Did Abraham Dayton have sons from a wife before Mary Beardsley?

There exists a theory that Abraham (son of Samuel, born about 1654) had been married previous to taking his stepsister Mary Beardsley as bride. The theory goes that he already had two sons named Abraham and Jacob, but conclusive evidence of neither son can be found.

Jacobus mentions the possibility that “Abraham and Jacob Dayton of Salem County, NJ, may have been older sons of Abraham Dayton of Brookhaven.” There is ample time for this theory to work as Abraham could have married the unknown wife after 1674 and had the two sons between 1676 and 1684. According to Jacobus, Jacob died intestate in 1742 leaving Widow Ann while Abraham died testate in 1745, leaving his property to Hannah Graves.

If Caleb, the only child identified from his union with Mary, wasn’t Abraham’s eldest son, it might help to explain why Abraham consented to give up the boy for adoption to the Rawlinsons a few years after his marriage to Catherine. We believe it is possible that the Rawlinsons were relatives of Mary and had been caring for Caleb long before the legal papers were written. For an introduction to the arguments for and against two additional sons before Caleb, see The American Genealogist, Number 87, Volume XXII, no. 3, January 1946, The Daytons of South Jersey by Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr.

Another question arises that must be considered. Is it reasonable to conclude that the Abraham who qualified for a luxury tax in 1726 is the same man who was destitute in 1710? If not, who is the Abraham mentioned in the 1726 record? As of now, it would appear that our Abraham is the only candidate in Brookhaven who was of age in 1726.

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