Brightman #2808

English St George flag animationHenry Brightman (1650-1728)

Born in England.  Arrived in Rhode Island about 1670 and later settled in Massachusetts.

USA flag animationJoan James (1654-1716)

Born in Rhode Island.

Brightman 2808Family tradition holds that the Brightmans were seamen.  Henry Brightman is believed to have come to New England in his own boat, arriving in the Portsmouth-Newport area of Rhode Island about 1670.  Nothing definite is known of his English origins or the circumstances of his arrival in America, but the context of his life suggests that he was probably born between 1640-50.

The following information concerning Henry Brightman is quoted from Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts: Containing Historical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens and Genealogical Records of Many Old Families (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Company) 1912 – Volume II, p. 850:

“The ancestor of the Brightman of Dartmouth and New Bedford [Massachusetts] was (I) Henry Brighton of Plymouth [Massachusetts] and Newport, R.I. and Freetown, Mass.  He was made a freeman and juryman in 1671.  He was one of forty-seven to whom was granted 5,000 acres in Rhode Island to be called East Greenwich, but he never settled there.  He was a deputy to the General Court in 1682-85-90-91 and again in 1705-06-07-08-09; constable in 1687; and member of the grand jury in 1688.  His wife Joan died in 1716 and he passed away in 1728.”

This information is supplemented with information published in Little Compton Families, compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour (Little Compton, Rhode Island: Clearfield) 1967.

The wife of Henry Brightman is thought to be Joan JamesJoan was born about 1655 at Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island and died 1716 at Newport.  She is the daughter of William James, discussed under his own heading.  The children of Henry Brightman and Joan James are listed as follows:

  1. Henry (Jr.), who married Elizabeth Lawton[1]
  2. Hester (or Esther), who married John Chandler
  3. William, who married Mercy (or Mary) Spurr on 22 Jan 1708
  4. Thomas Brightman, of Dartmouth, born in 1689.
  5. Sarah, who married Hezekiah Hoar
  6. Joseph, born in 1691.  He married Susanna Turner and died in 1783.

Henry Brightman bought land in what would become Fall River, Massachusetts in 1674, and the land included the right to operate a ferry.  Henry’s son Joseph gave land for the first schoolhouse in Fall River, farmed and continued to operate the ferry in conjunction with the Slades.  Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there were many variations of ferry service, which adapted with the times, evolving from a canoe, to a raft, a sail boat, a horse-powered ferry and a steam ferry boat. Henry was the namesake of the Brightman Street Bridge in Fall River, which was built near the site of the ferry crossing.

The Brightman Street Bridge in Fall River, Massachusetts opening for a boat to pass through - photo credit: Wikimaster97

The Brightman Street Bridge in Fall River, Massachusetts opening for a boat to pass through – photo credit: Wikimaster97

An old photo of Fall River, Massachusetts, looking out over the bay, with the Brightman Street Bridge, foreground, and Braga Bridge. (GateHouse News Service file photo)

An old photo of Fall River, Massachusetts, looking out over the bay, with the Brightman Street Bridge, foreground, and Braga Bridge (GateHouse News Service file photo)

The Brightman Street Bridge is a 922-foot (281 m) long, four-lane wide drawbridge spanning the Taunton River between the town of Somerset and the city of Fall River, Massachusetts.  It was authorized in 1903 by the state legislature, and building took place between 1906 and 1908, when it opened full-time on 10 Oct 1908.  It was closed to vehicular traffic on 11 Oct 2011.

After the death of his wife in 1716, Henry went to live with his son, Joseph, in Freetown, Massachusetts.  He died there and was buried on Joseph’s farm.  This old family cemetery was taken by the city (now Fall River, Massachusetts) to make way for a street in about 1880.  In moving, the stones fell apart and have become lost.

In his will, dated 3 Oct 1716, Henry Brightman bequeathed to his eldest son William property in Portsmouth and Newport including the house in which William was then living.  To William, he also bequeathed his largest silver tankard.  To his second son Thomas, he gave all farms he had purchased in Dartmouth, together with one yoke of oxen, five cows, and sixty sheep now in his hands, as well as his also his lesser silver tankard.  To his youngest son Joseph, he gave his land at Freetown plus other property, including a silver cup, a small silver porringer, six silver spoons and his seal ring.  To each of his daughters, Hester Chandler and Sarah Hoar, he gave one lot of land in Newport and £50 pounds in money of equivalent.  Four additional lots in Newport were left, one each, to four grandsons: Henry son of William, Henry son of Thomas, Henry son of Joseph, and Henry Hoar son of Sarah Hoar.  The rest and residue of the estate was divided equally between the three sons, who were to serve as only and sole executors.  A codicil, dated 15 Feb 1728, gave to son Joseph and daughter-in-law Susanna my bed, bedding and furniture; table living and my other household stuff that I brought with me into their family, as they had cared for him with the infirmities of age upon him.

Thomas Brightman, son of Henry and Joan, lived at Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where he deeded six acres of land to his son Thomas (Jr.) for £36, this land being a part of his homestead.  He married Penelope [surname unknown], and their children are listed as follows:

  1. Henry, born 4 Nov 1709, married Hannah Potter (1707-1770). [for additional information on this matter, refer to the comments section at the bottom of this page for postings from 6-11 May 2015 that have a bearing on the dates and persons involved]
  2. Mary, born 15 Mar 1711, married (1st) William Manchester (1710-1735) and (2nd) Benjamin Potter (1712-1774).
  3. Esther, born 7 Nov 1712, married Thomas Tripp (1710-1778) on 17 May 1730.
  4. Sarah, born 29 Nov 1715.
  5. Thomas Brightman, born in 1718, married Judith Manchester[2] on 6 Nov 1741.
  6. William, born 20 Sep 1720, married Hannah Davenport.
  7. Joseph, who married Hannah Wilcox, daughter of Joseph Wilcox.
  8. Penelope, who married John Tripp.
  9. Jane, born 20 Apr 1730, married John Wilcox.

Thomas Tripp and John Tripp are 1st cousins 1x removed.  They are the grandson and great grandson of John Tripp (1610-1678), my 11th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading.

There was extensive marriage in this period among the Brightman, Lawton, Tripp, and Wilcox families.  The progenitors of these family lines in America all appear among my early Rhode Island ancestors.

Thomas Brightman (Jr.), the son of Thomas Brightman and Penelope [family surname unknown], was born 20 Nov 1718 in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  He married Judith Manchester, who was born in about 1720.  The couple was married on 6 Nov 1741.  Their children are listed as follows: Elizabeth Brightman (1742- ) see below, Martha (1743- ), George (1746-1796), Pardon (1750- ), Sarah (1752-1822), Phebe (1754- ), Hannah (1756- ), Thomas (1756- ), Arnold (1763- ).

Elizabeth Brightman was born 14 Apr 1742 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and died [date unknown], probably in Massachusetts or New York State.  On 6 Dec 1764 in Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts, she married Caleb Earle, the son of William Earle and Mary LawtonCaleb was born 12 Nov 1745 in Dartmouth, Bristol, Massachusetts (Caleb also had a twin brother, Joseph) and died 1820 in Westport, New York.  Elizabeth’s sister, Sarah Brightman, married Lemuel Taber[3] and eventually migrated to Ellisburg, New York, as did Prudence Earle, the daughter of Elizabeth and Caleb.

As an aside, George Brightman, the brother of Elizabeth Brightman, migrated to Canada and was a political figure in Nova Scotia.  He represented Hants County in the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia from 1783-1785.  He was born in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Brightman and Judith Manchester.  George married (1st) Hannah Baker, who died before 1764 and (2nd) Hannah Bailey.  There were seven children in the second marriage and one in the first.  He came from Rhode Island to settle in Newport township and was an original grantee for the Crown grant of 21 July 1761.  George served as a Justice of the Peace for Hants County.  He was elected to the assembly in a 1783 by-election, the first election for Hants County.  He died at the age of 39.

The draw for individual lands on 18 Feb 1762, which divided the Crown grant of the previous year, saw George Brightman as well as Aaron Butts jointly drawing Newport Farm (lot B, 1st Division No. 1).  In Duncanson’s history of Newport, Nova Scotia[4], he indicates that “at the time of his death George Brightman owned considerable Newport property; he had sold half of Farm Lot B 1st Division No. 1 to John Chambers (site of the Old Stone House in Poplar Grove)”.  This stone house became of interest in 2012 when it was revealed that it was for sale for $2 million by owner Sherman Hines, who bought the house in a state of ruin in 1982 for $15,000 and had spent 30 years restoring the property.  The estate includes over 100 acres and 7 buildings, including the Acadian Stone House also known as The Mission.  Hines indicated to the CBC television interviewer that he has traced the construction back to 1699, and that it was built by the French as a mission and as a fortification against the English[5].  He said, “As far as I can find in any research I have done, it is the oldest building [in Canada] east of Quebec City.”  The asking price on the house was reportedly $2 million [Canadian].

Two views of the Avondale, Nova Scotia property are indicated in the photos below:

The daughter of Elizabeth Brightman and Caleb Earle is Prudence Earle.  She was born 14 Jan 1767 in Westport, Massachusetts and died 27 Dec 1843 in Pierrepont Manor, New York.  On 27 Jun 1784 he married Joseph Allen, who was born 14 Nov 1758 in Westport, Massachusetts and died 23 Sep 1838 in Pierrepont Manor, New York.  After the birth of their first four children, Joseph and Prudence moved eventually to Jefferson County, New York (in the north-central portion of that state along the shore of Lake Ontario) and settled as the first residents of Bear Creek (now Pierrepont Manor near the village of Ellisburg) in 1805.  Their lineage continues under the heading of George Allen (1568-1648).


[1] More than one source indicates that the name of the wife of Henry (Jr.) is Elizabeth Lawton, however, this does not appear to be the daughter of Robert Lawton (1649-1706) and Mary Wodell (1665-1732), my 9th g-grandparents, as some sources suggest.  Most sources report that their daughter, Elizabeth, married a man by the name of Jonathan Nichols.

[2] Some sources identify Thomas’ wife as Judah Manchester.  Judith Manchester is the 2nd great granddaughter of Ralph Earle (1606-1678) and Joan Savage (1595-1679), discussed under their own heading: Ralph Earle (1606 – 1678), 2nd g-grandfather – Ralph Earle (1632 – 1716) – William Earle (1666 – 1715) – Sarah Earle (1696 – 1727) – Judith Manchester (1720- ).

[3] Lemuel Taber (1748-1832) is the 2nd great grandson of Phillip Taber (1605-1672), my 10th g-grandfather, discussed under his own heading.  The line from Phillip to Lemuel is as follows: Phillip – Joseph (1646-1735) – Ebenezer (1693-1772) – Joseph (1721-1798) – Lemuel.

[4] Duncanson, John Victor.  Newport Nova Scotia: A Rhode Island Township (Mika Publishing: Bellville Ontario) 1985, p. 113.

[5] According to the website of Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management, the house was built by John Chambers in about 1761.




  • Thanks for the reply to my post that provided two possible sources:
    1) ” Little Compton Families” from records compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour; published by Little Compton Historical Society, Clearfield, 1967; Vol. I; pg. 71.
    2) “Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts” JH Beers and Co., Chicago, 1912; Vol. II; pg. 850.

    The second source concerns Henry Brightman, but does not document his marriage to Hannah Potter. The “Little Compton Families” however, does state that Henry Brightman married “Hannah Potter, born 15 March 1711.” Note that this differs from your site in that you attach Henry Brightman with the Hannah Potter born in 1707.

    There is more confusion in that the Vital Records of Massachusetts to 1850 documents two women named Hannah Potter both born in Dartmouth. One was born 3 May 1707 to Stock Potter. The other was born 22 March 1712 to John and Mary. Neither match up with the date given in “Little Compton Families”. The same Vital Records of Massachusetts does document the marriage of Henry Brightman to Hannah Potter (both of Dartmouth) on 20 March 1731. Unfortunately, this record does not distinguish between the two possible women named Hannah Potter, but if you wanted to guess, it would be most likely that he married the Hannah Potter born 22 March 1712.

    My quest does not directly concern this marriage. I am trying to confirm the marriage of Thomas Brownell to Hannah Potter. Thomas Brownell was born in 1702 so it is most likely that he married the Hannah Potter born in 1707 which is what appears in several unsourced family trees. This confusion is why I was interested in the Henry Brightman marriage to see if I could rule out one of the Hannah Potter women.

    Thanks again for your interest.

    Robert Larry Akin
    See my family tree at

  • The information on Henry Brightman (b. 1709) m. Hannah Potter (1707-1770)? is from That source references
    1) ” Little Compton Families”; from records compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour; published by Little Compton Historical Society, Clearfield, 1967; Vol. I; pg. 71.
    2) “Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts”; JH Beers and Co., Chicago, 1912; Vol. II; pg. 850.

  • Great Site. Could you supply your source for stating that Henry Brightman (b. 1709) m. Hannah Potter (1707-1770)?

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