Thursday, 10 December 2015

Captain George Denison (1620-1694) (52 Ancestors Week 50) My Theme: "December"

Wife of Captain George Denison - my 9th great grandmother Ann Borodell

My 9th great grandfather George Denison was the second son of that name born North of London in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England to William Denison and Margaret Chandler. He was baptised there 395 years ago this week on 10 December 1620. The first George had been born in 1609 and had died in 1614 as a young child. This second George would have a longer and more vigourous life, living into his 70's.

Location of Bishop's Stortford
Image from Google Earth
Young George had an early adventure when he crossed the Atltantic aboard the Lion with his parents and two brothers as part of the "Great Migration". There were many other children making the journey and no doubt the boys, being boys, found much entertainment. He was eleven years old when he arrived in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The early church in Roxbury records his father William as its 3rd member and names William's sons Daniel, Edward and George. Daniel had been attending university at Cambridge when he was recalled by his father to join the family's migration. Edward was about 15. Another son John was in his mid-20's, had been educated at Cambridge and so decided to remain in England where he was a minister.

Accompanying the family on the voyage was George's tutor, the Reverend John Eliot. Education was obviously important to this family. They were quite well off and brought a good estate from England. Young George's early life in America was probably more comfortable than most. His father William held a number of public offices including Roxbury constable, Deputy to the General Court and committee member for inspection of ships.

Life in New England was never without controversy, however. William was one of five Roxbury men to be disarmed on 20 November 1637 for supporting Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson. This was in regard to the Antinomian Controversy which raged in Puritan New England from 1636-1638. It pitted the majority of the Puritans against the adherents of a "covenant of grace" espoused by Cotton Mather and supported by Anne Hutchinson and her brother-in-law Reverend John Wheelwright. Apparently William Denison was also a supporter. The Antinomians were generally regarded as heretics against the established laws. Concepts of gender and politics added to the disagreement. We don't know whether George's mother Margaret was one of the numerous women who followed Anne Hutchinson's teachings. Eventually, the Antinomian leaders were tried and banished, so perhaps William was fortunate to have been only disarmed! Young George by then would have been a young man of about 17, but there is no mention of any involvement by him in this whole controversy.

We do know that George fell in love with a young woman named Bridget Thompson when he was about 19. He proposed to Bridget by writing her a love poem:

It is an ordinance, my dear, divine,
Which God unto the sons of men makes shine,
Even marriage, to that whereof I speak,
And unto you therein my mind I break.

In Paradise, oft Adam God did tell,
To be alone for man would not be well--
He in His wisdom, therefore, thought it right
To bring a woman into Adam's sight;

A helper that for him might be most meet,
To comfort him by her doing discreet.
I of that stock am sprung--I mean from him--
And also of that tree I am a limb.

A branch, tho' young, yet I do think it good
That God's great vow by man be not withstood;
Alone I am, a helper I would find,
That might give satisfaction to my mind.

The party that doth satisfy the same
Is Miss Bridget Thompson by her name;
God having drawn my affections unto thee,
My heart's desire is--that thine may be to me.

This with my blottings, tho' they trouble you,
Yet pass them by, because I know not how--
Though they at this time should much better be,
For love it is, that first has been to thee.

And I would wish that they much better were,
Therefore, I pray, accept them as they are,
So hoping my desire I shall obtain,
Your own true lover, I, George Denison by name.

From my father's house in Roxbury To Miss Bridget Thompson, 1640.

Miss Bridget obviously approved of his sentiments for marry they did. They went on to have two daughters, Sarah and Hannah, but Bridget died giving birth to Hannah in 1643.

George was devastated. He returned to England that same year and was a soldier under Cromwell, participating on the evening of 2 July 1644 in the Battle of Marston Moor where he did great service.

Battle of Marston Moor, English Civil War
Painting by John Barker in the Public Domain

He was slightly wounded, taken prisoner but was able to make his escape and rejoin the Parliamentarians. He was more seriously wounded on the morning of 14 June 1645 during the Battle of Naseby and was then sent to Cork, Ireland to recuperate at the home of John Borodell, a wealthy English leather merchant. Body and heart both mended when he fell in love with his nurse - John Borodell's beautiful daughter Ann (my 9th great grandmother). They were married shortly thereafter and returned to New England later in 1645.

It was said that George and Ann were known for their magnificent personal appearance as well as for force of mind and of character; she was always known as "Lady Ann" because of her personal attributes.

George and Ann had several children including  my 8th great grandmother Margaret Denison (1657-1741), John Borodell Denison (1646-1698), Ann Denison (1649-1706), George Denison (1653-1711) and William Denison (1655-1715). Their descendants are plentiful; George lived to see his family include 3 sons, 6 daughters and 58 grandchildren. On the television program "Finding Your Roots", Professor Gates uncovered the ancestry of comedian David Sedaris back to this family.

The couple lived in Roxbury near George's parents prior to moving to Connecticut - first joining John Winthrop, Jr. at New London on the Pequot River. This was done in an attempt by Massachusetts to claim control of the land that would eventually become eastern Connecticut. In 1651 George was named captain of the train band and was given a house with 6 acres of property; he established the defenses for the town. In appreciation for services rendered, he was given 200 acres east of the Mystic River in the town of Stonington (then called Southertown) where he surveyed the boundaries and laid out a road from the ford at the Pawcatuck to the ferry at the Thames. At first, he and Ann lived in a rough lean-to surrounded by a stout stockade for protection. (This is now the site of the historic Denison Homestead of Mystic, CT.) George was appointed "clerk of the writs".

Location of Stonington, CT
Google Earth Image


Even after the whole area was absorbed into Connecticut, George and his family remained there and he remained active in both military and civil affairs. His service included: Deputy to the General Court from both New London and Stonington, War Commission for New London in 1653, Captain during King Philip's War, second in command of the Connecticut army under Major Robert Treat. He was instrumental in the capture of Canonchet, helping to put an end to King Philip's War. It was said that as a soldier, no citizen of his day was more conspicuous except perhaps for John Mason.

He and Thomas Stanton set aside 8,000 acres of land for the scattered Pequot tribe as the first reservation. The Pequots, largely to their detriment, had sided with the English during King Philip's War.

George's estate grew. He was rewarded for his services with large land grants by both the Town of Stonington and the Colony of Connecticut. The Mohegan chief Oneco gave him a great feast and 2000 acres of tribal lands. The resulting peace enabled him to take down his stockade and build a great house where his wife Ann hosted famous dinner parties for family and friends. Life was good.

He died in Hartford, Connecticut 23 October 1694 while discharging his duties at the Massachusetts General Assembly. Ann would long outlive him, dying at the age of 97. Both are buried at the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford.

Photograph of Tombstone for George Denison from the 1881 book
"A Record of the Descendants of Captain George Denison of Stonington, Conn."
Sources:
  • Denison Homestead website located at http://denisonhomestead.org/denison-society/captain-george-denison/
  • Anderson, Robert Charles, "The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633", Volume 1; Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995
  • Ancestry.com U.S and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index for William Denison, 1500's-1900's
  • "Some Descendants of Captain George Denison" accessed online at freepage.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nanc/denison/acwg01.htm on 05/04/2009
  • Hurd, Hamilton D (comp.), "History of New London County, Connecticut, with Biographical Sketches of many of its Pioneers and Prominent Men", 1882; Philadelphia: Lewis & Co., accessed online at Google Books on 30 November 2015
  • Poem by Captain George Denison from Appendix in Baldwin, John Denison, "A Record of the Descendants of Captain George Denison of Stonington, Conn.", Worcester, Mass.: Tyler & Seagrave, 1881, 298 accessed online through Google Books on 30 November 2015

15 comments:

  1. So cool! i'm also an descendent of the Denison family and found this post really fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Cate. It's so nice to touch base with a distant cousin.

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  2. Captain George and Ann are my 10th great grandparents.

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  3. I,m a descendant of captain George Denison

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  4. Thank you, cousin! This was very interesting! Thank you so much for posting!

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  5. Thank you so very much for your biography of George Denison.

    George, and Bridget Thompson, are my 10th great-grandparents. And, Hannah Dennison is my night great-grandmother.

    The love poem George wrote to Bridget is is very sweet and eloquent.

    If you are interested to know, Hannah Denison is also related to the Alden family, who were passengers on the Mayflower (my 10th grandparents as well).

    His bio tells a compelling story it is very sad that he lost Bridget through childbirth (I am very new to ancestry so am focusing on building my tree and will look into the details of everyone later) :)

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    1. Just read your bio, you are in Victoria BC! I am born,raised and still live in Vancouver!

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  6. So near in so many ways! Thanks for your comments.

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  7. I am now just discovering my lineage from this man and his family! There was a gap missing for so long but I can trace it back to this. I still carry the Surname as well.

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  8. That's so cool that you can trace your surname back to this man. Interesting person, it seems. Has anyone (male) in your family done the Y chromosome test to see what haplogroup our George belonged to?

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  9. Hi Joanne,
    I just found out that Captain George Denison and Ann Borodell Denison are my ninth great grandparents on my mom's side of the family through her dad. I found this posting ever so interesting. Thank you for putting this together.
    Amanda

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    1. Thanks, Amanda. Always nice to be in touch with more cousins!

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