Colonial Military Commander and Politician: Daniel Denison was born in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England, as immigrated with his mother, father, and two brothers on the ship "Lyon" in 1631. He became a military leader while residing in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and was a commissioner to treat with the French commander at Penobscot in 1646 and 1653. He later became Major General of the colonial forces for ten years. He represented Ipswich for several years in the general court, was Speaker of the House for the colony of Massachusetts in 1649, 1651 and 1652, Secretary of the colony in 1653, justice of the quarterly court in 1658, commissioner of the united colonies in 1655-1662, and assistant in 1653 - 1682. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Massachusetts's troops in 1675, but was prevented from taking the field in the Indian War of that year due to illness. He was the son of William Denison and Margaret Chandler; husband of Patience Dudley; and the father of John Denison and Elizabeth Denison. Daniel Denison was the son-in-law of Thomas Dudley who served as Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was the father-in-law of John Rogers, who served as president of Harvard.
We are fortunate to have a first person account of the life of Daniel Denison, written in 1672 for his grandchildren. It was published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 46 (1892), pages 127-133, and is now in the public domain. The manuscript was provided by Daniel Denison Slade, M.D., a descendant of Daniel Denison, "lately found among the effects of the Rev. Daniel Rogers of Exeter." A full transcript is given below.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAJOR-GENERAL DANIEL DENISON.
To my Dear Grandchildren
John, Daniel, and Martha Denison
That you being left fatherless Children might not be altogether ignorant of your ancestors, nor strangers to your near relations, I thought meet to acquaint you with your predecessors, and your decent from them.
Your Great Grandfather Denison was born in England at Bishops Stratford in Hertford shier, in which Town he Married and lived till the Year of our Lord 1631, with two brothers Edward and George, who all of them had Children. George the youngest Brother had a son named also George, my cousen German, who was living in Stratford in the year 1672 as your uncle Harlackenden Symonds told me, who was that year in England, and spoke with him, My uncle Edward had also Children and in the year 1631, removed himself and family into Ireland, where he died and left a son called John Denison who was a souldier and a Major of a Regiment in the time of the Wars, and Deputy Governor of Corke, where Mr. Wainwright saw him. I have received divers Letters from him, he was living in Dubline in the year 1670, your great Grandfather my Dear father whose name was William, had by my dear Mother whose name was Chandler six sons, and one Daughter, two of which (viz) one son and the Daughter died in their Childbood, one son who was the second named William about 18 years of age would needs goe a Souldier into Holland, in the year 1624 at the famous Seige of Breda when it was taken by Spinola and Count Mansfield had an army out of England, to have raised the seige, but the army miscarryed and my Brother William was never heard of since.
We were now but four Brothers left (viz.) John, Daniel, Edward and George. John and myself were bred schollars at Cambridge, where I continued till after I had taken my first Degree, your Grandfather my father though very well seated in Stratford, hearing of the then famous transplantation to New England, unsetled himself and recalling me from Cambridge removed himself and family in the year 1631 to New England, and brought over with him myself being about 19 years of age, and my two younger Brothers, Edward, and George, leaving my eldest Brother John behind him in England, Marryed with a good portion, who was a minister, and lived about Pelham or in Hartford shier, not far from Stratford where we were born.
My father brought with him into New England a very good Estate and settled himself at Roksbury, and there Lived (though somewhat weakning his Estate) till the year 1653 in January when he died, having buried my Mother about Eight years before.
My two brothers Edward and George (who were your great uncles) had all the Estate my father left between them, being both marryed long before my father's death; my Brother George buried his first Wife in the year 1643, went into England was a Souldier ther above a year, was at the Battle of York or Marston Moor, where he did good service, was afterward taken Prisoner, but got free and having Married a second Wife he returned to New England, the year before our Mother died, and not long after removed himself to New London near whereunto (viz) at Stonington he now liveth, having 3 sons John, William, and George, 4 or 5 Daughters his eldest son John is married, and bath Children which are your Cousens, and 3 of his Daughters are Marryed to Stanton, Palmer, and Cheesebrook, all living at present in the same Town.
My brother Edward (your great uncle) also was Married about the same time with your uncle George about the begioning of the year 1641 and lived the rest of his Days at Rocksbury in the same House my father built lived and died in, he to my great grief and loss departed this life in April in the year 1669, and left behind him but one son William of about 5 years old having buried four sons in their Infancy, he left also five Daughters of which one was married in his lifetime to Jachin Reiner who liveth at Rowley.
I was the eldest of the 3 Brothers that were brought to New England, and the next year after our arival (viz.) in the year 1632, on the 18th day of october on which day twenty years before I was Baptized at Stratford, and 7 years before I was admitted into the university of Cambridge, I Married your Grandmother, who was the second daughter of Mr Tho" Dudley, who was a principal undertaker of this Plantation of the Massachusets and one of those first commers in the year 1630 that brought over the Patent, and setled the Government here he came over Deputy Governor, and was afterwards diverse times Governour, he then lived at Cambridge, removed 10 Ipswich, where he stayed but one year, being recaled again to live in the Bay, which then could not but want his help, he setled himself at Rocksbury, where he lived until he departed this life about the 30th Day of July, in the year 1653 having buried your great Grandmother about 10 years before, about the latter end of December 1643. She was a fine vertuous woman who loved your father in his childhood, and was born in ber house, she had by her Husband one son—your great uncle Samuel Dudley who liveth at Exeter, and by 3 wives hath had many Children Cousen germans to your father, And beside your Grandmother Denison she had three Daughters (viz.) your Aunt Bradstreet who died in September 1672 who left 4 sons and 3 Daughters liveing, beside her daughter Cotton who died before her, and left many children then your Aunt Woodbridg now living at Newberry who hath five sons and five daughters living your fathers Cousen Germans as also were your aunt Bradstreets Children, the last was your aunt Sarah marryed to mr Keanes both dead long since, and left one only daughter Hannah, Married to Mr Paige, and is now living at Boston your great Grandmother being dead your sweet Grandfather Dudley married a second Wife, and by her had a daughter marryed to Mr. Jonathan Wade, who liveth at Mistick, and two sons Joseph Dudley who now liveth at Rocksbury, in his fathers House, and Paul Dudley a Merchant who is upon a voyage to Ireland, these were your fathers uncles by their fathers side.
For myself after I was married to your Grandmother I lived about two years at Cambridge, and in the year 1635 I removed to Ipswich, where I have lived ever since with your Grandmother, we lived together without Children above 7 years till the sixteenth of January being Thirsday your dear father was born at Rocksbury, whether your Grandmother went to lye in at her mothers, and two years and a quarter after your aunt Rogers was born at Ipswich, on the 10th day of April 1642 about nine years after your Grandmother had another Daughter named Mary, who died about a quarter old, and three years after we had another our last named Deborah who died within a fortnight.
In the year 1645 I was made Major of the Regiment of Essex, and in the year 1653 was chosen an Assistant or Magistrate and about a year after was made Major General and continued so for about 7 or eight years after.
ln the year 1660 my onely Daughter and your Aunt Elizabeth was Marryed to Mr John Rogers who hath ever since lived at Ipswich, and hath now living five children, your Cousen Germans (viz.): Elizabeth, Margret, John, Daniel and Nathaniel, She had another Daughter named also Elisabeth that died about a year and quarter old.
Your Dear father my Dear and only son was Married to your Mother who was named Mrs Martha Simonds on the 24 or 34 of february 1663, and lived at the farm at Ipswich the remainder of his days, being above four and twenty years of age when he Marryed, and living sweetly and comfort. ably with your Mother near seven years, by whom he had 3 Children John the eldest, born the 22d of September 1665, Martha born the first of March 1668, and Daniel born the 14th day of April 1671, But about 3 Months before poor Daniel was born (viz) on the ninth of January 1670 it pleased the alwise God to take your dear father my dear and loving son to himself, thereby bereaving you and me of our greatest comfort and support he was taken with a most violent flux the first of January which held him nine days, with grievous torment, which he endured with admirable patience, committing himself to God, with assured coufidence and took his last leave of me who was with him all the time of his sickness and of his loving Wife, and of his 2 Children John, and Martha, without any Preturbation, Blessing his Children and commending them to God the father Son and Holy Ghost, and Committing that which was unborn to my care, at his death he was not one and thirty, but wanted six days and about 15 hours, so early had he finished his Course and done his work, and if his work had then to have been done (as he then said he had been Miserable but he had lived a Godly and examplary life, being a constant seeker of God. I have heard your Mother since say he used to pray five times a Day, a Dutiful Child a loving husband and father, a loving friend a good man in all his ways, and he departed most Christian like, and comfortably to the unspeakable grief and loss of me and all his friends, about 3 months after his death was Daniel born at the farm whose name his father ordered before his death, desiring his wife if she were delivered of a son it might be called Daniel, and if a daughter it should be called Patience, after the name of your Grandmother, more of your fathers sickness and gracious speeches I committed to Writing and left them with your Grandmother.
And now dear Children though God hath taken away your dear and loving father, yet he hath not left you fatherless, but according to your dear fathers desire and Blessing Commending you to God whom in his sickness he often called his Covenant God, Who is also your Covenant God and hath covenanted with every one of you in your Baptism, he hath been a father to you and mercifully provided for you and cared for you, when you could not care for not help your selves, as I shall acquaint you, And therefore dear children Let your chief care be as you grow to understanding to know the God of your fathers, and to serve him with a perfect heart and the Blessing of God will be with you both in life and Death, according to the blessing and Prayers of your dear father and Godly Ancestors.
Your father had not a present Estate Setled on him, but upon his Marriage with your Mother, I ingaged to provide for him, and after mine and your Grandmothers decease to give him my Farm at Ches bacco] where you were all born and also a ffarm 600 acres at Merrimack River, and accordingly during his life he partaked of all that I had and we lived with great content and satisfaction, and what I ingaged to him shall God willing be made good to you his Children, after your fathers decease I provided for you and your Mother above one year, at the ffarm where you all lived. But it Pleased God so to order that we Should be further parted. For the beginning of April 1672 your Mother having married with M' Richard Martyne, went to live with him at Portsmouth, taking with her two children, Daniel who then sucked and Martha, as I had contracted with them before that in Consideration of that Estate which your father left and your Mother had and M? Martine with her, which was neere 300£, They should bring up two Children and be bound to give 100£ to Martha, when she coms to age or if she die before to Daniel and his Heirs, for which I have M' Martyns Bond, and for some other Legacies in case your Mother dye before him.
For John he was to stay with me and his Grandmother, as he was to bave done had his father lived to go to School. Thus you are quartered dear Children but yet through Gods goodness you are under there care that do tenderly love and will carefully provide for you, for which you will have cause to Bless God, That though you are bereaved of a loving father yet he hath not left you desolate.
Having given this account of your descent by the father side, I shall acquaint you with some of your relations by your Mothers side, hoping your mother who tenderly loves you will as she hath oppertunity instruct you not only in that particular but in other things of greater moment and advantage.
Your Mother was the eldest daughter of Mr. Samuel Symonds, a Magestrate yet living in Ipswich, by his second wife who was the Widow of one M" Eps, by whom she had your uncle Eps living at Ipswich, who hath many Children all your cousens, She had also 2 daughters one Marryed to Mr. Chute, dead long since, another Marryed to Mr. Duncan who lives at Glocester, and bath many Children.
Your Grandfather Symonds had a wife before, by whom he had divers Children, some dead and 3 yet living one daughter Marryed to M' Eps your uncle by your grandmother as his wife is by your Grandfather, also 2 Sons Harlackeden now in England, and William that lives at Ipswich.
Your Grandfather had by your Grandmother one son, your uncle Samtel, who loved your father and Mother, and dyed before your father at sea as he was returning from England, whether he went the year before, he was a hopeful young man, he had also 3 daughters your good mother, whose pame was Martha, was the eldest, the 24 was Marryed to M' Emerson, Minister of Gloucester, where they live and have divers Children your Cousen Germans by the Mother side, his 3d daughter was Priscilla Marryed to M' Baker, the same day your mother was Marryed to Mr Martyne, they live at Topsfield.
Your Grandmother Symonds dyed about two years before your Mother was Marryed, she had a brother Colonel Read, a great souldier in the Civil Wars in England, and Governour of Sterling in Scotland, she had also two sisters that lived in New England the eldest was your Aunt Lake, who dyed in September last, and left a daughter named Martha, wife of Thomas Harris who hath many Children, your cousens, her other Sister was M" Winthrop the wife of M' John Winthrop Governour of Conecticot, who is newly dead, at the writing hereof as the report is, She had two sons John and Wayte, and 4 or 5 Daughters one Marryed to M' Neuwman who lived and dyed at Wenham in September last, another Marryed at Salem to Mr. John Corwin all these are your Mothers Cousen Germans, and your Cousens and so are their children.
I have done as much as I intended by which Dear Children you may perceive you need not be ashamed of your progenitors, who have in many respects been eminent in their times, It behoves you that you take care to be imetators of their piety and goodness, and that you doe not degenerate from those Roots from whence you are sprunge, in so doing the blessing and Prayers of your Godly Ancestors will fall upon you, and the God of your fathers will be your Covenant God who only is able to bless you here and make you happy hereafter, which is and hath been the Continual Prayer of all your godly Ancestors and particularly of your tender and loving Grandfather who wrote this the 26th Day of December in the year of our Lord 1672, in the sixtieth and one year of his age.
The worshipful Major General
Sept 20 1682
In ye 70th year of his age.
Patience Dudley Denison
1616–1690 (m. 1632)