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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.



     Henry was born in the northeast part of Dartmouth, an area that was set off as part of New Bedford, then the towns of Acushnet and Fairhaven in the 19th century. His father's land hasn't been specifically placed in that area, but Henry settled on a farm in what would become eastern Fairhaven. He was never a "Jenney." The descendants of John of Plymouth used the spelling "Jenne" before about 1800-1810, but Henry was in New York State using the name Jennings by 1798. He was a 2nd lieutenant (commissioned by 26 August 1776) in Capt. Eleazer Hathaway’s Company in the Revolution. He was a lieutenant in Capt. Manasseh Kempton’s Company, 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 file says that he served with his father, 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 was again commissioned captain by 5 July 1779, although another source says 10 August.(1) 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:

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.

     Probably just after 5 April 1798, he and Phebe left the Fairhaven neighborhood of New Bedford. They took with them a certificate of that date from the Second (New Bedford) Congregational Church (later the First Congregational Church of Fairhaven) saying that they had a "regular standing" in the church...and as such are dismissed at their request."(2) Such certificates were presented as a form of recommendation to churches elsewhere when the holder desired to join. By the the time the 1800 Federal census was enumerated, they were in Milton, Saratoga County, New York. They appear there in the 1810 census as well, but also in nearby Northumberland. 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 them "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.(3) For what reason the name changed isn't certainly known. The family was not "wanted" in any way. In fact, 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: Genêt. "Citizen" Edmond Genêt 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 [Genêt], 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"(3.5)

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.(3.6)

There would have been little provocation to connect "Jenne" with "Genêt" 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. Genêt 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 just north of that city. The date of Genêt settling there isn't specifically known, but it may be that when locals heard the name "Jenne," they jumped to an association with "Genêt," and it wouldn't have been a welcome one. 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.
     There is a Jennings marker in Union Hill Cemetery, Webster, with various family members on it and was placed probably long after Henry and Phebe died, perhaps by Meribah or one of her children. The marker says Henry was 70 in September of 1816. Henry clearly was the first son of Cornelius of Dartmouth and his second wife, Eleanor (Cole) Young, whom he married in November 1745. Eleanor's previous husband's name was Henry, and Henry Jenne was likely named in his honor. Henry was married probably in April 1765, given the date of their published intentions. The earliest he was likely to have been born was July 1746, making him, at the most, 18 when he was married and 70 when he died. Since Henry's son Abner was born about 6 months after his parents were married, the marriage may have been hasty, and Henry's youth (and that of his wife, who probably was even younger) is therefore not surprising. Henry is named in Cornelius Jenne's will and was the executor of his estate.(4) There was no probate action taken after Henry died, suggesting his posessions were modest at the time.

children of Henry Jenne and Phebe Howard:(5)

i. Abner, b. 1 October 1765
ii. Phebe, b. 4 February 1769
iii. Henry, b. 7 December 1771, d. 20 October 1773 (gravestone citation, see note #5)
iv. Temperance, b. 17 October 1772
iv. son, b. 3 June 1774, d. 15 June 1774
vi. son, b. 3 June 1774, d. 15 June 1774
?daughter, d. 15 June 1774 (according to the New Bedford vital records, from Acushnet church records, but is this correct? why is there no birth record for her if there were for the twin sons? She was undoubtedly an infant, having not been named, so were they triplets?)
vii. Henry, b. abt 1776



vital records sources: Henry's estimated birth date is explained in the text. His marriage intentions are in the Dartmouth, MA, vital records (original records on microfilm, not paginated, image on Phebe's page) and the published vital records (see note #6, Vol. 2 - Marriages). His death date comes from a gravestone in Union Hill Cemetery near Webster, NY.

1. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolution
2. Jim Jennings collection.
3. Revolutionary War pension file # W26159.
3.5. The Albany Centinel, 18 May 1798, p. 3.
3.6. The Albany Centinel, 28 Aug 1798, p. 1 (originally printed in The Providence Gazette.
4. Bristol County Probate (Southern District), dated 3 September 1771.
5. Vital Records of Dartmouth, Massachusetts to the Year 1850, Vol. 1 - Births (Boston:1929). There was no trace on a site visit in 2004 of the gravestones of Henry (d. 1773) and the twins (d. 1774) at the old cemetery at Acushnet.

all text and photographs © 1998-2012 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted