Way Back When... 1650
Peter Jennings of Westport is an eleventh generation Westporter. His earliest ancestor was Joshua Jennings who settled in the Greens Farms area around 1650. In 1711 Joshua was one of the original founders of the Greens Farms Congregational Church when it began as a society governing the land around it. In 1730 the old colonial cemetery at Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island connector was consecrated as, “ God’s Acre”. In the colonial cemetery lies the grave of Hannah Jenings who died in 1743 at 83 years. Next to her lies the grave of her son Joshua Jenings who died in 1746 at 59 years. Today Peter Jennings stands between the stones of his ancestors. The spelling of Jenings to Jennings was changed along the way.
In 1835 John Jennings invented a multi chambered rifle. He was disappointed to learn that Mr. Samuel Colt, by one month, had preceded him in an application for a United States patent. The record in the United States Patent Office in Washington shows over 200 patents in the name of Jennings. Thirty-six of those are accredited to Isaac Jennings of Connecticut, including the invention of friction matches which are still used today.
In the 1850’s the Jennings family was the largest landowner in Westport. They were mostly onion farmers on their 585 acres. They sold the top soil form their land to pay the taxes. In 1887 J.H. Jennings, a competitive sailor, was one of the founding members of the Cedar Point Yacht Club. The Westport Historical Society was established in 1889 with Horace Staples as President and W.J. Jennings as First Vice-President. Today Peter Jennings is the longest board member of the Westport Historical Society. It took him almost three years to document all of Westport’s historical graveyards. “ Buried in Our Past” is available at the Westport Historical Society Gift Shop.
It is highly likely that the ancestors of Peter Jennings fought in the Battle of Compo on April 25, 1777. This month is “ American Revolution Month” in recognition of the 240th anniversary of The Danbury Raid. The Westport Historical Society has a wonderful exhibit, “The British are Coming” curated by Ed Hynes. For Information on events and lectures in Westport celebrating the raid, please contact westporthistory.org
Margaret Mazer for the Westport Historical Society. Mazer can be reached at 203 571 8704