as it was preserved in the following publication:

Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont: A Record of the
Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding
of a Nation. Carleton, ed. New York & Chicago: Lewis, 1903, pp 539-554.

This biographical record was transcribed and submitted
by Cathy Kubly
It is a part of the
Vermont Biographies Project
For the US Biographies Project


VT BIO - Chittenden Co - CONVERSE Family - Part I of III

Source: Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. Carleton, ed. New York & Chicago: Lewis, 1903, pp 539-554

Rev. John Kendrick CONVERSE (VI), descended from Joel CONVERSE (V), Thomas CONVERS (IV) [note different spelling of surname], Samuel CONVERS (III), Sergeant Samuel CONVERS (II), and Deacon Edward CONVERS (I), was born in Lyme, Grafton County, New Hampshire, 15 June 1801, and was the son of Joel and Elizabeth (BIXBY) CONVERSE.

[Footnote p 539] Deacon Edward CONVERS (I) came to [the colony of] Massachusetts in the ship "Lion" with WINTHROP, in 1630, and settled in Charlestown, where he was one of the selectmen and established the first ferry to Boston, which he donated for the support of Harvard College, whose founder, John HARVARD, was his personal friend. He joined others in founding the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, and establishing the first church of Woburn, of which he was made deacon; served the town as selectman; and in 1660 was deputy to the general court. His grandson, Major James CONVERS (son of Lieutenant James CONVERS), distinguished himself by his gallant defense of Storers' Garrison, at Wells [Rutland County created 1781, Vermont a state in 1791], during the war against the French and Eastern Indians, known as the Ten Years' War, and was promoted by Governor PHIPPS to the command of all the military forces of Massachusetts in Maine. From Major James CONVERS were descended Colonel Israel CONVERSE of Randolph [Orange County], Vermont, Governor Julius CONVERSE, Larkin G. MEAD, the sculptor, Mrs. Justin S. MORRILL, Mrs. William Dean HOWELLS, and Commodore George Albert CONVERSE. [The town of Woburn, Massachusetts was organized in 1642, and is in Middlesex County, created in 1643. Massachusetts became a state in 1788.]

Sergeant Samuel CONVERS (II) married Judith, daughter of Rev. Thomas CARTER, pastor of the church in Woburn. Samuel CONVERS (III) was founder of the town of Thompson, Connecticut, named after the family of Deacon Edward CONVERS's daughter, Mary CONVERS, who married Simon THOMPSON, and whose descendant became distinguished as Sir Benjamin THOMPSON and Count RUMSFORD. Samuel CONVERS married Dorcas(_____). The researchers of Representative Alva S. WOOD, of Woburn, lead to the conclusion that she was Dorcas CLEVELAND, daughter of Aaron CLEVELAND, the ancestor of ex-President CLEVELAND. One of the sons of Samuel CONVERS was Pain COVERS, who had a son, Pain Jr., and Pain Jr. served in the American army in the Revolutionary War as Ensign from Killlingly [town organized 1700, Windham County created 1726], Connecticut [a state in 1788], at the Lexington alarm, as lieutenant in command of a company in the Eleventh Regiment of Militia at New York in 1776, and as captain in the Fourth Battalion (of which John ELY was colonel), State regiments in Connecticut and Rhode Island, under Generals SPENCER and WOOSTER, 1776-1777. He removed to Bridport [town organized 1786, Addison County created 1785], Vermont, about 1790 [Vermont a state in 1791], and was the progenitor of the CONVERSE family there. [The town of Thompson, Connecticut, was organized in 1715, and is in Windham County, created in 1726. Connecticut became a state in 1788.]

Thomas CONVERSE's (IV) son, Thomas CONVERSE, Jr., was, during the Revolutionary War, captain of the Seventh Company, Connecticut Line; served under WASHINGTON at Valley Forge, where he was appointed sub-inspector, Huntington's Brigade; was also adjutant. After the war he was a member of the Society of Cincinnati in Connecticut. He removed to Rutland, New York, where he was deacon in the Presbyterian church, and colonel of a regiment of militia. [Rutland is in Jefferson County, which was created 28 March 1805; New York became a state in 1788.]

Joel CONVERSE (V) removed from Thompson, Connecticut, to Lyme, New Hampshire, where he was a farmer. [The town of Lyme was organized in 1764, and is in Grafton County, created in 1769. New Hampshire became a state in 1788. The
footnote ends with the author's list of sources for its content:] Sewell's History of Woburn, Massachusetts; Family Record of Deacons James and Elisha S. CONVERS, by William G. Hill; Savage's Genealogical Dictionary; Family History in the Line of Joseph CONVERS of Bedford, Massachusetts, by Rev. John Jay PUTNAM; Sketch of Deacon Edward CONVERSE in Jan 1895 issue of NewYork Genealogical & Biographical Record; Ephraim and Pamela (CONVERS)MORRIS, Their Ancestors and Descendants, by Seymour Morris; and Revolutionary War Records in the office of the Adjutant General of Connecticut. [End of footnote p 539].

[Text p 539] The pecuniary obstacles to obtaining an education, attending the farm life of that period, were overcome by him [Rev. John Kendrick CONVERSE] by industry and close study; and he fitted for college at Thetford [Orange County], Vermont, under the tuition of Rev. John FITCH. He entered Dartmouth College in the class of 1827. The closest application marked his college course. He developed fine scholarship and literary ability, and was deeply interested in the discussions and debates of the college literary society of which he was a member, which doubtless contributed largely to the the facility in extemporaneous speaking which characterized his subsequent efforts in the pulpit. During the winter of his second year at college he taught school at Acton [Middlesex County], Massachusetts, and the necessity of self-support led to his leaving Dartmouth after two years to become the principal of a large school at Keene [Cheshire County], New Hampshire; and later in the same year, he conducted a classical school in Nottoway County, Virginia, at the same time pursuing his college studies. He spent the last year of his college course at Hampden-Sidney College in Virginia, where he graduated in 1827, Dartmouth College also subsequently conferring upon him the degree of A. B. Upon his graduation at Hampden-Sidney, he pronounced an English oration on [p 540] the subject of "Classical Education," and on the evening of the same day, a valedictory oration before the Philanthropic Society on "The Origin and Influence of Literary Societies."

After graduation he [Rev. John Kendrick CONVERSE] continued teaching the school in Nottoway County [Virginia] for a year. Among his pupils was a quiet, studious lad, whose mistaken zeal for his native state of Virginia led later in life to an act of aggression, of which he doubtless afterwards repented--Edmund RUFFIN. Preparatory to a course of theological study, Mr. [John Kendrick] CONVERSE at the end of the year resigned the Nottoway County school, and for nearly two years assisted his brother, Amasa (Rev. Amasa CONVERSE, D. D., founder of the "Christian Observer," the leading Presbyterian journal of the Southern states) in the editorial charge of "The Southern Religious Telegraph" and "The Literary and Evangelical Magazine," at Richmond, Virginia. During a portion of this time he had been studying theology, which he continued at the Princeton Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1832. During that year he received calls to the pastorate of the neighboring historic church of the sainted Tennent, and the churches in Burlington, Vermont and Trenton, New Jersey. On 08 August 1832 he was installed as pastor of the Congregational church in Burlington [Chittenden County], Vermont, now known as the White Street Congregational church. He was its pastor for twelve years. During the third year of his pastorate his acceptance of a call to the Congregational church of Providence [Providence County], Rhode Island, was prevented by the burning of his church in Burlington, and his sense of duty to continue in a field where his labors were then so much more needed in consequence of that catastrophe. He labored with untiring energy during these years, and the growth of the society was rapid and constant. During his pastorate a portion of the church was set off to form a new church in the adjoining town of Winooski [Chittenden County], in which he always felt a deep interest. During the same period he laid the foundation for the Congregational work at West Milton [Chittenden County], Vermont.

On 21 May 1834 he [John Kendrick CONVERSE] was married in Burlington [Chittenden County, Vermont], by Rev. Joseph TORREY, of the University of Vermont, to Sarah ALLEN, who was born in Milton [Chittenden County], Vermont, 13 August 1810, and as the daughter of Heman and Sarah (PRENTIS) ALLEN.

[Footnote p 540] Sarah ALLEN's descent from Corporal Edward ALLEN, Valentine PRENTIS, James ROGERS, Mathew GRISWOLD and Henry WOLCOTT, has much of interest and is as follows:

Corporal Edward ALLEN (I) of Dedham, Ipswich, and Suffield, Massachusetts, according to tradition, came from Scotland, and had been a soldier under CROMWELL. He was one of the selectmen of Suffield, and is mentioned in the church records as "Corporall Edward ALLYN." He married Sarah KIMBALL of Ipswich, whose sister's great granddaughter was the mother of Daniel WEBSTER, the statesman.

Edward ALEN, Jr. (II), of Deerfield [Francine County], Massachusetts, own clerk, clerk of the market, selectman, and seater in "ye meeting house," was active in defense of Deerfield during the various Indian wars; served on committees on fortifications, and locating houses and cellars within forts; was sent by Governor DUDLEY to Canada, with John SHELDON, to recover the return of English captives there, during Queen Anne's War. The colonial records include his petition to Lieutenant Governor DUMMER for exemption from watching on account of the infirmities of age, after having watched for forty-six years. [The town of Deerfield was organized in 1677; Franklin County created 24 June 1811 from Hampshire County, which was created in 1662; Massachusetts became a state in 1788.]

Samuel ALLEN (III), of Deerfield [Franklin County], Massachusetts, was in the King's service, in Father Rasie's war, in Captain Joseph KELLOGG's Company; was wounded in Father Rasie's war; and, during the old French war, was killed while resisting an Indian attack at "The Bars," Deerfield, 25 August 1746. He married Hannah, the daughter of Deacon Eleazer HAWKS, who was a soldier under Captain TURNER in "ye Falls Fight."

Corporal Enoch ALLEN (IV), of Ashfield [formerly in Hampshire County, which was created in 1662, but now in Franklin County, created 24 June 1811], Massachusetts, marched to Lexington as a private in Lieutenant Samuel BARTLETT's Company; served during the siege of Boston in Captain Ebenezer WEBBER's Company, Colonel John FELLOW's Regiment; and served in the campaign to resist the BURGOYNE invasion, as corporal in Captain Ephraim JENNINGS' Company, Colonel [footnote continues p 540] David WELL's regiment, in which his brother, Samuel ALLEN, Jr., was lieutenant. [The town of Ashfield was organized in 1765.]

Hon. Heman ALLEN, M. C., removed to Grand Isle [Grand Isle County], Vermont, in March 1795; admitted to the bar in 1803; practiced law in Milton [Chittenden County], Vermont; [the town of Grand Isle was organized in 1783; Grand Isle County was created 1802; town of Milton organized 1783; Chittenden County created 1787; Vermont a state in 1791], twelve years in the legislature from Milton; removed to Burlington [Chittenden County], Vermont, in 1825; chosen to Congress in 1832, and served four terms; from 1813 a trustee of the University of Vermont. Hemenway's Vermont Gazetteer, No. VI, Chittenden County, August 1863, contains an interesting sketch of him. He [Heman ALLEN] married Sarah PRENTIS, whose ancestry was as follows:

Valentine PRENTIS (I), came to this land with [John] ELIOT in 1631 [landed at Boston 02 November 1631] from Nazing, Essex County, England; joined church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1632; freeman, 1632; died about 1633. [Nazing, or Nazeing, the place of origin of many of the settlers of Roxbury, is a parish in the town of Waltham, Essex County, England, about fifteen miles north of London. The town of Roxbury, Massachusetts, was organized in 1630, and is now in Norfolk County, created in 1793 from Suffolk County, an original county created in 1643. Massachusetts became a state in 1788.]

John PRENTIS (II), removed from Roxbury to New London [New London County], Connecticut [town of New London organized 1646; New London County created 1666; Connecticut a state in 1788]; commander of trading vessels "New London" and "John and Hester," the latter named after himself and wife; "Townes Attorney," 1667; deputy to general court, 1668. His son, John Jr., was captain of the fort at New London; and his grandson, John PRENTIS, third, commanded the colony war sloop "Defence" at the siege of Louisburg [at Cape Breton Island, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 1758; French and Indian War; now Louisburg, Nova Scotia, Canada].

Captain Stephen PRENTIS (III), of New London [New London County], Connecticut, captain of the fourth Company, or train band, of New London; selectman; deputy to general court, 1728, 1729, 1730; one of the two overseers of the Indians at Niantick; married Elizabeth, daughter of John ROGERS. Captain Stephen PRENTIS's brother, Jonathan PRENTIS, was a prosperous merchant and seaman; deputy to general court; member of governor's council; overseer of the Niantick Indians, part owner of the brigantine "Prosperous;" a justice of the peace; and an officer of the first and oldest ecclesiastical society of New London.

Captain Joseph PRENTIS (IV), captain Fifth Company, or train band, of New London; married Mercy GILBERT, granddaughter of Earl GILBERT, a Scotch peer.

Dr. Jonathan PRENTIS (V), removed to St. Albans [Franklin County], Vermont; married Margaret DANIELS, of Groton [New London County], Connecticut, whose mother, Grace (EDGECUMBE), DANIELS, was granddaughter of Lord EDGECUMBE, of Plymouth, England. It was while on a visit to the EDGECUMBEs, of Mount Edgecumbe, in Cornwall, England, that Captain John PRENTIS, of the sloop "Defence," passed away.

Sarah PRENTIS (VI), married Heman ALLEN.

The following was the descent of Elizabeth ROGERS, who married Captain Stephen PRENTIS:

James ROGERS (I), of Stratford, Milford, and New London Connecticut; commissioner 1660; deputy to general court 1665; assistant to general court, 1678, 1679, 1680; united with Mr. PRUDDEN's church in 1645; "He acquired property and influence, and was much employed in civil and ecclesiastical affairs, and his landed possessions were very extensive."

John ROGERS (II), of New London [New London County], Connecticut, founder of religious sect called "Rogerenes" or "Rogerene Quakers," and sometimes "Rogerene Baptists." For an account of the religious persecutions which he suffered and apparently courted, see chapter XIV of Miss CAULKINS's History of New London. He [John ROGERS] married Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew GRISWOLD, of Lyme, Windsor and Saybrook, Connecticut. Matthew GRISWOLD came from Kenilworth, England, was lieutenant 1667, deputy to general court, 1667, 1668, 1678 [through] 1687 [inclusive]. He [Matthew GRISWOLD] married Anna, daughter of Henry WOLCOTT, of Windsor [Hartford County], Connecticut. Henry WOLCOTT was a member of the general assembly and the house of magistrates, "probably after the pastor, the most distinguished man in Windsor," and the progenitor of the WOLCOTT family of New England, which has included so many prominent descendants.

[The footnote ends with a list of references for the information contained in it:] Hermann Mann's Historical Annals of Dedham. The Hammatt Papers No. I, treating of the early inhabitants of Ipswich, Massachusetts. H. S. Sheldon's History of Suffield, Massachusetts. George Sheldon's History of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Sketch of Hon. Heman Allen, M. C., in August 1863, Chittenden County number of Hemmenway's Vermont Gazetteer. Colonial Records and Revolutionary War Records in office of secretary of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Colonial Records in office of Adjutant General of Connecticut. Miss Caulkin's History of New London. C. J. F. Binney's History and Genealogy of the Prentis or Prentice or Prentiss Family in New England. History of Windsor, Connecticut. Memorial of Henry Wolcott. History of the Kimball Family in America, etc., by Leonard Allison Morrison, A. M., and Stephen Paschall Sharples, S. B. [End of footnote p 541]

[Text p 541:] She [Sarah (ALLEN) CONVERSE, wife of John Kendrick CONVERSE] died in Burlington [Chittenden County], Vermont, 14 April 1873. In youth she was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal church, Burlington. It may be interesting to recall that the church at the time had no organ, but the instrumental music was furnished by an orchestra composed of a bass viol, violin and two flutes, in which her brother George ALLEN (afterwards professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Pennsylvania), played the violin, and her brother, Charles Prentis ALLEN played second flute. She subsequently united with the Congregational church of Burlington.

The development of a bronchial affection led to Mr. [John Kendrick] CONVERSE's resignation of his pastorate in the spring of 1844, to become the head of the Burlington Female Seminary, of which he was the principal for some twenty-five years. It was the first advanced school for young women in that locality, and for many years was a large and efficient institution, drawing pupils from nearly every state in the Union, and from the Canadas [Upper and Lower]. A memoir of him [John Kendrick CONVERSE], written by his eldest daughter, mentions the deep attachment felt for him by all his pupils, his great influence over them for good, and his broad methods of instruction.

[Missing from this text are pages 542 and 543. The following portion is a portion of a sketch on John Heman CONVERSE which appeared in the "Ariel" newspaper, and is followed by other sketches of him.]

He [John Heman CONVERSE, son of John Kendrick CONVERSE] is a director of the board of city trusts of Philadelphia, in which capacity he is one of the trustees of Girard College; director of the Philadelphia Savings Bank, and Real Estate Trust Company of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; a trustee of the Presbyterian Hospital of Philadelphia, and the secretary of the board. The writer of this sketch, having occasion to visit the Presbyterian Hospital in company with Mr. [John Heman] CONVERSE, found that he keeps himself in constant communication with every department of the hospital management, and there is no reason to think that his duties in connection with the other boards above mentioned are attended to less faithfully. His many contributions to public objects have been most liberal. One of the principal buildings of the Presbyterian Hospital he erected entirely at his own expense. His benefactions to churches, charities and various educational and civic institutions are constant, generous, and indicative of a large and wide sympathy with all the progressive humanitarian and religious movements of our day.

In his private life Mr. CONVERSE has gathered around him in a quiet and modest way the luxuries which are congenial to a man of culture. His lovely home at Rosemont [Montgomery County, Pennsylvania], one of the most beautiful of the suburbs of Philadelphia, is also the home of art, music, literature, and genial society, and is presided over by an amiable and accomplished wife, who is in full sympathy with Mr. CONVERSE's tastes and aims. It is not quite so difficult to conceive how a man can carry so manifold and serious business cares with such serene and sunny ease, after one has seen what relaxations and refreshments are available to a man of intellectual resources, or social gifts of domestic taste.

It is well known to the alumni of the University [of Vermont] that Mr. [John Heman] CONVERSE is a devoted son and liberal benefactor of his alma mater. Being a trustee of the University and intimately acquainted with its needs, he has know how to make his benefactions as wise as they have been liberal. Besides endowing a scholarship, and making frequent contributions to meet special needs, he has recently founded the "Converse Prize" for proficiency in public debate. In order to increase the attractions of positions on the faculty, he has in connection with his partner, Dr. WILLIAMS, built and given to the University for the use of professors three houses, which for architectural beauty and for convenience and elegance in their appointments, may rank with the most attractive modern houses. Having the feeling which Mr. BILLINGS so strongly held, that an institution having such an incomparable site should make much of the element of "material impressiveness," Mr. CONVERSE has taken great interest in the University. In cooperation with his friend and partner, who shares both Mr. CONVERSE's liberal spirit and interest in the University, he proposes to erect during the coming season a dormitory building, which will be planned on the same liberal scale and with the same regard to attractiveness and service as all Mr. CONVERSE's buildings, and probably in addition thereto another building, the details of which have not been decided on, but which will quite likely be a building containing laboratories and lecture rooms for the chemical and physical departments. Should the architectural conditions be feasible, it is intended to provide gymnasium facilities in connection with one or other of these buildings. It is a part of Mr. CONVERSE's plan to develop the grounds east of the present college buildings, and to have future structures arranged in the form of a quadrangle about the present campus, a plan which will at once commend itself to the artistic sense of every one familiar with the landscape.

At a time when there is so much public discussion respecting the worth of a liberal education to the man of affairs, and respecting the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of wealth, it is gratifying to the alumni of the University [of Vermont] to be able to point to one of their number who exemplifies, as well as any man of his generation, at once the value of trained intellect in extensive business affairs, and fidelity in the administration of that wealth of which, under Providence, he has become the trustee.

In addition to the foregoing sketch from the "Ariel," it may be of interest to add that even as early as his school days, and while in college, Mr. [John Heman] CONVERSE manifested great interest in railroads, telegraphy, and similar things practical. One who was then a visitor to the family, now, after many years, chiefly recalls the remarkable celerity with which he was wont to start and run [p 545] to fires when a small boy; yet even at that early age his mind was occupied with deeper matters of utility unusual in childhood; for his principal toy was a miniature locomotive which he made of wood; during his school days he printed a small newspaper, and learned to telegraph; and was the first "sound" operator in Vermont; and during his college course he became proficient in stenography, which at that time was a rarity. He largely paid the expenses of his college course by vacation work as telegraph operator, railroad clerk, teacher, or reporter, at one time telegraph operator at Troy, New York; at another time reporter in the Vermont legislature; again freight clerk at Waterbury [Washington County], Vermont; or teacher of a public school in Winooski [Chittenden County, Vermont].

His position on the Burlington "Daily and Weekly Times" was that of business manager, but such was his versatility that he was able to render efficient service in any branch of the work, either as editor, reporter, printer, telegrapher, or manager.

The "Ariel" sketch should have added that his service on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was in the office of Dr. WILLIAMS, who was then superintendent of the Galena division. After Dr. WILLIAMS removed to Altoona [Blair County], Pennsylvania, to take the general superintendency of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Mr. CONVERSE continued in the Chicago & Northwestern Railway service in Chicago [Cook County, Illinois] under Division Superintendent John C. GAULT (the successor of Dr. WILLIAMS), until his (Mr. CONVERSE's) entrance into the service of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company at Altoona, under Dr. WILLIAMS, in 1866.

In addition to his interests mentioned in the "Ariel," he [John Heman CONVERSE] was, during the war with Spain, greatly interested in the work of the National Relief Commission, of which he is president. That association did a great work in distributing medicines and supplies to the soldiers and otherwise caring for them.

During that war he was also president of the Pennsylvania Sanitary Commission, which was referred to as follows, in the annual message, in January 1899, of the governor of Pennsylvania:

On 28 April 1898, the Executive appointed the Pennsylvania Sanitary Commission, with Mr. John H. CONVERSE as president, and Hon. Robert E. PATTISON as secretary. The organization was soon after expanded into the National Relief Commission, with Dr. M. S. FRENCH as general secretary, and continued throughout the war to render valuable aid, not only to the Pennsylvania organization, but to the entire army. The people of the state responded with liberal contributions of money and supplies, and the agents of the commission accompanied our troops wherever they went. The work of this commission cannot be too highly commended.

Upon the breaking out of fever in military camps the hospitals of the state volunteered to furnish, free of charge, quarters and medical attendance for all sick brought to them. The Pennsylvania Sanitary Commission provided hospital trains, and a large number of stricken soldiers were brought from the camps and tenderly cared for in the several hospitals. Indeed, a number of our hospitals, at their own expense, provided trains well equipped with cots, physicians, nurses and medicines, and brought the soldiers back to Pennsylvania from their southern hospitals. After the establishment of Camp Meade, near Harrisburg [also near Middletown, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania], where 20,000 troops were encamped, hospital trains made, for a time, almost daily visits to the camp to convey the fever patients to one or the other of the hospitals. There could not have been a finer example of patriotism. These efforts were not limited to our Pennsylvania troops, but every soldier, no matter from what state, who needed medical treatment, received it from generous and sympathetic hands.

Converse BiographyPart II Continued Here

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