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Thomas Benedict

1617 to 1689

from "Genealogy of the Benedicts in America" by Henry M. Benedict 1

AMONG those Englishmen who went into voluntary exile, rather than endure the cruelties and oppressions of Stuarts in the State and Lauds in the Church, was Thomas Benedict, of Nottinghamshire. There is reason to suppose that his own remote ancestor had made England his refuge from religious persecution on the Continent. There was a tradition in his family which ran, that anciently they resided in the silk manufacturing district of France and were of Latin origin; that, Huguenot persecutions arising, they fled to Germany, and, thence, by way of Holland to England.

It is said of Thomas Benedict, that he was born in 1617; that he was an only son, that the name had been confined to only sons in the family for more than a hundred years; and that, at the time he left England, he did not know of another living person of the name; whence, it is assumed, that his father was not living. His father he had lost early, his mother marrying, for her second husband, a widower, whose daughter, Mary Bridgum, came to New England in 1637, in the same vessel with Thomas, then in his twenty-first year.

NOw, New England weather had never been kind to the Puritan and Pilgrim fathers as they established the Massachusetts colonies. Indeed, Puritan leaders in England had urged Governor John Winthrop to relocate the colony farther south to avoid the severe winters that had claimed two hundred lives in the first winter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony alone.

In the summer of the fifteenth year of Plymouth and the fifth of Massachusetts Bay, there arose a tempest of such force that the Reverend Increase Mather was to write in his Remarkable Providences that he knew of "no storm more dismal than the great hurricane which was in August of 1635."

The news of this fierce storm and the hardship of the survivors undoubtedly became known back in England. But nontheless, Thomas and Mary were determined to make a new start in the American colony.

Soon after their arrival they were married, and finding the society and institutions of Massachusetts Bay congenial, they resided in that colony for a time. These facts in the history of Thomas Benedict are verified by the testimony of Mary Brigdum herself, who lived to the age of one hundred years, and in her life-time communicated them to her grandson, Deacon James Benedict, of Ridgefield, Conn., who recorded them in 1755.

The separate colonies, which afterward formed that of Connecticut, had been founded under auspices peculiarly hopeful, and were nourished by influences specially edifying and elevating in the view of the more austere of the Puritans. The foundations and expanding superstructures were according to the plans and specifications of Winthrop, of Haynes, and, especially, of Hooker, "the light of the Western churches." The valley of the Connecticut, too, was famous for its fertility, and the stream was considered a principal natural channel for the lucrative trade in furs with the natives of the interior.

It had waged its first Indian war with a vigor and severity which precluded all present dread of another. Thomas Benedict seems to have been so far attracted by the moral or material advantages of this promising region as to have removed within its rigorous jurisdiction, still, it could scarcely have been the rich meadows of the valley, or the facilities for traffic afforded by its river, that enticed him, for he soon sought the opposite shore of Long Island, already dotted with settlements from the mainland. In the statement of his wife, Mary Brigdum, to her grandson, before referred to, she names Southold as his place of residence and birthplace of their five sons and four daughters. It is certain, that in June, 1657, he was a resident of Huntington, which leaves but little doubt that he was, early, an inhabitant of Southold, which was settled in 1640. In conjunction with three others, in 1649, he purchased a tract of land belonging to the town of Southold, called Hashamomack, and this interest he conveyed, in 1659, describing himself in the deed as then of the town of Huntington.

This tract of land, though within a mile or two of Southold, was not, technically, within its limits; for, at a meeting of the General Court held at New Haven, May 31, 1654, upon the request of the Deputies of Southold, it was advised that, "Thomas Benedict and som others who liue nere Southold" should be permitted "to joyne" it. Still, he had been recognized as of Southold, and must have attained some prominence as a citizen, for we find that when Uncas, the celebrated Sachem of the Mohegans, complained to the commissioners for the United Colonies in New England, because the Mohansick Sachem of Long Island, had killed some and bewitched others of Uncas's men, and even Uncas himself, that body, at Hartford, Sept. 5th, 1650, referred the matter, with large powers, to the famous "Captaine Mason" and others, and to Thomas Benedict, of Southold, to be adjusted.

It has been stated positively that Thomas Benedict was resident in Huntington in June, 1657. This is on the authority of affidavits of himself and wife made on the 13th of that month, in the course of probate proceedings in the matter of the estate of his old neighbor, William Salmon of Hashamomuck.

His connection with affairs of a public nature may be inferred from such records of them as still remain. In May, 1658, the Court of Deputies and Magistrates, sitting at New Haven, were solicited to receive the town of Huntington into the jurisdiction of New Haven, the petition therefor being signed: "Will. Smith, Tho: Benedick, Wm Leuerich, in ye name and with ye consent of ye rest." That he was put forward as a representative man in a movement so important, after so brief a residence, argues that he was not among the least notable of the inhabitants. That he maintained an honorable distinction is made clear by the action of his townsmen, who, in pursuance of instructions from the General Court, nominated two persons to be appointed by that body, commissioners to exercise certain functions of government in the town, Thomas Benedict being one of them; and the General Court appointed him, May 15, 1662.

There are traces of his presence in Jamaica as early as Dec. 12, 1662, when, in conjunction with two others, he was appointed to lay out "the south meadows." At the same time the town voted him "a Home lot." He was also one of a committee charged with the duty of "making ye rate of ye minesters house and transporting ye minester." March 2, 1663, his name appears as one of twenty-four freeholders who deed a house and lot to the "minester," Mr. Walker. March 20, 1663, he was appointed a magistrate by the Dutch Governor Stuyvesant, an honor, it is to be feared, which he never requited by loyalty to the Dutch government. Sept. 29, 1663, we find him, with other inhabitants of towns on the west end of Long Island, petitioning the General Court of Connecticut to be what, in our day, would be termed annexed to that colony.

He was, in fact, one of the bearers of this petition to the court at Hartford, November 3, 1663. December 3, 1663, he was appointed lieutenant of the town. March 7, 1664, a petition from "Crafford alias Jemaico" asks for "help of your (Conn.) authority for the settling of peace amongst us and the killing and quelling of mutenous and facsious sperits." Except the signature of his colleague, this document is in the handwriting of Thomas Benedict, and is signed by him. It fills three-fourths of a page of cap paper, is clean and well preserved, and a very neat autograph.

He held the office of commissioner when the Dutch Governor Stuyvesant surrendered New York and its dependencies to the English, under Colonel Richard Nichols. This change of jurisdiction was especially welcome to the English settlers, whose encroachments on the western end of the Island had kept them in a state of embroilment with the Dutch, and even inspired them with ideas of colonizing beyond the limits of their own territory. Sept. 26, 1664, Thomas Benedict, with John Bailey, Daniel Denton and others, "made a written application to Col. Nichols for liberty to settle a plantation upon the river called Arthur Cull Bay," in New Jersey. On the 30th of the same month, the Governor granted the petition and promised encouragement. The place is now Elizabeth City. The principal petitioners were in Jamaica, in 1665. It is, therefore, to be presumed that they sent out a colony.

Governor Nichols issued, "To the magistrates of the several tounes upon Long-island," an order, dated "James ffort, in New York, 8th February, 1665," reciting, that the inhabitants had for a long time groaned under many grievous inconveniences and discouragements, occasioned partly from their opposition to a foreign power, in which distracted condition few or no laws could be put in due execution; bounds and titles to lands were disputed, civil liberties interrupted, and from this general confusion, private dissensions and animosities had too much prevailed against neighborly love and Christian charity; and in discharge of his duty "to settle good and known laws," he required two deputies to "a General Meeting" to be chosen from each town "by the major part of the freemen;" and recommended "the choice of the most sober, able and discreet persons without partiality or faction," to meet, "on the last day of February, at Hempstead." The delegates from Jamaica were Daniel Denton and Thomas Benedict. This is thought to be the first English legislative body convened in New York. He was appointed, by Governor Nichols, lieutenant of "the Foot Company of Jamaica; his commission bearing date at "Fort James, in New York," the 7th day of April, 1665.

A flight to the jurisdiction of New England, from that of New York, whose governor must have seemed a lineal representative of the persecutors who had driven the Puritans from the mother country, would not be a surprising thing in the case of any of that people. In that of Thomas Benedict it was a most natural result. Honoured, and to some extent trusted, as he had been by both Dutch and English governors of New York, it is beyond controversy that his heart had always been with the government of Connecticut, and that he was the especial enemy of Captain John Scott and his party; for "the killing and quelling" of whom he had, indeed, in 1663, invoked the authority of Connecticut.

It is not improbable that after the supremacy of the English had been fully established in the west end of Long Island, Thomas Benedict, and others of like principles, found themselves, socially at least, in a condition not unlike that of the Union men in the south after the Civil War, and could but regard the territory as an excellent one to migrate from. At this time he had a numerous family, one of his sons was married and settled near him; still he took to Norwalk with him all in whose veins his blood ran. Others, who shared his religious and political proclivities, betook themselves to Connecticut, at the same time, and, doubtless, for the same reasons.

He must have been a welcome addition to the society of Norwalk, to cause its people to make such haste to elevate him to official station; nor was it a spasmodic appreciation of him merely, for, in the following year, he was not only reappointed to that office, but was, also, made a Selectman of the town. He was continued Town Clerk until 1674; and, after an interval of three years, was again appointed. The records, in his own handwriting, are still preserved, are legible and properly attested by his own signature.

His term of service as Selectman covers seventeen years, closing with 1688. His name is one of forty-two who comprised the list of Freemen in 1669. He was the representative of Norwalk in the General Assembly in 1670, and again in 1675. In the Patent, granted by the General Court in 1686, confirming the title of Norwalk to its territory, his name is inserted as a patentee.

In May, 1684, the General Court appointed him and three others to plant a town "above Norwalke or Fayrefeild," at Paquiage; and in the fall of that year and the spring of 1685, Samuel and James, sons of Thomas, and six others, with their families, settled there; the land having been purchased from the Indians. The parties most interested asked that their settlement might be named "Swamfeild"; but, in 1687, the General Court denied their request and called it Danbury.

Beside the service of these more conspicuous appointments, he rendered much to his friends in a non-official and neighborly way. His good sense and general intelligence, some scientific knowledge and his skill as a penman, made him their recourse when papers were to be drafted, lands to be surveyed and apportioned, or disputes to be arbitrated. It is evident that very general respect for his judgment prevailed, and that trust in his integrity was equally general and implicit.

Little has been said of Thomas Benedict's labours in that other department, which, in view of the character and mental habitudes of the communities, at the time he dwelt among them, were of public importance, and, perhaps, in the popular estimation far transcended in value his civil services, that of ecclesiastical affairs. No extended account of them will be given now, seeing that it is impossible to make them of much interest to the people of this day. The early church records, both of South-old and Huntington, are not now to be found; but the position he held among the citizens of both make it highly probable, that he was concerned in establishing the first church in each. Where the church records of any town in which he lived are preserved, they furnish abundant evidence of his zeal and diligence in establishing and maintaining the public worship of God. Whether it was settling or supporting a minister, repairing the church edifice or building a new one, providing seats or allotting them, Thomas Benedict's name is almost certain to appear on the records in connection with it. He is identified with the founding of the first Presbyterian church in America, at Jamaica, in 1662; and during the term of his residence there, he was of the committee to make the rate and provide the means to support its minister. In Norwalk, he was chosen Deacon, and held the office during his life.

No record can be found that indicates the day of his death; one, of his Will, is extant, which states that he was "weak of body;" "aged aboute 73 years;" and that his Will was executed the "eight and twentieth feb.r. ano dominy 1689-90." An Inventory of his Estate, in which he is described as "late deceased," was taken on the 18th of March in the same year; it is therefore quite certain that he died, at Norwalk, in the interval between those two dates.

He seems to have been seldom or never without some employment of a public nature. Until his settlement at Norwalk, when he was nearly fifty years old, no one place appears to have held him long; and it is a remarkable thing that these changes of abode, each of which must have made him a new comer, never prevented his immediate preferment either in church or state affairs. It would be only reasonable to infer, that the alacrity with which he was honoured and trusted, under the circumstances, was due to his established character for prudence and ability.

The action of the General Court, whenever his name came before it, shows that he was known and esteemed by the authorities of the main land; indeed it is apparent from cotemporaneous events that he was a main support of the cause of Connecticut on Long Island. That he was a man of enlarged views, such as in this day are supposed to characterize statesman, and that he had the courage and energy to attempt to realize them, it proved by his persistence in schemes designed to increase the power and expand the jurisdiction of the commonwealth he loved.

The four families found by Carteret, at Elizabethtown, were the pioneers of the Jamaica colony, of which he was one of the projectors. His connection with the founding of Danbury has been stated. Traces of other plans for colonizing are visible yet, but the event of them is not. They were, of course, less successful than those mentioned; but they serve to show his zeal and enterprise in that direction.

The holder of military commissions, in so unquiet a time, it might naturally be expected that some feats of arms would illustrate the annals of his life. Nothing appears to satisfy such an expectation, reasonable as it may be; and, probably, for the reason that no occasion for service of that sort arose, at the times and places, when and where, he held military rank. If, however, the training of his children may be regarded as an indication, it is entirely certain, that he did not fail to educate them to the high duty of fighting for their country.

His family participated in the Indian wars of the time, and one was prominent in perhaps the most bloody struggle of all. His son, Daniel, in 1677, received a grant of land, from the town of Norwalk, for his services in "the direful swamp fight" of Dec. 19, 1675.

It is to be regretted that few or no details of the social or domestic life, no personal traits, no characteristic incidents, of himself or wife have come down to us. During the term of their migrations, with so numerous family, the household cares and duties must have been especially burdensome and perplexing to the wife and mother. It was within this period, too, that the character and habits of their children were, mainly, formed; for at the time they ceased to wander and sat down in Norwalk, their eldest born was twenty-five years old, and married, and their youngest must have been eight years old at least.

The fruits of their culture and discipline, under circumstances certainly not favorable, are conspicuous enough in the character and lives of their children, and childrens' children; and prove him to have been a wise and prudent father, and her a judicious and faithful mother. The love which united them at the beginning kept them united to the end; and his Will, probably one of the last acts of his life, is full of evidences of thoughtful affection for his wife; his great concern seeming to have been to secure her comfort when he should be able to provide for it no longer.

Their grandson, Deacon James Benedict, of Ridgefield, is the only one of their posterity, who, speaking from actual knowledge, furnishes even a glimpse of this interesting couple. He says: "they walked in the midst of their house with a perfect heart. They were strict observers of the Lords day 'from even to even'; and I think it may be said of them, as it was of Zacharias and Elizabeth, that 'they walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, and obtained a good report through faith.'

This excellent example had a good effect, by the blessing of heaven, upon their children. He was made a Deacon of the church at Norwalk, and used that office to the good satisfaction of that church to his death, which was in the 73d year of his age; and two of his sons, viz: John and Samuel, used the office until old age and its attendants rendered them unable to serve any longer.

Thomas and Mary

Thomas sailed from Great Yarmouth, England in late May or June of 1637 onboard the "Mary and Anne" along with his step-sister, Mary Bridgham. They landed safely at Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by early August of that year. Within three years, either 1639 or 1640, the couple were married by the Reverand John Youngs, likely at the Salem settlement.

Within a year of their marriage, the couple left Salem along with the Rev. Youngs and other colonists to re-settle further south and west, at Southold on Long Island.

The various dates of the children were taken from Robert Benedict's handy website at Generation Four -- The Thomas Benedict Family.


Exploring Southold on Long Island

Thomas Osman gave a deposition in 1658 in which he told the story of he, William Purrier, Thomas Reeve, James Reeve, Thomas Terill, William Salmon, Thomas Benedict, Henry Whitney and others exploring for "sperrits resin" (turpentine) in "ye Chowan country" [North Carolina] in 1636/37. Upon failure of this adventure, these men in the following winter or spring settled on Hashamomuck Neck in the present town of Southold, Long Island. The text of the desposition reads:

"March ye 18th, 1658."

"Swearinge be Ye Holy Evangelists that he with his now father-in-law, William Purrier, and his brother in ye law, James Reeve did go adventuringe in ye Chowan country for sperrits resin in ye yeare 1636 and there did meet William Salmn, Thomas Reeve, Thomas Terrill, Thomas Benedict, Henery Whitney and others who had come hither from ye Summer Islaes and ye said adventure failinge through ye overplus of adventurers, who had come thither prior to their coeing. They did set sale with one Sunderland to a country the said Sunderland had from his master one James ffarrett by letters patent from ye Earle of Starlinge. And ye said Osman does farther depose that ye said company with others whose names he has forgetten did set downe on ye necke called Hashammomock and did ingage in distillinge sperrits resin from ye trees in ye greate swampe and further Sunderland, Salmon, Whitney and Benedict did from ye beginning owne ye said necke in equal shares and did so from our first sittinge downe in ye yeare 1636-7."

(signed) Thomas Osman
in ye presence of:

  • Barnabas Horton
  • Thomas Moor

A copy of this deposition appears in the Southold Commemorative Book, 1636-1939, page 3402.

Notes on the children:

from A Genealogical Dictionary of The First Settlers of New England, Before 1692, Volume #1, Pgs 155 - 166 (Belcher to Benjamin), By James Savage.
  • Betty; m. John Slawson of Stamford
  • Mary; b. Nov. 11, 1670 to John Olmstead of N.
  • Sarah; m. Dec. 19, 1679 to James Beebe of Stratford
  • Rebecca; m. Dr. Samuel Wood

Further information from Robert Benedict's website3 on Thomas Benedict:

  • Born 17 Nov 1617, bapt. 30 Nov 1617 at Stratton St Michael, Norfolk, England.
  • He sailed with his step-sister, Mary Bridgham, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, to America and was in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony, by August 1637.
  • He married abt 1639 or 1640, Mary Bridgham, his step-sister, prob at Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony; she was born about 1624 in England; Mary died in 1724, Norwalk, Connecticut.
  • After living in several towns on Long Island in New York, Thomas and Mary removed, in 1665, with their family to Norwalk, Connecticut, where Thomas was elected Norwalk's first town clerk.
  • He died at Norwalk, Fairfield County, Connecticut, between the execution of his will on 28 Feb 1689 and the inventory of his estate on 18 Mar 1689.

An abbreviated chronology3 of Thomas Benedict:

1617 Born in Saxlingham Nethergate, Norfolk, England; only (?) son of William Benedict and unknown mother
About 1630 Apprenticed to a weaver (perhaps Thomas Paine of Wrentham)
late May-June 1637 Sailed from Great Yarmouth, England, on the "Mary and Anne" with Mary Bridgham, his step-sister
early August 1637 Landed at Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony
1639 or 1640 Married to Mary Bridgham, probably at Salem by Rev. John Youngs, probable mentor for Thomas and Mary Benedict
late 1639, early 1640 Left Salem area, probably with group led by Rev. John Youngs, and settled at Southold on Long Island
1640's At Southold he built and operated a tide-mill on the stream later known as Benedict's Creek
between 1639 & 1659 At Southold, with Mary Bridgham, he fathered five sons and four daughters
8 Oct 1649 Purchased, with Henry Whitney and Edward Tredwell an undivided fourth part of Hashamomack from William Salmon
June 1656 Removed with family to Huntington, Long Island
27 Feb 1659 Made record of sale of his Southold property to Thomas Rider
4 Feb 1660 Chosen as magistrate of Huntington, Long Island
1662 Removed with family to Jamaica, Long Island
1662 One of the founders of the first Presbyterian church erected in America at Jamaica, Long Island
12 Dec 1662 Appointed to lay out Jamaica's south meadow and was voted a homelot
20 Mar 1663 Appointed magistrate of Jamaica by Peter Stuyvesant
29 Sept 1663 Signed a petition to the General Court at Hartford to annex Long Island to Connecticut
3 Dec 1663 Appointed lieutenant of the military company of Jamaica
22 Dec 1663 Ordered to lay out the meadows on East Neck
12 May 1664 Accepted as a freeman for Jamaica by the General Court
30 Sept 1664 Received a grant, with five others, to settle Elizabethtown, New Jersey, from Sir Richard Nicolls, English Governor of New York
28 Feb 1665 Delegate from Jamaica, with Daniel Denton, to the first English legislative body gathered in New York by Gov. Nicolls to discuss and adopt the code of laws known as the "Duke's Laws"
7 Apr 1665 Appointed lieutenant of the foot company of Jamaica at Fort James by Gov. Nicolls
1665 Removed with family to Norwalk, Connecticut; given a homelot there
Feb 1666 Elected town clerk in Norwalk; re-elected town clerk in 1669 and 1672, serving until 1674
10 Oct 1667 Propounded (nominated) a freeman of Norwalk
1671 Elected selectman of Norwalk; served until 1688
1675 Representative to the General Assembly
8 May 1684 Appointed by the General Court to start a settlement near Norwalk. His sons Samuel and James, and daughters Sarah and Rebecca, and their families were the first settlers of this town, called Paquiage, now Danbury
1686 A patentee on the title of Norwalk
28 Feb 1689 Executed his last will
18 Mar 1689 Inventory of his estate taken (his date of death is unrecorded, as is his place of burial)


  1. "Genealogy of the Benedicts in America", by Henry M. Benedict; 1st pub. 1870; orig. avail. at Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington, DC.
  2. "Genealogy up to 1800 of the Reeve Family of Southold, Long Island, NY"; by Wesley L. Baker; pub. 1970 in "The Founders of New England,"; avail. NEHGS "Register" Vol. 14.
  3. Benedict Topics; a website hosted by Robert Benedict. Website:

-- JimBenedict - 12 Feb 2007
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