Dover New Hampshire Preacher and Historian – Rev. Jeremiah "Jeremy" Belknap, D.D. (1744-1798)

Rev. Jeremy Belknap, best known for his carefully written history of New Hampshire

Likeness from: Life of Jeremy Belknap, D.D., The Historian of New Hampshire, collected and arrange by his granddaughter, 1847, New York: Harper and Brothers

Likeness from: Life of Jeremy Belknap, D.D., The Historian of New Hampshire, collected and arrange by his granddaughter, 1847, New York: Harper and Brothers

was the son of Joseph Belknap, born 4 June 1744 in Boston, Massachusetts.

He was a liberal Congregational minister and historian, and graduated from Boston Latin School, and Harvard University in 1762. He taught school in several places before he began the study of theology.  In 1767 he began his profession as a preacher in Dover New Hampshire at a Congregational Church, and bought a house.

On 5 June 1767 he was married (by Rev. Andrew Eliot) to Ruth Eliot in Boston, Suffolk Co., MA. He remained there twenty years. In 1787 he moved back to Boston as pastor of the Federal Street Church, (considered a liberal Congregational Church, and later an early Unitarian Universalist congregation) where he remained until his death.

During the American Revolution he was a member of the Dover, New Hampshire militia (1775), and was called to the Siege of Boston. He remained with that group as chaplain.

He researched and compiled a variety of books with great care and reliability for the time including the “History of New Hampshire (1784-1792), in which he compiled the first animal census for our state.  In 1792 he wrote “A Discourse Intended to Commemorate the Discovery of America by Columbus” about Christopher Columbus (possibly he was the first American do to so). He also wrote “American Biography.” In 1792 he wrote, “The Foresters, An American Tale.” In 1795 he wrote “Sacred Poetry.”   In 1794 he was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the first such society in the United States. William Cullen Bryant, the poet and editor, said that Belknap possessed “the high merit of being the first to make American history attractive.”

In January of 1785 Rev. Belknap received a letter from George Washington, thanking him for the receipt of the first volume of history of New Hampshire.

In 1784 he was elected to the American Philosophical Society, and in 1786 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1792 he was an overseer of Harvard College.

New Hampshire Historical Marker #51 honors Dr. Jeremy Belknap.  It is located on Route 16 in Dover, New Hampshire, at the Dover Point toll plaza in a service area just south of the plaza, adjacent to the northbound lanes of the Spaulding Turnpike.

A JEREMY BELKNAP PRIZE, by the gift of Philippe Belknap Marcou, of the Class of 1876, has been established at Harvard University. The prize is given for the best French composition written by a first-year undergraduate student. The competition is open to students who, at admission, have met the foreign language requirement in French, provided they have not had exceptional opportunities for acquiring the language. It is offered yearly.

Belknap County in New Hampshire, formed in 1842 from parts of Strafford and Grafton Counties was named after Rev. Jeremy Belknap.



Richard Beltoft alias Belknap, probably son of Henry Beltoft, of Sarbridgeworth Co, Herts, England; husbandman, buried at Sawbridgeworth 2 Dec 1599. His will, dated 20 Aug 1594, seems to show he held his land as a copyholder of the Manor, and that in 1594 he had only two children living, of whom Bennet was probably the elder. He married Elizabeth –, who was buried at Sawbridgeworth 17 Jan 1588/89.
Children of Richard & Elizabeth Beltoft:
1. +Bennet Beltoft.
2. Alice Beltoft, bapt at Sawbridgeworth 16 Sep 1561; m. 5 Oct 1578 Edward Lyndesell; died without issue.
3. Josias Beltoft, of Sawbridgeworth, bapt 6 Sep 1562; died abt 1599/1600 a widower; m. probably — Brown. No records of any children.

Bennet Beltoft, alias Belknap, of Sawbridgeworth, co Herts England; husbandman, the testator of 1623, buried at Sawbridgeworth 21 May 1624. He is mentioned in the will of his father Richard Beltoft, being named as sole executor of that will, and in the will of his brother, Josias Belknap, 28 Jan 1599/1600; and he proved the latter will as executor 6 Feb 1599/1600. He married at Sawbridgeworth, 25 May 1586, Grace Adam, possibly dau of Peter and Elizabeth Adam of Ware. She was buried at Sawbridgeworth 29 Oct 1630.
Children of Bennet & Grace (Adam) Beltoft:
1. +Abraham Beltoft, bapt 10 March 1589/90
2. Frances Beltoft, bapt 3 Jan 1590/1591; m. at Sawbridgeworth 19 Oct 1624 Edward Doucet.
3. John Beltoft, baptized 8 Apr 1593; buried at Sawbridgeworth 19 Oct 1655; m. Elizabeth –. Had issue, Grace, John, Elizabeth
4. Daniel Beltoft, baptized 2 Nov 1595; buried at Netteswell Co Essex England 19 Oct 1658; he married Barbara — and had issue, Daniel, Henry, Samuel and Barbara.
5. Josias Beltoft, baptized 12 Aug 1599 at Sawbridgeworth Co. Herts, England; buried there 3 Apr 1674. He married 2 May 1631 Anne Milles. His will was dated 29 March 1674 and proved 12 June 1674. Had issue, Josias, Mary, Daniel, John, James, and Grace.

Abraham Beltoft, alias Belknap, son of Bennet Beltoft, was baptized at Sawbridgeworth, County Herts, England 10 March 1589/90 and died at Lynn MA early in September 1643. The names of his parents are not given in the baptismal record, but his grandfather, Richard Beltoft, in his will of 20 Aug 1594 bequeaths 10s to “Abraham Beltofte sonne to Bennett Beltoft my Godchilde” and he is also mentioned in his father’s will of 14 Apr 1623. He married 28 Oct 1617 in Latton, Essex England to Mary Stallion, daughter of Thomas & Mary (Dalton) Stallion who survived him.  With his wife and children, Abraham Belknap emigrated to New England in 1635. In 1638 he received a grant of 40 acres of land at Lynn MA, his name appearing in the papers in the case of William Longley v. Henry Collings and John Hathorne, in behalf of the town of Lyn, 26 March 1661, among those who shared in the appointment of land in 1638. His will & inventory were written 6 Feb 1643-4. No will survives.  His inventory included a house and 5 acres of land, 2 acres of planting land, 2 acres of salt marsh, 6 acres of salt marsh at Fox Hill and 30 acres “at the village.” He also had animals, household  implements and furniture.
Children of Abraham & Mary (Stallion) Beltoft/Belknap:
1. Abraham Belknap, prob. son buried at Netteswell, Co. Essex England, 6 Dec 1620
2. Abraham Belknap, b. ca 1622; mentioned in the will of his grandfather Bennet Beltoft 14 Apr 1623, prob died young, although he may have gone to New England with his parents.
3. David Belknap, buried 2 March 1624/25
4. Immanuel “Samuel” Belknap, b. c 1627/1628, baptized 16 March 1627/28; m. bef 1653 to Sarah Jones, dau of Robert and Elizabeth of Hingham MA; seven children recorded. His son Abraham was the ancestor of many Belknaps in Framingham MA; more in NEGHS Register 68:196
5. Dorcas, baptized 7 Feb 1629/30, died young
6. +Joseph Belknap; b. c1630; baptized 12 May 1633; resided Boston MA
7. John Belknap, baptized 10 May 1635; d. prob without children. The only record of him is found in a deposition, sworn before Robert Bridges in March of 1655.
8. Hannah Belknap, b. abt 1639/40, d. 21 Nov 1679; m. 6 Dec 1663 Christopher Osgood. He b. 1643, son of Christopher and Margery (Fowler) of Ipswich MA, who m. three times after Hannah’s death. Six children.

Joseph Belknap, son of Abraham Belknap, settled in Boston MA, b. c1630, d. 14 Nov 1712 [one source says age 82], and was buried in the old burying ground adjoining King’s Chapel. He married 1st) bef 1657/58 Ruth Williams, dau of Nathaniel & Mary Williams of Boston. She b. 1638; he m2nd, bef 1668 to Lydia Ingalls, dau of Francis and Mary Ingalls of Lynn MA; He m3rd, bef 1670 to Hannah Meekins/Meakins, dau of Thomas & Sarah Meekings/Meekins/Meakins of Hatfield or Braintree MA. He was executor of the will of Richard Wooman of Lynn MA in 1746, was in Boston MA as early as 1658 when he was a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co., and was made a freeman in 1665. Three years later he was one of the founders of the Old South Church, and in that same year was dismissed to Hatfield MA. He bought land in Haverhill MA in 1682, but it does not appear that he ever lived there.  His will, dated Nov. 29, 1710, was proved Dec. 5, 1712, and recorded in Suffolk Co Registry of Deeds, Vol 18, pp 15 and 16. At the time of his death he was a resident of Boston. Twelve and possibly fifteen children, of whom four were by his first wife, one by his second wife, and seven were by his third wife. His sons, Joseph and Samuel Belknap were the executors named, with whom John Cole, writing master and Deacon John Marion were jointed, “to be helpful in settling the estate.”
Children of Joseph & Ruth (Williams) Belknap:
1. +Joseph Belknap, b. 26 Jan 1658
2. Mary Belknap, b. 25 Sep 1660; m. — Grafton
3. Nathaniel Belknap, b. 13 Aug 1663
4. Elizabeth Belknap, b. 1 July 1665; m. — Pattason
Child of Joseph & Lydia (Ingalls) Belknap:
5. Ruth Belknap, b. 27 Nov 1668
Children of Joseph & Hannah (Meekins) Belknap:
6. Thomas Belknap, b. 29 July 1670 in Boston MA; d. 15 March 1755 in Woburn MA; m. 6 March 1692/93 to Jane Cheney, dau of Thomas and Jane (Atkinson) Cheney. Their son Samuel Belknap, b. 21 May 1707, resided Woburn MA, then settled in Newburgh NY about 1755, and d. 1 Jan 1771, m. Lydia Stearns (b 21 Apr 1707, d. 8 May 1784). From this line descended Brigadier General William Worth Belknap, Secretary of War under President Grant.
7. John Belknap, b. 1 June 1672
8. Hannah Belknap, b. 8 June 1673
9. Ruth Belknap, b. 17 March 1676-77
10. Abigail Belknap, b. 27 June 1678-79
11. Abraham Belknap, b. 26 Apr 1681
12. Samuel Belknap, b. ?; named in his father’s will

Joseph Belknap, son of Joseph & Ruth Belknap, b. 26 Jan 1658; m1st, Deborah Fitch, dau of Jeremiah & Sarah (Chubbuck) Fitch of Boston. She b. 27 June 1665 and  d. 20 Apr 1687, aged 22. He married 2d, Abigail Buttolph, 1 Apr 1690. He died 30 March 1716, aged 58 and was buried in the burying ground near the common. He died of an apoplectic fit, as he was reading a newspaper in a coffee-house.  His will bears date Dec 2 1715, and was proved June 13, 1716.  In it mention is made of house and land in Boston, corn-mill and fulling-mill in Roxbury. His wife Abigail to have the use of the estate, the same to be divided equally after her decease to his children. She died 9 June 1734. Her will was made March 2, 1729, and proved June 18, 1734.
Children of Joseph & Deborah (Fitch) Belknap:
1. Mary Belknap, b. 24 Nov 1684, d. 9 Dec 1684
2. Joseph Belknap, b. 18 Nov 1685, d. 12 Feb 1714
3. +Jeremiah Belknap, b. 1 Jan 1686, m. Sarah Fosdick.
Children of Joseph & Abigail (Buttolph) Belknap:
4. Thomas Belknap, b. 24 Jan 1690, d. 6 March 1695 [gravestone]
5. Abigail Belknap, b. 29 Feb 1691; m. John Man
6. Mary Belknap, b. 15 Oct 1694; m. John Homer
7. Nicholas Belknap, b. 15 Oct 1695
8. Buttolph Belknap, b. 29 Dec 1697
9. Nathaniel Belknap, b. 18 Dec 1699; m. Rebecca Bailey, dau of John Bailey. Their dau Abigail m. Charles Willis, sailmaker.
10. Ruth Belknap, b. 2 March 1702, d. 2 June 1704 [gravestone]
11. Elizabeth Belknap, b. 13 Apr 1708; m. Benjamin Russell
12. Lydia Belknap, b. 17 Jan 1709; m. David Cutler
13. Abraham Belknap, b. ?; mentioned in his mother’s will

Jeremiah Belknap, son of Joseph & Deborah (Fitch) Belknap, b. 1 Jan 1686; was of Boston. Belknap Street named after him. He was married by Rev. Ebenezer Pemberton, 3 Nov 1709 to Sarah Fosdick. He d. in 1751 aged 65 years. She d. 12 Oct 1784, aged 69, buried Pine Hill Cemetery, Dover, Strafford Co NH
Children of Jeremiah & Sarah (Fosdick) Belknap:
1. Deborah Belknap, b. 31 March 1711; m. Samuel Webb
2. Sarah Belknap, b. 20 May 1713; m. Joseph Edwards
3. Mary Belknap, b. 9 May 1715
4. +Lieut. Joseph Belknap, b. 12 Feb 1716-1717; m. Sarah Byles
5. Hannah Belknap, b 19 Apr 1719
6. Jeremiah Belknap, b. 10 Feb 1720, ? m. Mary Rand
7. Rebecca Belknap, b. 18 Aug 1722
8. Elizabeth Belknap, b. 12 Apr 1725; m. Thomas Jackson
9. Abigail Belknap, b. 5 May 1727.

Lieut. Joseph Belknap, son of Jeremiah & Sarah (Fosdick) Belknap, b. 12 Feb 1717; married 30 July 1741 Sarah Byles, daughter of Josias & Abigail (Callender) Byles. She was also the great-granddau of of Increase Mather, and great-great-grand dau of orator John Cotton, and niece of Rev. Mather Byles, D.D., a brilliant prose writer, preacher poet and humorist of his day.  She b. 16 Jan 1715/1716; Lieut. Belknap was a leather dresser on Ann Street in Boston MA.
Children of Joseph & Sarah (Byles) Belknap:
1. +Rev. Jeremiah “Jeremy” Belknap, D.D., b. 4 June 1744 in Boston MA; m. Ruth Eliot; d. 20 June 1798 [see photograph, c1758]
2. Sarah Belknap, b. 1 Sep 1747
3. Abigail “Nabby” Belknap, b. 1 Sep 1750, d. 1815 in Dover NH, unmarried.
4. possibly others who died young

Rev. Jeremiah “Jeremy” Belknap, D.D., was b. 4 June 1744 in Boston MA; He died 20 June 1798 in Boston Massachusetts, of a paralytic affliction. He was originally buried at the Granary Burial Ground, later moved to Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge MA; On 5 June 1767 he was married (by Rev. Andrew Eliot) to Ruth Eliot in Boston, Suffolk Co MA. In 1833, the house in Dover NH where he wrote the History of New Hampshire was still standing on Silver Street, nearly opposite the jail (in 1833).
Children of Rev. Jeremy & Ruth (Eliot) Belknap:
[records from NEGHS Register 31:315, Baptisms in Dover NH]
1. Sarah Belknap, baptized 10 Apr 1768 (by Mr. Cushing) in Dover NH
2. Joseph Belknap, born 2 Dec 1769 in Dover NH
3. Samuel Belknap, b. 31 Dec 1771, recorded January 1772 Dover NH
4. Elizabeth Belknap, b. 3 Apr 1774 in Dover NH
5. John Belknap, b. 30 Dec 1776 in Dover NH
6. Andrew Eliot Belknap, b. 4 June 1779

See NEHGS Register 13:18 for more Belknap lines

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