The story of Eleazar Bishop

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Eleazar Bishop may or may not have been born in Jersey in 1683 but there is a lovely story suggesting that at the age of seven, he and his dog, together with two friends, were kidnapped from a beach in the island and ended up in the United States.

Newspaper report

Like many such family legends, the truth is more than a little difficult to discover. One of the earliest surviving reports, in The Day, a New London, Connecticut, newspaper of 25 November 1891, relates to a gathering of the Bishop family, to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Gilbert Bishop and his wife. The eldest member of the family, John Bishop, is supposed to have read details of the family’s history. However, the date the newspaper report gives for the ‘kidnap’ is 1676, seven years before Eleazar was born – not seven years after.

Eleazar’s companions on the day of the kidnap were named as Debson and Sharpe, and it is said that the captain of a vessel passing the island spotted Eleazar’s dog and instructed the crew to capture it. Eleazar was not letting the dog go and ended up on the ship as well, together, apparently, with his two friends.

A family record relates what happened next:

” The story goes like this:In 1676, Eleazar, at age 7, was playing on the beach on the Isle of Jersey, with his dog when the captain of an English ship noticed them and decided he wanted the dog. He told his mate to get the dog; the mate had to kidnap young Eleazar to get the dog. During the voyage to America, the dog became attached to the crew but not so Eleazar. When the ship landed in New London, CT, the captain had to get rid of Eleazar so he sold him to Richard Dart for a yoke of oxen. Richard and his wife brought Eleazar into their home and raised him as one of the family. Eleazar Married their daughter, Sarah.”

English birth?

Although confirming the basic details, another family record suggests that Eleazar may not have been born in Jersey:

“Anthony Bishop emigrated from England to the Jersey in the Channel Islands with his two boys, Antoine and Eleaser. All three are reported to have been born in England.”

An online genealogy of the family, quoting from a 1990 book Tangled Roots: Descendants of John Bishop (1709-1785|) of Horton, Nova Scotia: A New England Planter Family by W E Boggs, records that Anthony Bishop and his sons Antoine and Eleazar moved to Jersey from England between 1683 and 1692:

” Eleazar was born in 1683 in England. He traveled to the Isle of Jersey in the Channel Islands with his father. In 1692, Eleazar was either kidnapped or stowed away on a ship bound for America. Upon arrival in New London, CT, Richard Dart, a tailor and wealthy farmer, paid for his passage with a yoke of oxen. He was raised as one of Richard Dart's family. Eleazar later married his benefactor's daughter, Sarah.
”Eleazar Bishop and his wife received several hundred acres of wild, uncleared land from her father. Eleazar was an industrious worker and a successful wheelwright and farmer. He died 3 Sep. 1755 and provided well for his wife who survived him. They had 9 children.”

One of these children was John Bishop (1709- ) who moved from Connecticut to Nova Scotia between 1758 and 1768 as one of the ‘New England Planters’.

”Since John had inherited a sizable sum from his father, he was among the more well-to-do. They arrived with provisions for a year and enough stock for a good farm. Their land was in Greenwich, Township of Horton. The land had already been cleared and improved by the Acadians. It included houses, cellars, apple trees and parts of the dykes. John constructed a gristmill on the site. John died on 28 October 1785 at Greenwich and is buried at the Old Wolfville Cemetery. Hannah died after 17 October 1778.”
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