Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Chapter 52 - Our Compton Ancestors

We have to admit that despite many hours of online research we were unable to positively determine the family line between my 5th great grandmother, Anna Compton (1756-1780), and the man we believe to be Anna's 3rd great grandfather and my 10th great grandfather, John Compton (Abt 1599-1656). Based on birth and death dates and their locations we are comfortable that John Compton and Anna Compton are related. Where we are uncomfortable is that it is unclear as to Anna's father's name and the name of her grandfather. We will explain later the issues in detail as we outline our Compton family's early history in America. 

John Compton is believed to have been born around 1599 in Cranbrook, County Kent, England located around 40 miles southeast of downtown London. There are some that believe that John's father was a man named Thomas Compton who was the vicar of the Sutton-Valence parish in Kent, a vicar being a type of parish priest. Sutton-Valence was located just 9 miles from Cranbrook. The parish records show that Thomas Compton had a son John who was baptized in 1599 and the records further show that when Thomas died in 1606 he named his youngest son John in his will. Whether or not our John Compton was the son of this Thomas Compton wedo not know for certain particularly when later records of our John Compton in America show that he was born sometime between 1603 and 1605. Of course, if our John lost his father when John was very young, it is possible that the exact year of his birth could have been lost in history which was very common in the 17th century and earlier. Additional records show that in 1629 in Lydd Parish, County Kent (about 23 miles from Sutton-Valence) a John Compton married a Susan Seade and then four years later in 1633 a daughter of John Compton, Abigail Compton, was baptized in Cranbrook.

Unfortunately the name of John Compton's mother has never been uncovered, nor for that matter, the name of the wife of Thomas Compton, John's likely father. What is known is that in 1638 John Compton is mentioned in the will of a man named Smalehope Bigge who lived in Cranbrook and John is listed as one of his "kinfolk" in the will. Smalehope Bigge was around 13 years older than John when he died and the mention of kinfolk in the will might suggest that John was his cousin. Smalehope's mother, Rachel Martin Bigge, along with one of Smalehope's sisters and her family immigrated to America and the Boston area in 1635 or 1636, several years following John's immigration to America, and when she died in 1646, she too left money to John Compton. Obviously the kinfolk relationship might suggest that Rachel Martin Bigge may have been John's aunt and that Thomas Compton may have married one of Rachel's sisters. Unfortunately, nothing that we could find in any way supported this possibility and revealed the name of John's mother. What it does show however, is that our 10th great grandfather, John Compton, was definitely born and raised in County Kent, England and that he lived in his young life in the general area of Sutton-Valence, Cranbrook, and Lynn Parish.

County Kent, England during this period of history was a "hotbed" of Puritan activity and it is quite understandable that a young John Compton was caught up and drawn into the Puritan protests against the Church of England and the actions of the British Crown. As we have outlined in previous chapters in this blog, the Puritans were a group of English "Protestants" who sought to purify the Church of England by ridding it of its "Catholic" practices. The English church was originally a Catholic Church under the indirect control of the pope, however beginning around 1538 during the reign of King Henry VIII and under his command, a campaign commenced to destroy the shrines and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church. These actions ultimately led to the church being under control of the English Crown which hence ushered in the "divine right of kings." Ultimately however, while the English Crown assumed the role previously held by the Roman pope, the church itself did not change and mostly retained its basic Catholic practices such as hierarchical leadership, clerical investments, and the various and to many rituals of the church. It was these issues that basically led to the rise of Puritanism.  While the Pilgrims who moved to Holland and eventually in 1620 to the Plymouth Colony in America were not strictly Puritans, they were the beginning of the departure from England by some of its citizens who were fed up with the Church of England. The Puritans on the other hand, were hopeful of changing the church away from its Catholic rituals, however they soon realized that their cause was hopeless and beginning around 1630, they too like the Pilgrims, began migrating to America. In 1634, our John Compton with his wife and daughter joined with many others and sailed to America.

It is not known what ship carried the Compton family to America although it is entirely possible that they sailed with a John Stowe and his wife Elizabeth Bigge Stowe and their six children who are known to have also arrived in America on one of the six ships that sailed to Boston in March and April in the year 1634. Elizabeth Bigge Stowe was the sister of Smalehope Bigge and the daughter of Rachel Martin Bigge which would therefore make her another possible cousin of our John Compton. It would certainly not be surprising that the two families sailed together and it is further know that both families settled in Roxbury shortly following their arrival in America. We mentioned that John and Susan (Susanna) sailed with their daughter although some family historians note that their son William Compton, my 9th great grandfather, may have been born as early as 1631 and therefore would have also sailed with his parents. Shortly after their arrival both the Stowe family as well as my Compton family moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts located just south of the original Boston area where in September of 1634 John Compton was made a Freeman which meant that he was a member of the church, not an indentured servant nor a slave, and he had the right to vote and possessed all of the civil rights afforded by the community.

Anne Hutchinson on trial
Most family historians report that John Compton moved or at least owned land in Boston by 1635. If indeed the family relocated to Boston, it may have been because John's employment as a "clothier" improved as a result of more customers in the larger populated area in Boston. In any case, it is clear that John Compton was not wealthy.  Perhaps if John had not lived in the Boston area during this period of history he may have avoided the notorious Antinomian Controversy that hit the Boston area in 1637. We have read on numerous occasions that many new immigrants to America beginning around 1635 began leaving the Boston area to settle in new communities in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  One of their reasons for leaving the Boston area was their total dissatisfaction with the local government which was strictly controlled by the Puritan Church. That is, there was no separation between the Church and the State. One of the examples that we found that illustrated how the church was controlling the actions of its citizens was the story of a husband being arrested and thrown in jail because he was seen kissing his wife in public. This public act was forbidden by the Puritan Church and they had used their local theocratic government to enforce their policies. Many of the English had departed England to escape this type of behavior on the part of the Church of England only to find that the Puritan Church in Boston was even worse. The Antinomian Controversy was a failed attempt on the part of some of the Boston citizens to stop such activity on the part of the local government and our John Compton played a major role in this controversy.

The Antinomian Controversy actually culminated with the trial of one Elizabeth Hutchinson in November of 1637. Her arguments in the courtroom were a little more complicated that we expressed above regarding the churches' rigid control over its citizens. Basically she professed that "the doctrine or belief that the Gospel frees Christians from required obedience to any law, whether scriptural, civil, or moral, and that salvation is attained solely through faith and the gift of divine grace." In other words, simply obeying the law and the church rules should not be a requirement for receiving "salvation" or getting into heaven. Only God can make this determination. Elizabeth Hutchinson was supported by a number of prominent citizens including some clergymen but unfortunately that did not prevent her from being found guilty and subsequently banished from the community. Along with Elizabeth's banishment many of her supporters including our John Compton were first disarmed (their weapons removed) and then they too were banished from the community.  Obey our rules regardless. . . or get out.

In John Compton case, he along with around 175 others including Elizabeth Hutchinson's brother-in-law, the Reverend John Wheelwright, were banished to an area known as Piscataqua in the territory of Exeter on the border of present day New Hampshire and Maine. The land had only recently been purchased from the local Indians and until this point it was almost void of any British settlers until the arrival of John and his compatriots. It is unclear as to how and why John Compton was allowed to return to Boston but it is clear that after only two years he and his family were back in Boston. Obviously, the rural nature of life in Piscataqua may not have suited their lifestyle and John may have been willing to admit that he was wrong in supporting the positions of Elizabeth Hutchinson in order to be allowed to return to Boston. Whatever the circumstances, John and his wife Susan were admitted to the Boston 1st Church by 1642. In 1645, John is again listed as a Boston clothier, and additional records show that by 1649 he was a Boston property owner.  There are also some records that report that John hired an attorney in 1646 to try and recover some of his property in Boston that had probably been taken away from him when he was banished from Boston in early 1638. It is not known whether or not he was successful. There are also some references in the writings of family historians that report that in 1646 John Compton owed a lot of money to a man named Jonathan Brewster. If true, this would seem to imply that at least financially, my great grandfather had not done very well during his life. The exact date of John Compton's death is also not known although when wife Susanna Compton wrote her final will in 1664 she wrote that her husband John had "long since departed." Where John and his wife are buried is not known.

While it is generally accepted that William Compton was the son of John and Susanna Compton there is no definitive proof that such was the case. Furthermore the exact date and location of his birth is not known. We noted above that William was born in England and therefore sailed over to America with his parents, however there is no proof that such was the case and he may very well have been born shortly after his parents' arrival. His baptismal records have never been uncovered and when Susanna Compton wrote her will in 1664 she failed to mention her son William and in fact she left everything in her will to her grandson, Joseph Brisco, the son of her daughter Abigail Compton Brisco.  John Compton's will if he had one, has never been located. Nevertheless, based on where he lived when he was younger and the fact that there were no other known Compton families living in the Massachusetts area in the early 1600s, it would appear obvious that William Compton must have been the son of John and Susanna Compton and therefore our 9th great grandfather.

King Charles II
William Compton was probably in his mid-20s when his father died and undoubtedly he did receive some benefits from his father's will, most likely the ownership of land in or around the Boston area. Nothing is really known about William however, until his recorded purchase of land in 1662 up in Ipswich located about 35 miles north of Boston. Whether he actually ever moved there is doubtful as sometime between 1662 and 1666 he married my 9th great grandmother, Mary Wilmot, and together they relocated to Woodbridge in present day Middlesex County, New Jersey where they are credited with being among the earliest settlers in Woodbridge. Their trip to Woodbridge from Boston by land was almost 250 miles and one has to believe that they were highly motivated to make such a move.  What motivated them was probably a result of an historical occurrence that took part in our early American history.  In 1661, after the defeat of Oliver Cromwell in England, King Charles II was returned to the English throne. In 1664, King Charles granted to his brother the Duke of York, vast territories in America including land that at the time was under the control of the Dutch. This land included both New Amsterdam (present day New York City) as well as all of present day New Jersey. The Duke of York organized a fleet of ships to attack and take over this Dutch controlled territory, but the Dutch realizing that they could not defend their territory, quickly surrendered their colony to the British. At this point in history New Jersey was scantly populated with a few small Dutch and Spanish colonies along the coastline.  The inland areas were occupied by Native American Indians whose population had been devastated by diseases introduced earlier by the European settlers.  The Duke of York obviously wanted to profit from his newly granted lands, so he gave the land to a couple of his friends hoping that they would find a way to encourage settlement. They in turn devised a plan to rent the land to settlers that they hoped to recruit from England and to encourage such settlement they offered a guarantee that was not being offered in England, that of freedom of religion, freedom from persecution for religious beliefs, cheap land, and the right to manage their own affairs. Anyway, to make a long story short and without going into a lot of detail, their plan mostly failed at least with respect to encouraging new settlers from England. What did occur on the other hand, was that when Americans currently living in New England learned that they could move to a new territory where they would be totally free from Puritan control over their lives, many quickly made the long journey into a land that was soon to be known for its fertile soils and its attractive appearance.  

Some family historians write that William Compton moved for religious reasons and that he had become a Baptist and opposed to the ways of the Puritans. While we could not substantial that he was a Baptist, we did note that several of the other original settlers into New Jersey were Baptists including a man named Samuel Doty. Samuel Doty was the son of Edward Doty, one of the Mayflower passengers in 1620 and my 9th great grandfather. Whether or not William was a Baptist, he clearly expressed by his move to New Jersey that he, like his father before him, was very much against the way the Puritans had tried to control his and his family's way of life.

While are there are some fairly lengthy stories about the early history of Woodbridge, very little is mentioned in these writings of our William Compton which would lead us to believe that he was probably not a leader in his new community. William and Mary Compton are credited with giving birth to the first child born in Woodbridge, a daughter named Mary who was born in 1667. William in 1673 is recorded as having been one of the original 54 settlers who signed an Oath of Allegiance to the Dutch government who had briefly regained control over New Jersey.  Control was returned back to the British in 1674. The only other mention of our William Compton in the public records seems to be recordings of his land acquisitions, principally a patent he received for 174 acres in 1670. William and Mary are known to have had at least six children all born in Woodbridge including my 8th great grandfather, Jonathan Compton, who was born on the 18th day of December in 1674.

My great grandfather William Compton died in 1694. My great grandmother Mary Wilmot Compton died about 1713. The location of their burials is unknown although their oldest daughter, Mary, was buried in 1735 in a cemetery at the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Woodbridge and this graveyard is known to have been in existence before the death of her parents and as the sign at the cemetery reports, many of the original settlers were buried in this cemetery. In any case, their gravestones may have long ago crumbled away but their remains may still be there. We should be very proud of our great grandparents for having taken the risk of relocating such a great distance to a new wilderness location and then working hard under what were probably very difficult conditions to help build a new community and raise a family. These are certainly not the conditions that anyone of us today would want to face.

We know almost nothing about our 8th great grandfather, Jonathan Compton, other than a few basic statistics such as that he was born in Woodbridge on 18 Dec 1674 and that he was the fifth child and the third son of his parents. He married my great grandmother, Esther Martin, on 24 Sept 1701 and together they had seven children including my possible 7th great grandfather, Samuel Compton, who was born in 1705.  Jonathan and Esther spent their entire lives living in Woodbridge and it would not be surprising to learn that they during their lifetimes never left their township.  Jonathan was probably a farmer during his adult life, he undoubtedly served in the local militia as did all men in his community at the time, and other than finding his name mentioned several times in historical books noting that he inherited land from two of his brothers when they died, we really learned nothing about his life. His will was written in September of 1745 and when he died a few years later in 1747, his estate was reported to be worth 73.3 British pounds which was not much. It is possible of course, that he had provided for his children before his death. Esther who was nine years younger than her husband, is listed in a number of family trees on as having died on the same day as her husband. Whether this is accurate and how they may have died if it was actually together, is unknown although it is probably not accurate. Esther was mentioned in her husband's will and testament so we know that she was alive as of 1745 which means that the few family trees that show that she died a number of years before her husband are definitely wrong. Unfortunately we are just going to have to accept the fact that we will never know much about this generation of our Compton ancestry. One thing that we do know however, about the lives of our 8th Compton great grandparents is that during their lifetimes things changed enormously in New Jersey. When Jonathan Compton was born in 1674 the population of white people in New Jersey was around 2,000. When he died 73 years later the population had "exploded" to around 120,000 and homes, roads, farms, businesses, and churches were now everywhere, at least relatively speaking.

We also know very little about the life of my likely 7th great grandfather Samuel Compton. He was born and raised in Woodbridge and while the year of his marriage to my 7th great grandmother, Sarah Tharpe (Thorp) is very much in dispute, based on their birth years of 1705 and around 1710 respectively, a marriage year of 1730 seems realistic. Unfortunately there is a summary of records online of marriages in colonial New Jersey that lists their marriage date as 31 July 1753, however, based on the fact that in Samuel's will written in 1782 he lists all but one of his daughters as married, a 1753 marriage year would seem highly unlikely especially considering the fact that Samuel and Sarah Compton had at least seven children according Samuel's will and the first three were thought to be sons. Samuel and Sarah Compton spent most of their lives in Woodbridge in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Sometime late in their lives that relocated to Bernardsville in Somerset County located about 25 miles northwest of Woodbridge. According to Samuel's will, he left his former home in Woodbridge to his oldest son Ephraim Compton. Ephraim whom we believe was born in 1631, was very possibly the father of my 5th great grandmother, Anna Compton.

As we stated in the first paragraph, the exact family line between by 5th great grandmother, Anna Compton, and her ancestors is unknown although based on her birth location and her surname of course, it is obvious that she was a descendent of the above described early Compton settlers. Here is what we do know.  Anna Compton was born around 1756 in Middlesex County, New Jersey. It was here where she met and married my 5th great grandfather, Peter J. Harpending (1754-1840), and where together they had two sons, Samuel Harpending (1778-1852), my 4th great grandfather, and Peter Harpending Jr. (1780-1850). Anna died in 1780 undoubtedly due to complications from the birth of her second son. We know that their son Peter was obviously named after his father. We believe that it is possible that Samuel may have been named after his great grandfather (his mother's grandfather), but that is pure speculation. One other interesting connection is that Peter Harpending had a brother named Anderis (Andrew) Mention Harpending (1761-1831) who married a girl named Sarah Compton (1760-?) who might very well have been Anna's sister or perhaps her cousin or aunt although here again this is pure speculation. What is interesting is that Sarah and Anderis Compton named one of their daughters Anna which strongly suggests that the Anna and Sarah were closely related. Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly the parents of both Anna and Sarah have not been positively identified. Many of the family trees on show Sarah as a daughter of Samuel Compton (1705-1782) and Sarah Tharpe (Thorp) (1712-1783) but this is unlikely as Samuel would have been around 55 years old when Sarah was born and his wife would have been 48 to 50 years old. What is more realistic is that both Anna and Sarah are daughters of one of Samuel and Sarah Thorp Compton's sons, possibly a man named Ephraim. Here is where we stand at this point and hopefully maybe in the future the actual facts will be uncovered and we will have the privilege of revising this blog. If anyone reading this blog has the answer or even a possible answer as to the names of Anna's parents, please feel free to contact Charles Baker at

1st Generation              John Compton and Susannah Seade
2nd Generation            William Compton and Mary Wilmot
3rd Generation             Jonathan Compton and Esther Martin
4th Generation:            Samuel Compton and Sarah Thorp
5th Generation             Ephraim Compton and unknown
6th Generation:            Anna Compton and possibly Sarah

While some of the family trees on list the name of Anna's father as Ephraim Compton they do not connect this Ephraim in anyway to Samuel and Sarah Compton although Samuel and Sarah are known to have had a son who was named Ephraim. Unfortunately there is a lot of confusion as to the birth year of Ephraim, son of Samuel and Sarah as there is with all of their children. Despite the fact that Samuel was born in 1705 and Sarah in 1712, some of the family trees on as we previously mentioned show their marriage year as 1753 which if true, would be quite unusual especially for a first marriage in this period of history. Sarah would have been 41 years old when she married. In these trees, their son Ephraim is shown as born in 1754 which would mean that he could not possibly have been the father of either Anna or Sarah. Other family trees show that Samuel and Sarah were married in 1730 and Ephraim their first child was born in 1731. These dates are far more realistic and make it very possible that Ephraim Compton was indeed Anna's father. Unfortunately this Ephraim is totally lost in history with respect to whom he married and the names of his children.  Anyway, we will just have to be satisfied that we know the names of Anna's early Compton ancestors in America. As we previously mentioned, my great grandmother Anna Compton Harpending died at the very young age of only 24 years old in the year 1780. Her husband, Peter Harpending, was a militia soldier during the American Revolution and he may have been away from home more than he might of liked especially if he was absent just prior to Anna's death. In any case, Peter's military story is told in Chapter 15 of this blog where he is listed as Patriot #15 and the story of my Harpending ancestors is written in Chapter 9 of this blog.

For the record my own relationship to the Compton family is as follows:

Anna Compton (Abt 1756-1780) m Peter Harpending (1754-1840)
Samuel Harpending (1778-1852) m Hannah Cozad (1782-1880)
Asbury Harpending (1814-1853) m Mary Sayre (1818-1877)
Hannah Harpending (1842-1891) m Charles S. Baker (1835-1891)
Asbury H. Baker (1860-1933) m Helena Rappleye (1860-1944)
Charles S. Baker (1885-1952) m Helen Spaulding (1887-1937)
Charles A. Baker (1916-2000) m Marian Patterson (1916-1973)
Charles A. Baker Jr (1942- )
Anne R. Baker (1943- )
Joan P. Baker (1950- )  

Until our next chapter . . . .

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