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Full text of "The Bonython family of Maine"

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THE NEW YORK 

PUBLIC LIBRARY 

A8TOR, LENOX ANO 
TILDEN FOnvoATIONl. 

R 1908 I 



THE BOimTHON^X^MLY OF MAINE. , 

By Dr. Charles E. Banks, Passed Assistant Surgeon U. S. Marine-Hospital Service. 





BoNYTHON Arms. 

[Argent, a chevron between 
three fleurs de lis sable.] 



The name of Bonython* is one 
of the most ancient and aristo- 
cratic in the county of Cornwall, 
England. Its antiquity is shown 
in the records which tell us that 
they were possessed of the Bony- 
thon Manor continuously from 
the 14th century to the begin- The Bonython FLAoox.t 

ning of the 18th century, and the social position of the family is 
certified by their intermarriage with the leading families of Corn- 
wall for four centuries. 

One Simon de Boniton in the middle of the 13th century was 
despatched to Ireland as a royal messenger (Pipe, 38 Hen. III., 
Rot. I. dors), and in 1397 another Simon Bonython, with his son 
Gawin, had license for an Oratory within the city of Exeter. [Bp. 
Stufferd Reg. folio 12.] 

* The pronunciation of this name is to be made by accenting the second syllable and 
rhyming it with " python " — Bo-ny'-thon. It means a furzy abode. 

t A number of years ago, at the death of a lady who resided near St. Anstell. there was 
discovered among her effects a curious old jug of stoneware whicli had been preserved in 
her family as a precious heir-loom. A label attached to the flagon contained the following 
inscription : " Date of this jug 1598. It was used at the coronation banquet of James I. 
and "VI. of Scotland by one of the Bonython family who officiated at the banquet." The 
lady's property came into the market, passed into other hands and became the object of a 
long and interesting search instituted by the present owner about 1879, which readers of 
the London " Notes and Queries " may remember to have noticed. Success lewarded his 
efforts, and now it is again in the possession of a member of the historic family, Mr. John 
Langdon Bonython of Adelaide, South Australia, who has kindly loaned the above engrav- 
ing of his ancestral flagon and the family arms to illustrate this article. It is by his aid and 
at his suggestion that the writer has prepared this genealogy, and students of our early colo- 
nial history will be glad to learn that one of the Bonythons still lives, although at the an- 
tipodes, who has a sympathetic interest in helping us to know more of our ancestors. It 
will be remembered that the poet Whittier uses John Bonython as a character in " Mogg 
Megone," and Mr. J. L. Bonython has an autograph letter from the poet, acknowledging 
the error of his verse. The poet Longfellow is also connected with the Bonythons by de° 
scent, and thus two of our great literary lights lend an interest to this family name. 



The Bonythons of Bonython were Gcated in the Lizard district of 
Cornwall in the pari-sh of Ciuy,* a bleak wild track on the serpen- 
tina formation, and notwithstanding their remote situation they be- 
came conspicuous figures in the political agitations of that period 
which culminated in the stormy days of the Stuart dynasty. Seve- 
ral branches issued from the parent stock, the most opulent of which, 
through a fortunate marriage, became possessed of Carclew, in My- 
lor, and is designatad as the Bonythons of Carclew to distinguish 
them from the elder house which held the ancient manor. f We 
shall not have occasion to follow out this junior line, as the Maine 
family were descended from the elder branch, and it iwill only be 
necessary to state that in 1741) the Carclew estate passed out of the 
family by sale, as in 1702 the Bonython manor had been alienated 
by the elder branch. 

Bonython manor is a plain substantial building with a granite 
front, facing the sea, which it overlooks at a distance of about two 
miles by the valleys of Poljew and Gunwalloe. The view from the 
front of the house is a most extensive one, unusually so, as most of 
the ancient Cornish houses arc built quite on the side of the hill ox 
in the valley. On the lower part of the estate, in a small planta- 
tion, is a group of magnificent rocks, the gi^andeur of which strikes 
the beholder at the first glance. One of these — the topmost — is 
named the Fire or Bonfire Kock, and is probably a relic of the Dru- 
idic religion. [Western Antiquary (Supplement), pt. iv. 204.] 

Pedigree. 

1. Ralph' Boxttuox, of Bonython, Cornwall, pay a subsidy in the 

parisli of Cury, 15 Henry VIII. He married twice, probably, (1) 
Elizabeth Downe, and (2) Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas and Eliz- 
abeth P>issey [luq. Post. Mort. (James Erissey), 35 Hen. VIII. 
02 ; comp. Coles Esch. Harl. Mss., No. 757, p. 38], and had issue : 

2. i. RicuARD, son and heir. 

ii. EiiMOND, had issue two dauijhters : 1. Katharine,^ who m. Thomas Godol- 

pliin ; and 2. Marr/aixi} 
iii. JouN, d. 8. p. 

2. RicnAnn' BoNYTnoN {Ralph^), also paid subsidy as above at the 

same time, but died the next year (1535), as his wife Jane, daughter 
and heir of John Durant of Pensiuans, Cornwall, was a widow IG 
Henry VIII., at Bodmin, where she was taxed. He had issue : 

3. i. Jon.N, son and heir. 

ii. Jamk.s, jiaid subsidy inMuilion, 1 Elizabeth [Lay. Subsidy, 87-2181 '■> ™* 
Margcric, dauglitcr of John Mclhuisc, of Truro, Merthcr, by whom 
he had : 1. Jonn,'* of St. Columb Major, who m. Mai-gerie, daughter 
of John Kerne, alias Trcsilian ; 2. Rolx:rt'* ; 3. Nic/iolas,* a burgess, 
who m. Anne, daughter of Hugh Monday of Tregony ; 4. Thomas,* 

• Snh'irlics had Iwcn paid on the manor since 15 Hen. VIII. 

t " Carclew hath (after the Cornish manner) well-nigh metamorphosed the name of 
Mn.stcr Bonithon, his owner, unto his own." fCarew, Survey of Cornwall (1602), p. 365.] 
Another branch of the family was seated at Tresadcm in St. Columb Miyor. [Lake, Pa- 
rochial iliat, of Cornwall, i. 234.] 



a, goldsni'ith of Cheapside, London, who m. Alice, daughter of Humph- 
rey Purforoy of Leicestershire. 

iii. Janet, m. Tre^oUes. 

iv. Christian, iH. Nicholas Davy. 

V. Bersaba, id. John Davy. 

vi. Elizabeth, m. (1) William Condon ; (2) Peter Cooke. 

vii. IsA BELLE, m. James Pawley. 

viii. Charity. 

5. John® Bonython {Richard,^ Balph^), paid a subsidy in the parish of 

Curry, 1559 ; he married Eleanor, daughter and co-heir of Job 
Myllayton of Pengerswick Castle, St. Breock, Kirrier ; Governor 
of" St. Michael's Mount. [Lake, Parochial History of Cornwall, i. 
134, 137.] The Myllaytous became possessed of Pengerswick Cas- 
tle, temp. Henry VIH., and Job Myllayton was made governor of 
St. Michaels in 1547 in place of Humphrey Arundell of Helland, 
who was executed for treason. Issue : 

•4. i. Reskymer, son and heir. 

5. ii. Richard, the emigrant to Maine. 
iii. Edmond. 

iv. William. 

V. JofiN, Captain of Pendennis Castle. 

vi, Elizabeth, m. Henry Pomeroy, Mayor of Tregony, 15 April, 1600. 

vii. Anne, m. Walter Roscarrock, 15 Oct. 1606. 

4. Reskymer* Bonython {Jokn,^ Richard,'^ Ralph}), was High Sheriff 
of Cornwall, 17 James I. [Tonkin, Histoiy of Cornwall, I. 287], and 
died 6 April, 1627 [luq. Post Mort. 17 Chas. 1. (pt. i.) No. 73] ; 
married Loveday, daughter of William Kendall of Lostwithiel 
[Carew, Survey of Cornwall (1602), p. 109], by whom he had 
issue : 

6. i. Thomas, b. 1594, son and heir. 

6. Thomas^ Bonython (Reskymer,'^ John,' Richard,* Ralph^), '* was a 

captain in the Low Countries and much consumed his patrimony." 
[Tonkin Mss.] He married Francisca, daughter of Erasmus Wal- 
ler, Esq., of London* [Visitations of Cornwall, 1530, 1575, 1620, 
ed. Vivian], by whom he had issue: 

7. i. John, b. 1618, son and heir. 

7. John® Bonython (Thomas,^ Reskymer* Jokn,° Richard,^ Ralph^), 

married Anne, daughter of Hugh Trevanion of Trelegan, by whom • 
he had issue : 

8. i. Charles, son and heir. 

>. Charles^ Bonython {John,^ Thomas,^ Reshymer,'^ John,' Richard,' 
Ralph*), Steward of the Court of Westminster, 1683 ; represented 
the city of Westminster in Parliament, 1685; Sergeant-at-Law at 
Gray's Inn, 1692. [Wynne, Sergeant-at-Law, p. 90.] IL; sold 
the manor of Bonython in 1702 to Humphrey Carpenter, and three 
years later, 30 April, 1705, " in a fit of madness, shot himself in 
his own house in London."t By wife Mary Livesay of Livesay, 
Lincolnshire, he had issue : 

* According to Tonkin [Hist, of Cornwall], i. 287, he married Frances, daughter of Sir 
John Parker of London, but it may have been a second marriage. 

t Maj^ 1, 1705. "Yesterday Mr. Sargcant Bonython, steward of Westminster Court, 
shot himself tlirough the body "with a pistoll." [Luttrell.] 



i. Richard, eldest son and heir ; " an ingenious gentleman," says Tonkin, 
" but bcintr tainted likewise with his father's distemper, .... set fire 
to his chamber in Lincoln's Inn, burnt all his papers, bonds, &c., and 
then stabbed himself with his sword, but not eifectually ; he then 
threw himself out of the window and died on the spot." [History of 
Cornwall, i. 287; Comp. Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 215, and t. 
551-5.] 

ii. John, the second son, King's College, Cambridge, B.A. 1717; M.A. 
1721. While an undergraduate he wrote a Latin poem which was 
puldishcd in 1714 by some Cambridge students. He became an emi- 
nent physician in Bristol. He is mentioned in the will of his cousin 
Jane (Bonython) Kempe of Carclew, 1749. [Records Consistory 
Court, Exeter.] 

iii. [Daughter], m. Thomas Pearce of Helston. 

Richard^ BoxYTnON {.Tohn,^ Richard,^ Ralph^), was baptized at St. 
Columb Major, 3 April, 1580, the second son of Jolui^ Bonython 
of Bonython. It is possible that he is the Richard Bonython who 
was Comptroller of the Stannaries of Cornwall and Devonshire, 
1C03 and 1604, and keeper of the Gaol at Lostwithiel in 1603 
[Calender of State Papers, Domestic]. He came to Saco in 1631, 
bringing with him, as a copartner of Thomas Lewis, a patent, dated 
12 February, 1629-30, for a large tract of land four miles by eight 
upon the East side of the Saco River, of which livery of seizen was 
given 28 June, 1631, following. His associate had " already been 
at the charge to transport himself and others to take a view of New 
England for the bettering his experience in the advancing a planta- 
tion," as is recited in the grant. I suppose that his emigration to 
this almost unknown land may be explained by recalling that he 
was not in the line of succession to the family seat and honors, his 
brother Reskymar having in 1620 a son and grandson to inherit the 
property. I judge also that he had been a soldier in some of the 
French wars, perhaps serving with vSir Ferdinando Gorges, from 
whom he imbibed some of the enthusiasm of " that grave knight" 
respecting the New England. This seems to be confirmed l)y his 
universal title of " Captain Bonython," as well as by a letter from 
Richard Vines to John Winthrop, 2.5 January, 1640, in which he 
says : "It seems the governor [Dudley] makes a question that Sir 
P^crdinando Gorges was not in the Ffrench wars in his tyme. Capt. 
Bonython intreats me to write a word or two thereof,"* and then 
he proceeds to detail the facts as stated by him. This martial ca- 
reer secured to him an authoritative position among the early set- 
tlers, and he was undoubtedly a local magistrate under the " combi- 
nation " government of Richard Vines, before the an-ival in 1635 of 
Deputy Governor William Gorges. When this new executive offi- 
cer arrived, he organized his first court 25 March, 1635-6, at the 
house of Captain Richard Bonython, who was then appointed one 
of the Provincial Commissioners, and in 1640, under the first char- 
ter, he was appointed one of the Councillors to Deputy Governor 
Thoma.s Gorges. We have no means of estimating his character 
except through negative testimony, and it is a legitimate inference 
tliat he must have been a man of ability and honor to have retained 
the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens for so many years. 
Tlie court records are free from any charges impugning his moral, 

♦ 4 Mas.". Hist. Coll. vii. Wintlirop Papers. 



social or political character, and to this is added the positive evi- 
dence that as a judge he spared not his own son from the utmost 
rio-ors of the law. One scrap of exemporaneous history affords us 
a sidelight into his character. Rev. Thomas Jenner, tlie Puritan 
minister at Saco [1640-6], writing to Governor Winthrop, says: 
"M"" Vines & the captaine [Richard Bonython] both haue timely 
expressed themselves to be utterly against church-way, saying their 
patent doth prohibit the same." Parson Jenner's " church-way " 
did not suit loyal Captain Richard or Deputy Governor Vines, for 
the latter says : " I like Mr. Jenner his life and conversacion and 
also his preaching, if he would lett the Church of England alone ; 
that doth much trouble me to hear our mother church questioned 
for her impurity vpon every occasion."* Richard Bonython served 
as Councillor through 1645, and died about 1650. [Folsom, Saco 
and Biddeford, llSl] By wife, whose name 1 judge to be Lucretia, 
he had issue : 

9. i. John, son and heir. 

ii. , m. Richard Foxwell. 

iii. , m. Richard Cummings. 

9. John* Bonython {Richard,'^ John? Richard? Ralph}), born certainly 
before 1620, was the opposite of his father, for he lived a life of 
debauchery and outlawry during twenty years of his existence. The 
first court held at his father's house in 1636, brings him to view as 
the father of an illegitimate child, and his excesses developed to such 
a degree in 1645, that " threatening to kill and slay any person that 
should lay hands on him," the court, at which his father again sat, 
adjudged him '■ outlawed and incapable of any of his Majesty's laws, 
and proclaim[ed] him a Rebell." [York Court Records.] After 
Massachusetts assumed control of the government of Maine in 1652, 
he refused to submit to her government, and so far carried his guer- 
illa warfare that the General Court proclaimed him an outlaw and 
offered a price upon his head to the person who would bring him to 
Boston alive or dead. This seemed to have the desired effect, and 
submitting to their authority in 1 658, he behaved himself for a few 
years until the Restoration, when the Gorges party once more came 
to the front in Maine. Then he unloosed his bonds again, and de- 
fied his late political masters iu an insulting letter to the Massachu- 
setts magistrates. In 1668 the tables were again turned, and 
although Bonython remained recalcitrant, he found, after three more 
years of ineffectual opposition, that submission was the wisest 
course, and he wrote the magistrates a letter asking them to pardon 
his past offences, alleging that he " was blinded by a letter from 
Mr. Gorge." [Mass. Arch, xlviii. 108.] His offences were not 
always of a political nature, for he quarrelled with his brother in 
law, Richard Foxwell, in 1654, and tore down his house, for which 
he had to pay roundly when the court reviewed the case. In 1640 
he was sued for libel by Rev. Richard Gibson (who had married 
Mary Lewis, the daughter of his father's partner), in that he had 
called him " a base priest, a base knave and a base fellow," besides 
slandering his wife.t The court gave the plaintiff a verdict of 

* 4 Mass. Hist. Coll. vii. "VVinthrop Papers. 

t He was probably the instigator of the charges against Gibson's wife, recounted in the 
letter to Winthrop, 14 Jan. 1678-9, and we may suppose that jealousy \wa,s the cause of the 
trouble, [o Mass. Hist. Coll. i. 267.] 



6 

f 6. 6. 8. anrl costs 12s. 6cl. This is a record unusually crowded 
witli the events of a disreputable career, and it is not at all certain 
that the story is complete.* We are relieved, however, to learn that 
in 166G he had so far obtained tlie confidence of his towns people 
as to he placed on a trial jury, but that is the extent of his public 
services, as far as can be learned.! At the outbreak of the Indian 
hostilities in Maine, 1675, his house was burned about September 
of that year, and with his family he fled to Marblehead for safety. 
There, 17 February, 1676, "in his last sickness," he made his will, 
from which we learn the names of his wife and children [an<e,' xxxiv. 
09], This date may be taken as the time of his decease ; but 
though dead, his fame will not only live in Whittier's " Mogg Me- 
gone," but in an epitaph still preserved, which sums up his life in 
expressive rhyme : 

" Here lies Bonython the Sagamore of Saco 
He lived a rogue and died a knave and went to Hobbowocko."J 

Folsom says " He was buried at his own request near the river 
on the line separating one division of his estate from that of [James] 
Gibbins. A man who lives near the spot informs us that having 
liad frequent occasion to pass it when a boy, .... he was often told 
that the ' governor of Saco' lay buried there." [History Saco and 
Biddeford, (11 6.]§ His estate was not administered until 1732, 
when the property was found to consist of 5000 acres of land valued 
at 18 shillings per acre, which was divided among his heirs. 

By wife Agnes he had issue : 

i. JouN, " the eldest Sonne," b. 1654; selectman, 1685; removed to New- 
castle, N. II., 1689, where he was liviniiin 1694. He had children : 1, 
y?icA«rf/J ofNcwcastle, a cordwainer, who was living there in 1713, but 
died before 17.32 ; 2. PatienceJ m. John Collins. She was the only 
heir of John Bonython, Jr., living in 1732, to take part in the division 
of the estate. 

ii. Ei-iNMR, m. Churchwell. This daughter inherited her flither's moral 
proclivities. She was examined, 20 Sept. 1667, on a charge of ba.s- 
tardy. and heing convicted was punished in the usual way liy standing 
in a wliite sheet in public meeting, but her father paid tiie alternate of 
£5 fine. 

iii. (iAVF{ia.\N.|| In 1672, this son had a suit at law against Cieorge Norton 
in the New llampshire cmirts. [Mass. Arch, xxxix. 413.] 

iv. Thomas, '• who then lay sick" at the date of his father's " last sick- 
ness.'" Presented to the court in 1669 with his brother John " for liv- 
ing in a disorderly family in the house of their father, a contemner of 
this (Mas-saehuHetts) authority." [Foleom, 144.] 

v. Wi.\MKRK», ra. [Robert] Nichols. 

• In IGtS."?, as if to ntone for liis past misdeeds and .secure the good will of the people, he 
gnvf thf t<iwn twenty (icres of upland for the niiiiistcr. [Folsom, 110.] 

t III lOfio the town.smcii elected him constabk', but he refu-sed the honor and was fined 48. 
for not tjikiiiK the oath of office. [Tolsoin, 11.5.] 

* HolilMnvoiko is the devil of the Indians, according to .loeclyn, who Ra}'s : " They ac- 

knowjrdt'e n Ood whom tliev e,ill .Sqiiant^m, Imt Ahbowocko, or Chepic, many times 

umilf" them with iiKiiralile diseases, scarce thoin witli his apparitions and panic terrors, by 
rea-on wlien-of they live in eon.stcrnation worslnpping the Devil for fear." 

i It is presumptuous to offer eorrcetions to Fol.soiii'.s nccurate work, but I suftjjest that 
the tradition of the lairial place of the '* >rovcrnor of .'^aeo " refers to Captain Ilieliard, his 
fjither, wlio was in facta mnpistratc of the place. Jolin may have been buried near his 
f.ilher. 

I Tliiw n.nmc, like Reskymer, is a Cornish surname, and possildy gives eluc to the maid- 
en HHme of John's wife or moflier. Tin- Gavrigan family lived in St. Columb Major, where 
Cnpt. Richard Bonytlion was baptized. 



This closes the record of a family of gentle blood who came to 
the Province of Maine to aid in the perjjetuation of the feudal seig- 
nories of Old England. With this aristocratic scion of Bonython 
Manor were associated the almost royal Champernowne, owning 
kinship to the Plantagenets and Courtenays of England and the 
Montgomerys of France ; the gentle Joscelyn of the knightly house 
of Kent ; the noble Cammock, related to the powerful Earl of War- 
wick, and Godfrey, who bore the arms of the renowned Godfrey of 
Bullion the chivalrous King of Jerusalem. All these men were 
the associates of Richard Bonython, but no one to-day bears the 
name of Bonython, Champernowne, Joscelyn, Cammock or God- 
frey in the state which they helped to found. The fate of the Bony- 
thon family in America bears a striking resemblance to the tragic 
end of the elder line in England, for the line of Richard the emi- 
grant tapers off miserably in the profligate "Sagamore of Saco," 
for we hear nothing of his son's descendants. In the female line, 
however, through the Cummings match, the families of Bragdon, 
Banks, Longfellow and others, deduce their pedigree, while from 
the Foxwell marriage several other Maine families can be traced, 
including Thornton and Libby. 



Note. — I am indebted to the Western Antiquary, Supplement, Part IV., March, 
1882, for the facts connected with the English portion of the family. This was fur- 
nished to me by Mr. John Langdon Bonython of Adelaide, South Australia, who 
had collected most of the material for that magazine. 



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APR 3 1930