Larry Dennis Directory

Last Update: July 20, 2001

3rd Gen. USA

Rev. John Dennis

John Dennis was an army chaplain and first minister of Charlestown, New Hampshire. He was born on November 3, 1708. He was the second son of Captain John and Lydia White Dennis of Ipswich, New Hamphshire. He had two sisters born before him and one brother born after him. The Captain was a joiner by profession as his father had been. A joiner was a builder of fine furniture. Captain John Dennis' son's conduct at college was poor in nature. It was said that he acted like a gentleman's son and did not put forth his best efforts. This must have been of great concern for his mother and father. John Dennis, born on Nov. 3, 1708, graduated from Harvard in the class of 1730.

John returned to Cambridge for his graduate studies and rented a study in May of 1731. The President of the school had made diary notes on John's behavior and it appeared he did not make the best use of his time during his year of graduate studies.

President Wadsworths diary said: Punishment; Sir Dennis on April 21, 1732 lost demerits because he had not been prepared as a respondent for the Bachelours deposition. He was then ordered to prepare to do so next Friday. When that day came the president waited for him to call on him. John was out of town. For neglecting his studies he earned more demerits.

Sir Dennis did not return again until commencement in 1733. At that time he qualified for the M. A. His dissertation was titled, "An Diabolus Hominum Cogitationes cognoscat?'

On December 12, 1736 Sir Dennis registered his intentions of marrying Martha Wilcomb. She was the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Hodgkin Wilcomb. They were from Ipswich, New Hampshire. The bride, who was twenty years old, probably anticipated the distinction of being the first lady of the town in which her husband might settle as a minister. She was fated to live a lonely life at Ipswich or suffer with him on the frontier.

John Dennis enlisted on September 22, 1732, to serve as Army Chaplain at Fort St. Georges, in modern Thomaston on a salary of 100 pounds a year. The General Court appropriated 30 pounds to purchase "Furniture and necessary utensils for the Chaplains rooms at said Fort." It turned out the Province treasury had no money so he had to pay for those items himself. This distressed him, as did the unkindness and disrespect of his commander, Captain John Giles. This was to drive John Dennis to the point of resignation.

Also, his health was poor, so on May 28, 1740, he petitioned the General Court for further compensation and this is what he stated in his petition:

"Your Petitioner during his abode and beeing in the Service at St. Georges has contracted a very hazardous distemper which incapacitates him from being further serviceable there and obliges him to be at great expense on physicians. He has a considerable family and he is being reduced to very low circumstances, which humbly apprehends himself to deserve the compassion of the honorable Court. He prays for your Excellency and Honours to take his sad case into your wise consideration and to make him a grant of a small tract or parcell of the unappropriated lands."

At this time he and his wife had three children. John Dennis was the first child and he was baptized on July 31, 1737.

Martha Dennis was the second child born to the family and was baptized on October 8, 1738 in Charleston, Ma. (Essex County). She grew up and married Abraham Safford and they lived in Salem, New Hampshire.

Lucy Dennis was the third child in the family and she was baptized on March 27, 1740. She grew up and married William Robbins of Rowley, Ma., on November 26, 1772.

The House of Representatives voted him 50 pounds and two hundred acres of his own choosing adjoining some former grant. They held to their vote despite the efforts of the council to kill the land grant clause.

Rev. John was sick during the summer of 1740. By the following July of 1741 he was well enough to accept an appointment as Truckmaster at Fort St. Georges. His family joined him in Maine at this time.

The summer of 1744 was when John Dennis was Chaplain of Richmond Fort and also Fort Frederick at Pemaquld. He repeatedly petitioned to have his salary increased to equal that of other Chaplains.

Rev. John and Martha's family was growing. They now added four more children:

The fourth child was William Dennis. He was baptized on October 12, 1741 in Ipswich, Ma. (Essex County). William grew up and married Abigail Smith on June 3, 1763 in Ipswich, Ma. She died on February 7, 1799 in Ipswich, Ma. William remarried to Priscilla Burnham. William died on August 23, 1819.

Samuel Dennis was the fifth child born to the family but there is no further information on him. Arthur Dennis was the next child of John and Martha. He was born on December 25, 1745 in Ipswich, Ma. (Essex County). Arthur married Mary Goodhue on December 11, 1766 in the South Church of Ipswich, Ma. He died on April 24, 1825 in Phelps, New York (Ontario County).

Elizabeth Dennis was the seventh child in the family. She was baptized on February 28, 1747. When she grew up she married Benjamin Griffin or Griffeth.

The first part of 1747 was when Rev. John Dennis began to add to his regular petitions the statement that he had acted, "in the capacity of a physician and chirurgeon." The word chirurgeon was a misspelling for surgeon.

It was at this time that Samuel Moody gave him this recommendation:

Mr. John Dennis, Chaplain of his Majesties Fort Frederick hath behaved himself in his office in a sober, circumspect manner and in all other things within the notice of my observation in a decent prudent manner and particular hath been very helpful in assisting such sick and wounded persons from time to time as I have often been informed and can evidence from such as I have seen received from under his care who must in all probability have been cripples during life had it not been for his prudent management.

Two more sons were born to the Dennis':

Nathan Dennis was born but there is no further information on this child so we could assume he did not survive long. Moses Dennis was the ninth child born in the family. He joined the family on May 27, 1750 in Ipswich, Ma. Moses married Sarah Frye on May 27, 1781 in Andover, Ma. (Essex County). He died on December 18, 1845 in Hancock, New Hampshire (Hillsborough County). There is much more information on him in the next generation because he is our direct ancestor. By 1750 Rev. John Dennis had left the service and received a veteran's benefit for the rest of his life.

June 1750, Rev. John Dennis was preaching at Dracut. For the next two years he hopefully tried the vacant pulpits in that part of the providence. The family had their tenth child and last daughter on August 23, 1752. Her name was Mary Dennis and when she grew up she married Rev. Samuel Hide. They had thirteen children.

And by March 1753, Rev. John Dennis gave up the search for a pulpit and took a job of keeping the Ipswich Grammer School.

May 13, 1754 the proprietors and settlers of Charlestown, New Hampshire (better known as Fort Number Four) gave him a more lucrative offer to preach in Charlestown, New Hampshire. They offered a salary of 50 pounds and it was to be calculated in silver.

Plus the settlement taxed itself 8 pounds to pay the expense of bringing his family through the wilderness to Connecticut.

Perhaps the prospect was too much for Martha Dennis. She died on July 1, 1754. She left behind two small children. One was not quite two years old and the other was four years old. She had older daughter's that could help with the family but surely she was missed. Moses was just four years old and Mary was only two years old.

On July 15, 1754 Rev. John again requested more money because of the size of his family and the compensation was considered to low he thought. This was probably part of the reason he was dismissed from the First Church of Ipswich on July 28, 1754.

On December 4, 1754 he was ordained at Northfield. The council met here because of the Indian hostilities. These hostilities had broken out along the Connecticut since his arrival in the spring.

Within six months of his ordination Rev. John Dennis was in difficulties. It was not because of the Indians but because of his conduct. The town decided to cut off his pay if he did not give promises to "drop his addresses and seeings of Eunice Farnsworth".

He apparently did not keep his promise. There was a temporary reconciliation in which he promised that he would not in the future "give the town occasion to fault him for falsity and prevarication".

The council at Deerfield later dismissed Rev. John Dennis on March 31, 1756.

Although at the time he was discharged from Charlestown's obligation's to him, he later sued the town in 1764. He recovered 74 pounds, which suggests he had not totally been guilty of everything. It was suggested that perhaps the whole trouble was that he was hungry and Eunice Farnsworth was a good cook.

Soon after leaving New Hampshire, Rev. John Dennis was to take the job at the Harwich pulpit. It was there that he registered his intentions to marry the widow Ruth Bacon on May 1, 1758. It was around this time that he sold or lost most of his properties because of his many debts.

During the several years of service at Harwich, he added only one member to the church. Rev. John was never fully installed at Harwich. The council decided not to pay him his salary so he left Harwich. He resorted to bringing another suit against them in December of 1760. He also besieged the General Court in vain, for higher compensation of his veteran's benefits for his military service. It was on the grounds that in anticipating the demands of a later generation of veterans by asking for adjusting compensation for the depreciation of the currency while he was in the service.

Rev. John Dennis would settle again in Ipswich. His family of brothers and sister's that was still there had risen in the social and economic scale during his years of service elsewhere.

In February 1771, he was considered a poor relative and given a job that as a young graduate he would have scorned. He was to keep the reading and writing school of the First Parish at a salary of $10 per month. He died on September 2, 1773. He was 64 years old. His widow remained in Ipswich and died there on October 2, 1804.