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William Hewett (1749-1826)

From The Biography Of William Hewett (1749-1826) and His Descendants
A Genealogy Compiled by Evelyn Hewett, 407 pages
East Canton, OH, 1992

"One day in England when the King's Guard, a picked company, was having a contest on lifting a large rock, all failed...William Hewett, who was standing with his company, told his captain that he thought he could lift it, so they allowed him to try. He succeeded. The Hewetts always have been noted for courage, strength, and agility, as well as nobility of character."

William's parents would never know of his accomplishment because his father, John, died before William's birth in December 1749, and his mother, Hannah, died a few weeks after his birth. His father had a public inn or tavern called the "Ram's Head" (or possibly "Lion's Head") in Warrington, Lancashire. This is where William was born as well as his four brothers: Thomas, Joseph, John, and Edward, none of whom came to America. Being an orphan he went to live with an uncle, a brother of his father, who kept him until about age fourteen. He was then apprenticed to a weaver until eighteen. Because he was unhappy there, and/or because he was the youngest son, he enlisted as a private in the British Army in 1769. One descendant wrote that he was sent to Scotland where he remained until about the year 1773. His grandson, James Henry Hobbs Hewett, however, wrote that William served eight years in the King's Guard in London. He came to America early in 1775, probably Boston, with Cornwallis as a noncommissioned officer under Sir William Howe to help subdue the colonial rebels.

Sometime later in 1775 "William and an old comrade took a vacation without a pass in the nighttime, and they did not return to answer to their names at roll call. They were unacquainted with the surrounding country, never having been out of Boston, but by traveling at night and resting in the daytime they made their escape. They met a Quaker, who saluted them by swinging his hat, took them to his home and fed them, and after exchanging Quaker suits with them for their English uniforms, and giving directions how to keep clear of spies and Tories, he wished them a safe journey. The fugitives had but little to fear of being detected in their new suits for, to use an expression common with him 'I say for't I hardly knew myself.'" (There are two possible reasons for the desertion, one, that their sympathies lay with the colonists and second, that they had been poorly treated on the boat.)

Guided by the North Star they made their way to New Ipswich, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire where they hired out to work on a farm. (In 1775 William owned vacant land there in South Range III #2, south of the Old Burying Ground.) Here he met the Benjamin King family that included a daughter he would later marry. When men were called to enlist as patriot volunteers, William became a drill master as an orderly sergeant. In a 1818 letter to the government he stated that he "enlisted on 7 March 1777 in the Army of the American Revolutionary War on the Continental establishment in the New Hampshire line, under Capt. Farrell in Colonel Joseph Cilly's (Gilley?) Regiment." Eventually he went to the front and was in many battles such as the Battle of Stillwater (October, 1777) and Monmouth, as well as witnessing the surrender of Burgoyne. "As he stood with arms presented and the captives marched out without arms to the tune of Yankee Doodle, he recognized some of his old officers and comrades, and he used to say, 'I say for't, I felt bad for them...'" His name appears on wage lists at Valley Forge in 1778. For some time after the Battle of Monmouth he was sergeant in the body guard of Washington.

At the close of the war in 1781, he received an honorable discharge signed by George Washington, was paid off in Continental money worth about 5 cents on the dollar, and was honored with the Badge of Merit. A letter written by his grandson, James Henry Hobbs Hewett, to F. Ben Davis June 15, 1896 states "His discharge, much to the regret of his descendants, was not treasured and preserved in his family so that we are not able to find it, though both my father and my uncles while living were positive that he had it, and declared that they had seen and read it. But it is feared that prior to the time when the document assumed any great importance in the estimation of its possessor, some curiosity or autograph hunter with a view to its prospective value, obtained it at a small price."

Also fighting in the Revolutionary War was Benjamin King (1722-1777) who had moved to the New Ipswich area about 1752 where he was the first settler on lot 34. Benjamin was in Capt. Ezra Towne's company at Bunker Hill. After 1777 his residence is unknown and it is thought that he was killed in the war. His wife was Sarah (or Susan) Taylor of Townsend, Massachusetts and they had eight children. One of them, Sarah, married William on February 27, 1781. He used to say he came to America and married the daughter of a king. They heard about land being settled in Maine (part of Massachusetts at that time) so with their infant son, William Jr., they boarded a vessel in 1786 and sailed from Boston with Capt. Robert Thorndike and landed at Rockport Harbour (Goose River as it was then called), near Peter Ott's inn and tavern. Traveling by a line of spotted trees for six miles they cane to an area being settled by Charles Barrett.

Charles Barrett and his agent Samuel Appleton, both from New Ipswich, New Hampshire, were laying out a new town above Camden to be called Hope. "Barrett promised 100 acres for building a cabin and clearing three acres with the option of buying the remaining additional sixty-eight acres of the lot as laid out. This was an attractive offer considering the scarcity of money following the war... The winter of 1785-6 when Barrett was laying his plans for the settlement of Hope, was remarkable for its severity. The snow was so deep and hardcrusted that wolves were able to roam at will... The fall of 1786 was so dry that mills could not run."

These were the rather bleak conditions as William and Sarah Hewett arrived to take up Barrett's offer in September 1786 about the second family to settle in this part of the town. He lived long enough to see the town well settled with prosperous farmers. He took lot #98 in the southwest part of Barrettstown (Hope's early name) for which he received a deed three years later on April 10, 1789, for 168 acres more or less for 5 shillings. This land was located about a mile SSE of "Barrett's Town" (Hope would be a mile SSE of "Barrett's Town" (Hope would be incorporated in 1804). About 1823 Rev. Lemuel Rich, an ordained Baptist minister, settled on a field near William Hewett resulting in the Hewett land later becoming known as the Lemuel Rich farm. In 1988 the only descendant still residing in the area was Clifton Robbins who lived on this land, pointing out to visitors a depression in the field below his house where William is said to have built his log cabin. It is along the present road called Robbins Road.

William and Sarah had seven children, the third one, Samuel, being the first white male child born in Hope. All seven births were recorded in the Hewett family Bible. Their first child died in infancy, hence the six--not seven--chapters in this book. A copy of part of the page is in the National Archives, and reproduced in the back of this book. All six children lived to be over seventy and four of them above eighty. William pursued the weaver's trade for which he had apprenticed as a youth.

In 1795 many citizens of Barrettstown signed a petition to the Senate and House of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, stating that there were over fifty families settled and, therefore, they wanted the advantage of "a publick school...and the benefits of publick roads". The signature of "Willies Hewitt" can be found among the petitioners. For an unknown reason the petition was turned down. In 1804, over 74 families lived in Hope and the need for schools and roads had increased so another petition was attempted and the town of Hope was successfully incorporated in May 1804. This petition was signed by "William Hewitt" and his nineteen-year old son, "William Hewitt Jun". About this time Micah Hobbs bought a 60 acre portion from William Hewett's lot #98 for $400. Between 1801 and 1811 William sold sections of his land to four different people until by 1820 he owned no land. No reason has been found for his disposing of all his land.

On March 18, 1818 Congress passed an act to provide pensions and land bounties for Revolutionary soldiers. So in April 1818 William wrote a letter requesting the pension. "In addition to establish my claim to the land bounty...I declare that the reason of my reduced circumstance in my old age (being sixty-eight years old) I stand in need of assistance from my country for support." On July 12, 1820 (to prove his need) William lists his personal estate as "No land (he had transferred Lot #98 to Lemuel Rich), Furniture - 2 table 6 chairs 1 iron pot 1 teakettle and other articles for cooking $10. I owe two small notes of $5 each. I have nothing owing to me. By occupation I am a weaver or labourer which I am unable to pursue by reason of age, am so feble (sic) I cannot do any thing but make brooms and baskets." He then lists his family as Sarah 66 years, with the comment "my wife has been very weakly for several years.") He received a pension of $8 per month. William died April 11, 1826 after residing in Hope for forty years and is buried in the Hope Grove cemetery along with his wife. His gravestone reads "WILLIAM HEWETT d. April 11, 1826 aet 76 years". His wife's reads "SARAH HEWETT d. Aug. 25, 1837 aet 83 yrs". In 1870 as far as ascertained, there had been 64 grandchildren with 57 living to adulthood, and 461 descendants, with 47 of them serving as soldiers in the Civil War.

On July 4, 1836 Congress passed another Act regarding pensions which would benefit the widows. So on March 15, 1837 Judge Johnson was called to Sarah's residence, "the said Sarah being unable to attend at the courtroom by reason of bodily infirmity", to make a declaration in order to obtain these benefits for her. These benefits were given on 10 July 1839 (after her death!) amounting to $640, arrears to the 4th of March 1831.

From a newspaper article reporting on the Hewett reunion commemorating the 100th anniversary of William Hewett's arrival in Hope we read: "On September 1, 1886 the descendants of William Hewett assembled in large numbers at the residence of Simon C. Hewett of Hope...There were many features of interest connected with this reunion, some of which are as follows: there was the identical table brought here a century ago by the venerable patriarch, upon which were various kinds of dishes as old as the table itself, among which was one much older, viz, a pewter platter brought across the Atlantic by Miles Standish in the Mayflower. Such reunions are grand educators, and the more they become the custom the better it will be for all who attend." Amen! [Author's exclamation]