TOWNER, Richard Sr. - I30443

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Richard TOWNER, Sr.

It is thought that the immigrant of this family came from county Sussex, England, thought the date of his birth, names of his parents, and time of his emigration are still obscured.[1]

I. A tradition is current in the towns of Oxford, Haddam, and Killingworth, Connecticut, among descendants of Richard TOWNER, that he "was impressed into the British Navy from the Isle of Man. After some years of service on American coasts, he was put a shore at Savannah, Georgia, to die of yellow fever, but recovered, married his nurse, and went with her to Charleston, South Carolina, where he engage in the grocery business. Afterwards, to escape threatened bombardment by Spanish men-of-war ships, he provisioned a small vessel from his store, and sailed north, landing on the Connecticut shore."[2]

On 17 February 1686, a grant of land was given to Richard TOWNER at Guilford, Connecticut, although it was not placed on record until 2 May 1712, when ordered recorded by the town -- "ten acres formerly granted to Richard Towner, now living at Branford." This grant was marked at the corners by stones bearing his initials. Original town records of Branford, Connecticut, still well preserved, bear this entry: "27 May 1689 ... Town have given to Richard Towner 12 acres of land lying upon the hill ... said Richard Towner to build a tenantable house, and settle within six years from date ... Mrs. William Maltby, Hohn Frisbee and John Butler appointed to lay it out." Later records bear frequent mention of Richard Towner in exchanges of land, deeds, etc. The place first allotted to him here, still is known as Towner's Hill, though later he lived at a place called Short Rocks, "Where some of his descendants still live and where the remains of his house are still visible."[3]

Under date of 31 December 1723, an entry is found on the town records of Haddam, Connecticut, recording a deed of land from Richard Towner to his son Benjamin Towner, of Haddam. It is not evident that Richard ever lived there, however.[4] The family name of his first wife and date of their marriage is not known except that a Mary TOWNER found on church records was likely his wife. He married a second time in Haddam, 6 March 1716 to Deberah CRANE, whom he names in his will, made 6 May 1725, wherein he speaks of himself as "aged and weak in body," a ship-caulker by vocation, and "of Guilford." He names all his children, with portions given, except one, and of him he says, like Jacob of old, "and Joseph is not." His will was probated in Guilford, 30 September 1727, Branford records carrying the date of his death as 22 August 1727.[5] Deborah had been widow previously of Henry CHAMPION, of Lyme, and Henry CRANE, of Killingworth.

Richard Towner was evidently a man of dignity, of recognized worth and standing, and with a personality which commanded respect. At a meeting of the town of Branford, 2 November 1692, it was voted to instruct the selectment "to desire Richard Towner to have oversight of the youth, to keep them from playing during the Exercises of Worship," an action which indicates that "flaming youth," even in those far-off "modern" days, kept the elders in a state of agitation. Of the eight or nine children credited to Richard Towner, it is thought the first three were not born in Branford, but in England. The church of Branford recorded the baptism of seven of his children in March 1700. The order of the names as they appear in the record, is taken as an indication of the order of births: Richard, Sarah, John, Joseph, Benjamin, Samuel, and Hannah. The following year Thankful was baptized, and a Mary is also attributed to this family, although record of marriage only is in evidence. Richard Towner was a husbandman, and also worked at ship carpentry. He was a prosperous man and comfortably well-to-do, as wealth was counted in that period, his estate of 140 pounds being "three times the average fortune for those days."[6]


  1. Richard; married at Branford, 28 September 1720, Elizabeth Tyler. He died in Branford 28 February 1753.
  2. Sarah; married (1) 8 August 1706, Samuel FROST, son of John and Mercy FROST, and brother of Abigail FROST, an Ancestress of Emma HALE in another line. She married (2) as his third wife, Henry Cook, of Litchfield, one of the first three settlers in Plymouth, Connecticut. He was born 24 Jun 1683, and was the son of Henry and Mary Cook. His first wife was Experience, daughter of Robert Lyman, of Northfield. She died 8 October 1709. He married (2) 13 April 1710, Mary, daughter of John and Mercy FROST, of New Haven, a sister of Samuel Frost just mentioned. She had been, first the wife of John Wheadon, of Branford. She died 31 May 1718. For continuation of this family line Click here for the FROST biography. Henry and Sarah removed about 1729 to that part of Waterbury which is now Plymouth, locating where the upper portion of the village of Thomaston is built. He was called "the soldier of the wilderness," and is said to have been a man of courage, enterprise, and a spirit that withstood injustice. He was foremost in promoting the interests of the established church, but later went over to the Church of England. His grandson, Lemuel Cook through son Henry, is believed to have been the last survivor of the soldiers of the Revolutionary War, dying 20 May 1866, aged 102.
  3. John; died in Derby, Connecticut, some time after 1741. Some of his children resided in Southbury, but his descendants in that vicinity have died out -- in the male line.
  4. Joseph; born in Builford; died in Derby, about 1725, before 6 May of that year, the date of his father's will.
  5. Benjamin, born at Builford, 1688; died in Killingworth, 9 January 1761. His gravestone was standing there in 1882, "a valuable find."
  6. Samuel, born in Branford; married (1) Rebecca BARNES; married (2) Amy WARD, daughter of Captain William WARD, an ancestor of Emma HALE.
  7. Hannah, born in Branford; joined Branford Church 1713; married John Hitt; died in 1759.
  8. Mary, born in Branford; married there 22 October 1713, Samuel Tyler.
  9. Thankful, born in Branford; baptized 1701; died 1758, unmarried.


II. Samuel TOWNER, was born in Branford about 1691. He seems to have been of the roving, pioneer type, moving about as fancy or new opportunity seemed to beckon. He married (1) 25 January 1716, Rebecca, daughter of Thomas BARNES, of North Haven, and granddaughter of Thomas BARNES, signer of the Colony Constitution at New Haven in 1644. She was born at North Haven, 12 December 1691. To this union were born four children, two at Branford and two at Wallingford, where, on 31 January 1728, within a few weeks after the birth of her son Ephraim, Rebecca died.

On 27 June, same year, Samuel married (2) Amy WARD, born 7 April 1707, daughter of Captain William WARD, of Wallingford, Connecticut.[8] A record of Branford, dated two years after his first marriage, is of interest, recalling as it does, a peculiar custom of those days: "Feb 12th 1789 Sam 11 Towner Entered his Ear Mark which is a crop of ye end of ye left Ear and a half crop of ye under side of ye right Ear."[9]

Samuel and Rebecca lived about seven years in Branford where he acquired much realty, and then removed to Wallingford, where she died, and he remarried. About three years later, in 1731, he moved to Waterbury, Connecticut, the part called Watertown, and next year moved to that part now called Plymouth, where he was one the the first three settlers[10], the others being .... Sutcligffe and Henry Cook, from Litchfield, the same who married Samuel's sister, Sarah.[11]. On 30 April 1738, at New Haven, Samuel Towner bid off for 160 pounds, one right in the township of Goshen, Connecticut, and moved there the following spring. Other purchasers in the first division of land in Goshen were his father-in-law, Captain William Ward, of Wallingford, and John Beach, also of Wallingford, who received the first deed to Goshen land from the Government, done at New Haven 3 January 1637.[12] this latter widely known as Deacon John BEACH, of Goshen, was brother to Lettice, wife of Captain William Ward. Captain Ward, however, did not become a resident of Goshen when he obtained land, but lived at Wallingford until his death.[13]

Samuel Towner lived in Goshen until 1746, records showing various conveyances of property to and from him. He had been chosen a selectman and grand juror at the first town meeting, 6 December 1739, and again a selectman on 8 December 1740[14] On 11 January 1740, he was on a committee appointed to hire a minister of the First Congregational Church of Goshen[15]. It was here, in Goshen, that his daughter Phebe became the wife of Arah Ward, a son of William Ward, and younger brother of Amy, second wife of Samuel Towner, a curious relationship resulting.

In 1746, Samuel Towner moved to Woodbury, but soon sold out there, and acquired property in Newton.[16] In 1750, he sold his lands in Newton for 2,000 pound[17] and moved to New Fairfield, North Society, now part of Sherman. Here he was living in 1753 and 1756, but the records of that place were destroyed by fire so, it is not known exactly when he left[18]. In 1763, his name appears at Fredericksburg, New York, as being of "Philip's Patent," now Putnam County. A village of "Towner's" and a post office in the town of Patterson, Putnam County, bear his name. Tradition says that "when a very old man he returned to Goshen on a visit to his grandsons (sons of Ephraim), and died there," --- in 1784 or 1785.

CHILDREN of Samuel and Rebecca:[19]

  1. Phebe, born in Branford, 14 September 1717; married Arah WARD.
  2. Samuel, born in Branford, about 1720. "added was recorded in 1742 at Waterbury, made by Samuel Towner of Goshen to his beloved son Samuel, of Waterbury." This son must have died soon after the making of that deed, for another son, born in 1746, was named Samuel.
  3. David, born in Wallingford, 3 March 1724; died 1772 at new Fairfield, Connecticut, where several of his brothers and sisters also resided.
  4. Ephraim, born in Wallingford, 8 Novembr 1727; lived in Goshen hwere he died, 25 December 1760.

CHILDREN of Samuel and Amy:

  1. Zaccheus, born in Wallingford, 3 April 1729; died at Charlotte, Vermont, 14 February 1814.
  2. Daniel, born in Wallingford, 25 March 1724; died in New Fairfield, 1769.
  3. Lettice, born in Waterbury, 25 July 1733; married Gomaris Gideon Pringle; lived in Phillip's Parent, New York.
  4. Amy, born Waterbury, 1734; died in New Fairfield, 3 January 1767, Married David Barnum, of New Fairfield.
  5. Rebecca, born in Goshen, 1736, died in Canada.
  6. Thankful, born in Goshen, about 1738.
  7. Ithiel, born in Goshen, 1 March 1742; died 26 July 1810, in St. John's Lower Canada.
  8. Samuel, born in Goshen, 1646, came with father to New York State, to Dutchess, now Putnam, county. Married Mary Birdsall; died in Patterson. 1 April 1814, and his wife, 1827. Their graves are near Towner's Four Corners, one mile west of Towner's Station. He was an assessor, member of Assembly, a soldier in the Revolution[20], and the ancestor of the Honorable James E. Towner, of New York. Four daughters and two sons were born to him.[21]


III. Phebe TOWNER, born at Branford, Connecticut, 14 September 1717, was married at Goshen, Connecticut, on 13 August 1740, to Arah WARD, born at Wallingford, 5 July 1718. For continuation of this family line, please click the link for the WARD biography.

  SOURCE:  The Ancestry & Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale by Audentia Smith Anderson (1926)


  1. (Genealogy of Towner Family, James W. Towner, 1910)
  2. (Genealogy of the Towner Family, James W. Towner)
  3. (Frost Genealogy, Joseph C. Frost. 370)
  4. (Towner, 12)
  5. (Towner, 21-16)
  6. (Towner. 17)
  7. (Towner Genealogy, 14; History of Goshen, Hibbard, 548; John Hall of Wallingford, J.A. Sherpard, 1902,46)
  8. (Towner, 18)
  9. (Branford Town Records, 1694-1788)
  10. (Frost, 369)
  11. (Hibbard, 548)
  12. (Hibbard, 36)
  13. (Hibbard, 32, 549)
  14. (Ibid. 72)
  15. (Ibid.72)
  16. (Hibbard 548-9)
  17. (History of Waterbury, Anderson, appendix, 166)
  18. (Frost, 369-701)
  19. (Towner, 18)
  20. (New York Men in the Revolution, 242)
  21. (From letter to the compiler from Honorable James E. Towner, 1923.)