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William Hewes
(c.1691 -1746)

The key to the genealogy of this family is found in the section of a 1751 indenture that recited the chain of title to the family home for four generations of the Hewes family. The 146 acre tract at Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania was handed down from father to the eldest son for three generations.

Home of William Hewes III and Mary Withers
Constructed at Marcus Hook in 1723
Google Books
Generation 1: William Hewes and Deborah Pedrick
Generation 2: William Hewes II and Sarah Bezer
Generation 3: William Hewes III and Mary Withers
Generation 4: William Hewes IV and Lydia Dutton

The1751 indenture deed establishes that William Hewes III, the eldest son of William Hewes and Sarah Bezer, died intestate in 1746. Thus, he is not to be confused with another unrelated William Hughes who was a Hampshire County, Virginia frontiersman whose will was probated in 1767.[1]

146 Acre Home of Four Generations of the Hewes Family
at Markus Hook, Pennsylvania

The Hewes Family

William Hewes/Hughes (c. 1691 – 1746) was a Quaker born about 1691 in Marcus Hook, Lower Chichester Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.[2] He was a prosperous stone mason and farmer who served Chester County as a constable, a member of the grand jury on numerous occasions, a supervisor of highways, tax collector, overseer of the poor, and served seven terms in the Pennsylvania Colonial Assembly or House of Representatives.[3]

William Hewes I died in 1698. His only heir named in his will was his eldest son William Hewes II. William Hewes II and his wife Sarah Bezer deeded the 146 acre tract at Marcus Hook to their eldest son William Hewes III in 1719.[4] William Hewes III and his wife Mary Withers built a three-story house on the property in 1723. 'WHM - 1723' was carved into an exterior corner of the house. The inscription stands for William Hewes and Mary. It was customary for Quakers in this area at this time to inscribe the side of their brick houses with this exact form of inscription. Hewes has followed the tradition of displaying their initials and the year of construction on his frame house. [5]

Three members of the Hewes family with its American origins in Chester County Pennsylvania played a part in the prominent events in the early history of the nation. William Hewes (born c.1691) served in the Pennsylvania Assembly alongside a young Benjamin Franklin while he was the clerk of the Assembly.[6] During his tenure Hewes voted on the construction of the new Pennsylvania Statehouse, more widely known as Independence Hall, where the Continental Congress would declare independence and where the United States Constitution would be written.

One of Hewes’ nephews, Joseph Hewes, was a member of the 2nd Continental Congress, voted for independence from England and signed the Declaration of Independence. Josiah Hewes, another nephew, was a Philadelphia merchant, an active member of the Philadelphia committee of correspondence in support of independence, a Director of the Bank of North America (his signature appears on some of the Continental currency issued during the revolution), member of Benjamin Franklin’s Library Company and manager of the Pennsylvania hospital.

Hewes is sometimes given the middle name Parson or Parsons. His wife has been given the middle name Sidney, Sudra or Sudna.[7] There is no documentary evidence for the attribution of these names. Researchers that adopt these names typically confuse him with that William Hughes that settled on 400 acres of land on the Virginia frontier bordering the Great Cacapon River in Hampshire County and died there in 1762.[8]

1713 William Hewes Married Mary Withers

Under the care of the Quaker meeting at Chichester, William Hewes III married Mary Withers in 1713. We do not have the recorded copy of the marriage certificate but we do have the minutes of the Concord Monthly Meeting where they recorded their declarations of their intention to be married and it is recorded that the marriage was orderly accomplished on 12 November 1713.[9]

The names of all nine of their children can be found in three separate documents:

(1) The Petition to the Orphans Court of Chichester dated 17 March 1746/47; [10]
(2) The will that Mary Hewes signed in 1748.[11]
(3) The Discharge Petition of William Hewes IV to the Recorder of Deeds dated 8 January 1755.[12].

The birth dates of their children are unknown.[13] When Mary Withers Hewes died in 1750 she mentioned their nine children in her will. She apparently named them in order of their birth. Their children are:

1. William born c. 1715 died 1753
2. Sarah born c. 1717 died 1746
3. John born c. 1719 died 1759
4. Samuel born c. 1721
5. Lydia born c. 1722 died 1774
6. Isaac born c. 1724
7. Hannah born c. 1726
8. Rebecca born c. 1727 died 1760
9. Caleb born c. 1735

Of their nine children seven are known to have married. They married other Quakers in accordance with the lengthy and intense Quaker marriage protocols by which the couple intending to marry was required to meet the women’s and the men’s monthly meetings two times in successive months for approval to marry. Both the men's meeting and the women's meeting appointed two solid members to investigate the couple to determine if they were suitable for marriage. Any family in which most or all of the children submit to these rules demonstrates its strong commitment to the values of the Quaker community.[14][15]

Lower Chichester Township - Chester County

The 1715 Lower Chichester Township tax list is the earliest one available.[16] It has William Hughes paying 2 shillings and William Hewes Jr. paying 2 shillings and 6 pence. These two are almost certainly William Hewes II and William Hewes III.[17] William Hewes II appeared in some of the early records as William Hewes Jr. Which one is which here, however, is uncertain.[18] Neither the 1716 nor the 1717 tax lists are available. Thus this is the only year in which both father and son are recorded in the tax records in Chichester Township. By 1719 William Hewes II probably relocated to New Jersey.

The Lower Chichester Township tax records appear to show Hewes to have become fairly prosperous. If we assume the amount of tax paid is proportional to income or wealth we can infer from the tax records from 1715 to 1740 that in 1715, at age about 25 he was already in the upper 65 percentile—that is he paid more in taxes than 65% of the others in the township who paid taxes that year. In 1718-1727 Hewes was in the upper 25th percentile. From 1730 to 1740 he paid more in taxes than any other person in the township.[19]

1724 Chester County Courthouse
Hewes did the stone work on the building

In 1717 Hewes was appointed constable of Lower Chichester Township. In early colonial Pennsylvania, constables were the most important and the most powerful law enforcement officials in the township. Hewes seems to have served again as the constable in 1718 and then his name begins to appear as a member of the Grand Jury or the Grand Inquest as it was frequently called. Hewes served on nine of the Grand Juries from 1718 to 1732.[20]

In 1726 and again from 1736-37 Hewes served as a supervisor of the highways in Chichester Township.[21] This entailed that he was to oversee either the construction of a new road or the maintenance of various stretches of an existing road situated through or near his own property.

In addition to his community service, Hewes worked as a farmer and as a stone mason. From 1723 through 1730 Hewes was paid at least £440 for masonry work for the county including in 1724 the construction of a new court house with stone walls two feet thick. The building was in use until 1967 and still stands today waiting for restoration.[22]

The Pennsylvania Assembly

In 1731 Hewes was elected as one of the eight delegates to represent Chester County in the Pennsylvania Assembly or House of Representatives.[23] The Assembly was not exactly an engine of revolutionary progress. One of the items they considered was the placement and maintenance of buoys on the river to aid navigation. Whether he ran for reelection and was defeated or he decided not to run again is unknown. He was elected again in 1736 and served six consecutive terms until October of 1743.[24]

Hewes returned to the Assembly in November of 1737. He was probably elected because of his strong standing in the Quaker community. That he was successful financially certainly strengthened that standing. The records of the House of Representatives are sparse in details in that they rarely report on any of the discussions or debates indicating who said what in favor or against any topic under consideration.[25]

Independence Hall

Among the noteworthy accomplishments of the Assembly was the construction of a new Pennsylvania State House today better known as Independence Hall because the Assembly room was loaned to the Second Continental Congress where it debated independence and then voted to declare independence from England in 1776. About 15 years later the Constitution was debated and formally signed in the same Assembly room.

Pennsylvania State House

Construction of the state house and its two adjoining office buildings began in 1732.[26] This was during Hewes first term in office. In 1729 £2000 had been authorized in order to buy land and materials to start construction. But nothing was accomplished for three years because of a dispute within the three man committee over where to locate the building.

By 1737 when Hewes was returned to the Assembly it was apparently meeting in the new state house even though it was not yet completed. On June 5, 1741 a committee was assigned to look into the reasons for the delay in finishing construction. Hewes and two others were on this committee. On June 6, the committee submitted a written report.

Their report indicated that qualified workers for plastering were not available until the spring. Windows could be put in now but they might be damaged when finishing work on the walls is carried out. The committee reported that the “Assembly-room ...should be plastered, glazed, and finisheed[sic], all but the ceiling and upper work, by the next meeting of the Assembly. ...That the whole building, with all its parts, should be finished without delay, that it may be ready for the use intended.”[27]


Hewes died intestate, i.e. without leaving a will, between October 30 and December 15, 1746. We know these dates because Rebecca Hewes married Samuel Grubb on 30 Oct 1746. William Hewes III attended the wedding and signed the certificate as a witness.[28] Then on 15 December 1746 Robert Moulder, the widowed spouse of Sarah Hewes daughter of William Hewes III and Mary Withers, petitioned the Orphans Court on behalf his daughter Sarah Moulder, the "granddaughter to William Hewes late deced" that a guardian be appointed to protect her interests in the estate of William Hewes.[29]

Hewes owned two tracts of land at his death both with messuages, i.e., with houses and outbuildings, on them. The 146 acre farm was the one originally purchased by his grandfather, handed down to his father and then deeded to William Hewes III and his wife Mary Withers Hewes in 1719.


  1. Joy Hughes-Jacoby proposed a theory in her book The English Ancestral Family and American Descendants of William and Deborah Hewes (originally published in 2000) that the son of William Hewes II and Sarah Bezer survived his wife, remarried and settled in Orange County, Virginia which later because of boundary changes became Fredrick and then Hampshire County, West Virginia. A careful look at the documentary evidence that has become available since the publication of her book shows that this theory is false. For a complete examination of this theory see The Myth that William Hewes III Settled on the Virginia Frontier and Died in Hampshire County, Virginia in 1767.
  2. Concord MM, Births and Burials 1758-1916, p. 44-45. The title of these records is Births and Burials however beginning at page 40 appears a section titled A list of the first members of the Monthly Meeting of Chichester and Concord. This record indicates on page 45 that William Hewes was a member in 1684 and that William Hewes Jr. became a member in 1690. Under remarks for William Hewes Jr. is a note indicating that Sarah Bezer married William Hewes Jr in 1689. We infer that William Hewes III was born within a year or two of that marriage.
  3. Caroloyn M. Peters in Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1997) Vol. II, pp. 481-482. This biographical sketch is an invaluable guide to understanding William Hewes III.
  4. Lines 22-31 of 1751 Indenture by William Hewes IV selling the land to John Kerwin. Chester County Recorder of Deeds, Deeds 1688–1903; Index to deeds 1688–1922 Deed books, G (v. 7) 1745-1750 H (v. 8) 1749-1753 I-J (v. 9) 1753-1755 Film #20855 Image Group #7856903 pp. 139–142, Images 702-704.
  5. Patricia Ann Miller, "Images of America: Marcus Hook (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2007), pp. 15-16. See The Old Houses of Salem County Source of the pictures: Google Books
  6. Gertrude MacKinney ed., Pennsylvania Archives, Series 8, Vol. 3, (Philadelphia: B. Franklin and D.Hall Printers, 1931), p. 2373, image 596. Benjamin Franklin was appointed clerk of the Assembly in 1736. His duty was to record the minutes of the Assembly’s transactions. In 1737 Franklin was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia. Franklin remained clerk of the Assembly until 1751.ancestry.com
  7. The origin of these names Parson, Parsons, Sidney, Sudra or Sudna to William Hewes and Mary Withers is unknown. They have no historical documentation and seem to be 21st or extremely late 20th century inventions.
  8. See the 7,500+ family trees at ancestry.com that employ these names.
  9. Minutes of the Concord Monthly Meeting, 1683-1756, p. 167. All dates are by the Gregorian Calendar.
  10. Decedants' Estate Papers, 1716-1810; Index, 1716-1880; Author: Pennsylvania. Orphans' Court (Chester County); Probate Place: Chester, Pennsylvania, image 153. ancestry.com
  11. Estate Papers, 1713-1810; Author: Chester County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Chester, Pennsylvania, image 285. ancestry.com
  12. Chester County, Pennsylvania Deed books, K (v. 10) 1755-1758 L (v. 11) 1758-1760, pp. 550–551, Image 578. Film #20856 Image Group # 8066909 familysearch.org
  13. The early Chester County Quaker meetings may have kept family registers with lists of family members and dates of birth but no evidence any early Concornd MM family registers has yet appeared.
  14. See Barry Levy, Quakers and the American Family (New York: Oxford Univ Press, 1988), p. 141. Isaac Hewes was something of an exception. He married Lydia Weldon who was from a Quaker family but they were married contrary to Quaker discipline. They were married in at Christ Church in Philadelphia which was contrary to Quaker rules. That fact is recorded in the minutes. Apparently they were not required to acknowledge their error by a written testimony nor by an apology before the Quaker meeting. That they were not publicly censured, dismissed or disowned demonstrates the strong standing of the family with the Quakers.
  15. In her bio-sketch of Hewes, Peters says that he "was not particularly active as a Quaker." This is a strange thing to say when no evidence is provided. Quakers were known for enforcing their discipline. Friends that are lax in some way are subjected to eldering. That is, the meeting takes note of them and sends elders out to counsel the inactive member. These events are recorded in the minutes of the meeting. She makes no reference to any such record.
  16. Lower Chichester Twp Tax Records
  17. William Hewes I died in 1698. William Hewes IV was born about 1715.
  18. Apparently William Hewes II moved to Ouldmans Creek in New Jersey about this time. In 1724 Edward Hewes, a brother of William Hewes II was married at Salem, New Jersey as were some of his other siblings: Thomas, James, Ruth, and Deborah. William Hewes II died at Ouldmans Creek in 1733.
  19. In 1740 a Thomas Hewes is listed as paying more in taxes than anyone else. William Hewes is not listed. This is an anomaly. No Thomas Hewes is listed in any of the other years for which we have a record. I infer that this is a typographical error and this person is actually William Hewes.
  20. Records of the Quarter Sessions Docket for Sessions 1714-1723 and 1723-1733.
  21. Peters, Lawmaking and Legislators, p. 481. See also, Grace Winthrop, Early Roads in Chester County, in Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society, History Archives, Vol 24, No. 2, April 1986, pp. 59-66.
  22. Peters, Lawmaking and Legislators, p. 481. After 1850 the building served as the Chester City Hall and then housed the Delaware County Historical Society. The court room upstairs was used until 1967. Until that date it was the oldest active court room in America.
  23. Pennsylvania Archives, Series 8, Vol 3, p. 2161.
  24. Only property owners could vote or serve in these elective offices. The lower house or Assembly consisted of 30 members: 8 from each of the three larger counties of Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester, 4 from Lancaster County and 2 from the city of Philadelphia. The records we have of their meetings are merely a summary of their proceedings. No detailed record was made of their deliberations.
  25. Carolyn Peters began her biographical sketch of Hewes in the Pennsylvania Legislative Biographical Dictionary calling Hewes a “classic backbencher” in the Assembly. This is a misleading characterization. The term is entirely inappropriate. The term is applicable only in those legislative bodies that have at least two rival political parties, one in power and one out of power. Frontbenchers are those who are government ministers or in the shadow cabinet ready to take those posts when its party takes control of the government. In Pennsylvania’s colonial government there were no rival political parties, no ministers in the Assembly nor any shadow ministers. The legislators at that time were dominated by Quakers and operated generally under Quaker practices which means they calmly discussed matters rather than argue or debate. The record of their sessions give no indication of either arguments or debates occurring. We have no clue about the level of Hewes' participation in the daily deliberations of the Assembly.
  26. Pennsylvania Archives, Series 8, Vol 3, p. 2163.
  27. Pennsylvania Archives, Series 8, Vol 3, p. 2403.
  28. Concord Monthly Meeting, Marriages 1698-1783, p. 150.
  29. Orphans Court Dockets 1734-1746.

Documentary Resources

The 146 Acre Home for Four Generations of the Hewes Family

1684 Survey of 146 Acres at Markus Hook
Property Map of Markus Hook

More Documents on the Property can be Found Here: Hewes Documents

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