Saturday, September 10, 2016

Elder William Wentworth of Dover, New Hampshire

The Wentworth name has been a part of New England history since the early 1600’s.  Walk around several towns in this area of New England and you will find the Wentworth name on roads, civic institutions and buildings, lakes, towns and various types of businesses throughout the area.  But what about the immigrant, Elder William Wentworth, the bearer of that name? 

Wentworth Lineage

William Wentworth was baptized in Alford, Lincolnshire, England 16 March 1616/7.  He was the son of William and Susanna Carter Wentworth.  In the Wentworth Genealogy, English and American by John Wentworth, the author has documented his ancestry going back 19 generations to Reginald Wentworth, Lordship of West Riding, Yorkshire as the historical beginnings of the Wentworth family.  William Wentworth is a proven gateway ancestor on the Oliver Wentworth line to King John Lackland and well as through Isabel Sotehill, Oliver Wentworth’s wife, to William the Lion (1143-1214) King of Scotland. His grandmother, Catherine (Marbury) Wentworth’s line goes to Henry III.  Also there are many ancestral branches which tie to various royal lines throughout the generations.

Follower of Rev John Wheelwright

No records for this William Wentworth exist after 1636 in England nor do records exist to prove his immigration date to the Colonies.  One theory is that Wentworth left England with Rev. John Wheelwright and his followers.  Or possibly, he arrived in the Colonies two years after Wheelwright.  If he went to Boston with Wheelwright’s group in 1636, there is no record.  In 1636 Boston, Rev. John Wheelwright, along with Anne Marbury Hutchinson his sister-in-law, was banned. They were charged with sedition and contempt.  

Arrives in Exeter
Wheelwright was in Exeter and initiated the Exeter Combination.  (Anne Hutchinson went to Rhode Island at this time).  The first confirmation of 21 year old William in the Colonies was when he signed the Exeter Combination at Exeter, New Hampshire in 1639, along with several other Wheelwright followers.  Among the signers were Christopher Helme, Christopher Lawson, Augustine Storre and Edward Rishworth.  All listed here and perhaps more, were in one way or another all related.  See page 69 of the Wentworth genealogy for detailed information. 

His years in Wells, Maine 

The jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay government had extended to Exeter.  In 1642, with his previous banishment still in effect, Wheelwright was forced to flee to Wells, Maine. The faithful, including William
followed. The group was key in establishing the town. Wentworth stayed in Wells from 1642 to 1649 and served in many civic capacities including town constable and juror.  

Settled in Dover, NH

By 1650, he was being taxed in Dover and from 1651 to 1670 he held many town offices.  In 1655/6, he was appointed Ruling Elder of the Church.  He followed Edward Starbuck and Hatevil Nutter in that capacity. 

Garrison in Dover, NH
In expectation of problems with the local Indians, the Governor ordered the meeting house fortified and garrisons built.  There were approximately 50 garrisons within a 15 mile radius of what is now downtown Dover.  In 1684, during the Coccheo Massacre, the Penacooks attacked.  One of the garrisons, owned by Elizabeth Heard, was being guarded by 78 year old William Wentworth.  Awakened by a barking dog, he managed to close the gates, saving the garrison and all who were inside.  This was the only garrison that survived the Coccheo Massacre. He is considered a hero of the Massacre in Dover by his actions that night. 

The Wentworth Descendancy

Wentworth married twice.  His marriages have created questions for researchers.  Based on information derived from the dates of the eldest son, Samuel in 1641 and other factors, it is believed that his first wife was Elizabeth Kenny.  It would seem likely they married in Exeter and had their first child before Wheelwright’s group left for Wells.  Records or proof of information on the second marriage is not readily available.  Tradition says that he married second a very young woman as there is a 30 year gap between his first child and his last.  His children are Samuel, b 1641; John b abt 1647; Gershom b abt 1649; Ezekiel b abt 1651; Elizabeth b abt 1653; Paul b abt 1659; Timothy, Sarah, Ephraim and Benjamin b abt 1670. 
William Wentworth is the progenitor of many prominent descendants in the American colonies and the United States.  John, his grandson through son Samuel was the Lt Gov of New Hampshire.  Bennington Wentworth, royal Governor of New Hampshire from 1741 to 1766. He was the son of John above and great grandson of Elder William. He was a large landholder and instrumental in Vermont becoming a state. Bennington, Vermont was named for him. Other descendants included judges, representatives to the Continental Congress, a mayor of Chicago.  The author of the referenced source here, John Wentworth was a US Representative. And the list goes on….

My lineage from Elder William Wentworth, 9th great grandfather is

Elder William Wentworth m Elizabeth Kenny
Samuel Wentworth m Mary Benning
Lt Gov John Wentworth m Sarah Hunking
Capt William Wentworth m Margery Pepperell
Sarah Wentworth m John Fernald
Hannah Wentworth Fernald m Benjamin Fernald
William Wentworth Fernald m Elizabeth Makepeace Weeks
Julia Ann Fernald m Rufus M. Emery
George Phillip Emery m Emma Trafton
Forrest Bartlett Emery m Ruth Whitman
Elinor Francena Emery m Bertram Gerrish

Sources:The Wentworth Genealogy English and American by John Wentworth, 1878 Chicago
The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants by Gary Boyd Roberts2004 Baltimore
Pictures: Google Images


  1. I am adopted and my biological father's last name is Fernald. I am descended from John Wentworth and Ann Blazo via their granddaughter Urania/Urana who married Turner Hanson. I am just exploring my Wentworth roots as my Hanson line seems to run out at Turner. I had no idea the Wentworth line was so rich in history nor that it was so entangled in my Fernald roots.

    1. I am a descendant of William wentworth. Pretty cool.