"A Funeral And A Wedding" in Colonial New Hampshire

A wealthy and influential man named John Wentworth lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  A lovely maid, his cousin Frances Deering Wentworth, fell in love with John.

John had graduated from Harvard, and a career was strongly on his mind.  And so to Frances’ dismay, he “went to England, no positive pledge of marriage passing between them.”

Yet another charming cousin, Theodore Atkinson Jr., took advantage of John Wentworth’s absence, and wooed fair Frances, winning her heart.  He proposed to her, and they married on 13 May 1762 when she was 16 years old. She sat for her portrait at the age of nineteen.

Alas, their happiness did not last long. After only a few years Theodore developed a “lingering illness,” and was expected to die.  Mrs. Atkinson’s former suitor had, in the meantime, returned to the Province of New Hampshire.  As now Governor of the colony, John Wentworth was even more prominent and influential than Atkinson.

The Wentworth and Atkinson families lived in houses within view of each other. If the ancient gossip is true, Frances had various methods of communicating to John how her husband’s health was faring, by hanging a handkerchief out of her window.

On 28 October 1769 Theodore Atkinson Jr. died.  Then the event that followed caused at least a few colonial jaws to drop.

On one day Theodore breathed his last. His burial took place on the following Wednesday; by the Governor’s order all the bells in town were toiled, flags were hung at half-mast, and minute-guns were fired from the fort and from the ships-of-war in the harbor.  On Sunday the weeping widow, clad in crapes, listened in church to the funeral eulogies; on Monday her affliction was mitigated; on Tuesday all the fingers of the seamstresses of the country roundabout were flying; and on the next Sunday, in the white satins and jewels and fardingales [hooped skirts] of a bride, she walked up the aisle the wife of Governor Wentworth.” [from New England Legends by Harriet E.P. Spofford, 1871]

Facts support the legend.  Governor John Wentworth indeed ordered an expression of colonial sympathy for the departed Theodore Atkinson Jr. that included a salute from the ship Beaver, then anchored in Portsmouth harbor.  And on 11 November 1769, thirteen days after the death of her husband, Mrs. Frances Atkinson became the wife of her cousin, Governor John Wentworth. They married in the same church from which her first husband had been buried.

A happy “Lady Wentworth” (as she was now often called), went to live in John’s nearby home.*  This building may be seen today on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth New Hampshire. (Theodore Atkinson’s home unfortunately was taken down years ago).

John Wentworth remained enamored of his wife. When the time came to approve the creation of new townships in New Hampshire, he named two of them specifically after her, i.e. Francestown and Deering “as an expression of his gratitude for her acceptance of his hand at the end of two sad, lonely weeks of widowhood.” [NEHGS Register 27:378]

The advent of the American Revolution insured that John was the last royal governor of the New Hampshire colony. After fleeing the country, Frances was appointed a lady-in-waiting at the court in England, and John was given the governorship of Nova Scotia as a reward for his loyalty.


*The Gov. John Wentworth House, also known as John Fisher House, is located at 346 Pleasant St. in Portsmouth, NH.  It is of the Georgian style, and is listed on National Register of Historic Places. Note that Gov. Wentworth had other homes in New Hampshire.

This article was written as a submission to the 33rd Edition of the CARNIVAL OF GENEALOGY, with the topic of “Family Wedding Stories & Traditions.” This Carnival will be posted on October 4, 2007 at the Creative Gene. (Note: as far as I know, I am not related to John or Frances Wentworth).

(Only to show the relationship
between the 3 “cousins” in this article

Elder William Wentworth, was one of the first settlers of Exeter New Hampshire, but removed to Dover New Hampshire where he became a ruler elder in the church there. In 1665 he was one of the selectmen of Dover. In 1689 he was instrumental in saving “Heard’s garrison.” He died at an advanced age in Dover in 1697 leaving many descendants. His wife was Elizabeth Kenny, and he had at least eight sons and perhaps more, and possibly daughters. Elder William possibly married 2nd, Elizabeth Knight, daughter of Ezekiel Knight of Wells Maine. Probably all children by his first wife.
Known children of Elder William Wentworth [not in order of birth]:
1. +Samuel Wentworth
2. Paul Wentworth, was of Dover NH and Newbury MA. He married and had 13 children. They removed to New London CT in June 1707 [more in NEHGS Register 4:326]
3. John Wentworth, appointed his father his attorney in 1673. Possibly the John Wentworth of Dover, with wife Martha, who died about 1719.
4. Gershom Wentworth, a member of the jury in 1677. His wife was Hannah, and his children John and Samuel who were living in 1730.
5. Benjamin Wentworth, died in 1728, and his wife Sarah administered his estate. His children were William, Sarah, Tamsin, Benjamin, Ebenezer, Susannah, Joseph, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Martha, Abra, and Mark [these children may be of another Benjamin, but they are entered as the children of Benjamin and Sarah Wentworth]
6. Sylvester/Sylvanus Wentworth, living in 1693; m. 7 Nov 1685 Elizabeth Stewart
7. Ezekiel Wentworth, in 1687 he was fined for not serving on a jury. In 1672 he was on the Dover NH tax list. He had at least 8 children.
8. Ephraim Wentworth, living in 1726; possibly the Ephraim Wentworth of Somersworth NH
9. Elizabeth Wentworth, b. abt 1653; she m1) James Sharp; m2d) Richard Tozer
10. Timothy Wentworth, b. abt 1655; m. Sarah Cromwell
11. Sarah Wentworth, prob. married Benjamin Barnard.  According to records, one Benjamin Barnard died in Watertown MA 12 Sep 1694 leaving widow Sarah and two children. Their “uncle, Paul Wentworth of Rowley,” was made guardian.

Samuel Wentworth, son of William Wentworth, born about 1641 at Portsmouth NH, died March 1690 of small-pox. Hotel keeper. Had a wife Mary. He was made a freeman in 1676.
Children of Samuel & Mary (?) Wentworth:
1. Samuel Wentworth, b. 9 Apr 1666; m. Hannah Wiggin, dau of Andrew Wiggin. She d. bef 1704. He died c1712. Children unknown; resided Boston MA
2. Parnel Wentworth, b. 21 Oct 1669; d. probably before her father, as she is not mentioned in his will.
3. +John Wentworth, b. 16 June 1672
4. Mary Wentworth, b. 5 Feb 1674, no more is known
5. Ebenezer Wentworth, b. 9 Apr 1677; supposed to be the Capt Eben Wentworth referred to in the Autobiography of Rev. John Barnard (MA Historical Collections, 3rd Series, Vol V, page 190) as commanding in 1707, the store-ship of 14 guns and 28 men, sent to reduce the fort at Port Royal (now Annapolis).
6. Dorothy Wentworth, b. 27 June 1680; married Henry Sherburne. He was Councilor of Portsmouth, born 1674 and d. 29 Dec 1757. Their children were Samuel, Mary, John (father of Judge John Sherburne and of Governor John Langdon’s wife) Ann (wife of Hon. Woodbury Langdon) and Dorothy (Gilman).
7. Benning Wentworth, b. 28 June 1682 and d. before his father before he was eight years old.

Lieut. Gov. John Wentworth, son of Samuel & Mary (?) Wentworth, b. 16 June 1672. Lieut. Governor of New Hampshire from 1717 to 1729. He died at Portsmouth NH 12 Dec 1730. He married Sarah Hunking, daughter of Mark Hunking, a councillor of the province. They had sixteen children.
Children of John & Sarah (Hunking) Wentworth:
1. Gov. Benning Wentworth, graduated at Cambridge 1715, was Governor of New Hampshire 1741 to 1766. By his first wife Anne Estwick of Boston he had his only child, John, who died childless 8 Nov 1759. He married 2nd) Abigail Vaughan or Ruck who d. 8 Nov 1755. He married 3rd) Martha Hilton, daughter of Richard Hilton, and had no children. After Benning’s death, Martha married Col. Michael Wentworth. [per NEHGS Register 7:304]
2. John Wentworth, of Portsmouth, graduated at Cambridge 1723; Judge of Probate 25 Sep 1765 until his death in November 1773. His wife was Sarah. Children were Hugh-Hall, Mary (who m. John Chapman), Rebecca (wife of Gillam Butler), and Sarah (wife of Gregory Purcell).
3. Hunking Wentworth, died 1784; was chairman of the Portsmouth Committee of Safety during the American Revolution. His wife was Margaret, and his children Elizabeth (who m. Samuel Warner), and Sarah (who married John Penhallow, and had children Hunking and Benjamin. John was clerk of the Common Pleas from 1742 to 1770).
4. William Wentworth, m. Margarey Pepperrell, the first Sir William Pepperrell’s sister, of Kittery ME, and they lived at both Portsmouth and Kittery. Children were William and Andrew Pepperrell (Both died at sea, single gentlemen), John, Samuel-Solly, Hannah, Abigail, and Margarey Pepperrell.
5. **Samuel Wentworth of Boston MA, graduated at Cambridge in 1728. He married 17 Oct 1732 to Elizabeth Deering. Their daughter Frances Deering Wentworth, b. 30 Sep 1745 who married 1st) her cousin, Theodore Atkinson Jr., on 13 May 1762. Another daughter Mary married General George Brinley. Lady Frances Wentworth died at their residence. Their son Benning married in England to Anne Bird and died in Halifax 1808. Other daughters were Sarah and Elizabeth.
6. **Mark Hunking Wentworth, councillor of New Hampshire, died 27 December 1785. His wife was Elizabeth Rindge.  Their three children were: Gov. John Wentworth, a graduate of Cambridge 1755 who married his cousin Mrs. Atkinson, dau of Samuel Wentworth of Boston. They had but one child, Sir Charles Mary Wentworth, who died single at Kingsand, Davenport, England in April 1845); Thomas (a graduate at Cambridge 1753 and d. 1768 who m. Anne Tasker, dau of John Tasker of Marblehead MA); and Anna (wife of John Fisher, Royal Naval officer at Portsomuth who with his family left NH with Gov Wentworth to England and was made Secretary to Lord George Germaine).
7. Ebenezer Wentworth, merchant at Portsmouth NH; died Feb/March 1757. Wife Mary and only child Rebecca, who married her cousin, George, son of Daniel Wentworth.
8. Capt. Daniel Wentworth whose wife was Elizabeth. He d. age 26 leaving two sons, Col. Joshua and Capt. George Wentworth.
9. George Wentworth
10. **Hannah Wentworth, m. Samuel Plaisted of Berwick Maine, and after his death, married Hon. Theodore Atkinson Sr. He was a graduate of Cambridge in 1718, clerk of the court of Common Pleas, Colonel, Collector of the Port of Portsmouth, Sheriff, Councillor, Secretary of the Colony, and Judge of the Superior Court. He was b. 20 Dec 1697 in New Castle NH and d. 22 Sep 1791, aged 82 years. His only known child was Theodore Atkinson Jr., the first husband of Frances Deering Wentworth, who married 2nd) Governor John Wentworth.
11. Sarah Wentworth, married Archibald McPhedris, Councilor in 1722 and later married George Jeffrey. He graduated from Cambridge in 1736, was clerk of the Superior Court, Councilor, Provincial Treasurer; he died at Portsmouth NH 1802, aged 86 years.
12. Mary Wentworth, married — Nelson of Boston, and married 2nd) John Steele
13. Elizabeth Wentworth, married — Loud
14. Rebecca Wentworth, married Thomas Packer. He was sheriff of New Hampshire from 1741 to his death 22 June 1771.

1. “Notes on the Wentworth Family,” NEHGS Register 4:321 or “A genealogical and biographical account of the descendants of Elder William Wentworth, etc.,” Boston, S.G. Drake, 1850, via HeritageQuest
2. NEHGS Register: 4:325-330
3. The Wentworth genealogy, by John Wentworth, Boston MA, Press of A. Mudge & Son, 1870, page 59 et al.
4. History of Francestown, New Hampshire
5. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Colonial Portaits, by NY Metropolitan Museum of Art

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