Last will and testament of James Deneson credited as the first settler in Southbridge Massachusetts
- Last will and testament of James Deneson credited as the first settler in Southbridge Massachusetts
The last will and testament of James Deneson (also known as James Dennison) and a schedule of his property. The original is a two-sided handwritten document, written on 10th of May, 1777. This document was presented to the Town of Southbridge by Randall Towne of Danielson, Connecticut on December 29, 1988. The dedication reads: "Presented by my daughter, Sarah Towne, on behalf of my grandfather the late Maurice D. Town (stet.) of Southbridge and my parents Chester L. Towne of Sturbridge and his wife the late Delores B. Towne. Thanks to them this artifact has been saved and only when I found out the importance of it did this event come to pass." [Randall Towne, December 29, 1988]. The original document is on display in the Town Clerk's office at Town Hall, Southbridge. The Town of Southbridge Agrees as follows: Whereas Randall Towne of Danielson, Connecticut desires to give the authenticated copy of the will of his ancestor, James Denison, to the Town of Southbridge, and whereas, the Town of Southbridge, a Municipal Corporation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts desires to accept said gift, in consideration of the mutual promises contained herein and in consideration of the mutual promises contained herein and in consideration of the undertaking of the execution of the purpose of this agreement, the parties do hereby agree and covenant as follows: 1. The Town of Southbridge agrees to accept said will and to take appropriate measures to preserve said document and to appropriate sufficient funds to effect said preservation. 2. The Town of Southbridge agrees to permanently display said document for public viewing in the Jacob Edwards Library or some other public building within the Town. 3. The Town of Southbridge agrees that if at any time the will of James Denison should be removed from the Town, the will shall be returned to the aforesaid Randall Towne or to his heirs. 4. Randall Towne agrees to give said will to the Town of Southbridge, subject to the above conditions. This agreement shall be binding on the heirs, executors, administrators and successors of the parties to this agreement. Quoting from the Southbridge Historical Album 1816-1966 Sesquicentennial, "In 1792 forty-two petitioners applied to the General Court for land grants lying between Oxford and Brimfield, Brookfield and the Province line. The request was granted and an association of "proprietors" was formed, one of whom was James Deneson. On one of the lots he received in a drawing, July 1730, was a shelter formed by rocks. He settled in that cave in the fall of 1730 and began clearing his land. There is a story that while working on his land he heard the sound of an ax from over the hills. He signalled on a tree trunk and began walking toward the sound of the answering signals of the unknown person. They saw each other on opposite banks of the river and each felled a pine tree across the river so that the tops met to form a crude bridge. They scampered to the middle and there they met. There is some disagreement as to the identity of the other person. Deneson abandoned his shelter shortly after when sounds of prowling animals, bears or wolves, made it impractical to remain. That shelter is today easily visited on Dennison Hill. In 1901 it was marked for posterity by the Quinebaug Historical Society. Deneson returned to work his land and was the first to bring his family into the wilderness. His daughter, Experience, born August 31, 1732, was the first white child born here. The first school was in his barn - conducted only during the summer as the barn was needed for storing hay in September. He became an important man and was elected 17 times as Selectman of what was then Sturbridge. This section of Sturbridge became part of Southbridge on February 15, 1816 when the latter town was incorporated. The land is that mentioned in the Deneson will.
May 10, 1777
- Jacob Edwards Library
- Collection (local):
Photographic Collection of the Jacob Edwards Library
Southbridge (Mass.)--James Deneson
Historic documents--Southbridge (Mass.)
Historic documents--Sturbridge (Mass.)
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- Notes (date):
Date from item or accompanying materials.
On item: Item I give and bequeath unto my beloved son and Ralph Wheelock a certain piece of land Called the Calves Pasture fenced with Stone Wall Lies West of the Goat Pasture so called. He paying to his Daughters Miriam Dreser and Experience Wheelock the sum of twenty Pound to Each of them in four years after my Decease. Item I Give and Bequeath unto my Beloved Grand Sons Deneson Wheelock and Ralph Wheelock all my out Dore Moveables to be Equally Divided Between them two and if any money Left to be Equally Divided Between Deneson Wheelock, Ralph Wheelock and Miriam Dreser, Rebeckah Wheelock and Experience Wheelock. And I Hereby nominate and Apoint my Beloved Son and Grand Son Ralph Wheelock and Deneson Wheelock Executors of this my Last Will and Testament. In witness Whereof I the said James Deneson have hereunto Set my hand and seal the day and year above Written and Declared by the Said James Deneson as His Last Will and Testament in the Presence of us the Subscribers Hinsdell Clark Banja. Freeman James Deneson (seal) Isaac Clarke Worcester ss June 15th 1785. Personally appeared Ralph Wheelock and Denison Wheelock and presented the above Instrument as the Last Will and Testament of James Denison late of Sturbridge Deceased. Present Hensdale Clark and Isaac Clarke two of the Witnesses thereto Subscribed who made oath that they saw James Denison the Testator sign Seal and heard him publish pronounce and Declare the said Instrument to be his Last Will and Testament and that they subscribed their Names as witnesses to the Execution thereof at his request in his presence and in the presence of the other subscribing Witness and that he was then according to the best of their Judgment of a sound and Disposing Mind and memory. Co Joseph Wheeler Regr. By order of the Hon. Judge Worcester ss. I prove approve and allow of the aforesaid Instrument as the Last Will & Testament of the aforesaid James Denison - and Commit the Execution thereof to Ralph Wheelock and Denison Wheelock the Executors therein nominated and appointed in Testimony thereof. I have hereunto set my Name and Seal of the Office of Probate this fifth Day of July Anno Domini 1785 Joseph Dorr J. Prob.