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

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