Lillian Eliza Prudden.

Peter Prudden; a story of his life and New Haven and Milford, Conn. online

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The Memorial Bridge at ISIilford.






The Genealogy of Some of His Descendants





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Two CoHEs Recsiveo

APR. 9 1901

Copyright entry




Copyright, 1901


Lillian E. Prudden.

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• • • * •



In the leisure hours of a busy Hfe Mr. Henry J.
Prudden, of New Haven, Conn., collected material
for a History of the Prudden family, and, had he
lived to continue his investigations, he would doubt-
less have produced a complete and valuable book.
The present volume is, largely, a compilation from
his note books of the results of his careful researches
into old records, papers and other sources of histori-
cal and genealogical information in this country and
in England. It has been arranged in appreciation
of his labor, and with the hope of stimulating some
future family historian to carry the work further.

The characterization of the Rev. Peter Prudden
is inserted as Mr. Henry J. Prudden gave it at the
250th anniversary of the First Church in Milford,
Conn., when he presented, on behalf of the donor,
Mrs. Susan Prudden Beardsley, a tablet in memory
of its first Pastor. This is done because it is so
clear a picture of the qualities that marked the man,


although it involves a measure of repetition in the
more amplified sketch of Peter Prudden prepared
for this book.

The genealogical lists are complete only in the
line of descent which includes the writer's own
family. Copies of such old wills, papers and tomb-
stone inscriptions as it is of interest to preserve,
but which have no place in the historical account,
are found in the Appendix.


The veil which obscures the Prudden name
prior to the time when the Rev. Peter Prudden
came to this country in 1637, is lifted once in the
chronicles of the latest Danish kings of England.
Here we learn that in the year 1042, King Hardi-
canute died at a carousal in Lambeth Palace,
where one of his nobles was celebrating the mar-
riage of his daughter to *'Tovi, surnamed Prudan,
a noble and powerful Dane."*

Most of the histories of that time spell the name
of this person "Pruden," but by some it was
written 'Truda." It is impossible now to say
whether this name continued during the next
three hundred years, or those who bore it were
descendants of this ''Tovi" or "Tobi" Prudan, or
even, whether the 'Truddens" that began to be
found in the sixteenth century are descendants
of his. At different periods the English records
so vary the manner of spelling the same name

* Florence of Worcester's Chronicle. "Bohn's Library, p. '^
144, Manning & Pray," History of Surrey, Vol. Ill, p.


that it would not be surprising if as time passed
this one had been completely altered. A con-
tinuous line of descent may have followed
down through the names of Prudde, Prudow,
Prothowe, Proddehowe, Prudhon, and a dozen
other similarly sounding names. "^

The derivation and meaning of the name is
uncertain. One writer says it means the ''proud."
Another,! interpreting English Surnames, says,
''We now talk of a 'prude' as one who exag-
gerates woman's innate modesty of demeanor.
Formerly it denoted the virtue pure and untrav-
ested. The root of the Latin 'probiis,' excellent,
still remains in our Prudhommes, with those more
commonly corrupted forms, Pridham, Prudames
or Prudens, a sobriquet which formerly referred
simply to the honest and guileless uprightness of
the owners."

The first distinct record of the name which
has been found, since that of 1042, is in some
early wills in Her Majesty's Court of Probate,
in Somerset House in London, where it is spelled,

* As an example of the transformation made in names,
the following are nine different ways in which the same
writer in the same paper has spelled the name of one
Christopher Prewen — Prewne, Pruen, Pruene, Prowne, De
Prune, Prunnen, Prowen and Prowyne.

t Bardsley's English Surnames.



as now, "Prudden."* All of these earlier Prud-
dens seem to have been inhabitants of a district
on the borders of Hertfordshire and Bedford-
shire, twenty-five miles from London.

The will of Thomas Pruddenf of Kingswal-
den| mentions his three sons Peter, William and
Edward. It also mentions John Prudden of
New Wyle End,§ and further, Thomas Prudden
of Breechwood Greene. ||

The parish register of Kingswalden gives the
name of Prudden from its commencement to
about the beginning of the seventeenth century.
The latest record is 1620. Thereafter the name
disappears. It is, however, found later in the
neighboring parish of Hitchin Hestor, and in the
nearer part of the adjacent county of Bedford,
and has continued on there until now, giving
ground for the surmise, that as this Kingswalden
family disappeared about the time that Peter

* Appendix III.

t Appendix IV.

i King's Walden is a scattered parish in Hertfordshire,
four miles south of Hitchin, in the bounds of Hitchin and
near the borders of Bedfordshire.

§ New Wyle End is a parish in the township of East
Hyde in Bedfordshire just over the borders from Hert-

II Breechwood Greene is a parish is the town of Being's


Prudden and his brother James came to this
country, the disappearance may be due to their

There is on the records of Kingswalden* the

memorandum of the death of (''name

illegible, but looks like Elizabeth") wife of James
Prudden. As James Pruddenf of Milford,
Conn., had a daughter Elizabeth, who married
in 1648, and another daughter who married in
1640, and as the wife of James Prudden is never
mentioned in Milford records, it is possible that
he came to this country a widower, with daugh-
ters of marriageable age, and that the record at
Kingswalden chronicles the death of his wife.

While we know little of the life of Rev. Peter
Prudden before he arrived in Boston, in com-
pany with Mr. John Davenport, Mr. Theophilus
Eaton, and the other founders of the New Haven
Colony, we can easily conjecture some of the
influences that surrounded his boyhood, and early
manhood. Born three years before the death of
Queen Elizabeth, while Shakespeare was still
writing plays, and while the Protestant Reforma-
tion was not yet a century old, the political, intel-
lectual and religious ferment of the times must

* Appendix II.
t Appendix I.


have been felt in his environment. History was
being made in those days. The Gunpowder
Plot was discovered when he was five years old.
The first settlement was made in Virginia when
he was six. Imprisonments, fines, mutilations and
martyrdoms for teaching and preaching outside
the National Church sent the Pilgrims secretly
across the Channel to Holland, when he was
seven. The Mayflower sailed from Southamp-
ton when he was nineteen. He grew to manhood
during the years of alarm and despair because of
the follies and tyrannies of James. The spirit of
adventure was in the air. The stories of Drake,
Raleigh and Smith had already thrilled many
English hearts with romantic ideas of the un-
known sea and the unexplored wilderness of the
new world. Probably the Bible, in the Geneva
version, the "Breeches Bible," * was the strong-
est literary and moral influence of his life. As
Cambridge was near his home and Puritan in its
tendencies, he may have been educated there,
though his name does not appear in any lists of
graduates of that University. f

* So called from its rendering of Genesis 3:11, where
Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together and "made them-
selves breeches." This Bible was in general use for half a
century after the King James version was issued in 161 1.

t Appendix III.


For sixteen years after Peter Prudden reached
maturity, he remained in England, preaching,
according to tradition, in both Yorkshire and
Herefordshire, and, Hke many other ministers
who came to this country during the great Puri-
tan emigration between 1 629-1644, acquired
such influence as a preacher that a company of
his own people were willing to emigrate with
him. These ministers were men of ^'fidelity,
ability and learning,"* the best stock of the
mother country, not fanatics, but practical Eng-
lishmen of good-sense, and brave hearts, who
had gained from their Bibles both religious fer-
vor and a longing for freedom. Civil and relig-
ious liberty were more and more menaced. A
standing army, burdensome taxation, and a
government without Parliament, created increas-
ing anxiety and alarm.

There is no good reason for supposing that
Mr. Prudden was a Separatist (or Congrega-
tionalist) until he reached America. He had
probably known Mr. Davenport and watched his
struggle for freedom of thought in the estab-
lished church. He may not have been involved
in the same persecution, but similarity of calling

* "Genesis of New England Churches," by Leonard


and views gave him knowledge of the plans of
Messrs. Davenport and Eaton, which he naturally-
shared with his Herefordshire friends.* That
Mr. Prudden had thought of some such enterprise
for two years, at least, and that he was esteemed
fitted for leadership, is indicated by the record of a
committee for the settlement of Providence Island
(one of the Bahamas), which is now kept among
English State papers of 1635 in Her Majesty's
Public Record Office, and which says, "We have
hope of Mr. Prudden, a minister consenting to
go over," and later it mentions "A minister and
three servants."

It should be remembered that the motives of
Mr. Davenport's company were different from
those which had led men for forty years to brave
the perils of the sea and the wilderness. Neither
hunger for gold, thirst for conquest, desire for
adventure, nor even religious separation alone
was their object. Unlike earlier settlers, they
sought no charter, or grant of land from the

* Atwater's "History of New Haven" says of the men
from Herefordshire: "The particular events that moved
them to leave their homes at this time are yet to seek;
but it is known that they left under the influence and
guidance of Peter Prudden, a clergyman, well-known to
them by reputation, if not by personal knowledge of him
as preacher and pastor."


crown. Theirs was a commercial enterprise
undertaken by men who desired also to form a
Christian Commonwealth. In seeking a new
home in America they were not trying- a new
experiment, for the possibility of successfully
battling with the dangers of the ocean, the forest,
and the Indians, had already been demonstrated.

The ship ''Hector," which was first engaged,
was a vessel of only 250 tons, and since she could
carry but 100 passengers, was altogether too
small for the large number which, owing to
Laud's persecutions, wished to emigrate with this
company ; therefore, a consort which was said to
have been called the ''Martin," was secured.
Even then, however, some of the shareholders
were unable to sail until two years later.

It was no light undertaking to make their
arrangements in secret consultations, and so
adjust financial affairs as to secure transportation
for themselves and their goods, without attract-
ing the attention of those who would gladly have
hindered them. Since several were men of posi-
tion and wealth, and a royal edict prohibited
emigration to holders of property without permits,
many probably embarked under assumed names.
Mr. Atwater says,* "If ever lists of the passengers

* Atwater's "History of New Haven," page 54.


of the 'Hector' and her consort are found, they
will probably not contain the names of John
Davenport or Samuel Eaton"; nor, we may add,
the name of Peter Prudden. Shortly afterwards,
a proclamation was made requiring more care-
ful certificates from all emigrants, particularly
men of wealth, and this new proclamation is
supposed to be due to the knowledge that so
many such men went on these ships.

We know nothing of their voyage, save that
they sailed in the spring of 1637, but we can
imagine some of the discomforts of the crowded
cabins in the small vessel, the limited variety of
fresh food, the seasickness, the homesickness, and
danger of disease during the six weeks, which
was the shortest possible time of crossing the
ocean. The cost of the passage was £5 for each
individual and £4 for each ton of goods.

Coming, as they did toward the end of "the
Puritan exodus,"* during which 26,000 people
reached New England, they had no such hard
experiences as many of their predecessors. Well
established colonies already existed at Plymouth,
Salem and about Boston, in which dwelt many
old friends with hospitable homes. Two years
before, Hooker, following pioneers at Windsor

* John Fiske, "Beginnings of New England."


and Wethersfield, had founded the Connecticut
colony at Hartford ; Roger WilHams had started
his plantation on Narragansett Bay; while farther
away were the thriving Dutch trading posts at
Albany and New York, and the English settle-
ment in Virginia. There was as yet no jealousy
of the English Colonies on the part of either
Spain or France. Only a few feeble French out-
posts existed on the Bay of Fundy and the St.
Lawrence. The brave Spanish missionaries and
explorers, who had already for a century enacted
some of the most romantic chapters in American
history, were too busy with their own discov-
eries, conquests and colonies, from Mexico north-
ward over nearly half the present territory of the
United States, to care what Anglo-Saxons were
doing on the Atlantic seaboard. Only the
Indians, just defeated in the Pequot War, and
the primeval forests barred the way to their free
choice of a place for settlement.

Naturally a company so well equipped, and
containing so many citizens valuable for any
community, received a hearty welcome at Bos-
ton, where they landed June the 26th, 1637. The
Colony of Massachusetts Bay at once offered
them opportunities and inducements to settle.
As regards those in whom we are particularly


interested we find in the town records of Dedham,

"nth of Ye 6th month 1637."

"It is ordered yt if Mr. Peter Prudden, with
fifteen more of his company shall please to come
unto us, they shall have enterteynment, and lotts
accordingly, to be lay'd out to them, bringing
stiffcat from the magistrates, as is required."
Also, "Ye 28th of ye ninth month, 1637."
"Whereas, Mr. Prudden, with fifteen more of his
company, had liberty given to come and have lotts
in our towne yf they soe pleased, but not having
since understood anything of their acceptance, we
nowe hold ourselves noe longer to stand engaged
to them therein."

As this record was made only about six weeks
after the arrival of the "Hector," it is probable
that Mr. Prudden preached in Dedham during
that summer. We are not sure whether the invi-
tation to locate in Dedham was declined because
of a desire to avoid the religious controversy that
was disturbing Massachusetts, regarding the
peculiar doctrines of Ann Hutchinson, or because
of dissatisfaction with the "lotts" offered them,
or, as is more likely, because of a cherished hope
*Vol. I, p. 41.


that they might better carry out their own ideas
elsewhere. It is certain, however, that the colo-
nists who came by the Hector soon sent out an
exploring party whose report of the sheltered bay
and level meadows of Quinnipiac (afterwards
New Haven) decided them to locate there in the
following spring. There they secured the de-
sired harbor for commerce, and land that could be
made habitable without great effort in clearing
forests. Mr. Prudden, like most of his compan-
ions, must have spent that first winter in or near

The date and place of Peter Prudden' s mar-
riage are unknown, and it may have been one of
the events of those winter months. Mr. Savage*
affirms that his marriage occurred at Edgton,
Yorkshire, a hamlet reached by a pleasant walk
of two miles through the fields from Kirby Moor-
side. This conclusion, for which there are no
proofs, was probably based on the fact that the
descendants of Peter Prudden and Joanna Boyse

* Savage's "Genealogical Dictionary of New England,"
speaking of Peter Prudden, says, "We know nothing of his
parentage or education. He left good estate here besides
land in Edgton, County York, England, where perhaps he
was born and it is certain that there he married his wife
Joanna Boyse."

See Fell's "Ecclesiastical History of New England,"
Vol. H, p. 88.


held inherited property at Edgton for more than
one hundred and fifty years. The Parish register,
which has been carefully searched, contains no
record of the birth or marriage of either Peter
Prudden or Joanna Boyse, indeed the name 'Trud-
den" is not found in it. Certainly Peter Prud-
den never preached there. Since, however, the
name "Boyse" is frequent, it is probable that
Edgton was the home of Mrs. Prudden's ances-
tors, though the wills of her parents indicate that
they lived in Halifax, Yorkshire, where John
Boyse, her father, was a clergyman.* That the
Boyses were a family of means, is shown by the
wills, which provide a dowry of £200 for each
daughter in addition to ''Landed Estate.'' From
the mother's will we infer that Joanna Boyse was
not married before 1631, and from the names of
her two brothers mentioned in the will, we find
a reason why the names ''Samuel," and "John"
were given to her sons. One of her sisters was
the wife of Rev. John Raynor, pastor of the
church at Plymouth, Mass., from 163 7- 165 5, and
later of Dover, New Hampshire.! In the
absence, therefore, of any evidence that Joanna
Boyse w^as married before leaving England, and

* Appendix, V and VI.

t Lane family papers. Appendix XIV.


from the fact that her eldest child was born in
1640, it seems probable that she crossed the ocean
with her sister, Mrs. Raynor, before her mar-
riage, and married Mr. Prudden in New England,
though no record of their marriage has thus far
been found.

The next mention we find of Peter Prudden
is at the time of the departure of the New Haven
Company from Boston in April, 1638.* The
voyage around through Long Island Sound,
although occupying fourteen days, was far easier
than the journey would have been by land
through the forests. At New Haven the set-
tlers sailed up the creek, which formerly flowed
down through the valley traversed by Com-
merce and Oak Streets, entering the harbour near
where the Union Depot now stands. They dis-
embarked not far from where they assembled on
the 1 8th of April for their first Sabbath service.
The site of the oak tree under which they met
close by their landing-place is now marked by a
tablet on the nearest house, at the corner of

* Winthrop says, "Mr. Davenport and Mr. Prudden went
by water, and with them many families moved out of this
jurisdiction, to plant in these parts, being much taken by
the fruitfulness of that place, and more safety, as they
conceived, from a general governor who was feared to be
sent out that summer."


George and College Streets. Mr. Davenport
preached the sermon in the morning, and the his-
torians, Hollister* and Lambert,t both state that
Mr. Prudden preached in the afternoon, using
as his text, Matt, iii, 3, ''The voice of one crying
in the wilderness." Lambert says, "He insisted
on the temptation offered by the wilderness, made
such observations, and gave such directions and
exhortations as were pertinent to the then state
of his hearers."

The number of persons in Mr. Prudden's
family is recorded at this time as four, but as
none of his children were born before 1640, his
household probably included his wife and two

Since he and the Rev. Samuel Eaton as well
as Rev. Mr. Davenport were in the New Haven
Company, it is difficult to imagine any plan
whereby they should all three have expected to
be associated permanently in the ministry,
although it was not unusual for a church to have
one minister as pastor and another as teacher,
but, as both Peter Prudden and his brother James
received house lots in New Haven in the section
assigned to the Herefordshire people, when the

* HolHster's History of Connecticut, p. 94, Vol. I.
t Lambert's History of New Haven Colony, p. 44.


original nine squares were laid out, it would seem
that they, at first, intended to locate there.*

During the summer of 1635, Mr. Prudden
preached at Wethersfield, Conn., probably walk-
ing or riding through the woods, or going by
boat around through Long Island Sound and up
the Connecticut River. It is not unlikely that
the project of a separate settlement, which led
a year later to his removal from New Haven,
grew out of this Wethersfield visit. f When Mr.
Prudden found new friends in Weathersfield
ready to join old friends in New Haven, in start-
ing another plantation, he would naturally prefer
a church of his own. It has been suggested that
this movement showed a desire for harmony quite
consistent with Mr. Prudden's reputation as a
"peacemaker," since troublesome disagreements
were liable to occur in the conflict of opinions
while a new state was being formed on the basis
of allowing civil power to none but church mem-

* This house lot of Peter Prudden's was on George St.,
near where the Trinity Church "Old Ladies Home" now
is. James Prudden's lot was near and the Herefordshire
people were a little west. (For James Prudden, see Appen-
dix I.)

t See Atwater's History of New Haven, pp. 90, 91.

X Mr. F. S. Cogswell of New Haven, in a lecture on John
Davenport delivered January 9, 1898, said :


Whatever the real reason may have been, no
unpleasantness seems to have been created by the
decision to remove, and, apparently, Mr. Prud-
den and Mr. Davenport agreed in their plans for
an ideal state in which righteousness should pre-
vail because its laws should be ''according to the
rules of the Scriptures." This was the prelimi-

"Mr. Prudden was inclined to the view of Davenport,
but was anxious that whatever was done should be in the
interests of harmony between all factions. He had come
from Herefordshire with quite a company of followers who
were devotedly attached to him. The Herefordshire men
were agreed as to the form of government that would be
most acceptable to them, but were inclined to go elsewhere
and establish a colony of their own rather than remain
and be party to a lasting disagreement. They went so
far as to purchase a tract of land in what is now the town
of Milford, but delayed removing until it was certain that
such a step would be necessary.

It was something more than a year before these con-
flicting interests could be so adjusted as to permit of the
/ formation of a government, or even a church, which would
meet the approval of a majority, though services were
regularly held. It was finally decided by the Herefordshire
men that they would prefer a separate existence at Milford,
with Mr. Prudden as their minister. I do not know
exactly what Mr. Prudden's sentiments were, but I surmise
that by this time he had become so well acquainted with
Mr. Davenport's tendency to prefer his own way to all
others, that he came to the conclusion that Milford would
be none too far away from New Haven for comfort, in
case a theological war should break out."


nary agreement that all had signed on their first
arrival in New Haven.

Land for a new settlement was formally pur-
chased of the Indian sachem in February, 1639,
when the sagamore placed a twig on a piece of
turf and gave it to the English as a token that
hereby he surrendered to them the land with all
its trees and appurtenances. This purchase

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Online LibraryLillian Eliza PruddenPeter Prudden; a story of his life and New Haven and Milford, Conn. → online text (page 1 of 9)