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John is on the 1747 freeman list of South Kingstown, Rhode Island.1 This is a list of Rhode Island men who were already freeman, not necessarily men who were made freemen in that year. John may have been become free as early as when he turned 21 in 1746. Also in 1747, he's on a list of the First South Kingstown company of local militia as a lieutenant.2 He was promoted to captain by May 1752. His father rose through the ranks of this company the same way, only much later in life. In the same year he had a formal agreement with Hannah Toby, a Native American woman, to put her son Javin into indentured servitude.3 He was to live with the Stedmans for 15 years and 5 months, and agree to typical indenture or apprentice rules of good behavior.
     John is said to have been on Long Island, New York, for an untold lenght of time and reason. With is second wife, children and some close relatives, including his father-in-law Benjamin Congdon, he immigrated to Nova Scotia. The land there, and elsewhere in the northern half of the province, was Acadian farmland. When the Acadians were expelled by the British government, the land attracted designs for resettlement. Agents from Connecticut and Rhode Island were successful in having townships designated and agreements about and with (Protestant) New England families to have grants of land. This happened in 1759. Settlers began to arrive in Spring 1760. There aren't passenger lists, so it can only be speculated that the Stedmans headed north in 1760. The first list John appears on as a grantee is dated 21 July 1761,4 which was a reformation and alteration of the former one, since some of the original grantees never showed up. For Cornwallis Township, a share of land was 666 2/3 acres. Grantees had anywhere between 1/2 to 1 1/2 shares. John had 1 1/2, which was about 1,000 acres. The Congdons, Frances (Congdon) Stedman's father and maybe mother and the families of several siblings don't appear on a grantee list until 31 December 1764, but not all settlers' applications were considered until after they had been living in Cornwallis for years. The Governor of Nova Scotia didn't give everything away. The 1761 grant excluded mines that might yield "gold and silver, precious stone and lapis lazuli." I suppose lapis lazuli was singled out due to its very high value as a pigment for ultramarine blue. A synthetic alternative wasn't found until 1826. The shares didn't include a right to alienation, when the owner could sell them at their own discretion. They required a license, and it could only be to Protestants and people already settled in Nova Scotia. A full alienation didn't come until 7 May 1765, although the allowance was for a tiny amount of each grant.5
     John is said in various publications to have helped survey and divide the land in Cornwallis. The only individual I've found who was involved in laying out lots was Samuel Starr. There were others, of course, and the Kings County history includes an oral reminiscence of sorts that says "soon after the people came, surveyors were appointed to measure the ground."6 Another oral history item is that he died in London promoting Loyalists claims or causes in 1784. He wasn't in Nova Scotia as a Loyalist and didn't have an obvious leaning toward it that I've found. The idea that he took the risk of sailing to London for that reason, and at 60, is dubious. He certainly didn't die in 1784. He signed a deed on 28 March 1787 as a gentleman of Cornwallis, and his son John (who signed with a "Jr.") was a witness.7 It was certainly the elder John, "gentleman," who signed another deed on 18 July 1789.8 It was surely John Stedman, Jr., who was involved in some real estate dealings after 1800. He was a yoeman and isn't called "Jr." My thought is that John, Sr., died somewhere between 1789 and 1804, when John (presumably Jr.) first appears as a principal in a recorded deed.
     There aren't any recorded deeds between John and any of his children, or grantee records for John, Jr., who owned land near his father's. John's son Benjamin also owned land but with uncle or cousin Benjamin Congdon. No grantee deeds are evident showing how they got their land. It makes me think that land dealings within the Stedmand and Congdon families weren't recorded, or "registered." John, Sr., had a homestead farm, but there was no estate probate when he died, indicating he disposed of it before he died. A more detailed look at what deeds were recorded might help explain this. I haven't found a reference to where the homestead was among the farm lot grants, which makes things harder. On top of that, a lot of important information in the deeds is lost. A fire in 1870 charred the Kings County land and probate records to the point where the tops, bottoms and sides are gone, leaving a roughly oval remnant in the middle of the page.
     I've found the "town" lots given to John Stedman and Benjamin Congdon. They were laid out in a small grid like a village, including spots for a green, a church and a parsonage. That plan never materialized, since the "planters" quickly settled on their farm lots.

"Ct." surely means "Capt." A list on the back of this plan, purpose not clear, includes "J. Stedman."

     All I know of the church is that it eventually was built, and still stands, at the corner of Church Street and Highway 358 in Port Williams. I don't know where it was before this. It was raised in 1804 and completed in 1812. While my ancestors John and Frances Stedman were likely dead by then, their daughter Elizabeth and husband Abraham Gesner surely went there on occasion. They lived in nearby Granville Township, but Abraham's twin brother Henry and some of Elizabeth's siblings were settled in Cornwallis.
     John's first wife wasn't "Parthenia Bethany Gracey," as you'll usually find her called across the internet and some 20th century publications. The only primary record of her is in the South Kingstown marriages, which call her Bethany Gray of Shrewsbury, New Jersey. That she was a Grac(e)y is beyond question, since there was, contemporarily, a Matthew Grac(e)y there and she had a son Matthew Gracy Stedman. She's called "Parthenia" in an often-referenced Chute family genealogy,9 the earliest and only instance I've found in print (1894), and is likely the source for all later references using that name. This book doesn't have source citations. The conflict in names was noted at some point, I haven't found specifically when and where, but she then became "Parthenia Bethany" rather than Parthenia or Bethany. There were several self-published and very poorly researched genealogies that included the Stedmans in the later 20th century that probably helped proliferate the error at personal webpages and "warehouse" genealogy sites. In Eaton's Kings County history (1910, see note 4), he refers to "Dr. Brechin" and the Chute genealogy calling her Parthenia. William Pitt Brechin compiled newspaper clippings, so we might guess the pertinent clipping also used the Chute genealogy as a reference.
     John and Frances' daughter who married Nicholas Gould was Bethany in her marriage record10 and Nicholas' daughter who married Thomas Grinnell was Bethany in all records I've seen, including censuses and her gravestone. There is no evident gravestone for Bethany (Stedman), only for Nicholas' second wife Amy (Bull) Allen. Based on circumstancial evidence, Bethany was likely Amy's daughter and named in honor of Bethany Stedman. Martha (Stedman) Beckwith had a daughter called "Purthany" in the trancription of her birth record.11 Even this is questionable because "Purth" is typed over an erasure that appears to have said "Path." Did the record say "Partheny," and the transcriber confused "a" confused "u?" Partheny and Perthany are forms of Parthenia, and depending on how it was pronounced, could sound close to "Bethany." The name spelled "Purtheny" isn't unique to this trancription. This and "Partheny" were surely part of a wider practice or tradition of using "ie" or "y" at the end of names that, more formally, end in "a" or "ia." Rhoda was sometimes Rhody, Clarrisa was Clarrisy, etc. I assume it's related to diminutives like Anna/Annie. Bethany and Parthenia haved different meanings and weren't used interchangeably unless, as I think was the case with Miss Grac(e)y, it was phonetic. The names Barthenia and Bartheny have also been used, so it's impossible to say what her intended name was. I favor Bethany because it appears as such more often. The same can be said for her family name in Shrewsbury. It's spelled both "Gracey" and "Gracy," depending on the document or reference.

children of John Stedman and Bethany Gracy, or Parthenia Gracy, or Partheny Gracy, or Gracey:12

Matthew Gracy b. 4 July 1748 (So. Kingstown town records)
Martha b. 18 November 1750 (same)
Bethany (alternatively Parthenia or Partheny)
Mary? (the middle name "McCoon" added by some people apparently later in the 20th century, which I think is dubious.)

children of John Stedman and Frances Congdon:

Benjamin b. abt. 1758/59
Enoch b. abt. 1760/61

(births hereafter from Cornwallis Township Book)

Hannah b. 15 February 1763
John b. 4/19/1765
Elizabeth b. 20 December 1767
Thomas b. 30 January 1771
Sarah b. 20 September 1774
William b. 25 April 1777
James Congdon b. 2 June 1781

vital records sources: John's birth is in Vital Records of Rhode Island 1636-1850, First Series: births, marriages and deaths, comp. James N. Arnold, vol. 5 (Washington Co.) (Providence:1894), part 2 (South Kingstown), p. 57. His first marriage is in ibid, 31.

1. abstract lists in Rhode Island Freemen 1747-1755, comp. Bruce C. Macgunnigle (Baltimore:Genealogical Pubclishing Co., Inc., 1977), 42.
2. Aug 1747, Civil and Military List of Rhode Island. 1647-1800 (Providence:1900), 121, 154.
3. 9 Jan 1747/48 (the doc. says the indenture would be over on 7 June 1763, inferring the doc. year has in the "Old Style" or Julian calendar), Indenture apprenticing Javin Toby to John Stedman, collection of The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, GLC03002.01.
4. Arthur W. H. Eaton, The History of Kings County, Nova Scotia (Salem:1910), 75-78. For a general discussion of the development of the towns, see the preceeding pages.
5. Kings Co., NS, deed 1:34. Apparently this was limited to homestead lots. John's allowance was 3 acres.
6. The History of Kings County, Nova Scotia, 80.
7. Kings Co,, NS, deed 2:685.
8. Ibid, 4:555. That deed wasn't "registered" until 16 December 1806. The norm in places like New England or New York, for instance, is for the grantee ato cknowledge a deed before it's recorded, which I assume in this case is that same as being registered, but the Cornwallis deeds are "registered" on the oath of one of the witnesses, who aren't always mentioned in the part about registration. The 1787 deed does, and says John, Jr., swore to the validity of the deed in 1792 (the date is erroneously written 1782. It appears among the deeds registered in 1792). There's a long gap before the name John Stedman appears as a grantor again (the name only appears once as a grantee in Kings Co. with his alienation right in 1764).
9. William E. Chute, A Genealogy and History of the Chute Family in America (Salem:1894), cii.
10. William Davis Miller, Dr. Joseph Torrey and his Record Book of Marriages (Providence:1925), 21. 11.from the mss volume "Cornwallis Records 1761-," p. 8, in the database "Nova Scotia Church [sic] Records, 1720-2001," Kings Co., Cornwallis, Church of England in Canada St. John. This is one of two volumes of transcriptions of the Cornwallis Township books and loose papers.
12. Matthew and Martha are Bethany's only children of record. Chute's genealogy (see note 9) leaves out Matthew and adds Parthenia and Mary, who both married, no husbands' names given, and "lived off South." Parthenia is also the name given to Miss Gracey/Gracy. No sources are given in this book. "Bethany," Jr., married Nicholas Gould in 1774 (see note 10). Mary is sometimes given the middle name McCoon, no source, on the internet and supposedly married John Gould of South Kingstown, brother of her brother-in-law Nicholas, no source, and a death date, no source. I've checked all the obvious places for any evidence of this marriage and death. John has a 20th century military gravestone. This marriage is credible given the direct connection to her sister's marriage and that it may corroborate Chute saying both married and "lived off South." How they connected with the Gould family isn't obvious, but the Stedmans must have maintained a connection with South Kingstown long after they moved to Nova Scotia. The daughters were very young in 1760-61, so it's not plausible that they were left behind. The Mary Stedman who married Martin Murphy in 1778 in South Kingstown was the daughter of Thomas, according to the Justice of the Peace who married them. See Mary Murphy's Revolutionary War pension application.

check The Nova Scotia Historical Review, 1981, 1, 2, 16-33, for Eaton Survey.

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