whitney, so far as known, was the first blacksmith to locate in what is now S. His name is found as early as July 4, 1768, and, when the road was surveyed 1771 his shop stood not far from No. 22. From Keene he came to this town, and after a few years removed to Westminster, VT. He m. Jerusha Brockway, daughter of Wolston Brockway.
Wolston Brockway was also a petitioner for the new town, and had moved his family to New Hampshire from Lyme, CT. He was the grandson of Wolston Brockway (or Brockweye), b. Norwich, England 1638, who emigrated to Saybrook, New London, CT about 1654. He is seen in Gilsum, Cheshire, NH town records as early as 1764. Jerusha's mother, Anna Brook, d. of Henry Brook and Alice Chappel, died before 24 August 1760 when Wolston m. in Surry, Esther Mack, also of Lyme. It is not certain whether Anna Brook died in Connecticut or New Hampshire.
Also from History of Surry:
Blacksmith shops have been quite numerous. Joseph Whitney, a blacksmith , was living near No. 22 about 1767, and is supposed to have built a shop nearby, which Benjamin Whitney was running in 1772.
History of Surry, pg. 108; Chapter regarding Revolutionary War Soldiers:
Whitney, Benjamin. Was in what is now Surry as early as July 1768 when he signed the petition for the new town. He may be the same as mentioned in Keene, as coming from Marlborough, Mass. He removed prior to 1776 and settled in Westminster, VT, where he was probably living in 1790. Enlisted May 1, 1775; discharged Aug. 1, 1775, in Capt. William Walker's Company, Col. James Reed's Regiment. Gilsum History states he was at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Whitney, Joseph. Doubtless kindred of Benjamin q.v., came to town 1771 and after living here possibly 10 years removed. to Westmoreland. Enlisted from here June 28, 1777; discharged July 10, 1777. Was appointed corporal in Capt. Elisha Mack's Company, Col. Samuel Ashley's Regiment which went to the relief of Ticonderoga. He received a pension 1818 for services as a private in Massachusetts.
Further investigation of NH Revolutionary Pensioners suggests that the Joseph Whitney who received a pension in 1818 may not be the Joseph Whitney of Surry, Cheshire, NH, but is more likely the Joseph who resided in Acworth, Cheshire, NH, s. of Joseph and Abigail (Nutting) Whitney of Pepperell and Groton, MA.
It is probable that Benjamin and Joseph purchased land prior to settlement in Surry. Land records of Marlow, Cheshire, NH, show that a Benjamin Whitney held property adjacent to a William Brockway in 1764. Also in Marlow, 10 September 1767 a parcel of 100 acres was sold to Joseph Whitney by William Brockway. Jerusha had both a brother and an uncle named William.
From The History of Hartford, VT:
At the meeting held pursuant to the last named adjournment the proprietors chose Prince Tracy their committee to apply to the committees or selectmen of the several towns lying down Connecticut river to the Kings' Ferry above Charlestown, or "No. 4," and with those above Hartford on Connecticut river, to join in seeking out a public highway from said Kings' Ferry up Connecticut river. Benjamin Whitney, of Windham, Conn., was one of the Charter proprietors of Hartford. In the first division of land among the proprietors, in 1761, he drew lot "No. 1," comprising nineteen acres, located on the north side of White river at its confluence with Connecticut river. This lot was purchased by Elias Lyman 3d, about 1795, after which time, until the completion of the Passumpsic R. Rd., that portion of the town was called "Lyman's Point." Mr. Whitney subsequently owned lot "No. 64," on which is now located the hamlet known as Centreville, but it is not known that he ever lived in this town.
Who is this Benjamin Whitney?
Benjamin and Jerusha Whitney removed to Westminster, VT before 1776. There, he purchased Lot No. 11 in the first range of 80 acres. "Capt." Benjamin Whitney was chosen Horse Brander and Fence Viewer at the first town meeting of which there is any record in Westminster on 15 Mar 1784.
He appears to have been allied with the New York party at the time of American Revolution, and was one of the 30 men arrested in 1779 and jailed at Westminster for noncompliance with the conditions of the new militia law of the state of Vermont.
Children of Benjamin Whitney and Jerusha Brockway were as follows:
i. Parnal Whitney; born Jan 13, 1766 at Keene, Cheshire, New Hampshire; married Thaddeus Bradley, son of Moses Bradley and Mary Rowe, Oct 2, 1783 at Westminster, Windsor, Vermont; died Jan 16, 1861 at Burton, Geauga, Ohio, at age 95. ii. Abigail Whitney; born Jan 13, 1768 at Keene, Cheshire, New Hampshire. iii. Anna Whitney; born Jul 27, 1770 at Surry, Cheshire, New Hampshire, m. Jonathan Goold (Gould) of Westminster. iv. Benjamin Whitney; born 1772 at Westminster, Windsor, Vermont, m. Sukey Badger 18 March 1798. v. Alden Whitney; married Sarah Carpenter Jul 5, 1803 at Westminster, Windsor, Vermont; died Jul 8, 1822 at Westminster, Windsor, Vermont. vi. Adolphus Whitney, born Aug 11, 1786 at Westminster, Windsor, Vermont; d. 14 Dec 1869, m. Martha Powers 31 Aug. 1808. vii. Olive Whitney, b. 13 Apr 1789 m. Samuel Carpenter, 17 Jan 1813. viii. Leland Whitney b. 1791 d. 9 July 1839 m. Vilatty Pierce.
As stated previously, Jerusha Whitney filed a petition for alimony on August 1, 1809. It is interesting to note that Westminster, VT, town records show Benjamin Whitney sold all of his property to his son, Alden, just eight days prior, with the exception of a parcel of land held for Jerusha Whitney "otherwise Brockway". As a result of the alimony petition, Jerusha was also granted "to her sole use and disposal hereafter her own property. ...all the said Jerusha's wearing apparel, jewels and other ornaments of dress, with which she was ....to...and adorn herself at the date of granting of said bill of divorce together with one Bed and bedstead and suitable bed clothes, one side saddle, one chest of drawers, one brass kettle, one iron ....one foot wheel, and one great spinning wheel, one rocking chair, one candlestand, and a gridiron., one two years old Heifer and one small goat."
It is possible that Captain Whitney remarried. Records of First Congregational Church of Westminster include the death of Amy Whitney, wife of Benjamin on 2 Oct 1822, less than two months prior to Captain Whitney's death. However, no marriage is found in church or vital records.
We have no conclusive evidence of Benjamin's birth or parentage. Captain Benjamin Whitney's death is recorded in church and civil records as 20 Nov 1822 and in the Vermont Intelligencer and Bellows Falls Advertiser as 19 Nov 1822, aged 81. Provided this age is correct, we can estimate Benjamin's birth year to be c. 1741. Jerusha died 5 Apr 1826 in Walpole, Cheshire, NH at the age of 79. No will or probate for either Benjamin or Jerusha has been found.
In the History of Surry, NH it is stated, "From Keene he came to this town." In A History of the Town of Keene it is shown that the original proprietors of the Township on The Upper Aschuelot, incorporated as Keene in 1732, were from Concord, MA and surrounding communities. These proprietors included Benjamin Whitney, of Marlborough (presumably, Massachusetts, though no state is mentioned) and a Jonathan Whitney. Who were these two men? Early records of New Hampshire are incomplete. Neither the birth of a Benjamin Whitney c. 1741, nor his marriage to Jerusha Brockway, c. 1764-65 is included published sources or Cheshire Co. vital records.
Keeping in mind that Benjamin and Joseph Whitney of Surry were "doubtless kindred" does not mean they were brothers, I have searched for and examined as many siblings with these given names born within this timeframe as possible.
Groton and Pepperell, MA, vital records include the birth of a Benjamin Whitney, s. of Joseph and Abigail (Nutting) 27 October 1741. Siblings included Joseph 3rd in 1753 d. 1754, and Joseph 1755. However, they can not be considered without disproving Pierce's scenario for them.
The IGI records Benjamin b. 14 March 1743, Joseph b. 21 March 1739. Both are recorded twice, once in Uxbridge, Worcester, MA, VRs as sons of Joshua and Phebe (Pheeby) -----, as well as in Mendon, Worcester, MA, as sons of Joshua and Hannah Rockwood, Joshua's first wife. If Pierce is correct, Phebe is their mother, as Hannah Rockwood d. before 1738. Pierce states that Joseph probably died before 1765. He states further that Benjamin received a portion of his father Joshua's (Benjamin, John) estate in September 1765, surely being the grounds for the previous assumption regarding Joseph. No further information for either is included by Pierce. However, given the information we have on Joseph of Surry, if Joseph, son of Joshua and Phebe were to be the same, his first marriage, said to be to Bethiah Smith in Westmoreland, 1779, would be at the age of 40 yrs. Possible, but not the standard. This family appears in a recent article by Robert L. Ward, "The Footloose Joshua3 Whitney (1687-1771) and Some of His Descendants," The American Genealogist, vol. 74 (1999), pp. 197-208. The author shows that Pierce is in error as to the parents of these brothers. They were actually sons of Joshua4 Whitney (Joshua3, Benjamin2, John1) and Phebe. He believes Joseph5 was deceased by 30 Sep 1765, when his brothers and sisters signed receipts in the estate of their father, who died intestate. Benjamin5 was then living in Uxbridge. In his comments to me, he added, "While I don't have proof, I think Benjamin5 is the one who m. Esther Higgins in 1775 in Westborough, MA." This evidence should rule out this pair.
A second theory brings Benjamin Whitney up the Connecticut River from Windsor County, CT. Many of the first settlers to Gilsum and Westmoreland, parts of which eventually formed Surry, immigrated from Lyme, CT, as did Jerusha Brockway's family.
Are Joseph and Benjamin the twin sons of Zachariah and Ruth (Taylor) Whitney of Pomfret, CT, born 5 Nov. 1743? This Joseph is said to have married Mary Lyon in Pomfret 15 March 1780. We should consider the opinion of Robert L. Ward that the Joseph Whitney who m. 15 Mar 1780, Pomfret, CT, Mary Lyon, was not the one b. 5 Nov 1743, Pomfret, CT, son of Zachariah4 and Ruth (Taylor) Whitney [Ebenezer3, Richard2, John1]. Rather, he thinks that that was the one b. 8 Oct 1754, Willington, CT, son of Benjamin4 and Rebecca (Beal) Whitney [Josiah3, ?Benjamin2, John1]. That would leave the the twin sons of Zachariah and Ruth Whitney yet to be considered.
From Willington Township, Tolland, Ct, I find Benjamin b. 11 Jan 1751 and Joseph b. 8 Oct 1754, both sons of Benjamin and Rebeckah. If the age given in Benjamin's obituary is correct, this pair can be eliminated.
Brockways and Whitneys are found together in Marlow, Cheshire, NH in 1764. Did they meet there or did they arrive there from Connecticut together? Was Benjamin the son of one of the Upper Aschuelot's proprietors? If so, which one and what is their heritage?
- Kingsbury, Frank Burnside, History of the town of Surry, Cheshire County, New Hampshire, from date of severance from Gilsum and Westmoreland, 1769-1922, with a genealogical register and map of the town, (Surry, NH: Town of Surry, 1925).
- Pierce, Frederick Clifton, The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635 (Chicago, IL: 1895).
- Westmoreland History Committee, The History of Westmoreland (Great Meadow) New Hampshire 1741-1970 and Genealogical Data, (Westmoreland, NH: Westmoreland History Committee, 1976).
- Tucker, William Howard, History of Hartford, Vermont. The Free Press Association. Vermont. 1889.
- Griffin, S. G., M. A., A History of the Town of Keene, From 1732, when the Township was Granted by Massachusetts, to 1874, when it Became a City, (Keene, NH, Sentinel Printing Company 1904)
- Lorraine Cook White, The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records.
- Vermont Intelligencer and Bellows Falls Advertiser, 25 November 1822,Vermont Historical Society Microfilm Collection.