William Denston
(Abt 1670-1726/1727)


Family Links

1. Elizabeth (?)

William Denston 1

  • Born: Abt 1670
  • Marriage (1): Elizabeth (?)
  • Died: 28 Nov 1726-04 Jan 1727, Somerset Co., MD 2


On Aug 9 1687, William Denson buys 150 acres of "Harpers Discovery" and "Harpers Increase" from William/Elizabeth Harper (SoLR-MA:862). William Denson and his wife Elizabeth, in turn, sell this land on Apr 6 1695 (SoLR-L:269). This is land on Dividing Creek.

When the Nanticoke Indian Reservation was carved out in 1711 that included the southern half of modern Laurel, DE (then Somerset, MD), it mentions William Denston Jr. as receving "damages" for it. This gives a hint of where the Denston family initially lived in the lower Delmarva area; i.e., just south of Broad Creek near modern-day Laurel, DE.

Denstons are listed as follows in the Somerset Co., MD Tax Lists:
1723: William (Wicomico Hundred); William, John (next to one another in Pocomoke Hundred)
1724: William (Wicomico), John (Pocomoke)
1725: William (Wicomico), John (Pocomoke)
1727: John (Pocomoke)

We can see from this that one William Denston (of Pocomoke Hundred) either dies or leaves the area after 1723 and the other in 1727. We know that William Sr. wrote his will (he wrote it as "William Denson of Wicomico") in late 1726 and it was probated in early 1727 so we will assume William Jr. died in 1723/24. This left only John Denston as a head of household in the area by 1727.

William Denston's will was written Nov 28 1726 and probated Jan 4 1727 wtih the following:
- To son William, John, one shilling each
- To daughter Mary Nesham (sic, Esham), one shilling
- To granddaughter Mary Nesham, one cow called Little Bird
- Rest of estate divided between wife Elizabeth Denston and daughter Elizabeth Denston.
Witnesses: George Goddard, Benjamin Cottman

The following notes are copied from a report by Ellen B. Hetzler written in about 1990:
The first Denston found in the records of Maryland, entered Somerset County by 1695. when he sold all the hogs bearing his mark to John West. William lived in the Nanticoke Hundred area. In 1713 and 1714 he served on the Somerset County Grand Jury. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had four children:

William, b. c1690
John, b. c1693
Mary, m. Benjamin Nesham
Elizabeth, unmarried

William died in 1726/1727. His name was often spelled Denson. In his will, he states he is a Planter. Some of the items listed on his inventory include: "10 Head cattle, 7 head sheep, 19 HO&gsg 2 feather bodds, I badd, 2 pillows & boulsters, 1 hand mill, 1 bedstead, 8 sheets, 12 blankets, 1 table, 3 candlesticks, 1 shimmer, 4 shirts, 1 coat, 4 vests, 1 hatt, 4 britches, fry pann, pewter forks & knives, sacks of flour..." William left to his "gran-daughter, Mary Nesham, the small cow called 'little bird'."

After William's death, his widow lived with her unmarried daughter, Elizabeth. In 1732, she deeded all her property to her daughter in gratitude. It was this Elizabeth who patented the 50 acre tract by the creek (later called Dividing Creek) called "Maidens Choice". At her death, this land passed to her great-niece, Sarah Denston Morrison, the only daughter of John Denston, son of Elizaboth's brother William, (b.c. 1690). Sarah sold this land in 1759 to Abraham Adams, who sold it to Phillip Denston. Phillip's son, John, sold part of this tract and part of "Riggans Addition" to Thomas Atkinson, in 1789/90.

The first William's other son, John, owned a 50 acre tract of land in Somerset County called "Denstons Chance", or "Chance". In 1742, Worcester County was erected, and the boundaries passed through John's property. "...thence up the Westermost side of [Dividing Creek] and the main branch to the Bridges called Denstones Bridges on the road from Snow Hill to Princess Anne..." (XLII Arcv. Md., p. 428). See also, Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Torrence. This road was afterward called Denston Dam Road. In 1747 John patented another 50 acres in Worcester County called "Mill Lott", presumably adjacent to "Chance". John had a Plantation and a grist mill. He and his wife, Margret, had 10 children: Levin, Rebecca, Isaac, John, Elizabeth, Sarah, Benjamin, William, Philip, and Saul [Samuel?]. There is no birthdate for Levin, but John Jr. is on the tax list as being born in 1718, Isaac in 1720/22. Since Levin was heir to the plantation, I have assumed that he was the eldest son and born circa 1716. John died in 1766 and left a lengthy will.

His brother Isaac Denston, owned a tract of land called "Friendship", patented in 1795. Abrahom died later that same year. From the location of this, it appears to be the site on which Friendship Church is now located. On the 1783 Worcester County Tax-List, there In a Sarah Denston living alone on Mill Lott. She was probably the widow of Levin. Very little is known of this Levin. There is another Levin listed as a "young man", presumably their son. He was born circa 1762 and served in the Revolutionary War as a Private in Capt. Bennett's Co., Wicomico Battalion, Snow Hill Militia, in 1780. He is also listed as a Head of Household on the first Census taken in 1790. In 1814, Levin married Elizabeth Dryden. He was 50/52 and she was between 34 and 44 at the time of their marriage. It appears from Census records that Levin may have been married and had children previous to this marriage but no other information has been found. Levin and Elizabeth had six children:

Samuel, b. 1816, m. Mary Ann Powell
Mary A., b.c.1816, m. William Clogg
Levin, b.c.1820, m. Lydia Townsend
Elizabeth, b.c.1827, m. Thomas Dykes
Benjamin, b.c.1828, m. Mary Ann Johnson
Matilda, b.c.1832, m. Henry Hitch

In 1800, Levin purchased 50 acres of a tract called Riggans Addition from Elizabeth's grandfather, John Dryden. This land was in the vicinity of Mill Lott. Levin sold this land to James Riggin in 1807. He later purchased a part of the same tract back, and lived there until his death in 1840/42. No records have been found concerning the actual sale of Mill Lott, and it seems to have been in the middle of the upper and lower parts of Riggans Addition.

As eldest son, Samuel inherited the property. In 1842, he deeded it to his mother. He then moved to Somerset County, where he was still living in 1900 with his son Ambrose.

In 1849, Levin's widow Elizabeth, the remaining children and their spouses, sold all their interest in the land to their son and brother, Levin M. Denston. This land included parts of Riggans Addition, Morrises Mill Supply and Look-In. Levin and his family lived there at the time of the 1860 Census. His brothers Samuel and Benjamin lived in Princess Ann.

Benjamin and his wife, Mary Ann, are listed in Worcester County in the 1850 Census. Benjamin is a "hewer" and is 22, Mary Ann is 20. They have one daughter, Angeline, aged 5 months. In 1860, they have moved to Princess Anne, where Benjamin is a laborer. The ages appear to be all wrong, but this was probably due to carelessness on the part of the census taker.

Benjamin 40
Mary Ann 31
Julia(Angeline?] 16
Dinah[Diannal 7
Lavinia 4
The next Census was taken in 1870, this family was decimated'*
"-It-a that another child was born and died, Julia, Lavinia,
t all died, and Benjamin was killed @ the Civil War. Another
son,,-Edward Benjamin, was born in January of 1864*

In December of 1861, Benjamin enlisted in Company K, 1st Regiment Eastern Shore Home Guards (later to become the 1st Regiment Eastern Shore Infantry). His service record was good until July 12, 1863, when he deserted. This was not uncommon during the Civil War, and was more in the nature of being Absent Without Leave. His Company fought at Culp's Hill at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. There is some question again to whether Benjamin was with them at the time. Sixty-one men of Company K refused to leave the Eastern Shore of Maryland on July lst or 2nd, and were confined at Cambridge, Md., pending Dishonorable Discharge. However, since Benjamin was not discharged at this time, and was not listed as deserting until July 12th, there is a strong probability that he was at Gettysburg,

His record was then irregular until May of 1864, when he was imprisoned at Fort McHenry for "mutiny". He was released and mustered out of the service in August of 1864. It is thought that he rejoined the service as a substitute, perhaps in Wilmington, Delaware. In November of 1864, he again went home on a visit and was arrested for desertion. He was confined at Fort McHenry and there was a notation on his record "to be sent to front". He was never heard from again. Years later many rumors and family stories circulated. His widow applied for a widow's pension in the late 1890's and had to produce numerous affidavits from relatives and friends concerning their marital status, Benjamin's visits home and service record, etc. Some of the people testifying for her were her sister, Catherine Johnson Riggin and her husband, William, Levin Townsend, Jeptha Pusey. On one statement, Mary Ann says that Benjamin died at Culpeper Courthouse, Va., on December 25, 1864.

This was perhaps another rumor that they had heard, since they were never sure what actually happened to him. One family story told by his grandsons, Josiah Harvey and Otis Denston, was that he and his wife had disagreed, he being pro-Northern and she being pro-Southern, and Benjamin went to Texas, became rich, changed his name to Johnson and came back to Maryland once for a visit, trying to take little Harvey and Otis back to Texas with him. He left two children:

(Dianna] Elizabeth A., b.1854, m. Josiah Harvey Carey
Edward Benjamin, b.1864, m. Mary Townsend

Edward Benjamin began to buy land in 1884. He purchased from Isaac S. Carey, his sister's step-son, tracts called Addition to Bull's Pasture, Croppers Folly, Maidens Harbour, and Taylor's Conquest. This land was located on the East side of the County Road (Whitesburg Road), and North of the road to Snow Hill. In 1906, he bought what may have been Mill Lott. The deed mentions Daniel Johnson lands (Edward's maternal grandfather), Hayman's Mill Pond, Silver Dollar. The land is "...bounded to the south side of the Mill Dam at the place where the grist mill formerly stood." This is probably a reference to John Denston's mill.

Edward and his wife Mary Townsend had eight children:

Josiah Harvey
Durand Sylvester
William Bryan

Edward died in 1929. Mary deeded all her property to her son and his wife, William Bryan and Edna Long Kelley Denston in 1939. Mary died in 1941. William Bryan and his wife had four children:

Shirley Edna, b.1924. Phila.,Pa.
Lydia Elizabeth, b. 1926, Md.
Thomas, b. 1928, Md.
William Bryan Jr. b. 1934, Md..

The family lived on two locations on this land. Their first home was across the road from Olivet Church, which Edward had helped to build. This home was called the bungalow. Then they built a larger home in 1936/38 on the West side of Whitesburg Road and a little South of Olivet Church. This was to be their home until 1965, when William and Edna sold the farm and moved onto a small one acre plot. They lived here until 1979, when they moved to Lake Helen, Florida, to be near their children. Edna died February 4, 1980, and William on October 16, 1984.

William married Elizabeth (?). (Elizabeth (?) was born about 1670 and died after 05 Feb 1732 in Somerset Co., MD.)


1 Correspondence from James L. Brown; n209 West Mosher Street, Baltimore, MD 21217, dated April 7, 1997.

2 MD Prerogative Court Wills, (MdHR 1297; 1/11/1/21), Folio 59-61. Will written 11/28/1726 and probated 1/4/1726(27).

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