An American Family History

Joseph Dwinnell

Various spellings of Dwinnell
Doenell, Donell, Donnall, Donnell, Duenell, Dunnel, Dunnell, Dwaniel, Dwaniell, Dwainel, Dwennel, Dwinel, Dwinell, Dwinnel, Dwinnill, Dwonill, Dwynel

Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts is approximately 25 miles north of  Boston. Boxford was set apart from Rowley Village and incorporated in 1685.

Joseph Dwinnell (Dunnell) was born on January 26, 1682 in Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts. His parents were Michael and Mary Dwinnell. He had serious problems and was eventually declared incompetent. The problems were probably evident early in his life which limited his marriage choices.

He married Prudence Curtis. Prudence was born on September 24, 1689 in Boxford. Her parents were Zacheus Curtis (Curtice) and his second wife, Abigail Stiles. In A Rabble in Arms, Kyle F. Zelner said that the Curtis family were "known troublemakers in town." He continues saying that Zacheus

...had a long and troublesome criminal record....In May 1663, at seventeen years of age, he was presented for publishing a false intention of marriage of a couple in town, against their will and without their knowledge. He was sentenced to stand in the church door and wear a sign on his hat reading, "For setting up a false purpose of marriage." In March 1664, he was in more serious trouble. He was sentenced to be whipped and pay a fine for abusing Mary Hadley. ... A secondary note explains that Curtis was being presented for whipping and abusing several children. This physical abuse (and possible attempted rape) was shocking to the tiny town. It was not, however, Curtis's last bout of trouble. In 1672, there was the smoking in the meeting house incident and in 1675, Zacheus Curtis was sought as a witness in the fire that destroyed the Saugus ironworks.

Joseph and Prudence's children included:
George Dwinnell (May, 1716 who married Hannah Shelden in Danvers, died July 14, 1750),
Joseph Dwinnell (1718),
Mercey Dwinnell Caldwell (February 19, 1720, married John Caldwell)),
Zacheriah Dwinnell (July 14, 1723, married Grace Ireland),
Mary Dwinnell (February, 1725),
James Dwinnell (1728, a butcher, married Abigail Bailey Platts on December 18, 1753), and
Joseph Dwinnell (1731).

According to the Topsfield Historical Collections they lived on the eastern side of Salem Street, near a small grove called "Cat Island." The house was gone before 1770.

About 1717, he inherited from his father

. . .his Division in the Swamps together with an equal Division as Michael Jr. and those mentioned to John—my will is that they both carry on together if they can—if not, then Divide half of my home goods between them & my Will is that Joseph shall pay Ten pounds. As I shall order & ye Joseph shall have equal share with John. In my River Meadow. . .Joseph shall have no power to sell my land without by power of His mother

In 1725 he was declared incapable of managing his own affairs.

When Joseph, Sr. was 66 years old he “was drowned in attempting to swim over ye river May 19, 1747."

After Joseph died Prudence married Benjamin Ireland on July 21, 1751 in Ispwich.
Children of Michael and Mary Dwinnell
  • Mary Dwinell Hovey
  • Dr. Michael Dwinnell
  • Thomas Dwinnell
  • John Dwinnell
  • Elizabeth Dwinnell
  • Magdalen Dwinnell Holgate Clough
  • Joseph Dwinnell
  • Joannah Dwinnell Hood
  • Susannah Dwinnell Devenish Kilham
  • MaryRolandson
    Mary White Rowlandson,Talcot
    was captured by Native Americans
    during King Philip's War (1675-1676).


    To be presented to the court meant to be charged or indited.

    The settlement of New Meadows was incorporated as the Town of Topsfield in 1650. The church "gathered" on November 4, 1663. The third Meeting House was built in 1703 with Rev. Joseph Capen as pastor.

    Essex County, Massachusetts was created on May 10, 1643 by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when it ordered "that the whole plantation within this jurisdiction be divided into four sheires."



    from Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County

    Court Held At Salem, 3: 11: 1644. Zaccheus Curtis fined 20s. for rash and unadvised "cuming in and to have sworne falcelie."— Waste Book.




    from The Historical Collections of the Topsfield Historical Society

    Zacheus Curtis, the elder, and Zacheus Curtice, the younger, and and Zachariah Curtice, Abraham Redington, jr., and John Everitt, being complained of for smoking tobacco in the meeting house at Topsfield, in the time when most of the people were met on a Lord's day, to the great offence of the assembly, were admonished and ordered to pay the witnesses, Ed. Bridges and John How. Bill of cost, against "ould cortis and his sonns,"


    from The Essex Antiquarian
    3:11 mo: 1644.
    Zaccheus Curtis fined for rash and unadvised cursing and swearing.

    ye is an archaic spelling of "the."

    At a Generall Sessions of the Court holden at Ipswich for and with in the county of Essex by adjurnment Aprill 13 1725 on Representation to this and a formar Court that Joseph Dwinel of Topsfield in the county of Essex husbandman [farmer] is not capable of managing his estate or affairs

    but yt there is great danger of his embarassing the same and thereby brought to necessaty & distress wherefore it is Considared and agreed by this Court that the selectmen of the said Town of Topsfield for the Time being doe take the estate of the said Joseph dwinel into there hands and possession & improve the same for his advantage and support untill farther order

    keeping account of theire doings thein both of what they may receive and what they shalldisburse and yt none of his real estate whatsoever be sold without special order from the superior court first had and obtained & in all things thereabout to attend the directions of the law.