Moses Leavitt

Deacon Moses Leavitt descendant Dudley Leavitt, Meredith, New Hampshire, publisher of Leavitt's Farmer's Almanac

Moses Leavitt (1650–1730) was an early settler of Exeter, New Hampshire, where he worked as a surveyor.[1] Later he became a large landowner, and served as selectman, and as a Deputy and later Moderator of the New Hampshire General Court from Exeter. He was the ancestor of several notable Leavitt descendants, including the well-known Meredith, New Hampshire, teacher and almanac maker Dudley Leavitt.

Leavitt was born at Hingham, Massachusetts, on August 12, 1650, the son of John Leavitt, a Puritan tailor who left England and settled in Dorchester (part of today's Boston), before moving on several years later to Hingham, several miles south of Boston, where he married as his second wife Sarah Gilman, daughter of Edward Gilman Sr., a fellow Hingham settler who eventually moved on to Exeter.[2] Although granted land at Exeter, John Leavitt never chose to move north.[3] Instead, his son Samuel by his first wife, and son Moses (by his wife Sarah Gilman) eventually moved to Exeter, where they settled as early as 1677,[4] and the two half-brothers first appeared on the town's tax roll in 1680.[5] Earlier, both brothers had taken 'ye oath of Allegiance to his majestie & fidelitie to ye contrey" at Exeter on November 30, 1677.[6] New Hampshire records show that "Moses Levett" and "Samuel Levett" received credit in 1676 in Exeter for their service in King Philip's War.[7]

Moses Leavitt [8] was a surveyor by trade, and early became one of Exeter's leading citizens. When he was thirty-one years old, he married Dorothy Dudley,[9] daughter of Rev. Samuel Dudley, Exeter's minister and the son of Governor Thomas Dudley of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. [10] By the time of his marriage on October 26, 1681, Leavitt was already deeply involved in town affairs, and in surveying and purchasing local land. In 1682 Leavitt first served as an Exeter selectman, an office he held several times during his lifetime.[11] Leavitt was an early signer of an appeal to the King in England to arbitrate the claims of the Masonian proprietors,[12] who were asserting ownership rights to lands claimed by early settlers.[13][14] Like many legislators, Leavitt concerned himself with matters big and small. In 1700 delegate Leavitt brought a vote from the House of Representatives to the Council of New Hampshire concerning Richard Hilton's ferry on the Squamscott River and his proposed charges on passengers – both man and horse.[15]

A subsequent communiqué in July 1708, signed by Leavitt – and on file at London's Whitehall – was addressed to Her Majesty the Queen from the "Justices, Officers of the Militia, Merchants, etc. of New Hampshire" and was directed "in favour of Governor Dudley."[16]

Leavitt first served as Deputy to the colony's General Court in 1692, a position he filled several times over subsequent years.[17] For seven years he held the office of Moderator of the province's General Court, and he also served as a State Senator.[18] Leavitt was appointed in 1698 to a committee of Exeter's First Church[19] to handle the vexing question of where congregants should be seated in the sanctuary – seating being determined by social rank. Deacon Leavitt and Kinsley Hall were first given the choice pews, allowing other congregants to then be accommodated.[20]

Leavitt and the former Dorothy Dudley had twelve children, including sons John and Dudley, and daughter Dorothy. Two of Moses Leavitt's children married Gilman cousins – daughter Hannah, married twice, both times to Gilmans; and Joseph, married to Sarah Gilman. Moses Leavitt died on June 17, 1730, "being aged and feeble", as he noted in his will.[21] (His half-brother Lieut. Samuel Leavitt predeceased him, having died at Exeter in 1707). Moses's family continued to live in the Exeter area for many subsequent generations; his descendants include the noted New Hampshire almanac maker Dudley Leavitt,[22] and the early Salem, Massachusetts, minister Rev. Dudley Leavitt,[23] for whom Salem's Leavitt Street was named.

Following the death of Rev. Samuel Dudley,[24] the early Exeter minister's third wife lived at the home of her son-in-law Moses Leavitt – a courtesy for which the Dudley family bequeathed Leavitt a 50-acre (200,000 m2) plot of land in Exeter.[25] The 1702 conveyance of Dudley land to Leavitt was the last known mention of Rev. Samuel Dudley's third wife, the former Elizabeth Smith.[26] Leavitt's descendants continued to live on the former Dudley family tract for many years, as well as on the extensive grants of land Moses received.[27] The Leavitt family of Exeter played a prominent role in New Hampshire history for many years following the death of its first two New Hampshire representatives.[28] Descendants of both Moses and Samuel Leavitt dispersed throughout New Hampshire in subsequent centuries.[29]

View of Hingham, Massachusetts, near the harbor.

See also


  1. ^ History of the Dudley Family, Dean Dudley
  2. ^ History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, Vol. II, Genealogical, Thomas Tracy Bouve, Edward Tracy Bouve, Published by the Town, University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1893
  3. ^ History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire, Charles Henry Bell, Printed by J. E. Farwell & Co., Boston, 1888
  4. ^ Moses Leavitt appears in New Hampshire records as early as 1679, when he signed an Act calling for a General Assembly. Leavitt's signature is recorded on that document as Moses Levet, in the more typical English spelling of the surname.[1] In many subsequent colonial records, Leavitt's name also appears as Levet [2] or Levett. [3][4][5]
  5. ^ Colony, Province, State, 1623–1888: History of New Hampshire, John Norris McClintock, Printed by B. B. Russell, Cornhill, Boston, Mass., 1889
  6. ^ The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, New England Historic Genealogical Society, January 1852, Published by the Society, Boston, 1852
  7. ^ Soldiers in King Philip's War, George Madison Bodge, Rockwell and Churchill Press, Boston, 1896
  8. ^ The New Hampshire Leavitt families history can be confusing, as there were Moses Leavitts in Exeter, and later elsewhere in New Hampshire, who were descendants of John Leavitt of Hingham, Massachusetts. There were also Moses Leavitts living in New Hampshire who were descendants of Thomas Leavitt, who arrived first in Exeter, and who later removed to Hampton, New Hampshire. There is no indication that the two families were related in any immediate sense, nor that the families ever corresponded with each other or had more than a passing acquaintance.
  9. ^ Moses Leavitt married Dorothy Dudley, daughter of Rev. Samuel Dudley, whose own son Stephen Dudley married Sarah Gilman, daughter of John Gilman, Moses Gilman's grandfather. Rev. Samuel Dudley's son Lieut. James Dudley married Elizabeth Leavitt, daughter of Moses Leavitt's half-brother Samuel Leavitt. [6] And Moses Leavitt's brother Samuel's daughter, Sarah, married Moses Leavitt, her uncle's son. Moses's younger brother Nehemiah Leavitt, who also moved to Exeter, married Alice (Cartee) Gilman, the widow of Daniel Gilman. The Leavitts, Dudleys and Gilmans intermarried extensively from the first generation onward.[7]
  10. ^ The Sutton-Dudleys of England and the Dudleys of Massachusetts in New England, George Adlard, Printed by John Russell Smith, London, 1862
  11. ^ New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial, Vol. I, William Richard Cutter, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1915
  12. ^ John Mason, an Englishman who had served as a colonial governor of New Hampshire without having set foot in the province, was an early partner of merchant-adventurer Sir Ferdinando Gorges. After Mason's death, his heirs in England later attempted to assert their ownership claims on New Hampshire lands, enraging settlers who felt they had won their lands by hard-earned labor.
  13. ^ The History of New-Hampshire, Jeremy Belknap, S. C. Stevens and Ela & Wadleigh, Dover, N. H., 1831
  14. ^ Leavitt often signed such petitions on behalf of the citizens of New Hampshire, frequently addressing the claims of English proprietors to New Hampshire land, or to the government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.[8]
  15. ^ Provincial and State Papers, Documents and Records Relating to the Province of New Hampshire from 1692 to 1722, Vol. III, Nathaniel Bouton (ed.), John B. Clarke, State Printer, Manchester, N. H., 1869
  16. ^ Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, America and West Indies: 1708–1709, Vol. 24, Cecil Headlam (ed.), Institute of Historical Research, British History Online
  17. ^ History of Newfields, New Hampshire, 1638–1911, James Hill Fitts, The Rumford Press, Concord, N.H., 1912
  18. ^ History of the Town of Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Solomon Lincoln, Jr., Printed by Caleb Gill, Jr., Farmer and Brown, Hingham, 1827
  19. ^ The New England Historical and Genealogical Register for the Year 1847, Vol. I, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Samuel G. Drake, Boston, 1847
  20. ^ The First Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, John Taylor Perry, The News-letter Press, Exeter, N.H., 1898
  21. ^ Will of the First Moses Leavitt, History of the Dudley Family
  22. ^ Official Report of the Reunion of the Descendants of Governor Thomas Dudley, Salem Observer Book and Job Print, Salem, Mass., 1893
  23. ^ Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. LI, Published by the Society, Boston, Mass., 1918
  24. ^ Leavitt frequently served in public offices with his Dudley relations, as in 1699 when he and his brother-in-law Theophilus Dudley were the two Exeter delegates to the New Hampshire General Assembly.[9] Moses Leavitt and his brother Samuel also frequently served alongside their Gilman relations in Exeter and New Hampshire elected positions.[10]
  25. ^ Supplement to the History and Genealogy of the Dudley Family, Dean Dudley, Published by the Author, Wakefield, Mass., 1898
  26. ^ The First Annual Meeting of the Governor Thomas Dudley Family Association, Boston, Massachusetts, October 17, 1893
  27. ^ Moses Leavitt died possessed of hundreds of acres of land in Exeter and its vicinity,[11] many of which were granted him by the town for his service over the years.[12] HIs ancestors subsequently built homes on those lands, such as the Leavitt House, built at 91 Winter Street in Brentwood in 1740 and called "a long, rambling mansion with elaborate woodwork" in the WPA Guide to New Hampshire.[13][14]
  28. ^ Provincial Papers: Documents and Records Relating to the Province of New Hampshire, from 1749–1763, Vol. VI, Nathaniel Bouton, Printed by James M. Campbell, State Printer, Manchester, 1872
  29. ^ History of Northfield, New Hampshire, 1780–1905, Part I, Lucy R. H. Cross, Rumford Printing Co., Concord, N. H., 1905

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