Abraham Dayton’s “circumstances”

Even though I’ve alluded to Abraham Dayton’s 1710 “circumstances” in two past posts—on December 13, 2016 and on January 12, 2017, it remains a most absorbing and baffling mystery—certainly one not easily ignored, and part of a much larger story.

Abraham must have considered himself destitute as he appealed to the New York State Senate for a license to collect charity, as recorded in the Executive Minutes of the New York Colonial Council, which reads simply: “Orders on petitions: by Abr’m Daiton of Brookhaven for a brief for charity.”

The original document is dated May 15, 1710, and states,

The Petition of Abraham Daiton of Brookhaven in the County of Suffolk for a brief for Charity being [read.] The same is referred to the Justices of the Peace of that County who are recommended to provide for him and his family as the nature of his circumstances require.

It appears as if Abraham might have already appealed for assistance for himself and for his family from authorities in Suffolk County, but for some reason he felt it necessary to appeal to the state, probably because help had not been forthcoming. Upon review, state authorities sent the appeal back to his home county with the recommendation that the county justices make provision for him and his family as the “nature of his circumstances require.”

Two years later, the Town of Brookhaven recognized the family’s need and granted “Katharine Dayton & her Eldest Son Jonathun” the use of town land. There was no mention of Abraham and interestingly, we do not hear anything more of Abraham for sixteen years.

The question remains—what was the “nature of his circumstances?”


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