Our Bennett/Simpson Roots

A Distinguished Heritage


JOHN KING (1765 – 2 Nov 1855) was born in Ashfield, Franklin, Massachussetts the son of John King and Mary Unknown.

John married Sarah Hawkins in about 1783.  John and Sarah had thirteen children of record.


John King has been an elusive person in the lives of many of his descendants since the early nineteen hundreds. His birthplace has yet to be proven and events of his early life are still mysteries.

The first information we have on John is found in his pension papers from the Revolutionary War. Giving his place of residence as Ashfield, Massachusetts enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army in March 1782. At Springfield, MA, he signed up to serve for a period of three years and served as a fife and drummer. He was mustered in by Captain Bannister and was commanded to go to West Point where he was attached to the company of Captain John Mills of the first Regiment of the Massachusetts line commanded by Colonel Joseph Vose in Brigadier General Patterson’s Brigade in Major General Howe’s Division. That summer he proceeded with the army to Planks Point and was there inspected by General Washington. In the fall of the same year he moved with the army to Snake Hill, about 3 miles from Newburgh, into winter quarters. The next spring, 1783, peace was proclaimed and those who enlisted during the war were discharged. John, with other 3 year men, was moved to West Point, on the Hudson River, and from there to Philadelphia where they remained until October. They were then moved back to Newburgh and discharged about the 18th of November, 1783. With an honorable discharge from his Colonel he headed toward Massachusetts and home. He had given one year and seven months of his youth to the service of his country.

Where or when John met Sarah Hawkins or how long they had known each other is not known, but after his return home they were married.

Sarah was born at New Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut on May 7, 1764. She was the daughter and 4th child of Robert Hawkins and Rachel Buck. The Hawkins family had moved to Williamstown, MA when Sarah was about seven years old. We know nothing more of her early life except that she had 2 brothers, Abiel and Enoch Hawkins, and 2 sisters, Resign and Anna Betsey. There was also a half brother, Joel Baldwin, from her mothers first marriage to Abiel Baldwin, and a half sister, Abigail, who died at age 1 year 6 months. Two half brothers, Eleazer and Samuel Hawkins, were born to her father and his first wife, Rebecca Bowers.

The court house in Williamstown, MA burned to the ground in 1948 destroying many vital records. There is not a known document for the marriage of John King and his bride, Sarah Hawkins, but we believe that ceremony took place in Williamstown. This frontier community was in the upper western corner of Massachusetts, and as the crow flies, was about 25 miles north and west of Ashfield where John had lived with his family. Williamstown was to become the hub for this family’s activities for the next 2 decades. As John and Sarah set up housekeeping here, surely they faced their new life with high hopes of finding the happiness every young couple seeks. They dreamed of a good life in this young nation and had faith in a bright future. There were dangers to face with Indian uprisings and an untamed wilderness with its harsh environment. The ever present physical illnesses of those frontier days meant suffering and death. Against these hardships they struggled to raise their family.

John’s pension papers state that he and his family resided in Williamstown and Berkshire for over 20 years. They evidently moved back and forth a few times over the border into Vermont. Their children were all born in this area. Life could not have been easy as they cleared land to raise grain and vegetables to feed their large family.

On October 15, 1784, this young couple was blessed with a baby boy who was given the name of Eleazer. Their family grew as they struggled with taming the new land. Abigail arrived on March 30, 1787 followed by Joel Baldwin August 7, 1789. He was given the name of Sarah’s half brother. Two more boys joined the family when John Jr. was born January 30, 1791 and James was added February 5, 1793. Property records say John King was of Sunderland, VT between 1793 and 1797. In the census records James records that he was born in Bennington, so he was probably born in Sunderland, Bennington, VT. After having 4 boys and only one girl the pattern changed and 6 girls blessed the home. The little mother must have been elated to welcome her name sake, Sarah, on August 7, 1794 and Rhoda on February 13, 1796. These little girls welcomed a new playmate when Rachel came into their home on the 4th of July 1797. John and Sarah then purchased property in Williamstown on the 6th day of March 1799. Eleven days later, the 17th of March, Sarah gave birth to Mary. Lydia was born in the beautiful New England autumn of the following year on September 14, 1800. The youngest child that we have record of was Meranda. The writing is not clear as to the date of her birth. It says 11 February 180- but the last number looks like a one (1). It could have been a 4. It is not likely that it was 1801 as Lydia would have been only 5 months old.

The area of Massachusetts where this family lived was beautiful. It was lush and green with its hardwood trees and low growing brush. In the autumn this wooded countryside gleamed with colorful hues of yellow, orange, gold, green and red in the rolling hills that were covered with maple, oak and pine.

In the northwest corner of Massachusetts, Williamstown was less than 10 miles east of the New York state line which had been established in 1773. New York State was also on the north side of them until 1791 when Vermont was given statehood. They were only about 4 miles from what became the Vermont border when their first four children were born. As their family grew they also watched the country grow. New states and boundaries were formed and more settlements sprang up as people migrated further west.

Major battles of the Revolutionary War were fought at the settlements of Bennington and Saratoga. Bennington was in New York at that time but became part of Vermont after the new boundaries were set.

There were many problems with Indians during these years of our Country’s expansion. Many families lost loved ones and friends as Indians raided their homes and stockades killing people and stealing animals.

It is amazing how much these early settlers moved around trying to improve their living conditions. They followed the waterways and the Indian trails. Due to rocky conditions and drought, those families interested in farming continued to move out further looking for more productive soil. As those who moved west sent back stories of more fertile farm areas, families packed their few belongings and followed.

Sometime before the 1810 census was taken, John moved his family back to Sunderland, VT, where he is listed on the census taken that year. In 1811 and 1812 he described himself as of Arlington when he sold his Williamstown property.

John and Sarah’s older children were now growing up and leaving the home of their parents to start families of their own. Young Eleazer found the springtime of 1804 a romantic time to return to Williamstown and take the fair young Nancy Fowler for his wife. After marrying her on the 27th of May, he took his bride to Sunderland, VT to make their home.

John kept his family in Arlington, VT until 1815 or 16. He sold his land in Williamstown between 1806 and 1808 and his sawmill in 1811. In the 1810 census of Sunderland we find Eleazer with his young family. His brother, Joel Baldwin King, was also listed as being married but with no children.

Life must have been interesting and busy during those years. The men labored hard to clear timber, brush, stumps, and rocks from the land. Harvest time was difficult with everything being done by hand. Trying to beat the first snowfall and have everything battened down before cold weather set in required the efforts of all family members. Each season brought its own particular chores. Gathering maple syrup was a slow tedious task and preparing soil and planting had to be done as soon as the spring weather broke. Each family built their own cabin with the help of friends and neighbors. This required cutting, barking and splitting the trees before the building even started. They also built grist mills on the streams where they could use water wheels with water power to turn the grinding stones. Here grain and corn were ground to feed their families. Saw mills were eventually used to saw the logs and John King and his sons had a saw mill on a stream on their property in Williamstown.

The women’s lives were very busy from early dawn until the last family member was in bed at night. Everything done in the evening had to be accomplished by light from candles or the open fireplace. Soap was made in the autumn months of the year in large cast iron pots over an open fire. This had to be done outside because of the caustic vapors emitted during cooking. The soap mixture contained fat “cracklins” left after hogs were killed and the lard was rendered from the fat. Wool was corded and the spinning wheels were kept busy making yarn for the knitting of socks, sweaters and other warm clothing. Preparations of food also occupied a lot of each woman’s time. Corn and fruits were dried in the autumn. Pumpkins and squash were hidden away deep in the stacks of straw, hay or other dry places. Apples were picked and stored for winter in dry cellars.

The years from 1813 through 1817 saw several of the King siblings embarking upon the sea of matrimony. On February 13, 1813 James married his first wife, Sophronia Barnes, in Arlington, VT. The following year John Jr. took Ann Sturdevant to be his bride on December 11 at Shaftsbury, VT. Rhoda, at the age of 18, married Johnson Daniels on the
14th of November 1813 at Pownal, VT. Samuel Wilcox claimed Rachel in marriage on January 2nd, 1816 at Arlington, VT.

Later in the year of 1816, John and Sarah pulled up roots and moved their family again. Leaving Vermont, they headed west to Northumberland, Saratoga, New York. In this new location their oldest daughter, Abigail, was married at the age of 29 years. She was smitten by the matrimonial bug and tied the knot on October 19, 1816. The groom was Andrew Johnston whose first wife had died in July 1815 leaving him with a family of young children. Thus, Abigail inherited a ready made family. Information from records at Arlington, VT gives us the marriage date of November 23, 1817 for Sarah King and James Andrew.

During these same years Eleazer and Nancy had welcomed six children into their home and had also moved their family to Northumberland. Neither Eleazer nor John stayed in this area for very long. John evidently took his wife and the three youngest girls and traveled with Eleazer’s family to southern New York. Here they settled in Owego, Tioga County in 1818. While here, in April, John made a legal declaration for the purpose of procuring a pension as a soldier from the Revolutionary War. His papers were left in the hands of a Jonathon Platt, Esquire. At the time of his application he had lost track of his discharge papers. Three months later he returned to Northumberland with his wife and daughters. He needed to be near his married children in that area to receive some material assistance from them. He heard nothing more about the pension application. Eleazer then moved his family to West Bloomfield, Ontario County which was south and east of Rochester, New York.

John applied again for a pension on January 29, 1824 in Northampton. He received his first payment of eight dollars per month in October of that year. His application for the pension states that “this deponent has had a family of thirteen children eleven of whom are still living and two of whom still reside with him one a cripple entirely helpless. That this deponent is in very indigent circumstances and stands in need of the assistance of his country for support. That the annexed schedule contains a just and true account and inventory of all the property real and personal in possession reversion or remainder belonging to this deponent either in law or equity.”

”Schedule and Inventory of all the estate of John King a pension applicant of the town of Northumberland either in law or equity.

Lydia married John Chubb on August 21, 1824. We believe that she was one of the two children still living at home when John applied for the pension in January of that year. The other child most certainly would have been the invalid. We have not found marriage records for Mary or Meranda so it would seem that one of them was married at that time and that the other one was the invalid.

About 1824—25 the Erie Canal was completed. This connected the city of Albany, on the Hudson River, with Buffalo on Lake Erie. This waterway crossed the full width of the state of New York. With its many locks it made barge transportation possible to move grain, fruits, vegetables, animals, and all kinds of industrial products from the East coast to Chicago. It also opened up passenger travel to and from the Great Lakes to New York City. The flat barges were pulled by mules walking on the banks of the canal. This source of navigation was a great boon to the growth of the Midwest section f the United States.

In early 1830, John, Sarah and the invalid daughter were living in Ft. Edward, Washington, New York. They were likely living with their daughter, Lydia, and her family. Sarah’s health had been deteriorating for more than six years. On March 20th of 1830 she passed away at Ft. Edward. She was buried in the Johnston Family Cemetery. This was the family of Andrew Johnston who married Sarah’s oldest daughter, Abigail. The cemetery was located between the Champlain Canal and the Hudson River, just 1 1/2 miles south of Ft. Miller Bridge in Washington County, New York. In the late part of the eighteen hundreds, the state of New York changed the course of the canal and flooded the island where the cemetery was located in a small private enclosure. Before the flooding took place, the bodies were removed and interred at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Schuylerville, New York on the west side of the Hudson River. Here an old marker bears the following inscription:

Sarah King
Wife of John King
Died March 20, 1830
in the 65th year of her age

Johns companion was now gone, but he still had the invalid to care for. The 1830 census was taken later in the year and we find John and the girl still living with Lydia and John Chubb in Ft. Edward.

In the spring of the following year, John was courting Sarah Bovee. On June 26, 1831, at Argyle, New York marriage vows were pronounced by a Baptist minister, Elder Swain. Here, John took another Sarah to be his 2nd wife. (She had been married to a John Bovee and had a six year old son by the same name.) John was now 66 years of age and his new wife was just 31.

In the ensuing years, three daughters came to bless this home. Melissa was born in 1833; Nancy in 1841; and Roxanna joined them in 1845. There may have been others. The family was now living in Sandy Hill. All three girls were born in Washington County and are the only ones we have a record of.

When the 1850 census was taken, Melissa was 17 years old and married to Joel Streeter. John, Sarah, Nancy and Roxanna were living with Elisha and Deborah Combs. No proof has been found of any relationship between the two families. Melissa, as well as her parents and sisters, was living in Athol, Warren County, New York at that time. Five years later (1855) the census reveals Nancy’s age as 15 years and lists her as the wife of Nelson Streeter. John, Sarah and Roxanna were in the home of daughter Melissa and her husband Joel Streeter. The two girls had married brothers.

John celebrated his 90th birthday on April 25, 1855. We can only suppose that his health was failing. Late that fall, on the 2nd day of November, John King died at Dresden Station, in upper New York state, where he had been temporarily staying. Lydia was living there at that time with her family. She was now a widow and in all probability her father was in her home at the time of his death. He was buried near there in the Clemens Cemetery. His grave has a marker bearing this inscription:

John King
Died November 2, 1855
90 yrs. 7 mo.

This death date is verified in a pension application by his wife, Sarah Bovee King. Buried next to John are his daughter, Lydia, and her husband, John Chubb.

The life of John King had come to an end in the beautiful country near the New York, Vermont state boundary. He is not buried beside either of his wives. The first Sarah lays some 50 or 60 miles to the south of him. This couple had lived through some hard, rough times as they helped to forge and tame the new frontier of their day. They left a large posterity scattered across the face of this great land. From Florida to California, and from Massachusetts and New York in the East to Washington State on the West, you will find their descendants. We shall ever be in debt to them for the personal sacrifices that they endured to help build a better country for each of us.

John King, a man of courage, determination and true grit, put his life on the line in the military for a just cause. Many of his descendants have followed in his noble footsteps and served this country so that we might live with the freedoms that only Americans enjoy.

At his death about half of his children survived him. He had many grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren.

Following are death dates of some of his children:
Rachel and Meranda died before 1841 when Eleazer had baptisms performed for them, by proxy, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
John Jr. died 1850—five years before his father.
Sarah died September 30, 1851—buried in Sunderland, Vermont.
Eleazer died 11 May 1854 in Spring City, Sanpete, Utah.
Lydia died 11 June 1862—buried Clemons Cemetery, New York.
Abigail died after 1665.
James died 31 December 1876—Stoney Creek, Warren, New York.
Rhoda died 6 April 1878—North Adams, Berk,. Massachusetts.
Roxanna, his youngest, died 16 March 1914-Saratoga, New York.

John’s second wife, Sarah Bovee, survived him and collected his Revolutionary War Pension until her death July 3, 1870.

A Revolutionary War marker has been placed in Clemons Cemetery to honor John King. This was accomplished through the efforts of Mary Casey of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She is a member of the D.A.R. and John is her 3rd great grandfather.

A SPECIAL THANKS is extended to Mary Casey of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Virginia Faddis of American Fork, Utah. They have been very instrumental in providing statistics and other information used in this history. Mary is also responsible for the pictures of the grave markers.

This history was written by Ruby King Hart
1903 Ray Ave.
Caldwell, Idaho 83605

Sources of information:
Revolutionary War Pension of John King- * W12021.
Headstone of John King— Clemons, New York.
Headstone of Sarah King— Scheylerville, New York.
Sunderland, Vermont cemetery records.
Federal and state census – 1790 thru 1850 in the following:
Franklin County, Massachusetts.
Hampshire County, Massachusetts.
Bennington County, Vermont.
Washington County, New York.
Saratoga County, New York.
Warren County, New York
Vital statistics of:
Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Ashfield, Massachusetts.
Adams. Massachusetts.
Sunderland, Vermont.
Arlington, Vermont.
Pownal, Vermont.
Northumberland, New York.
Ft. Edward, New York.
Saratoga, New York.
Shaftsbury, New York.
Andrew Johnson Family History.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints temple index
A list of the names of eleven of John King’s children is on
file at the library in Bennington. Vt.


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