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Richard Edgerton

 

born:

England – possibly bapt. November 22, 1622; Brook, Ashford Parish, Kent Co., England. 

died:

March 1691/2; Norwich, New London Co., CT.  (VRp I:34)

buried:

Post and Gager Cemetery; Norwich, New London Co., CT.  (FG1) (FG4)

 

married:

April 7, 1653; Saybrook, Middlesex Co., CT.  (Norwich VRp I:34)

 

April 8, 1653; Saybrook, Middlesex Co., CT.  (Saybrook VR 1:23)

 

Mary Sylvester

 

 

Children:

  1. Mary, b. February 3, 1654/5; Saybrook, Middlesex Co., CT.
  2. Elizabeth, b. December 25, 1657; Saybrook, Middlesex Co., CT.
  3. Anne, b. September 24, 1659; Saybrook, Middlesex Co., CT.
  4. John, b. June 12, 1662; Norwich, New London Co., CT.
  5. Richard, b. March 10, 1664/5; Norwich, New London Co., CT.
  6. Sarah, b. April 1667; Norwich, New London Co., CT.
  7. Samuel, b. May 1670; Norwich, New London Co., CT.
  8. Lydia, b. April 1675; Norwich, New London Co., CT.
  9. Joseph, b. March 8, 1676/7; Norwich, New London Co., CT.

 


The ancestry of Richard Edgerton has not been conclusively established.  However, recent research conducted by Robert C. Edgerton, L. Welch Pogue and Brian G. Edgerton (among others) has produced a preponderance of evidence suggesting that he may have been the son of Richard and Ellen (Stroud) Egerden, of Wye, County Kent, England.  Their son, Richard, was christened in the hamlet of Brook (in Ashford parish, Wye) on November 22, 1622.  No further record of this Richard is found in the parish records at Brook or Wye; and as Richard Sr. died prior to 1641, it is quite reasonable to suppose that Richard Jr. may have set out on his own, eventually emigrating to the New World, possibly for religious reasons or to escape the political turmoil of the English Civil War.  A “Richard Edgarton” from Ashford Parish in Kent County appears in Volume I of Charles E. Banks’ Topographical Dictionary of 2885 English Immigrants to New England, 1620-1650; however, Mr. Bank’s source for this entry is not known.  For further details on the Egerdens of Wye, County Kent, England, please see The Tentative Ancestry of Richard Edgerton.

 

Over the years, a number of alternate theories have been proposed regarding the parentage of Richard Edgerton; however, none have offered any credible evidence to support them.  The most widespread of these, based upon family tradition, claims that Richard was the youngest of four sons of John Edgerton, Earl of Bridgewater.  According to the tradition, Richard emigrated to Saybrook, Connecticut in 1632, along with his elder brother, John (second son of the Earl of Bridgewater).  John Edgerton Sr. died in England in 1649, and upon the subsequent death of the eldest son, John Jr. (as the next-eldest son) returned to England to succeed to the family’s title and estates.  Richard remained in America, where he married and became the progenitor of the Connecticut line of Edgertons.  This tradition, though long-held, has not yet been supported by any known documentation or research.  There are a number of accounts of a John Edgerton in Saybrook during its early years, but direct evidence of this is also wanting.

 

A similar scenario, placing Richard as the son of Sir Rowland Egerton and his wife, Bridget (daughter of Arthur Lord Grey de Wilton), is outlined in The Egertons of Oulton, by Sir Philip de Malpas Grey-Egerton (1869).

 

The first mention of Richard Edgerton in America is found on the records of Saybrook, in Middlesex County, Connecticut.  From the Town Meeting Notes there, dated January 4, 1648, he was listed as owning a “house lot and three acres and a half of land”.  At the same meeting, Richard was held libel for defective fences and allowing hogs in a neighbor’s corn field (see Saybrook Town Records – Printed Edition; Volume I; pg. 156).  In 1650, Richard was among forty proprietors who were granted additional lands in Saybrook.  There are several unconfirmed reports of Richard being in Saybrook as early as 1636 or 1637; but documentary evidence of this has not been presented.

 

A plat map of the early layout of Old Saybrook (reconstructed from Volume 1 of the Saybrook Land Records) was compiled in 1935 by Mr. Gilman C. Gates, of the Saybrook Historical Society, for his publication, Saybrook at the Mouth of the Connecticut River.  Richard Edgerton’s home-lot, as shown on this map, comprised three-and-a-half acres and was located along the North Cove, with the Connecticut River to the north.  The home-lot bordered the Meeting House yard on the south, and the home-lots of Matthew Griswold and Joseph Hingham (to the west) and John Clark (to the east).

 

On April 7 (or 8), 1653, Richard Edgerton was married at Saybrook, Connecticut to Mary Sylvester.  The marriage was recorded twice – first at Saybrook (VR I:23), where it was noted only as the “marriage...of Richard Odyushun” (no mention of the bride’s name), and later at Norwich (VRp I:34).  The former record gives a date of April 8th, while the latter lists a date of April 7th.

 

The parentage and ancestry of Mary (Sylvester) Edgerton has not yet been discovered.  The fact that her name was omitted from the Saybrook marriage record indicates that she was almost certainly not of that town, a fact confirmed by the complete absence of any Sylvester families mentioned in the early Saybrook records.  It has been proposed that Mary may have been a daughter of Giles and Mary (Arnold) Sylvester, whose family had settled on Shelter Island in the mid-1600’s.  Recent research into this Sylvester family, principally conducted by Mr. Henry B. Hoff, F.A.S.G., would appear to refute this supposition.  For further details, please see The Ancestry of Mary Sylvester, found in the Notes section of this database.

 

Richard and Mary Edgerton had three daughters born in Saybrook (Mary, Elizabeth and Anne), their births being recorded as the “children of Richard Odyushun” (VR 1:23), apparently a phonetic spelling for Edgerton, indicating how the name was pronounced at the time.  The family of Richard Edgerton was more fully recorded in the Norwich Vital Records (Volume I, page 34 of the published records), with a few discrepancies of dates.  The dates included here are mainly from the Norwich records, which are generally cited as the more reliable.

 

In 1660, the original town of Saybrook was largely abandoned, the majority of its inhabitants moving inland north, where they founded the town of Norwich along the banks of the Thames River.  The land there (comprising approximately nine miles square) had been deeded to them by Uncas, sachem of the Mohegan tribe, in gratitude for the colonists’ recent assistance in repelling a siege by the rival Narragansett tribe. The town was sanctioned by the Connecticut General Court in 1659, with the main migration taking place the following year.  Originally known by its Indian name, “Mohegan”, the town was renamed Norwich in 1662, probably after Norwich, England, where many of the original settlers had come from.

 

Richard Edgerton was one of the thirty-five original proprietors of Norwich, and was granted a home lot, consisting of “six acres, more or less, abutting on land of Thomas Post on the southeast, abutting on the river on the southwest 10 rods & 10 feet, abutting  on the highway 12 rods & 12 feet.”  Additional lands were assigned to him in later divisions, as noted in the Norwich Book of Grants.   He was admitted a Freeman of the Colony of Connecticut on May 14, 1668, his name appearing on the Norwich roll of Freemen the following year.  He served as Townsman (selectman) in 1678, and Constable in 1680.  Like the majority of his colonial counterparts, Richard probably earned his livelihood as a farmer and planter.

 

Richard and Mary Edgerton had six more children born in Norwich – four sons, John, Richard, Samuel and Joseph; and two more daughters, Sarah and Lydia.  The four sons each married and had families that perpetuated the Edgerton name in Norwich for many generations.  There appears to be no further record of the eldest two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth; they may have died in childhood, perhaps prior to the move to Norwich.  The third daughter, Anne (aka. “Hannah”), is generally reported to have married Thomas Willey “of Colchester”, although the primary source of this information is unknown and there is no further account of the couple.  The two younger daughters were also married and resided in Norwich – Sarah to Joseph Reynolds, and Lydia to Nathaniel Backus.

 

James Savage’s Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, (Vol. II, pg. 100) provides the following entry for Richard Edgerton:

 

“EDGARTON, RICHARD, Saybrook, m. 8 Apr. 1653, Mary Sylvester, had Mary, b. 3 Feb. 1655; Eliz. 25 Dec. 1657; Ann or Hannah, 24 Sept. 1659; rem. next yr. to Norwich, there had John, 12 June 1662, Richard, 10 Mar. 1665;  Sarah, Apr. 1667; Samuel, May 1670; Lydia, Apr. 1675; and Joseph, 8 Mar. 1677.”

 

As of 1982, the Richard Edgerton house was still standing and was at that time one of only three of the original Norwich dwellings still in use.  In 1959, the house was moved (due to highway construction) from its original location at 140 West Town Street.  The most recent location was 139 Sturtenvant Street, but it is reported that the city was again re-zoned and the house may have been relocated once again.   A photograph of the Richard Edgerton home (taken in 1982) is provided by Jessie Edgerton Garner’s Edgerton Tales and Details, 1836 – 1986 (Hanover, Illinois, 1986; pg. 5)  Robert C. Wolfert of Ronkonkoma, New York (a Richard Edgerton descendant) has provided some recent photographs of the Richard Edgerton house, taken in October 2000.

 

Richard Edgerton died at Norwich, Connecticut in March of 1691/2, his death being noted in the vital records there (VRp I:34).  He left a will, which was proved at New London County Court on June 7, 1692, as noted in the following entry under that date found in the New London County Court Records (unnumbered):

 

“The Last Will and Testament of Richard Edgerton Deceased together with an Inventory of sd Estate was Exhibited in Court, proved and ordered to be Recorded & power of administration is granted according to the will.”

 

The will itself has not been discovered and was probably among those destroyed in a New London fire in September 1781.  The will was referred to in subsequent deeds and land transfers, from which some of its contents may be inferred.  From a Norwich deed dated April 1, 1695, Richard Edgerton sold to his brother Samuel, “all that my thirty acres of land lying on Middle Hill which was given me by my father as appears by his will, which thirty acres was part of my father’s Third Division Lott” (Norwich LR 2A:208).

 

It is most likely that Richard divided his Norwich property among his four sons – they are all found owning lands in Norwich in the subsequent years.  At the time of his death, Richard still owned lands in Saybrook, Connecticut, which were apparently bequeathed to his children.  From a Saybrook deed, dated February 16, 1718/9, five of Richard’s heirs – “Richard Edgerton, Samuel Edgerton, Joseph Edgerton and Joseph Reynolds & Nathaniell Backus in right of their wives Sarah and Lydia Dec’d” – deeded to John Edgerton and Joseph Edgerton, “Grandsons of Richard Edgerton”, lands which had belonged to their father Richard Edgerton (Saybrook LR 2:527).

 

Richard Edgerton was probably buried in the ancient Norwich burying lot, which lay next to his home.  A memorandum on the Norwich town records notes that:  “The Towne hath purchased a burying place of Thomas Post –  in the home lot of said Post – towards the rear of his lot.”  This lot was adjacent to the Edgerton home, so it seems certain that Richard would have been interred there, as were most of the early settlers of Norwich.  The Norwich Founders Monument, inscribed with the names of the thirty-five original proprietors (including Richard Edgerton), was erected on the site.  The cemetery later became known as the “Post and Gager” Cemetery.

 

No death record or burial site has yet been found for Mrs. Mary (Sylvester) Edgerton.