Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Allen line: Samuel Chester, Immigrant died about 1710

Researching Samuel Chester would be fascinating, if it weren't so frustrating!  He led a very intriguing life, on sea and on land, but we don't know his origins.

He came from somewhere in England, and was born about 1625.  His wife is believed to be Mary Condy.  I found one tree which gives her parents as Thomas Condy and Ann Rogers, and states that Mary was born in 1628 in South Collingham, Nottinghamshire, England.  If this is accurate, and this is our Mary Condy, then Collingham and surrounding areas would be a good place to look for the Chester family, but not necessarily the only place. Many people would like to be able to place Samuel with his family across the Atlantic!

Samuel wasn't the typical (for our family) New England farmer or Puritan pastor.  He is described as being a mariner and a merchant, engaged in the West Indies trade.  Sadly, this may mean that his ships carried slaves, or at least carried cargoes that were produced by slaves.  Apparently the "West Indies trade" involved taking fish and other New England products to islands like Barbados and St Kitt, and returning with West Indies crops, particularly sugar, which was, of course, grown and harvested by slave labor.

Regardless of our opinions now of this way of making a living, at the time Samuel was a respected townsman in New London, Connecticut.  He was there by at least 1664, when he was a partner with his nephew, (or possibly a brother in law) with a warehouse in New London.  He lived on the west side of the Thames River, and owned other lands in the town as well as a large tract of land in the "North parish", purchased from Owaneco and Josiah, who were Mohegan sachems.

We know that Samuel had at least two wives, and there may have been a third because his son, Abraham, is mentioned in the will and Abraham is not attributed to either of his wives.  His first wife was Mary Condy, and with her he had John, Susannah, Samuel and Mercy. If Mary Condy is correctly identified above, then she would have been in her middle thirties by the time she started having children, which indicates Samuel may have had a previous marriage or relationship.  Mary died sometime before 1690, and Samuel then married Hannah, who was the mother of Hannah and Jonathan.

Samuel is described as a merchant and a practical seaman, meaning he sailed his ship, at least on occasion.  He also was known for his property surveying abilities, and was a frequent surveyor of land at New London in the 1690's.

Samuel commanded the ship "Endeavor" for several trips to the West Indies, had an interest in the "New London Tryall," which was the first New London ship to attempt a trade in the West Indies, and was the master of the brigantine "Adventure."  It was apparently this ship he was commanding, when he was en route to London in 1704 and was captured by the French.

I've not been able to learn what happened to him after that, as far as where and how long he was held, and why or when he was released.  Probably money changed hands, as that would be the reason for a capture rather than just killing the seamen.  At any rate, he was released and died a few years later.  I've seen his date as 1710 in New London and 1711 in New Groton, and I don't yet know which is correct.  Also there are references to the will, but I've not found it yet, either.  You can bet I'll keep looking for the will, and also for more information regarding Samuel.

One of the things I wonder about him is whether he was a Puritan, a freeman, a member of the church.  I've not found a reference to that aspect of his life, except that his children were baptized.  Was that his influence, or was it his wife's decision to have that done?  And what does it say about his or their religious life?

There is much to be learned about Samuel but I'll bet he was an interesting man with stories that thrilled his children and grandchildren.  Wouldn't you like to hear some of them, too?

The line of descent is:

Samuel Chester-Mary Condy
Samuel Chester-Hannah
John Chester-Mary Starr
Thomas Chester-Sarah Eldridge
Bathsheba Chester-Jonathan Havens
Elizabeth "Betsy" Havens-John Starr
John Havens Starr-Clarissa Falley
Harriet Starr-John Wilson Knott
Edith Knott-Edward Allen
Richard Allen-Gladys Holbrook
Their descendants

Updates:  Beore publishing this, I found another source, from Volume 10 of the "Americana, American History Magazine," published in 1915.  From this, we learn that Samuel came to Boston as master of his own brigantine, so he was a mariner in England also.  He was made a freeman in New London in 1663.

He had expected to sail in 1714 with the "Virginia convoy" but was late in taking on cargo and so missed his connection with the fleet.   There is a statement that he was educated as a civil engineer and navigator, but there is no indication of where this occurred, or whether it was on the job training.  He was a member of the General Assembly from New London at Hartford in 1669, and was appointed a "commissioner" to settle disputes over the boundary line of Massachusetts and Connecticut, and later of the towns of Stonington and Preston in Connecicut. 

He owned the land that later become Fort Griswold, where at least four of his descendants died on September 6,1781. 

This article states that Abraham was the son of Mary, also.  So this may be a clue as to the name of Samuel's father or grandfather. 

Again, what an interesting man!