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Henry Leonidas Prentis

Henry Leonidas Prentis
By Linus Joseph Dewald Jr., Editor
Fall 2005 and Revised 2 Aug 2005
Is he really the son of John Prentis and Esther Richards?

One of our viewers brings to our attention a puzzling development in our Prentice database.

C. J. F. Binney's 1883 PRENTICE book identifies Henry Leonidas Prentis, #35, as the son of John Prentis and Esther Richards who are #20 in that 1883 book. However, in looking closer at the 1883 book, it shows that John died 22 Nov 1780 while, at the same time, on pg. 288, showing Henry's birth date as "July 4, 1788" more than 7 years after John's death.

Is the 1788 birth date just a typographical error? Apparently not. On pg. 267-7, after saying Henry is John's son, the 1883 book relates that:

    "[Henry] removed to Belleville, W. V. . . . at eight years of age with his widowed grandmother. from New London, CT in 1796..." citing "Gen. B. M. Prentiss's letter from Cairo, Ill, June 21, 1861 to E. C. Prentiss".

If one subtracts 8 from 1796, that pg. 296-7 material indicates Henry''s birth date as about 1788, the same year given on pg. 288.

One can reconcile Henry's 1788 birth as being John's son only by believing that John's death date was in 1788 or later, and not in 1780 as given on pg. 288. However, a 1788 birth date is contrary to the references on pages 284 and 288 which says John was b. 14 Dec 1746 and references John's headstone as dying 22 Nov 1780 at the age of 34.

Gen. Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss' 1861 letter seems convincing proof that Henry (the General's father) moved to WV with his widowed mother (the General's grandmother), thereby indicating pretty clearly that Esther Richards (John's wife) is Henry's mother. If John was dead some 7 years before Henry was born, who is Henry's father? A couple possibilities spring to mind:

  1. Was Henry born to Esther Richards out of wedlock to some other, unidentified man?

  2. Was Henry adopted, legally or otherwise, by Esther after John's death? If so, might Henry be a son of one of John's siblings?

If anyone can shed any light on the foregoing, we would like to hear from you.

If you have any information about the folks mentioned in this article, please send your information to us at the Prentice Newsletter. Be sure to give the full title and date of this article in the Subject line of the email.

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