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Much of what is known about Benjamin Congdon, or speculated, has been published or copied on the internet many times over. I've taken a look at this information and have tried to at least confirm it in primary records or see if it makes sense with other evidence, if any.
     The oldest reference to the family and some of the many things repeated about them since is probably an article in The Newport Historical Magazine in 1884, written by John Austin. It gives his wife, her family, their death dates and a time line of records that involve him. Here is the first instance I've seen that Benjamin and his wife Elizabeth are said to have been buried at Congdon Hill. He goes on to relay the oral tradition that he had a brother John who settled in New Jersey, that they were the sons of John and that their mother was a daughter of the Earl of Pembroke. Another oral tradition is that Benjamin was born in St. David's, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
     The Herbert family, who held the Pembroke earldom, are accounted for in the pertinent generations. Maybe there was an illegitimate child involved. It may have been one of many unsupportable attempts in the world of 19th and early 20th century genealogy to connect United States families to European nobility. There are some internet sites that even link John Congdon with "Mary Herbert," and add details such as the grandfather being the 4th Earl. He was the only one who could have been Benjamin's grandfather, but he was one of the most prominent political men in England. His children, including his one daughter Anne, lived in the rarified air of the upper nobility. Anne married the Earl of Carnarvon. There's no mention of any illegitimate children, and no one has found a marriage connecting the Herbert's to the Congdons, or any record of a John Congdon or Congdons in St. David's. It's more likely the Congdons were from Cornwall, where the name is most common. Without a single piece of evidence to support the Pembroke connection, and the fact that it requires a big leap of logic, I don't given it credence.
     Regarding Congdon Hill, Benjamin and Elizabeth lived miles away on Boston Neck in Kings Town, as did their son Benjamin after the "neck " was part of the town that became North Kingstown. As far as I can tell, the Congdon presence at Congdon Hill was later. I think the fact that there's a cemetery at Congdon Hill led people early on to assume that has always been the family burying ground. There's another cemetery where the Congdons lived on Boston Neck, the so-called Congdon-Packard Cemetery. There are no records as to when these plots were laid out, but I can't think of a reason why Benjamin, Elizabeth and surely Benjamin, Jr. and his family weren't buried on the Neck. That part of Rhode Island is full of little family cemeteries set up on the land on which they lived, especially when it involved large tracts such as those owned by the Congdons. I've found no evidence to support the connection to New Jersey and other speculations about Benjamin and John went first to Virginia.
     The only things that are actually known about Benjamin start in 1670. In Portsmouth, Colony of Rhode Island, Benjamin came to the town meeting on 6 June 1670, where he "stands propownded to be admitted a freeman of this Towne."1 He wasn't allowed this distinction until the town meeting of 3 June 1672. The Congdon Chronicle, from which many have and still do take information for the early generations of the family, mistakenly says 1677. Described as formerly from Portsmouth, he bought 200 acres of land in Narragansett, later known as Kingstown, Rhode Island, in 1679, and 200 more in 1685.2 He supposedly is described as a planter in Kingstown, late of Portsmouth, in 1683. I have yet to see the deeds.
     His will, written on 2 July 1715, is taken from the fire-damaged book of transcriptions. I've seen no reference to original probate files for North Kingstown estates, leaving this as the only record of the document. The will date is part of what's missing, so it must have been noted somewhere before the fire. I haven't seen a probate index for the town that's that detailed:

...our Lord God one thousan[d fifteen? a]nd in ye first yeare of his Majties. reign3 [...] Great Brittian &ct: I Benjamin Congdon [Sen.? of K]ingstown in ye Collony of Rhoad Island & Pr[ovidence] Plantations, yeoman, being in bodily health [...] in mind and memory and calling to mind [that] it is appointed to all once to dye and tha[t...bod]y is mortall, I do make and ordaine this m[y last] will and testament in forme and manner [...I] will that my just debts and funerall charges [be pai]d in due time by my executor and executri[x hereafter] named.
[I] give to my foure loveing sons (viz) William C[ongdon Joh]n Congdon, Benjamin Congdon & James Con[gdon eac]h of them in token of my love by my exec[utor &] executrix for they have had theire portion. [I] give to my loveing grand daughter Elizabeth Wel[ls a cow or cows? I g]ive to my loveing daughter Elizabeth Wells three c[ows. I g]ive to my loveing daughter Susannah Northu[p ? a cow or cow?]s all ye before mentioned cous are to be deli[vered in] due time after ye decease of my lovein[g wife Eliza]beth Congdon by my executor.

[I giv]e to my well beloved wife Elizabeth Con[gdon ?all my? ho]use hold goods to her owne disposeing [] and orchard and houseing dure[ing her natural?] life, whome I do appoint [executrix of] this my last will an[d testament... reference to signing, sealing and date above w]ritten

the m[ark of] Benjamin Z [Congdon]

     Witness signatures affirming will of "Benja. Congdon Sen." were Theophilus Whale, David Northup and Christopher Fowler. The statement of presenting and proving the will ends with the date "10th of De[...]." An executor is mentioned as well as an executrix. The following is what remains of his inventory. us whose...

[his? w]areing apparil [value]
[?] bead and furniture & beadstead 9 [?]
[...]ets napkins and towels 3 [?]
[?] cows 8 [?]
[?] sheep 2 [?]
[?] iron potts and one kittle 1 [?]
brass 20 [shillings]: to one warming pan and one skillet 6/ [?]
one spitt and tramels & candlesticks [?]
pewter £2 4 [shillings] 0 [pence] silver spoones £3 0 [shilings] 0 [pence]
earthen and glass bottles and wine glasses [?]
trayes, table, pailes and sives [?]
sadle £13 [?]
£3 [?]

Decembr: ye 8th: 1718

Witnessed by Jeremiah Haszard, Samuel Wattson

The inventory was accepted by the town council of Kingstown in February 1718/19, day missing.

     Benjamin and Elizabeth's death dates aren't in any municipal or cemetery records. Whether John Austin himself had these dates or got them elsewhere isn't apparent, but I don't see a reason to dispute them. He may have had access to a family Bible.

children of Benjamin Congdon and Elizabeth Albro:

Benjamin, b. abt. 1680
James, b. 19 April 1686?

vital records sources: The earliest appearance of his death date may be a printed sheet of genealogy, undated (but thought to have been printed about 1870) and by an unnamed author, that was re-printed in Boston in 1918 by Frank J. Wilder as Congdon Family of Rhode Island. This is a compilation including information from the will of Benjamin and vital record dates that may have been taken from the North Kingstown records before they were damaged by a fire in 1869. Others were likely taken from a family Bible, given the personal detail (for instance, the time of death of one family member). This document follows only one line of descent, including siblings, from Benjamin (1), through Benjamin (2), John (3), John (4), Thomas Rose Congdon (5) and ending with his children, further inferring private records were at least partially used.

The Newport Historical Magazine<.i> 236-7.
1. The Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth (Providence:1901), 154, 170.
2. Rhode Island Land Evidences, Vol. I, 1648-1696 (Providence:1921), 230.
3. The first year of George I reign was 1 August 1714, putting 2 July within the first year after.
The Narragansett Historical Register vol. 4, no. 1 (1885), 168-9.
Florence P. Simister, Streets of the City: An Anecdotal History of North Kingstown.
George Richardson's book, Newport HS

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