Bidwell Lore – The Wives of Adonijah Bidwell, Part II

Welcome to the eleventh week of Bidwell Lore! This is the second email in a series about the wives of Adonijah Bidwell.  Last week we introduced you to Theodosia Colton and Jemima Devotion and this week you will meet Ruth Kent.  We have also included the story of Rev. Edward Taylor, known as the Puritan poet and grandfather to Theodosia and Jemima.  Thanks to Rick Wilcox for his research on these topics. 

The Wives of Adonijah Bidwell

Theodosia Colton Bidwell (1721-1759)
Jemima Devotion Bidwell (1727-1771)
Ruth Kent (1730-1815)

To continue the story of the wives of Adonijah Bidwell, he took his third and final set of marriage vows to Ruth Kent on October 28, 1772. We know that she was from Suffield, CT (all three of Rev. Bidwell’s wives came from Connecticut to join him in Tyringham), but we do not know much about their life together.  Ruth helped raise the Reverend’s children and outlived him by more than 30 years.  After Rev. Bidwell’s death on June 2, 1784, she remained a widow for six years until she married Rev. Jonathan Judd of Southhampton, MA.

Jonathan Judd (1719-1803), third son of Capt. William Judd of Westbury parish in Waterbury, CT, graduated from Yale College in 1741. He was the first minister of the second precinct or parish in Northampton, now the town of Southampton. A church was gathered and he was ordained pastor on June 8, 1743. He died on July 28, 1803, at the age of 84, after a ministry of sixty years.

Rev. Jonathan Judd’s first marriage was on Nov 28, 1743, to Silence Sheldon (1721-1783), daughter of Capt. Jonathan Sheldon of Suffield, formerly of Northampton. After close to 40 years of marriage, she died on Oct 25, 1783. He married for the second time on September 14, 1790, to Ruth Bidwell. Ruth was from the same town as his first wife, and so it may be that Rev. Judd and Ruth Kent had a long acquaintance before marrying late in life. Ruth died at Suffield in December 1815 in her 86th year. She had no children.

 “In February 1743 the Rev. Jonathan Judd of Suffield CT., a recent Yale graduate and the choice of the search committee, arrived in town. He was warmly received and called to be the first minister of the area, which was by then called “New Hampton”. On June 8th of that year a Council of Churches met here for Rev. Judd’s ordination, solemnized by prayer and the laying on of hands. The well-known Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Northampton preached the sermon. A Confession of Faith and the church covenanting were adopted and signed by the original 32 members, and the church was incorporated. Rev. Judd remained here as our preacher for sixty years, until his death in 1803.”
(Originally from the website of First Congregational Church of Southampton)

As promised last week, we want to tell you a little more about the Reverend Edward Taylor, grandfather to both Theodosia Colton and Jemima Devotion.  

Edward Taylor, often referred to as the Puritan Poet, was born in 1642 in Sketchley, Leicestershire, England, sailed to America in 1668, entered Harvard with advanced standing in July, and received his BA in 1671. At the urging of Increase Mather, he moved to Westfield, MA, to serve as their minister while organizing a church there, a process that took some eight years. The 1676 King Philip’s War spared Westfield, but again delayed plans to organize the church. The frontier community of Westfield near the Connecticut River, pleasant though it must have been at times, was a far cry from the Heavenly City whose visions dazzled the poet. On November 5th, 1674, he married Elizabeth Fitch (1652-1689) of Norwich, CT.

On August 27, 1679, the Westfield congregation finally entered into a church covenant, at which time Taylor was elected pastor. Influenced by Increase Mather, Taylor was a proponent of the Half-Way Covenant, encouraging the baptizing of infant children of church members, but not admitting them to full membership until they were at least fourteen. Soon after being elected pastor, Taylor launched his first attack against the Rev. Solomon Stoddard’s “liberal” practices in A Particular Church is God’s House. Stoddard, the pastor of the Northampton Church, who came from a powerful family and was at times referred to as the “Pope of Western Massachusetts,” disagreed with Taylor over the provision of the Half-Way Covenant under which no man was permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper until he had certain knowledge and full assurance of his salvation. Without this knowledge, his attendance at the sacrament was damning. But Stoddard insisted that no man could know he was saved with absolute certainty.

In 1682, at the age of 40, Taylor began his major poetic and devotional activity, the Preparatory Meditations, which were composed at monthly intervals for the next 44 years. Taylor’s first wife, Elizabeth, died on July 7, 1689. Edward and Elizabeth had eight children together, five of whom predeceased her. In 1692, at age 50, Taylor married Ruth Wyllys (1660-1730), daughter of a prominent Hartford family and grandmother to Adonijah Bidwell’s first two wives, Theodosia Colton and Jemima Devotion.

On June 24, 1729, Edward Taylor died, and by 1750 only four congregations in the Connecticut Valley still held out against Stoddardeanism; Westfield was not among them.

Next week we have one more email planned about Adonijah’s wives, this one concerning Jemima Bidwell’s pewter.