Saturday, November 1, 2014

Jacob Sargent and Judith Harvey of Amesbury, MA and Chester, NH

Jacob and Judith Harvey Sargent were second generation New Englanders.  Their parents had all been born in Massachusetts.  The environment had improved life expectancy and child survival rates, resulting in large families.  When their grandfathers arrived their was plenty of land in Massachusetts but by 1700 fathers were struggling to provide land for their sons.  Men like Jacob began to turn inland in search of land and employment opportunities.  Jacob and many of his generation found what they were looking for in New Hampshire.

jacob and judith
Jacob Sargent was the son of William and Mary Colby Sargent.  He was born in Amesbury on 13 March 1686. He was their youngest son. Judith was the daughter of Sarah Barnes and John Harvey, she was born in Amesbury on either 26 May 1688 or 9 June 1688.  Her birth is recorded in two places with different dates, the Amesbury records say June and the County Court records say May.

Jacob and Judith married in Amesbury on 7 December 1710, she was 22 he was 24.  The marriage was performed by Rev. Thomas Wells the minister of Amesbury.

There is not much mention of Jacob in the Amesbury records, other than his birth, marriage and the birth of his children.  He was a farmer like his father before him. He had inherited land from his father.  His life seems to have been uneventful at least in any civic sense until the year 1727.

The name Jacob Sargent began appearing in the Chester town records in the year 1727, he was then about 41 years old.  He must have relocated there between the 1725 birth of his seventh child, Dorothy and the 1727 town meeting in which his name was recorded.  His daughter Tabitha was most likely born in Chester abt. 1726, her birth was not recorded in Amesbury and Chester had yet to start recording vital statistics.

Jacob really came into his own in Chester.  He was by the time of his move a man of middle age.  He was styled Ensign, so he must have been in the local militia.  At the 1727 town meeting he was named the town Surveyor of Highways. At a Dec 1735 meeting he was chosen to be a member of a committee to lay out lots for a second division of land. He was a Selectman in 1736 and he was on a committee to see about a school house. In 1739 he was again chosen to lay out lots for a third division of land. In 1741 he was on a committee to determine the size of the Kingstown grant.

Not all of the original proprietors of the town chose to live in Chester, some may have been speculators, hoping to sell their land at a later date, and for a profit no doubt. However the original charter specified that each proprietor must, within three years, build a house, settle a family, clear three acres of land and be prepared to pay taxes. In 1732 there were enough delinquent proprietors that a committee was set up to find them and make them pay up.

Not only did Jacob play a prominent role in establishing the town of Chester, but he was also trusted with the task of finding a "suitable orthodox good man" to be their minister. And, when one was found, he was on the committee to plan the ordination ceremony. Jacob and his fellow committee member's choice, the Reverend Moses Hale, was apparently not a good one, within a few years he had stopped his ministerial work and was described as "deranged". They, of course, formed a committee to get rid of him.

He was also chosen to be the town treasurer and was tasked to collect 40 shillings from every proprietor in Chester for the building of their meeting house. There was a a bit of squabbling by the towns people concerning the choice of minister, there was by that time a considerable population of Scotch-Irish, whose religious preference was Presbyterian. In 1741 it was decided that the two groups could form their own church and build separate meetinghouses to hold their services. Each had their own annual meetings to decide church matters, hired a minister of their liking and paid his salary. Jacob and his family belonged to the Congregational Church, which took it's traditions from the Puritans.

When the meetinghouse was first built, the congregation sat on benches.  In 1743 they decided to take out some of the benches and sell space for family pews. Jacob was on the committee to organize the pew sale. He and his son Winthrop both bought the right to have pews built. The pews had seats on three sides so each pew could accommodate a large family.  The family pew would be inherited by the next generation.

children of judith and jacob
Jacob and Judith had at least nine children, the first of which, a son, was born within a year or so of their marriage.

1. Winthrop b. Oct 28 1711 Amesbury, d. Dec 1787 Chester, NH
2. Jacob b. 18 Nov 1713, never married
3. Judith b. 27 Mar 1716, m. Francis Towle 1738
4. Sarah b. 8 mar 1718, m. Enoch Colby 1748
5. Elizabeth b. 23 July 1722 Amesbury
6. Dorothy b. 28 Feb 1725 Amesbury
7. Tabitha b. abt. 1726 Chester,  m. John Foss 1744, m. (2) Hezekiah Underwood, d. 23 Aug 1803
8. John bp. in Amesbury 26 Nov 1727, m. Susanna Harriman, d. 14 Nov 1797
9. Theophilus b. unknown most likely in Chester, lived in Candia Corners, married Lydia Mitchell 1753, d. 1807

Jacob Sargent died in Chester on  6 April 1749, aged 61.  Judith, his widow, was granted administration rights on 12 June 1749.  A bond of 500 pounds was posted, the actual value of the estate was 1257 pounds. Judith's death was not recorded.

Hoyt, David Webster. The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts: With Some Related Families of Newbury, Haverhill, Ipswich, and Hampton, and of York County, Maine. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub., 1982. Print.

Chase, Benjamin. History of Old Chester from 1719 to 1869. Auburn, NH: Author, 1869. Print.

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