The Tefft Papers

The Tefft Family and the Narragansett Controversy

On the Borderline

Peter Tefft married his first wife Sarah (WITTER) about 1699. Sarah inherited land in Stonington, Connecticut. Their son, Peter, Jr., was born December 19, 1699 in the Shannock Purchase, then part of the town of Westerly. The birth of their daughter Elizabeth was never recorded. The young mother Sarah Tefft died soon after.

Peter Tefft remarried to his cousin Mary Tefft about 1704. The couple had five children in Shannock. In February of 1716, Peter Tefft sold 130 acres of his land in the Shannock Purchase to Thomas Rogers of Newport for £315.  Peter mortgaged 150 acres in the town of Stonington, Connecticut, on the west side of the Ashaway River from Atherton Company heir, Edward Denison, grandson of Captain George Denison.  In Stonington, Peter and Mary Tefft's youngest son, Jonathan, was born on October 18, 1718.   Peter Tefft remortgaged the land to Captain Samuel Browne of Salem, Massachusetts.

Peter Tefft died intestate in 1718 at the age of forty-six.  The New London County Probate Court issued a bond to the widow Mary Tefft requiring her to complete an inventory of Peter Tefft's estate within five months.  The bond was held for the considerable penal sum of £800.  The inventory was never conducted. Edward Denison then sued Mary Tefft for nonpayment of the mortgage.  The lawsuit was dismissed when Edward Denison failed to appear at the second hearing after being accused by several witnesses of retailing strong drink contrary to law.  Samuel Browne flatly denied that Peter Tefft had ever mortgaged the property to him, stating that:


"This May Certify that Whereas one Peter Tefft of Stonington brought down to me a mortgage of some lands, whereby, he expected to have had a sum of money on said mortgage in the year 1718. But, I did not let him have any money on said mortgage, nor have I any claim or pretensions to any lands of the said Tefft's by virtue of any mortgage put on record, or otherways as Wittness My Hand in Salem Samuell Browne Feb 24: 1719"




Mary Tefft remarried to Mathew Newton and they remained on the land inherited by Peter's first wife Sarah Witter. Peter Tefft's heir, Peter Tefft, Junior, quitclaimed his claim to his father's estate to his great-uncle Samuel Tefft of Kingstown on the 5th day of January 1721 and the probate of Peter Tefft's estate returned to Rhode Island jurisdiction. Samuel Tefft paid off Peter Tefft's mortgage in Stonington and exacted an additional quitclaim deed from Edward Denison for the "mortgage deed on ye other side."


"Know all men by these presents that I, Edward Denison, of Stonington, in the County of New London and colony of Connecticut, do pass over all my right, title and interest in the mortgage deed on ye other side from me, my heirs or assigns, or administrators to Samuel Tefft of Kingstown in the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations"



But, it seems that the land wasn't even Edward Denison's to sell in the first place.  It apparently belonged to one Richard Stanton, who at the time was living in Barbados. This land transaction would prove to haunt the Tefft family for twenty-five years after Peter Tefft's death...