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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Chester

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 113-117 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

This is an English family name of antiquity and renown. One branch of the Chester family in America descends from the Chesters of Blaby, but there is nothing to connect the founder of the Albany family with any particular English branch. Probably the first of the name in this country, at least among the earliest of record, is Mrs. Dorothy Chester, who appears to have been a woman of some distinction. She appears in the first division of land at Hartford, Connecticut, in 1639. She had five lots granted her, and the town, January 14, 1639, voted to "give Mrs. Chester two years' time to build upon her house lot in Hartford." She probably left Hartford or was deceased before 1649. It is not known whether she was a relation of Leonard Chester, of Wethersfield, Connecticut, or of Samuel Chester, of New London. Neither does it appear that Leonard and Samuel were relatives. Leonard Chester was from Leicestershire, England, in 1633, was an early proprietor of Watertown, and in 1635 was one of the settlers of Wethersfield, Connecticut. The Albany family descends from Samuel of New London and Groton, Connecticut.

(I) Captain Samuel Chester was born in England and came to Boston (one authority says) as master of his own brigantine. He was an early settler of New London, Connecticut, where he received his first grant of land for a warehouse in 1664 in company with William Condy, of Boston, who was styled his nephew. The general assembly of Connecticut, May 12, 1664, ordered that "Mr. Hagborn's vessel that Ralph Parker and Samuel Chester had appraised at 100 pounds be delivered at that price, etc." (Colonial Records, p. 430.) He was made a freeman of New London in 1669. In 1671-72, Samuel Chester was one of those of New London who was complained of to the county court in Hartford by Matthew Griswold, Lieutenant William Waller and others of Saybrook "for attempts" by violence to drive them off their lands. He first appeared in New London in 1663 and engaged in the West India trade as owner, factor and commander. Their warehouse was on Close Cove. He was a sea captain, and commanded the "Endeavor" for several trips to the West Indies as early as 1666. He also had an interest in a vessel called the "New London Tryall," with Wellman and Parker, which Miss Caulkins says was the first merchant vessel owned there. Though he was a practical seaman, he appears also to have been a merchant. After 1689 a vessel was built for John Wheeler, a prominent maritime man at New London, for the European trade and sent out commanded by Captain Samuel Chester. Miss Caulkins further says (p. 353, History of New London) that he was much employed in land surveys and was appointed in 1693 by the general court one of the agents to meet the commissioners from Massachusetts, to renew and settle the boundaries between the two colonies. He had a large landed estate, partly on the east side of the river, now Groton, covering the ground where Fort Griswold and the Groton Monument now stand. Also large tracts to the north and south of Groton Point, now called Eastern Point, on which his sons, Abraham, John and Jonathan, settled and reared large families. A deed to Captain Samuel Chester was signed by the Indian chief, Uncas, June 13, 1683, for a grant of several thousand of acres of land in Colchester. He had a large tract in the north parish, bought of Owanoco and Josiah, Mohegan sachems. He lived upon the east side of the river, where he dwelt at the time of his death. Jonathan Chester, his son, sold in 1777 to the Connecticut state government the land where Fort Griswold and the Groton Monument now stand. His skill as a surveyor was of great service to him in laying out lands in the new settlements, and he was esteemed a loyal, just, trusty and worthy man. He married (first) Mary ————, and (second) Hannah ————. His children, whose names have been preserved and recorded were: Abraham; John, probably died in infancy; Susannah; Samuel; Mercy; Hannah; John, see forward; Jonathan. His will, dated in 1708, names only Abraham, John, Jonathan and Mercy Burrows. The children were baptized in New London. Captain Chester died about 1710.

(II) John, son of Captain Samuel and Hannah Chester, was born about 1690, baptized at Groton, May 29, 1692, died there June 1, 1771. He was a large land owner and farmer, a thorough business man, and active in state, community and church affairs. He married, November 1, 1716, Mary (or Mercy), daughter of Thomas Starr, an early ship-builder of New London. Their children were: John, see forward; Thomas, Benajah, James, Joseph, Simeon, Catharine and Levi.

(III) John (2), son of John (1) and Mary (Starr) Chester, was born in Groton, Connecticut, September 9, 1717, died November 17, 1762. He married Abigail ————. Children: John, see forward; Simeon.

(IV) John (3), son of John (2) and Abigail Chester, was born at Groton, Connecticut, August 28, 1761, died at New London, August 30, 1804. He served in the revolutionary war as a member of Captain William Latham's artillery company of matrosses, stationed at Groton, having enlisted July 6, 1780, and served until May 1, 1781, when he was discharged. He married his cousin, Frances, born October 24, 1770, at Groton, died August 1, 1853, at Westford, New York, youngest daughter of his uncle, Thomas Chester, son of John and Mary (Starr) Chester. Children: Calvin, John Eldridge, Frances Mary, Laurinda, Alden, see forward.

(V) Alden, son of John (3) and Frances (Chester) Chester, was born at New London, Connecticut, May 26, 1803, died at Westford, Otsego county, New York, March 4, 1857. His father died when he was but three months old. His mother married (second) Deacon John Kelso, February 16, 1812, and he removed with them when a boy of nine to Westford, New York. He was a cabinet maker and a manufacturer of sashes, blinds and doors. He was a public-spirited man and a true friend of education, and was one of the founders of the Westford public library. He married (first) Mary H. Chappel, of Maryland, New York, March 12, 1834, who bore him a son, Dwight, born in Maryland, New York, March 2, 1835; after receiving his education in the public and parish schools of Westford, he engaged in manufacturing there until 1862, and after that was a merchant in New York City four years; when he was appointed manager for the Aetna Life Insurance Company for Massachusetts, and is still so engaged. He was town clerk of Westford in 1859 and supervisor in 1861. He removed to Newton Center, Massachusetts, in 1866; was a member of the common council of the city of Newton, 1876-77-78; of the board of aldermen in 1879-80-81-83-84, and president of that body four years. He was a member of the house of representatives of Massachusetts in 1891-92-93-94. He has been for many years and still is president of the Newton Trust Company, and is treasurer and trustee of several charitable and religious societies. He married, September 7, 1862, Mary J, Storrs, of Worcester, New York; children:

  1. Mary Edna, born April 14, 1866, died at Newton Center, Massachusetts, March 4, 1904, and
  2. Lizzie, born March 8, 1868, died August 11, 1868.

Alden Chester married (second) Susan Gregory Draper, September 5, 1838, second child and eldest daughter of Sylvester and Sukey (Bigelow) Draper. (See Draper VII [actually Draper VI]). Children:

  1. Horace, born October 29, 1842; was for several years after his marriage station agent and telegraph operator at Schenevus, New York; after that he was a private banker there for many years, and during a portion of that time was cashier of the Bank of Worcester, five miles distant from his home. He removed to Malden, Massachusetts, 1897, and since that time has been engaged with his brother Dwight in the insurance business with offices in Boston. He has been a member of the city council of Malden for several years. He married, September 8, 1867, Anastasia E. Hill; children:
    1. Carey R., married (first) Alice M. Hebard, (second) Lela Parker;
    2. Francelia;
    3. Horace Coryell, married Elizabeth R. Parker;
    4. Alden Hill, died in infancy;
    5. Lola Ethel.
  2. Rev. Arthur, born February 22, 1847, died in Brooklyn, New York, November 12, 1889. He was educated for the ministry at Union Theological Seminary in New York and at the Chicago Theological Seminary. He was pastor of Congregational churches at Onarga, Illinois, Sandusky, Ohio, and Brooklyn, New York. He was the founder of the Bushwick Avenue Congregational church in Brooklyn, of which he was pastor at the time of his death. He was a man of superior education and was proficient in many languages.
  3. Alden, see forward.

(VI) Judge Alden (2), youngest son of Alden (1) and Susan Gregory (Draper) Chester, was born in Westford, Otsego county, New York, September 4, 1848. His early education was obtained in the district school and at the Westford Literary Institute, where he was a teacher for a time. Before attaining his majority he served as a clerk in a wholesale commission house in New York and also in a country store in his native village and worked in the postoffice. He then took up telegraphy and secured a position on the old Albany and Susquehanna railroad as operator in charge of an office at East Worcester, where he remained two years. He edited a newspaper in Otsego county, and then served as a clerk for one year in the Aetna Life Insurance Company in Boston, where he began the study of law under the instruction of a lawyer of his acquaintance. In 1869 he entered the Columbia College Law School in New York City, where he was graduated LL. B. with the class of 1871, winning the prize in Political Science, this being one of only five prizes given to a graduating class of ninety-nine members. He was admitted to the bar at the general term in New York City in May, 1871, and began the practice of law at once in Albany with his cousin, Andrew S. Draper, now state commissioner of education, then just beginning the practice of law. In 1876 Hon. William S. Paddock was a member of the firm of Paddock, Draper & Chester. Mr. Paddock retired in 1882, Mr. Draper in 1887, leaving Mr. Chester, who continued the business alone. Mr. Chester was a Republican and was early honored by that party with political preferment. In 1874-76 he was deputy clerk of the New York assembly, and secretary for many years of the Albany county general committee. From 1881 to 1884 he was a member of the board of public instruction in Albany, serving the last year as its president. He was instrumental in having the high school library thrown open to the public. In 1882 he was appointed assistant United States district attorney for the Northern District of New York under the Hon. Martin I. Townsend, and in this capacity tried many important cases for the government in different parts of the state; he held that office until 1885, when he resigned to attend to his private law business, his partner, Mr. Draper, having been appointed judge of the court of Alabama claims. He was assistant corporation counsel of the city of Albany, 1894-96. In the latter year Governor Morton appointed him a member of the commission to prepare a uniform charter for cities of the second class and in November, 1895, he resigned from the commission on being elected a justice of the supreme court of New York state, in the third judicial district, and was the first Republican elected to that office in that district in over thirty years; in 1909 he received the unanimous nomination of both parties for reëlection, and is now serving his second term. In November, 1902, he was appointed by Governor Odell to the appellate division of the Supreme court, in the third judicial department of the state, and since that time has been serving as a member of the court, having been reappointed by Governor Hughes. On January 1, 1910, he retired from service in the appellate division, and is now serving at the trial and special terms of the supreme court.

In 1885, when he returned to his legal practice, he devoted his attention to a general law business, numbering among his clients many life and fire insurance companies. In 1883, he completed and annotated the insurance laws of the state for the state insurance department, and is now (1909) engaged as editor of the legal and judicial history of the state. He is president of the board of trustees of the Albany Academy for Girls; president of Graceland Cemetery; vice-president of the Albany Medical College and of the Albany Exchange Savings Bank; special lecturer on the Federal Judicial System in Albany Law School; governor of Union University, and is a member of the American Society of International Law and of the National Geographic Society.

Judge Chester married, October 5, 1871, Lina, daughter of Ezra R. Thurber, of East Worcester, New York. They have a daughter, Amy, born July 19, 1877, wife of Charles Van Merrick, an architect of Albany, New York; they have a son, Alden Chester Merrick, born October 14, 1906.

Through his maternal line Judge Chester descends from James Draper, fourth son of Thomas Draper, of Heptonstall, Yorkshire, England. (See Draper, on preceding pages.)

Susan Gregory, eldest daughter and second child of Sylvester (q. v.), and Sukey (Bigelow) Draper, was born May 22, 1811, at Worcester, New York, died at Westford, New York, May 30, 1892. [Editorial note: it is clear from the Draper VI entry that what is meant here is Sylvester and Mary (Pratt) Draper.] She became the second wife of Alden Chester, to whom she was married September 5, 1838. (See Chester V). Children: Horace, Arthur and Alden Chester.

(The Brewster Line)

The "Pilgrim" ancestry of Judge Alden Chester begins with Elder William Brewster, "chief of the Pilgrims and one of the Mayflower's passengers." William Brewster, son of William, was born during the last half of 1566 or the first half of 1567. The date is determined by an affidavit made at Leyden, June 25, 1609, in which he, his wife Mary, and son Jonathan, declare their ages to be respectively forty-two, forty and sixteen years. The place of his birth is not known, but is supposed to have been Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire, England. His father, William Brewster, was appointed by Archbishop Sandys in January, 1575-76, receiver of Scrooby, and bailiff of the Manor House in that place belonging to the Archbishop, to have life tenure of both offices. The parish registers of Scrooby do not begin until 1695, and no record of his birth, baptism or marriage was discovered by William Paver, a distinguished local antiquary, who held a commission for nearly a quarter of a century to report all items that he found, relating to the Pilgrims. His father was "Post" at Scrooby, and it is said his grandfather held the same office. Elder Brewster was a student at "Peterhouse" (the oldest of the fourteen colleges then forming the University of Cambridge), but it does not appear that he ever took his degree. In Scrooby he lived "in good esteeme amongst his friends and ye gentlemen of those parts, espetialy the godly & religious doing much good in promoting and furthering Religion." His residence in Scrooby was the old Manor House, and there the members of the Pilgrim church were accustomed to meet on the Lord's Day, where he "with great love entertained them when they came, making provision for them to his great charge." The Pilgrims attempting to remove to Holland in 1607, were imprisoned at Boston, England, through the treachery of the master of the ship that was to transport them. Elder Brewster was said by Bradford to have been the "cheefe of those that were taken at Boston and suffered ye greatest loss; and of ye seven that were kept longst in prison and after bound over to ye assises." We also learn that "after he reached Holland he suffered many hardships and spent most of his means in providing for his many children." During the latter part of the twelve years spent in Holland, he increased his income very much by teaching and by the profits from a printing press which he, by the help of some friends, set up at Leyden. When the church at Leyden resolved to emigrate to Virginia, Elder Brewster was "desired" by those chosen to go first "to goe with them," while John Robinson, the pastor, stayed with the majority who should follow later. Thus it was that he, his wife Mary and two young sons were among the passengers of the now-famous vessel "Mayflower," which dropped anchor in Plymouth harbor, December 16, 1620. That he drafted the Mayflower "Compact" of November 21, 1620, seems almost certain. That he was the moral, religious and spiritual leader of the colony during its first years of peril and struggle, and its chief civil adviser and spiritual guide until the time of his death seems quite certain. He was in every respect the co-equal and colleague of Pastor John Robinson in all the measures for preparing the voyage to America, and shares with Carver and Cushman the honor of procuring the requisite London assistance. He did not shrink from even the hardest manual labor, and Bradford says, "Yet when the church had no other minister, he taught twise every Saboth and yt both powerfully and profitably to ye great contentment of ye hearers, and their comfortable edification."

The different historians thus comment on the good elder's military service:

"Elder Brewster was in no way unwilling to take his part and bear his burden with the rest." "He partook with them of labor, hunger and watching, his Bible and arms being equally familiar to him; and he was always ready for any duty or suffering to which he was called." "He was able to use his armor as well as his Bible." "After one-half of the colonists died in the `first sickness,' Captain Standish had under him 20 men. In the first rank are Governor Bradford and Elder Brewster. The good elder fights as he prays, and though he would far rather convert an enemy than hurt him, he would not dream of allowing him the first fire." "If Elder Brewster prayed for protection against his enemies, he took good care that his gun was ready and his sword sharp, so that he could do his part toward securing the blessing asked."

Elder Brewster's two swords, his pistol, dagger and armor, are mentioned in the inventory taken after his death. One of his swords was presented to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1798. His wife Mary, whose maiden name has not yet been discovered, "dyed at Plymouth in New England the 17th of Aprill 1627" (Brewster Book). Elder Brewster survived her many years, and "dyed at Plymouth in New England the 10th of Aprill 1644." (Brewster Book). August 20, 1645, a final division of the elder's estate was made between "Jonathan and Love his onely children remayneing." Children of Elder William and Mary Brewster:

  1. Jonathan, see forward.
  2. Patience, married Thomas Prence.
  3. Fear, married Isaac Allerton.
  4. A child who died and was buried. at Leyden.
  5. Love, a "Mayflower" passenger, married Sarah Collier, and was of Duxbury.
  6. Wrestling, came in the "Mayflower" with his parents and brother Love. He was living May 22, 1627, but died before the settlement of his father's estate. He was unmarried.

(II) Jonathan, "eldest son" of Elder William and Mary Brewster, was born in Scrooby, England, August 12, 1593, died in Connecticut, August 7, 1659, and was buried in the Brewster cemetery at Brewster's Neck, Preston, Connecticut. He came to America a year later than his distinguished father, landing in 1621, one of the passengers of the ship "Fortune." He was deputy of the general court, Plymouth Colony, in 1639-41-42-43-44, from Duxbury, Massachusetts. In 1649 he removed to New London, Connecticut, where he was admitted an inhabitant, February 25, 1649-50. His farm lay partly in the town of New London and partly in the later established town of Norwich. He was deputy to the Connecticut general court in 1650-55-56-57-58. During his residence in Duxbury he was one of the principal men in the formation of the settlement and in the establishment of its church. He sometimes practiced before the court and as attorney, and is also styled "gentleman." He was military commissioner in 1637, and during the Pequot war a member of the Duxbury committee to raise forces in the "Narragansett Alarm" of 1642, and a member of Captain Myles Standish's Duxbury company in the military enrollment of 1643. He held title to a large tract of land in Connecticut, deeded to him by the great Indian Sachem Uncas. In a letter written to Sarah, widow of his brother, Love Brewster, dated September 1, 1656, he says that he and his whole family "resolved for Old England" the following year. It is possible that two of his sons, William and Jonathan, did settle in England, but the remainder of the family remained in Connecticut. He is buried in the Brewster cemetery, where in 1855 his descendants erected a plain granite shaft to his memory and that of his wife, who is remembered in imperishable granite as "A noble specimen of an Enlightened heroic Christian gentlewoman." She was Lucretia Oldham, of Darby, and was married to Jonathan Brewster "Aprill 10th 1624." She died March 4, 1678-79. Children:

  1. William (2), served seventeen days in the Narragansett expedition, and there is no subsequent notice of him; he probably settled in England.
  2. Mary, married "John Turner of Scituate the Elder."
  3. Jonathan, probably settled in England, as there is no mention of him after 1650.
  4. Ruth, married (first) John Pickett, who "dyed at sea returning from Barbadoes"; married (second) Charles Hill, recorder of New London, and clerk of the county court.
  5. Benjamin, married Ann Darte; he was a man of prominence, served nine terms as deputy; was lieutenant of the New London troop in 1673 and captain of the military company of Norwich in 1693.
  6. Elizabeth, married (first) Peter Bradley, of New London; (second) Christopher Christophers, mariner.
  7. Grace, married Captain Daniel, son of Rev. Daniel and Mary (Fisher) Wetherell of Scituate, Massachusetts. From 1680 to 1710 he was more prominent in public affairs than any other inhabitant in the town. He was town clerk, moderator, justice, judge of the county court and judge of probate. No man in the county stood higher in point of talent and integrity.
  8. Hannah, see forward.

(III) Hannah, youngest child of Jonathan and Lucretia (Oldham) Brewster, was born at Duxbury, Massachusetts, November 3, 1641. "She was in full communion with the First Church New London Nov. 25 1691." She married, December 23, 1664, Samuel Starr, one of the early settlers of New London, and a prominent man in the town holding the honorable office of county marshal (sheriff) from 1674 to his death. No will, inventory or record of the settlement of his estate has been found, but a deed executed by his widow Hannah was executed February 2, 1687-88, and it is probable that his death had then but recently occurred. Children:

  1. Samuel Starr (2), born December 11, 1665, was living in 1687.
  2. Thomas, see forward.
  3. Comfort Starr, born August 7, 1671; no further record is found; she probably died young.
  4. Jonathan, born February 23, 1673, died at Groton, August 26, 1747. He was a land trader. He was elected constable at the first town meeting in Groton, 1705, deputy to the general court 1712-14, and member of the governor's council, 1711-14. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Captain James and Mary (Vine) Morgan, of Groton, who survived him and married (second) Deacon Thomas Adgate, of Norwich. There were ten children of the first marriage.

(IV) Thomas, second child of Samuel and Hannah (Brewster) Starr, was born September 27, 1668, died at Groton, Connecticut, January 31, 1711-12. He was one of the "patentees of New London, Connecticut, October 14, 1704, but soon after settled in Groton on his large farm bordering on the river." He was a shipwright and built the sloop "Sea Flower." He married, January 1, 1693-94, Mary, daughter of Captain James and Mary (Vine) Morgan, born March 20, 1670, died September 14, 1765. She survived him as she did her second husband, William Peabody. She was a sister of Elizabeth, wife of Jonathan Starr.

(V) Mary, daughter of Thomas and Mary (Morgan) Starr, was born June 29, 1696, at Groton, Connecticut, where she died April 15, 1774. She married, November 1, 1716, John, son of Samuel Chester. (See Chester II).

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