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signature from Caleb's will when he was about 61

A note about name spelling

     The early generations of the Hoyts in Connecticut and New York used varying spellings of their first and last names. In some instances there was no concensus within nuclear families. This may indicate they were only partially literate. I don't subscribe to the practice of using phonetic or interpretive spellings for an individual in biographical text unless there is a specific reason to do so. I think it's enough to note exact spellings in quoting documents. In some cases this is a judgement call. Was Caleb's grandfather Walter firmly committed to his name being "Hoyte," but his son was committed to "Hayt" and Caleb to going back to "Hoyte?" Considering how few times it was necessary for them to sign their names, given their circumstances, it seems unlikely they thought much about it. When they learned how to write their names, they might have learned it from a schoolmaster, for instance, who spelled it as it sounded. I do think it's important to note exact name spellings when quoting documents. For these reasons, the surname of this family is referred to uniformly as "Hoyt."

     Caleb may have settled on his father's land in the Canoe Hill neighborhood of Norwalk, now the town of New Canaan, Connecticut. In April of 1710 the town of Norwalk granted to Zerubbabel Hoyt and his three sons 106 acres of swamp and upland at Canoe Hill. On the same day, Zerubbabel, "in consideration of love, goodwill and affection which I have and to bear towards my loving sons," divided the land, giving Caleb half of his "present home lot," Zerubbabel's right in Half Mile Island, being "upland and meadow that was Richard Holmes I bought of Samuel Kellogg," 32 acres at Canoe Hill and two acres of field at the north and of Canoe Hill on Benedict's Hill. (1) In 1713, his brother Daniel sold in his share of land on Benedict's Hill. (2) In an undated (early 1720s) account of the ownership of common land in Norwalk, Caleb is listed as having 50 acres as well as 114 acres given to him by his father. (3) He was involved in an agreement between his brother Daniel and two nephews, the males heirs of Zerubabbel, regarding two pieces of land at Canoe Hill. "The three brothers had concluded to divide the two tracts of land and had proceeded," but it was "not consummated before [brother Joseph's] death." (4) It was agreed that Caleb would have about 75 acres. Caleb and his wife Mehitabel are not recorded as members of the Canaan parish church, and in his will he gives his son Caleb half his homestead, and was to receive the other half when his mother died. Although this doesn't say homestead land, this was likely the intent. His brothers were given all their father's land at Canoe Hill and Kellogg's Meadow, suggesting Caleb, Sr., had remained in southern Norwalk despite his extensive holdings in the north. Caleb, Mehitable and their daughter-in-law Ruth (Bouton) Hoyt died in March/April 1755, suggesting there may have been an outbreak of disease in Norwalk at that time.

The following is a transcription of Caleb's will:

In the name of God amen the third day of September in the year of our Lord 1747 I Caleb Hoyt of Norwalk in the County of Fairfield and Colony of Connecticut in New England being weak of body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given to God, therefore calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to dye do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say first I give and recomend my soul unto the hands of God who gave it hoping through the merits death and pasion of my savior Jesus Christ to have the full and free pardon of all my sins and to inherit everlasting life and my body I comit to the earth to be decently buryed at the discression of my executors hereafter named. And as touching such worldly estate which it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life I dispose of as followeth my just debts being first paid

Item I give and bequeath to my well beloved wife Mehitabel the one-half of my homestead so long as she continues my widow also my will is that my sons Benajah David and Caleb shall find my sd. wife a cow to milk during her widowhood and that my sd. sons shall maintain sd. cow in equall proportion and to find my sd. wife with broad corn and meat and firewood at the door and all other necessaries for her comfortable subsistence so long as she continues my widow also one feather bed and furniture to be at her dispose

Item I give and bequeath to my loving and dutiful sons Benajah and David and their heirs and assigns forever all my lands at Canoo Hill and Kellogg Medow so-called to be equally divided between them both for quantity and quallity

Item I give and bequeath to my loving and dutiful son Caleb half my homestead at my decease and the other half of my homestead I give to my sd. son Caleb his heirs and assigns forever at my wife's decease or marriage also I give to my son Caleb all the residue of my lands not already disposed of

Item I give and bequeath to my daughter Rhodah Hayes six pounds besides what I have already given her towards her portion

Item my daughter Mehitable Bennedick hath received her portion equall with what I give to my other daughters now in my wills

Item I give to my daughter Adah Smith twenty pounds besides what I have already given her towards her portion

Item I give to my daughter Deborah Hanford twenty pounds besides what I have given her towards her portion

Item my salt meadow and half mile iland I give to my three sons as they have divided it

Item all the rest of my personal estate not before disposed of I give to my well beloved wife Mehitable to make use of as she needs for her comfortable subsistence and at her decease or marriage to be equally divided between my four daughters Rhodah Mehitable Adah and Deborah

Item I give and bequeath to my three sons all my wearing apparell to be divided amongst them

Finally I do hereby appoint my well beloved wife and my three sons Benajah David and Caleb executors of this my last will and testament disanulling all former wills and bequests or legacies confirming this and no other to be my last will.

In witness whereof hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.

Signed sealed published pronounced and declared by the testator as his last will and testament

Caleb Hoyt

In the presence of

Thad. Hanford
Joseph Jones
Matthew Smith

children of Caleb and Mehitabel (Keeler) Hoyt:(5)

Benajah b. 8 December 1708
David b. 3 December 1710

vital records sources: Caleb's death and marriage dates come from the Norwalk town records, as transcribed by Edwin Hall, The Ancient Historical Records of Norwalk, etc. (1847).

1. Fairfield County deeds, vol. 4, pg. 216 (5 April 1710).
2. Ibid, vol. 4, pg. 216 (5 April 1710).
3. Ibid, vol. 4, pg. 434 (27 July 1713).
4. Ibid, vol. 6, pg.308 (25 Jan. 1738/39).
5. birth dates from the Norwalk town records, see citation above.

all text and photographs © 1998-2009 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted