02 August 2010

Webster Family of Hartford

(I) John Webster, the immigrant ancestor, was one of the original settlers of Hartford, Connecticut. He was magistrate of the colony from 1639 to 1659; deputy governor in 1655, and governor in 1656. During the next three years he was first magistrate of the colony, or republic, as his descendant Noah Webster calls it. On account of a controversy with the minister of Hartford, the settlement at Hadley, Massachusetts, was planned and John Webster headed the list of fifty-nine signers who agreed to locate there. His son Robert was another signer. Governor Webster lodged at Northampton, Massachusetts, fell sick soon afterward, but recovered and became one of the judges associated with John Pynchon and Samuel Chapin. His home was on the east side of the highway, near the late residence of George Wyllys, in Hartford. He died April 5, 1685, and was buried at Hadley. His will was dated June 25, 1659. He gave to his wife, Agnes, the use of his estate at Hartford during her life, and he also bequeathed property to his four sons. Children: Robert, mentioned below; Mary, married - Hunt, who died in 1659; Mathew settled in Farmington; William, whose wife was tried for witchcraft in 1684-85, married, 1671, Mary Reeves, and resided at Hadley; Thomas, married Abigail Alexander; Anne, settled at Northfield, Massachusetts, married John Marsh, of Hadley.

(II) Robert, son of Governor John Webster, was born about 1630-40 and died in 1676. He was a representative to the general court at Hartford 1658 to 1659. He was executor of his father's will. He signed the agreement to go to Hadley, but for some reason remained in Hartford or soon returned there. His will was dated May 20, 1676. He married Susannah -, whose will was dated January 23, 1698. The inventory of her estate was dated November 17, 1705, naming three sons living and John, deceased. Children: John, died 1694, mentioned below; Jonathan, married, 1681, Dorcas Hopkins, Samuel, died in 1734; Robert, married Hannah Beckley, and died in 1744; Joseph, died in 1750; William, died in 1722; Susanna, married John Graves, of Hartford; Mary, married Thomas King: Eliza, married John Seymour; Sarah, married - Mygatt.

(III) John (2), son of Robert and Susannah Webster, was born in Hartford about 1650, and died in 1694. Children, born at Hartford: John, married, 1712, Abiel Steele, and died in 1753, lived in Southington, Connecticut, Ebenezer, lived to advanced age; Jacob, died in 1728, married Elizabeth Nichols; Daniel, born 1693, mentioned below; Sarah; Ann; Abigail, married, 1710, Jacob Merrill.

(IV) Daniel, son of John (2) Webster, was born in 1693, at Hartford, and died there in 1765. He married, 1719, Miriam Kellogg. Children: Daniel, died young; Noah, born March 25, 1721, mentioned below; Zephaniah, June 1, 1724, died in March, 1761; Abram, died in 1751; Miriam, born October 1, 1729, married (first) William Sedgwick, (second) - Marsh, of New Hartford, died at great age at home of her son, Timothy Sedgwick, West Hartford; Daniel, September 4, 1731, died in 1783; Elihu, died in youth.

(V) Noah, son of Daniel and Miriam (Kellogg) Webster, was born at Hartford, March 25, 1721; died November 9, 1813, aged ninety-one years seven months. He married, 1749, Mercy Steele, daughter of Eliphalet Steele. Children, born at Hartford: 1. Mercy, born November 8, 1749; married John Kellogg Belden, and died August 11, 1820. 2. Abram, born in 1751; married (first) Merril -; (second) Dorothy Seymour, and (third) Eunice Childs, of Deerfield. 3. Jerusha, born in 1756; married Loel, Lord of Salisbury, who removed to Danby, New York; she died February 21, 1821. 4. Noah, born October 16, 1758, mentioned below. 5. Charles, born September 2, 1762; married (first) Betsey Woodruff; (second) Mrs. Wilkinson.

(VI) Noah (2), son of Noah (1) and Mercy (Steele) Webster, was born in West Hartford, October 16, 1758; married, October 26, 1789, Rebecca Greenleaf, of Boston. He served as a private in his father's company in the campaign against General Burgoyne, in the fall of 1777. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1781, but he preferred teaching to law, and in 1782 opened a classical school at Goshen, New York. In 1783 he published at Hartford the "First Part of a Grammatical Institute of the English Language," followed by a second and third part in the two years following. He published "The American Spelling Book" in 1783, and Winthrop's Journal, which until then had been preserved only in manuscript. He wrote various political essays in the Connecticut Courant in 1785, entitled "Sketches of American Policy." He was interested in public questions, and in 1785 visited the southern states to advocate the enactment of state copyright laws. In 1786 he delivered a course of lectures in the principal cities and towns on subjects relating to the English language, and these lectures were published in 1789 under the title of "Dissertations on the English Language." In 1787 he taught English grammar and kindred subjects at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After the Federal constitutional convention adjourned, he published a work entitled "Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution." In 1788 he published for one year the American Magazine, but the venture was a failure finanically. Returning to Hartford in 1789, he took up the practice of his profession and gained a prominent position at the bar. In 1793, at the request of the president, he established a daily newspaper in New York City to support the administration. This paper was called the Minerva, and after a short time he added a semi-weekly called the Herald. These were subsequently called the Commercial Advertiser and the New York Spectator. The Advertiser is still published, though the name was changed again to The Globe a few years ago. Webster's articles in these papers under the nom-de-plume "Curtius" ably defended Jay's treaties and other controverted policies of the young government.

In 1798 he removed to New Haven, and in 1799 he published "A Brief History of Epidemics and Pestilential Diseases" in two octavo volumes. In 1802 he published a work on the rights of neutrals in time of war, and "Historical Notices of the Origin and State of Banking Institutions and Insurance Offices," and in 1807 his "Philosophical and Practical Grammar of the English Language." He had in 1806 published a "Compendious Dictionary," and in 1807 commenced the great labor of his life, "A Dictionary of the English Language," the first edition of which appeared in 1828 in two quarto volumes, and a second in 1840 in two royal octavo volumes. While preparing this stupendous work he lived at Amherst, Massachusetts, and he was one of the most active and influential founders of Amherst College. He was for a number of years a representative to the general court from Amherst. He had served his district in New Haven in the Connecticut legislature several terms previously, and for a time was judge of one of the state courts and one of the aldermen of the city. He returned to New Haven in 1822 and visited Europe in 1828. Early in 1843 he published "A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary and Moral Subjects," and an elaborate treatise on "The supposed change of temperature in Winter." His last literary labor was the revision of the Appendix to his dictionary, completed a few days before his death. He died at New Haven, May 28, 1843. Of the "Elementary Spelling Book" nearly fifty million copies have been sold, and during the preparation of the dictionary the income from this work supported his family. His dictionary was revised after his death by his son-in-law, Professor Goodrich, and from time to time by others. The Merriams of Springfield have been the publishers for many years. In 1823 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Yale College. Dr. Webster's works, besides those mentioned, were: "History of the United States," revised in 1838; "Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education," published in 1823; "Manual of Useful Studies," in 1832; "The Prompter," and a "History of Animals."

In many respects Dr. Webster was the most famous scholar of his period in American literature. He performed a work of lasting value to the English-speaking people and blazed the way for other lexicographers to follow. That he was a genius cannot be disputed. His versatility in literature was as remarkable as his learning was profound.

Children of Noah and Rebecca (Greenleaf) Webster: 1. Emily, born August 4, 1790; married William Wolcott Ellsworth, September 14, 1813. 2. Frances Juliana, February 5, 1793; married, October 1, 1816, Chauncey Allen Goodrich. 3. Harriet, April 6, 1797; married (first) Edward H. Cobb, of Portland, May 22, 1816, and (second) July 26, 1825, William Chouncy Fowler. 4. Mary, January 7, 1799; died February 28, 1819; married Horatio Southgate, of Portland. 5. William Greenleaf, September 15, 1801; married Rosalie Eugenia Stuart, of Virginia, May 5, 1831, and removed in 1835 to Cincinnati, Ohio. 6. Eliza Steele, December 21, 1803; married, September 5, 1825, Henry Jones. 7. Henry Bradford, November 20, 1806; died aged ten weeks. 8. Louisa, April 12, 1808.

Source: Cutter, William Richard. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. New York, NY, USA: Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.

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