Sunday, August 9, 2009

Comstock Family - OOPS; Part 2, Anne Comstock's 2nd Marriage

There is an error in my Comstock line that originated with the first book by C. B. Comstock, in 1905, and has been perpetuated in all the other Comstock books listed in Comstock Family - OOPS: Part I, as well as many more recent self-published genealogies both in print and found online. Samuel Comstock, born perhaps 1628 in England, son of the immigrant William Comstock and his wife Elizabeth, who came with his parents to Wethersfield, CT some time between 1636 and 1640, died as quite a young man in Providence, Rhode Island, probably sometime in the year 1657, leaving a widow and two young sons. The widow was Ann, her surname unknown [but watch for more about her possible name in a future Blog].

From C. B. Comstock’s Some Descendants of Samuel Comstock of Providence, RI, p.5
“Samuel Comstock of Providence, R.I., d. about 1660. He m. Anne who was living 10 Feb. 1667. She m. (2) John Smith the mason.”

No, Anne did not marry John Smith, the mason.

From A History and Genealogy of the Comstock Family in America by John Adams Comstock:

Family 33. SAMUEL2 COMSTOCK (William1) born about 1628; died about 1660; married Anne (Tucker?). Anne was living Feb. 10, 1667. She married (2nd) John Smith, the mason. ………Samuel Comstock bought of John Smith his house and lot in Providence, R. I., March 1, 1654. The Town Council of Providence took action about the estate of Samuel Comstock and John Smith, deceased, on March 9, 1660. On May 4, 1661, Anne Smith of Providence, widow of John Smith, formerly wife of Samuel Comstock, deceased, sold to Roger Mowry the house and home share of her husband, Samuel Comstock. It comprised four acres in a row of houses in the north part of Providence.

Whether Anne was a Tucker or not (and I find no Tucker families in Providence at this time) isn't the only problem. The statement that she married (2nd) John Smith, the mason, is absolutely not possible. She did marry a John Smith, but not John Smith who was a mason, or bricklayer, by trade. I also never found the basis for the statement that she was still living in 10 Feb 1667. This date is about the time there was discussion during the town meetings regarding the age of her son Daniel Comstock - these records state that he was the son of Anne Comstock but he was not then living with her, nor do they state if she was living or where she might have been.

Although the old references state that Anne Comstock, widow, married John Smith the mason, I believe she married his son John Smith, instead. This younger John had also had a previous marriage when he married Anne and he had a daughter named Margaret, probably from this first marriage.

Here are my notes on this subject of Anne's second husband John Smith.

The John Smith, referred to as "mason" in the Providence Town Records had sons named Leonard, John, Joseph, and Benjamin; he left a will dated 26 March 1687 which names his widow Elizabeth, other records indicate she was the only wife. Son Joseph Smith was administrator of the estate of his brother John who had been executor for the brother Leonard. [So both John & Leonard had predeceased their father & John Smith, mason, was alive for some years after the John Smith that married Anne had died back about 1660.] Benjamin was "incapable of caring for himself, insane" and had to be provided for. There were likely sisters, as Eleazar Arnold [married to Eleanor Smith] and Thomas Hopkins took into custody their aged mother-in-law, Elizabeth Smith in Jan of 1706.

This son of John Smith, mason, also named John, and brother to Joseph, was also known as "Jameco". The various tax records of Providence as recorded show five John Smiths in Providence during the pertinent period but one listed sometimes as Jameco Smith, or sometimes as John Smith, mason, Junr., disappears from the lists about 1660/61 and does not reappear again. The other four John Smiths continue to produce records for some years after that date. The tax records alone prove that John Smith, the mason, was not the John Smith married to Anne Comstock, but there are other extenuating circumstances which enforce the premise that it was John Smith, the mason's son she married.

The Early Town Records of Providence show that men of the same name were usually described by their profession in order to differentiate them in these records. Obviously "John Smith, mason" was their choice for this man. There was also a John Smith, miller, who had a son named John who will be discussed later - the father and grandfather of the millers had also been a John Smith but he was deceased by this time period. There was a child, John Smith, that resulted from the marriage of John Smith and Anne Comstock and did not create records until some years later. Both families had at least three successive generations of John Smiths.

In the Early Town Records, Vol. VIII, which is made up of scraps of loose paper and is the volume called "Town Meetings No. 3", there is a notation on page 15: "9th 9th was buried John Smith son of John Smith mason" No year is given and the note is placed following a notice dated 7 Nov 1676. [9th month would be November in the old style dating]. I strongly believe this paper was placed in the wrong spot in the book. Most of the dated notices from 1676 have a complete date, which is worded differently and better organized, but the earliest years of records in the 1650’s have scattered notes, dated similarly to this John Smith note and have no designated year. Therefore, I believe this is likely one of the scraps of paper from that earlier time. The compilers stated they did their best to “place these notes in context” but I believe this one is about 15 or16 years off, and was placed in this spot solely because it was dated in the month of November. At the earlier time, the dates were often incomplete and written similarly to "9th 9th" with the year seldom stated.

The Early Records of the Town of Providence:
Vol III, (Brass Clasps) p.2 contains a partial entry of what was obviously copied or referred to again with further details in Vol XV: hath taken this which the widdow Anne Sm... full satisfaction for securetye, of her son john.

Vol. XV, p.85 "I Ann Smith widdow doe put in to the Townes hand of Providence all the right of my husband John Smith deceased excepting the share of meddow which was due to my husband, for the securitye of my child John witnes my hand this 27 of aprill 1661.the marke X of An Smith
Wittness: Thomas Olney deputye William Carpenter, dupuy

Note: The citizens of Rhode Island had various "rights" that accompanied their ownership of one of the original parcels of land to include a town lot. The early towns of Rhode Island were laid out much as English towns with a lot in town for the house, but pasture and woodlands for cutting firewood allotted nearby. John Smith, mason, as well as Samuel Comstock, and other citizens of Providence did indeed have "rights" to be handed down or sold along with the property. This entry makes clear that Anne Comstock Smith was again a widow and had a son named John born of her marriage to John Smith.

Vol III, p.3 There is an entry from the same day [27 Apr 1661] that the widow Ann Smith asked the town to secure inheritance for her son John, in regard to Margaret Smith. I believe John Smith had also been married previously and Ann could not or would not take responsibility for his daughter. They had not been married long enough to have had more than one child.
"Bee it Knowne unto all men by these presentes that I Robert Colwell of Providence in the Naragansett Bay of New England, doe bind my self, my heirs, Exsecutors, and Aministrators, in the sum of Tenn Poundes Sterling: to save and keepe harmelese the Towne of Providence from any Charge of Trouble that may arise, or fall out by A little Child named Margarett Smith, the child of the deceased John Smith, and I the foresaid Robert Colwell doe bind myselfe in the som abovesaid, and my heires exsecutors and Administrators aforesaid; to free the said Child Margaret from being Chargable unto the said Towne of Providence untill the said Child margaret be fforteene yeares of Age, In Wittnesse whereof I Have here unto set my hand the Twentye seaven of Aprill in the yeere 1661. The marke of X Robert Colwell. Singned And dd unto the Towne in the face of the Court as Wittneseth. Thomas Olney Senior, Duputye. Thomas Olney Junion, Clarke."
[Apparently Robert Colwell has taken upon himself to take care of the child Margaret Smith, so she will not have to depend on the town's charity. It's possible he was a relative of the child's mother.]

Poor Anne seems to have been left a widow with young sons twice in succession. First Samuel Comstock died leaving her with their sons, Samuel & Daniel Comstock. She married John Smith, possibly taking on his daughter Margaret, and had another son, John Smith III, who would have been only an infant in 1661. He was quite possibly born after his father's death. Records show she found it necessary to bind out Daniel Comstock to William Carpenter in 1662. It is not known where the young Samuel Comstock made his home in the subsequent years. Quite possibly after her misfortunes she moved away, as the third John Smith later returned from Massachusetts and turned his "rights" over to his half brother Samuel Comstock. See next.

Vol XVII p.34 To the town of providance met this 17th of march: 1683: or: 84 loving freinds; whereas it apeares that my deseased father John Smith In his Life time: was intruested with a Right of land or lands in this town of providance and towneshipps: and hee dieing Intested the said right of lands by Right of inhiartence belongeth unto me his heire and whereas the greatest part of my lands lyeth undievied from the townes Commons my request therefore is that the towne would be pleased to ordar maters so that my lands may be layed out and in so doing you will OBliage him who is yours to Command. John Smith
John Smiths Bill [petition] Jamecos Son.
Vol XIV Deed Book 1 p.122-123 John Smith sometime knowne by the name of Jameco John formerly inhabetant of ye Towne of Providence ...but now deceased was by ye said towne ...accomedated with a five & twenty acre Right of landes & Comoning ....I John Smith of ye towne of Meadfield in the Colloney of Massachussetts ...son & Heire unto ye aforenamed deceased John Smith for a valuable sume of money in hand ...payd unto me by Samuell Comstock ...make over ...unto ye said Samuel Comstock ..for Ever all the Right Intrest Clayme & Title that I have. 21 May 1685. Signed by the mark of John Smith.

John Smith, son of John and Anne Comstock, is here presented as the son of John Smith, known by the name of Jameco [as I had supposed from the tax records]. He has returned as an adult, from his home in Massachusetts, to claim his rights in the town of Providence which had been secured by his mother soon after his birth. In turn he sells the inherited land back to Samuel Comstock, son of his mother Anne and her first husband Samuel Comstock - in other words, to his half-brother. I wonder, too, if Anne Comstock Smith did not leave Providence soon after securing the rights of her son - perhaps she remarried for a third time and subsequently made her home in Massachusetts.

I cannot see how the widow Anne could have married anyone else other than John Smith, Jr, son of John Smith, the mason, who did live next door to Samuel Comstock, her husband, in Providence, and had sold Comstock part of his property. The older John Smith has plenty of records to indicate he was always married to the same lady and her name was Elizabeth. And as I discovered, the other four John Smiths were distinguishable [One was John Smith the mason, one was the young John above who returned in 1683/4 and two of them were John Smith, the miller, and John Smith, the miller's son] and continued to have a presence in Providence many years after Anne Smith presented herself to the Town Council as the widow of John Smith. It was interesting that the John Smiths seemed to be carefully recorded through the years in an effort to keep them separate. It was not until the son, John III, [the mason's grandson] returned to claim his rights that the name Jameco again appeared in the records.

I will admit I spent many hours with these records trying to sort out the John Smiths, but it was evident almost at once that Anne had never married John Smith, the mason. He was a founder and VIP about town and there he was in the records many times and many years after she was widowed.

In late 1661, when Daniel Comstock, son of Samuel Comstock and Anne, was age eight, he was living with Mary Walling who decided she could no longer care for him and he was apprenticed to William Carpenter. He is referred to as "Ann Comstock's son" in the town records but he was not living with his mother. Had she already made plans to remarry for the 3rd time? Had she left Providence? And there's no clue in the records as to where the older boy Samuel Comstock was at this time.

One of the very disappointing things I found in the Providence town records was the following: On 4 Jun 1677, an inventory was ordered of the records and "The Towne Counsells will upon the Esstate of Samuell Comstock: deceased, is wanting." In other words, the Council had made some provision re the estate of Samuel Comstock ...but it was missing from the files even in 1677. This missing record, would surely have shed light on this problem.

The following record does exist:
"The Town Council of Providence took action about estates of Samuel Comstock and John Smith deceased, on 9 March 1660. On 4 May, 1661, Anne Smith, of Providence, widow of John Smith, formerly wife of Samuel Comstock, deceased, sold to Roger Mowry the house and home share of her husband, Samuel Comstock. It comprised four acres in a row of houses in the north part of Providence."

Here are additional records of John Smith "mason", that show he lived years beyond the records of John Smith, deceased, who was husband of Anne Comstock.
Town Records of Providence:
Vol II, p.120 27 Oct 1659. John Smith, mason put up a Bill to the Court that they would consider him with a Right of Commoning. They granted him permission for feeding his cattle and fencing until the Town sees cause to the contrary.
Vol II, p.128 Quarter Court 27 Apr 1660 John Smith, mason resigned up 5 acres to the town which land he bought of Tho. Walling. Town considered him with 4 acres to be laid out to him between the great Swampe and the head of that field where John Jones and Lawrence Wilkenson's houses stand.
Vol III, (Brass Clasps), p.22 John Smith (mason) granted again 16 acres of land which he had returned to the town. Quarter Court previous to April 27, 1662.
This is after John Smith who married Ann Smith has died. References to the Will and heirs of John Smith mason, appear in the records as well:
Vol. XX, Deed Book 2, p.77 Eleazar Arnold, Justice, & Thomas Hopkins, Lieftenant, take into custody the care of their aged mother-in-law, Elizabeth Smith. 7 Jan 1706. [The term "mother-in-law" could have been a term of respect, meaning they were bound by law to take care of the elderly lady as if she were their mother and there is no kinship. Eleazar Arnold was at that time one of the five Trustees of the town, but Thomas Hopkins was not. However, Eleazar Arnold was married to the daughter, also Elizabeth Smith. I have not found the wife of Thomas Hopkins.] Certainly Elizabeth Smith was still living in 1706. She is definitely the same lady, see next.
Vol. XX, p.141-142. John Smith, mason, now deceased, left two home shares of land (each about 5 acres) and ten acres in the Tract called the Neck, and his livestock and personal goods to his wife Elizabeth for her use during her lifetime. Will dated 26 Mar 1686/7. She, being very weak and aged, can no longer care for herself and her son Benjamin who cannot care for himself; therefore she assigns the Trustees of the town of Providence her property to order and dispose of for the support & maintenance of herself and Benjamin. 17 Jan 1705.
Vol. XX, p.161-163 The Trustees of the Town found it necessary to sell the ten acres left to Elizabeth Smith, widow of John Smith, the mason, and left to her for her care by his Will, located in the Neck for 20 pounds to "procure what Was Needefull for the Said Benjamin his Supply Whilst he lived & to defray the Charges Which did accrew by What befell him at his Death. 25 Dec 1706.
Vol. XX, p.197 27 Feb 1689. Laid out unto Joseph Smith (who did Administer upon the Estate of his Deceased Brother John Smith who was Heire unto his Brother Leonard Smith Deceased) 56 and 1/2 acres in the Right of George Palmer.
Vol XX Deed Book 2, p.89-91 Joseph Smith gives up his right as Son & Heir in certain possessions of his father John Smith the mason, deceased, in order the Town Trustees may provide for the maintenance of his brother Benjamin Smith "Wholy Uncapable to take Care & to Provide for his Owne Maintenance & Reliefe" . He does request the Trustees allow him acces to the property for removing the dwellinghouse (timber & stones), from the land. Dated 11 Mar 1705/06.

John Smith, mason, had a wife Elizabeth and the following children as found in the above records: Leonard Smith, John Smith, Joseph Smith, & Benjamin Smith [obviously severely handicapped]. A daughter was the Eleanor Smith who married Eleazar Arnold - a brother to Elizabeth Arnold, wife of Samuel Comstock, the son of Samuel & Anne Comstock under discussion. And there was probably a daughter who married Thomas Hopkins. This John Smith, the mason, had written his will on 26 Mar 1686/7 - I found no record of probate but we can be sure he was alive at least this long and his son John Smith, Jr. called Jameco, had died some 26 years earlier.

Here are some of the records of John Smith, miller, and his father John and son John. These readily show that this is a separate family, not to be confused with John Smith, the mason and his son John Smith, Jr.

The father of John Smith, miller, was the first of the four John Smiths in this family. Only the 2nd and 3rd Johns were creating records in the time period involved here: The first John Smith was settled in Dorchester, MA where, on 3 Sep 1635 he was banished because of his dangerous opinions. He came with Roger Williams and four others to form the new settlement of Providence in the early summer of 1636. The earliest mill grant in Rhode Island was made to John Smith on 1 Mar 1646. In 1649 the mill grant was confirmed to Alice Smith, widow, and John Smith, her son, administrators on the estate of John Smith, miller, late deceased.

John Smith, miller, [the 2nd generation] served as Town Clerk in Providence just prior to the Indian Wars. His Mill was, in fact, burned by the Indians in King Philip's War. The town records, partially burned, were saved from total destruction by being thrown in the mill pond. John Smith himself is credited with having the presence of mind to throw the burning books in the Mill Pond. The early books do show burn and water damage. Will of John Smith, miller, the second of these John Smiths:
Last Will & Testament of John Smith (miller). To Sarah, wife, half the mill with half the land near, half of several propertys, half of house & goods & cattle. The other half to son John and at wife's decease the whole to be divided equially among the seven sons. Wife & John to Execute will. Daughters: Sarah, Alice each receive 40 acres. John is to be helpful to his mother as some of his brothers & sisters are very young. Will not dated but witnesses testify that it was written 22 of Feb in 1682. Proved 2 Jun 1682.
[So the wife of John Smith, the miller, was named Sarah. John Smith, the mason's wife was Elizabeth. This made their records easy enough to separate even when their profession was not mentioned.]

The son, the third John Smith, miller: This 3rd John Smith was the last to carry the title "miller". The Whipple family home page gives the 3rd John Smith's wife as Hannah ??? with his date of death as 20 Apr 1737. Hannah was likely a second wife as she survived her husband some 20 years. He also had a son John Smith [the 4th] who preceded him in death and was known as John Smith, fuller. The 4th John Smith's wife's name was Deborah Angell. Deborah received administration of the 4th John Smith's estate on 4 Oct 1719.

John Smith, miller, [the 2nd] also had among his sons a Joseph and a Benjamin. His Joseph was Joseph Smith [weaver] who married Lydia Gardiner. Joseph the weaver was born about 1670 and died 13 Jan 1750. The son Benjamin was not at all handicapped as was the Benjamin, son of John Smith the mason - Benjamin married Mercy Angell; he was born about 1672 and died 23 Apr 1751. So even though John Smith, mason and John Smith, miller both had named three of their sons with the same given names, it was possible to separate each of them in the records in almost every circumstance.

A great deal of reading through the Town Records was required to sort out the various John Smiths, but because of the habit of the Clerk as generally recording them according to their profession, it was relatively easy to see that John Smith, the mason, never married the widow Anne Comstock. Cyrus B. Comstock, who wrote the earliest books about both William Comstock, and his son Samuel of Rhode Island, is apparently responsible for the error in choosing a second husband for Anne. Other writers must have taken his word without confirmation. My sources are listed below; several of these supported the members of the families of the John Smiths as I have listed them above.

Principal Sources:
· Printed Under Authority of the City Council of Providence By Horatio Rogers, George Moulton Carpenter, and Edward Field, Record Commissioners. [Carpenter died after the 10th Volume and the others continued with the work.] The Early Records of the Town of Providence: 21 Volumes. Providence: Snow & Farnham City Printers. Volumes printed 1892 to 1915.
· Cyrus B. Comstock, Editor. Some Descendants of Samuel Comstock of Providence, R.I. who died about 1660. New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1905
· Cyrus B. Comstock, Editor. A Comstock Genealogy: Descendants of William Comstock of New London, Conn. who died after 1662. Ten Generations. New York: The Knickerbocker Press, 1907
· John Adams Comstock, Compiler. A History and Genealogy of the Comstock Family in America. Los Angeles: The Commonwealth Press, Inc., 1949
· William Richard Cutter. New England Families Genealogical & Memorial, Series 1. Baltimore: Clearfield Co., 1995.
· Abby Isabel Brown Bulkley. The Chad Browne Memorial: Consisting of Genealogical Memoirs of a Portion of the Descendants of Chad and Elizabeth Browne with an Appendix Containing Sketches of Other Early Rhode Island Settlers 1638-1888. 300 Copies Printed for the Family; Brooklyn NY: 1888. Reprinted by Heritage Books, Inc., 2001.
· Almon DanforthHodges; Almon D. Hodges. Almon D. Hodges and His Neighbors (Autobiographical ancestry sketch of the old Hodges of New England). Boston: private printing, 1909.
· M. M. Wilkinson. Genealogy of Wilkinson and Kindred Families. Mississippi: Shelby Book Store, 1949.

1 comment:

  1. Well done! These John Smiths are confusing. This is the best effort yet I've seen to sort them out. Thanks. W