Barnard Capen

Barnard Capen

Death 8 Nov 1638 (aged 74–75)
Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Plot DN/B147
Memorial ID 5823815 · View Source
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Barnard Capen, b. circa 1562-1563 purportedly at Dorchester in Dorset, England. He d. Nov. 8, 1638 at Dorchester, Mass., Æ 76 (g.s.)

The town of Dorchester, Mass. was incorporated in 1630 before the town of Boston was incorporated. In 1870 the town of Dorchester was annexed into the City of Boston. Notwithstanding, Barnard died in the historic town of Dorchester in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. On page 1 of the original Dorchester Vital Records is found: "Bernard Capen Died, 8th (9th) 1638." This date is a pre-1752 old English Julian calendar date, with November the 9th month in the old English calendar. His gravestone infers he was born AFTER Nov. 8, 1562.

Bernard is the spelling of his given name throughout the Dorchester, Mass. records, but the name Barnard is found on his gravestone and subsequent descendants are called Barnard.

There is no current knowledge regarding the name of Barnard's parents or his actual place of birth. The benchmark knowledge of the immigrant family is from the published bible fly-leaf cited below, which gives specific dates of birth for some of the children, but not where the children were born. While the inference is the children were born at Dorchester in Dorset, England, no descendant apparently has made the effort to search the Dorchester parish records. The Dorset Record Office has parish records that existed at Dorchester prior to 1653 - Holy Trinity [baptisms 1559-1974, marriages 1560-1975, burials 1569-1874]- should any descendant be willing to take on the effort. In the meantime, the following has been uncovered by the memorialist.

In "The Municipal Records of the Borough of Dorchester, Dorset," edited in 1908 by Charles Herbert Mayo, M.A., are two apparent references to Barnard Capen:

• A "Barnard Calpyn" is included in a list of those that forfeited money for non-appearance at the Autumn 1610 (8 James 1st, 1610) court of Assizes.
• In "Admission of Freeman of the Company of Freeman of the Borough, Minute Book C.6," on Mar. 31, 1631 "Barnard Cawpin, shoomaker," paid 3 shillings for the privilege of being a freeman of Dorchester.

Aquila Purchis, Barnard's brother-in-law, is mentioned in the same work as the first Master (April 1625-March 1632) of the Trinity School, established in 1623 at the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church at Dorchester, England. Aquila and his wife Ann sailed with Barnard and wife Joan on the unnamed ship from Weymouth in 1633 for Dorchester, Mass. Unfortunately, Aquila died during the voyage.

According to the flyleaf of a bible printed in 1615 once owned by a descendant [NEHGR 2:80]:

• Barnard Capen maryed Joan ye dafter of Oliuer Purchis, ye yeer of or Lord, 1596, on munday, in whitson week.

Whitsun is the contraction for White Sunday, the 7th Sunday after Easter, or Pentecost in the Christian calendar. The following day is called Whit Monday, a name coined to supersede the form "Monday in Whitsun-week,"also known as Pentecost Monday. In Bernard and Joan's own time, Apr. 11th was Easter in the then utilized Julian calendar (Apr. 14th in the modern Gregorian calendar), thus they married in their own time on Monday May 31, 1596 in the Julian calendar (June 3, 1596 in the modern Gregorian calendar).

Barnard and wife Joan had seven known children, five who settled in New England initially at Dorchester, Mass. It is believed Barnard and Joan arrived on the unnamed ship that sailed from Weymouth, England and reached Boston, Mass. on July 24, 1633. (One recent author suggests the ship may have been the "Elizabeth Bonaventure" after a 12 week passage.) With them may have been son John and certainly youngest dau. Honour, who were both minors in 1633. They may have been accompanied by their married daughter Dorothy Upshall. The older children who married in England likely arrived prior to July 1633. This was certainly the case with son-in-law and dau. William and Susanna (Capen) Rockwell, who arrived May 30, 1630 at present-day Hull, Mass. aboard the celebrated "Mary and John."

The first mention of Barnard in the Dorchester records is Aug. 5, 1633 regarding a grant of four acres of land to both he and son-in-law Upshall. Barnard's former gravestone, in pieces, was found buried below ground and later kept in storage at the New England Historic Genealogical Society at Boston. The existing gravestone at the 'Old North Burying Ground' is a replica based on the above cited bible leaf published in the January 1848 issue of the NEHGS Register.

The claim that Barnard's house, built circa 1638, was still in existence in 1909 has since been proved incorrect. The house was actually built in 1675 either by Barnard's son Capt. John Capen or by Capt. John's eldest son John (See Capt. John Capen and photo captions for further detail.)

The children of Barnard Capen and Joan Purchase b. in England, presumably at Dorchester in Dorset, are:

• i. James Capen, b. circa 1598, d. testate on or after Sept. 3, 1628 presumably at Holborn, a parish just outside the western limits of the City of London, England. See his memorial for more detail.

• ii. Ruth Capen, b. Aug. 7, 1600; no further record.

• iii. Susanna Capen, b. Apr. 11, 1602, d. Nov. 14, 1666 at Windsor, Conn., Æ 65; m. 1) Apr. 14, 1624 at Dorchester, England, William Rockwell, s. of John Rockwell & Honour Newton, bapt. Feb. 6, 1589/90 at Fitzhead in Somerset, England. William was one of the founding settlers of Windsor, Conn. where he was buried May 15, 1640, Æ 51. They had five children, of whom dau. Ruth and husband Christopher Huntington are ancestors of one branch of the prominent Huntington family of Conn. and are also ancestors of Civil War Gen. Ulysses Simpson Grant, later President of the United States. On May 29, 1645 at Windsor, Susanna m. 2) as his 2nd wife, Matthew Grant, formerly of Dorchester, Mass., b. Oct. 27, 1601 at England. He d. Dec. 16, 1681 at Windsor, Conn. There were no children of this second marriage. Matthew Grant and first wife Priscilla are also the ancestors of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (Matthew's great gr.son Noah Grant m. Susanna (Capen) Rockwell's great gr.dau. Martha Huntington). Matthew Grant's dau., Priscilla (Grant) Humphrey, is a separate ancestor of the memorialist.

• iv. Dorothy Capen, b. circa 1603-1604, d. Sept. 18, 1675 at Boston, Mass., Æ 73; m. Jan. 17, 1629/30 at Dorchester, England, Nicholas Upshall {q.v. Upsall} b. circa 1597. He d. Aug. 20, 1666, Æ 70, while confined (in lieu of prison) by the Mass. Court to the Dorchester residence of his brother-in-law, Capt. John Capen. Considerable turmoil was involved with this family due to Nicholas' favorable views toward Quakers in early New England. Dorothy and husband Nicholas Upshall had five known children; two died in their youth while a third child probably died young.

• v. Elizabeth Capen, b. circa 1611-1612, d. Jan 26, 1677/8 at Dorchester, Mass., Æ 67; m. Oct. 18, 1630 at Dorchester, England, Thomas Swift, b. circa 1599-1600. He d. May 4, 1675, Æ 76, at Dorchester, Mass. Nine children of the family.

• vi. Capt. & Dea. John Capen, b. Jan. 26, 1612/3, d. Apr. 4, 1692, Æ 80; m. 1) Oct. 20, 1637 Redegon Clap {q.v. Clapp}, dau. of Nicholas Clap & wife Elizabeth, bapt. May 7, 1609 at Sidbury in Devonshire, England. She d. Dec. 10, 1645, Æ 37, at Dorchester, Mass. They had two known children. He m. 2) Sept. 20, 1647 at Braintree, Mass., Mary Bass, dau. of Dea. Samuel Bass & Ann Saville, b. circa 1632. She d. June 29, 1704, Æ 73, at Dorchester, Mass. They had eight children and are the ancestors of U.S. President John Calvin Coolidge.

• vii. Honour Capen, b. circa 1616; m. circa 1635 at Dorchester, Mass., William Hannum, who d. June 1, 1677 at Northampton, Mass. Honour was claimed in 1936 [*1] to have d. "at Westfield, Mass., in 1680," where she is recorded as "Widow Hannum died December 1st day 1680" {Westfield VRs.] Honour and her husband first resided at Dorchester, then at Windsor, Conn. where Hannum was a founding settler, and finally at Northampton, Mass. Five children of the family. Honour's 4th gr.grandson Aaron Cushman Hannum (1799-1871) of Williamsburg and Adams, Mass. [Josiah,7-6 Aaron,5 William,4 John Hannum,3 Honour Capen,2] was the husb. of Parthena Robinson (1803-1865) [Joseph,7 Jacob,6-4 Isaac,3 Rev. John Robinson,2 late of Leiden, Holland and pastor of the main portion of the 1620 Mayflower Pilgrims.]

[*1] William Hannum of New England and Some of His Descendants, NEHGR 90(1936):157. William Hannum wrote his will May 15, 1677 at Northampton, Mass., which was considered imperfect as it named no executor, thus was not "proved" as claimed in the cited 1936 article. To his only son John he left his entire estate, who was granted administration on Aug. 23, 1677 subject to the court requiring John to pay the legacies to his three sisters provided in the will as well as "to allow his mother a comfortable maintenance during her life." There is no record of Honour's death in 1680.

Revised 1/4/2019

Family Members


lies the bodies of
Mr Barnard Capen
& Mrs Joan Capen his
wife; He died Nov 8,
1638 Aged 76 years
& She died March
26 [sic], 1653:
Aged 75 years.

On the day Barnard died he was 75 years old and Ætatis suæ (i.e., Æ, "Aged," in the XX year of his Age) 76. This infers he was born AFTER Nov. 8, 1562.


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  • Maintained by: Don Blauvelt
  • Originally Created by: Bonnie Weller
  • Added: 4 Oct 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5823815
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Barnard Capen (1563–8 Nov 1638), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5823815, citing Dorchester North Burying Ground, Dorchester, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Don Blauvelt (contributor 46932939) .