December birthday list

This months birthday ancestors:

  • Mary Ann Lester: 1 December 1751
  • Henry Best: 2 December 1552
  • Tacy Burdick: 2 December 1667
  • Joseph Clarke: 9 December 1618
  • James Smith: 9 December 1772
  • James Smith: 10 December 1827
  • John Ormsby: 12 December 1641
  • John Marshall Fisher: 12 December 1947
  • Timothy Knapp: 14 December 1632
  • Nicholas Mosher: 19 December 1596
  • Bethiah Hubbard: 19 December 1646
  • Dorothy Cotton/Cornish: 24 December 1606
  • Zacharie Herrick: 25 December 1636
  • Dorcas Manzer Dykeman: 25 December 1832
  • William Henry Beyea: 29 December 1888

I am trying to piece together the life of Dorothy Cotton/Cornish. Even her maiden name is an uncertainty. Most agree that she was born in Norwich, England on 24 December 1606.  I love that she was born in Norwich. I lived there for 5 months in 1995, but I had no idea, at the time, that my ancestral grandmother was born and raised there. Had I known I would have walked around the streets of the cobbled city imagining the past in a very different, and more personal, light.

Dorothy found love in Norwich. Her husband to be, Rev. Henry Smith, was also likely born in Norwich. The two of them married sometime before 1622.  Henry was a very learned man. He was educated at Cambridge University, as a theologian, and was ordained as a minister on 8 June 1623.

Sometime between 1636-1637 Dorothy and Henry and their four daughters (Philippa, Mary, Rebecca, and Dorothy) and their one son (Peregrine) (and possibly a John as well) made the long and arduous journey from England to Waterdown, MA, New England. Some of these children may have been from Henry’s first marriage. 

On route to the New World, in 1637, a child named Preserved was supposedly born on ship to Dorothy and Henry.  With the infamous ship conditions this was likely the last place Dorothy would have wanted to give birth. There is no mention of this child in Henry’s will so the child likely died younger and without heir.

Dorothy and Henry’s first child born in New England was Samuel, my ancestral grandfather. He was followed by at least three more children, Joanna, Noah, and Elizabeth. An Elijah is often associated as one of Dorothy’s and Henry’s children as well.

Henry’s time as Reverend of the Wethersfield Church was wrought with controversy. The Church was split on many issues and one man in particular, Mr. Clement Chaplin, had something against Henry and demanded his dismissal. Henry refused to leave and a court-appointed committee was forced to step in and solve the problem. In 1643 the court decided that, “Mr. Smith was much wronged, both by false reports and unjust surmises.Mr.Chaplin, a prominent elder in the Church and a wealthy and influential land owner was charged 11 pounds for libelling against Henry. Henry himself was dismissed of the charges he was accused of, and given full pardon to continue his preaching. Dorothy must have been a constant support to her husband, giving him strength throughout his ordeal.

In the year 1648 the town of Wethersfield was plagued by a sickness of epidemic proportions. Henry died on 9 August 1648, likely from this sicknes. Sixteen days later, on August 25th Dorothy gave birth to their final child Elizabeth.   Some researchers indicate that Elizabeth lived long enough to marry and have children, other reseach claims that Elizabeth died young. With the plague, I imagine that the latter is more likely. What great sadness to lose a husband and a child within the same month. That same year the frightening and superstitious obsession with witchcraft overtook the town and official witch trials began in Westerfield.

Henry, in his will, expresses his admiration for his wife Dorothy:

the prudence and faithfullness of my deare wife, who shall, in parting with me, parte with a great parte of her livelihood, I give to my wife full power to dispose of all my estate in howses, Lands, Cattell and Goods whatsoever, within dores and without, only providing if she marry again, or otherwise be able comfortably to spare it from her owne necessary maintenance

On 16 February 1681/1682 Dorothy made her will but her will was not proven until 22 December 1694, so we know that she died sometime shortly before that date. She would have been 88 years old.  She had married once again, after Henry, but she had no more children after Elizabeth. Her descendants, however, are numerous. Indeed I have an aunt who unknowingly carries her name.

Published in: on 24 December 2007 at 4:31 pm  Comments (3)