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LEFFINGWELL

   

LEFFINGWELL FAMILY
The following is from HISTORY OF NORWICH, CONN. by Frances Manwaring Caulkins 1976 (reprinted from original 1866) with some notes by R. Lyle Brown.

Thomas Leffingwell, according to minutes preserved among his descendants, was a native of Croxhall in England. The period of his emigration has not been ascertained. In his testimony before the Court of Commissioners at Stonington in 1705, he says he was acquainted with Uncas* in the year 1637, and was knowing to the assistance rendered by the sachem to the English, than and ever after, during his life. According to his age as given in depositions, he must have been born about the year 1622, therefore, at the time of the Pequot war, not more than fifteen or sixteen years of age.**

The earliest notices of his name connect him with Saybrook. From the Colonial records we learn that in March, 1650, a petition was presented "from the inhabitants of Saybrook by Matthew Griswold and Tho: Leppingwell."*** The births of his children are also registered at Saybrook, but under the simple heading of "Children of Thomas Leffingwell,"--the name of the mother not being mentioned.

"Rachel born 17 March 1648; Thomas 27 August 1649; Jonathan 6 Dec. 1650; Joseph 24 Dec. 1652; Mary 16 Dec. 1654; Nathaniel 11 Dec. 1656."

It is probable also that Samuel Leffingwell, who married Anna Dickinson Nov. 16, 1687, and died in 1691, was the son of Thomas, though his birth is not found recorded.

Following Mr. Leffingwell to his new home in Norwich, we find him an active and influential member of the plantation. He was one of the first two deputies of the town to the General Court, in October, 1662; an officer of the first train-band and during Philip's war, lieutenant under Capt. Denison in his famous band of marauders, that swept so many times through Narragansett, and scoured the country to the sources of the Quinebaug.

He lived to old age, but the record of his death does not give his years, and no memorial stone marks his grave.

"Lieutenant Thomas Leffingwell died about 1710.
Mrs. Mary Leffingwell died Feb. 6, 1711"

The staff of the venerated lieutenant, reputed to have been brought with him from his native place, and bearing his initials on its silver head, is now is the possession of one of his descendants, Rev. Thomas Leffingwell Shipman of Jewett City, Conn. This memorial staff is interesting on the score of antiquity, but far more so from its association with the venerable men of successive generations to whom it has been a staff of support. It calls up from the misty past the image of the old soldier, or the deacon, on the Sabbath day, slowly marching up to his seat under the pulpit; we see his white hair, and hear the steady sound of the staff brought down at every step.

Thomas Leffingwell, Jr. and Mary Bushnell were married in September, 1672, and might have celebrated their golden wedding in 1722, with a house-full of prosperous descendants gathered around them. The husband died March 5, 1723/4, leaving five daughters, all married to Bushnells and Tracys, and three sons, Thomas, John, & Benajah.

Mrs. Mary Leffingwell long survived her partner, as the epitaph on her grave-stone proves.



IN
MEMORY
of an aged nursing
Mother of GOD'S New-
english Israel, viz. Mrs.
Mary Leffingwell, wife
to Ensign Thomas Lef-
fingwell Gent. who died
Sept. ye 2d A.D.
1745. Aged 91 years.

The inventory of Ensign Leffingwell in 1724 shows that he was richly funished not only with the household comforts and conveniences of that era, but with articles of even luxury and elegance. He had furniture and linen in abundance, wooden ware, and utensils of iron, tin, pewter, and silver.

Wearing apparel valued at L27.
Wig, 20s. Walking-staff with silver head, 20s
Rapier with silver hilt and belt, L6
A French gun, L3. Silver Watch, L5
3 Tankards, 2 dram-cups
4 silver cups, one with two handles
Copper pennies and Erabians (perhaps Arabians, coins) L6.18.7
Total valuation of estate, L9793.9.11

It is doubtful whether, at that time, any other estate in the town equaled this value.

The third Thomas Leffingwell, son of the Ensign and born in in 1674, is distinguished as Deacon Thomas. He married Lydia, daughter of Solomon Tracy, and died July 18, 1733. He had six children.

His brothers, Capt. John & Benajah Leffingwell, had large families: the former, eight daughters and four sons; the latter, eight sons and four daughters. Capt. John Leffingwell married, first, Sarah Abell, and second, Mary Hart of Farmington.

His first wife is commemorated in the following epitaph:

Here lyes ye Body of
that Worthy, Virtuous
and most injeneous and
jenteel Woman, Mrs.
Sara Leffingwell,
who Dyed May ye
9th, 1730. Aged
39 years.

Benajah Leffingwell married Joanna Christophers of New London. Col. Christopher Leffingwell of the Revolutionary period was the third of his eight sons.

Thomas Leffingwell, 4th, (son of Deacon Thomas,) married Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Benjamin Lord, Jan. 23, 1729. He died in 1793, in the 90th year of his age.

Thomas Leffingwell, 5th, born in 1732, died in December, 1814, aged 82. These five generations were in direct succession, each the oldest son of the oldest son, but the lineage is here interrupted, as Thomas the 5th died unmarried.

The Leffingwell tree has a multitude of branches. Samuel Leffingwell, who married Hannah Gifford, March 2, 1714/15, was the progenitor of several large families. A district in the southern part of the township is known by the familiar designation of Leffingwell-town, from the predominance of the name in that neighborhood. In a field upon old Leffingwell land in this district there is a quiet village of the dead, where Leffingwells, Chapmans, Posts, and other names of the vicinity, are found. Here is the grave of Dea. Andrew Leffingwell, who died in 1803. He was the son of Samuel, and born Dec. 12, 1724.

Some of the Leffingwells, who lived on farms, have the traditionary renown of having been stalwart men, able horsemen, enterprising, robust, dread-nought kind of people. They would ride to Boston in a day, with a lead horse for relief, and return on the morrow, unconscious of fatigue. One of them, it is said, performed the feat with a single horse, but the noble animal was sacrificed by the exploit, being found dead the next morning. On one of these gallops to Boston, a spirited dog accompanied his master, but the next morning, when the family arose, he was at home, whining at the threshold for admittance. It was afterward ascertained that at night, in Boston, he had been accidentally shut out of his master's lodging, upon which he turned immediately upon the track and followed the trail home, traveling the whole distance between nine o'clock at night and six in the morning.

* Uncas, a Mohegan Indian chief, son of a Pequot sachem (chief), led the Mohegans in their break with the Pequot tribe, 1635, and became sachem of the western part of the Pequot area. In 1637 he allied himself with the English against the Pequot, who were friendly to the Rhode Island settlers; thereafter he had sporadic help from the English in his wars against various Indian enemies. In 1645 he gave the site of present Norwich to the English, in gratitude for their aid against the Narragansetts, 1643. Uncas was evidently regarded by the English with a good deal of mistrust, however, and supported by them chiefly for strategic purposes.

** A tradition has obtained in some branches of the family, that Thomas Leffingwell came to this country from Yorkshire, at fourteen years of age, but returned to England at twenty-one, and married there Mary White. When he emigrated a second time, he brought with him his youngest brother Stephen, fifteen years of age, leaving seven or eight other brothers in the old country.

*** Leppingwell and Leppenwell often appear on the early Norwich records. It is suggestive of the supposed origin of the name, Leaping-well, denoting a bubbling or boiling spring.