||John Benham Sr. migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).|
Join: Puritan Great Migration Project
Some alternate spellings: Binham, Bingham, Benham
John Benham and a large group of men requested that the Massachusetts Bay Colony grant them freeman status on 19 Oct 1630. Some, but not most, of the men in this group sailed on the Mary & John which arrived in New England on March 20, 1630. They were from the West Country of England and settled in Dorchester, Massachusetts. There is ample evidence that John settled in Dorchester. There is no evidence he came from the west country or that he arrived on the Mary & John. Banks' Topographical Dictionary states that John and his two sons came from the Town of Plymouth, England on the Mary & John. Banks cites as his reference the History of Jericho, Vermont p. 382. Evaluating Banks' reference, the author of the section on the Benhams, Minnie (Benham) Walton, states that John and his two sons came from the Town of Plymouth, England on the Mary & John. She provides no proof or source or evidence to back up this statement.
Given that no records have been found to point to John's origin or age, his birth has been estimated at 1605 by Anderson, based on the estimated births of his children.
He married first by about 1630 judging from the estimated births of his two children. Neither his wife's surname or given name are in any New England records. "Sister Benham" appears in the 10 March 1646/7 seating of the New Haven meetinghouse, and "Goodwife Benham the elder" in the seating of 11 February 1655/6. She died between 13 April 1660 and 20 July 1660.
Two letters from John Davenport, spiritual leader of New Haven Colony, to Governor John Winthrop, of Connecticut, place her death within these dates and give insight into some of the difficulties of early New England life:  
April 13, 1660
I received yours by Brother Benham, whom God preserved from being drowned in his journey homeward, the river by Mr. Yale's farm was swollen high, his wife was fearfull of riding through it God provided an help for her at the instant by a passenger who travelled from Windsor to Branford to Mr. Crane's whose daughter he had married. He helped sister Benham over a tree, but her husband adventuring to ride through a foot of his horse slipped, so he fell into the water, and his horse as he thinketh, fell upon him or struck him with his foot, for he had a blow to his head, but through the mercy of God, he is now well."
July 20, 1660
... Brother Benham indeed (whose good and sweet spirited wife the Lord hath taken from him since his return), and a young child of one of his sons is since dead in his house, where also one of his son's wife lieth very weak, went to Hartford, but gave no notice of it beforehand that I might prepare a letter for him.
John remarried shortly, as was the custom of the times. He married second in Boston 16 November 1660 "Margery Alcock widow."* She presented the first inventory of John Benham on 7 January 1661/2 [NHTR 1:502], and in giving testimony about the third version of the inventory, she referred to "some of her friends in the Bay" and to "her daughter Mary." She was widow of Thomas Alcock, and married in Charlestown as her third husband on 20 February 1666/7 Richard Pritchard
Savage in his genealogical dictionary, has interpreted the letters from Davenport to mean that Margery died in 1660 and that the marriage date is wrong by a year. Anderson has adopted a simple explanation, that it was John's first wife (or at least a wife before Margery) who died in 1660.
John took the freeman's oath in Massachusetts, 18 May 1631. He received several grants of land in Dorchester: a 16 acre Great Lot, 16 January 1632/3; jointly with John Grenway a 4 acre lot (two each), in the pine neck, which had formerly been granted to John Goite, 17 April 1635; one acre of meadow, (as John Binham) February 1635/6; two acres marsh at Ludlow's Neck, (as John Binham) 2 January 1637/8,  which John "Bingham" sold to John Pierce, 23 April 1638; two lots, each of three acres, 2 goads and 10 rods on 18 March 1637/8; and on 5 Feb 1638/9, William Sumner was to have four acres of upland "which was for so much Jo: Binham was to have to make up his great lot"
The main body of settlers, led by Rev. John Davenport, left Massachusetts in the spring of 1638, by ship, to Quinnipiac (New Haven). For most male settlers the first mention of their name in the Colony records is their signature on the Fundamental Agreement of New Haven on 4 June 1639. John Benham's name is on this document. . His name is also on the earliest list of freemen. New Haven administered the Oath of Fidelity 1 July 1644. John must have been elsewhere at the time, he took the oath the next month on the 5th of August.
The New Haven records inform us that John was a brickmaker. The town paid him, in 1651, 20 shillings for the time he spent, by their request, at the beginning of the plantation looking for clay to make bricks. He had found a place that was within the bounds of Mr. Eaton's farm. When he tried to fence off the area, Gov. Eaton "lett him know itt would nott be convenient for him to have a farme within his farme, whereupon the said John Benham propounded to the Court where he shall make bricks, butt nothing was determined concerning."
John and his wife, belonged to the First Church in New Haven. He and his wife had assigned seats in the meetinghouse, his in the 7th row of the middle seats and Goodwife Benham in the 4th row of the cross seats. His inventory contained two Bibles, which suggests that he knew how to read.
John had several grants of land in New Haven before the 1640 (about) rates list: sixteen acres in the first division, twenty-four in the second, three acres and a fraction in the neck, and six acres of meadow. At this time there were five people living in his household, his estate was about £70, and he paid a rate of 12s. 4d. His meadow land was in Mill Meadow and/or the island in the East River.  His house lot was in the lower center square on the map. He gave his son Joseph the homelot he was first granted by the town on 5 Feb 1655/6. He had another house which he gave 1/2 to his son John, the other half was in dispute during his final inventory.
Most men in New Haven were found guilty of and fined for minor infractions. The male inhabitants were expected to attend training and to have the proper equipment. John was fined for a defective gun 4 Jan 1643;; for a "foule locke" 7 Jul. 1646; "for a defective gunn, he said he could not get it mended....he has two gunns in good order besides the defective one, soe it passed without a fine" on 7 Aug. 1652; for being absent (He explained that he was there but had to go get oxen out of his corn on one day and had left a cart of hay in danger on the other), he was fined for one day at court 7 Nov 1648; for he and his son missing from training 4 Nov 1651 (the son had a good excuse, and the fine was excused, John's excuse got 2/3 of the fine remitted.) for absence of traying one day ("he said, he had a kill of Bricks to burne.....and if he had not begun it upon ye second day, he could not finish before ye Sabbath, upon which ground the Court passed it without a fine" court date 1 Feb 1652 [1652/3];  On 28 July 1656 "John Benham, Senior, being lame in his arm and having lost one of his thumbs, was upon his desire freed from training" 
The town kept a watch, a duty in which that all able bodied men did their part. In 1647, John was fined for neglecting to warn David Atwater to watch. The records said it was 5 shillings, but he and witnesses said it was only half that 2 shillings 6d
On one occasion, 3 Sep. 1650, several men and John "Benham, being warned to appeare at this Court, appeared not, wch the Court looked upon as a great neglect, if not contempt, and Ordered that they be warned to ye next Court, to show cause why they did not now appeare:"
Because of the dangers to crops from farm animals it was essential that fences be kept repaired. John was fined, along with others for fence being down on 7 May 1650, 3 Sept 1650, 3 Dec 1650 for not mending the places he was already warned to fix;6 April 1652,; 2 Aug. 1653 - "Thomas Nash complained of John Benham's fence....To secure Thomas Nash from damage, the court must cast a sharp fine upon him... Benham promised it should be speedily and sufficiently amended." 
Aug. 1, 1654 - "John Benham was complained of by the Townsmen, for bringing in an impertect note of his rates, last yeare, and this yeare, leaving out last yeare one mare, and this yeare one mare, and one horse of two yeare old."
John served as fence viewer, chosen 10 March 1650. and 10 Oct 1653. These men were chosen for one year terms. He was also chosen as part of committee to find horses suitable for the towns use. He was a packer of flesh for the town 19 May 1656 and took an oath to be honest etc. 12 March 1654/5 John asked to retire from being the town drummer, who especially was to beat the drum at the beginning of watch and accompany the men to and from watch. The pay was £7 per year. He had not been the drummer long, because until about March 1652/3 Nathaniel Kimberly had been the drummer. On 28 January 1655/6 in a New Haven town meeting, it "was propounded that there might be a common viewer of fences and pounder for cattle, for the whole Town, and John Benham, Senior, was mentioned, who did not refuse it, but desired time to consider of it till another meeting"  John Benham Sr. was chosen town crier 20 February 1659/60.
John Walker died in 1652, leaving two daughters, Mary about 12 and Hannah about 7. John Benham and his son Joseph undertook to care for the cattle which John Walker had left for the benefit of his children. On 7 July 1657 John Benham requested of the court that he be relieved of this responsibility "for he is weak and lame and unable to provide for them"; the duty devolved upon Edward Watson, and by 6 April 1658 the Benhams had settled their accounts in this matter."
On 3 May 1657, "The Marshall had order to speak wth John Benham; as from ye court, that a woman he brought into the Towne, from West Chester, (as it said, wife to one Knap in Vergenia) who hath given offenc here, that she be caried away by him againe, else he will be lyable to answer to what damage doth come thereby."
June 10, 1658 - "Mr. Tuttle made complaint of unruly doggs, which hunt cattell in ye night, which was occasioned by biches going to ye dogg. John Benham's bich was nominated, and he warned to take care of her."
John Benham died in New Haven, Connecticut before 3 January 1661/2 (date of inventory).
An inventory of the estate of John Benham was presented to New Haven court for the first time on 3 January 1661/2, but was deemed incomplete and "was returned to be perfected." It was missing half a house and home lot.. 4 March 1661/2, the inventory was presented a second time, but this time a house and home lot which was sometime Richard Platts and now claimed by Joseph Benham, needed clarification. This was a different house and lot than the one given in 1655. 1 April 1662 John's inventory was presented one more time. The matter of Joseph's house and lot was cleared up, his step-mother and step-sister both declaring that John had told them of this at the time. The half a house was not so easy. John gave half his house to his son John at the time of John Jr's marriage, and promised him the other half when he John Sr. died. John had also promised his wife a house and lot worth 20 pounds, which Joseph testified to having heard. John and John Jr. had started to negotiate the resale of the 1/2 house, but had postponed it until John Jr returned from Virginia. The court having looked at the inventory and the debts realized there would be nothing left for the widow. Thomas Munson and John Harriman were asked to meet with the creditors to see what portion they would abate for the comfort of the widow. On 6 May 1662, a value of £89 03s 00d was given to the inventory. Munson and Harriman reported that the creditors would accept 15s to the pound or three quarters of their debts. 5 Aug 1662, & 6 January 1662/3, John Benham Jr, having returned from Virginia, presented his claim to the house, homelot, 25 acres in the Harfordshire quarter, and 5 acres of meadow in the same quarter. Edward Preston, brother of his former wife, testified that John Sr. had told him he would give this to his son as part of the marriage offer. The court finally acknowledged his claim to the house.
See also sources Listed in Torrey's New England Marriages:
Ancestry Indexes replaced by better sources.
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Family Tree DNA.
On 4 Jan 2018 at 23:15 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:
On 25 Oct 2016 at 12:27 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:
On 25 Oct 2016 at 12:11 GMT Anne B wrote:
On 8 Jul 2016 at 17:37 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:
"Brother Benham indeed (whose good and sweet spirited wife the Lord hath taken from him since his return), and a young child of one of his sons is since dead in his house, where also one of his son's wife lieth very weak, went to Hartford, but gave no notice of it beforehand that I might prepare a letter for him."
On 8 Jul 2016 at 17:15 GMT Kenneth Kinman wrote:
On 1 Feb 2015 at 23:45 GMT Anne B wrote:
John is 20 degrees from AJ Jacobs, 25 degrees from Carol Keeling, 12 degrees from George Washington and 18 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II Windsor on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.