Bidwell Connection to Revolutionary War

This article was contributed by Mrs. Wilma Heckenlaible Spice, a fourth great-granddaughter of the Rev. Adonijah Bidwell

In the summer of 1997, Mrs. Marie Bidwell Leuchs, a direct descendant of Rev. Bidwell, shared some interesting historical findings.  In her genealogical research, Mrs. Leuchs found the service records of Adonijah Bidwell, the younger. Adonijah, the younger was the eldest son of four children born to Rev. Bidwell and his second wife, Jemima Devotion. Named after his father, Adonijah, the younger, was born at The Bidwell House in 1761.

The military records were found by Mrs. Leuchs in Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, Volume 11 page 21, and American Ancestry, page 12. This information was listed under the spellings of both Adonijah Bidwell and Adonijah Bidwill.

From the ages of 16 to 20, Adonijah, the younger served at the rank of private under the following commanders:

  • Captain Ezekial Hearick’s Company, Colonel Brown’s (Berkshire Co.) regiment. Enlisted June 29, 1777; discharged July 21, 1777.
  • Captain Noah Lankton’s Company, Colonel John Ashley’s ( 1st Berkshire Co.) regiment. Enlisted July 22, 1777; discharged August 14, 1777. Marched from Kingsbury by order of Brigadier General John Fellows.
  • Captain Noah Lankton’s Company, Colonel Ashley’s ( 1st Berkshire Co.) regiment.  Enlisted September 19, 1777; discharged October 17, 1777. Marched on expedition to Stillwater by order of Brigadier General Fellows.
  • Lieutenant Solomon Jackson’s Company, Colonel Ashley’s regiment. Enlisted October 10, 1781; discharged October 20, 1781. Marched to the Northward under Lieutenant Colonel John Collar by order of Colonel Ashley on an alarm.

Adonijah inherited the Bidwell House and farm on the death of Rev. Bidwell in 1784. He expanded the landholdings and developed the property into a prosperous dairy farm and raised sizable flocks of sheep. Upon its establishment, he became an active member of the Berkshire County Agricultural Society. In 1789, he married Meliscent Dench, second eldest of 12 children born to Gilbert Dench and Anne Gibbs. Adonijah and Meliscent also had 12 children. Adonijah continued his military service. In 1798 he was appointed First Lieutenant of the First Brigade and Ninth Cavalry. He was given this commission by Governor John Hancock.

Mrs. Marie Leuchs is a direct descendent of Adonijah Bidwell, the younger. He was her great-great grandfather.

In the autumn of 2000, Mrs. Wilma Heckenlaible Spice, also a direct descendant of the Rev. Adonijah Bidwell, was involved in further genealogical research.  She knew that Rev. Adonijah was in his sixties at the time of the Revolutionary War and therefore probably not in the army.  But – especially because his son was in the military – she wondered if the elder Adonijah might not also be a Revolutionary War patriot.  Could he not perhaps have preached some inspiring sermons on the topic?  But how to find out?!

Such sermons could never be found unless Rev. Adonijah had written them out (surely a treasonous act at the time!).  And if they had been written, would they have survived all this time?  And if so, where could they possibly be found?!  It sounded like a case of the proverbial needle in the haystack – and a very large haystack at that!

Mrs. Spice was unaware of the continuing existence of the Bidwell House, but by chance, she found on the Internet a reference to it as “a tourist attraction.”  That fired her imagination.  If Adonijah’s house was “a tourist attraction,” surely there must be some people in the area who would know something about him!

So, she got on the phone and began calling.  The first few people she contacted knew very little about the Rev. Adonijah, but they each in turn gave her the name of someone else to call.  And before long, she had found Clint Elliott of the Tyringham Historical Commission and Marie Bidwell Leuchs, mentioned above.  Mrs. Leuchs and Mrs. Spice soon found that they are fourth cousins once removed.

So, Mrs. Spice went to Tyringham/Monterey to see what she could find.  Mr. Elliott assured her that Rev. Adonijah Bidwell was indeed an ardent supporter of the Revolutionary War, and the proof was in the Tyringham town records, of which he had a typescript with an index.  Mrs. Spice checked the index and found the appropriate pages, and Mrs. Leuchs kindly took her to the Pittsfield Athenaeum, the city library, where she was able to copy the pages from a microfilm of the handwritten original.

Mrs. Spice found no inspiring sermons (even though Rev. Adonijah certainly could have preached some!).  But the documents clearly indicate Rev. Adonijah’s patriotic Revolutionary War activities:

  • For four years in a row, Rev. Adonijah Bidwell’s entire salary was withheld by the town, so the town could pay the soldiers.
  • He sold beef to the army.
  • He later lent the town another 60 pounds so they could pay the army. (And it is doubtful that the town ever was able to repay what they owed him.)

When Mrs. Spice went to the old cemetery where Rev. Adonijah Bidwell is buried, she found that his grave has a small American flag stuck in the ground next to it, and on the wooden staff of the flag is a brass (?) plaque which says, “Revolutionary War.”

Clearly, both Rev. Adonijah Bidwell and his son Adonijah Bidwell, Jr., are Revolutionary War patriots!  And they both now have been recognized as such by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).