January 1855 letter from John Henshaw of Massachusetts to James W. Henshaw of (West) Virginia, reflecting on the history of the Henshaw family of New England.

January, 1855

James W. Henshaw
Berkely, Virginia

Your letter to one David Henshaw was handed to me, being a brother and one of the executors of his estate. He departed this life on the 11th of Nov. 1852 of Gout inherited from his progenitors and with which he had been greatly afflicted for twenty five years previous to his death. He visited Europe in June, 1852 for the benefit of his health, and returned the following October much improved. Imprudent exposure brought on a relapse two weeks after his return, which terminated fatally in a few days.

He was never married. He resided for fourteen years presiding his death, on his farm at Leicester, Worcester Co., Massachusetts. The estate was inherited from his father, by the name of David Henshaw, Who purchased it of Gov. Bowdoin in the year 1781. My brother bequeathed the estate to me in his will. I hope sometime to make it my residence. My present residence is in Cambridge near Harvard College, three miles from Boston. I am fifty seven years of age, and a widower. My brother David was sixty one years old at the time of his death. I have one son, John Andew Henshaw of the firm of Henshaw, Edmonds and Co., Druggist of this city, twenty seven years of age. I Have four daughters, two married and two unmarried. I own the place on which I reside in Cambridge. It was purchased in 1838 of the late Professor J.W. Webster who built it. You may recollect he was executed in 1850 for the murder of Dr. George Parkman in the medical college of which he (Dr. Webster) was professor.

In the year of 1844 I obtained from the Herald's College, London a pedigree of our family progenitors. It was signed by G.W. Cullen Pursuviant at Arms of the Herald's College, London, and commences with Henry III, King of England, whose son Edward I succeeded him on the throne. Then Edward II, then Edward III, whose fourth son John, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster had a daughter who married the Earl of West Moreland, Ralph Neville. Their son Richard Neville married the Countess of Salisbury and took her title.

Their daughter Eleanor Neville sister of the great Earl of Warrick, the king maker (so called) married Sir Thomas Stanley afterwards created Earl of Derby. His second wife was Margaret of Lancaster, Duchess of Richmond, and mother of Henry VII King of England.

Thomas Stanley's son George was held as hostage for the fidelity of his father, by Richard III who was killed in the Battle of Bosworth, and Henry of Richmond was proclaimed on the battlefield by his father in law, Thomas Stanley, as Henry the VII. You will find the account of the foregoing in the History of England. George Stanley died before his father. He left two sons. Thomas who succeeded his Grandfather as second Earl of Derby, and James who was created a Baronet, and lived at Cross Hall, Lancashire, England. He had four sons. The three eldest died without issue. Henry the youngest, succeeded and inherited the large estate of his father.

He married Margaret, daughter of Peter Stanley of Richerstaff of another branch of the family. Henry Stanley had seven sons and daughters. His daughter Margaret Stanley married in 1595 [sic] Richard Houghton of Wavertree Hall, near Liverpool, they had an only son and seven daughters, his son Evan Houghton, of Wavenree Hall was his heir and married Ellen Parker of Bridge Hall, County of Lancashire. They had a daughter, an only child named Catherine. She married William Henshaw son of Thomas Henshaw of Paxteth Park near Liverpool, and they lived with her father at Wavertree Hall. William Henshaw and his father in law, Evan Haughton were both killed at the storming of Liverpool on the 20th of June 1644, by Prince Rupert. They were fighting on the side of parliament, and against King Charles I.

In 1651 the wife of William Henshaw died leaving two sons, Joshua aged about nine years and David [sic] about eighteen months younger. In 1653 the Executor of the estate pretended to send these boys to London to attend school, and reported afterwards that they both died with plague, in reality he had sent them to New England and placed them in the family of Rev. Richard Mather an eminent Divine of Dorchester near Boston, Who educated them, with money forwarded for that purpose. Their property to a large amount was appropriated by the Executor to his own use or rather that part which came down from the Houghton family, that part which came down from Henry Stanley by marriage settlement upon his daughter Margaret probably went back in to the family of Stanleys. The present Earl of Derby is descended from the above Henry Stanley.

The executors of William Henshaw's estate was Peter Ambrose, a man much employed by the parliamentary sequestrating committee. In 1644 to 1650 he had charge of Knowsely House the seat of the Earl of Derby for several years years during the civil war.

The youngest of the abducted boys died without issue. The eldest Joshua married Elizabeth Summers of Massachusetts daughter of William Summers of Dorchester an ancestor of Gov. Summers of Massachusetts, who filled the office of Governor in 1798, also of Hon. Charles Summers former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

I might have stated that the Earldom of Derby became extinct in the male line of the elder branch of Stanleys, and that a descendant of Henry Stanley suceeded to the Earldom in the year 1735.

Joshua Henshaw after arriving at the age of 40 years or more returned to England and prosecuted his claim, for the recovery of his property many years and finally died in London 1719 A.D. His son Joshua born about the year 1670, was a distiller and merchant of Boston and had seven sons. He died in 1747 and his wife who was Mary Webster died the next year. The names of his sons were Daniel my grandfather born in 1701, Joshua, Samuel, James, William, John, and Thomas.

Daniel was a distiller and lived in Boston, where all of his children were born and removed to Leicester a year after his father died. His father was one of the four original proprietors of Liecester. Joshua was a very wealthy merchant of Boston, and died in 1776. [sic] He was for many years the first magistrate of Boston, a member of the Govenors Council and an intimate associate and co-worker of Otis Hancock and the Adamses in promoting the Revolution which you know first broke out in Boston. He left two sons and a daughter but they left no children.

Samuel and James I believe settled in R.I. probably at New Port. William died at Boston but left no children. John lived at Liecester some time but about the year 1752 removed to Philadelphia. He had several children but what ever became of them I have no account and they have been considered the "Lost Tribe".

Daniel Henshaw before spoken of died in Liecester in 1781, he left children as follows, Daniel unmarried, Joseph married his cousin a daughter of Joshua above mentioned, but left no children. He died in Shrewsbury Worcestor Co. in 1795. Benjamin settled in Middleton Connecticut, died about 1788 and was grandfather of the late Bishop of R.I. Joshua settled in Middleton Connecticut but left no children. William Colonel in the Army of the Revolution was at the battle of Long Island and Commanded a regiment under Washington at the Battle of Princetown. He died at Liecester in 1820 aged 85 years. David Henshaw the young son of Daniel Henshaw was my father, he died at Liecester in 1808 aged 64 years, he was Captain of a company of Artillery in the Army of the Revolution and was in service about three years.

Daniel Henshaw left three daughters, Elizabeth married Colonel Samuel Dening, Mary Belcher married Amos Wheeler and Hannah married John Jap. Elizabeth and Mary Belcher settled in Liecester, where they leave many descendants. Hannah moved to western N.Y. and left sons and daughters .

My father married Mary Sargent in 1773. She was a lineal descendant of Gov. Carver of Plymouth Colony one of the Pilgrim's. My father was by his mothers side great great grandson of John Alden one of the Pilgrim's of the Mayflower, and was also a second cousin of John Adams, President next after Washington, Who was also a descendant of John Alden.

My father David Henshaw left nine children. Namely Elizabeth married Nathan Dodge now a widow and resides at Henshaw Place, Leicester. Anna never married, died Oct. 1854, age 75. Andrew married a lady by the Name of Isabelle in Cumberland Co., Virginia, and settled in Clark Co., Alabama and died there in Nov. 1853 aged 70. Sarah married Andrew Henshaw Ward a grandson of Gen. Artemus Ward, Commander-in-Chief, before Gen. Washington took the command and was his first Major General in the army of the Revolution. She resides in Newton near Boston. Charles is a merchant and is living in Boston. David, late Secretary of the Navy, (under Tyler) and collector of the Port of Boston died at Liecester, November 11, 1852, age 61 years. Laura married Oliver Fletcher a retired merchant and lived near Summerville near Boston. John the writer of this letter married Mary Ann Lewis and has one son and four daughters as follows: John Andrew married Caroline Hastings resides in Cambridge. Mary Elizabeth married J. S. Edmonds brother of J. Wiley Edmonds present member of Congress from the third district of Massachusetts and brother of Major General B. F. Edmonds of the firm of Henshaw, Edmonds and Co. Georgiana married George S. Shaw a partner in this firm. They both live in Cambridge. Cordelia and Grace aged 17 & 14 years, both unmarried.

I have given you a general outline of the Pedigree of my family. There are a great many of our name descendants of Joshua Henshaw who was first sent to New England. All the Henshaws of our race consider nearly all of our name in the U.S. as descendants of the same stock, and relatives.

P.S. Henry P. Henshaw a son of my brother Joshua married two years since a niece of President Franklin Pierce. He is a merchant of Boston and resides ten miles distant.

In February of 1855 John again wrote to James as follows: 1

Boston, Feb. 14, 1855

To James W. Henshaw

Thomas Henshaw one of the seven sons of the second Joshua, settled in Western N.Y. My brother Joshua went to Ohio in 1810 and settled in Warren, Trumble Co., where he resided until 1846, when he returned to Leicester.

On his way to Ohio he stopped at a public house in Buffalo, kept by a Mr. Henshaw. 2 I think his name was William, and they recognized each other as relative. This Mr. Henshaw was probably a grandson of Thomas Henshaw, and was there fore a second cousin of mine.

He left children, and one, it may be a grandson of his lately kept a public house in Bayou Saret, La. 3 I have corresponded with him and his name is John Hoover Henshaw and his father 4 if living, resides in Butler Co., Pennsylvania and must be at this time if alive some 82 years of age. I enclose you a description of our family of Henshaws.

The Coat of Arms was sent home to his family by the the first Joshua who was born at Wavertree Hall as stated in letter No. 1. and is now in possesion of my sister Mrs. Sarah W. Ward of Newton, Massachusets.

John Henshaw

  1. This John Henshaw letter, coming from Lela Henshaw Cook, is a duplicate of a copy made by Mack Henshaw Davis of Ohio from the original correspondence held by Byron M. Henshaw of St. Louis, Missouri.
  2. It is unclear who this William Henshaw might have been, but it might have been William Henshaw #2983.
  3. Properly Bayou Sara, a locale (and historical post office) near St. Francisville, West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.
  4. John Hoover Henshaw's parents are currently unknown.

Home Page Return to Home Page