Sunday, July 28, 2013

Joseph Leavitt and Mary Wadleigh of Exeter and Deerfield, NH

Joseph Leavitt, son of Moses and Dorthy Dudley Leavitt was born in the Brentwood Parish of Exeter on 23 March 1699. His father was an important man in Exeter and through his mother he was descended from a Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Thomas Dudley. Oddly enough, his is the only birth date recorded of all the children of Moses and Dorothy.

Not much is known about Joseph and his family, and there is some confusion out there (internet) as to where he lived and where his children were born.  Here is what I have put together after reading multiple New Hampshire town records and other documents.

When Exeter was first formed it was much larger than it is today. Gradually other townships were split off from the original town.  Joseph Leavitt and his brother Timothy lived in the Brentwood, Parish of Exeter. Joseph had been given his first lot of land in the 1727 division, he received 30 acres at that time.  When his father died in 1731 he inherited 70 acres of land, in two parcels, one of 20 acres and the other of 50. He received a further 30 acres in a  1732 division. Whether or not this land was in Brentwood, I don't know. 

In 1742 Brentwood Parish was allowed to split off from Exeter and become it's own town. In their first town meeting in 1742 Timothy Leavitt was chosen moderator and Joseph the town clerk.  The first order of business was the building of a town meeting house and securing a minister to preach there.  This was easier said than done.  A plot of land was identified as the chosen spot to build and Joseph was on a committee set up to ask him to deed them the land. When they met to vote on the final location a dispute arose. Apparently Brentwood is divided by a river and some of the men wanted the meeting house on the other side, their side, of this river. 

Timothy and Joseph were on the dissenting side.  A lot of wrangling ensued, including the setting up of a new Parish called Keensborough. This only lasted for a few years and eventually the matter of the  meeting house location was settled and the two sides reunited.  Timothy Leavitt was a deacon in the Brentwood Church and was held in high regard there. 

In 1756 Jonathan Wadleigh died, leaving his house, land and animals to his daughter Mary Wadleigh Leavitt. I think that Jonathan may have moved back to Exeter at that time. The town books are out of order but I was able to find Joseph on the Exeter tax rolls in 1763, the first year I could find any tax rolls.  In 1765 the following men were on the Exeter tax rolls: Joseph Sr., Joseph Jr., Nathaniel, Jonathan, Moses, Weare and Dudley. These are Joseph and his sons.  Joseph remained on the Exeter tax rolls until at least 1779. He signed a deed that year selling some land inherited by his second wife Sarah Gilman. In that deed Joseph was described as a Cooper; coopers made barrels, tubs, buckets, etc. 

Joseph's sons began moving out of Exeter in the 1760's, new towns were being formed and land was available to those willing to take it on.  His eldest son, Nathaniel, seems to have left some time after the 1770 tax roll, the last year his name appears in Exeter.  In the 1790 census Nathaniel was in Chester, Joseph Jr., Jonathan and Wadleigh were in Northfield, and Moses, Joshua and Dudley were in Deerfield. I do not believe that Joesph left Exeter for Deerfield until after the 1779 sale of his land.  This was also the last year his name appeared on the tax rolls of Exeter.  I think he went to Deerfield as an old man to live with one of his children. 

Children of Mary Wadleigh and Joseph Leavitt:
1. Nathaniel b. 7 Dec 1727
2. Jonathan b. 13 May 1730 m. Ruth Cram, d. Northfield 1824
3. Joseph Jr. b. 25 April 1733 m. Love Leavitt his first cousin, d/o his Uncle Dudley Leavitt d. Northfield?
4. Moses b. 11 Sept. 1736 
5. Mary 9 May 1739 m. Shubael Deerborn
6. Weare b. 11 Sept. 1742
7. Joshua
8. Dudley lived in Deerfield
(9) Wadleigh, not named in Joseph's will, not found in Exeter tax records, but was in Northfield in 1790, not sure he is a son of Joseph

Joseph, like most able bodied men of his time, served in the militia during the French and Indian Wars.  Most of his service consisted of short term sorties lasting from less than a week to a few months.  
In 1724 Captain Daniel Ladd led a group of men on a six day sortie looking for Indians in the direction of Lake Winnipisaukee. No Indians were found.  In 1746 Capt. Ladd again lead a group of about 50 men from Exeter on a scouting party to the north near the town of Canterbury, NH. Joseph was with about 14 men under Sgt. Joseph Rawlins who brought supplies from Portsmouth to Canterbury for the soldiers stationed there.  
Although many writers believe that Joseph participated in the Crown Point Expedition of 1755, I think it is much more likely that it was his son, Joseph Jr. along with Nathaniel who participated in that event. 

Mary Wadleigh Leavitt died sometime after 1763 when she was named in a will and before 1779 when Sarah Gilman is named as Joseph's wife.  The date is typical given as 1767 but I cannot find anything that would confirm this.  Joseph wrote his will in Deerfield in 1783, it was probated in Rockingham County in 1793. His son Dudley was the executor, he may have lived with Dudley at the time of his death as he was quite old by then, an amazing 94 years old. 

The Leavitt Memorial Plaque
OK this might make some people mad, but I think the Leavitt plaque is full of errors. I don't think Mary Wadleigh was born, died or ever lived in Deerfield, NH.  Deerfield was orginally part of Nottingham, HN, it was split off and became a separate town in 1766. Joseph's name does not appear in the Deerfield town records, but it does in Exeter. I think all his children were born in Exeter and not Deerfield or Gilmanton.  

Related Posts:
Moses Leavitt/ Dorothy Dudley
John Leavitt of Hingham
Jeremiah Leavitt / Sarah Shannon

Exeter Town Records
Deerfield Town Records
Brentwood Town Records
Charles Henry Bell, History of Exeter, New Hampshire, 1888

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Moses Leavitt and Dorothy Dudley of Exeter, NH

The birth of Moses Leavitt was recorded in the Hobart Diary as occurring on 2 August 1650 but listed in other sources, such as Cutter's New England Families, as 12 August 1650. He was baptized, again from the Hobart Diary, two weeks later on 18 August.   His parents were John and Sarah Leavitt. His mother Sarah is said to be the daughter of Edward Gilman who lived in Hingham and Exeter, NH. This is based on circumstantial evidence and not on documented proof, but seems to be deemed plausible by most Genealogists. Moses was John's seventh child and Sarah's second.

John and Sarah had both been born in England and each came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, they met in Hingham, MA where they married and spent the rest of their lives.  Many of their children, including Moses, migrated to new towns which offered more opportunities for them. Moses married and spent his adult life in the town of Exeter. 

Exeter, New Hampshire had been founded by the Rev. Wheelwright, controversial Puritan cleric, and his followers, who had be invited to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony, or else.  When Exeter petitioned to come under control by the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1643, Wheelwright, who had yet to be forgiven for his beliefs, had no choice but to pull up stakes and leave again, and as before, many of his flock followed him to Wells, Maine. This left the town adrift for several years, until the arrival of the Gilman family and others from Hingham.

The area around Exeter was heavily forested with old growth trees which were in high demand in England for ship mast and barrels.  The Gilmans, Edward, Sr. and his son Edward, Jr. saw the potential for making money and they had the capital to finance the setting up of a saw mill.  The mill was up and running by 1647 and by 1651 they had their own ship, a 50 ton sloop, for transporting lumber to England. Lumber became the main industry in town, every was involved.  Pipe staves were used as currency to pay for goods and taxes.

Now, whether it was the bonds of family or friendship or the economic potential, the sons of John and Sarah Leavitt were drawn to Exeter. In his book, Early Exeter History, Charles Henry Bell lists the early inhabitants of Exeter and the date on which their name was first recorded in the town records.  He states that Moses was there by 1664, Samuel 1668 and Jeremy in 1670. There is speculation as to why 14 year old Moses was in Exeter and different theories are out there, such as he was working for his Uncle Gilman in the lumber business  or he was standing in for his father who had been given land in 1652, but never relocated there.

But I think there is a different explanation.  If you look at Bells's list, and then read the town records, you can see that the date of arrival is based on the date the men received a land grant.  These grants occurred sporadically throughout the early years of the town, but grants were given in 1664, 1668 and 1670.  Samuel Leavitt received land in 1664 and 1668, which would mean that his date of arrival was 1664.  Moses is not given land at that time and in fact did not receive land until 1681. Brother Jeremy did receive land in 1670 as recorded.  So I think that it was Samuel who was first in town in 64 and not Moses, who was after all only 14.

The first time I have found Moses in the town records is from a meeting held on 26 September 1676 when he and Nicolas Norris were accepted as Inhabitants and Free Commoners of the town of Exeter.  He would have been 26 years old at that time.

One last note about Exeter. The land had at one time been part of a land grant to John Mason.  Many years after his death his grandson, Robert Tufton Mason tried to resurrect his claim the land and sued many of the current landowners including Moses Leavitt.  Although a jury agreed with Mason, he found that it was impossible to enforce his claims.  He eventually gave up much to the relief of the men of New Hampshire.

marriage and children
Moses married his wife Dorothy Dudley in Oct of 1681, but did he have a prior marriage?  At a town meeting in Feb. 1678/9 the following entry is recorded:
At the request of Jonathan Thing, Edward Gilman, Edward Smith, Peter Folsom, Nathaniel Ladd and Moses Leavitt for the erecting of a gallery, at the end of the men's gallery for their wives.
The building of the new gallery was approved, provided that the men finance it themselves.Why would Moses make such a request if he did not have a wife to seat there?   In Massachusetts unmarried men remained under the household of a family member.  Upon marriage and the establishment of their own household they became full members of the town. If this was the case in Exeter than I would suspect that Moses was married by 1676 when he became a townsman.  The wive's gallery was completed by July 1680, but no Mrs. Moses Leavitt was assigned a seat.  If he was married, his wife must have died by the completion of the gallery.

Moses married (remarried) on 26 October 1681.  Dorothy Dudley was the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Dudley and his third wife and granddaughter of Mr. Thomas Dudley who served several times as Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  They had at least 11 children.  The only child whose DOB was recorded seems to be Joseph in 1699.  Any attempt to assign birth dates or birth order seems to be futile as there is no record of their births. Only one of his children died before him, unless there were other unrecorded children who died young and given the lack of records that is entirely possible.

The part of Exeter in which  most of the Leavitt's lived was set apart into a separate parish in 1742.  It was called Brentwood.

Children as listed in order in his will
 1. Moses Jr. listed as oldest son in will, moved to Stratham, NH m. x 2, died in Stratham 19 Feb. 1754
 2. Timothy, his will probated 1756, was a Deacon in his church in the Brentwood Parish
 3. Stephen m. 1726 in Kingston to Mary Gordon, will written 1755 in Brentwood
 4. Joseph b. 23 March 1699 m. Mary Wadleigh d. Deerfield
 5. John inherited the Exeter homestead, d. 1768
 6. Dudley d. 1776
 7. Dorothy unmarried in 1730
 8. Elizabeth m. Captain Fifield
 9. Sarah m. Stephen Lyford, lived in Exeter
10. Hannah m ?Gilman
11. Mary d. before her father in 1730 her clothes are given to her sister Dorothy in their father's will

work and civic duty
At a town meeting dated 1 April 1678 Moses was chosen as Surveyor of the Highway for the east side of the river.  After this date his name appears frequently in the town records.  He worked as a surveyor and lot layer, as each mans lot was recorded the layout of the lot was described in detail and signed off by Moses Leavitt. Moses received his first lot of land, 50 acres,  in January of 1681. By the time of his death in 1731 he had accrued hundreds of acres.

Moses also owned a share in a saw mill.  He was allowed to use it "five days in one fortnight".  I don't know if that means  5 out of fourteen days or 5 out of every fourteen days.

Starting in about 1681 Moses was frequently chosen as a Selectman for Exeter and as moderator of the town meetings.  On a Provincial level he served as representative from Exeter multiple times. In 1717 the Province of new Hampshire issued paper money in the amount of 15,000 pounds.  This money was to as loans to the inhabitants with land to stand as surety.  Exeter was given a portion of the money and a committee of five men, including Moses Leavitt, was chosen to oversee the program.

Moses' name is found in multiple wills and probates of estates.  He helped take inventories of estates as well as help administer the estate of the deceased if the heirs were unable or declined. He would draw up the division of estates for the heirs, as he did for the heirs of Robert Smart. He helped administer the estate of Edward Gilman when he died.

Moses served as a Deacon in his church.  In 1690 he was part of trio chosen to "treat" with Rev. William Wentworth for his continuance as their minister. He also was part of the committee to assign seating in the meetinghouse.

 He performed 5 weeks of garrison duty during the Indian conflict known as King William's War.

Dorothy died sometime before Moses but her death went unrecorded.  Moses wrote his will in December of 1730 and it was proved on 6 June 1731. Their graves are unmarked.

related posts:
John Leavitt of Hingham, MA
Sarah Shannon and Jeremiah Leavitt
Joseph Leavitt / Mary Wadleigh

Charles Henry Bell, History of the Town of Exeter, NH, 1888, Boston
Exeter Town Records
Noyes, Libby, Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine, and New Hampshire

Saturday, July 6, 2013

John Leavitt of Higham, MA

see this post Percival Leavitt of York for more information.

Guildhall of York Merchants
John Leavitt's birthplace and parents are unknown. Many websites and trees list  Percival Levett of York and Beverly, England as his father but there is nothing that links these two men. Based on what I have read about Percival, he is not a candidate for John's father.

Percival's older brother Christoper Levett was an early explorer of the American coast, he was born 5 April 1586. Percival and Christoper were sons of a wealthy York merchant.  Christoper became interested in the Americas and became and explorer.  He was granted thousands of acres of land, and founded York, Maine. He knew all the movers and shakers who held interests in America.

Christoper was older than Percival, so his, Percival's, date of birth was closer to 1590 than the 1580 that is given on many websites. Percival was made a Freeman of the City of York in 1612.  He would not have been allowed to work as a merchant without this privilege. If he was just beginning his career in 1612 he was most likely still a  young man. If he was 21 the year he became a Freeman, his year of birth would have been 1591. Percival, like his father before him, was a wealthy merchant. If John was his eldest son, he too would have apprenticed as a merchant. The family grew in wealth and some members eventually married into the minor nobility.

I can find no reference to his marriage other than one in which he is named in the settlement of his wife's previous husbands estate in 1648.  Her name was Jane Wayd. I also found baptismal dates for five of his children beginning in 1630 with Martha and ending in 1649 with Samuel. This does not "jive" with the birth dates given on many websites.  These are recorded in parish records of St. Michael Le Belfry in York.

I see no reason to believe that Percival was John's father.

The exact date of John's arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony is unknown.  The Leavitt Family Association says that he may have been in Dorchester as early as 1628.   Dorchester was not founded until 1630.  If he was there in 1628 he was all alone.  There is supposedly a family legend that John was a runaway apprentice when he can to the colony.  Based on his birth year of 1608 and that he had to have been under 21 when he arrived for this to be true, he has to be shoehorned in prior to his 21st birthday, hence he had to have arrived by 1628.

John is recorded as having received his first plot of land on 1 September 1634.  This would make 1634 a more reasonable year for his arrival. He was granted more land later that year and in 1635.  He was accepted as a member of the church Dorchester and on 3 March 1635/6 he was made a Freeman of the Colony.  According to the family legend his old Master learned of his whereabouts and came out to the colony and took his land from him. This seems a bit far fetched to me.  Would his supposed master really spend 8-12 weeks making an arduous risky crossing of the Atlantic to take a bit of land away from John? And then sail back to England, spending over six months to accomplish this transaction.

What is known is that John sold his Dorchester land to Mr. Thomas Makepeace, the "Mr." indicating that he was of high standing in the community, and probably wealthy. He was not a tailor and he was from Warwickshire and not from York,  and he did not return to England.

On 7 July 1636 John Leavitt was given land in Hingham, which is some 15 or so miles to the southeast of Dorchester.  He married for the first time in 1637.  His wife's name is said to be Mary Lovet.   This is based solely on the admission to the Dorchester church in 1638 of a Mary Lovet. But John did not live in Dorchester in 1638 he was in Hingham so how could this be his wife. Her name was never recorded so we don't even know what her first name was, never mind her surname.

John and his wife had five children. A child arrived fairly predictably every two years. While his wife was busy with childbirth and child rearing, John worked as a tailor and accrued, bought, sold and farmed his land. His homestead is said to have been at the site of the current Leavitt Street in modern Hingham.  He had land that was close to the coast, saltgrass meadows, near Cohasset and land stretching towards Scituate. He also had land near Straits Pond, which is so named today. This was the typical method of dividing land in those days, instead of getting on great parcel of land, it was handed out in stages, resulting in ownership of smaller plots of land spread out all over the place.  This would usually result in buying, selling and trading in order to consolidate their holdings.

second marriage
John's first wife died on 3 July 1646 four months after giving birth to her fifth child.  She was buried two days later.  Even in death, her name was not recorded, her entry read John Leavit's wife dyed. On 15 December 1646 John Leavit married for the second time. The second wife fared no better than the first, her name goes unrecorded until John writes his will.  Her name was Sarah.

Sarah is said to be Sarah Gilman, daughter of Edward Gilman of Higham and Exeter.  There is no proof that she is  the daughter of Edward Gilman but based on circumstantial evidence it is believed that she might be. This evidence, for what it's worth,  is the close relationship between John Leavitt and Daniel Cushing, also of Hingham.  Daniel was married to Lydia Gilman, sister of Sarah.

Anyway, in 1646 John was a man in need of a wife.  He had five small children who needed a mother and he needed someone to cook, clean, and all the things necessary to survive in those days. With Sarah he would have eight more children.  All of their recorded children lived to adulthood, a rarity in those days.

By the mid 1650's John was a mature man with a large family.  He began to be called on to perform his civic duties to the town. He was Deputy to the General Massachusetts Court, Commissioner to End Small Causes, and served on the Suffolk, County Grand Jury.  He held the rank of Sergeant in the local militia.

By 1675, when John was 67 years old, he was made a Deacon in the church.  This has been made much of by some of his descendants and he is widely known on the internet as "Deacon John".  Each church would elect several deacons to assist the town minister.  They could preach in his absence and perform other ministerial duties. They were often times responsible for communion service and providing the communal wine.  They might be responsible for oversee the poor of their parish and the contributions given to the parish by the congregation. In any case, one must assume that John Leavitt was a very pious man to be elected as Deacon.

The meeting house in which John worshiped stands today.  The oldest puritan meetinghouse in existence. It has been altered over the years but has managed to survive and is still used.  It is called "The Old Ship Church".

children of john and his two wives
 1. John b. abt 1637, m. 27 June 1664 Bathsheba Hobart d/o Rev. Peter Hobart
 2. Hannah bp. 7 April 1639, m. 29 July 1659 John Lobdell
 3. Samuel bp. April 1641, m. Mary Robinson d. 1707 in Exeter
 4. Elizabeth bp. 8 April 1644, m. 25 March 1667 Samuel Judkins, m. 2. Richard Drake after 1677
 5. Jeremiah bp. 1 March 1645/6, not named in his fathers 1689 will

 6. Isreal bp. 23 April 1648, m. Lydia Jackson d. Dec. 1696
 7. Moses b. 2 Aug. 1650, m. Dorothy Dudley d/o Samuel Dudley, d. 17 June 1731 Exeter
 8. Josiah bp. 8 May 1653, m. Margaret Johnson, d. 1708 Hingham
 9. Nehemiah bp. 24 Feb. 1655/6, m. Alice widow of Daniel Gilman, d. 25 May 1715 Exeter
10. Sarah bp. 25 Feb. 1658/9, m. Nehemiah Clapp, m. 2 Samuel Howe
11. Mary bp. 12 July 1661, m. Benjamin Bates
12. Hannah bp. 20 March 1663/4, m. Joseph Loring, m. 2 John Easterbrook
13. Abigail b. 9 Dec. 1667, Isaac Lazell, m. 2 Isaac Johnson

John wrote his will on 30 Nov. 1689. It was proved 27 Jan 1691/2.  He divided his estate among his 9 surviving children and two grandchildren after the death of his wife Sarah.  Sarah lived on until 26 May 1700.

John Leavitt, from

related posts:
Moses Leavitt of Exeter
Sarah Shannon and Jeremiah Leavitt

New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol 121(The Hobart Journal)
Robert Charles Anderson, Great Migration Series
The National Association of Leavitt Families website
Google Maps

Roles of Men, Women and Children in 17th Century Puritan Massachusetts

In 17 th century pur itan Massachusetts , the roles of men , women and children were very clearly defined . Men were the ...