Hopestill Bent

Our Renschler ancestor of the week is Hopestill BENT (1672-1725) of Sudbury, Massachusetts.    He is the 8th great-grandfather of Pat Renschler on his mother’s side.  Hopestill married Nov. 27, 1701, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Brown of Sudbury, and died Aug, 18, 1725, aged 53. He saw service in the disastrous Canadian Campaign of 1690, which was during King William’s War, the first of the French and Indian Wars. On his tombstone in the old burial ground in what is now the town of Wayland he is called an ensign.

Hopestill Bent's tombstone
Hopestill Bent’s  Gravestone in the North Cemetery,  Wayland,  Massachusetts

About 1710 Hopestill built a tavern or inn on the old path to Connecticut.  (At this time a tavern was the equivalent of a modern hotel with a bar and restaurant.)  This early tavern was an important rest stop for travelers from Boston to Connecticut and New York. It reportedly served as a tavern until about 1780.  In 1710 the area was part of Sudbury, later became East Sudbury, and in 1835 was renamed Wayland.

Hopestill Bent Tavern
Hopestill Bent Tavern

The Hopestill Bent Tavern is a historic tavern (now a private residence) at 252 Old Connecticut Path in Wayland, Massachusetts.  The oldest portion of this 2-1/2 story building was built about 1710, and consisted of two rooms with a central chimney. Around 1800 a second structure was moved to the site and attached to the first, giving the building most of its present form. The building is also unusual for the period in that some of its rooms have no fireplace, and that the upstairs shows evidence of significant reuse of older building materials, a practice that was generally restricted to the attic or basement. The building exhibits modest Federal styling, in keeping with the c. 1800 alterations. Its builder and first proprietor was Hopestill Bent (1672-1725).  The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

The following article is an excerpt from the book “Wayland A-Z: A Dictionary of Then and Now” by Evelyn Wolfson and Dick Hoyt, published in 2004 by the Wayland Historical Society.

Mourning ring
Mourning ring

“Two rings, a large gold one and a small copper alloy one, each engraved with a death head, now in the possession of the Wayland Historical Society provide a fascinating story about a nearly forgotten 18th century custom.  These gloomy ornaments were given to all the chief mourners at funerals and nearly all people of any social standing had one. One of these rings may have originally belonged to Hopestill Bent, who later operated the Bent Tavern in his home on Old Connecticut Path.”

The Bent Family in America by Allen Herbert Bent, 1900 contains the following: “That he was kind and just in his dealings with the original owners of our soil is proved by the following extract from the Middlesex [County] deeds: Isaac Nehemiah, Indian, of Natick, in consideration of the love, good will and affection for my kind and loving friend Mr. Hopestill Bent of Sudbury, for his Great Care of me and kindness to me in time of my Sickness, when I was at his house by ye Space of about Seven years during which time I was Tenderly Nursed and Instructed in the things yl Concern my Soul * * * deed to Hopestill Bent * * * my lands in Natick and Magunckog, April 7, 1714.”

What was the Canadian Campaign of 1690?

King William’s War was part of an extended war between England and France.  The war was basically over religion and greed.   England was protestant and France was Catholic. The royalty of both countries wanted the riches from dependent colonies and from the lucrative fur trade with Native American tribes. Both countries had colonies in America; France in New France (Canada), and England in New England.  The colonists on both sides and the Native Americans were used as pawns by the European royalty.

There had been several raids back and forth between the French in Canada and the English in New England. The Campaign of 1690 was a Massachusetts expedition, under the command of Sir William Phips, who had sacked Port Royal (capital of New France) previously.  It consisted of about 32 ships (only four of which were of any size) and over 2,300 Massachusetts militiamen. The expedition was delayed until quite late in the summer because it was waiting (in vain) for the arrival of additional munitions from England.  Consequently, when Phips’ expedition set out on August 20, it was inadequately supplied with ammunition.  Bad weather, contrary winds, and lack of pilots familiar with the Saint Lawrence River hampered progress, and Phips did not anchor in the Quebec basin until October 16.

Frontenac, the French commander, a shrewd and experienced officer, had nearly 3,000 men to defend Quebec.  The New Englanders had been “quite confident that the cowardly and effete French would be no match for their hardy men”, but in fact the opposite was the case.  Frontenac’s force of colonial regulars were superior to Phips’s amateur militia companies.  In addition Quebec was “sited on the strongest natural position they [the English officers] had likely ever seen.”  Not only did it have impressive cliffs, but the eastern shore was so shallow that ships could not approach and landing craft would be needed.

The Batteries of Quebec bombard the New England fleet.
The Batteries of Quebec bombard the New England fleet.

On October 16 Phips sent Major Thomas Savage as an envoy to demand the surrender of Frontenac.  Savage pulled out his watch and told Frontenac he had one hour to surrender.  Frontenac was enraged and it was only the Bishop of Quebec who prevented him from hanging Savage in full view of the New Englanders.

The battle was a disaster for the English who spent most of their ammunition bombarding the city from their ships.  On October 20 the English attacked the French earthworks and lost 150 men.  They made a retreat in a state of near panic on October 22, even abandoning five field guns on the shore.  On the 23rd and 24th an exchange of prisoners was made and Phips set sail for Boston.  Phips defeat was complete and disastrous for the Massachusetts militia who lost about 1,000 men, many from small pox, freezing weather and ship wreck.

In 1694 Sir William Phips was summoned back to London where he died in 1695 at the age of 44.  No account survives of Hopestill Bent’s actions and suffering during the campaign.

A note of interest: My children’s ancestors were fighting each other during the French and Indian Wars.  My grandmother, Leona Bassett Kline’s, mother’s ancestors were French Canadian, making me 1/8th French Canadian.  Some of their stories will be told as this blog progresses.

2 thoughts on “Hopestill Bent”

  1. Hopestill Bent is my 7th great-grandfather on my father’s maternal side, and I am French Canadian on my mother’s paternal side. I thoroughly enjoyed your story here.

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