Archive:Which John Whitney m. Beriah Pierce

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Which John Whitney m. 1754 Beriah Peirce?

by Robert L. Ward


The intentions of marriage of John WHITNEY and Beria PEIRCE "of Waltham" were recorded on Sept. 28, 1754 in the Town of Weston. Births, Deaths and Marriages, 1707-1850 (1901), p. 89. The marriage of John WHITNEY and Beria PIERCE "of Waltham" was recorded on Nov. 28, 1754 in the same reference, p. 92. In the Vital Records of Waltham, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (1904), is recorded the marriage of John WHITNEY "of Weston" and Beria PEIRCE, Nov. 28, 1754, in Weston. The question arises, who were this couple?

The identity of the bride is not hard. Her death is recorded in Waltham as "Beriah, widow of John WHITTNEY of Weston, formerly widow of Daniel CHILD", in her 88th year, on Nov. 4, 1768, from her tombstone in Grove Hill Cemetery, Waltham. On 11 July 1755, she had made her will. An abstract of the will is as follows:

Will of Beriah Whitney of Weston; "I having before marriage to my present husband Mr. John Whitney made an agreement with each other to have the Dispositions of our Estates separate ..."; estate to be divided among her children and the children of her deceased daughter Sarah FISK, to wit: Daniel CHILD; David CHILD; John CHILD; Samuel CHILD; Elisha CHILD; Susanna CHILD; Elizth. STEARNS; Mary WHITNEY; Joshua CHILD; granddaughter Sarah MIXER; grandson Danll. FISK, under 21; granddaughter Beulah FISK, under 21; witnesses Ebenr. CUTLER, Jonas CUTLER, Abijah CHILD. (Middlesex County Probate Records, File #24612)

Her inventory was taken in Weston on Nov. 4, 1768 by Capt. Ebenezer CUTLER, Capt. Bradyll SMITH, and Mr. Jacob BIGLOW. Her will was proved 13 Dec 1768 in Weston. In Weston, on May 31, 1769, the heirs agreed to the executor's account, signed by David, John, Joshua, Samuel, and Susanna CHILD, Isaac STEARNS, Joseph WHITNEY, and David FISK. On 28 Nov 1769, her inventory was exhibited and the executor's account was presented (ibid.).

This information is sufficient to identify Beriah PEIRCE as Beriah BEMIS, daughter of John and Mary (HARRINGTON) BEMIS, born June 23, 1681, Watertown, MA. She married firstly, Feb. 10, 1701/2, Watertown, MA, Daniel CHILD, who died 29 Jan 1723/4, Watertown. She married secondly, as his third wife, Aug. 12, 1736, Watertown, MA, Joseph PEIRCE, who died Mar. 13, 1753, Weston, MA.

Fine, but who was John WHITNEY? Three possible solutions have been proposed in various sources:

A. John5 WHITNEY, b. 22 Jun 1714, Watertown, MA, son of John4 and Sarah (CUTTING) WHITNEY [Joseph3, John2, John1].
B. John4 WHITNEY, b. 15 Jun 1694, Watertown, MA, son of Benjamin3 and Abigail (HAGAR) WHITNEY [John2, John1].
C. John4 WHITNEY, b. 29 Jul 1680, Watertown, MA, son of Joseph3 and Martha (BEACH) WHITNEY [John2, John1].

The first possibility (A) is known to have married on 6 Oct 1737, Watertown, MA, Bethia CUTTER "of Watertown", he being called "of Weston". The intentions were recorded in Weston. His date of death is not known, but he is mentioned in the will of his father on Nov. 17, 1749. Bethia's date of death is also not known.

The second possibility (B) is known to have married, before 1730, Susan -----, and died before 18 May 1776 in Watertown, MA, when his heirs were cited (Middlesex County Probate Records, File #24685). Her date of death is unknown, but it was after the birth of a daughter on 6 July 1748, and probably before the above citation of heirs. He seems to have always lived in Watertown.

The third possibility (C) is known to have married, Feb. 22, 1703/4, in Watertown, Sarah CUTTING, who died July 10, 1753, Weston, MA. He left a will which is abstracted as follows:

John WHITNEY of Weston; wife Sarah; son Joseph (executor), all land in Weston and Waltham, all cattle, and utensils of husbandry; son Isaac, £80; son Zachry., £70; son John, £70; son Abrahm., £70; witnesses John WARREN, Elisha WARREN, Ebenr. CUTLER (Middlesex County Probate Records, File #24684).

This will was proved 15 Dec 1760, when the executor's bond was posted by Joseph WHITNEY, husbandman, with John WARREN, gentleman, of Weston, as surety (ibid.). His death is clearly the one recorded in the Weston vital records on Nov. 11, 1760.

As you can see, there is no a priori reason why any one of the three possibilities might not be the husband of Beriah (BEMIS)(CHILD)(PEIRCE) WHITNEY. Nevertheless, I believe that the correct husband was (C) above.

My reason to eliminate (A) is his age: he was 33 years younger than Beriah. While this is not impossible, it seems extremely unlikely! We also do not know that he was still alive, nor do we know that his known wife had died.

My reason to eliminate (B) is his residence: he always lived in Watertown, as nearly as I can determine. Of course, he may have lived in Weston for long enough to qualify, but I find no record of that. We likewise do not know that he was still alive, nor do we know that his known wife had died.

My reasons for choosing (C) are his age, his residence, and his known eligibility. He was one year senior to Beriah. He lived in Weston, where he made his will, where his known wife died, and where he died. His known wife Sarah died a little more than a year before the marriage to Beriah. Furthermore, Beriah's daughter Mary CHILD is proven by the estate papers of her estate to have married Joseph WHITNEY. This man can be identified as Joseph5 WHITNEY, bp. June 12, 1719, Weston, MA, aged about 2 months, son of (C) and his wife Sarah (CUTTING). He married Mary CHILD on 11 Mar 1743 in Weston. This appears to explain how John and Beriah met, as father of the groom and mother of the bride.

While this analysis is short of proof, I am going to accept this solution until proof is found. A possible source which has not been examined yet is Middlesex County Land Records. The deeds may shed light on either which John had a wife or widow Beriah between 1754 and 1768, or on the death dates of (A), (B), and their spouses, or else reveal some other useful piece of information.

All this being said, it seems unlikely to matter much genealogically what the truth is here, since Beriah had no children by her husband John WHITNEY, whoever he was. It does make a difference historically and biographically, of course.


Copyright © 1999, 2006, Robert L. Ward and The Whitney Research Group

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