An American Family History

Priscilla Kitchen Hunn Bowers Curtis Gilbert

The Society of Friends (Quakers) began in England in the 1650s, when they broke away from the Puritans. Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, as a safe place for Friends to live and practice their faith.

Alcohol played a significant role in the daily lives of colonists; even children. They feared polluted water and believed in alcohol's nourishing and medicinal properties.

Priscilla Kitchen Hunn Bowers Curtis Gilbert was born in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts. Her parents were John Kitchen and Elizabeth Grafton.

Her first husband was Nathaniel Hunn. They married in October, 1672 in Salem. Their children and life together are described in detail in the section on Nathaniel and Priscilla Hunn.

Her husband, Nathaniel, was killed in 1677. In 1678/79 Priscilla was a widow who received aid from the selectmen of Salem.

Her second husband was George Bowers. He was born on February 3, 1653 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents were Benanuel Bowers and Elizabeth Dunsten.

Priscilla and George settled in Kent County where they paid for their property in both money and goods which included rum, molasses, sugar and shoes.

Priscilla and George's children were George Bowers (1685) and John Bowers (1686).

She was left a widow for the second time when George died in 1689 in Groton.

She married John Curtis on October 23, 1689, the month after George's estate was probated. John was born in 1642 in England. He had been married before to Elizabeth Cabley.

John died on April 22, 1698 in Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland.

Her fourth husband was John Gilbert. John was born in 1645 in England. He had been married before to Florence. John died on August 13, 1711 in Byberry, Philadelphia County, Philadelphia.

Priscilla died in 1721 in Kent County, Delaware.

Children of John Kitchen
and Elizabeth Grafton

Robert Kitchen
Benjamin Kitchen
Abigail Kitchen Guppy
Priscilla Kitchen Hunn

Salem is in Essex County, Massachusetts and was a significant seaport in early America. John Endicott obtained a patent from England and arrived there in 1628. Salem originally included much of the North Shore, including Marblehead. Salem Village also included Peabody and parts of Beverly, Middleton, Topsfield, Wenham and Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Essex County, Massachusetts was created on May 10, 1643 by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when it ordered "that the whole plantation within this jurisdiction be divided into four sheires."



Priscilla Kitchen, Quakeress of Salem, Mass., and Kent County, Del., and Her Family by George Valentine Massey II, New England Historical and Genealogical Register Volume CVI January 1952, pp. 38-50

The story of this woman, who settled in Kent County, on the Delaware, soon after Penn set up his government, is of wide interest since those parts played by her, and her family, are vital provincial, and more recent Delaware history.

Priscilla Kitchen (c. 1647-1721) was born and brought up in Salem, Mass., that now fabulous town with memories of its ships returning from exotic ports, its witch-trials and Quaker antipathy; where science, learning, wealth and enterprise attained pre-eminence. Did not Sophia Peabody, wife of Nathaniel Hawthorne, prove to herself in England

what she had always known that the English gentry weren't in a class with the Salem? . . .

Priscilla's first husband, Nathaniel Hunn II, was posted for tippling by the Salem authorities, later, killed at Blackpoint heroically defending his post when most of his company had fled.

With her second husband George Bowers, Quaker, a nephew of Harvard's first president, she removed to Kent County, on Delaware, where she lived at Williamses Choyce on Bawcombrigg Creek.

1677 Map of New England
click to enlarge

Old Style Calendar
Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.
Early Quakers were persecuted. In the Massachusetts Bay colony, Friends were banished on pain of death.

A yeoman was a man who owned and cultivated a small farm. He belonged to the class below the gentry or land owners. A husbandman was a free tenant farmer. The social status of a husbandman was below that of a yeoman.

American colonists continued to use British monetary units, namely the pound, shilling and pence for which £1 (or li) equalled 20s and 1s equalled 12d. In 1792 the dollar was established as the basic unit of currency.

Colonial legislatures granted land to a group of settlers (proprietors) who chose how to divide the land. They had some rights of governance.

Byberry is a township in the northeast corner of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The Walton brothers were early settlers. Moreland Township was just west of Byberry. When Montgomery County broke off in 1784, Moreland was divided into two townships, both called Moreland. In 1917 the Montgomery County Moreland split into Upper Moreland Township and Lower Moreland Township.
In contracts and pleadings usually people and things mentioned before are designated by the term said (sd ) for clarity. Aforesaid (afd, afsd, aforesd ) means it was already mentioned.
Guardianship is when a court gives an adult custody of a child and/or the responsibility of managing the child's property. Before women could own property, guardians were appointed for their minor children if their husband died.

In 1688, during the Glorious Revolution, the Protestant king and queen,William and Mary, took the English throne from Catholic King James II. The bloodless revolution profoundly impacted the American colonies.

. . . Left with little means, the eldest of Priscilla's three children under five, she was among those widows on the selectmen's records in 1678-9 who received aid.

Later, she married George Bowers, Charlestown, Mass., Quaker, whose father Benanuel, suffered fines and imprisonment for religious belief, and whose mother, nee Dunster, was niece of Harvard's first president. Bowers was born in Cambridge, Mass., 3 Feb. 1653.

Lower priced land, mild climate, and Quaker proprietorship induced George and Priscilla Bowers to leave Massachusetts and settle in Kent County, on Delaware.

On the 7th of the 11th month, 1686, George Bowers, husbandman of Charles Towne County In New England agreed to pay John Townsend, blacksmith, of Kent County, Pennsylvania (now Delaware) 25 pounds for one moiety [half] or 300 acres of Williamses Choyce on the south side of "Bawcombrigg Creeke" in Kent County. He was to make two payments when Townsend would give his a deed. The first on or before 15:12:1686 for 12 pounds 10 shillings; the second 8 pounds, 10 shillings of the second in silver, the rest

In goods (to witt)
Rom [rum] att Three Shillings per Gallant and
Mallases [molasses] att one Shilling Ten pence per gallant and
Shugar[sugar] att thirty Shillings p (r.) hundred and Pounder att Eighteen pence p (r.) Pound and
Shoes att Six Shillings p (r.) paire and
other goods Equiulent.

George and Priscilla Bowers were at a wedding at the house of John Curtis at Johnes' River, 1:1:1687/8

who hath Three Hundred Head of Neat Beast, besides great Numbers of Hogs, Horses and Sheep

when John's daughter, Ann was married by Friend's ceremony to a Philadelphia bachelor, Richard Curtis. A committee from the Philadelphia meeting, including such men as Samuel Carpenter and Anthony Morris, certified to Richard's "clearness for all others."

The witnesses comprised seventeenth century Johns' (Dover) River society. Most were Quakers; several of the men took leading parts in county and provincial affairs. Beginning under the bride's name were: John Curtice, Tho Heathered, John Robinson, Winlock Curtice, and others including, Daniell Jones, Geo Manlove, Johanes Gronendyck, Richard Hogban, Geo Bowers, Wm. Freeland, Tho Skidmore, Anna Heathered, Naomy Berry, Presila Bowers, and Mary Betts. John Walker and John Betts were the justices present.

George Bowers completed his payments and received a deed for Williamses Choyce, 14:1:1687, for half of 600 acres surveyed in 1684 for John Betts. This indenture recited that Bowers was "of Charles Town in New England."

The 1687/8 list of Kent County freeholders shows the family settled at Williamses Choyce:
George, age 40, owner of 300 acres;
Priscilla, his wife, 41;
Priscilla, his wife's daughter, 18;
Sarah, his wife's daughter, 15;
one boy, his wife's son, 12;
Hugh Luffe, a freeman, 25;
George (John) Bowers, Jr., 1½.

While Priscilla, the bride's mother, did not, her husband, George Bowers witnessed the marriage of her thirteen year old daughter, Sarah Hunn, to Hugh Luff, 2-6-1688, at the house of Thomas Heathered, a prominent Friend at the Murder Creeke.

George Bowers died before the 23rd of the 9th month 1689, when Priscilla Bowers, his widow and administratrix, in

Consideration of ye Deare Love & naturall effections which I have for my Loveing Son Nathaniell Hunn doe Give and grant . . .unto my sd Son 3 yeareling Calves being 2 heifers and 1 bull being all of a reddish couler, marked with a crop on ye Left Eare & on ye right eare and a slitt in the left Eare with thure increase to him & hrs. forever.

Priscilla had planned her third marriage, soon to follow

Hereas John Curtice of this county widdower and Precilla Bowers on the same place widdow had intentions of marriage . . . these are therefore to certfie that . . John and Prissilla have published their intentions according to law and . . . John his clearness from Frances Spencer widdow certified from under her owne hand with credible witnesses . . . 29 da. 10 mo. 1689 and further that John and Priscilla at the house of Thomas Heathered, on the day above said did in a solemn maner take each other for husband and wife promissing faithfulness to each other untill death doth separate them and we whose names are here-under written being present as witnesses . . . John Curtice, Prisila: Curtice, Jas Cooper, Hugh Luff, Thomas Bedwell, Thos. Heathered, Saml. King, Thos. Shidmore, Will. Berry, Ann Heatherd, Rose Skidmore, Naomy Berry, Anna Price, Mary Killingworth, Eliza: Curbee, Malesent Heatherd, and others.

This 23:10 mo.1689.

Know all men that I Frances Spencer doe quitt discharge and release from all engagements as concerning marriage between me and my friend John Curtice.

Signed, Frances Spencer. Witnessed by Hugh Luff and Thomas Huslam

The groom, locally rich and distinguished, had lived, in 1679 at the Whorekill but soon removed to Jones' (Dover) River where, in 1687/8, he owned 1300 acres, and his household comprised his

son Winlock, age 20;
daughter, Elizabeth;
Cornelius Collone;
two Negro men and
one Negro Woman.

He represented this county in the Colonial Assemblies of 1682-5, was commissioned justice of the peace, 2 Jan. 1689, 16 May 1690, and in 1687, 89-91, 1697-8, he was a member of the Provincial Council.

Priscilla Curtis witnessed, in Philadelphia, with Robert French and Samuel Atkin, 10 May 1695, the will of Richard Curtis. Richard, among other bequests,
left a yearling heifer each to Nathaniel Hunn and Samuel Low
"now living with my father-in-law, John Curtis".
To "Jehu Curtis, Winlock Curtis his son", two yearling heifers ...
Executed at Philadelphia, the will was proved 14 Dec 1695, in Kent County on Delaware.

John Curtis "of Jones's in the Co. of Kent one of the Counties annexed to the Province of Pennsylvania Gent.", was in his last sickness the 22 of April, 1698 when he signed his will. (proved 3 May 1698) to his

Dear and well beloved wife, [Priscilla], left one third part of my Estate, that is to say of Goods, Chattels and Credits, and the third part of the Real Estate that is to say, during her natural life.

He left his son Caleb Curtis, Newell's Choice, 550 acres on the south side of Isaac's Branch proceeding out of Joneses Creek, with appurtenance, stock of cattle and hoggs upon aforesaid land, also Aber (deen), 500 acres on the south side of Bawcombrigg Creek,

"not debaring his mother in law (stepmother) from the use or priviledge of her thirds during her natural life, and at her decease, to the only use & proper behoof of him", forever.

To his daughter, Elizabeth, 200 acres of Stratham adjoining the land of Richard Curtis and William Freeman, on the north side of Mispillion Creek, with all appurtenances, forever;

to his "true and welbeloved wife" and daughter Elizabeth, "One piece of Holland to be equally divided between them not knowing the number of yards".

To his youngest daughter Ruth Curtis,

six cows and calves or with calf, four ews and lambs to be delivered to the said child at my deceased to run for the use of my said daughter till she shall come to age both the male ant the female and their increase to her forever; also one Negro girl Marea to be delivered to her when she arrives to the age of sixteen.

To his true and wel beloved wife, two Negroes, one Negro man called Isaac, and a Negro woman, Rose, forever;

To his son, Caleb, three Negroes, on man, Franck, one woman Gussey, one boy Caiphas.

To his grandchild, John Curtis, 270 cares on the south side of Murtherkill Creek adjoining the land of Richard Curtis and on the other side of Cedar Landing.

To Samuel Low, "whom I have brought up of a child 100 acres" belonging to the Mill, on Isaac's Branch proceeding out of Jone's Creek, beginning at the Old House landing etc.

To son Caleb and Samuel Low one shallop about 22 foot by the keel with the sails and rigging and all appurtenances to dispose of as they shall see meet.

The remaining estate equally to wife, and children of his body; that his con Caleb be of full age at the testator's decease, but if Caleb died before he was eighteen, the land and legacies to the testator's grandson, John Curtis. His loving wife and son Caleb, executors. Signed 22 April, 1698.

On 31 Jan. 1698/9, Priscilla Curtis and Caleb Curtis appeared before the commissioners at William Rodney's house and alleged "that they looked upon themselves only as executors to the estate of John Curtis, deceased, and no otherwise and as the Burthen therof will be too great for them, therefore they are not willing to intermeddle therwith (meaning the Estate of the said Richard Curtis dec'd.) " for whom John Curtis, dec's, was the executor.

Priscilla's fourth and last husband, John Gilbert, was a prosperous Philadelphia merchant, originally from Cornwall, England, where he had been jailed for attending Quaker meetings. Their marriage took place probably before 1:18:1705/6 when Hugh Laft (Luff), by his friend John Gilbert, requested a patent for 200 acres in Mispillion Hundred, Kent County. With her husband, John Gilbert, Priscilla witnessed the marriage, 8:19:1709, at the Philadelphia meeting of John's son, Joshua, to Elizabeth Oldman.

John Gilbert's will, naming his children, was proved at Philadelphia 19 Nov.1711. As his wife was not mentioned one may assume there had been a premarital property arrangement.

After John's death, Priscilla returned to live in Kent County. Her last documented public appearance there was at court at Dover Town, 30 May 1719 where she went on behalf of her grandson, Nathaniel Hunn, when she brought a complaint against Moses Whitaker (Nathaniel's guardian) and Ann Whitaker (wife of Moses, and Nathaniels's other grandmother, to whom he was bound. The details are not given. The same court ordered Moses Whitaker (also Caleb Hunn's guardian) to take into custody all the cattle of the estate late of Nathaniel Hunn, deceased, belonging to his con Caleb as proved by Priscilla Gilbert and Nathaniel Luff.

In perfect health and memory, on 22 Jan 1719/20, Priscilla Gilbert, widow, of the county of Kent on Delaware, executed her will.

To her well beloved children, Priscilla Walton, Sarah Bowman, and John Bowers, she left 30 pounds equally divided;

to her two grandchildren, Nathaniel Hunn and Penelope Rodney, the daughter of William and Ruth Rodney, 20 pounds equally divided;

to her well beloved grandson, Nathaniel Luff, a legacy. If Nathaniel Hunn died without issue, then Nathaniel Luff and Thomas Bowman, son of Nathaniel Bowman, were to have his legacy.

To well beloved daughter, Priscilla Walton and Sarah Bowman, 12 pounds silver money out of the 17 pounds, 1 s owned the testatrix by her son, John Bowers.

Her wearing clothes to her three daughters, Priscilla Walton, Sarah Bowman, and Ruth Rodney. Son John Bowers to keep the 10 pounds for Penelope Rodney until she is 16. Son in law, Nathaniel Bowman, to keep the 10 pounds for Nathaniel Hunn until he is 21.

Her son, John Bowers, and son in law, Nathaniel Bowman, were named executors. Her will was proved 10 May 1721.

A moiety is one of two equal parts.

An indenture is a legal contract for labor or land. Two copies on the same sheet were separated with a jagged edge so that the two parts could be refitted to confirm authenticity. An indentured servant worked without wages for a specified time to pay a debt and was bound to the employer. In the 17th century, nearly two-thirds of settlers came as indentured servants to pay for their passage.
Personal property can be called personalty (personality), goods, chattels, articles, or movable property. It includes both animate or inanimate property.

A land patent is an exclusive land grant made by the government. The certificate that grants the land rights is also called first-title deed and final certificate. In the United States, all land can be traced back to the original land patent.

A freeholder is the owner of a freehold estate which is an interest in land that is not fixed by a specified period of time, but which may last during the lifetime of a person.

Slavery is an immoral system of forced labor where people are treated as property to be bought and sold. It was legal in the American Colonies and the United States until the Civil War.

Cattle were vital to a household and an important legacy.
Unweaned cattle are calves.
Female cattle are heifers and cows (had a calf).
Male cattle are steers (castrated) and bulls.
are trained draft animals and are often castrated adult male cattle.

ye is an archaic spelling of "the."
A gentleman had no title, but descended from an aristocratic family, was of the landed gentry, and had a coat of arms.
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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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