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Henry's signature when he was 27, from guardianship papers for his cousin Prince Jenne.

Later signatures
reflect his rising status in the military.

The descendants of John Jenne of Plymouth Colony mostly used the spelling "Jenne" before about 1800-1810, which is why I use it rather than "Jenney." Henry went from "Jenne" to "Jennings" about 1800.

     Henry was born and lived for about 50 years in the part of Dartmouth, Massachusetts Province, that became New Bedford, and after the family moved away, Fairhaven. His first recorded deed there was in 1770, when he bought 3 3/4 acres.1 Following this was another 6 acres in 1772.2 In the Fall of 1774 he inherited part of his father's homestead. Both deeds call him a yoeman, which makes sense for a man in his 20s, but when he bought what must have been a large piece of land from his brother Jahaziel in 1779 for £330, he's called a gentleman.3 This surely was due to his having risen through the officer ranks during the Revolution to become a captain of his own company. I haven't found where specifically his homestead and house were.
     He was very active in the Revoutionary War. He was a 2nd lieutenant (commissioned by 26 August 1776) in Capt. Eleazer Hathaway's Company in the Revolution.4 He was a lieutenant in Capt. Manasseh Kempton's Company in Col. Freeman's regiment, engaged 27 September to 29 October 1777 in Spencer's secret expedition. Lossing's Field Book of the Revolution describes the campaign. His son Abner's pension file5 says that he served with his father (August 1778), by then a captain, during "Sullivan's Expedition" to Rhode Island, the climax of which was the Battle of Quaker Hill. Abner was probably his drummer boy, as he was very young and doesn't appear on muster rolls. Henry's regiment was under command of Col. George Claghorn. He commanded a company to respond to the approach of the British fleet in Rhode Island from 2 to 8 August 1780. Lossing also describes it:6

Intelligence was received that General Clinton, lately returned to New York from the South, was preparing to proceed in person, with a large part of his army, to attack Rhode Island. Menaced by sea and land, General Heath called earnestly upon Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut for troops, and his requisition was promptly complied with, so promptly, that, before any enemy appeared, the allied forces felt quite competent to oppose the largest army that Clinton could possibly bring into the field. Sir Henry actually sailed from New York with eight thousand troops, but proceeded no further than Huntington Bay, in Long Island Sound. Informed there of the fortified position of the French at Newport, the rapid gathering of the militia, and the approach of Washington toward New York city, Clinton abandoned the expedition and returned to his head-quarters. Three thousand five hundred militia were kept under arms at Newport, to assist in guarding the French squadron, and the allies became a burden, rather than an aid, to the Americans.

     From 14 to 18 March 1781 he marched again to Rhode Island, although the impetus hasn't been found. He received another captain's commission on 1 July 1781 in the 2nd Regiment under Col. Manasseh Kempton.

(courtesy Jim Jennings)

One of Henry's commissions, with the readily recognizable signature of then Massachusetts Governor John Hancock. This document was surely the one mentioned by Henry's son Abner in his pension file about 50 years later, when it was thought to be in the possession of a nephew. This document was, in fact, held by Abner's nephew and probable namesake Abner Dexter Jennings and is now in the collection of descendant Jim Jennings.

Henry and Phebe were founding members of the Second Church of Christ in Fairhaven Village in 1794.7 Probably just after 5 April 1798, he and Phebe (5 Sep 1797). They took with them a certificate of that date saying they had a "regular standing in the church...and as such are dismissed at their request."8 Such certificates were presented as a form of recommendation to churches elsewhere when the holder wanted to join. By the the time the 1800 Federal census was enumerated, they were in Milton, Saratoga County, New York.9 They appear there in the 1810 census as well.10 This is a duplicate transcription, and which town is right hasn't been found. They moved to Webster Township, New York, before 1820.
     The censuses in New York call this family "Jennings," which is the name they and Abner Jenne, another son of Henry and Phebe, chose when they moved to New York. This fact is confirmed by recollections of a descendant of Henry, Jr., but Abner's military pension papers, prepared in New York after he became "Jennings," give his father as Henry Jennings, a captain in the Revolution from New Bedford, leaving no doubt that he was Henry Jenne's son. For what reason the name changed isn't certainly known. Henry continued to use "Jenne" or "Jenney" in Massachusetts deed transactions after the move, surely to avoid any legal confusion. When Henry and his family arrived in Saratoga County, they settled in a place where their surname was unknown, but it sounded like another name. "Citizen" Edmond Genet had come to the United States as a diplomat from France in 1793, but with a varied agenda, including the recruit of American privateers to fight the British for them in American waters and to convince the American government to liquidate its French debts. He did this despite George Washington's declaration of the country's neutrality. He eventually was denounced for his efforts and had lost favor at home. His name was still being evoked in the press when the Jennes moved in 1798. Here are several excerpts from May and August of that year.

When the first French minister, I mean "republican" minister, was sent to the United States, to court the people to abandon their government and join the French in the work of anarchy and plunder, he came instructed to proclaim to the Americans the good wishes and friendly intentions of France.11

In a newspaper piece that facetiously uses a Biblical format, Robespierre and the governors of France said unto Genet, go thou, who art cunning amongst men, and tell the Columbians [Americans] that their rulers are tyrants, and their liberty is gone; but that we have rulers and liberty in store, which we will freely give them.12

     There would have been little provocation to connect "Jenne" with "Genet" in the New Bedford area, the Jennes being a large and well-established family, but location may have been significant for Henry and his family after they moved. Genet stayed in the United States, being pardoned and desiring to avoid a certain beheading in France, and lived just south of Albany, New York. Saratoga County is not far to the north. The date of Genet settling there isn't specifically known, but it may be that when locals heard the name "Jenne," they thought "Genet." Abner Jenne did have an ulterior motive to change his name when he moved about 1808. He abandoned his family, left significant debts and moved to New York State with a mistress.
     Henry Jennings, whether it was Sr. or Jr., and Stephen Sherman, Henry, Jr.'s, brother-in-law, supposedly settled on lots 2 and 3 in Penfield, then in Ontario County, now Monroe County, New York.13 If they bought land there, no recorded deeds show it. I haven't found any other reference to these early Penfield lots to place them on a map. There's a Jennings marker in Union Hill Cemetery, Webster, that includes Henry and Phebe, but only the month and year of their deaths is given. The style of the stone and addition of later epitaphs suggests it was put up after Meribah (Dexter) Jennings died in 1863. The marker says Henry was 70 in September of 1816.
     There isn't a birth record for Henry, but there's no doubt he was the son of Cornelius Jenne and his second wife Eleanor Cole, widow of Henry Young. Henry is named in Cornelius Jenne's will and was the executor of his estate.14 He was likely named in his honor of Henry Young. Cornelius and Eleanor married in November 1745, Henry and Phebe probably in the Summer of 1765, given the date of their published intentions in late April and the fact that Phebe (Howard) Jenne was already pregnant. The earliest Henry was likely to have been born was July 1746, unless Eleanor was also pregnant before her marriage, making him, at the most, 18 when he was married and 70 when he died. This is why I've chosen his approximate birth in the Summer 1746.
     I've found no evidence of his having bought land in Milton or Penfield. This is likely why he doesn't appear in the Monroe County probate files.

children of Phebe Howard and Henry Jenne/Jennings:15

i. Abner, b. 1 October 1765
ii. Phebe, b. 4 February 1769
iii. Henry, b. 7 December 1771, d. 20 October 177316
iv. Temperance, b. 17 October 1772
iv. son, b. 3 June 1774, d. 15 June 1774 (see note 16)
vi. son, b. 3 June 1774, d. 15 June 1774 (see note 16)
vii. daughter, prob. b. 3 June 1774, d. 15 June 1774 (see note 16)
viii. Henry, b. abt 1776

vital records sources: Henry's estimated birth date is explained in the text. His marriage intentions are in Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, vol, 2 - Marriages (Boston:1929), 271. His death date comes from a gravestone in Union Hill Cemetery near Webster, NY.

1. Bristol Co. MA, deed 55:66.
2. Ibid, 55:73.
3. Ibid, 60:229.
4. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revoluntionary War, vol.8 (Boston:1901), 761.
5. Revolutionary War pension file W26159.
6. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, vol. 2 (1850), 88.
7. History of Bristol County, Massachusetts (Philadelphia:1883), 275.
8. this document is in the collection of Jim Jennings, copied and sent to the author.
9. US Federal census, 1800, Saratoga Co., Milton, series M32; roll 27, p. 1066.
10. US Federal census, 1810, Saratoga Co., Milton, series M252; roll 35, p. 801. His son Henry was in nearby Providence. Another Henry with the same household layout was in Northumberland, also in Saratoga Co. Reuben Jennings was nearby, so there's no compelling reason to think these are the same Henrys.
11. Albany Centinel, 18 May 1798, 3.
12. Providence Gazette, 28 Aug 1798, 1.
13. History of Monroe County, New York (Philadelphia:1877), 212.
14. Bristol Co., MA, (Southern District) probate file14323.
15. Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, vol. 1 - Births (Boston:1929), 137, 139, 140.
16. Ibid, vol. 3 - Deaths (Boston:1930), 42-43. The death entries for Henry and the apparent triplets are based on one or more gravestones in Acushnet Cemetery. There was no trace of them on a site visit in 2004 and they haven't been picked up by people inputting information at Most likely this was one stone made to memorialize all four children. Henry's entry refers to damage to the stone, and that was in the late 1920s. It likely deteriorated further and disappeared. Other 18th century stones in this cemetery are of brittle quality slate. Henry Jenne's parents' stones are badly deteriorated.

all text and photographs © 1998-2021 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted