Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Wentworth, William

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WENTWORTH, William, colonist, b. in Alford, Lincolnshire, England, in 1615; d. in Dover, N. H., 16 March, 1697. He was a follower of the Rev. John Wheelwright, came with him to Massachusetts in 1636, and was associated with him in his difficulties with the Massachusetts government respecting his Antinomian opinions. With Wheelwright and thirty-three others he signed, on 4 Aug., 1639, “A combination for a government at Exeter, N. H.,” of which town he was an early settler. Subsequently he removed to Wells, Mass., but he afterward settled in Dover, N. H., where he was a ruling elder in the church and often preached. He supplied the pulpit in Exeter, after Wheelwright's return to England, as late as 1693. In 1689 he was instrumental in saving a garrison from destruction by the Indians. All the Wentworths in the United States are descended from him.—His grandson, John, lieutenant-governor of New Hampshire, b. in Portsmouth, N. H., 16 Jan., 1671; d. there, 12 Dec., 1730, became a captain in the merchant marine, was appointed by Queen Anne a councillor for New Hampshire in 1711, made a justice of the common pleas in 1713, and in 1717 became lieutenant-governor of the province, which was then dependent on Massachusetts.—William's great-great-grandson, Joshua, soldier, b. in Portsmouth, N. H., in 1742; d. there, 19 Oct., 1809, was colonel of the 1st New Hampshire regiment in 1776, was elected to the legislature, served for four years as state senator, and was appointed a delegate to the Continental congress, but did not attend.—William's great-great-great-grandson, Tappan, lawyer, b. in Dover, N. H., 24 Sept., 1802; d. in Boston, Mass., 12 June, 1875, received a public-school education, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1826, and practised in Great Falls, N. H. In 1833 he removed to Lowell, where he was a member of the town council in 1836-'41. He served in the legislature as a Whig in 1851 and as a Republican in 1859 and 1863-'4, and in the state senate in 1848-'9 and 1865-'6. He was elected to congress as a Whig, and served from 4 March, 1853, till 3 March, 1855.—John's son, Benning, governor of New Hampshire, b. in Portsmouth, N. H., 24 July, 1696; d. there, 14 Oct., 1770, was graduated at Harvard in 1715, and became a merchant in Portsmouth, which town he represented in the assembly. On 12 Oct., 1734, he was appointed a king's councillor, and when New Hampshire was made a distinct province in 1741 he became its governor on 13 Dec., and held this post until 1767. He was authorized by the crown to grant patents of unoccupied land, and in 1749 began to make grants in what is now southern Vermont. This land was considered by the colonial governor of New York as lying within his domain, and the collision, famous in the history of Vermont, respecting the “ New Hampshire grants,” ensued. A proclamation was made by the governor of New York on 28 Dec., 1763, claiming the territory under the grant from Charles II. to the Duke of York and ordering the sheriff to make returns of the names of those that had settled west of Connecticut river under titles that were derived from New Hampshire. Gov. Wentworth issued a counter-proclamation on 13 March, 1764, declaring these claims obsolete and maintaining the jurisdiction of New Hampshire. Gov. Wentworth exacted heavy fees for his grants of land, and thus accumulated a large property. In each of them he stipulated for the reservation of a lot for an Episcopal church. After his resignation as governor he gave to Dartmouth 500 acres of land, on which the college buildings were erected. He was fond of display. His splendid coach with its retinue of servants became a feature of Portsmouth, and in his spacious mansion he assumed what was then looked upon as almost regal state. The town of Bennington, Vt., was named in his honor. His first wife was Abigail, the daughter of John Ruck, of Boston, who died on 8 Nov., 1755, and his second was his young housekeeper, who had been brought up in his family. His marriage to her, which took place on 15 March, 1760, is the subject of Longfellow's poem, “Lady Wentworth.” She was made sole heir of the governor's extensive property, and after his death married Col. Michael Wentworth, of the British army. Her only child, Martha, became the wife of Gov. John Wentworth's nephew, John Wentworth, author of “Special Pleading.”—

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Benning's nephew, Sir John, bart., governor of New Hampshire and afterward of Nova Scotia, b. in Portsmouth, N. H., 9 Aug., 1737; d. in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 8 April, 1820, was the son of Mark Hunking Wentworth, a councillor of New Hampshire, with whom he was associated as a merchant after his graduation at Harvard in 1755. He went to England in 1765 as agent of the province, and through the influence of Charles Watson Wentworth, Marquis of Rockingham, obtained the appointment of governor of New Hampshire, succeeding his uncle, and serving from 1767 till 1775. To this office was added that of surveyor-general of the king's woods in North America, with a salary of £700 and perquisites. He landed in Charleston, S. C., in March, 1768, and, travelling northward by land, registered his commission as surveyor in each of the colonies through which he passed. He entered on his duties as governor in June, 1768, was popular, and an excellent public man in every particular. In business he was prompt and efficient, and aided greatly in encouraging education. He gave Dartmouth college its charter and endowed it with 44,000 acres of land, and also gave a piece of land to each member of the first graduating class. (See Wheelock, Eleazar.) He did much to encourage agriculture and to promote the settlement of New Hampshire, and labored zealously to increase its wealth and importance. When the Revolution began, his efforts to prevent a rupture were unwearied, and he was popular with the people until Gen. Thomas Gage applied to him to procure workmen in New Hampshire to aid in the erection of barracks for the British troops in Boston. He endeavored to comply with this request, which gave the death-blow to his authority, and he was forced to abandon his post. The indignation of the people compelled him to take refuge first in Fort William and Mary and then on board a British ship. His last official act was performed at the Isles of Shoals, where he prorogued the assembly. He embarked for Boston in the ship-of-war “Scarborough” on 24 Aug., 1775, and soon sailed for England, where he remained until peace was declared. Although he was regarded with especial favor by the king, he seems to have held no office. In 1778 he was in Paris, and John Adams records meeting him as he was leaving his box in the theatre. “At first,” says Adams, “I was somewhat embarrassed and knew not how to behave toward him. As my classmate and friend at college and ever since, I could have pressed him to my bosom with cordial affection; but we now belonged to two different nations at war with each other, and consequently we were enemies.” During their interview “not an indelicate expression to us or to our country or our ally escaped him. His whole behavior was that of an accomplished gentleman.” In 1792 he was appointed governor of Nova Scotia, which office he held until 1808, when he retired with a pension of £500 per annum, and was succeeded by Sir George Prevost. He also resumed his post of surveyor of the king's woods. In 1795 he was created a baronet. In 1799 the Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria, visited Halifax, and Sir John gave a dinner and ball of princely magnificence in his honor at the government house. After his retirement he went with Lady Wentworth to England, but returned to Nova Scotia in 1810 and was accorded a public welcome. He received the degree of A. M. from Harvard and Princeton in 1763, and that of LL. D. from Oxford in 1766 and Dartmouth in 1773. Gov. Wentworth owned a large farm in Wolfsborough, N. H., on which he erected in 1773 a mansion 100 feet in length and 45 feet in width and out-buildings of a corresponding size. His entire estate was confiscated and this house was burned in the year of his death. His house in Pleasant street, Portsmouth, was occupied for many years by a kinsman. Ebenezer Wentworth, at one time a cashier of the branch Bank of the United States, who died in 1860. He preserved the parlor in the same style in which its old occupant left it at the time of the Revolution. Many distinguished visitors from abroad have had curiosity to view the premises and his valuable collection of family paintings.—His wife, Frances Deering, was a native of Boston and died in England in 1813. Her maiden name was Wentworth, and, although her earliest attachment was for John Wentworth, during his first visit to England, she married Theodore Atkinson, a kinsman of both. On 11 Nov., 1769, after the death of her first husband, she married Gov. Wentworth. She was beautiful, accomplished, and gay, and when abroad was conspicuous at court. Her portrait by John Singleton Copley is considered an “excellent likeness and a rare picture.” The towns of Francestown, Deering, and Wentworth, N. H., perpetuate her name.—Their son, Charles Mary, b. in Portsmouth, N. H., in 1775; d. in Hingsand, Devonport, England, in April, 1844, was long private secretary to the Earl of Fitzwilliam. He was appointed a member of the council of Nova Scotia in 1801, and died unmarried. His property descended to his maternal cousin, Mrs. Catherine Frances Gore, the novelist.—William's great-grandson, John, jurist, b. in Dover, N. H., 30 March, 1719; d. in Somersworth, N. H., 17 May, 1781, was a member of the legislature from 1768 till 1775, serving as speaker in 1771, in 1773 became chief justice of the court of common pleas, and on 17 Jan., 1776, was made one of the judges of the supreme court, although he had never studied nor practised law. He was president of the first Revolutionary convention in Exeter, N. H., on 21 July, 1774, and was also chairman of the Revolutionary committee of correspondence. He was usually called Colonel John, or Judge John, to distinguish him from others of the same name.—The third John's son, John, lawyer, b. in Somersworth, N. H., 17 July, 1745; d. in Dover, N. H., 10 Jan., 1787, was graduated at Harvard in 1768, and studied law, which he practised in Dover. From 1776 till 1780 he served in the legislature, and was appointed by Gov. John Wentworth register of probate for Stratford county, which office he held until his death. He was a delegate to the Continental congress in 1778-'9, and was a member of the state council in 1780-'4, of the state senate in 1784-'7, and of the New Hampshire committee of safety, which administered the government during the recess of the legislature. He was an ardent patriot, and signed, in behalf of New Hampshire, the original articles of confederation.—The second John's nephew, John, lawyer, b. in Portsmouth, N. H., in 1768; d. in Paris, France, in 1816, was taken to England about 1775 and educated as a lawyer. He was appointed attorney-general of Prince Edward island, and removed to Portsmouth, where he married Martha Wentworth. In 1816 he returned to Europe. He was the author of a “System of Pleading” (10 vols., London, 1797).—

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The fourth John's grandson, John, journalist, b. in Sandwich, N. H., 5 March, 1815; d. in Chicago, Ill., 16 Oct., 1888, was a son of Paul Wentworth, and the grandson on his mother's side of Col. Amos Cogswell, a Revolutionary officer. After graduation at Dartmouth in 1836, he settled in Illinois in 1836, attended the first meeting to consider the propriety of organizing the town of Chicago into a city, did much to procure its charter, and voted at its first city election in May, 1837. He studied law at Chicago, attended lectures at Harvard law-school, and was admitted to practice in Illinois in 1841. While studying law he conducted the Chicago “Democrat,” which he soon purchased and made the chief daily paper of the northwest and of which he was publisher, editor, and proprietor until 1861. Being elected to congress as a Democrat, he served from 4 Dec., 1843, till 3 March, 1851, and again from 5 Dec., 1853, till 3 March, 1855. He introduced in that body the first bill favoring the establishment of the present national warehouse system, was instrumental in securing the grant of land to the state of Illinois out of which was constructed the present Illinois Central railroad. He was one of the Democrats and Whigs in congress that assembled at Crutchet's, at Washington, the morning after the repeal of the Missouri compromise passed the house, and resolved to ignore all party lines and form an anti-slavery party. Out of this grew the present Republican party, with which he afterward acted. He was elected mayor of Chicago in 1857 and again in 1860, and was the first Republican mayor elected in the United States after the formation of the party, and issued the first proclamation after Fort Sumter was fired upon, calling on his fellow-citizens to organize and send soldiers to the war. He introduced the first steam fire-engine, “Long John,” in Chicago in 1857, and later two others, the “Liberty” and “Economy.” Upon each occasion of his assumption of the mayor's office he found a large floating debt, and left money in the treasury for his successor. In 1861 he was a member of the convention to revise the constitution of Illinois, and he was a member of the board of education in 1861-'4 and in 1868-'72. He served again in congress from 4 Dec., 1865, till 3 March, 1867, was a member of the committee of ways and means, and was an earnest advocate of the immediate resumption of specie payments. Mr. Wentworth had been a member of the Illinois state board of agriculture, and was the largest real estate owner in Cook county. He received the degree of LL. D. from Dartmouth, to which college he gave $10,000, and was elected president of its alumni in 1883. Owing to his extreme height he was called “Long John” Wentworth. In addition to lectures and writings upon the early history of Chicago, and historical contributions to periodicals, he was the author of “Genealogical, Bibliographical, and Biographical Account of the Descendants of Elder William Wentworth” (Boston, 1850), and “History of the Wentworth Family” (3 vols., 1878).