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Prentis Family Bible

  • BS 196.A1.1790.L66

Transcript: Family History

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[Inscription: Page 1]

This Book was imported from London in the
year, one thousand, eight hundred and one; by my
Dear Papa, at the request of my beloved, and ever dear
Mama; and for her use; Providence, (whose ways
are unsearchable by weak and frail Mortals,) in its
infinite Wisdom, having separated the Husband, from
the Wife, and the Parent, from the Children, during
the present year*, the book is now presented by my
Dear Papa, as a tribute of Affection, from a fond
Parent, to his dutiful, and good little Girl,
Eliza Prentis.

* 27th August, 1801.

Sleep on in peace! [stay?] the Almighty, will
then rise unchanged, and be an angel [?].

Elizabeth Prentis,
December 14, 1801.

Jos. Prentis

O most great and merciful God! in whose hands are the assizes of
Life, and death; who hast ordered all things by thine infinite
power, and Wisdom, and hast appointed for all men once to
die; and after this Life, hast of thy great goodness, provided
for thy faithful servants a state of endless Bliss and Happi=
=ness; Grant that thy unworthy Servant may be truly sensible
of the frailty and uncertainty of this life, and teach him so
to number his days, that he may apply his Heart to but
Wisdom. Let not Death find him unprepared, but grant
that he may live in such a constant preparation for his latter
end, that how suddenly however he may be called hence, he may
be found prepared for that important [panel?], and when the
hour of Death shall arrive, he may look back, not with
dread or fear, but with Joy and Comfort on a well spent
Life, and may meet that Event, as the Messenger of Ease
and comfort. Deign O most merciful Father to hear
the supplications of an humble and contrite Penitent,
whose numerous Sins, and transgressions, can only be washed
away by the Blood of his blessed Savior Jesus Christ,
and through whose merits he only dares to approach
the throne of mercy, and to solid forgiveness from his
Father and his God. Grant that with a composed

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[Inscription: Page 2]

and tranquil mind, and with becoming Christian resigna=
=tion, he may support with Firmness the separation of the
Soul from the Body. Let thy holy Spirit speak Peace to
my departing Soul, and impart Comfort, in his its passage
from this Vale of Misery to a happy Eternity. Confirm my
faith, support me in the agonies of Death, and forsake
me not when my Strength faileth me. Let thy merciful
Ears be open to my Prayers, and spare me O Lord most
holy! O God most mighty! O holy and most merciful
Saviour! suffer me not through weakness either of Mind
or of Body to renounce my trust in thy mercy. But that
with an humble reliance on thy divine Attributes, and
thro’ the infinite merits of my Redeemer, and with
perfect submission to thy Will, I may resign my Life
when thy Wisdom shall require it. For so doth it become
a poor, frail, weak, and ignorant mortal to obey thy divine
mandates for thy Time is the best Time, and to all thy
Dispensations, and in all my Afflictions teach me
due Obedience and Submission.

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[Title Page]

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[Family History: Page 1]

Joseph Prentis son of William Prentis and Mary
Prentis was born at Williamsburg on the 24th of January in the year 1754.

Margaret Bowdoin daughter of John and Grace
Bowdoin was born on the 27th day of November
in the year 1758.

Joseph Prentis [and]
Margaret Bowdoin were married on the 16th
of December 1778.

1st. William Bowdoin Prentis born on the 17th of April 1780.
Died on the 15th day of October 1783.

2d. Joseph Prentis was born on the 24th of January in
the year 1783.

3d. William Prentis was born on the 13th of January
Died 9th of August 1790.

4th. John Bowdoin Prentis was born on the 15 of Febru=
=ary 1787.
Died on the 13th of February 1789.

5th. John Brookes Prentis was born on the 1st of February
1789. [penciled in: Died Richmond, Va 1848.]

6th. Elizabeth Prentis was born on the 14th of April 1791.

7th. Robert Waters Prentis was born on the 6th of November
1794. Died the 18th, 1796.

8th. Mary Anne Prentis was born on the 19th of March

Margaret Prentis died the 27th of August

Joseph Prentis died the 18th of June at 7 O Clock
Sunday Morning in the year 1809 in his
56th year.


  • Joseph Prentis was the youngest son of Williamsburg merchant, William, and his wife, Mary Brooke Prentis. Joseph attended William and Mary and became a lawyer and later, a judge (1789–1809). He was a member of the Virginia Convention of 1775 in Richmond where Patrick Henry delivered the famous words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Later Prentis was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. His avocation was gardening and his papers, correspondence, and even the naming of his home demonstrate that interest. In 1782 Joseph and Margaret Prentis acquired Green Hill where they lived for the rest of their lives. Of their eight children four lived to adulthood. In his will of October 7, 1807, Joseph wrote: “I acknowledge my most unbounded love, and confidence towards my two dear boys, Jos Prentis and John B. Prentis, they are incapable of doing any thing unworthy of themselves, or of behaving in any manner unworthy of that love and affection they bear towards their sisters Eliza or Mary Anne. I feel that conviction of their virtue, that I devise all my estate of every sort in trust to be divided by them into four equal parts, one for Jos: one for John, one for Eliza, and the remaining fourth for my Mary Anne.” His sons sold Green Hill and divided the proceeds evenly among the four children.
  • Joseph Jr. followed in his footsteps, becoming a lawyer, a judge, and a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829–30. He settled in Suffolk, Virginia in 1805 and married Susan Caroline Riddick in 1810. They had eleven children. Joseph Jr. died in 1851.
  • John Brookes Prentis studied architecture in Philadelphia and settled in Richmond by 1813. He is the subject of a biography, The American Dreams of John B. Prentis, Slave Trader.
  • Elizabeth Prentis married Samuel Vickery in 1818, and they had six children. After his death in 1835, she married Benjamin Pollard. She outlived all her siblings. According to the inscription, Joseph Prentis ordered this Bible from London for his wife. After she died in 1801, Joseph gave it to his ten-year-old daughter Elizabeth. (Other books owned by the Prentis family are listed in the Libraries of Early America project.)
  • Mary Anne married Edward Chamberlain in 1817 and died in 1828.


  • Norfleet, Fillmore. Suffolk in Virginia ca. 1795–1840. Richmond, Whittet & Shepperson, 1974
  • Richter, Caroline Julia. “The Prentis Family and Their Library”. Masters Thesis, College of William and Mary , 1985. This volume includes lineage charts.
  • Stephenson, Mary A. Lots 319–328 (Green Hill) Historical Report. CWF Library Research Report Series #1603. 1958.
  • Prentis, Joseph. Williamsburg’s Joseph Prentis: His Monthly Kalender & Garden Book. Chillicothe, Illinois: The American Botanist, 1992.
  • Prentis Family Papers, 1807–1830 at the College of William and Mary.
  • Webb-Prentis Family Papers at the University of Virginia.
  • Winter, Kari J. The American Dreams of John B. Prentis, Slave Trader, University of Georgia Press, 2011.