Deac. William Carpenter

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William Carpenter, Jr.

Also Known As: "Deacon William Carpenter"
Birthplace: Shalbourne, Wiltshire, England
Death: Died in Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts
Place of Burial: East Providence, Providence, Rhode Island
Immediate Family:

Son of William Carpenter, of Rehoboth and Abigail Carpenter
Husband of Priscilla Bennett; Priscilla Carpenter and Miriam (Searles) Carpenter
Father of Capt. John Carpenter; William Carpenter, Jr.; Priscilla Sweet; Benjamin Carpenter; Josiah Carpenter and 8 others
Brother of John "of Long Island" Carpenter; Abigail Palmer; Joseph Carpenter; Samuel Carpenter; Samuel Carpenter and 3 others

Occupation: Town Clerk, Surveyor, Way Warden, Constable and Assessor
Managed by: John Denny Dale, Jr.
Last Updated:

About Deac. William Carpenter

William Carpenter was a notable town clerk of Rehoboth, Massachusetts. He is from the Carpenter family that became large and influential in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts by the 1700s.

Early Life

William Carpenter, Jr. was baptized on November 22, 1631. His parents were William Carpenter, III and Abigail Briant (sometimes erroneously reported as Bennett or Sale/Seals/Searles), both originally from Wiltshire. Since his family was able to bring a servant with them to Plymouth Colony, it is likely that they came from some affluence.

Carpenter's place of baptism is variously recorded as Shalbourne, Berkshire, England or Southampton, Wiltshire, England. (Sources also differ on whether it was the Shalbourne in Berkshire, Wiltshire, or the non-existent "Whitshire.") Professional genealogist Eugene Cole Zubrinsky, author of the Carpenters' Encyclopedia, maintains that it was Shalbourne, Berkshire based on primary source records. The confusion could be blamed on Shalbourne having been split between Berkshire and Wiltshire around 1841, since it had straddled the line, with some records going to one county and some going to the other. Southampton, meanwhile, was the family's departure port from England, explaining why some list Carpenter as having been born there.

Arrival in America

By May 2, 1638, Carpenter and his family set sail from Southampton, Hampshire, England on the Bevis, arriving at Boston in July or July. (The passenger list said that by May 2, "they had been some Dayes gone to sea," so the exact date of departure is unknown.) The family's full entry said:

William Carpenter 62 Carpenter of Horwell, William Carpenter Jr. 33 Carpenter of Horwell, Abigael Carpenter 32 and 4 children 10 and under, Tho: Banshott 14 Servant

A scan of the log can be seen in the "Photos" section of this profile; a more legible transcription is available through Olive Tree Genealogy.

The family first settled in Weymouth, and then moved to Rehoboth in 1644.

Marriages & Children

Carpenter's first marriage was to Priscilla Bennett on October 5, 1651 at Rehoboth. It is unclear whether she was the daughter or widow of Edward Bennett of Weymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony. She died on October 20, 1663 in Rehoboth.

His second marriage was to Miriam Sale on February 10, 1663/4. (It is sometimes recorded as December since the original record, following the old calendar, called February the "12 month.") She was born c. 1645 and died on May 1, 1722 at Rehoboth. She was the daughter of Edward sale of Weymouth and Rehoboth and was approximately 20 years old at the time of her marriage.

With his first wife, Carpenter had (all in Rehoboth):

  • John Carpenter, b. October 19, 1652, d. probably April 9, 1713 in Dedham, Massachusetts
  • William Carpenter, b. June 20, 1659, d. March 10, 1718/9 in Attleborough, Massachusetts
  • Priscilla Carpenter Sweet, b. July 24, 1661, d. 1745 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island
  • Benjamin Carpenter, b. October 20, 1663, d. April 18, 1738 in Coventry, Connecticut

With his second wife, Carpenter had (all in Rehoboth):

  • Josiah Carpenter, b. December 18, 1664, d. February 28 or 29, 1727/8 in Rehoboth
  • Nathaniel Carpenter, b. May 12, 1667, d. Rehoboth or Attleborough
  • Daniel Carpenter, b. October 8, 1669, d. September 14, 1721 in Rehoboth
  • Noah Carpenter, b. March 28, 1672, d. Attleborough
  • Miriam Carpenter Bliss, b. October 26, 1674, d. May 21, 1706 in Rehoboth
  • Obadiah Carpenter, b. March 12, 1677/8, d. October 25, 1749 in Rehoboth
  • Lt. Ephraim Carpenter, b. April 25, 1681, d. April 30, 1743 in Rehoboth
  • Hannah Carpenter Chaffee, b. April 10, 1684, d. after January 19, 1767 probably in Rehoboth
  • Abigail Carpenter Perrin, b. April 15, 1687, d. January 15, 1781 in Rehoboth

The Carpenter family house was on the left-hand side of the road from Rehoboth to the East Providence meetinghouse, "some 50 or 60 rods from the crossing of the Ten Mile river."

Professional Life

Carpenter was propounded on June 6, 1660 in Weymouth but not admitted as a freeman until June 1, 1663.

Fitting with his surname, Carpenter was originally a carpenter. Records show him owning a "long Cross cutt saw" that he used at his home and which he later willed, along with assorted tools, to his son John, also a carpenter.

For nearly 35 years, Carpenter served as the town clerk of Rehoboth. His records are notable due to his exceptional handwriting and general literacy, which point to some formal education in his background. He also owned a small library of mostly theological books.

Records show that, while serving as clerk, he oversaw the highways, served as constable and juryman, was appointed to settle boundary disputes, helped hired the schoolmaster, served as magistrate, and was otherwise involved in all aspects of local governance.

Deacon or Deputy?

In his 1898 genealogy, Amos Carpenter said that William Carpenter was a deacon of the Rehoboth church and a deputy to the General Court of Plymouth Colony in 1668. Although these "facts" continue to be passed down through some branches of the family, Zubrinsky has conclusively shown that neither could have been true. Although Carpenter's father served as deputy to the General Court in 1656, Carpenter himself never appears on any list of deputies. Furthermore, the original records of the Rehoboth church list a Deacon Cooper, not Carpenter. Even though he served as neither deacon nor deputy, he continues to be popularly known as "Deacon" simply due to the number of years for which the myth was propagated.

Death & Legacy

Carpenter's will was dated November 10, 1702 and was proved April 20, 1703. His entire estate, including housing and lands, was worth £215 5s. 4d., or roughly £16,500/US$27,700 in 2011 figures.

Carpenter was buried at Newman Cemetery, one of the oldest (established in 1643) in present-day Rhode Island but which was, at the time of its founding, part of Rehoboth and Plymouth Colony. His parents are also buried in the same cemetery.

Additional Reading

Zubrinsky's profile of William is perhaps the best available. It is uploaded in the "Documents" section of this profile.

The Wikipedia on the Rehoboth Carpenter family is a good starting point for learning about the family's spread and influence over time.

Amos Carpenter's A Genealogical History of the Rehoboth Branch of the Carpenter Family in America, often referred to as "The Carpenter Memorial," was printed in 1898 and serves as the basis for most modern genealogies. Press of Carpenter & Morehouse, Amherst, Mass., 1898) However, due to the problems noted above with his biographical sketch of Carpenter, it must be read with caution.


  • Beers, J. H. Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts. Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1912.
  • Carpenter, Amos B. A Genealogical History of the Rehoboth Branch of the Carpenter Family in America. Amherst, Mass.: Carpenter & Morehouse Press, 1898.
  • Zubrinsky, Eugene Cole. "William Carpenter of Rehoboth, Massachusetts." Carpenters' Encyclopedia, updated January 18, 2011.

This biographical profile was written in May 2011 by J. Ashley Odell for Geni. It should not be reposted elsewhere without full attribution.


Find A Grave Memorial# 15383213

William Carpenter

  • Birth: Nov. 22, 1631 Shalbourne, Wiltshire, England
  • Death:  Jan. 26, 1703 Rehoboth, Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA
  • He married, first, on Oct 5,1651 at Rehoboth,MA, Priscilla Bennett.
  • He married, second, on Feb 10,1663/4 at Rehoboth,MA, Miriam Sale.
  • Children (by first marriage): John Carpenter, William Carpenter, Priscilla Carpenter Sweet, and Benjamin Carpenter.
  • Children (by second marriage): Josiah Carpenter, Nathaniel Carpenter, Daniel Carpenter, Noah Carpenter, Miriam Carpenter Bliss, Obadiah Carpenter, Ephraim Carpenter, Hannah Carpenter Chaffee, and Abigail Carpenter Perrin. 

Family links: 

  • Parents:
    • William Carpenter (1605 - 1659)
    • Abigail Briant Carpenter (1604 - 1687)
  • Spouses:
    • Priscilla Bennett Carpenter (1632 - 1663)
    • Miriam Sale Carpenter (1644 - 1722)* 
  • Children:
    • John Carpenter (1652 - 1695)*
    • William Carpenter (1659 - 1718)*
    • Priscilla Carpenter Sweet (1661 - ____)*
    •  Benjamin Carpenter (1663 - 1738)*
    • Josiah Carpenter (1664 - 1728)*
    • Nathaniel Carpenter (1667 - 1727) *
    • Daniel Carpenter (1669 - 1721)*
    • Noah Carpenter (1672 - 1753)*
    • Miriam Carpenter Bliss (1674 - 1706)*
    • Obadiah Carpenter (1678 - 1749)*
    • Ephraim Carpenter (1681 - 1743)*
    • Hannah Carpenter Chaffee (1684 - 1767)*
    • Abigail Carpenter Perrin (1687 - 1781)* 
  • Siblings:
    • Abigail Carpenter Titus Palmer (1629 - 1710)*
    • William Carpenter (1631 - 1703)
    • Joseph Carpenter (1634 - 1675)*
    • Samuel Carpenter (1638 - 1682)*
    • Hannah Carpenter Carpenter (1640 - 1673)*
    • Abiah Carpenter (1643 - 1688) *  

Burial: Newman Cemetery East Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA


Genealogical and Family History of the County of Jefferson, New ..., Volume 2, page 954. By Rensselaer Allston Oakes

(XI) William (4), second son and child of William (3) and Abigail Carpenter, born about 1631, in England, married Priscilla Bennett October 5, 1651. She died October 20, 1663, and he was married December 10, 1663, to marion Searles, who survived him many years, dying May 1, 1722, aged ninety-three years. He died January 26, 1703, in Rehoboth. he was a farmer, and was town clerk from May 13, 1668, until his death, except in 1693. He was representative in the general court in 1656 and 1668, and was made deacon of the church in the latter year. In 1685 he was surveyor of the “North Purchase,” and laid out eighty-three fifty-acre lots. He was a fine writer, a man of superior ability, and exercised great influence in the community. His estate was appraised at two hundred and fifteen pounds, five shillings and four pence. He had fourteen children, named as follows: John, William, Priscilla, Benjamin, Josiah, Nathaniel, Daniel, Noah, Miriam, Obadiah, Ephraim (died young), Ephraim, Hannah and Abigail.


He married, first, on Oct 5,1651 at Rehoboth,MA, Priscilla Bennett.

He married, second, on Feb 10,1663/4 at Rehoboth,MA, Miriam Sale.

Children(by first marriage): John Carpenter, William Carpenter, Priscilla Carpenter Sweet, and Benjamin Carpenter.

Children(by second marriage): Josiah Carpenter, Nathaniel Carpenter, Daniel Carpenter, Noah Carpenter, Miriam Carpenter Bliss, Obadiah Carpenter, Ephraim Carpenter, Hannah Carpenter Chaffee, and Abigail Carpenter Perrin.

view all 29

Deac. William Carpenter's Timeline

November 22, 1631
Shalbourne, Wiltshire, England
November 22, 1631
November 22, 1631
Shalbourne, Wiltshire/Berkshire, England
November 22, 1631
May 1638
Age 6
May 1638
Age 6
October 19, 1652
Age 20
Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States
June 20, 1659
Age 27
Rehoboth, Bristol, Massachusetts, United States
July 24, 1661
Age 29
Rehoboth, Plymouth Colony