Tag: Litchfield CT

My Line in the Stanley Family

Grave of Caleb Stanley, Hartford

Many family names disappeared quickly in my family tree, but two stand out through several generations: Bagg and Stanley. Both of these families lived in colonial New England from the mid-1600s to the 1790s. The name Stanley disappeared from my line in 1780 when Pamela Stanley married Phineas Bagg. After her death, Phineas Bagg moved to Canada. Born four generations later in Montreal, my grandmother’s maiden name was Bagg.

I have already covered the colonial generations of the Bagg family in some detail on this blog, and I do not intend to do the same with the Stanley family. They are well known and have been thoroughly researched, starting with a book compiled by Israel P. Warren in the 1880s, The Stanley Families of America as descended from John, Timothy and Thomas Stanley of Hartford, CT, 1636. The best known descendants of my ancestor Timothy Stanley (through his daughter Elizabeth) are undoubtedly George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, both former presidents of the United States.1

I have posted an article outlining what little I know about Pamela Stanley.2 In my next post I will pull together more details about the immigrant Timothy Stanley and his wife Elizabeth. Meanwhile, this article outlines the four generations in between Timothy and Pamela in my line of the Stanley family.

Timothy Stanley (1603-1648) and his wife Elizabeth (c 1602-1678) came from Tenterden, Kent, England, and, in 1636, they settled in Hartford, CT.3 They were part of a wave of Puritans fleeing England because they wanted to reform the Church of England. In New England, the Puritans hoped to establish “a city upon a hill” where they could put their beliefs into practice.

Five of Timothy and Elizabeth’s seven children were born in New England and grew to adulthood. Their fifth child was my direct ancestor, Caleb Stanley (1642-1718).4   In 1688, Capt. Caleb Stanley was appointed the important task of keeping Hartford’s ammunition safe. He was married three times: 1) Hannah Cowles, daughter of John Cowles; she died in 1690, age 44; 2) Mrs. Sarah (Foster) Long, who died 1698, age 44; 3) Mrs. Lydia (Cole) Wilson, died 1732.

Hannah Stanley, wife of Caleb, Ancient Burying Ground, Hartford, CT

Caleb Stanley and Hannah Cowles had a number of children, but most died as infants. My line of the family goes through Caleb’s and Hannah’s fifth child, Caleb Jr.. Caleb had two more children with his second wife.

Caleb Stanley Jr. (1674-1712), of Hartford, was said to be one of the most distinguished men in the colony. He was secretary of the colony from 1709 until his death three years later, and he was appointed surveyor for Hartford County in 1700. He was also a wealthy man: when Caleb died, the inventory of his estate totalled £774.

He was married to Hannah Spencer in 1696. They had no children and she died six years later. In 1704, he married Abigail Bunce, daughter of Thomas and Susanna (Bull) Bunce, and they had four children. Their oldest son, Timothy, was my direct ancestor.

Timothy Stanley (1705-1787) inherited his father’s homestead in Hartford and sold it in 1742 when he moved to Harwinton, CT. By 1781, he was living in Wethersfield, CT. He married Mary Mygatt in 1729 and they had eight children, seven of whom grew to adulthood. Mary Mygatt died in 1786 at age 78, and Timothy died the following year, age 83.

Both Timothy and Mary were said to “own the covenant,” meaning they were bound to God and one another through a covenant. The covenant, a contract that rested on consent and mutual responsibilities, was an important aspect of the Congregational Church at this time.

Their eldest son, Timothy Stanley Jr, born in 1730, lived near Litchfield, CT and appears to have been a clothier. He married Mary Hopkins of Harwinton in 1754 and they had eight children. Mary Hopkins probably died around 1770. During the American Revolution, Timothy Stanley Jr. enlisted with Capt. Beebe’s regiment in 1776, and he died on a British prison ship in New York Harbour.

Their fourth child was my four-times great-grandmother Pamela Stanley, born in Litchfield, CT in 1760. She married Phineas Bagg in Pittsfield, MA in 1780 and probably died in Pittsfield around 1793.

All photos by Janice Hamilton, May, 2018.


  1. Gary Boyd Roberts, compiler, Ancestors of American Presidents, 2009 Edition, Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009.
  2. Janice Hamilton, “The Elusive Pamela Stanley,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Sept. 28, 2018, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2018/09/the-elusive-pamela-stanley.html).
  3. Leslie Mahler, “Re-Examining the English Origin of the Stanley Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut: A Case of Invented Records,” The American Genealogist, vol. 80, July, 2005, p. 218.   www.Americanancestors.org, accessed July 24, 2013.
  4. Israel P. Warren, compiler. The Stanley Families of America as descended from John, Timothy and Thomas Stanley of Hartford, CT, 1636. Portland, Maine: printed by B. Thurston & Co., 1887. This book serves as the main source of this article.

Timothy Stanley Jr., Revolutionary Martyr

The 150-foot column known as the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn, New York was built in memory of the 11,500 men, women and children who died aboard British prison ships during the American Revolutionary War. My five times great-grandfather, Timothy Stanley Jr., was one of them.

Timothy Stanley Jr. was born in 1730 in Hartford, Connecticut, a member of the fourth generation of the extended Stanley family in America. The original immigrants were three brothers, John, Thomas and Timothy Stanley, who came from Tenterden, Kent, England in 1634. The Timothy who is the subject of this article descended from the youngest of the immigrants, also named Timothy.  Timothy’s parents, Timothy Stanley and Mary Mygatt, moved from Hartford to Harwinton, CT, where the future soldier married Mary Hopkins in 1754. The young couple then settled in nearby Litchfield. An ad that appeared in the Connecticut Courant in 1776 suggested he had his own small business. It read, “Clothier and oil-mill screws cut in the neatest manner, by a machine by the subscribers at Litchfield, Abel Darling, Timothy Stanley.” 

Timothy and Mary had nine children. I’m descended from their fourth child, Pamela, who was born in 1760. Timothy’s wife, Mary, died around 1770.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Timothy signed up with Captain Bezaleel Beebe’s Company in Litchfield.  In November 1776, thirty-six men from Beebe’s company were sent to Fort Washington, at the north end of Manhattan Island, to help defend the fort. The British captured it and took the soldiers prisoner. Timothy was put aboard a prison ship anchored in the East River, near Brooklyn. He died on board on Dec. 26, 1776.

The story of the prison ships is not well known. During the revolution, the British took many prisoners, including foreign sailors, soldiers captured in battle and private citizens accused of supporting the revolution. By the end of 1776, they had imprisoned some 5000 individuals. They did not have enough jails to cope with all these prisoners, so they converted several former transport vessels into prison ships.

The conditions on board were terrible: the vessels were overcrowded, there wasn’t enough food, the water was contaminated and many of the prisoners had infectious diseases. More than twice as many people died aboard these prison ships than in battle. The bodies of the dead were buried in shallow graves along the marshy shoreline. After the revolution, the British commander who had been in charge of the prison ships was hanged.

In 1808, some of the prisoners’ remains were buried in a tomb near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Seventy years later, they were moved to a large brick vault in Washington Park, later renamed Fort Greene Park. President Taft inaugurated the classic column built as a memorial to the prison ship victims in 1908, but over the following century, the monument suffered from neglect and vandalism. It was restored in a $5-million project that was unveiled in 2008.

Research Remarks.  I first read of Timothy Stanley’s fate in Israel P. Warren’s classic 1887 publication The Stanley Families of America as Descended from John, Timothy and Thomas Stanley of Hartford, CT 1636 (https://openlibrary.org/books/OL23666712M/The_Stanley_families_of_America). I found corroboration on the genealogical database of the Daughters of the American Revolution website. (http://services.dar.org/public/dar_research/search/?Tab_ID=0). I am not a member of the DAR, but several other descendants are, or were, so I was able to access a summary of Timothy’s service record on the DAR’s database for a $10 fee. I don’t know how accurately the British identified the prisoners and recorded their deaths, but that date, December 26, 1776, sounds pretty final to me.

Also in the course of researching this piece, I came across an article that described how an unscrupulous paid researcher invented information about the births of the immigrant Stanley brothers in England.  (Mahler, Leslie. “Re-Examining the English Origin of the Stanley Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut. A Case of Invented Records.” The American Genealogist 80 (2005): 218. http://www.americanancestors.org/PageDetail.aspx?recordId=235863582 [accessed July 29, 2013]). The original flawed publication appeared in 1926 and the error was not noticed until The American Genealogist article appeared in 2005. Considering the size of the Stanley family tree today, I suspect a great many family histories still have to be corrected.