Note: o by Donald Lines Jacobus. References to a widow Beecher and a widow Potter in early New Haven have been thought by some to refer to two women, while others (including Jacobus) have thought these records referred to one woman. Hatcher has found English records for this family in Lewes, Sussex, where William Potter married Ann Langford on 6 October 1607. This couple had four children, two of whom, sons William and John, survived and accompanied their mother to New England in the late 1630s. William Potter died in 1619 and his widow married John Beecher early in the following year. They had two children, one of whom, son Isaac, also made the migration to New England.
From Dictionary of Ancestral Heads of New England Families by Holmes: "Hannah, widow of John BEECHER of Kent, England, came to Boston in 1637 with her family, the only son being Isaac who became identified with New Haven, CT."
James Shepard, The New Haven (Conn.) Potters, 1639. in "Genealogies of Connecticut Families from The New England Historical and Genealogical Register" Volume III (Painter--Wyllys), selected and introduced by Gary Boyd Roberts. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1983, pp 150-155: "1. Hannah [Potter] Beecher was the mother of the New Haven Potters, who appeared early in New Haven as a widow with sons: i. John, ii. William and iii. Isaac Beecher, the ancestor of Rev Henry Ward Beecher. Her first husband, Potter, died in England, where she married a Mr. Beecher."
"It is generally supposed that her husband was John Beecher, one of the seven whom Eaton sent to New Haven in advance of the colony and who died before the colony arrived. She has been considered to be the mother of Isaac Beecher, for she calls him her son in her will and gave him one third of her property; but recent investigations, it is claimed, show conclusively that Isaac was only a step-son, the son of her second husband by a former wife." For contrary view, see notes below and article attached to Hannah [Potter] Beecher, both by Jacobus. Donald Lines Jacobus, "Miscellanea" The American Genealogist, vol XX (2), October 1943: "[Kept in a locked cabinet in the Town Clerk's Office is a small old book which was used in the period between 1660 and 1700 for miscellaneous purposes. It seems to have been little used by genealogists. A digest of a few of the records is given below. The Beecher entry is of interest because it bears on the question of whether Isaac Beecher was actual son of the Widow Hannah Beecher, formerly Potter, as the present writer has always believed, or only a step-son, a theory favored by other students of the family....]"
"[Part2,p11.] Isaac Beecher senior haveing for many yeares past stood in the quiett possession of divers parcells of land without claime or prosecution doth now record them to himselfe, his heyres or assignes for ever."
"The homelott whereon he dwelleth, conaineing 3 acres more or less... "Alsoe halfe a piece of meadow land .... "Alsoe some parcells of upland...[and two other parcels]... "Alsoe land at ye first that was his mother Beechers (viz) Three acres & halfe in the subbarbs quarter.... "Alsoe one parcell of meadow that at ye first belonged to bro: Jno Potter & passed over to him the sd Beecher at a court in the 4th Decembr 1655: containeing three acres. "Alsoe six acres of upland that was also his Bro: Jno Potters & alienated at the aforesd court.... "Alsoe the second division belonging to his sd bro: Jno Potter passed in ye court aforesd...fourteen acres .... "Alsoe a parcell of land graunted him against the end of a lott he bought of Eleazer Beecher neare Chesnutt hill....about 9 acres.... "Alsoe two acres one quarter twenty foure rod of land in the necke which at first belonged to Wm Potter, bounded westward by the mill river....which land of his on the South belonged at first to his mother Beecher. "Alsoe one parcell more in the necke which at first belonged to his bro: Jno Potter [4 Dec. 1655] "Nathaniell Potter son of Wm Potter appeared the 9th day of June 1684: & acknowledged those lands mentioned before that did belong to his sd father Wm Potter were passed over to his unkle the sd Isaac Beecher.... "Entered 9 June 1684 before Wm Jones Assist, John Nash Recorder, John Alling Townesman.]"
further below in the abstract is noted "[Part 2, p. 40.] William Pringle conveys to son Joseph Pringle 3 Jan 1688/9. Joseph Pringle, planter, conveys to 'my Lo: brother Eleazer Beecher of Newhaven' 6 Jan 1688/9."
Reference: "Saints, Sinners, and the Beechers" by Lyman Beecher Stowe, copyright 1934 (Bobbs-Merril) Pages 17-19: "1637/8 John Beecher arrived in Boston, from Kent, England in a company of 50 men and 200 women and children. The company was led by Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton. They came on the ship Hector and her sister ship (name not cited). Rather than settle among the arguing Pilgrim colony, they moved north to Quinnipiack, Long Island Sound (where New Haven, CT is now). John Beecher died during the first winter, before his wife Hannah and son Isaac arrived the following spring. She was allowed to remain on John's land and accorded the title "Goodwife" as she happened to be a midwife, an occupation sorely needed!
"John, Hannah and Issac were the first of the Beechers in America. They came to this country from Kent, England, in 1637, with the company led by the Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton who had been Ambassador to Denmark and Deputy-Governor of India. This company crossed the ocean on the ship "Hector". The ship after a two months voyage, dropped anchor in Boston harbor 26 June 1637, seventeen years after the "Mayflower" had landed the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. The company consisted of fifty men and two hundred women and children. But they found they had come in the midst of a quarrel, about religion. Not wishing to buy into a quarrel, they decided to seek another area to settle in. They sent out a reconnoitering party under the leadership of Theophilus Eaton, which hit upon an old indian village of Quinnipiack on Long Island Sound, the site of the present city of New Haven. Here they built a rude hut and left an unfortunate group of seven men to hold the post for the winter, and prepare for the arrival of the remainder of the company in the spring."
"John Beecher was one of the seven. He failed to survive the rigors of his first New England winter because he and his companions had such inadequate protection. When Hannah Beecher and Issac arrived in the spring, she found her husband already buried in a unmarked grave. One hundred and twelve years later, in 1750, when David Beecher was a boy of twelve, workmen who were digging a celler for a house at the corner of George and Meadow streets in New Haven came upon human bones which were believed to be those of John Beecher."
"Since Hannah Beecher was the only midwife among them, she was given her husband's allotment of land upon which she and her son settled."
"These colonists had their social distinctions marked by dress, address and manners. Clergymen, college graduates, planters of good family and members of the General Court were gentlemen and were entitled to use the prefix Mr. before their names. Persons of reputable character who owned land, including laborers and tenant farmers of the better class, were called yeoman. A yeoman was addressed as goodman and his wife as goodwife or goody. John Beecher was not a gentleman, but a yeoman; his wife was not a lady, but a goodwife."
Reuben Beecher Hughes, in his book, quotes (p.3-4) the following letter he received from Rev. Luther Fitch Beecher, D.D.
Brookline, Mass, Feb. 3, '98 R. B. Hughes: "The Beecher" name can be traced beyond the "Isaac, 1623, of your list." Not to speak of the Beecher of King David's time in Jewish Military History. My first record takes me back of the emigration to America in 1637, to Speldhurst, County of Kent, England, where we find them living in "Chancellor House". Having the right to display a "Coat-of-Arms," and in after years connected, through several generations, with the Army or the Government Service. Three "Tablets," commemorative of their name and services, are now found in the North Tower of the Speldhurst Episcopal Church, certificate copies of which are in the possession of Mrs. Gaston, copies of which are among my records. I have a copy of the letter from the last owner of the estate, written to Gov. Gaston some four or five years since, and or all of which are at your service if they are of any interest to you. I have, also, a history of much interest of the Beechers, located for many years at "Castle Martyrs," in the south-west part of Ireland, occupying three large estates, of which "Castle Martyrs" is the largest. Miss O'Neil, contemporary with Edmund Keene and Mrs. Siddons, was on the London stage then, under the management of the Kendalls. In 1819 she was married to Sir William Beecher, an Irish member of the British Parliament. Sir Henry Wrixon Beecher, baronet, now occupies the estate, having two hundred tenants, and much more of like history and biography, much of which must be new and of interest to you. No published "Beecher Genealogy" exists, so far as I know...... Very sincerely, LUTHER F. BEECHER
In his book, Reuben Beecher Hughes, adds, The Mrs. Gaston referred to in the above letter was the wife of Gov. William Gaston, of Mass., the daughter of Laban Beecher, (now Boston), who was the son of Benjamin Beecher of New Haven, (familiarly called "Capt. Ben."), who lived so many years on Chapel street. He was "town agent, and had care of the poor." The motto inscribed on the "Coat-of-Arms" which the Beechers were "given the right to display" was "Bis vivi qui bene" - "He twice lives who lives well."
Note: Patricia Law Hatcher, "English Origin of the Potter and Beecher Families of New Haven, Connecticut," The American Genealogist 79 (2004):28-33. Hatcher has definitively settled a problem which was tentatively resolved nearly half a century ag
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