Timothy Dwight, III (1726 - 1777)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Fort Dummer [now Brattleboro], Vermont
Death: Died in Natchez, MS, USA
Occupation: Lawyer
Managed by: Michael Reid Delahunt, art teacher & lexicographer
Last Updated:

About Timothy Dwight, III

Major Timothy Dwight (son of Col. Timothy Dwight of Northampton, and Experience King), b. at Fort Dummer, Vt., May 27, 1726, grad. at Yale in 1744, b. away from home, d. also away from home. He was destined by his father to the study and practice of law; but "had such extreme sensibility to the beauty and sweetness of always doing right, and such a love of peace, and regarded the legal profession as so full of temptations to doing wrong, in great degrees or small," that he was unwilling to become a lawyer. He was, unlike his father, a man of a large bodily frame, six feet and four inches high, of great physical strength and of fine proportions. His hair was of a light color, as was also his complexion: his eyes were hazel and his features rather large. Gov. Caleb Strong said of him in a letter to Rev. Dr. Sereno E. Dwight, March 26, 1817, that "he possessed the good qualities of his father, with a milder disposition and more engaging manners."

He was a merchant at Northampton, and was, for many years in succession, selectman (1760-74), town recorder (1760-75), register of probate, and judge of the court of common pleas for 16 years (1758-74 — succeeding his father in the same position, who resigned it in 1757. The following statement appears in the Records of Northampton: "First warrant recorded 1751: no more until some years after — very few until 1760, when Timothy Dwight, Jr., was chosen town clerk. He was more particular and systematic than his predecessors: he recorded the warrants." He was also, for many years, a representative of the town to the General Court of the colony. He was eminently hospitable in private life, and one of those persons whom it is easy for all that know them to trust and to love.

Two stories are told of him in the family, illustrative of his great muscular strength, and quite characteristic of the humorous spirit of the times. He saw a farmer once driving his oxen through the town, in an absent-minded mood, saying monotonously, "Whoa! haw! gee!" as he swung his goad indifferently from one side to the other. Stepping quietly up behind the cart, he caught hold of the end of it, and bracing himself against the wheels, held the oxen still. The farmer kept trudging moodily on as before, still saying " Whoa! haw! gee!" until he had gone far enough on alone to make the joke not endurable any longer, when a by-stander bawled out, to the great merriment of those who had witnessed the scene, "Halloo! countryman! where are your oxen?" A man from a neighboring town, having heard often of his great muscular strength, came to Northampton one day to see him, and to try his hand upon him, boasting that no one whom he had ever yet seen had proved to be a match for him. He found the Major hoeing an alley in his garden, and, coming up to the picket fence near him, said: "Major Dwight, they say that you are the strongest man in Northampton. I have come here on purpose to try my hand with you." Casting but a glance at him and working quietly on with his hoe, Major Dwight replied that "he would not like to hurt him." The Worthington braggart then stepped inside of the fence, and they kept bantering with one another forwards and backwards until the Major had hoed out the alley to the end, when, dropping his hoe, he suddenly caught up the ranter, and, whirling him horizontally several times over his head, pitched him out over the fence, and with such a sense of complete discomfiture on his part that he was glad to skulk away as fast as he could from his presence.

Another tale a century old has come down to us of him, exhibiting his wonderful conscientiousness. A lottery had been given to Princeton College by the colony of New Jersey, as was afterwards done by the legislature of New York to Union, Hamilton and other colleges. Pres. Burr, his brother-in-law, forwarded to him 20 tickets for sale.

The council of Massachusetts colony in the meantime passed a law, prohibiting the sale of lottery tickets from any other colony. He accordingly put them one side, intending to return them to the source whence they came, which however, he failed to do in season, as opportunities for transmission between points so distant were then very infrequent. All unsold tickets were required by the Lottery Company to be returned by a given date, or kept by the holder at his own risk and charges. In laying the tickets by, he selected one in his own mind that he meant to keep himself when returning the rest. That ticket drew a blank; but one of the remaining 19 drew the highest prize of all, amounting to £4,000 ($20,000), while several of the others also drew prizes of some magnitude. According to the rules of the company, clearly stated and everywhere published, those 20 tickets were all his to be paid for, and his also, for any profit that might perchance accrue from them; but, in settling with them in the end, he paid for the ticket that drew a blank and resigned the 19 others with their large pecuniary advantages to the company. And the company was morally mean enough to allow such a final disposition of the case. It was on his part plainly a matter of mistaken conscientiousness, but one very strongly evincive of the absolute incorruptibleness of his character.

In accepting his office as judge, he had sworn fealty to the British Government; and, when the storm of the revolution came, he did not feel that he could break his oath, nor would he take up arms against the Colonial government for the Crown. He was accordingly a loyalist on Christian principle, and yet thoroughly patriotic in his feelings. He undertook to solve his political troubles, and to gratify at the same time his love of adventure and acquisition, by purchasing largely of the Crown Grant made to Gen. Lyman at Natchez, and taking command of it in person for himself and his now widowed sister. It was his plan to found there an industrial and religious colony, and to transplant New England to the new Southwest. How different might have been the fate of his descendants had he succeeded! It was in the spring of 1776, that he set out for Natchez, with his sons Sereno and Jonathan and Mrs. Eleanor Lyman and children. He seems to have bought nearly the whole grant, stretching 20 miles or more from the mouth of the big Black river through the present city of Natchez — paying down the purchase-money for it at the outset. He carried with him also, it is said, a barrel of silver coin. Many and great were the hardships which he had to endure of travel thither and of bitter experience there. His health, before high and strong, gave fatally away within a year's time to the severe strain put upon it; and on June 10, 1777, he died, as had also two months previously his sister Eleanor. There, in what was then a wilderness, their now unknown graves were made. The new colony — made in the neighborhood of a British fort — was soon broken up by its capture by a sudden irruption of Spaniards upon it and them. Such of the new settlers as remained fled from both Spaniards and Indians, through a long forest-wild of 500 miles into Georgia. For an account of their perilous passage, see subsequent history of Dr. Sereno Dwight and wife, two of them.

Major Timothy D wight left some 3,000 acres of land in Northampton, beside other valuable property, to his family. His title-papers concerning the Lyman Grant were destroyed by the Spaniards. The earlier ones in the Lyman family fell, as has been shown, into the hands of strangers.

His real estate at Northampton was appraised at £4,433, and his personal estate at £134. To his widow he gave £1,410; and to each of his 13 children — the intention of the will was to give £233 5s. — nine of whom it is said in the will have had that sum (Sereno E. lacking £78 15s.; Theodore, £14 4s.; Maurice William, £18 10s.; and Mary, £18 10s.).

"The only handsome houses in town even in 1781," say records at Northampton, "were the Dwight House, John Hunt's, Caleb Strong's, Timothy Mather's and Dea. Ebenezer Hunt's, all gambrel roofs; no other houses in town were painted." It is a dispute, whether Dr. Hunt's wife or Mrs. Tappan was the first one in town that had a carpet on her floor.

The house that Major Dwight built in 1751 was in King Street, on the east side of it, and next on the south to Jonathan Edwards' house, the site of which is still marked in front by "The Edwards' Trees," planted by himself, that overhang the roadway with their broad shadow. It is still standing, and is kept in fine repair, and is an ornament to that handsome village, even in comparison with those of the better class of more modern date. It faces westward, standing back 100 feet or more from the street, which runs north and south, with a fine door-yard in front and around it, and branching elms, planted probably by his own hand, spreading widely over it from the sidewalk. The house is a wooden one, of two stories and a half in height, having a gambrel roof and dormer windows, and standing lengthwise to the street, being some 40 feet long by 20 feet high to the eaves in front. The house is now, except that it has been kept in repair and painted anew from time to time, as it was at first. The front door is in the middle of the house, with a large room on each side — the dining-room as originally used on the north side, and on the south side the parlor. The windows all have handsome caps on the outside, while on the inside they are deep and contain seats in them. Handsome wooden cornices painted white run around the ceiling of each room. The whole east or rear end of each of these rooms, where the chimneys also stand, is covered with a mass of solid, raised panel work in wood: the panels being each of one solid piece, three feet or so in length and a foot and a half broad. Thy hall between the two sets of rooms north and south is ample; and in it is a staircase with a balustrade running up to the top of the house, through each story, 2i stories high — that for taste is seldom surpassed in any but the most costly city-houses — having been manifestly ordered in England. Thus tastefully and even luxuriously lived our educated, pious forefathers in their homes. The room in which Prest. [President] Dwight was born in that noble old mansion, as well as all his brothers and sisters and his son Benjamin Woolsey Dwight, M.D., still appears as it was in days long gone. In this house both Major Dwight and Prest. Timothy Dwight commenced housekeeping.

Major Timothy Dwight m. Nov. 8, 1750 (his father, Col. Dwight, performing the ceremony), Mary Edwards, b. April 4, 1734 (dau. of Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Northampton and Sarah Pierpont). So early a marriage on her part is said to have been allowed by her parents, on account of the approaching removal of the family to Stockbridge, Mass. These two places, now so near, were then practically far apart, and the discomfort of passing tediously to and fro between them, through long, dark and damp woods, they were quite willing to spare the young couple especially, as well as also themselves. The great Edwards was now too without any pecuniary means of support. In July of this same year he had written to Erskine: "I have now nothing visible to depend upon for my future usefulness, or the subsistence of my numerous family." Within two months after his daughter's marriage, he had gone to Stockbridge, "to preach to the English and the Indians."

Mary Edwards was as much below medium size as Timothy Dwight was above it. She was the mother of 13 children, eight of them sons and all large and strong men — the smallest of them, Cecil, having been 5 feet 8 1/2 inches high and weighing 200 pounds. She herself was so small, that her husband would sometimes carry her around the room on his open palm, held out at arm's length. Her children were widely noted for their fine physical forms and features. The tradition is, that the special beauty of this generation of the family came from their Edwards' lineage, as a similar characteristic of that family in the preceding generation had descended upon them, it is said, from the Stoddards. Their large and commanding forms they inherited from their father, but their fine, clear, expressive features from their mother. He had an English face with a light complexion and light brown hair, which is said to have been the original type of the Dwight family in this country, and as is found now extensively in some branches of the family. She had a long oval face, like her father's, with black eyes and dark hair — reminding one strongly in these latter respects of her Hooker parentage, of which these are characteristic marks. Her forehead was high, and she is uniformly described as a lady of uncommon beauty, intelligence and excellence. She was remarkable for her devotion to her children; and nothing was allowed to come in the way of her discharging her 'duties as a mother. "Her sons," said Madam Rhoda Dwight of Northampton to me, at her house in 1862 — who knew her and them well, being herself at the time 85 years old — "were among the noblest specimens of physical beauty ever to be seen. She was a very strong-minded woman, and had quite superior instincts and habits of analytic thought. Her most striking mental traits were her quick habits of observation, and her thorough and keen analysis of men and things. She had strong prepossessions and prejudices, as was quite natural to one of such an energetic impulsive nature, in connection with the Edwardses of that generation. And she was not as superior in complete self-control at all times, as in other things. She was a most devoted wife and remarkable for the intensity of her consecration to the management and welfare of her household. She was also a most prudent economist in her family."

The descendants of Prest. Edwards of whatever name have none of them, as such, any sacred memories, which they love to cherish, of the town for which he did so much in every way, that yet weakly and wickedly cast him and his, a century ago, out of its bosom. The union of three such names in succession in one lineage, and all of Northampton fame, as Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards and Timothy Dwight, might suffice, one would naturally suppose, to make the very mention of the place at any time seem beautiful to those having such historical reasons for special interest in it. But never has the author heard a single one inheriting Edwards' blood speak of Northampton, as having any hallowed or cherished interest to him. The name has been left in unstoried silence in the family.

The only one of Edwards' large family that remained at Northampton, after the withdrawal of the rest, was Mrs. Mary Dwight; and she felt in many ways the scorching heat of the long continued grudge of that generation against her great and godly father. The fact of her husband's death at Natchez did not become known to her and her children at home, until a whole year after its occurrence. From his known loyalty to his oath and his sovereign, he had become obnoxious to many of the baser sort, at the breaking out of the revolutionary war; and now, that he was dead and gone, they wreaked their malice on his lone widow and fatherless ones, in many forms of bitter annoyance; nor were they unsupported always by some who should have been heartily ashamed to be found in such company. Among other things of a devilish sort, they burned up her fields of grain, and drove away her oxen, and in every way possible did her pecuniary damage. Cecil Dwight (b. June 10, 1774) one of her younger sons, used to tell his children, that he was afraid to go out alone into the street until he was 10 years old, at which time, for that reason, he first began to go to school to any one beside his mother.

Great were the changes in many ways which the father's death occasioned in the history of his young and large family. Expenses of all sorts must be narrowed-in to their greatly impaired means and the altered aspects of the times.

It was true what Dr. Wm. B. Sprague said of Madam Dwight in his sketch of Prest. Dwight, her son, that she was "one, who inherited much of Jonathan Edwards' intellectual superiority." She has been equaled by but few of her sex, at any time, in the variety and extent of her intellectual attainments. She was a widow for 31 years and left such at the early age of 42 with 13 children, eleven of whom were under age. The greatness of her work, as their mother and home-educator, she fully appreciated. During certain regular hours of every day, her nursery was an organized school-room, with its definite appointments and requisitions; and thorough was the work performed by both teacher and the taught. From the very outset of her endeavors in such a way with each one of them, she sought to implant firmly in their minds the elements of vital piety.

She early saw and always cherished the strong promise of superior excellence in her eldest son, and treated him, from the very first years of his opening manhood, with quite observable respect. When in October 1778, he heard of his father's decease, he resigned his chaplaincy in the army, which he had held for little more than a year, and removed with his young wife to Northampton, in order to aid the better his bereaved mother to meet successfully her new cares. She always, in both her own home and his, addressed and answered him with the respectful title of "Sir." The manners of that day were more courtly than nowadays. The Edwardses indeed of those days seemed to have a sort of sixth sense — one more than most people possess to any high degree — the sense of good manners, of their moral value and their moral beauty. It was a a rule in the Edwards' house hold, that, when the father or mother entered a room to remain there, any of the children sitting in it, should at once arise, and, beside offering them a seat, should continue standing until they were first seated.

The story used often to be told with high relish by the older members of the family, that the mother and eldest son were much addicted to controversial skirmishes in theology, and that they both used snuff — a habit which he had adopted by medical advice for the benefit of his sorely weak eyes. While each frank and earnest in the expression of their personal opinions, they were also punctiliously polite one to the other, and would by no means interrupt each other when speaking; but, just as soon as either one stopped to take snuff, the other would seize the advantage offered and begin his part of the discussion, in which his right of way was likewise held sacred to the full, until a similar opportunity was involuntarily afforded for the same kind of interruption.

So strongly did Madam Dwight sympathize with her father, in his views of the evil influence of the half-way covenant form of church membership, and so keenly did she feel the weight of the blow dealt so unkindly to him, by the people whom he had served lovingly for 23 years (1727-50), that on communion-days she always went to Norwich (now Huntington), 12 miles distant, on horseback, on a pillion behind her son Cecil, in order to partake of the Lord's Supper there with those whose views were more congenial with her own. So also, each Sabbath, it was her custom to take her seat within the vestibule of the church, which was on the first floor in sight of the pulpit and opposite to it, but not within the proper audience-chamber of the church. The edifice stood lengthwise to the street, and the vestibule or belfry as it was called, was the open recess within the doors where the bell-ringer stood, to ring the people to church. Strong natures are not unapt to have strong faults, when they are developed from early childhood in communities where constant provocatives to ill feeling are unceasingly active against them.

John Tappan, Esq., of Boston, then 80 years of age, wrote, in answer to a request for any personal reminiscences that he might have of Madam Mary Dwight, on Jan. 9, 1803, as follows: "Once, on hearing me cry for a long time with all my might, when an infant of less than two years of age, she ran over from her house which was directly opposite my father's, and, going up to my chamber, took me out of bed and carrying me down to my mother, said to her: 'Mrs. Tappan, what in the world is the matter with this child?' 'Nothing, Madam,' she quietly replied. 'I am only weaning him, and he is resisting my authority.' My fright, in being thus hurried out of bed by a stranger, was an effectual cure of my crying. In after years I made her house my frequent resort, where she beguiled many an hour in telling me stories from her well-furnished mind, and inexhaustible powers of imagination and memory." This story of her hasty assault, once for all, upon young John's noisy retreat for the night, is understood to have been designed to be an impressive if odd- way of teaching Mrs. Tappan some of the first principles of family-government, in which she regarded her as strikingly deficient.

Said Lewis Tappan, Esq., of Brooklyn, N. Y. (brother to John), concerning her, under date of Jan. 9, 1863: "Madam Dwight was a small woman of mercurial make with a piercing voice, and very particular in giving orders as well as in seeing that they were obeyed. Once when I was playing in her yard with other children, a Mrs. Lyman came into it, wheu suddenly a chamber-window was thrown up, and Madam Dwight called out: 'Mrs Lyman! Your boys tread down the grass in our lot.' Mrs. Lyman, always of meek, and sometimes even of meeching, manners, looked up and said respectfully: 'Madam Dwight, if they have done it, they have done very wrong.' 'lf they have done it?' Mrs. Dwight exclaimed. 'Did I not tell you that they had done it?' Mrs Lyman walked calmly away and I fled to 'Lil,' who always, like a hen covering her chickens when afraid, hid us in a closet or threw her apron around us. Madam Dwight had a great terror of thunder and lightning, and, in a storm of such a sort, would go and lie down with her children upon a feather-bed in the daytime. I have often seen her on the Sabbath seated in a chair in one of the aisles of the meeting-house. It was thought that she did not like the people of the place, on account of their treatment of her father, which was shameful enough. When I lived there, they always spoke of the course pursued by their predecessors, as very disgraceful to the church."

The children of Prest. Edwards were strong-featured in their mental and moral characteristics, and none more so, yes! none as much so, as she. Her fidelity, skill and power as a home-educator were not only effectively exhibited in the superior characteristics of her children, but also in those of two of her grandchildren, both noble women in the end, whom she received into her already large household in their early childhood, and trained as her own. They were Louisa Maria Morris, the child of her daughter Mary, afterwards that superior, Christian lady, Mrs. Montgomery of Youngstown, Ohio; and Margaret Dwight, daughter of her deceased son Dr. Maurice Dwight, afterwards Mrs. Bell of Pittsburgh, who was greatly respected for her exceeding excellence of character.

Madam Dwight d. at Northampton, Feb. 28, 1807, aet. 73. Her children always spoke of her with reverence and tender affection. There are several good portraits of her in existence. Prest. Dwight did not hear of her last sickness until the day of her death itself had come. Starting at once from New Haven for Northampton, he did not arrive there until the very hour of her funeral. On returning from the grave he said to his sister, Mrs. Porter: "All that I am and all that I shall be, I owe to my mother." A letter written to her by her father, and well worth reading, may be seen in The Memoirs of Prest. Edwards. She did not join the church until 1771 and transferred her membership to the church in Norwich, Mass., Oct. 5, 1783.

_________

There was a slave woman, "Lil," as she was called, or Sylvia Church (her true name), who was too important a character in the household, of Major Dwight and of his widow, not to deserve at least a brief remembrance. She was bought on Long Island, when but 9 years old, and lived to advanced years, dying April 12, 1822, being, as is supposed, at that time, 66 years old. The last 15 years of her life she spent with Mrs. Storrs, dau. of Major Dwight. She was pious, faithful, industrious and economical. She had "all the pride of the family" in her heart. She ruled the children of the house and indeed the whole street. She was in fact a strong-minded woman and "a character" in the most striking sense of the word. Says John Tappan, Esq., in the letter already alluded to: "In addition to the fascination of the parlor, there was the faithful African in the kitchen, by the name of 'Lilly,' who ever welcomed me and was not a whit behind her mistress in fascinating my young heart." At more than 40 years of age, she was hopefully made a member of Christ's kingdom, when she first learned to read her Bible, which had before no attractions to her. On her tombstone at Northampton, is the following epitaph: "Sacred to the memory of Sylvia Church, A colored woman, who for many years lived in the family of N—. Storrs. Died April 12, 1822, aet. 66.' Very few possessed more good qualities than she did. She was for many years a member of the Williams Church, and we trust lived agreeably to her profession, and is now inheriting the promises."

(See Electa Jones' History of Stockbridge, pp. 238-43, for sketches of various interesting slaves in leading N. E. families.)

The Dwight farm at Northampton was some two miles out of town, on the "Williamsburgh road, a little beyond what is now Florence.

Col. Cecil Dwight was the last of the family, to own any considerable portion of it.

Children of Major Timothy Dwight.

105. i. Prest. Timothy Dwight, S.T.D., b. May 14, 1752, d. Jan. 11, 1817, aet. 64.

106. ii. Sereno Edwards Dwight, M.D., b. Dec. 10, 1754, d. Oct. 10, 1783, aet, 28.

107. iii. Erastus Dwight, b. Sept. 13, 1756, d. Feb. 14, 1821, aet. 64.

108. iv. Jonathan Edwards Dwight, b. Jan. 29, 1759, d. in 1800, aet. 41.

109. v. Sarah Dwight, b. May 3, 1761, m. Nathan Storrs, of Northampton, and d. March 7, 1805, aet. 44.

110. vi. Mary Dwight, b. Jan. 9, 1763, m. Gen. Lewis R. Morris, and for 2d husband Wm, Hall, and d. in 1813-14.

111. vii. Hon. Theodore Dwight, M.C., b. Dec. 15, 1764, d. June 12, 1840, aet. 82.

112. viii. Maurice William Dwight, M.D., b. Dec. 15, 1766, d. Aug. 11,1790, aet. 29.

113. ix. Fidelia Dwight, b. Aug. 7, 1708, m. Jonathan E. Porter, of Hadley, Mass., and d. Jan. 22, 1847, aet. 79.

114. x. Rev. Nathaniel Dwight, M.D., b. Jan. 31, 1770, d. June 11, 1831, aet. 01.

115. xi. Elizabeth Dwight, b. Jan. 29, 1772, d. Dec. 8, 1813, aet. 42, m. William W. Woolsey of New York.

116. xii. Col. Cecil Dwight, b. June 10, 1774, d. Nov. 26, 1839, aet. 65.

117. xiii. Henry Edwin Dwight, b. Sept. 20, 1776, d. May 1824, aet. 47.

Source: The History of the Descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass, Volume 1, by Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, pages 130-144. Downloaded 2011 from books.google.com


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Maj. Timothy Dwight, III, Esq.'s Timeline

1726
May 27, 1726
Fort Dummer [now Brattleboro], Vermont
1750
November 8, 1750
Age 24
1752
May 14, 1752
Age 25
Northampton, Hampshire, Massachusetts, American Colonies [present United States]
1754
December 10, 1754
Age 28
Northampton, Hampshire, MA
1756
September 13, 1756
Age 30
Northampton, Hampshire, Maryland
1758
December 15, 1758
Age 32
Northampton, Hampshire, MA
1759
January 29, 1759
Age 32
Northampton, Hampshire, MA
1760
May 29, 1760
Age 34
Northampton, Hampshire, MD
1762
December 15, 1762
Age 36
Northampton, Hampshire, MA
1764
January 9, 1764
Age 37
Northampton, Hampshire, MA