Christopher Columbus Denny.

Genealogy of the Denny family in England and America : descendants of John Denny of Combs, Suffolk, England in 1439 online

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Online LibraryChristopher Columbus DennyGenealogy of the Denny family in England and America : descendants of John Denny of Combs, Suffolk, England in 1439 → online text (page 1 of 20)
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My brother, Joseph A. Denny of Leicester, Mass., died
early in the year of 1875. He had long manifested a deep
interest in the history of his ancestors, and had from time
to time, as he had opportunity, collected statistics of
names, dates of birth, &c, of all the different branches of
his father's family with whom he had intercourse. Mrs.
Grace Denny's letters to her son Daniel, written from her
home in England, which had come into his possession,
induced him to pursue his investigations the other side of
the Atlantic, and having ascertained that the name was
still known there, he visited England in the summer of
1874 for the purpose of obtaining all the information he
could in regard to the Denny family. Previous to this
time nothing was known in this country of the ancestry of
Daniel Denny, who was the first to emigrate to America,
except what was revealed in the letters of Mrs. Grace,
above referred to.

He visited the old homestead in Combs, and found it
still in the possession of the descendants of Denny, whose
ancestors owned and occupied it more than four hundred
years before. The result of this visit was the unearthing
from old tin trunks and boxes, wills, deeds and other
documents, that brought to light what was before unknown
to any then living, the history of the family for four


He returned home in the autumn, feeling well paid by
the suecess of the trip, and intending, no doubt, to arrange
the information thus obtained in .shape for publication, but
before he had taken any steps in that direction he was
railed from his earthly labors.

After his death, in looking over his papers, I found in a
drawer in his office many statistics which he had been
gathering for years, names, dates of birth, marriages,
deaths, &c, written on pieces of paper, on backs of letters,
margins of old newspapers, or whatever he happened to
find in his pockets at the time of obtaining the information.
These were thrown in promiscuously, lying loose in the
drawer in no order of classification. My first thought was
that all the labor of collecting and preserving this material
would be lost, as there seemed to be no one to take up the
work and continue it from where he left it. In order to
save these valuable papers from such a disastrous fate, I
finally decided to try and complete the work, and with
that end in view I have been for the last ten years
collecting facts, dates and items of interest relating to the
family, and now conclude to put them in shape that I hope
may be useful by giving to those interested a knowledge
of their ancestors that otherwise they might never obtain.
In doing this I have had many difficulties to encounter.
Seattered, as the descendants were, all over the United
States, I have written to postmasters and town clerks,
often without obtaining any clue to the subjects of my
inquiry, and sometimes being successful where I least
expected. If I could have foreseen the amount of labor
and research it required I should never have undertaken it.
I am aware that the record is still very imperfect, and


doubtless many errors may be found, but such as it is I
dedicate it to the Kith and Kin in England and America.


I hereby tender my sincere thanks to all those who have
aided me by furnishing material for the different branches
of the family, as well as in other ways, and especially am
I indebted to my son, Parkman T. Denny, for his valuable
services and aid, in preparing these pages for the press. If
the knowledge of ancestry herein contained should prove
useful to those who may read it, I shall feel that my labor
has not been wholly in vain.

C. C. Denny.

September, 1886.




Condensed from an account compiled from documents in the pos-
session of Thomas Reeve Denny, Cedar House, Lavender Hill, Wands-
worth, Surrey, England. A great part of the account by Thomas R.
Denny (written in 1874), is a repetition of what will appear in its
proper place in this book, and is therefore omitted here. Some addi-
tions are made from Washburn's History of Leicester.

The earliest record at present to be found is a document
dated May 28, 1450 (28th Henry VI.), whereby John
Denny gives to William Denny, his son, a tenement and
land and appurtenances in Combs, which were "lately held
by the gift, grant, and charter of confirmation of Thomas
Rygge and Andrew Cooke as by the charter thereof to me,"
&c, dated at Combs, on the " Tuesday next after the feast
of the Blessed Trinity" in the 17th year of King Henry
VI., 1439.*

1473. In this year the holding in the parish was increased
by the purchase of two tenements, one piece of pasture, and
one piece of land of Rauff Jurdon and Katherine his wife,
by Robert Denny, of Little Stoneham, Suffolk, for the
sum of fifty pounds. This land, not being described by
name, or the boundaries given, has not at present been
recognized, but it seems to be all the holding of Rauff and
Katherine in the town of Combs, as they make over all
their other lands, tenements, &c, free land and copy land,

*For copies of various Deeds, Letters, and Wills the reader is referred to
subsequent pages of this work.


lying in the said town. Unless this Robert Denny rented
more hind in the neighborhood he would probably con-
sume in his own family nearly the whole of the produce
of this holding, leaving him perhaps small quantities of
cheese, butter, eggs, poultry, &c, to sell at the neighbor-
ing town of Stowmarket. That he and the family at that
time did not progress very rapidly we may believe from
the absence of any land purchases for a long period after
this date. The document from which these particulars
have been taken, besides being one of the oldest, is one of
the most interesting in the collection, both from its beauti-
ful preservation, and the splendid specimen it affords of old
English penmanship. It should set at rest any question
of the spelling of the surname in any of the subsequent
documents, for it is here written several times and very
distinctly, Denny, but the parish name is spelled Combes.

1553. A document dated this year admits Martin
Bushehow as tenant of the Manor of Combs Hall, in place
of Robert Sowgate. As the lands mentioned afterwards
came into the Denny family, and the names are recognizable
at the present day, it makes the document interesting. In
it occurs for the first time the name of Sowgate (now
Southgate), which was for centuries afterwards mixed up
with the Dennys, the latter having on several occasions
bought real estate of the former. The writings confirming
the purchase of the above lands are not forthcoming, nor
is there anything to show that the family for very many
years increased their possessions in the parish.

1590. In this year Edmund Denny bought land of
William Brooke, but no price is mentioned in the deed.
Brooke obtained the land of Robert Snellinge, of " Gipwico"
(Ipswich). It appears to have been copy-hold land, and
was an odd bit lying in the midst of land held by Edmund

1601. On the second day of May, Mr. Edmund Denny,
of Wattysham, yeoman, gives to his son Edmund Denny,


Jr., on his marriage with Agnes Castard, of Battysford, a
tenement and lands in Combs. Edmund Denny, Sr., must
have removed from Wattysham to Combs soon after, as he
died there in 1607, and left the remainder of his land in
Combs to the above named son Edmund.

1607, April 10. On this date we have the will of the
above named Edmund Denny, Sr., who in the beginning
of the document wills that his "body shall be buried in the
churchyard of Combes," and on the day of his burial that
" 6 shillings 8 pence shall be given to the poor of the parish"
as his executors may direct. Also to his brother Robert
£10, and to Robert's daughters 40s. ; to Mary 26 / 8 ; to his
son John £10 ; to the children of his daughter Johan, viz. :
Thomas Wade, Ann Wade, and Mary Wade, 20s. each.
To his nephews Samuel Nickols and George Nickols, £4
each ; to his wife Johan, all his movable goods whatsoever
and wheresoever, both within and without the house. To
Edmund, his son, all his land and tenements, both free and
bond, he to be his sole executor, and Johan his wife and
William Sparrow, of Wattysham, to be his executors in
case Edmund should not act.

1623, May 13. On a succeeding page of this work will
be found a copy of a document bearing this date. It is
noticed because the land afterwards came into the family,
which accounts as in other cases for the documents being
found with these.

1627, August 23, Edmund Denny, of Combs, charged his
estate with the sum of £6 per annum in favor of Dorothee
Moore, daughter of John Moore, of Rattlesden, Suffolk,
whom he is about to marry, the money to be paid after his
decease, yearly. This Edmund Denny appears to be the
son of Edmund Denny and Agnes Castard, who were
married on or about May 2, 1601. The absence from the
papers of this man's father's will leaves us in doubt as to
what possessions he came into from his father. He very
likely, as a young man, farmed land at Ringshall, as in a


purchase of land of Mr. Beamish, he is described us yeo-
man of that place (1639), and again in a purchase from John
Sowgate in 1652. Wife Dorothee appears to have died
early in life, leaving him with one son, Edmund. The
mother brought a handsome jointure in land to her husband,
which, after the father, her son inherited. Of the descend-
ants of Edmund Denny and Dorothee no further trace has
been found. Edmund speaks in his will of his "loving
brother-in-law, John Syer," so that it is likely that for his
second wife he took Susan Syer, by whom he left issue,
viz. : Thomas, John, Samuel, Susan and Deborah. He
appears to have been a most successful man, and is the first
to sign his name, his predecessors making a mark only.
In 1639 he bought some land of Joseph Beamis, and in
1652, March 7, he bought of John Sowgate, of Battisford,
cordwainer, for £18 a piece of land lying in Combs and
containing two acres.

1672, February 10. On this date Edmund Denny
makes over to Thomas, his eldest son by his second wife,
a small parcel of land called "Church Close," containing
five acres. It is possible he may have rented some other
land besides this, with a house, on this his commencment
of business. One of the witnesses to this deed of gift is
John Denny, whose signature is an excellent specimen of
penmanship, showing that with their increasing prosperity
they were paying some attention to the education of the
children. January 20, 1681. Edmund Denny makes over
to John, his second son by his second wife, two fields of
copy-hold land called "Quicksands;" also Glossons, Neth-
erfield, and Francis Meadow bought of Joseph Cooke, of
Hentlesham, and containing about seven acres. But this
young man did not live long to enjoy his possession, for his
will is dated January 4, 1684, and he probably died soon
after, as there is a receipt for legacy paid in 1685, and from
the tone of it, it would seem that he was engaged to Kebecka
Clough, as the following bequest was made : "I give unto


my ever honored and above all dearest friend Rebecka
Clough the sum of Forty pounds to be paid to her at her
Father's now dwelling house in Combs within half a year
next after my decease." Also : "I give unto the child of
Thomas Granger born of the body of Deborah my sister,
six pounds." "I make and ordain my two most dear
sisters Executrices to this my will, to whom I give all
my land, houses, goods, & chattels whatsoever, by name
Deborah the wife of William Purcas and Susan the wife of
Ralph Waller to be equally divided between them and to
their heirs forever."

1681. Edmund Denny the elder it appears died in this
year, and his will was proved October 21. He left to his
eldest son Edmund, by his first wife, the jointure she
brought his father, and a piece of land called "Quick-
sands," bought in 1639 of Joseph Beamis. A portion of
the jointure, "Moats tie," was given to Samuel, probably
to rectify some of the boundaries, in exchange for "Quick-
sands." The total willed to the four sons is 101 acres,
2 roods, besides houses.

Oct. 23, 1685. On this date Thomas Denny paid to
Ralph Waller, worsted weaver, "the sum of three-score and
fifteen pounds " which had been bequeathed to Susanna
Denny by her father Edmund Denny, the said Ralph
havino; married her. She was described in her brother's
will dated 1725 as widow, and he left her £2 yearly to be
paid by his nephew Thomas, who inherited his land.

Edmund, eldest son of Edmund Denny, probably died
young, as the land described in his father's will came down
to his next brother Thomas.

Thomas, second son of Edmund Denny, succeeded his
father in the farm, which, although divided among the four
brothers, nearly all reverted back to him or to his son
Thomas, for none of the others left male heirs so far as can
be discovered. Thomas married about 1686 Miss Grace
Cooke, supposed of Hintlesham, and left five sons and two


daughters. He started in the worsted weaving business
and prospered fairly in life. His sons' and daughters'
signatures to various documents betoken for the time an
excellent education. The good and estimable lady, their
mother, well educated herself, and such a proficient letter-
writer, would scarcely fail to educate her children both in
religious and secular matters to the very utmost extent of
their means, and appeared to have been very happy in her
children, writing of them later in life in affectionate terms,
and ending her days with one of her daughters and her
husband, and holding up to them the example of their
father's life. Thomas died in 1717, but Mrs. Grace
Denny survived until 1741, and is believed to have died
at Old Newton, Suffolk, and was buried at Combs.

Edmund,* eldest son of Thomas and Grace Cooke Denny,
does not appear to have followed his father's occupation
of worsted weaver, and as he was left a life interest only in
his land by his father, he seems not to have taken kindly
to business. His wife Muriel died Dec. 6, 1731, and he
survived her but a few days, dying Dec. 18, 1731. These
dates are probably the dates of burial. Edmund's two
daughters, Grace and Susannah, both married men by
the name of Francis. Grace had no family, and married
secondly, Mr. Cockrell, and on the 20th of January, 1794,
was living at Southend, Lewisham, Kent. Susannah died
a widow before this date and left a son, Edmund Denny
Francis, baptized at Combs, Feb. 14, 1730, who had a son
named Thomas, a glazier of Hammersmith. These three
persons, Mrs. Cockrell, Edmund and Thomas Francis,
with Jane, wife of Edmund Francis, baker of Southend,
sold, Jan. 20, 1794, to Jonathan Denny, of Woodbridge,
son of Mrs. Cockrell's cousin Thomas, the land that
Thomas Denny left to his son Edmund. Mrs. Cockrell
and Edmund Denny Francis sign with a mark.

* Edmund Denny, son of Thomas and Grace Denny, is called William in
Mrs. Denny's letters to her son Daniel.


Thomas, second son of Thomas and Grace Denny, car-
ried on the business of tanner at Combs, in which his
father had started him before his death, but in 1748 he
had removed to Ipswich, where he carried on the same
trade, leaving the Combs business to his eldest son. From
a record in Combs church it seems he lost his wife Rachael
in 1719, but there is nothing to show what her maiden
name was, or that he ever married again.* He died in
1772, and left three sons and one daughter. From the
numerous mortgages and bonds that are found with his
signature, it might be supposed that he was not a very
successful man, although he added some acres to the family

Samuel, third son of Thomas and Grace Denny, was born
in 1689, and held some land in partnership with his father
at Combs, but in 1717, with his sister Deborah, followed
his brother Daniel to America. Daniel went there in 1715.
A Mr. Robinson and wife accompanied him, from the same
parish, and they sailed from the port of Hull, arriving
in Boston July 20. They settled in partnership at the
mouth of the Kennebec river on an island named Arrow-
sick, obtaining the title to the island from Gov. Hutchin-
son, then Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Soon after their settlement on the island, they built a
garrison, which was constructed of stone and brick. The
bricks used in the construction of this fortress were obtained
from Holland. Having completed this work of defence,
they built a windmill to grind corn, which was the first and
only grist-mill of the kind built in those times in that
section of the country, and the people came there from
great distances to get their corn ground. But their princi-
pal avocation was the salmon and other fisheries, as well as
fowling, which they pursued with great success. After the
decease of Mr. Robinson, Samuel married his widow, and
carried on the business as before. On August 15, 1751,

*See No. 20, page 79, where the name of a second wife is given.


In- married secondly, Mrs. Rachael Loring, who was horn
in Hull, Plymouth Co., Mass., Oct. 25, 1717. "She was
a person much esteemed for her amiable disposition and
agreeable manners, and shone conspicuous for her charity,
benevolence and piety." This description of Mrs. Rachael
Denny is copied from the old family Bible of Samuel
Denny, still in the possession of the family of Denny
McCobb, of Bath, Maine. They were married at North
Yarmouth, by the Rev. Nicholas Lpring, and a year after-
wards the wife died, leaving a daughter Rachael. Soon
after this Samuel was appointed surveyor of the district of
Maine, which office he held till 1759, when he was appointed
Major and Aide-de-Camp to Gen. Wolfe, who commenced
the far-famed siege of Quebec, and fought by the side of
the general on the plains of Abraham. After the provin-
cial war he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of
Common Pleas, and President of the Court of Sessions for
Lincoln County, w r hich comprised all that section of coun-
try east of Cumberland County. He continued in this
office until the time of his death, June 2, 1772. His
character was eminent for piety, justice and charity, as a
christian and a statesman. He was a kind husband, tender
parent and firm friend, and left the world with a good hope
behind him that he has gone to be partaker of that bliss
which God has laid up for his children. He was a man of
strong mind, and an intelligent and well educated gentle-
man ; he was an old-fashioned Presbyterian, and never
allowed the apocrypha of the Bible to be read in his family,
but kept it sewed up, as the old relic bears witness to
this day.

His daughter Rachael was married to Samuel McCobb
in 1768, and had three sons and six daughters. Samuel
McCobb was a member of the Provincial Congress which
convened at AVatertown in 1775 to consult upon the expedi-
ency of opposing the British army then stationed in Boston,
and raised, at his own expense, a company of men and


marched with them to Breed's Hill, near Bunker Hill, to
repulse the British. For his valorous conduct at that time
he was appointed Major in Nickerson's Brigade. In the
year 1775 he was ordered from Nickerson's Brigade to join
Arnold's expedition, and proceeded up the Kennebec river
and across the wilderness to attack Antic. After that
expedition he was appointed Colonel in the State's service
under Gen. Lovell in the expedition against the British
forces at Biguyduce ; he was also appointed General, and
commanded the Eastern division until the war was closed.
For several years after the war he was a member of the
General Court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and
died July 30, 1791, at the age of 47 years.

His son, Denny McCobb (from whom these particulars
were obtained by letter written March 5, 1849, to Joseph
Addison Denny, of Leicester, Mass.), was also a man of
mark, much esteemed by his fellow-citizens, and attained
the rank of General in the U. S. Army. He was born in
Georgetown, 1770, married Hannah Crooker, 1798, and
had fourteen children, of whom only one son and four
daughters survived him. He received his commission from
Gov. Hancock as ensign in the militia, and held a commis-
sion under every governor in Massachusetts from an ensign
to a major-general. In 1812 he was appointed by the
President of the United States a Colonel in the volunteer
service, and was in the service during the war, at the end
of which he received an appointment under President
Madison as Collector of Customs for the District of
Waldoboro, which he held twenty-four years. He died at
Bath, Maine, June 30, 1849. The following is a copy
of a portion of a letter printed in the Augusta (Maine)
Banner : —

" Brother Drew. * * * General Denny McCobb was born

in Georgetown, Maine, Feb. 13, 1770. In early life he was

engaged chiefly in agricultural pursuits, and remained with his

father until 1798. During that year he was married; and to



secure himself a home, he purchased a farm of his father, and
for eight years he cultivated his farm, with no other business
except such as his townsmen called upon him to perform as one
of the parish officers. In 1806 he removed to Bath and entered
somewhat largely into mercantile pursuits, and was among the
first merchants who aided in building the wharves and stores
which now stand in that wealthy and enterprising city. Mean-
while Mr. McCobb was deeply interested in the militia of his
native State. He received an Ensign's commission from Gov.
Hancock in 1788, apd from Govs. Samuel Adams, Increase
Sumner and Caleb Strong he received various military commis-
sions, including that of Brigadier-General, until in 1820 he was
elected by the Legislature Major-General during the administra-
tion of Gov. King, the first governor of Maine. In the family
mansion at Bath is a large map, more than ten feet square, upon
which is pasted a large number of his appointments, both civil
and military. As a collection of autographs of distinguished
men, — as a beautiful specimen of mosaic laid in honorable
distinctions, to say nothing of the tender recollections it will
bring of a departed parent, — it will long remain in the family as
a treasure above price. "When the war with Great Britain broke
out in 1812, Gen. McCobb soon resolved to abandoi the quiet
pursuits of trade and enlist in the service of his country.
During the fall and winter of 1812 he raised a regiment of vol-
unteers, and in April, following, he received a con mission of
Colonel in the United States service, and was ordered to Burling-
ton, Vt. Crossing the lake, he entered the Canadian frontier
and joined a division of the army under Gen. Hampton's com-
mand with Gen. Wilkinson, with a view to make a descent upon
Montreal. In affecting this union, Gen. Hampton, from causes
unknown, ordered his troops to take a circuitous route through
the dense woods of Chautauqua. There on a dark night they
were surprised by a large body of Indians, and after a bloody
skirmish, in which friend and foe were fearfully mingled together,
the troops were obliged to retreat. In that engagement Gen.
(then Col.) McCobb was one of the most active and efficient
officers. Finding his troops surprised under appalling circum-
stances, he faced the hottest fire and shrank from no personal
exposure to save his men ; and when a retreat was ordered
he commanded the rear, and was the last officer that left the


battle-ground. Calm and self-possessed in the hour of danger,
his judgment was always clear and discriminating. In the midst
of the engagement at Chautauqua, when a brother officer begged
him not to expose his life, he coolly replied, ' The ball has
not been moulded yet that is to kill me.' From the character

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Online LibraryChristopher Columbus DennyGenealogy of the Denny family in England and America : descendants of John Denny of Combs, Suffolk, England in 1439 → online text (page 1 of 20)