“Autobiography of Major-General Daniel Denison,” communicated by Daniel Denison Slade, M.D., of Chestnut Hill, Mass. NEHGR 46:127-133 (April 1892)

The following document, written by Major-General Daniel Denison to his grandchildren, and lately found among the effects of the Rev. Daniel Rogers of Exeter, is of historical importance, in as much as it substantiates facts heretofore problematics, while is supplies knowledge upon points which were very uncertain or entirely wanting.
Heretofore we have been unable to state from what portion of England the family came, nor were we sure of the exact date of emigration. Denison states that his brother John and himself were bred scholars at Cambridge and that his father suddenly “unsettled” himself, recalled them from Cambridge and removed to New England; that his father brought with him a very good estate, settling himself at Roxbury. The General gives us the date of his marriage to Patience Dudley-- of which no previous record has been known to be in existence; and furnishes us many particulars in regard to kith and kin. There can be no doubt of the authenticity of the document, and its discovery is a happy circumstance.

To my Dear Grandchildren John, Daniel, and Martha Denison

That you being left fatherless Children might not be altogether ignorant of your ancestors, nor strangers to your near relations, I thought meet to acquaint you with your predecessors, and your decent from them.

Your Great Grandfather [William] Denison was born in England at Bishops Stratford in Hertfordshier, in which Town he Married and lived till the Year of our Lord 1631, with two brothers Edward and George, who all of them had Children. George the youngest Brother had a son named also George, my cousin German, who was living in Stratford in the year 1672 as your uncle Harlackenden Symonds told me, who was that year in England, and spoke with him., My uncle Edward had also Children and in the year 1631, removed himself and family into Ireland, where he died and left a son called John Denison who was a souldier and a Major of a Regiment in the time of the Wars, and Deputy Governor of Corke, where Mr. Wainwright saw him. [fn: Possibly George Denison who settled at Annisquam (Gloucester), Essex County, Mass. in 1725 and is said to have come from Dublin, Ireland, may have been a descendant. (See Baldwin and Clift’s Denison Record, page 345.).-- Editor]

I have received divers Letters from him, he was living in Dubline in the year 1670, your great Grandfather my Dear father whose name was William, had by my dear Mother whose name was Chandler six sons, and one Daughter, two of which (viz) one son and the Daughter died in their childhood, one son who was the second named William about 18 years of age would needs go a Souldier into Holland, in the year 1624 at the famous Seige of Breda when it was taken by Spinola and Count Mansfield had an army out of England, to have raised the seige, but the army miscarryed and my Brother William was never heard of since.

We were now but four Brothers left (viz.) John, Daniel, Edward and George. John and myself were bred schollars at Cambridge, where I continued till after I had taken my first Degree, your Grandfather my father, though well seated in Strategord, hearing of the then famous transplantation to New England, unsetled himself and recalling me from Cambridge removed himself and family in the year 1631 to New England, and brought over with him myself being about 19 years of age, and my two younger Brothers, Edward and George, leaving my eldest Brother John behind him in England, Marryed with a good portion, who was a minister, and lived about Pelham or in Hartfordshire, not far from Stratford where we were born.

My father brought with him into New England a very good Estate and settled himself at Roksbury, and there Lived (though somewhat weakning his Estate) till the year 1653 in January when he died, having buried my Mother about Eight years before.

My two brothers Edward and George (who were your great uncles) had all the Estate my father left between them, being both marryed long before my father’s death; my Brother George buried his first Wife in the year 1643, went to England, was a Souldier there above a year, was at the Battle of York or Marston Moor, where he did good service, was afterward taken Prisoner, but got free and having Married a second Wife he returned to New England, the year before our Mother died, and not long after removed himself to New London near whereunto (viz) at Stonington he now liveth, having 3 sons John, William and George, 4 or 5 daughters his eldest son John is Married, and hath Children which are your Cousens, and 3 of his Daughters are Marryed to Stanton, Palmer and Cheesebrook, all living at present in the same Town.

My brother Edward (your great uncle) also was Married about the same time with your uncle George about the beginning of the year 1641 and lived the rest of his Days at Rocksbury in the same House my father built lived and died in, he to my great grief and loss departed this life in April in the year 1669, and left behind him but one son William of about 5 years old having buried four sons in their Infancy, he left also five Daughters of which one was married in his lifetime to Jachin Reiner who liveth in Rowley.

I was the eldest of the 3 Brothers that were brought to New England, and the next year after arrival (viz.) in the year 1632, on the 1th day of October on which day twenty years before I was Baptized at Stratford, and 7 years before I was admitted into the university of Cambridge, I married your Grandmother, who was the second daughter of Mr. Thos. Dudley, who was a principal undertaker of this Plantation of the Massachusets and one of those first commers in the year 1630 that brought over the Patent, and settled the Government here he came over Deputy Governor, and was afterwards diverse times Governour, he then lived at Cambridge, removed to Ipswich, where he stayed but one year, being recalled again to live in the Bay, which then could not but want his help, he settled himself at Rocksbury, where he lived until he departed this life about the 30th day of July, in the year 1653 having buried your great Grandmother about 10 years before about the latter end of December 1643. She was a fine vertuous woman who loved your father in his childhood, and was born in her house she had by her Husband one son-- your great uncle Samll Dudley who liveth at Exeter, and by 3 wives hath had many Children, Cousen germans to your father. And beside your Grandmother Denison she had three Daughters (viz.) your Aunt Bradstreet (who died in September 1672 who left 4 sons and 3 Daughters living, beside her daughter Cotton who died before her, and left many children, then your Aunt Woodbridg now living at Newberry who hath five sons and five daughters living your fathers Cousen Germans as also were your aunt Bradstreets Children, the last was your aunt Sarah marryed to mr. Keane both dead long since, and left only one daughter Hannah, Married to Mr. Paige, and is now living at Boston. Your great Grandmother being dead, your sweet Grandfather Dudley married a second Wife and by her had a daughter marryed to Mr. Jonathan Wade, who liveth at Mistick, and two sons Joseph Dudley who now liveth at Rocksbury, in his fathers House and Paul Dudley a Merchant who is upon a voyage to Ireland, these were your fathers uncles by their fathers side.

For myself after I married to your Grandmother I lived about two years at Cambridge, and in the year 1635 I removed to Ipswich, where I have lived ever since with your Grandmother, we lived together without Children above 7 years till the sixteenth of January being Thursday your dear father was born at Rocksbury, whether your Grandmother went to lye in at her mothers, and two years and a quarter after your aunt Rogers was born at Ipswich, on the 10th day of April 1642 about nine years after your Grandmother had another Daughter named Mary, who died about a quarter old, and three years after we had another our last named Deborah who died within a fortnight.

In the year 1645 I was made Major of the Regiment of Essex, and in the year 1653 was chosen an Assistant or Magistrate and about a year after was made Major General and continued so for about 7 or eight years after.

In the year 1660 my only Daughter and your Aunt Elizabeth was Marryed to Mr. John Rogers who hath ever since lived at Ipswich, and hath now living five children, your Cousen Germans (viz.): Elizabeth, Margret, John, Daniel and Nathaniel. She had another Daughter named also Elisabeth that died about a year and quarter old.

Your Dear father my Dear and only son was Married to your Mother who was named Mrs. Martha Simonds on the 2d or 3d of february 1663, and lived at the farm at Ipswich the remainder of his days, being above four and twenty years of age when he Marryed and living sweetly and comfortably with your Mother near seven years, by whom he had 3 Children: John the eldest, born the 22d of September 1665, Martha born the first of March 1668 and Daniel born the 14th day of April 1671. But about 3 months before poor Daniel was born (viz) on the ninth of January 1670 it pleased the alwise God to take your dear father my dear and loving son to himself, thereby bereaving you and me of our greatest comfort and support he was taken with a most violent flux the first of January which held him nine days, with grievous torment, which he endured with admirable patience, committing himself to God, with assured confidence and took his last leave of me who was with him all the time of his sickness and of his loving Wife, and of his 2 children John and Martha, without any Preturbation, Blessing his Children and commending them to God the father Son and Holy Ghost and Committing that which was unborn to my care, at his death he was not one and thirty, but wanted six days about 15 hours, so early had he finished his Course and done his work, and if his work had then to have been done (as he then said) he had been Miserable but he had lived a Godly and exemplary life being a constant seeker of God. I have heard your Mother since say he used to pray five times a Day, a Dutiful Child a loving husband and father, a loving friend and a good man in all his ways, and he departed most Christian like, and comfortably to the unspeakable grief and loss of me and all his friends, about 3 months after his death was Daniel born at the farm whose name his father ordered before his death, desiring his wife if she were delivered of a son it might be called Daniel, and if a daughter it should be called Patience, after then name of your Grandmother, more of your fathers sickness and gracious speeches I committed to Writing and left them with your Grandmother.

And now dear Children though God hath taken away your dear and loving father, yet he hath not left you fatherless, but according to your dear fathers desire and Blessing Commanding you to God whom in his sickness he often called his Covenant God. Who is also your Covenant God and hath covenanted with every one of you in your Baptism, he hath been a father to you and mercifully provided for you and cared for you, when you could not care for not help your selves, as I shall acquaint you. And therefore dear children Let your chief care be as you grow to understanding to know the God of your fathers, and to save him with a perfect heart and the Blessing of God will be with you both in life and Death, according to the blessing and Prayers of your dear father and Godly Ancestors.

Your father had not a present Estate Settled on him, but upon his Marriage with your Mother, I ingaged to provide for him, and after mine and your Grandmothers decease to give him my Farm at Che[bacco] where you were all born and also a ffarm 600 acres at Merrimack River, and accordingly during his life he partaked of all that I had and we lived with great content and satisfaction, and what I engaged to him shall God willing be made good to you his Children, after your fathers decease I provided for you and your Mother above one ear, at the ffarm where you all lived. But it Pleased God so to order that we Should be further arted. For the beginning of April 1672, your Mother having married with Mr. Richard Martyne, went to live with him at Portsmouth, taking with her two Children, Daniel who then sucked and Martha, as I had contracted with them before that in Consideration of that Estate which your father left and your Mother had and Mr. Martine with her, which was neere 300L, they should bring up two Children and be bound to give 100L to Martha, when she comes to age or if she die before to Daniel and his Heirs, for which I Have Mr. Martyns Bond, and for some other Legacies in case your Mother dye before him.

For John he was to stay with me and his Grandmother, as he was to have done had his father lived to go to School. Thus you are quartered dear Children but yet through Gods goodness you are under there care that do tenderly love and will carefully provide for you, for which you will have cause to Bless God, That though you are bereaved of a loving father yet he hath not left you desolate.

Having given this account of your descent by the father side I shall acquaint you with some of your relations by your mothers side, hoping your mother who tenderly loves you will as she hath opportunity instruct you not only in that particular but in other things of greater moment and advantage.

Your Mother was the eldest daughter of Mr. Samuel Symonds, a Magistrate yet living in Ipswich, by his second wife who was the Widow of on Mr. Eps, by whom she had your uncle Eps living at Ipswich, who hath many Children all your cousens, She had also 2 daughters one Marryed to Mr. Chute, dead long since, another Marryed to Mr Duncan who lives at Glocester and hath many Children.

Your Grandfather Symonds had a wife before, by whom he had divers Children some dead and 3 yet living one daughter Marryed to Mr. Eps your uncle by your grandmother as his wife is by your Grandfather, also 2 sons Harlackeden now in England, and William that lives at Ipswich.

Your Grandfather had by your Grandmother one son, your uncle Samuel, who loved your father and Mother and dyed before your father at sea as he was returning from England, whether he went the year before, he was a hopeful young man, he had also 3 daughters your good mother, whose name was Martha, was the eldest, the 2d was Marryed to Mr. Emerson, Minister of Gloucester, where they live and have divers Children your Cousen Germans by the other side, his 3d daughter was Priscilla Marryed to Mr. Baker the same day your mother was Marryed to Mr. Martyne, they live at Topsfield.

Your Grandmother Symonds dyed about two years before your Mother was Marryed, she had a brother Colonel Read, a great souldier in the Civil Wars in England, and Governour of Sterling in Sotland, she had also two sisters that lived in New England, the eldest was your Aunt Lake who dyed in September last, and left a daughter named Martha, wife of Thomas Harris who hath many children, your cousens, her other Sister was Mrs Winthrop the wife of Mr. John Winthrop Governour of Conecticot, who is newly dead, at the writing hereof as the report is. She had two sons John and Wayte, and 4 or 5 Daughters on Marryed to Mr. Neuwman who lived and dyed at Wenham in September last, another Marryed at Salem to Mr. John Corwin all these are your Mothers Cousen Germans, and your Cousens and so are their children.

I have done as much as I intended by which Dear Children you may perceive you need not be ashamed of your progenitors, who have in many respects been eminent in their times. It behooves you that you take care to be imetators of their piety and goodness, and that you doe not degenerate from those Roots from whence you are sprunge, in so doing the blessing and Prayers of your Godly Ancestors will fall upon you, and the God of your fathers will be our Covenant God who only is able to bless you here and make you happy hereafter, which is and hath been the Continual Prayer of all your godly Ancestors and particularly of your tender and loving Grandfather who wrote this the 26th day of December in the year of our Lord 1672, in the sixtieth and one year of his age.