Bidwell Lore – Binney and Sampson: Further out on the Limbs of the Bidwell Family Tree

Welcome to week 79 of Bidwell Lore! This week we share part 1 of the story of how the Bidwell family is connected to Deborah Sampson, the first woman to serve and be honorably discharged from the US military. Thanks to Rick Wilcox for putting this together.

Further out on the Limbs of the Bidwell Family Tree
Bidwell, Binney, Spring, Gray, and Deborah Sampson

Today we will be presenting the story of the Binneys, Barnabas Senior and Junior. Not only are they connected to the Bidwell family but they connect the Bidwells to Deborah Sampson, the first woman to fight in and be honorably discharged from the American military.

Barnabas Binney, born March 22, 1728, was a sea captain and later a planter in Demerara (now part of Guyana). He married a woman named Avis Ings and they had a son, also named Barnabas, in 1751.

You may remember from this February blog post about the 1766 trip to London, England, undertaken by the Stockbridge Mohican Sachems Daniel Nimham, Jacob Cheeksaunkun, Solomon Uhhaunauwaunmut, John Naunauphtaunk. They journeyed with the hope of gaining an audience before King George the III to seek help with land dispossession issues in Berkshire County. They traveled with the wives of three of the four men. All were aboard Captain Barnabas Binney’s vessel, The Ship Lion, which sailed from Boston on June 16, 1766. According to a Boston Evening Post June 30, 1766, newspaper article, the seven Indians were accompanied by four other individuals, three of whom were identified as William Gregg, Jr. [1], Bartlet Brundige, and an interpreter.  Greg was so busy trying to steal land he didn’t think to request an audience with the King prior to departure and they were refused an audience upon arrival in London. 

Miniature portrait of Barnabas Binney, image is in black and white. Depicts a white male wearing a dark coat with light buttons and white shirt underneath
Dr. Barnabas Binney, courtesy of

Captain Binney’s son, Barnabas Binney (1751-1787), was educated at the College of Providence (now Brown University) and graduated in 1774. He was valedictorian of his class and after graduation he traveled to London and Philadelphia to study medicine, ultimately settling in Philadelphia. On May 25, 1777, he married Mary Woodrow, daughter of a lumber merchant. He eventually entered the army and became a hospital surgeon, and he was with the troops at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778.
In this excerpt from his entry, we learn more about Dr. Binney as a surgeon and a person:
An extraordinary instance of his success as a surgeon, occurred in the treatment of a seaman, who, [while in in a battle on the Delaware River], was shot through the body, the musket-ball entering the left groin, and passing through the intestines and lungs, and emerging under the right shoulder-blade. This man, after his recovery, was so grateful that he visited Dr. Binney annually during his life. A case of Dr. Binney’s hospital practice shows the refined and honorable tone of his moral nature, as well as his professional skill.
It was the case of the romantic and heroic Deborah Samson, who entered the army in Massachusetts, in October, 1778, as a private soldier, and continued to serve with credit until disabled by a wound, which brought her under Dr. Binney’s care. Being supposed to have died, Dr. Binney, in searching for the pulsation of the heart, discovered her sex; and, taking her to his own house, most honorably concealed the fact until her discharge was obtained from General Washington. [Source:]

Image is taken looking into the Bidwell House Museum Parlor from the Dining Room, with the portrait of Mary Gray Bidwell on the wall. Dining Room wall is red, hallway wall is green. In the parlor you can see a desk with a book and a 3 drawer cabinet beneath the painting
Above, looking into the Bidwell House Museum Parlor from the Dining Room, with the portrait of Mary Gray Bidwell on the wall.

To circle back to the Bidwell connection, we see Reverend Bidwell’s son, Barnabas, in a letter to his wife Mary Gray Bidwell, mention a Miss Binney. It turns out that Mary Gray Bidwell’s uncle was the 2nd husband of Dr. Binney’s widow, Mary Woodrow Binney:

 Boston, Feb. 15, 1803:
My Dear Polly [2], I was invited to dine with the Attorney General, in company with a large collection of our profession; but I have declined, that I may have an hour to write you without interruption.
      Last Saturday I went out to Watertown and spent the Sabbath. Mrs. Spring, Miss Binney and Marshall [3] had gone, the day before to Providence. And Capt. and Mrs. Jackson, who were invited there, were prevented from coming by the storm. So that my visit was devoted to Dr. Spring, with whom I conversed on many subjects, some of them of a serious nature. Your cousin, Josiah Spring, was there; and appeared rejoiced to hear from you and his aunt, to whom he desired his respects. His father, he says is well. We have heard from your Cousin Seth and his father a few days since. They are well. Our business progesses in the usual manner. The Berkshire Academy Bill at Lenoxville, I think, passed. Unexpectedly I am interrupted and obliged to conclude, with great affection and love to you all. B. Bidwell
         Before closing my letter, I found Mr. George Allen, son of the Rev. Mr. Allen [4] of Pittsfield, now lately from Georgia, who is going tomorrow to Pittsfield. By whom I shall send this.  

Next week, we will learn more about the infamous Deborah Sampson.

[1] Gregg was a land speculator and dispossessor of Stockbridge Mohican land.

[2] Polly was a nickname for Mary Bidwell. Letter from Boston while Barnabas was State Senator, 1801-1804, later serving in the State House of Representatives, 1805-1807.

[3] Dr. Marshall Spring (1741-1818) was Mary Gray Bidwell’s uncle (her mother’s brother) and helped to bring his sister’s family to Stockbridge. He graduated from Harvard in 1762 and studied medicine under his mother’s brother, Dr. Josiah Converse. Dr. Spring “was of high professional repute and eminent as a wit. When completely a Tory he arrived at the Battle of Lexington, yet devoted his best skill and care to the wounded earning the admiration and appreciation of all. At the election of Jefferson he joined the popular party.” He married first Mary, widow of Dr. Barnabas Binney, son of Captain Barnabas Binney a prominent merchant of Boston. There was one child, Marshall Binney Spring. Married second, 1797, Hannah Lee of Cambridge, Mass. His son, Marshall Binney Spring, married Eliza Willing of Philadelphia, granddaughter of Thomas Willing, 1st President of the 1st Bank of the United States.

[4] Rev. Thomas Allen, called the “Fighting Pastor,” was inducted as the first minister of the First Congregational Church of Pittsfield in 1764. Rev. Adonijah Bidwell was one of the Berkshire Ministers who inducted Rev. Allen, “extending the right hand of fellowship.”