More new beginnings

Just recently, whilst researching the descendants of Goodman John CLOSE (c1600-1653) of Fairfield, Connecticut, in connection with the Guild of One-Name Studies’ March theme of ‘New Beginnings’, I came across evidence which sheds a fascinating light on the involvement of some of John’s descendants in the American War of Independence (1775-1783).  This was not only a new beginning in terms of American history, but also resulted in an enforced new beginning for some of John CLOSE’s descendants.

Revolutionary Soldiers

Descendants of Goodman John CLOSE were involved in bringing about a major new beginning in American history: these included John’s great-great grandson Odel CLOSE (1738-1812) of Horseneck (Greenwich, Connecticut) who served as a Lieutenant in the 9th Regiment, 4th Brigade of the Connecticut  Militia, serving in support of General Washington against the British in from 1776 onwards.  By 1779 he had been promoted to Captain in the Militia Regiment. He is to this day honoured by his descendants who are proudly registered as Sons of the American Revolution.  

Two brothers, Solomon (1759-1840) and Abraham (1762-1841) CLOSE, sons of Odel’s 2nd cousin Joseph CLOSE (1729-1808), were also involved in the Revolutionary War, and in fact served in 1779-1781 in the Rangers (Connecticut State Troops) commanded  by their relative Capt. Odel CLOSE. The Revolutionary War Pensioners’ records confirm this, and indicate that in their old age the brothers each successfully claimed a pension of $80 a year from September 1833 until their deaths.

Loyal to the Crown

The outcome of the war was very different, however, for two other second cousins of Odel CLOSE: Benjamin (1743-1812) and Abraham (1746-1827) CLOSE, together with their father, also named Benjamin (1712-1782), who all remained loyal to the British King George III.  By the time the Revolutionary War broke out, Benjamin senior and his family had settled about 35 miles north of Fairfield to North Salem, Westchester County in New York State, and become prosperous farmers. An affidavit dated 29th December 1786 from Capt. J Attwood, late of the Kings Land Regiment, stated:

“I have been acquainted with … Mr Benj’m Close a number of years, and his Father who died on Long Island. He was a Reputable Farmer in the County of Westchester, and the Province of New York, was considered a very respectable character and a man of property and he and his two sons were among the first that suffered for Loyalty.” 

 Another document relating to Benjamin jr records that he:

“… was ever uniformly and steadily attached to His Majesty’s Person and Government, and opposed to the measures of the American Congress.  That in consequence of such Loyalty and Allegiance he was obliged to seek Protection in the British Lines, and that from the time of his joining the Royal Army at New York he hath rendered them every assistance in his power to suppress the Rebellion, and re-establish his Majesty’s Government in America.”

Enemies of the State

As a result of their loyalty to the British, these two brothers fell foul of the New York State’s “Act for the forfeiture and sale of the Estates of Persons who have adhered to the Enemies of this State, and for declaring the Sovereignty of the People of this State in respect to all property within the same.”  

The 1782 indictment relating to Benjamin jr concludes as follows:

Oct 1782 indictment of Benjamin CLOSE (1743-1812)

Substantial Losses

It is evident that since Benjamin, as the elder son, had just inherited his father’s land earlier that year, “all his estate both real and personal” amounted to a substantial amount of property.  Both brothers Benjamin and Abraham CLOSE submitted claims to England for compensation under the American Loyalists Act 1783 enacted by the British Parliament for the “Relief of American Loyalists”, providing evidence of their losses.

The younger brother Abraham claimed a total of £235 in respect of 4 horses, 15 cattle, 20 sheep, 15 hogs, household furniture, farming utensils and 150 bushels of grain.

Benjamin’s claim amounted to £1,310 “current money of New York” equal to £730-17s-6d in “sterling money of Great Britain.” The property he had lost included 150 acres of land in Salem @ £5 per acre, with houses, barn and outhouses valued at £300. He also had substantial rights of land in Vermont, bringing his total real estate losses to £1,210, plus livestock and farming utensils valued at £100.

New Beginning for Benjamin CLOSE (1743-1812)

The evidence documents associated with Benjamin’s claim provide a summary of events during and immediately after the War of Independence.  Benjamin had served as an Ensign in the Militia since 1772.  Having made his loyalist sentiments known, a New York paper in March 1776 declared that both Benjamin and his father were enemies to the country, and consequently Benjamin senior was imprisoned at Poughkeepsie for 6 months.  They then fled to Long Island where Benjamin junior joined with the British troops in October 1776.  He became sick and unable to continue on active service, but remained within the British lines after New York was taken.  Benjamin senior died on Long Island in January 1782, and Benjamin junior, with his wife and children, moved from there to Connecticut in Spring 1784 where he lived and worked on his mother in law’s farm. In the summer of 1786 he went to Nova Scotia, and in November of that year he appeared before the British Government representatives in St John’s to present the evidence for his compensation claim, and declared an intention to settle in Nova Scotia with his family the following Spring.

Abraham’s new beginning

Abraham was also obliged to escape to Canada together with his wife and children shortly before the Evacuation of New York in November 1783. A claim document dated 4 January 1787 records that he

“Went up the River 10 or 12 Miles above St Anne and got his lands there. In January he went down to Maugerville to fetch up his family.”

There are few records  available documenting  the brothers’ subsequent life in Canada, but it would appear although there is some indication the Benjamin  may    have   returned  to   Westchester  County,  New   York, Abraham’s  family certainly settled  in New Brunswick, where in the mid-1790s, Benjamin’s son – another Benjamin CLOSE (c1774-1841) married Abraham’s daughter Jerusha CLOSE (b1773).

Unfinished business

Some published genealogies of this family appear to have confused them with  people  from  another  CLOSE family with many  of the same given names – that problem  will have to remain  on my ‘to do’ list for the time being.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.