The Reverend Richard Denton was born on April 5, 1602 in Yorkshire, England. He died in 1662 in England. The parents and ancestry of Rev. Richard cannot yet be identified with certainty, as there were several of that name located at Warley, in the Parish of Halifax, York, where he was born. It is possible to identify with reasonable certainty the baptism of Rev. Richard, to identify his father, one of his sisters, and very definitely to identify the baptismal dates of five of his children.
Rev. Richard's birth date in all probability was taken from his College records at Cambridge. The only baptism date of a Richard at Halifax in that year was on April 10, 1603, the parent being listed as Richard Denton of Warley. There was also a baptism on Dec. 21, 1600 of Susan, a daughter of this same Richard of Warley.
Rev. Richard received his B.A. from St. Catherine's College (or Catherine Hall), Cambridge University, England in 1622/3, was created a Deacon at Peterborough on March. 9, 1622/3, and made a priest on June 3, 1623. As this information was probably taken from College records, it should be authentic. The Cambridge University listing for Richard Denton says: "Sizar of St. Catherine's Easter, 1621, b. 1603 in Yorks, B.A. 1622-3, priest 8 June 1623. Deacon at Peterborough 9 March 1622-3. Curate of Coleys Chapel, Halifax, for some years." ("Sizar" is defined as an undergraduate student.)
Rev. Richard's marriage does not appear among those of the Dentons at Halifax, nor is it recorded at Bolton, Lancashire where two of his children were baptized. Probably he was married not long before he became minister at Turton, a small place about four miles north of Bolton. This would put the probable date of his marriage as between 1624 and 1626. The baptismal dates for five of his children are known, two at Bolton, Lancashire and three at Coley, Halifax, from 1627 to 1634. It is know that three of his children, Nathaniel, Samuel, and Daniel, came to the U.S., probably with their parents in 1635. There is no known record of the name of Rev. Richard's wife in this country, though he himself is frequently mentioned, so perhaps he was a widower by the time he came to America.
From New England Genealogical Reg. 11/241: Rev. Richard Denton came to America from the Parish of Owram, North England on the ship "James". (Note: No ship record has been discovered.) He lived in Wetheresfield and Stamford, Connecticut. The J.S. Denton papers show baptismal records of Nathaniel and Timothy sons of Rev. Richard Denton "in Parish Church of Bolton, England."
Rev. Richard was a minister at Turton, later at Coley Chapel, Halifax. He seems to have first preached in the U.S. at Watertown, Mass., about 1635, then at Weathersfield, Conn. at the early settlement of that place. From there he went to Stamford, Conn. in 1641.
(According to Utah records, the New England Register states as early as 1644, Rev. Richard Denton and those who agreed with him decided to try their fortune under the Dutch government, and accordingly, removed and settled at Hempstead, Long Island, New York, where they could be under their own laws and where they allowed all the inhabitants to vote, and made it their duty to do so.)
Although he is referred to as the first minister at Hempstead, N.Y. in a deed at Stamford in 1650, in which he disposed of his property there, he refers to himself as of "Mashpeag" on Long Island. There are two documents at Albany, signed by him, dated from Mashpeag and Middleborough in l650-l. He is said to have preached to the English soldiers at the Fort in New Amsterdam, probably about the time of the Indian troubles in 1643-5.
(According no Thompson's Long Island History, by 1650 the orders to attend church could not be enforced, and his wages had not been paid.)
From "Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664" a letter to the Classis of Amsterdam from Johannes Megapolensis and Samuel Drisius dated August 5,1657: "At Hempsted, about seven leagues from here, there live some Independents. There are also many of our own church, and some Presbyterians. They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, a pious, godly and learned man, who is in agreement with our church in everything. The Independents of the place listen attentively to his sermons; but when he began to baptize the children of parents who are not members of the church, they rushed out of the church." From another letter dated Oct. 22, 1657 the same writers continue: "Mr. Richard Denton, who is sound in faith, of a friendly disposition, and beloved by all, cannot be induced by us to remain, although we have earnestly tried to do this in various ways. He first went to Virginia to seek a situation, complaining of lack of salary, and that he was getting in debt, but he has returned thence. He is now fully resolved to go to old England, because of his wife who is sickly will not go without him, and there is need of their going there on account of a legacy of four hundred pounds sterling lately left by a deceased friend, and which they cannot obtain except by their personal presence."
Rev. Richard was engaged to act as minister at Hempstead in 1658, from a contract on the Town records. About 1659, he is said to have returned to England, taking a church in Essex, at which place he died in 1662/3. Most authorities agree with this date and place. Thompson on says "On the tomb erected to his memory in that place is a Latin inscription... Venn's Cambridge Alumni also agrees, saying he died in 1662 at Hempstead, Essex. Yet, inquiry at that place shows no such tomb there, and it appears that Rev. Richard was not a rector or curate there in 1660 to 1663. However, Hempstead, Essex was strongly Puritan. In the hope that Rev. Richard had left a Will in England, a search was made for the period between 1660 and 1680. It was thought that perhaps the reason for Daniel Denton's trip to England in 1670 was to settle his father's estate, but the records apparently do not show it. It seems strange that historians have been so mistaken about the burial place of Rev. Richard Denton, but there is no stone memorial to him at Hempstead, Essex, England.
Rev. Richard is said to have been Presbyterian, but his services at the earlier churches in New England were of markedly "Independent" or "Congregational" opinion. Rev. Richard worked first with the famous preacher, Cotton Mather. A comment on Rev. Richard is found in Cotton Mather's "Magnalia Christi" vol. 1, p. 398 ".... Among these clouds was our pious and learned Mr. Richard Denton of Yorkshire, who, having watered Halifax in England with his fruitful ministry, was then by a tempest tossed into New England, where first at Weathersfield and then at Stamford, his doctrine dropped as the rain, his speech distilled as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. Though he were a little man, yet he had a great soul; his well-accomplished mind, in his lesser body, was as an Iliad in a nutshell. I think he was blind of an eye, yet he was not the least among the seers of Israel; he saw a very considerable portion or those things which eye hath not seen. He was far from cloudy in his conceptions and principles of divinity.”
From “History and Vital Records of Christ’s First Presbyterian Church of Hempstead, Long Island, New York”
The history of the Church of Christ in Hempstead may be said to have begun in the year 1644, when the charter or patent for the town was obtained from the Dutch Governor at New Amsterdam, William Kieft, granting to Robert Fordham, John Stickland, John Ogden, John Carman, John Lawrence and Jonas Wood, their associates and successors, full power and authority to build a town, with fortifications, with temples to exercise the reformed religion, to nominate magistrates, and establish courts. Many families who were already associated together in Church fellowship immediately commenced coming across the Sound from Stamford, Conn., and settled upon the newly granted territory. The third period of Church history is not yet ended, but after living side by side for two centuries, the two Churches, Presbyterian and Episcopal, are now more active, prosperous and useful than ever before. There was, however, a preliminary period and a series of events greatly affecting the organization of the Church in Hempstead, which must not be ignored. The Rev. Richard Denton, its first pastor, was an Englishman who came from Halifax in Yorkshire in 163o. He had been educated in Cambridge University, where the principles of Presbyterianism had been instilled into his mind firmly and aggressively. For seven years thereafter he was the settled minister of Coley Chapel in Halifax. His inability to conform to the requirements of king and bishop drove him with thousands of other conscientious men to the shores of New England. At first he was settled at Watertown, Mass., as a teacher of the Church there. He was in Watertown in 1634. But, the firmness of his convictions-his democratic or Presbyterian opposition to the oligarchic rule of the New England Divines-again led him, in the year 1635, to depart from Watertown for the purpose of establishing a new settlement at Wethersfield in Connecticut. In this move he was joined by several of the Watertown planters. The names of six of the Watertown Church members are preserved in the Colonial records, four of whom are on the list of the Original Proprietors of Hempstead in 1647. The plantation of Wethersfield, of which Mr. Denton was the leader, as well as the minister of the Church, was prosperous, and its numbers greatly increased. But, in 1641, another conflict for democratic rule caused some twenty-five families, led by Mr. Denton, to make another move. This brought them to Stamford, within the boundaries of the Colony of New Haven. Of the twenty-five families who came with Denton to Stamford, the names of eighteen are found later in the Hempstead list of 1647. Again at Stamford, Mr. Denton's uncompromising democracy, or Presbyterianism, came in conflict with the New Haven rules that none but church members should vote in town meetings.' In 1643, representatives were sent out to investigate the land and the conditions across the Sound, on Nassau Island, as it was then known, within the jurisdiction of the more liberal Dutch government. This resulted in their obtaining in the following year, from Governor Kieft, the patent for the town of Hempstead. s was the custom in New England, this meeting house was built upon the town's "common land," at the public expense, and as authorized by vote in the town meeting. It was used not merely as a place of worship on Sundays, but was also the place for holding town meetings, and for conducting the business of the magistrates. The minister was chosen by the town vote, and his salary was fixed and raised by a rate assessed upon all the inhabitants. It was, doubtless, in this little first meeting house that the first legislative Assembly of the Province of New York was held in 1665, called together by Col. Nickol, after Charles II had granted this territory to his brother, the Duke of York. This Assembly was composed of delegates from New York, from Westchester and the towns of Long Island. The celebrated code, known as the "Duke's Laws," was enacted here. During the sixty years which constituted the first period of the history of Hempstead's Church, there were three ministers duly chosen and resident in the town. The first of these, the Rev. Richard Denton, who brought the people here, and exercised a large influence in the formative years of the settlement, remained with them until 1658, when he resigned. The last mention of Mr. Denton's name upon the Town books is on March 4, 1658, when a rate was made for the payment of his salary, at the rate of f174os. per quarter. Shortly afterwards he returned to England where he died in the year 1662.
His tombstone bears the following inscription in Latin: "Here lies the dust of Richard Denton. O'er his low peaceful grave bends the perennial cypress, fit emblem of his unfading fame. On earth his bright example, religious light, shown forth o'er multitudes. In heaven his pure rob'd spirit shines like an effulgent star."
Children of Reverand Richard Denton:
Samuel Denton; b. May 29, 1631; d. March 20, 1712/13; m. Mary Rock Smith
Sources: "Magnalia Christi Americana, or the Ecclesiastical History of New England" Vol I, pub. Silas Andrus; Hartford, 1820 "Genealogy of a Branch of the Mead Family" by Lucius Egbert Weaver, Rochester, NY, 1917 "Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Formation of the Town and the Church of Southold, L.I., August 27, 1890 "Original Narratives of Early American History..."; gen. ed. J. Franklin Jameson, PhD, L.I.D.; Narratives of New Netherland; 1609-1664 "The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record", Vol LIII, 1922 "Dictionary of National Biography, Damon-D'Eyncourt", Vol XIV, ed. Leslie Stephen; New York, 1888 "The Colonial Clergy of the Middle Colonies New York New Jersey and Pennsylvania 1628-1776" by Frederick Lewis Weis "Memoir of Philippe Maton Wiltsee and His Descendants" by Jerome Wiltsee, Sr., 1908 “History and Vital Records of Christ’s First Presbyterian Church of Hempstead, Long Island, New York”
The first eight books listed in the above sources are available for download through http://archive.org