A Genealogy of the Barnum, Barnam and Barnham Family

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Notes for Theophilus Robert WHALLEY


Savage states, in volume 4 of First Settlers of New England, that Whalley, Theophilus, Kingstown, R. I. came from Virg. with w. Eliz. a. 1676, had Joan, Ann, Theodosia, Eliz. Martha, Lydia, and Samuel; but it thot. that if not more, the eldest two were b. in Virg. Great uncertainty attaches to almost every thing he said or did, as is found oft. in regard to those wh. emig. from a dist. country, and liv. to gr. age. Potter says he knew Hebrew, Greek, &c. and d. a. 1719 or 20, aged a. 104. It would have been strange, if more than one myth had not sprung out of his grave. My first exercise of caution would be to examine the means of reducing his yrs. by 20 or near, for his only s. it is said, d. a. 1728, and it is quite improb. that when he was b. the f. was much beyond 70. Beside that his w. d. 8 or 10 yrs. bef. her h. Dr. Stiles in the exuberance of conject. that the requisite to sustain his credulity, supposes he may have been one of the regicides. But we kn. the names of all wh. acted in that tragedy, as well as of those wh. were nominat. and declin. to act. or withdrew, as did sev. aft. participat. some hours in the mockery of trial, bef. its end, among all of wh. is not that of Theophilus Whale. One of those misguid. men would have resort. to any other part of the world. sooner than to Virg. 

Theophilus Whalley/Whaley came to Rhode Island from Rappahannock County, Virginia, where he sold his plantation in 1665. He was university-educated and born of wealthy parents, waited upon hand and foot by servants until the age of 18, by his own reported testimony. He was in Virginia before he was 21, and served there as a military officer. He returned to England to serve in the Parliamentary army under Oliver Cromwell, who may have been a close relative. If his real identity has been deduced correctly (see below), his regiment took part in the execution of Charles I in 1649, and its commander, an officer named Hacker, was later executed. Some sources suggest that Theophilus was actually Robert Whalley - brother of Edward Whalley, one of the two regicide judges who fled England and were concealed for some time in - among other places - Hadley, Massachusetts. If this is true, "Theophilus" was an assumed name, designed to cover his past after the ascension of Charles II to the throne in 1660.

About that time, "Theophilus" returned to VA and bought land there, where he married Elizabeth Mills (1645-1715) and where two or three of their children were born. Sometime between 1665 and 1680 he came to Rhode Island, settling at the head of Pettaquamscutt Pond in Narragansett. He never spoke of his past while living in Rhode Island and made his living there by fishing, weaving, and teaching (he knew Greek, Latin and Hebrew). He seems to have avoided public notice and public office, though he sometimes penned deeds and other legal documents for less literate neighbors. Mysterious visits to his home by distinguished men from Boston and elsewhere enriched the humble life he had chosen to lead. During Queen Anne's War, a warship dropped anchor in Narragansett Bay and its captain, a kinsman of Theophilus Whaley bearing the same surname, sent a boat to Whaley's landing to invite him aboard for dinner. Whaley at first accepted, but changed his mind and did not go, explaining to a friend afterward that he feared a trap had been laid to take him back to England. This story seemed to confirm the suspicions of his contemporaries that he was himself one of the regicide judges - a suspicion that inexplicably persisted long after the movements of fugitive judges Goffe and Edward Whalley had become well known.

He was on the tax rolls of Kingstown in 1687 and on 6 September of that year he was taxed 35s 11d. He acquired 120 acres at East Greenwich on 30 Jan 1710, conveyed to him from the proprietors of the tract of land now comprising West Greenwich. On 20 Feb 1711 he and his wife Elizabeth deeded to their only son Samuel for love, etc., that same 120 acres. He moved, in the latter part of his life, to the house of his son-in-law Joseph Hawkins.He was buried with military honors near the home of that son-in-law in West Greenwich.

Theophilus Whaley's children were Joan, Ann, Theodosia, Elizabeth, Martha (b. 1680), Lydia, and Samuel. Only Martha's birth date is known for certain, but all the children were born after his return to Virginia about 1660.

From the Genealogical Dictionary of First Settlers of New England, V. IV: “Theophilus Whale, Kingston, R. I., came from Virginia with wife Elizabeth about 1676, had Joan, Ann, Theodosia, Elizabeth, Martha, Lydia, and Samuel; but it is thought that if not more, the eldest two were born in Virginia. Great uncertainty attaches to almost everything he said or did, as is found often in regard to those who emigrated from a distant country and lived to great age. Potter says he knew Hebrew, Greek, etc. and died about 1719/20, aged about 104. It would have been strange if more than one myth had not sprung out of his grave. My first exercise of caution would be to examine the means of reducing his years by 20 or near, for his only son, it is said, died about 1782, and it is quite improbable that when he was born the father was much beyond 70. Beside that his wife died 8 or 10 yrs. before her husband. Dr. Stiles in the exuberance of his conjecture that was requisite to sustain his credulity supposes he may have been one of the regicides. But we know the names of all who acted in that tragedy, as well as of those who were nominated and declined to act or withdrew as did several after participating some hours in the mockery of trial before its end, among all of whom is not that of Theophilus Whale. Some of those misguided men would have resorted to any other part of the world, sooner than Virginia. Samuel Whale, only son of Theophilus, had two wives, first a Hopkins, then a Harrington, as Potter reports; and that his children were seven: Thomas, Samuel, Theophilus, James or Jeremy, John and two daughters, and that he died about 1782."
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