Page 8 - Wallingford Magazine Holiday 2019
P. 8

Wallingford Magazine - Holiday, 2019
additional land to the north that included what is now Wallingford, Cheshire, and Meriden from the Quinnipiac sachem Montowese.
The New Haven Colony was successful at this time due in part to the variety of skills and trades of its members. John Brockett, who would go on to settle the town of Wallingford, designed the new city with a series of nine squares surrounding a large green. The green, which exists today, served as market place, community gathering area, cem- etery, and site of the first church. There were weav- ers, sawyers, coopers, wheelwrights, tanners, rope makers, potters, brickmakers, and farmers. They raised livestock, built houses, and hunted and fished local game. These hearty pioneers were willing to do the constant hard work necessary to thrive in their new home. In addition, they seem to have forged good relationships with the native people who lived in the area (today’s East Haven and Branford). These Mattabesetts and Quinnipiac appreciated the protection provided by the set- tlers against assault from the warlike Pequots liv- ing further east.
John Benham and family in New Haven
John Benham, Sr. must have bought into the religious ideals of the new colony and the adven- ture it offered to be willing to uproot his family and leave his Massachusetts life, friends and property. A map from 1644 shows John Benham’s allocated house lot on square eight at the intersection of to- day’s Chapel and State Streets. In early records, he was listed as a free planter and head of one of New Haven Colony’s 70 families with 5 persons in his household and holdings of 70 pounds. He was a mason and also drummer and town crier for the town. He called people to church, elections, and general gatherings held on the green.
Davenport established the First Church of Christ soon after arriving and became its first min- ister. John Benham was the 14th member to reg- ister as a congregant. His wife and sons were also recorded members of this church.
Minor references to John Benham, Sr. appear in the New Haven colonial records: 1638-1649. In 1639, he was granted land in Mill Meadow and land near the East River. [The East River became the Quinnipiac River at some point; for the purposes of this article we will use its current name Quin- nipiac]. He also owned 16 acres at Mill Neck near the Mill River. In 1643 he was fined two shillings for possessing a defective firearm. In 1644 he took the oath of fidelity from Governor Eaton. He was
absent for several days of militia training but had an excuse about his oxen getting into his corn and his brick kiln needing tending. In one case he was chastised for speaking contemptuously of the Commissioners. He was appointed “fence viewer” yet had trouble maintaining his own fences. He was admonished for keeping unruly dogs. There are a few more inconsequential mentions of John in the Colonial Records. In 1661 at the age of about 61, John Sr., patriarch of the Benham family, died in New Haven and was probably interred in the burial grounds on the green. Though the cause of death is unknown, only months before he had slipped on his horse, fallen into the flooded Quinnipiac, and received a kick in the head by his horse.
John Sr.’s sons were becoming adults. John Benham, Jr., a carpenter, married Sarah Hurst on February 8, 1654 in New Haven. Ten years later she died, leaving him and five children. The following year he married Mercy Smith and proceeded to sire five more children with her. Research indicates he remained in New Haven until his death at age 67 in 1690. There may well be further information found about John, Jr. But as this story follows the lives of Joseph and his offspring, we will leave John at this point.
Joseph appears at least once in the colonial re- cords of New Haven along with a group of teens and young men who apparently committed a gross and indecent act for which the New Haven officials punished them. The record states that it was so offensive they refused to include the nature of the transgression in the records.
On November 15,1657 Joseph Benham trav- eled to Boston to marry Winifred King. Very little is known about her background. She may have been the daughter of John King and Mary Hale, both of whom apparently came from the same area of England as did the Benhams. We don’t know where Winifred was born but by the time of her marriage she was living south of Dorchester Plantation. Per- haps she became acquainted with Joseph Benham when he was living in the same area. The newly married couple returned to the New Haven Colony where their first eight children were born.
Part 2 will appear in our winter is- sue, beginning with “The Founding of Wallingford: Joseph Benham”.
By Bobbie Borne, a long-time Wallingford resident and former librarian at the Wallingford Public Library. Bob- bie has contributed wonderful stories to this publica- tion.

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