This is the first of what will doubtless be many articles tying up some loose ends, a.k.a. TUSLE.
First of all, the Dennis Downing who brought his family to New England in 1650, and settled in that part of Kittery, Maine, that became Eliot, was not the son of Calybut Downyng of County Norfolk, England.
Dennis Downing was most likely born in the same part of London where he worked as a “nailer” (blacksmith), married, and had at least four children.
The marriage of Dennis Downing and the widow, Anne Daines, took place November 17, 1634, at St Dunstan, Stepney Parish, London. The marriage record is listed under London, Docklands and East End Marriages. The residence of record for both Dennis and Anne is given as “Spittlefields” in London.
Spitalfields takes its name from the hospital and priory, St. Mary’s Spittel that was founded in 1197. Lying in the heart of the East End, it is an area known for its spirit and strong sense of community. It was in a field next to the priory where the now famous market first started in the thirteenth century. … Spitalfields had been relatively rural until the Great Fire of London. By 1666, traders had begun operating beyond the city gates – on the site where today’s market stands. The landmark Truman’s Brewery opened in 1669 and in 1682 King Charles II granted John Balch a Royal Charter giving him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square.
The birth of Dennis and Anne’s first son, John, was also celebrated October 8, 1635, at St Dunstan’s. The address for the parents, however, is given as “Blackwall.”
Blackwall is an area in the East End of London on the north bank of the Thames. In the 17th century, Blackwall was the main departure point for English colonization to New England and the West Indies. It was the center of shipbuilding and ship repair. It makes sense that Dennis Downing, a blacksmith, would make his living there.
The births/christenings of their second, third, and fourth sons, Edmund (November 12, 1637), Joshua (March 22, 1643), and Edward (August 22, 1639), were at St. Alphage/Alphege in Greenwich in Kent. Edward died there a week later (August 30, 1639), as an infant.
Greenwich is an area in south east London and formed part of Kent until 1889 when the county of London was formed.
It appears that only Dennis, Anne, and two of their sons–John and Joshua–crossed the Atlantic for a new life in New England. Nothing more is known about Edmund.
Dennis Downing was the forefather of the Downing family in New England.
Sadly, on July 4, 1697, Dennis Downing, Major Charles Frost, and Mrs. Phoebe (Littlefield) Heard were killed by Indians on an otherwise peaceful Sabbath afternoon.
A group of family and friends were returning from church at the Meeting House in the Parish of Unity (now South Berwick), Maine, when they were ambushed at a spot on the roadside forever known as Ambush Rock.
It is related that the night after the funeral and burial of Downing, Frost, and Mrs. Heard, the Indians opened the grave of Major Frost, carried the body to the top of Frost’s Hill, and suspended it on a stake, piercing the body. The body was buried again, the tale goes, and weighted down (and guarded) to prevent a repeat.