Name: Richard Bennett
Born: by April 1608
Place: Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England
Chris'd: 6 Aug 1609
Place: Wiveliscombe, Somerset, EnglandWILL: 15 Mar 1674
Died: 12 Apr 1675
Place: Nansemond Co, Virginia
Married: about 1641
Bennett was born in Wiveliscombe, Somerset,
England in 1608. He arrived in Virginia at the age of twenty and was
elected to the General Assembly in 1629, representing his uncle's estate, Warrosquoake.
During the English Civil War, the Royal Governor of the colony, Sir William
Berkeley, surrendered to representatives of the English Parliament and
Bennett was unanimously elected governor by the Virginia House of
Burgesses. He held that position from 1652 to 1655.
From Vision of Britain,
1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales
described Wiveliscombe like this:
"WIVELISCOMBE-popularly Wilscombe-a small town, a parish, and a subdistrict,
in Wellington district, Somerset. The town stands on a 1ow hill,51/2 miles
NW of Wellington r. station; is traditionally said to have been built by the
Saxons, when driven by the Danes from Castle hill, which had been occupied
by the Romans; was given by Edward the Confessor to the cathedral of Wells,
and had a palace of the Bishops; is now a seat of petty sessions and a
polling place; consists of several streets, with some good modern houses and
a number of old ones; and has a post-office++ under Wellington, Somerset, a
banking office two chief inns, a police station, a town hall, a church
rebuilt in 1829, Independent and Wesleyan chapels, a national school, a
dispensary, charities ?100, a very large brewery, a weekly market on
Tuesday, great markets on the last Tuesday of Feb. and July, and fairs on 12
May and 25 Sept. The parish includes four hamlets, and comprises 5,984
acres. Real property, ?13,958; of which ?120 are in gasworks. Pop., 2,735.
Houses, 607. The manor belongs to Lord Ashburton. There are slate quarries,
and remains of Roman and Danish camps. The living is a vicarage in the
diocese of Bath and Wells. Value, ?300. Patron, the Prebendary of
Wiveliscombe.-The sub-district contains 4 parishes. Acres, 10,949. Pop.,
3,526. Houses, 764."
And here's a similar description from The National Gazetteer of Great
Britain and Ireland (1868), transcribed by Colin
"WIVELISCOMBE, a parish and market town in the hundred of Kingsbury West,
county Somerset, 15 miles S.W. of Bridgwater, 11 W. of Taunton, and 6 N.
of Wellington railway station. It is situated in a comb, or valley, from
which circumstance it takes its name, under the Maundown hills, and includes
the chapelry of Fitzhead, the town of Wiveliscombe, and the hamlets of
Croford, Ford, Langley, West Town, and Whitfield. It was a place of
importance under the Saxons, and had a palace in the 15th century, belonging
to the Bishops of Wells, to whom the manor was originally given by Edward
the Confessor. It is a polling place for the county elections, and is
governed by a bailiff, portreeve, and other officers, but is under the
jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold petty sessions on the third
Tuesday in each month. The population is close upon 3,000. The town is
lighted with gas, and contains a townhall, police station, dispensary,
reading-rooms, and branch bank. Here is situated the largest brewery in the
W. of England."
We're lucky to have anything regarding the Bennetts of Wiveliscombe.
Exeter had been bombed by the Germans during the Second World War and many
of the holdings for Somerset hand been sent there for safekeeping, but were
lost.31 There's enough left to patch-quilt much of this
From Public Record Office, High Court of the Admiralty (HCA):
Recorded at the Public Record Office, High Court of the Admiralty (HCA), in
the case of Ewers against Watts, on 12 February 1657, Bennett testified,
I, Richard Bennett, an inhabitant of Virginia but at present living in
London, born at Wilscombe in the county of Somerset, aged 49 years or
John Bennett Boddie, in Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County
Virginia, quoted from the Virginia Magazine (Vol 30, page
At a Court James City 29 March 1628, Richard Bennet, aged 20 years, sworne
and examined, sayth that Captain Preen or his assignes received satisfaction
of Mr. Edward Bennett for the passage of two men in ye Hopewell, 1623 to be
delivered to Virginia.
The two records agree. We can reasonably accept that Bennett was born
some time before April 1608 and not on the date of his christening, as is
too often stated in online genealogies.
The James City record is the first mention of Bennett in Virginia. He
was preceded in the management of his uncle Edward Bennett's estate,
Bennett's Welcome, at Warrosquoake
(later changed to Isle of Wight), by Edward's brothers Robert and Richard,
and, finally, by Edward himself in 1628. We can assume that Edward returned
to London a short time later because nephew Richard was elected to the
General Assembly as representative for Warrosquoake the following year.
Over the next decade Richard Bennett became a large landowner and successful
politician, appointed to the twelve-member Governor's
Council in 1642. In 1635, Virginia's acting governor, John West,
granted Bennett 2,000 acres on the Nansemond River for the plantation of
forty people.35 Bennett's uncle, Edward Bennett, was a large
supporter of the Puritans. Richard followed his example and Nansemond soon
became a haven for dissenters. In 1642, because of a scarcity of Puritan
ministers in the province, Bennett sent his brother, Phillip, to Boston for
recruits, and a congregation of 118 members was soon organized.19
Joseph Dunn wrote in his history of Nansemond County, Virginia (1907),
The rapid growth of the Independents disturbed the mind of the authorities
and active measures were taken to suppress them. Religion and politics were
practically synonymous in those days and Independence in religion spelled
disloyalty in politics. England was in the midst of the fierce struggle
between King and Parliament, and Virginia was loyalist to the
Sir William Berkeley, a favorite of King Charles I, was appointed
governor the same year Bennett assumed his place on the Governor's Council.
Interestingly, Berkeley was born in Bruton, Somerset, just more
than fifty miles from Bennett's home town of Wiveliscombe. The men,
undoubtedly, would have recognized that fact early on. But any superficial
similarity between the two probably stops there — their ages and
places of origin: Bennett was from a family of tanners and successful
businessmen. Berkeley was born into the aristocracy. His father, Sir
Maurice, was a knighted politician and soldier whose lineage dated back to
the twelfth century. His elder brother, Charles, was the 2nd Viscount
Fitzhardinge, and the next eldest, John, the 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton.
Nevertheless, although the men became political rivals a decade later, they
appear to have set their differences aside and worked well together
thoughout the remainder of their lives.
Sir Francis Wyatt
handed over the governorship to Berkeley on 8 March 1642. Only a year
later, in March 1643, the new governor instructed the House of Burgesses to
enact the following law (spelling modernized):
For the preservation of the purity of doctrine & unity of the
church, it is enacted that all ministers whatsoever which shall reside in
the colony are to be conformable to the orders and constitutions of the
church of England, and the laws therein established, and not otherwise to be
admitted to teach or preach publicly or privately, And that the Gov. and
Council do take care that all nonconformists upon notice of them shall be
compelled to depart the colony with all convenience.12
Church leaders were banished and exiled. Some were imprisoned, and the
Puritan community as a whole was disarmed. On 15 July 1642, Virginia
Puritan leader Rev William Durand wrote to Rev John Davenport of the New
Haven Colony that "if ever the lord had cause to consume the cittyes of
Sodom and Gomorrah he might justly and more severely execute his wrath upon
Virginia."22 Durand's continued activism led to his banishment to
Maryland in 1648. After the beheading of King Charles in 1649, Governor
Berkeley offered asylum to "royalist gentlemen" and proclaimed Charles II
the King of Virginia.
Virginia existed by charter from the King. But Maryland was a
proprietorship under the the 2nd Baron Baltimore, Cecilius Calvert.
Although a Catholic, Baltimore was sympathetic to the Protestants, if only
to keep the peace with Parliament. In 1649 he elevated the lukewarm Puritan
and Virginian, William
Stone to the governorship. Stone quickly passed the Maryland
Toleration Act, further encouraging emigration to Maryland. Bennett and
Edward Lloyd, who had both been "presented by the Sheriff of [Nansemond
County, Virginia] for seditions sectuaries, for not repairing to their
church and for refusing to hear common prayer" crossed the Chesapeake Bay
with ten families, founding the Puritan settlement of Providence, the site
from which Annapolis sprung. More than a thousand Virginian Protestants
soon followed15 and Bennett established a new plantation at Towne
Despite the Toleration Act, which promised political protection to all
Christians, the Puritans were concerned that its benefactors, Lord Baltimore
and William Stone, were Royalists, and that the act was an instrument of
power for the King. According to one source, Bennett returned to England to
confer with Parliament.24 His purpose and actions while there are
unknown, but in 1651 Parliament empaneled a commission of five —
Captain Robert Denis, Richard Bennett, Colonel Thomas Stegge, a former
Speaker of the House of Burgesses (1642-1643), Captain William Claiborne
(who had had a nefarious history in Maryland), and Captain Edmund Curtis
— to reduce "Virginia and Maryland to their due obedience to the
Commonwealth of England." Two fleets were dispatched that October. The
first was commanded by Sir George Ayscue and
subdued the royal sympathizers in Barbados. A second fleet of fifteen
vessels commanded by Robert Denis, and carrying six hundred men, sailed for
Virginia. Denis and Stegge lost their lives on the frigate John,
along with eight other ships, in a storm.16 The four remaining
ships, including the 30-gun frigate Guinea
under the command of Captain Edmund Curtis, arrived in Virginia the next
Berkeley, intending to resist, stationed twelve hundred soldiers in and
around Jamestown. But with the flight to France of Charles II and the loss
of Barbados to Commonwealth forces, he decided to negotiate. He surrendered
his office on 12 March 1652 and was permitted to retire to his estate, Green Spring
Plantation. Almost immediately, Bennett and Claiborne, wanting press
Virginia's historic claim to Maryland, perhaps at the head of a small army,
went into Maryland and proclaimed the dissolution of its government. Its
governor, William Stone, resigned his post on 29 March and a commission of
six, including Bennett, was appointed to administer the province. The next
day, the Virginia House of Burgesses unanimously elected Bennett as its new
governor and on 5 May signed into law the Treaty
of Jamestown, Virginia's formal surrender to the English Parliament.
Under the articles, the power to govern the colony was assigned to the House
of Burgesses, making the body a colonial facsimile of the House of Commons
In Maryland, Stone, who appears throughout his career to have regularly
bent with the prevailing winds, was allowed to re-assume the title of
governor in Maryland, but the power of state remained with the two
Parliamentary Commissioners, Richard Bennett and William Claiborne. They,
in turn, empaneled a commission of ten to run the everyday affairs of
Maryland.26 Later that spring, Bennett led negotiations with the
Susquehannock and, on 28 June, signed a treaty, which ceded large
tracts of land to the English, including that on which Annapolis now stands.
It was signed by Richard Bennett, Edward Lloyd, Thomas Marsh, William
Fuller, and Leonard Strong.11
Bennett's career and the political life in the Tidewater region appears
to have steadied during the next three years, while Berkeley quietly
continued his botanical research and correspondences at Green Spring House.
By all accounts, Bennett ran the business of the colony competently. But he
and like-minded Virginians were of the opinion that the whole region,
including the lands the Calverts declared dominion over, should be rejoined
with Virginia. Captain William Fuller, one of Maryland's ten commissioners,
sought a militant solution and pressed the matter in ways that would bring
about a crisis.
Cromwell had been busy keeping the republican revolution alive in England
and found it politically prudent to maintain the peace with Lord Baltimore.
He had no interest in the colonial conflicts of the New World and sent a
stern warning to Bennett and Claiborne:
Whereas the differences between the Lord Baltimore and the inhabitants of
Virginia concerning the bounds by them respectively claimed, are depending
before our Council and yet undetermined; and whereas we are credibly
informed you have notwithstanding gone into his plantation in Maryland and
countenanced some people there in opposing the Lord Baltimore's officers,
whereby, and with other forces from Virginia, you have much disturbed that
colony and people, to the endangering of tumults and much bloodshed there,
if not timely prevented: We, therefore, at the request of the Lord
Baltimore, and of divers other persons of quality here, who are engaged by
great adventures in his interest, do for preventing of disturbances or
tumults there, will and require you and all others deriving any authority
from you, to forbear disturbing the Lord Baltimore, or his officers or
people in Maryland; and to permit all things to remain as they were before
any disturbance or alteration made by you, or by any other upon pretense of
authority from you, till the said differences above mentioned be determined
by us here, and we give farther order therein.27
However it came to pass, Bennett didn't manage control of the situation
as instructed by Cromwell. William Stone, who was still provisionally, if
contested, the official governor of Maryland, began to react to Fuller's
provocations. He raised a force of several hundred royalists and attempted
to secure the province in the name of Lord Baltimore. Captain Fuller
organized an equally strong Parliamentary force and confronted the would-be
rebels on 25 March 1655 near Bennett's Maryland plantation, at Horn Point
along the Severn River (now part of Annapolis). This engagement is known to
history as the Battle of the
Severn. Governor Stone and thirty-two others of his men were wounded.
Seventeen royalists were killed, four of them summarilty executed after the
battle. And that would have been Stone's fate had cooler heads not
Battle of the Severn was the first time American met American in battle,
the last battle in England's Civil War, and the last time that Parliament
would go to battle with it's own county.
Bennett surely understand the enormous political consequences of the
action and resigned the governorship a week later. Curiously, only the day
before, on March 30, Berkeley sold one of his Jamestown homes to "Richard Bennett,
Esq. Governour of Virginia."29 Later that year, the government
of Virginia, now under the stewardship of Governor Edward Digges, received
the expected letter from Cromwell. It's noteworthy that Bennett is referred
to as Colonel Bennett:
Whitehall, 26th September, 1655
It seems by yours of the 29th of June and by the relation we received by
Colonel Bennet, that some mistake or scruple hath arisen concerning the
sense of our letters of the 12th of January last; as if by our letters we
had intimated that we would have a stop put to the proceedings of those
commissioners who were authorized to settle the civil government of
Maryland. Which was not at all in tended by us; nor so much as proposed to
us by those who made addresses to us to obtain our said letter; but our
intention (as our said letter doth plainly import) was only to prevent and
forbid any force or violence to be offered by either of the plantations of
Virginia or Maryland, from one to the other, upon the differences concerning
their bounds; the said differences being then under the consideration of
Ourself and Council here, which, for your more full satisfaction, we have
thought fit to signify to you; and rest
Your loving friend
The initial P refers to, incidentally, "Protector."
[timeline to be developed here]
Toward the end of his life, Bennett became interested in Quakerism, if
not actually converting. William
Edmundson, a preacher who came to the colonies from England with George Fox's party in
1672, wrote of Bennett,
Richard Bennett, alias, Major General Richard Bennett and Colonel Teve, with
others, and a great many Friends, some came a great way to that meeting....
He was glad to hear there was such care and order among us and wished it had
been so with others. He further said he was a man of great estate, and many
of our Friends were mean [poor] men, therefore he desired to contribute with
them. He likewise asked me how I was treated by the Governor, he having
heard that I was with him. I told him that he was brittle and peevish, and
I could get nothing fastened on him. He asked me if the Governor called me
Dog, Rogue, etc? I said, No, he did not call me so. Then said he, you took
him in his best humor they being his usual terms when angry, for he is an
enemy to every appearance of good. They were tender and loving, so we
parted, the Major General desiring to see me at his house, which I was
willing to do, and accordingly went. He was a brave, solid, wise man,
received the truth, and he died in the same, leaving two Friends his
Richard Bennett's Family
Various web accounts state that Richard married twice and try to assign
several children to the first marriage. This is due, at least in part, to
confusion between the governor and Richard
Bennett Sr (1625-1709) of Blackwater, the probable son of Thomas Bennett of Mulberry Island. He is also often
confused with his uncle, Richard Bennett, who managed Edward Bennett's
estate until his own death in 1626, leaving a wife and five children in
England. In any case, if the former governor did have additional children,
they were not named in his will (below).
||She m1 Theodorick Bland of Westover, m2 Col St Leger Codd.
|Richard Bennett Jr
||Some researchers put his birth as early
as 1638. He married Henrietta Maria Neale, daughter of Captain James Neale.
He served in the lower house of the Maryland Assembly for Balitmore
County, 1663-1664. His will was probated on 6 Mary 1667. Richard and
Henrietta had daughter Susanna and son Richard Bennett III, born five
months after his father's death. The third Richard is said to have been
the richest man in Maryland at the time. He died without male issue, so
with him his grandfather's lineage daughtered out.
Married Col Charles Scarborough of Accomac County, the son of Edmund
Scarborough. She died 4 Aug 1719 in Accomac County,
The point on the death of Richard Bennett Jr needs to be researched
further. The story is that he drowned on his property at Greenbury Point in
May 1667. Be that as it may, he wrote a will nearly a year and a half
earlier, while still in his 20s. This abstract, which follows, was
published in the Maryland Calendar of Wills, Volume 1, page 38. The
full transcription is found in the 1906 edition of the Maryland
Dated 29 January 1666
Probated 6 May 1667
To cous. John Langley, 400 A. "Folly."
Wife Henrietta Maria, residuary legatee of estate, real and personal; sd.
estate to descend to possible unborn child born within nine months of his
Exs.: Father Richd. Bennett, wife's father, Capt. Jas. Neale and wife,
Henrietta Maria, afsd.
Test: Dan. Silvaine, John Bristoe.
(Recorded in Annapolos Book 1, page 278.)37
Richard Bennett Jr's wife was pregnant with their second child when he
died from drowning accident near their home. Richard Bennett III was born
the following September, as attested to this memorial:
Here lieth the body of Richard Bennett Esq., who was born the 16th of
September 1667, and died ye 11th of October 1749. His Father Died Young His
Grandfather, who was also named Richard Bennett, was Governor of Virginia.
No man was more Esteemed in Life In all Ranks of People than He, And this
Esteem proceeded from his Benevolent & Charitable Disposition, Added to a
Vast Depth of Understanding. To His Memory this Tombstone is dedicated by
his Nephew, The Honourable Edward Lloyd Esq.
This third generation Bennett is said that have been the richest man in
British North America. Before his death, he erected a tomb to his mother,
Henrietta Maria Neale Bennett Lloyd, who is buried next to her second
husband, Philemon Lloyd.
Shee that now takes her Rest within this tomb
had Rachell's face and Lea's fruitefull womb
Arigail's wisdom Lydea's faithfull heart
with Martha's care and Mary's better part
Who died the 21st day of May
Dom 1697 Aged 50 Years
Months 23 Dayes
To whose Memory Richard Bennett
Dedicates This Tomb38
Three items regarding his death were published in the Maryland
Gazette: 18 Oct 1749, 8 Nov 1749, and 10 Jan 1750.
Will of Governor Richard Bennett
It's noteworthy that Bennett mentions two cousins, "Silvester, the wife
of Major Nicholas Hill," and "Mary, the wife of Mr Luke Cropley," said to
have been daughters of Richard's uncle Edward Bennett. Ann is the only
child he specifically named. Elizabeth is referenced through her children.
Son, Richard Bennett had drowned in 1667.
As posted on the BENNETT-L Archives at Rootweb:
Extracted from the Principal Registry of the Probate Divorce and Admiralty
Division of the High Court of Justice
In the Prerogative Court of Canterbury
I, Richard Bennett, of Nansemond River in Virginia being sick in body but in
perfect memory doe make and ordain this my last will testament as followith
vizt - Imprs I give my body to the earth and my Spirit to God that gave it.
Item. I give and bequeath unto the Parish where I now live and have so long
lived all that parcel of land being three hundred acres more or less which
Thomas Bolton holdeth by lease and which he now lives. The rents & profits
thereof to be received yearly by the Church-wardens of this parish and by
them disposed of towards the relief of four poor aged or impotent persons
whom they judge to stand in most need of help and this to continue and be
done for as ever long as ye land continues.
Item. I give and bequeath unto Richard Buxton, the son of Thomas Buxton, the
rents & profits of that parcel of land on which Edmond Belson now liveth to
him and his heirs for ever the same to be paid unto him when he shall come
to be twenty years of age, but if he lives not to that time or afterward die
without issue, then the said land & ye rents thereof to be and continue to
be paid as now it is.
Item. I give unto my daughter Ann fifty pounds
sterling beside her debts which she now oweth me.
Item. I give an bequeath unto my grandchildren Elizabeth, Ann and Bennett
Scarburgh or any other of my daughter Scarburgh children which shall be born
hereafter all that parcel of land lying in Pocomoke River on the eastern
shore in Maryland being two thousand eight hundred acres by patent to them
or either of them or either of their heirs for ever and also two thousand
five hundred acres by patent lying in Niccocomoco River on the eastern shore
Item. I give unto my cousin Silvester, the wife of Major Nicholas Hill,
twelve thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give to my cousin Mary, the wife of Mr. Luke Cropley, twenty pounds
Item. I give unto Richard Hubard of Pigg Point one thousand pounds of
Item. I give unto Michael Ward and the widow of John Lewis, to each of them
one thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto the widow Prince one thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto Charles Howard & Richard Higgens to each of them one
thousand pounds of tobacco & more to Charles Howard the land which he
lives on for eleven years.
Item. I give to Thomas Chilcote & Thomas Garrat to each of them two
thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto William Kitchen and John Blye to each of them one thousand
pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto Patrick Edmondston and the widow Riddick to each of them
one thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto John Woster who married the relic of John Salsbury one
thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto William Yearrat of Pagan Creek and to the wife of Mr.
Thomas Taberer to each of them two thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto Elizabeth Outland of Chucatuke Creek and Thomas Jordan of
the same place to each of them two thousand pounds of tobacco.
Item. I give unto James day twelve thousand pounds of tobacco and if Mr.
Taberer see cause, he may add three thousand more to it.
Item. I give to all my servants that now liveth with me both Christians and
Negroes to each of them one thousand pounds of tobacco only the two
hirelings excepted viz - Richard Higgins & John Turner. The rest of my
personal and real estate and all lands and stock of what nature or kind so
ever it be to go to my grandchild Richard Bennett, to him and his heirs
forever, my said grandchild now residing in Bristoll, and in default of such
heirs then to come to the children of Theodorick Bland & Charles Scarburg.
Lastly, I do hereby declare and ordain and appoint James Jofey, Mr. Thomas
Hodges, and Edmond Belson or any two of them also Robert Pealle to be
overseers of this my last will and testament allowing & approving for good
and effectual to all intents and purposes what so ever my said executors or
any two of them shall do or cause to be done concerning the estate from time
to time in relation to the estate.
In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal this 15th day of March
1674 - RI BENNETT (LS) - Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of us
- JOHN SPEIRS, ENO EARLE, CHARLES HOWARD, GEORGE DAVIS.
Proved in Nansemond Court the 12th of April 1675 by the oaths of Mr. Eno
Earle, Charles Howard, & George Davis to be the last will & testament of
Major General R. Bennett.
Teste: JNO LEAR CHR Cur.
Proved 3rd August 1676.
Richard Bennett's Uncles
Richard Bennett certainly owed much of his position to the success of his
uncle, Edward Bennett. Edward was an Elder of the Ancient Church at
Amsterdam, Commissioner of Virginia to the Court of England, a Deputy
Governor of the of the British Merchants of Holland, and a burgess seated in
the Virginia General Assembly for the year 1628, perhaps the only time he
was resident in the colony.
Ten year earlier before his arrival, in May 1618, Christopher Lawne
and a company of twenty individuals founded Lawne's Plantation near villages
of the Warrosquyoake tribe on the south side of the James River and
downriver several miles of Jamestown. Lawne and Ensign Thomas Washer
represented "Warresqueak County" in the first meeting of the House of
Burgesses in 1619. Within a year or so, Lawne and the other settlers
vacated to Elizabeth City due to widespread illness. The area appears to
have been absent of white settlers until 1622. In April the previous year,
Sandys, one of the founders of Virginia Company,
recommended Edward Bennett's admittance.7 By one historian's
accounting, Bennett became the company's largest investor and was
responsible for transporting about six hundred colonists to Virginia, the
first of whom arrived in February 1622 on the Sea Flower, many of
whom settled at Bennett's new plantation, Bennett's Welcome, at
Warrosquyoake. Bennet remained in London. Another colonist, Nathaniel
Basse patented land nearby the same year.
James Fulgham wrote in a family journal,
Interestingly, in the study of these 17th century English cultural themes,
one name frequently appears — that of wealthy merchant-mariner Edward
Bennett of St. Olave's Parish, Hart St. London. In the first decade of
the 17th century, he and his fellow non-conformist Ancient Brethren, then
domiciled in Amsterdam, encouraged the Pilgrims from Scrooby, Nottingham and
the greater east midlands and provided them support while the pilgrims
attempted to establish themselves in the Netherlands. Ultimately, Edward
Bennett is the unifying thread that ties together the involvement of the
English east midland separatists, the West Country tobacco growers, and the
greater London mercantilists in the settlement of Isle of Wight County,
Referring to Bennett as "the unifying thread" is certainly a grandiose
claim. But he appears to have a hand in the matters pretty much from the
beginning. Delia Horsfall of the Somerset and Dorset Family History Center
provides a measured view of his involvement:
To share the risks, merchants with similar interests joined together in a
joint stock company. This could raise capital from landowners and other
investors. This way the Virginia Company was formed in 1609. The capital
was raised in The London Stock Exchange to build ships often with up to 64
contributors to share costs and risks Edward would have been well placed for
this trade as main goods traded were Woollens and weapons for furs which
were soon replaced by tobacco. With Richard being able to find the return
cargos, the brothers would be well on their way to expand the trade as the
colony grew. Edward usually had 3 partners in these trips so he probably
could supply all the woollens needed and we know that he traded in linen as
well. Flax was grown around West Dorset and SE Somerset. The sails for the
Navy ships at least was grown here and they produced an extremely strong
fabric that the West Country working men's smocks were made from. Around
Wiveliscombe mainly serge was manufactured and dyed in the dark colours
favoured by the Puritans.31
It would be unlikely that someone who fled to Holland would come back to
London and prosper at the speed Edward did. Perhaps it is more likely when
given the job of finding 200 or more souls to "plant" in Virginia that he
looked to the Old church in Amsterdam and proceeded to offer finance. He
would have ties with Amsterdam and the Dutch ports as they and London were
still part of the old Hanseatic League. He obviously had a large fleet, I
have found mention of John & Francis, Sea Flower, Gift of
God & Edward. Could not find confirmation for the
According to Boddie, Edward owned the ship Edward of London, which
he captained in 1627 during the Duke of Buckingham's (then the Lord High
Admiral) "ill fated expedition for the relief of the Hougenots besieged in
Rochelle by Cardinal Richelieu."8 He is also believed to have
owned Gift of God, which transported settlers in (at least) 1618,
1622, and 1623. Using the Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Charles I,
1625-26 page 98 as his source, Boddie tells us that, "while on one of
his own vessels, he was captured by the pirate Campaign."9
With that, we can add to the growing list of ships Edward had ownership
- Ann and Margaret
- John and Francis
- Sea Flower
- Gift of God
- Edward of London
In April 2019, Brian Collingridge, one of the authors of Wiveliscombe:
A History of a Somerset Market Town, sent the following passage of the
book to me:10
Edward Bennett was another rich clothier in Wiveliscombe who made a fortune
elsewhere, this time in London. In 1623 he shipped three packs of linen
cloth bearing his mark to Virginia. His nephew Richard Bennett subsequently
became the Governor and Captain General there for Oliver Cromwell until
The following persons were listed under the muster of Mr Edward Bennett
on 7 February 1624/5. Note that he himself is not present. Although he did
spend time in Virginia in 1628, his children were born and raised in
|Henery Pinke||Mr Edward Bennett||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||London Marchannt||1619||
|John Bate||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Addam||1621||
|Peeter Collins||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Addam||1621||
|Wassell Webling||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||James||1621||
|Antonio not given||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||James||1621||"a Negro"
|Christopher Reynolds||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||John & Francis||1622||
|Luke Chappman||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||John & Francis||1622||
|Edward Maybank||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||John & Francis||1622||
|John Attkins||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Guifte||1623||
|William Denum||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Guifte||1623||
|ffrancis Banks||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Guifte||1623||
|Mary not given||"||servant||Wariscoyack||James Citty||Margrett & John||1622||"a Negro Woman"
Antonio, above, is believed to have been the Anthony
Johnson and the same man who became a successful farmer in Maryland. It
should be noted that there was another Anthony, a negro, indentured to Captain William
There have been numerous attempts to identify this
Thomas Bennett "of Mulberry Island" as being of the same family. From this
muster taken on 7 February 1624/5, we know that he arrived in Virginia in
1618 and that he was born in about 1586, making him about nine years younger
than Edward. We can only hazard to guess Mary's relationship to him.
|Benjamine Simes||Thomas Bennett||Basses Choyse||James Citty||33||
|Thomas Bennett||"||head||Basses Choyse||James Citty||38||Neptune||1618
|Mary Bennett||"||Basses Choyse||James Citty||18||Southampton||1622
|Roger Heford||"||Basses Choyse||James Citty||22||Returne||1623
With two brothers, Richard and Robert, having died in Virginia while
managing Edward's estate, Edward appears in the Virginia record as Burgess
in March 1628. His nephews (brothers to one another), Richard, the future
governor, age 20, and Robert, age 18, also appear in that year. Although
they are not listed on any extant ship manifests, we might assume that the
trio traveled to Virginia together.
A will or other direct evidence of Edward's death has not been found. The
following passage suggests he died sometime between 1638 and 1651, i.e.
about the 1640s. This appears in John Dorman's Adventurers of Purse and
Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/25,
On 24 Aug 1635 Edward Bennett, aged 55, of St. Olave's, Hart Street,
London, deposed concerning freight details of the ship Ann and
Margaret to Virginia in which he was a partner with John Stoner and
George Orme. He was still living in 1638 when his son Jasper was buried,
but dead before 3 June 1651 when Mary Bennett was granted administration
de bonis non administratis for the part of her father's estate still
undistributed at the death of the executor, her brother-in-law John Bennett.
She died before 26 May 1659 when administration of her estate was granted to
Mary Bland alias Bennett "the well and lawfull daughter of Mary Bennett
later of Stanmore in the County of Middlesex deceased." On 8 April 1663 the
Virginia lands of Edward Bennett, 1500 acres in Isle of Wight, were divided
between his two daughters and coheiresses, Silvester Hill and Mary
I'm a little at odds with the Dorman's interpretation. Edward isn't
mentioned. Mary was, of course, his wife and the daughter of Jasper Bourne
whose will is being referenced. John Bennett was Edward's brother and the
adminstrator of Bourne's will. Obviously, he was dead.
Edward and Mary Bourne Bennett's family
Edward and Mary raised their children in St Olave parish in London. This,
then, is likely her death: "Marie Bennett, widow, buried at the parish of St
Olave Hart St, London, 10 April, 1660."33 The majority of the
following is taken from page 229 of Adventurers of Purse and Person.
The last five children were born at St
Olave parish on Hart Street in London. Samuel Pepys, who lived nearby,
worshipped at the parish church.
I've made some small corrections.
||Baptized at St
Dunstan in the East, London
||Baptized at St
Bartholomew by the Exchange, London
||Baptized at St
Bartholomew by the Exchange, London. She m1 John Day, m2 Thomas
Bland, m3 Luke Cropley. All lived in London.
||c1626- ||Baptized at St
Dunstan in the East, London
||c1629-1632 ||Baptized at St
Olave, Hart St, London and buried at Stanmore Magma,
Olave, Hart St, London. Silvester might have been the only
child of Edward's to have resided in Virginia.
Olave, Hart St, London
||c1633-1634 ||Baptized at St
Olave, Hart St, London and buried there.
||c1635-1638 ||Baptized at St
Olave, Hart St, London and buried at Stanmore
Edward's brother Robert was the first of the Bennett family to manage
Edward's estate in Virginia. Boddie puts him on Bennett's plantation during
the 1622 attack by the Powhatan Confederacy that killed 347 colonists, 53 of
whom were residing on the plantation. According to Virginia Immigrants
and Adventurers, the Virginia Company authorized Bennett, being the
master of the Samuel, to trade in Virginia.23 The 1623 letter he wrote from
Bennett's Welcome to Edward at St Bartholomew Lane in London, is published
in full in Boddie.5 It's several paragraphs long and details much
of the political and economic news of Virginia. But it also contains
genealogical information. Robert writes, with spelling modernized,
Pray forget me not to all the rest of our good friends, yourself and your
wife, my brother Richard and his wife, with your father-in-law and mother
[Jasper and Joanne Bourne of London] and all the rest not forgetting my
children whom I pray God to bless and us deliver and send us a joyful
meeting. This is in some haste. I leave you to the merciful tuition of Thy
Almighty in whom I rest.
He also asks his brother to advice "Mr Brown" that his son is staying
with him due to the scarcity of provisions. I believe this could be a
trasciption error and that the message was intended for their in-law, Jasper
Bourne. Be that as it may, all transcription say Brown.
Boddie states that Robert Bennett was dead by November 20th of the same
year because "that is the date of a manuscript document in the Library of
Congress that relates to the estate and debts of the late Robert Bennett."
There is mention of this record in David Clapp's The New England
(1877): "Robert Bennett, one of the proprietors of the plantation, is
enrolled as residing at James City, and soon died. There is a warrant
preserved, dated November 20, 1623, for the collection of the salary of
William Bennett, minister for two years, from the estate of Robert
Bennett... William Bennett was the first preacher at Waraskoyak. He came
in 1621 in the ship Sea Flower, and the next year Catharine, his
wife, twenty-two years of age, arrived in the Abigail. He died about
the year 1624, leaving a widow and son William about three weeks old." (p
398). A transcrition of the warrant located at the National Archives reads,
A warrant for mr Benet for his meanes, By the Governor and Captaine generall
Whereas mr Robert Benet of Wariscoyack marchaunt late deceased is indebted
to mr Willm Benet Minister of the said Plantation in the sum of 1533 pounds ed
of Tobacco for his Salary for two yeares: These are therefore
to require and Command John Chew of James Cittie Marchaunt (who hath the
managing of all the buisines of the said Robert Benet) to sattisfie and pay
vnto the said mr Will͠m Benet the said sum of 1533 pounds of Tobacco
vppon sight hereof, or appeare before me, and the Counsellf ToState, to shew
cause to the contrary. Given at James Citty November the 20th 1623.
Robert Bennett is found living at James City on "A List of the
Livinge," a census taken throughout the Virginia colony on 16 February
1623. We already know from his letter that his family was not with him.
But there's more to learn from the census. A family of Bennetts — an
unamed wife and two children — are living in Elizabeth City with
Thomas Dewe and his wife who, according the Dewe family researchers, was
Elizabeth Bennett (born 1607) and possibly a daughter of Robert's. If this
is not Robert's family residing with her, perhaps it's one belonging to
another brother. It's also possible that his family returned to England.
Also found on the 1623 census is a Samuel Bennett of Elizabeth City, a
Samuel Bennett at Bricke Row, a John Bennett at Warwick Squrake, and another
Robert Bennett living in a household with John Booth on James Island. The
1624 census lists a Robert Bennett, 23 (born c1601), servant of Thomas
Willoby of Elizabeth City. He arrived on the Jacob in 1624.
Robert's brother Richard was the next of the family to manage Bennett's
Welcome. He also died after a short stay. Boddie writes that the General
Court recorded on 13 October 1626,
After ye death of Mr. Richard Bennett who deceased about ye 28 August last
and without any sufficient or particular disposition of goods and other
matter concerning both his estate and ye estate of Mr. Edward Bennett, his
In other words, he left no will or other provisions for his estate. In
Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, Martha McCartney writes,
An inventory was made of his estate, which was entrusted to Lodwick Pearle.
English probate officials noted that [he] was from St
Bartholomew by Exchange in London.24
St Bartholomew is a parish in London. Its church burned down in 1666.
This fact could be of use should Bennett records for the parish during this
Richard was married to Judith Brent as shown in the 1624 will of her father, Edward
Brent, proved the following year by Sir Francis Wyatt, the Governor and
Captain General of Virginia.14 Among the heirs listed are
"Elizabeth Bennett, if she be remaining in Mr Richard Bennett's house, and
to Jeane Bennett, her sister ... and to Richard Bennett, servant to Mr
Having lost two brothers in Virginia, it was time for Edward himself to
make an appearance. As stated above, Edward and his nephews, Richard (the
future governor) and Robert, are first mentioned in the Virginia records in
Although there was a John Bennett listed at Warrosquyoake in 1623
Virginia census, we can't know that he was the same man. We know of this
brother only through the will of his brother-in-law Jasper Bourne, dated 1
February 1635 and proved by John Bennett more than a year later. It's
clear that brothers John and Edward married Bourne sisters. I'm not sure
where this transcription first appeared. Small spelling corrections have
Jasper Bourne, of Stanmore Magna, Middlesex. Feb. 1, 1635, gent. Proved by
John Benitt, May 4, 1636. [67 Pile.] My wife Joan. My son John Benett, of
London, merchant, standeth bound to my nephew John Bourne, of Lincoln's Inn,
in ;£100. My grandchildren, children of my daughter Elizabeth Benitt,
Pictures of my late Brothers William and Thomas Bourne, decd . My daughter
Sylvestre, wife of my son William Hutchinson, clerke. My grandson Jasper
Fell, son of Henry Fell, late of Hampsted, Midd*, gent., & of my daughter
Sylvestre, now wife of William Hutchinson. My daughter Mary, wife of Edward
Benett, merchant. The children of Benett & Hutchinson. My cosin John
Cayne, the elder, of North Petherton, Som'. My wife's grandson, John
Norwood, of London. My wife's daughter Elisabeth Ireland, alias Norwood.
My sister Jane Bourne, late wife of Roger Bourne, of Wells, Somerset. My
brother deceased. My niece Mrs Elizabeth Bishop, wife of Thomas Bishop, of
Minehead. My niece Susan, widow of Mr John Cross, Master of Arts, deceased.
My niece Mrs Ellinor Carliel, widow of Francis Carliel, gent., dec'd . My
nephew Jasper Bourne, son of my nephew John Bourne, of Gothelney. My
nephews John Bourne, of Gothelney, & John Bourne, of Durleigh, Overseers.
My son John Benitt, Residuary Legatee & Exr.
Y-DNA and Bennett Origins
Richard Bennett's male lineage died with his grandson, Richard
Bennett III. The hunt is on for a collateral representative through one
of his brothers. Edward's male progeny continued on in London, but I've
been unable to track them beyond his own grandsons, Thomas Bennett (1661-)
and Jasper Bennett (1664-). Some genealogists believe that Virginia
immigrant John Bennett (1624-1668) was Richard's nephew but proof is
lacking. Nevertheless, there are a number of male descendants living today,
but none have been found that have Y-DNA testing. I'm tracking these
lineages at http://ancestraldata.com/lineages/Bennett/.
A conveniently ignored fact among those researching the Wiveliscombe
Bennetts is that the parish records state that Thomas Bennett, son of Thomas
Bennett, was buried on 23 Dec 1608. It seems safe to assume that this was
the same Thomas born to Thomas in Wiveliscombe and christened on 29 Nov
1603. If this is accurate, the Thomas who married Anges Beard could not
have been that person. Interestingly, there was a Thomas Bennett, son of
Thomas and Agnes, christened in Bridgwater, which is located about 15 miles
away, on 22 March 1606 (England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975). And we
have another Thomas son of Thomas Bennett christened at Portishead,
Somerset, just northwest of Bristol, on 20 November 1605 (England Births and
Christenings, 1538-1975). But without knowing just when he was christened,
we can't know who is father was. Furthermore, a man with the dates given to
this Thomas is buried in London, as transcribed in memorial ID 143108606 at
Thomas Bennett, Jr
There was a large population of Bennetts in that parish by that time, which
may or may not mean something in regards to this man.
DEATH 1668 (aged 64-65)
BURIAL St Sepulchre without Newgate Churchyard
London, City of London, Greater London, England
All original portions ©
Michael Cooley, OrbitInternet.net -