John Chenoweth I, "the Immigrant"

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John Chenoweth, I

Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: St Martins,Mineage,Cornwall,England
Death: May 6, 1746 (64)
Frederick County, Virginia
Immediate Family:

Husband of Mary Chenoweth (Calvert) and Jane Chenoweth
Father of John Chenoweth II; Mary Watson; Richard Chenoweth, Sr.; Hannah Carter; Arthur Chenoweth, Sr. and 3 others

Occupation: Blacksmith, surveyor
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Chenoweth I, "the Immigrant"

The Family of John Chenoweth and Mary Calvert

John Chenoweth I was born between 1682 - 1683 in Cornwall and died about May 1746 in Frederick County, Virginia. His will is included below.

John parentage is not proven. He married (1) Mary Calvert about 1703. They had eight children, all known by will, married, and had children. Lines are known to present day for seven of these eight 2nd generation families. Mary is presumed to be the daughter of John Calvert and wife Judith Stamper. She was born December 19, 1687, in Pennsylvania. She died in Maryland before 1737. Mary Calvert’s parentage has long been a subject for controversy and the prevailing theories are discussed below.

John married (2) Jane, widow of William Wood, on December 16, 1736 in St. Paul's Parish, Baltimore County, Maryland. Jane was born between 1690 - 1710 and died date unknown. Neither wife is mentioned in John's will. It is possible that Jane predeceased John.

Children of John Chenoweth I and wife Mary Calvert:

  • John Chenoweth b: 1706 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: March 05, 1771 in Frederick Co., VA m: Mary M. Smith b: Bet. 1701 - 1713 in Baltimore Co., MD m: November 26, 1730 in St. John's Parish, Baltimore Co., MD d: Aft. 1773
  • Mary Chenoweth b: 1708 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: Aft. 1746 m: John Watson b: Bef. 1703 m: May 24, 1733 in St. John's Parish, Baltimore Co., MD d: Abt. 1740 in Baltimore, MD
  • Richard Chenoweth b: 1710 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: December 12, 1781 in Baltimore Co., MD m: Kezia ? b: Bet. 1705 - 1717 m: Abt. 1733 in Baltimore Co., MD d: Unknown
  • Hannah Chenoweth b: 1713 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: 1764 in near Winchester, Frederick Co., VA Burial: Frederick City, Virginia m: James Carter, Jr. b: 1710 in Southampton Twp., Bucks Co., PA m: Abt. 1739 in Baltimore Co., MD d: November 18, 1758 in near Winchester Frederick Co., VA Burial: Winchester, Virginia Father: James Carter Mother: Susannah Griffith
  • Arthur Chenoweth b: August 15, 1716 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: March 14, 1802 in Baltimore Co., MD Military: French and Indian m: Saphira Hooker b: Abt. 1720 in Baltimore Co., MD m: Abt. 1738 d: May 16, 1800 in Baltimore Co., MD Comment: also Sophia Father: Samuel Hooker Mother: Sarah ?
  • William Chenoweth b: 1718 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: Bef. December 20, 1785 in Berkeley Co., VA (now WV) m: Anne Polk? b: 1722 in Baltimore Co., MD m: February 12, 1742/43 in Virginia d: Unknown
  • Thomas Chenoweth b: 1720 in Pennsylvania or New Jersey d: Bet. 1778 - 1787 in on the North Branch of the Potomac, Washington Co., MD m: Mary Prickett b: 1723 in Burlington Co., NJ m: November 11, 1742 d: Aft. 1790 in Mason Co., KY Father: John Prickett Mother: Martha ?
  • Ruth Chenoweth b: 1722 in Pennsylvania or Maryland d: Abt. 1760 m: John Peteet b: 1721 in Virginia m: Bef. 1743 d: 1788 in Caswell Co., NC Comment: Harris, Will of John gives Petit, Buckely also gives Peteate Father: John Richard Pettit Mother: Elizabeth Craswell

The Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore Connection

It has been traditionally accepted that John Chenoweth, a Welshman, came to America, probably around 1715; that he came from St. Martin's-In-Menage, Cornwall, England; and that he had been born there about 1682-3. Family tradition also has it that this John Chenoweth and Mary Calvert, daughter of Charles Calvert, Third Lord of Baltimore, were married about 1705; that Mary was the daughter of the third wife of Charles Calvert, the widow Mary Banks (Thorpe), who Charles married December 16, 1701.

The acceptance of the statements in the paragraph above can be found in many writings about the Chenoweth family history written in the late 1800's and early 1900's, but outside of documentation of the marriage of Charles Calvert to a Mary Banks (Thorpe), entries supporting the union of John and Mary Calvert found in two diaries belonging to the families of John's sons Arthur and Thomas, and an entry in a Bible which came from the family of John's eldest son John, no other, more substantial proof for any of it has ever been found.

Besides the lack of proof, it only takes a quick review of the known data to see that some of the most vital evidence itself is faulty. If the Third Lord of Baltimore, Charles Calvert, did marry his third wife, the widow Mary Banks (Thorpe) in "about" 1701, how could they possibly have a daughter Mary, who would be of an age to then become the bride of John Chenoweth in 1705? Even if the most liberal interpretation of the word "about" is taken, the theory is still improbable.

There is the possibility that Mary was the stepdaughter of Charles Calvert. Mary Banks (Thorpe) was, after all a widow, and of uncertain age, but very possibly old enough to have had a daughter by her prior marriage that would satisfy the information available to us. This is at least as fair a premise as the assumption that Charles Calvert and his third wife had a daughter at all. No genealogy of the Calverts has ever supported that position. Worthy of consideration is the fact that Charles Calvert, born August 27, 1637, would have been "about" 63 years of age when he fathered this daughter, Mary.

We are then left with suspicious evidence, hazy theories, and perhaps even wishful thinking as a basis to accept that John Chenoweth joined the Calvert family through this marriage. But other explanations that have been advanced also leave unresolved questions. So on the chance that we have seen only the few remaining scattered threads of what was once the whole fabric, we will only express reservations and continue on.

The Calverts were Catholic and John was Protestant. If John and Mary Calvert were indeed married, this is given as a reason why no record of the marriage was made. Presumably, this is because a priest would probably have performed the marriage, but because John was not Catholic, the union would not have been approved by the Catholic Church, and so not recorded.

There is another possible reason given for the lack of surviving proof of a marriage between John Chenoweth and Mary Calvert. One that hints at more sinister motives, and one that requires a more thorough accounting. After arriving in Maryland from England, John Chenoweth, his wife and their family are said to have settled on a large estate known as "Gunpowder Manor", located near the then thriving town of Joppa on the Gunpowder River, close to this river's outlet into Chesapeake Bay. Having as his wife a daughter of the Third Lord of Baltimore, John's source for this large estate was most likely an inheritance from Charles Calvert to his daughter, Mary. Charles Calvert died February 21, 1715, which is the year, as mentioned above, that John Chenoweth and his family are believed to have come to Maryland from England, and so, the gift, or inheritance of the estate in Maryland would seem a most credible reason for relocation to the New World.

The estate was presumably granted in perpetuity to Mary Calvert and her heirs, which with her marriage to John Chenoweth, made it a Chenoweth family property forever. In time, the chronicle goes, the estate became known as "Chenoweth Manor", and under that name, remained intact until 1806. The size of the estate is not known for certain, but it was substantial, one source gives it as being more than 7200 acres, located primarily in present day Baltimore County, and with at least a part being within what is now the city limits of Baltimore.

In 1806, for purposes not explained, the Chenoweth family heirs leased the estate, supposedly in its entirety, to the city and/or the county of Baltimore for 99 years. Of course, by the end of this 99 year lease period in 1905, the property would have had an immense worth, estimated by some to be at least $600 million. Therefore, around the turn of the century, there was much activity from the Chenoweth family heirs to recover either the property or its equivalent worth. It has been asserted that, because of the possible legitimacy of the claims, that "those in power" managed to remove all evidence of the lease and the Chenoweth family involvement with it. This, it is said, is the reason, or at least another of the reasons, why documentation concerning John Chenoweth and Mary Calvert was never found.

In his will, John describes himself as.... "John Chenoweth, of Frederick County, Virginia". It is almost certain the John, the progenitor, lived and died in Virginia, and was not there on a visit as researcher Cora Hiatt proclaimed. This is clearly evident in the inventory of his assets conducted in Virginia and presented on July 11, 1746, in settlement of his estate. The items describe a "well-supplied farming household complete with livestock". The disposition of a "fabled Gunpowder Manor" cited by Cora Hiatt is not mentioned in the will, nor for that matter are any lands in Maryland.

The Quaker Connection

As noted above, Mary is presumed to be the daughter of John Calvert and wife Judith Stamper. This John Calvert was born on 6 October 1648 at Stranmillis, Belfast, Ulster, Ireland, the son of Thomas Calvert and Jane Glassford. He married Judith Stamper on 29 May 1673 in Ireland. They had seven children, among them a daughter named Mary, born on February 19, 1687 at Cumberland, Pennsylvania. This Calvert family has been identified as Quaker immigrants from Ireland. Several descendants of John and Mary chose Quaker spouses, lending credence to this theory.

Will of John Chenoweth I

Frederick Co., VA: dated April 11, 1746

In the Name of God Amen. I John Chinoweth of Frederick County in my last will and testament as followth:

  • Imp. I give, devise and bequeath unto my eldest son, John Chinoweth, to be paid by my executors within twelve months after my demise, twenty shillings Virginia Currency.
  • Item. I give to my son Richard Chinoweth to be paid as forsaid the sum of twenty shillings of like money foresaid.
  • Item. I give to my son Arthur Chinoweth to be paid as foresaid forty shillings Virginia Currency.
  • Item. I give to my son William Chinoweth to be paid in like manner the sum of five shillings of like currency.
  • Item. I give to my son Thomas Chinoweth all my wearing apparel.
  • Item. I give to my grandson John Watson, Junior my smooth bore gun.
  • Item. It is my will that the deeds of gift already made & given to my son Thomas Chinoweth & John Petit my son-in-law of my land and other particulars therein contained stand good & valid according to the purport and the meaning thereof.
  • Item. The residue of my estate real and personal after my just debts and funeral charges are paid, I give, devise and bequeath to be equally divided between my wife and my three daughters, Mary Watson, Hannah Carter and Ruth Petit. Item.
  • I do make, constitute and appoint my son Thomas Chinoweth & James Carter executors of this last will and testament hereby revoking all former and other wills by me at any time heretofore made. In witness thereof I the said John Chinoweth have hereunto set my hand and seal this eleventh day of April in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Six.
                         John Chinoweth (Seal)

Signed Sealed publish'd & Declared by the P. John Chinoweth as his last will and testament in the presence of us:

  • Joseph Stanley
  • Mary Stanley
  • Wm Jolliffe

PROBATE -- At a court held for Frederick county Tuesday, the ninth day of May, 1746 this last will and Testament of John Chenoweth Deceased was read in open Court by the oaths of Joseph Hanley, Mary Hanley and Wm Jolliffe witnesses thereto and Thomas Chinoweth and James Carter execs. therein named having made oath to the same according to the law it was admitted to the record... James Wood

Links to additional material:

Ancestors of present day Chenoweths in America were Welshmen living mainly in the area that is today Cornwall County, England, and bore the name "Trevelisek". Families of this name were long time residents of the area, and historically had considerable land holdings there.

Evidence of the name "Trevelisek", disguised behind various spellings, has been found well back into the times of the Saxons. When the feudal system was established after the Norman Conquest in 1066, the stubborn Trevelisek families resisted losing their holdings to the new lords and managed to hold their land as freeman vassals. This characteristic tenacity continued in the family down through the ages enabling them to hold much of the land well into the twentieth century.

The origin of the family name has many versions, including those showing a relationship between Cornish place names and those areas where the family is said to have lived, but the following is considered to be the most likely scenario:

Sometime between 890 and 1020, John Trevelisek, one of the aging family patriarchs of the time, split off portions of his holdings in favor of his sons. One such portion went into the hands of the youngest son, also name John. Soon after, the younger John built a new stone house on his property. In Cornish, the word for "new house" is Chynoweth, which in the fashion of those times for such a significant event, also became the new name adopted by this branch of the family. Later on, the older branches of the family were said to have failed to produce heirs, and so the family lands came down into the hands of the new Chynoweth branch.

The new family name quickly found diverse spellings including "Chynowen", Chinoweth" and "Chinouth", a process that continues down to the present, having produced more that 200 phonetically similar spellings. Surprisingly, pronunciation of the name has not experienced the same diversity. In fact, the only place that pronunciation is significantly different than throughout most of America is in Cornwall where it is pronounced "Sha-NOW-eth", with the accent on the middle syllable.

The first known pedigree of the Trevelisek and Chenoweth names is recorded in the 1620 Visitation to Cornwall. There is some hazy, if not questionable, portions of this documentation. Apparently, confirmation for the marriages listed could not be found.

The coat of arms of John Trevelisek as given in the 1620 Cornwall Visitation is "SA. on a FESS, OR. Three Cornish Choughs Heads, ppr". When the name was changed to Chynoweth, the Coat of Arms also was changed sufficiently to display the new identity, becoming "SA. on a Fasse, Or. Three Griffin's heads, erased, gules". This describes a shield of black (SA.), with a band of gold (OR.), running horizontally midway between the top and bottom, with three griffin heads of red (gules) color, with ragged necks as if tom from their bodies (erased), two above the gold band, and one below.

The choughs mentioned in the description of the original Trevelisek coat of arms, were Cornish black birds, or ravens, and their appearance on the original coat of arms weaves the family history in with that of the legendary King Arthur. His castle was located in Tintagle, Cornwall, and according to legend, the chough were to be found only at Tintagle. While this tenuous relationship to the famous King may suggest that there was even closer ties between the two families, no other more reliable evidence of this is known to exist.

A variation of the family history related above is given in Vol.3 of the "History Of Kentucky And Kentuckians", published in 1912, and a most interesting portion of that narrative is quoted as follows:

"In every civilized land members of the Chenoweth family are to be found, and although the origin of the name is doubtful, the following account of the matter, partly conjectural and partly proven, is given. John Chenoweth, founder of the family in America, came to these shores from Wales in 1700, and his descendants claim that he was the son of John Havelisick. In Cornwall the name means a "new house", and it is believed that its use came about in this wise: The son of the younger branches of the heirs of John Havelisick, by the death of the elder branches, purchased a piece of land on which he built a new house and from that time all descendants of that branch have been called Chenouth or Chenoweth. Color is given the conjecture by the gift of a coat of arms to one John Chenoweth, about two hundred years later, which closely resembles that of the Havelisicks. A more plausible explanation is that the name is a mere false pronunciation of the word meaning "goose- foot", a nickname given to a remote ancestor living in France, one or more of whose toes were united. The name has existed for at least five hundred years and thus originated at a time when men wore sandals, leaving their toes visible, and as a matter of fact the second and third toes of some of the descendants have been united at the base or first joint". The times of the family's beginnings in England would not be recognized by any of us living today, could we be transported there to live. Yet, there are similarities. As Mrs.Cora Hiatt Chenoweth said in her book about the family published in 1925, "We find many curious laws and customs in the period. (ie. 449- 1066), "It is an outstanding fact in early Welsh and Saxon law that everything could be paid for in money or its equivalent, varying with the injury and the standing of the injured." Certainly, the same could be said for present times. John CHENOWETH was christened on 2 Apr 1683 in Wales, England. He died in May 1746 in , Frederick, Virginia. John married Mary CALVERT about 1705 in Pensylvania.

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John Chenoweth I, "the Immigrant"'s Timeline

St Martins,Mineage,Cornwall,England
July 30, 1706
Age 24
Joppa, Harford, MD, USA
May 28, 1708
Age 26
February 22, 1709
Age 27
Joppa, Baltimore County, Maryland
February 4, 1712
Age 30
Joppa, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
August 15, 1716
Age 34
Age 36
St. John's Parish, Baltimore, Maryland
September 28, 1720
Age 38
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Age 40