The Genealogy of the Benedicts in America
Table of Contents
HENRY MARVIN BENEDICT,
COMPILER OF A CONTRIBUTION TO THE STAFFORD GENEALOGY; RESIDENT MEMBER
OF THE ALBANY INSTITUTE, AND OF THE NEW YORK GENEALOGICAL
AND BIOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY.
"Credite me vobis folium recitare Sibylloe." JUVENAL.
JOEL MUNSELL, 82 STATE STREET.
LEWIS AND SUSAN BENEDICT
EXEMPLARS OF THE BEST QUALITIES OF
THEIR PURITAN AND DUTCH
This Work is Dedicated
"Quod si deficiant vires, audacia certe
sight of the book itself may inspire many with a desire to furnish information they have hitherto withheld, and to provide him with material for a supplementary volume he meditates, which he trusts will correct all errors, and supply all omissions, of the present. He does not consider his work finished as it stands.
While the Compiler is conscious of no self-reproach for lack of patience in the preparation of the book, he confesses that it has been hurried in the publication. He has, in fact, delayed his departure from the country to allow himself to print what he had collected and prepared, in order to secure it against loss or dispersion in his absence. This haste excludes from the present volume the Military Roll of the family -- a proud one--and certain other tabular statements, for which abundant material exists, and most of which he has collected.
If some of the kindred have exhibited less interest in the enterprise than proper family feeling ought to have excited, others have extended a cooperation so zealous and effective as to burden the Compiler with obligation. He takes pleasure in specially acknowledging the valuable assistance he has received from Hon. ERASTUS C. BENEDICT of New York, Rev. NATHAN D. BENEDICT of Bridgeport, Deacon ANDREW L. BENEDICT of Bethel, WILLIAM NORTHROP BENEDICT of Ridgefield, Ct., and ISAAC HOYT BENEDICT of Washington, D. C.
HENRY C. RYDER, Esq., of Danbury, Ct., bound to the family by no tie of blood or affinity, has, nevertheless, rendered aid to the work that entitles him to grateful mention.
ALBANY, N. Y., May, 1870.
Figures of two sizes will be observed in the left hand margin of the pages. At birth each child that subsequently becomes the head of a family is numbered by figures of the smaller size, and when taken up as the head of a family, receives the same number, but in figures of the larger size. Thus, on page 76 will be found Henry, numbered 125 in the smaller figures, and having become a father he reappears on page 124 with the same number, but in figures of the larger size. Still other smaller figures will be found above and at the right hand of names of heads of families. These denote the respective generation to which each name belongs, counting from Thomas, the first of the name in this country; thus: Henry6 (John,5 Nathaniel,4 John,3 John,2 Thomas1), means that Henry of the 6th generation was the son of John of the 5th, who was son of Nathaniel of the 4th, who was son of John of the 3d, who was son of John of the 2d, who was son of Thomas of the 1st.
The abbreviations used are: b., born; bap., baptized; ch., child or children; coll., college; d., died; dau., daughter; m., married; grad., graduate or graduated; res., resides, resided, or residence; wid., widow.
When the name of the state is omitted, that of New York is understood, except in the case of the familiar Connecticut towns, like Norwalk, Ridgefield, Ridgebury, New Canaan, Bethel, Danbury, etc.
MORE than forty years ago I began with zeal to collect materials for the Benedict genealogy. After a few years came active professional life and, also, some discouragements, which compelled me to neglect the work without abandoning the idea of ultimate publication, till two years since, when the author of this book entered upon the same work. With great satisfaction I placed my materials at his service, and he has ever since pursued his object with the intelligence, industry, perseverance and success which the pages of this work show. My grateful acknowledgment for his labor in a common cause, would not permit me to deny his request that I would write an introduction to his interesting volume.
When I say interesting, it will of course be understood that I am speaking only to our little family, on a family matter. The outside world will please consider that it is none of their affair, and we are not bound to interest them. We may get ourselves together in our own way and in our own time, and fill up our family record and album without apology. We have a right to be kindly affectioned one to another. We are blood relations, and like all well constituted families we are a mutual admiration society, and no one can complain while we keep our mutual admiration within our own little circle, and do not sound a trumpet before us as the hypocrites do to be seen of men.
Surely we may look in our glass in our own room. In all these dead generations we see ourselves. They are our family mirror.
The name is derived from the Latin benedictus, blessed, well spoken of. Though unknown as a proper name in the Latin, it is common, as such, in those languages of modern Europe which are derived from the Latin, or are, from the prevalence of the Romish religion, sprinkled with Roman derivatives -- Benedict, English and German, Benedek, Austrian, Benedetto, Italian, Bendito, Spanish and Portuguese, Benoit, French, and many other derivative forms. It undoubtedly became a proper name from the ancient custom of adding to, or substituting for a family name some striking individual characteristic, or the name of some patron saint. This custom prevailed extensively in the Romish church, and does to this day. The members of religious houses usually take a new name on taking their vows, and the popes often take descriptive names, as Pius, Innocent, &c. Benedict is accordingly found in all those languages, first as the name of an ecclesiastic; and the known custom of giving to children the names of persons distinguished in religion would soon secularize the name.
The first that illustrated the name was St. Benedict, an Italian hermit of great holiness and austerity, who about the year 520 and afterwards, wrought miracles and was canonized. He built twelve monasteries, and established the monkish order of the Benedictines, so famous all over Europe.
The order of St. Benedict has been one of the most illustrious in the Roman Catholic church, being distinguished for the number of great men, saints, writers, men of learning, of piety and of high literary and moral culture, and persons worthy to be elevated to the thrones of the churches, which they have governed with great wisdom and probity.
Two hundred years ago the Benedictine list reached forty
popes, two hundred cardinals, fifty patriarchs, one hundred and sixteen archbishops, forty-six hundred bishops, four emperors, twelve empresses, forty-six kings, forty-one queens and thirty-six hundred canonized saints. No one can doubt that the high qualities of the order have been preserved and perpetuated, if not improved, by their love for their patron saint and his excellent name. The name has by no means lost its power in our day. When I desired to be admitted with my wife to visit the beautiful cloisters of the order attached to that glorious temple of the living God at Rome, the church of St. Paul without the walls, some rule, I do not now remember what, excluded us, but on presenting my card, with the remark that we were Benedicts, the custodian, with a significant smile, threw open the door and we entered and gratified our curiosity.
The Abbe de Benedictis, the distinguished secretary of Cardinal Mazarin and his agent, and the agent of France at the court of Rome, made himself famous by his skill and taste in pomps and funeral honors, by the ceremonies got up by himself in honor of the cardinal and of the queen of France, of which full accounts were published. Fourteen popes, scattered all along from the year 574 to 1740, have taken the name of Benedict, on taking the triple crown. In England, the name was made famous by a noble Saxon abbot, in the year 640 and afterwards, who founded two monasteries, and introduced great improvements in architecture and the polite arts. He too was canonized. In Denmark, the prodigies of bravery performed by Benedict, the brother of Canute IV, in defending the king, his brother, covered the name with honor. The list of eminent men who have borne the name in some of its forms, in all Christian countries might be largely extended.
There is no difficulty in finding glory enough for the name in past ages. It is not so easy, however, to appropriate enough of that glory to light up the humbler story of those in whose veins has run the blood of the Benedicts in America. Nor would I trace them to those old world saints. The bones of
the good old ministers and deacons who lived with affectionate wives and had goodly sons and daughters not a few, would hardly lie quiet in their graves if an attempt should be made to trace for them an irregular descent from the more distinguished but not more pious or useful Benedict saints of the olden time, whom rules of celibacy, and vows of monkish seclusion, compelled to solitary sterility.
Ours is the genealogy of a line beginning with the pioneers of Christian civilization, in the settlement of a new continent, and, whatever may be their lineage, their lives, in the infant hamlets of their new home, could not be otherwise than simple and humble. Many of gentle blood and noble birth, came with the early settlers and accepted the equality of wilderness life, but we can make no boast of heraldry. Aside from dim traditions, traceable to no authentic source, that we are of Huguenot origin, there is nothing to mark the family history but the incidents of humble, plebeian life in America.
There is, however, a coat of arms, with an appropriate Benedict motto, supposed to have been made within the last quarter of a century, by a traveling Englishman with some heraldic knowledge and more pretension, and offered for sale by him to individuals of the family, with a statement that the family is of Silesian origin, bearing the titles of Count of the Banat and Baron of the Holy Roman empire, the last German count Von Benedict having passed, first to France, and then to England, in the time of Edward the Sixth. This coat of arms, artistically blazoned with its pairs of ostrich feathers, tied with gold, and its crests of helmets, and coronets, and plumes, is a beautiful picture, but there is no reason to doubt its being an entire sham, intended to impose upon the credulous. We will have none of it except the motto Benedictus qui patitur, which we make our own. The sterling virtues of our forefathers, and their excellent example, are our true hereditary distinction. It cannot be said more truly of us than of the noblest families, that the full and true genealogy of the family must contain many
obscure and worthless individuals. Let the nobleman of the highest rank and the longest ancestral line, bring in review before him all his family, direct and collateral, and he would behold a motley crowd in that grand procession. Rags and tatters would be quite as conspicuous as purple and orders, and the tools of labor might be more numerous, as well as more useful, than the sceptres, and batons, and escutcheons of nobility. Henry the Eighth said: "I can make seven lords of seven plowmen, but I cannot make one Holbein of seven lords;" and Burns has only expanded that idea when he says:
"A king can mak' a belted knight,
pride. Like an old chronicler, she told the traditionary story of the family in England, and of its first generation here, to her grandson James, afterwards one of the seven deacons of the seven churches, through whom the diaconal succession has come down, in increasing numbers, through the seven generations; sacred number seven. He reduced the tradition to writing, and in due time it passed from him, by a copy, to his grandson Abner, then a student in college, and afterwards the first clergyman in the family, thence to me his grandson. My inquiries showed that many copies of it were extant in the original form.
In 1840, while delivering the anniversary discourse before the alumni of Williams College, I had for a listener Lewis Benedict, an eminent merchant of Albany, who was there to listen to the orations of his two sons--Lewis on taking his degree as master of arts, and Edmund A., his degree as bachelor of arts. He sought an introduction to me for the purpose of inquiring whether I had any knowledge of the family pedigree, which he had hitherto sought in vain. He was furnished with a copy of the old record, with its additions. To it he added his own line, and printed a small edition for gratuitous distribution in the family. From him it came into the hands of his son Henry Marvin. All these parties, before him, had added to the record as they acquired new information, and he, the final family historiographer, has sent out in every direction, and explored all sources of knowledge, and having collected, from willing sources, all the scattered threads into a manifold cord, has bound us all in one bundle of family life. We need no better evidence than his correspondence and this book that honoring our father and our mother is a family characteristic. Our days as individuals and as a race have been long in the land--we are long-lived--perhaps in fulfillment of the divine promise, "to honor thy father and thy mother."
Early sickness took Henry M. from his studies and gave him years of suffering, and made him an invalid for life, as we are told in the too brief notice of him. Benedictus qui patitur. We
regret the wearisome days and nights of his illness, but we rejoice that it gave him leisure to become famous in the family as the chronicler and genealogist of the Benedicts in America.
The very ungracious manner in which Col. Nicolls took New Netherlands from the Dutch, rendered it necessary to select reliable men for officers of the English military organization, and the choice of our first American progenitor Thomas, pater omnium Benedictorum, as lieutenant of the foot company of Jamaica, is perhaps evidence that he had that loyal and military instinct which has characterized the family.
When the little train band "exercised" on the plains at Jamaica, we cannot doubt that some of the lieutenant's sons were in the ranks, while his youngest son Daniel, with other boys, looked on with childish delight. Ten years later young Daniel volunteered for the "direful swamp fight."
In the early days the armies and battles were small, but the bravery and the victories and the consequences were great. Hobomak, pointing to Pecksuot, the dead giant savage chief, whom little Captain Standish had killed in a hand to hand fight, said to the captain, "He said yesterday you were but a little man, but to-day I see you are big enough to lay him on the ground." So it was with these few American forefathers, who sought to introduce civilization and Christianity into a savage wilderness. They were big enough for their share of the great enterprize of beginning a nation.
Mr. Robinson, the saintly minister in Holland, when he heard of the deeds of Standish, thought "perhaps the Captain was of too warm a temper and wanting in the tenderness of the life of man, made after God's image, and that it would have been happy if they had converted some before they had killed any." We are compelled to say that young Daniel fell under the same condemnation when, leaving his father and brothers at home to take care of their wives and children, if the Indians should come upon their little hamlet, he took his life in his hand and his firelock on his shoulder, and marched with some of his
neighbors to join the little army of one thousand one hundred and twenty-seven, which, after a march of ten days in the deep, untrodden, snow of a wilderness, in the severest cold of a Northern winter, went into that direful swamp fight, almost the bloodiest of all battles. They, too, seem to have been of a warm temper, with little tenderness for either their own lives or those of the savages. This much is clear, that they left to the Lord to save such of those merciless Indian savages as His abundant grace might please, while they addressed themselves, with singleness of heart, to the more human duty of saving their scattered little homes and cradles from the war-whoop, the scalping-knife, and the torch of Indian warfare. Some hundreds of the whites and more thousands of the Indians fell in the dreadful slaughter, which destroyed the proud and powerful Narragansetts.
To-day, two hundred years after that day of small things, we read with pleasure the record of that little community--population two hundred and forty-nine, men, women and children--that they, "out of respect and thankfulnesse to the sayed souldiers doe with one consent and freely give and grant unto so many souldiers as were in the service at the direful swamp fight twelve acors of land." Daniel got his twelve acres Feb. 16, 1677. That land grant in the town was more than one hundred and sixty acres in the far west now. It was visibly there, a memorial for him and his children, and his children's children to the latest posterity.
Those who look through this genealogy will see that the dwellings of our patriotic ancestors were selected by the public enemy for conflagration, and will find its pages thick, from the beginning to the end, with the names of chaplains and officers and soldiers, who for two hundred years have, at the call of their country, left the pursuits of peaceful life to fight the battles of every war, from the swamp fight of King Philip's war to the multitudinous battles of the greatest civil war in history, in every war, bleeding on the bloodiest fields and starving in the most cruel prisons.--Benedictus qui patitur.
It is proper to say something, also, of the "American" character of the family--its flexibility and its ready resources. It started here anew. Three generations of only sons were the last of the race in England, and when Thomas Benedict had sailed for America, the name was unknown in the British islands. As he started on a new career he seems, almost to have taken a new nature, so completely did he take on what has since become the habits of an American settler, advancing to and carrying forward the line of national progress, and practically embracing in his own person the many functions of civil life. Landing in Massachusetts bay, then a settlement seventeen years old, he soon sought the more thinly populated region of Long Island, then comparatively inaccessible from the mainland in the winter; and he was charged with the powers of a magistrate, and substantially with the powers of the government--in the language of the old record, "empowered to act in point of government," "invested with magistratical power on the island." He was a pillar in the church. He was the arbitrator of differences, civilized and savage; the pacifier of the offended Indian chief. He was an officer of the little train band of the neighborhood. He was the member of the legislative body to create and to codify the system of law on the island after the conquest from the Dutch, and afterwards of the colonial legislature. He aided in the organization and sending out of little colonies to plant new neighborhoods, entrusted with these functions by the voice and choice of his neighbors, whose entire confidence he enjoyed. Every person who has mixed in frontier life, will readily recall instances of such men, and testify to their great influence for good. Such was our ancestor; all sorts of offices in church and state clustered around him, forced upon him by the popular choice, and every where he wrought righteousness. His characteristics are not yet extinct.
The religious character of this history is not its least remarkable peculiarity. It is well known that the churches of those days were ecclesiastical democracies. The office of deacon
embraced the functions of the elder and deacon in the Presbyterian churches. In the sickness or absence of the pastor, or a vacancy in the pastorate, "a deacon's meeting" was the regular sabbath service of the church, the exercises being conducted by one or more of the deacons, a sermon being read by a deacon or perhaps by a layman on the request of the deacons. The deacons are always chosen by the popular vote of the communicants, male and female. The highest fitness for the office comprized intelligence, practical business capacity, and devout religious feeling, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, performing the works of faith with the labor of love. To fill such an office 'with good acceptance to God and man till old age and its attendants rendered them unable to serve,' was a duty of usefulness and honor, and especially of holy living.
Those patriarchs of our family who have come down to us in their life and example with the odor of sanctity, let us bear them in our heart's core, our heart of hearts. The original pair were evidently most devout and exemplary persons, and it was fitly said of them by their grandson that they walked in the midst of their house with a perfect heart and in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless and obtained a good report through faith. Their descendants should not fail to become familiar with the full and admirable biographical sketch with which the genealogy opens. The same character went down to the next generation unimpaired, and the unction with which Capt. James Benedict in 1755 speaks of the first three generations, including his own, shows that the lessons of his grandparents had not fallen on unwilling ears, and that their devout life and holy example had left its impress on all those who came within the sphere of their influence. It is plain that the religious character of this primitive pilgrim pair had struck in and was incorporated into the family nature, and so we find, through all the subsequent ages, members, deacons, and pastors of churches spread through all the family--yet not running in one narrow, bigoted and sectarian line of faith and practice, but with true
evangelical fraternity, branching out into the leading denominations of Christians.
It should be said, finally, that no comparison is made of our family with other families. Our ancestors did not live or work alone. Hundreds of similar genealogies might be made, and many, doubtless, of more striking character than this. As aids to national and local as well as individual history, our libraries ought to be filled with such genealogies of all those primitive families, that by their excellent qualities, made possible that Christian civilization, on popular principles, which underlies our national prosperity, and which was the more remarkable, as these people sprang from monarchical stock, and many of them were of noble blood. The interfusion and assimilation of all classes and ranks was complete, which would hardly have been possible, had it not been that the religious faith and sympathies of the earliest settlers, made the theocracy and republican equality of the early Hebrew commonwealth the cement of their association, the laws of Moses their sufficient code of elementary moral law, and liberty, equality and fraternity the necessary result of their common perils, and their one great purpose.
May we not hope that the striking lessons taught by this family record will be impressed upon all of us, so that two hundred and fifty years hence, when eight more generations shall have passed away, the family may still show an unbroken record of the same characteristics.
ERASTUS CORNELIUS BENEDICT.