Crimes and Misdemeanors

It seems that the early New England settlers were in court every other year either serving on a jury or being called before one.  There were many, many civil cases, but this post focuses on ancestors who were punished for violating the social norms of the time.  There are also a few examples of the first glimmers of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Maybe it seems that way because legal records are those that survive, but it seems to me that justice was local, personal and vindictive in those days. Quakers, Sabbath workers, Church skippers and Silk hat wearers were all persecuted   Justice was also swift; lashes on the back or brand on the forehead and you were done.

It’s ironic that after the Dissenters were persecuted in England, they became even worse persecutors in America.  We criticize Islamic fundamentalists for imposing their religious views, but it’s interesting to see similar dynamics playing out in 17th Century New England.  The cases in this post exclude the many witchcraft persecutions our ancestors were involved, which can be found in the Witch Trials Posts.

Summer 1621 – Plymouth’s first criminal act was committed by Stephen HOPKINS‘  (wiki) indentured servants, Edward Dotey and Edward Leister. While Stephen was off on one of his expeditions that first summer in Plymouth, the two men began to compete for the affections of his daughter, Constance,   After an open quarrel, they went into the woods with swords and daggers and returned with wounds in the hand and thigh.

Constance Hopkins Snow Reenactor

Constance Hopkins Snow Reenactor

Dueling was illegal, and Stephen returned home to find his servants in handcuffs and awaiting trial. After finding the men guilty, Governor Bradford consulted William Brewster’s book of English law which prescribed that the men have their necks tied to their feet and remain in that agonizing position for twenty-four hours in the town square.

Stephen couldn’t bear their suffering and implored Governor Bradford and Captain Standish to set the men free. “Within an hour,” says an early record, “because of their great pains, at their own and their master’s humble request, they were released by the Governor.”

Constance married Nicholas SNOW about  1 Jun 1627 in Plymouth, Plymouth Colony

30 Sep 1630 – John Billington was the first person to be hanged for any crime in New England.  Our family relationship isn’t especially close, he was Richard MARTIN‘s daughter-in-law’s grandfather, but the first Englishman to be convicted of murder in what would become the United States is worthy of the lead on our Crimes and Misdemeanors Page.   Billington was also a signer of the Mayflower Compact.

John Billington Reinactor Plymouth Living History Museum

Billington came to the Plymouth Colony on the famous voyage of the Mayflower in 1620 with his wife and two sons. He soon made enemies with many aboard the ship. He was known as a “foul mouthed miscreant” and “knave”.  He was not a member of the separatist Brownist congregation that dominated the colony’s life, but had fled England to escape creditors. His sons were also seen as troublemakers.

In March 1621, Billington was convicted of contempt for insulting Captain Myles Standish. His punishment was to have his heels tied to his neck. Billington apologized profusely and was spared from the penalty.

In 1624, Billington became a follower of the Reverend John Lyford, who was banished from Plymouth Colony in 1625 for being a danger to the community. Though Billington was nearly convicted as Lyford’s accomplice, he was permitted to remain in Plymouth Colony.

In Sep 1630, after a heated argument over hunting rights, Billington fatally shot fellow colonist John Newcomen in the shoulder with a blunderbuss. After counseling with Governor John Winthrop, Governor William Bradford concluded that capital punishment was the necessary penalty. Billington was convicted of murder and hanged at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

1630 – Walter Palmer was tried for the death of Austen Bratcher “at Mr. Craddock’s plantation,” it being alleged that “the strokes given by Walter Palmer were occasionally the means of death of Austen Bratcher & so to be manslaughter.” Palmer was found not guilty of manslaughter by the trial jury.   The details of this affair are not known; possibly Bratcher was a servant who had been sentenced to a whipping and Walter Palmer, a huge man who stood over 6′ 4 “by all accounts, had been delegated to administer “the strokes.”

The official record reads “Jury called on September 28, 1630 to hold an inquest on the body of Austine Bratcher.” It found “that the strokes given by Walter Palmer, were occasionally the means of the death of Austin Bratcher, and so to be manslaughter. Mr. Palmer made his psonall appearance this day (October 19, 1630) ; stands bound, hee & his sureties, till the nexte court.” At a court session of “a court of assistants, holden att Boston, November 9th 1630″ numerous matters were taken up and disposed of, including the trial of Walter Palmer and one other item of interest: ” it is ordered, that Rich. Diffy, servt. To Sr. Richard Saltonstall, shal be whipped for his misdemeanr toward his maister.” “A Jury impannell for the tryall of Walter Palmer, concerning the death of Austin Bratcher: Mr. Edmond Lockwood, Rich: Morris, Willm Rockewell, Willm Balston, Christopher Conant, Willm Cheesebrough, Willm Phelpes, John Page, Willm Gallard, John Balshe, John Hoskins, Laurence Leach, /The jury findes Walter Palmer not quilty of manslaughter, whereof hee stoode indicted, & soe the court acquitts him.”

It is interesting to note that one of the jurors, William Chesebrough was one of Walter Palmer’s closest friends. These proceedings did not affect the great esteem in which his fellow citizens always held Walter Palmer. Palmer and Chesebrough took the Oath of a Freeman on May 18, 1631.

Walter was Thomas MINER’s father-in-law and from the famous Diary of Thomas Minor we know that Chesebrough was Thomas’ enemy.  It’s curious to think that we’ll never know how the family dynamics worked.

22 Apr 1632- The Rev. John LATHROP was arrested in London, prosecuted for failure to take the oath of loyalty to the established church  and  jailed in The Clink prison.  While he was in prison, Hannah  became ill and died.   His six surviving children were according to tradition left to fend for themselves begging for bread on the streets of London. Friends being unable to care for his children brought them to the Bishop who had charge of Lothropp. The Bishop of London ultimately released him on bond in May of 1634 with the understanding that he would immediately remove to the New World.  With his group, John sailed on the Griffin and arrived in Boston on September 18, 1634.

18 Aug 1636 – Thomas BAYES was a signer of the Covenant of Durham and an original Selectman of the town.  The Covenant itself reads like a Puritan Mission statement and Durham’s original town meeting rules shows that not much as changed in 375 years.

It was often the case that even after ” meetings [had] been agreed upon and times appointed accordingly” many townsmen would still arrive late to the meeting and those who arrived promptly “wasted much time to their great damage.”To discourage tardiness the town set fines in 1636 of one shilling for arriving more than half an hour after the “beating of the drum” and two sixpence shilling if a member was completely absent.

In 1637 those fines increased to twelve pence for being late and three shillings and four pence for not arriving at all.

1637 –  Keeping in mind the delicate balance in Plymouth between (Saints and Strangers) “covenant” and “noncovenant” colonists, it is reasonable to assume that Stephen HOPKINS (1580 – 1644) (wiki) must have been a leader of the non-Separatist settlers, and in his career at Plymouth can be seen some of the ambiguity that attached to the non-Separatists living in a Separatist colony. Even though he was an Assistant Governor from 1633 to 1636 he often found himself in conflict with the Plymouth authorities over his tavern.

2 Oct 1637 – He was presented twice, first for suffering men to drink in his house on the Lord’s day before meeting ended, and for allowing servants and others to drink more than proper for ordinary refreshing, and second for suffering servants and others to sit drinking in his house (contrary to orders of the court), and to play at shovel board and like misdemeanors is therefore fined fourty shillings.”

2 Jan 1637/38 – Hopkins was presented for suffering excessive drinking in his house “as old Palmer, James Coale, & William Renolds”

Jan 2 1637 : “Presentment by the Grand Jury.
“1. William Reynolds is psented for being drunck at Mr Hopkins his house, that he lay vnder the table, vomitting in a beastly manner, and was taken vp betweene two. The witness hereof is Abraham Warr, als Hoop, als Pottle, and sayth that there was in company Francis Sprague, Samuell Nash, & Georg Partrich.
2. Mr Hopkins is psented for sufferinge excessiue drinking in his house, as old Palmer, James Coale, & William Renolds, John Winslow, Widdow Palmers man, Widdow Palmer, Thomas Little, witnesss & Stepheen Travy

5 Jun 1638 – Stephen Hopkins was presented for selling beer for two pence a quart which was not worth a penny a quart, and for selling wine at excessive rates “to the oppressing & impovishing of the colony”; he was fined £5 for some of these offenses, including selling strong waters and nutmegs at excessive rates

5 June 1638 : “Presentments by the Grand Jury…
“Mr Steephen Hopkins is prsented for selling beere for ij d the quart, not worth j d a quart. Witness, Kenelme Winslow.
“Item, for selling wine at such excessiue rates, to the opressing & impouishing of the colony. Kenelme Winslow & John Winslow, witnesses.”

3 Dec 1639 – Stephen Hopkins was presented for selling a looking glass for sixteen pence which could be bought in the Bay Colony for nine pence, and he was also fined £3 for selling strong water without license” (PCR 1:137).

3 December 1639 : “Mr Steephen Hopkins, vpon his psentment for selling a lookeing glasse for 16d, the like whereof was bought in the Bay for ix d is referred to further informacon.
“Mr Steephen Hopkins, for selling strong water wthout lycense, proued & confesed in Court, is fyned iiij li.”(probably to the sucker who bought the mirror!)

1 Aug 1639; Hartford, CT. Matthew BECKWITH, centured & fined 10 s. for unreasonable & imoderatt drinking att the pinnace (small schooner).  Matthew may have been a trader, as these vessels were commonly used to bring supplies to the Colony and return with beaver skins. He owned a boat, which he kept at Beckwith Cove in Lyme, CT.

7 Oct 1639  – “Edward Morrell, being sworn, deposeth & sayeth, that Wm [William] CHASE (at his return home from the court when Mr. Mathewes & he were here together) did report that Mr. Mathewes had nothing to say for himself, & that he marvelled how any durst join with him in the fast, & further said that some being then in presence with the magistrates, did hold up his hand, & cried, Fye fye! for shame!” .

1639 – Thomas CLARK fined 30 shillings for selling a pair of boots and spurs for 158 shillings that he bought for 10 shillings.

1 Sep 1640 “William CHASE, of Yarmouth, is censured “for his miscarriages against Mr. Mathewes, and disturbance of the proceedings of the church, court, & country”, to find sureties for his good behavior during the time of his abode there, which is six months, and then to depart the place.” “Will[ia]m Chase, of Yarmouth, planter” posted bond of £40, and his sureties were Thomas Starr of Yarmouth, chirurgeon, and Andrew Hellott of Plymouth, gentleman the bond was renewed, at £20, on 2 March 1640/1

24 Apr 1649 – Hartford, Hartford, CT  Mathew Marven plt Contra Mathew BECKWITH defendt in an action of defamation damages £50 In the action … the defendt making his public penitent confession of his evill in Slaundering the said plt was remitted by the Court and Plt

28 Jul 1652 –  Humphrey BRADSTREET’S son John  probably suffered from mental illness. John Winthrop mentioned in his journal that John Bradstreet was accused of bewitching a dog. The dog was hung as a witch. John was whipped.  He was tried in Ipswich  on a charge of “familiarity with the devil.” John said that he had read a magic book and heard a voice telling him.

Go make a bridge of sand over the sea; go make a ladder of sand up to heaven, and go to God and come down no more.

The court found that he had told a lie. This was his second conviction. He was sentenced to be whipped or to pay a fine of twenty schillings. He died, childless, in 1660 when he was only 29 years old. Shortly after his death, his widow Hannah married William Waters on June 4, 1660.

17 Sep 1653 – Frances Alcock HUTCHINS was arrested on  for wearing a silk hood in violation of a law prohibiting the display of finery by persons “of meane condition”, but “upon testimony of her being brought up above the ordinary way,” she was acquitted.

1653 – George MARTIN was one of the fifteen “humble immortals” who, in 1653, stoutly and successfully maintained for the first time the right of petition for the subjects of the English crown.  Lt. Robert Pike (son-in-law of Joseph MOYCE), of Salisbury, an influential citizen, had denounced a law passed by the General Court, for which he was convicted, fined and disfranchised by the General Court.  Lt. Pike, a prominent town official and later a member of the General Court, denounced the law forbidding to preach if not Ordained. Which law was aimed at Joseph PEASLEE and Thomas Macy, believers in the Baptist Doctrine, with Quaker tendencies. The autocratic General Court resented this and Lieutenant Pike was fined over thirteen pounds and bound to good behavior.   This punishment caused many citizens of Salisbury and the surrounding towns to petition for a revocation of the sentence.  This offended the Court still more, and the signers were called upon to give “a reason for their unjust request”.  Out of the seventy-five who signed, the above mentioned fifteen alone refused to recede or apologize, and they were required to give bonds and to “answer for their offense before the County Court”.  Their cases were never called to trial, and they thus, by their firm stand, laid the foundation for these rights, which are now granted in all the civilized world.

1654 – William WOODCOCK’s brother John  held Indian rights in very low estimation. On one occasion he took the liberty of paying himself a debt due to him from a neighboring Indian, without the consent of the debtor or the intervention of judge, jury, or sheriff, — for which achievement he received the following sentence from the Court, — an example of the rigid justice of the Puritans:

” 1654 John Woodcock of Rehoboth, for going into an Indian house and taking away an Indian child and some goods in lien of a debt the Indian owed him, was sentenced to set in the stocks at Rehoboth an hour on a Training day, and to pay a fine of forty shillings.”—Old Col. Rec, Court Orders, Book 3d.

4 Oct 1655 – David O’KELLY was implicated in charges of fornication with his future wife Jane Powell, of Sandwich, a Welsh servant of one William Swift.  David is shown as the servant of Edward STURGIS who was also our ancestor.

And att this Court, Jane Powell, seruant to William Swift, of Sandwidge, appeered, haueing been presented for fornication, whoe, being examined, saith that it was committed with one David Ogillior, and Irish man, seruant to Edward Sturgis; shee saith shee was alured thervnto by him goeing for water one euening, hopeing to haue married him, beeing shee was in a sadd and miserable condition by hard seruice, wanting clothes and liuing discontentedly; and expressing great sorrow for her euell, shee was cleared for the present, and ordered to goe home againe

1657 –  Arthur HOWLAND’S son Arthur Jr., an ardent Quaker, was brought before the court.  Elizabeth Prence, daughter of Gov. Thomas PRENCE (also our ancestor)  and Arthur Howland Jr., fell in love. The relationship blossomed and matrimony seemed inevitable. However, it was illegal and punishable by court sanction for couples to marry without parental consent. Thomas Prence urged Elizabeth to break off the relationship, but to no avail. He then used powers available to him as Governor. Arthur Howland, Jr., was brought before the General Court and fined five pounds for

inveigling of Mistris Elizabeth Prence and making motion of marriage to her, and prosecuting the same contrary to her parents likeing, and without theire mind and will…[and] in speciall that hee desist from the use of any meanes to obtaine or retaine her affections as aforesaid.”

1659 – ‘The daughter of Humphrey GRIFFIN wore a silk hood in for which evidence of undue pride her father was fined 10s. Only the wealthy could wear silk with impunity.’

30 Jun 1660 – William DANFORTH (Age 19) accompanied another young man, daniel Black, to the neighboring town of Rowley and carrying a message from Black to the daughter of Edmund Bridges.  The girl came to a neighbor’s house where Blace tried to persuade her to become his wife, or, as the father phrased it, “made love to her.”  The General Court had passed stringent laws to cover such cases; so Mr. Bridges prosecuted the bold suitor for seeking his daughter’s hand without his permission; and the magistrates compelled Black to pay a fine of five pounds for his conduct.  William had to pay one of ten shillings for helping his friend.

Sep 1662 – When the  court ruled that James Sanders should be whipped or pay a fine for striking John Lynde in the meeting house on Sunday, Henry BENNETT paid his fine.

2 Jul 1667 – Arthur Howland, Jr., was brought before the General Court again where he “did sollemly and seriously engage before the Court, that he will wholly desist and never apply himself for the future as formerly he hath done, to Mistris Elizabeth Prence in reference unto marriage.” Guess what happened! They were married on December 9, 1667 and in time had a daughter and four sons. Thus a reluctant Thomas Prence acquired a Quaker son-in-law, Quaker grandchildren and innumerable Quaker in-laws of Henry Howland.

22 Dec 1657 – Arthur, his brother Henry and Henry’s son Zoeth were called before the Plymouth court to answer for entertaining a Quaker, and suffering and inviting sundry to hear said Quaker.  They were fined for using thier homes for Quaker meetings.’   The families of Arthur Howland and his brother  Henry, were two Plymouth families most identified as practicing Quakers. The families ceased attending Plymouth religious services and allowed their homes for the conduct of Quaker meetings.  Throughout his life, Arthur’s brother John HOWLAND (also our ancestor)  remained faithful to Separatist belief and practice, but his compassion for Quakers is not known

1660 –  Ralph SMYTH was appointed to superintending the cutting of drift whales in Eastham. At some point he had a “problem” with the town for not reporting whales that had washed ashore.

6 Jun 1660 – Named Eastham constable

7 May 1661  – “Ralph Smith, for lying in and about the neglect of his duty, about a warrant directed to him, and concerning the seeing or not seeing a whale, and other misorderly carriages tending to disturbance in the town of Eastham, was fined twenty shillings”

3 Mar 1662 – Fined 10 shillings for striking William Walker during a dispute over a whale. His son Samuel was also fined for saying he could find it in his heart to stick a pen into William Walker.

May 1665 – “Ralph Smith, of Eastham, was fined, for telling of a lie, 10s.”

5 March 1667  –  ”In reference vnto the complaint made against Ralph SMITH, of Eastham, concerning oppression and hard dealing with a carpenter named Crispen Wadlen, whoe was one of Captaine Allins companie, which said Wadlen kept about three weekes att the said Smithes house, the Court haue ordered, that a certaine psell of tooles which the said Smith had of the said carpenters shalbe deliuered vnto Nicholas SNOW, to be sent to the said Wadlen; and that the said Snowes receipt of them shalbe the said Smithes discharge; and that a certaine psell of cotton woole, which the said Smith had of the said Crispin Wadlen, shalbe by him, the said Smith, kept, if hee please, for full satisfaction for the time & charge hee was att when att his house as aforesaid.”

27 May 1661 – The houses of “old Warren and goodman [William] HAMMOND” were ordered to be searched for Quakers, for whom they were known to have considerable sympathy.   On occasion there were fines “for an offense against the laws concerning baptism,” and “for neglect of publick worship” 14 Sabbaths at 5 shillings each. Warnings were given “for not attending publick worship”.  It is probable that William Hammond and his intimate friend, Warren, were both inclined toward the religious teaching of Roger Williams, but were too conservative to subject themselves to the persecution that his more radical followers were compelled to endure.

3 May 1665 – Whereas, Peter TOLLMAN presented a petition to this Assembly, wherein hee desires this Court to grant him a divorse vpon grownds in his said petition alleaged; vpon which the Court called for Ann Tollman before them, and the aforesaid petition being read before her, and the question being asked what she did say to that which was said concearning her in the said petition; her answer was, part therof I owne, and part thereof I disowne. Being farther asked whether she did owne herselfe to be an adulteress she said she had given it under her hand that the child was none of his, and the writing vnder her hand to that purpose being read, and she being asked whether she did now owne what she had owned in that writtng she did in open Court confesse, that it was the truth that the child was none of his begetting, and that it was begotten by another man. So the court considering her confession, voted that she is an adulteress. And so they order her to receive the prescribed penalty, whipping and fine, under the law passed on 22 May 1655. She is to be whipped at Portsmouth 15 lashes, then after another week, to be whipped at Newport. She is to pay a fine of £10 to the treasurer. And he is to have his divorce.

They order that she be whipped first on the next Monday, 22 May 1665, at Portsmouth; and then at Newport the following Monday, May 29; and she is to be held in prison until this is completed and until the fine is paid. She petitions the court for mercy and they call her before them. “And questioned whether she did intend in her petition to returne to her husband, to which her answer was, that she would rather cast herselfe on the mercy of God if he take away her life, rather than to returne.” So the court decided the verdict should stand.

1667 – Robert CROSS’ son  Robert Jr. (age 25),  his cousin John Andrews Jr., and a few other young men, probably under the influence of too much “sack,” or aqua-vitae, committed what the court with some justice termed a “barbarous and inhuman act.” They opened the grave of the Indian Sagamore of Agawam, who had been a constant friend of the first settlers of Ipswich, scattered his bones and carried his skull on a pole. Cross was apparently the ring-leader, and he was sentenced to jail until the next lecture day when he was to sit in the stocks for an hour after meeting, then to be taken back to prison to remain until he had paid a fine of L6: 13:4. After his release he was bound to good behavior and obliged to bury the sagamore’s bones and erect a cover of stones two feet high on the grave. The case caused a great sensation, the mildest comment being that the fines and imprisonment punished the culprits’ parents, who had to find the money and replace their labor, more than it did them.

1667 – Goodwife Isaac WILLEY was presented before the court ” for not attending public worship and bringing her children thither,” and fined 5 shillings.

1668 – Thomas CLARK‘s son James brought suit  for defamation against Sarah Barlow and Mary Bartlett for reporting that they saw him kisse his mayd on the Lord’s day.’ They were fined ten shillings each. ”

1668 – Jacob Perkins He was a sergeant in the Ipswich train-band and a very frequent choice as juryman.  Early in an August afternoon in 1668 Mehitable Brabrook, the sixteen-year old servant of Elizabeth Perkins, her master and mistress having gone to town, was alone in the house and was smoking a pipe.  Going outside she climbed to the top of the oven which projected from the back of the house “to looke if there were any hogs in the corn,” and knocked out her pipe on the thatch of the eaves.  This was the end of the house build by old John PERKINS and left by him to his son Jacob.  The efforts of the neighbors to save it were futile and it burned to the ground.  Mehitable was convicted of extreme carelessness, “if not willfully burning the house,” was severely whipped and ordered to pay £40 to her master.  By October a new house was being built.  This house was struck by lightning on a Sunday in 1671  ”while many people were gathered there to repeat [discuss?] the sermon, when he and many others were struck down.  Jacob and the house survived, however.

1670 – John PERKINS‘ son Thomas and daughter-in-law Phebe were among the guests at a Sunday dinner at the house of an earlier parson, Mr. Gilbert, in 1670.  Mr. Gilbert was a sick manm, as good old Joanna Towne charitably realized,  But others believed him to have drunk too much wine.  The matter was aired in court and Phebe Perkins testified as follows: there was a cup with wine in it which was offered to Mr. Gilbert. He refused to take it at first, but afterward put the cup to his mouth.” but she did not know whether he drank or not.  Three more had the cup beside himself and after he had dined he drank what was left in the cup.  Immediately after dinner he sang a psalm and in reading it she thought his voice was lower than it used to be.  As evidence of drunkenness this would seem to be negligible.

Phebe Perkin’s sister-in-law Sarah Gould, wife of Capt. John Gould, went farther, however.  She testified that she and Phebe went into another room after dinner, where Phebe said “I wonder my Husban would ask him to drinke for I think hee had noe need of it.  The first time hee toke the Cope I saw him drinke a good draft.”  In spite of his wife’s testimony that Mr. Gilbert was a sick man, the court admonished him.

Sarah Gould continued to gossip and Mr. Gilbert eventually sued her for slander.  In court he asked the judges to “compare her [Sarah’s] Oath with the Oath of Goodie Perkins taken at the same tym, and if they do not clash with one another, I am much mistaken. “

29 March 1670 – At Ipswich Quarterly Court, George Hadley, in behalf of his son Samuel Hadley, sued Joseph Pike for non-performance of indentures.  The files reveal that on 22 Feb 1664/5, Samuel Hadley of Rowley was apprenticed for five years to Joseph Pike of Rowley (and of Newbury) to learn the trade of weaver as well as to learn to read and write.  At the end of the time he was to have a good loom with tackling and a shuttle. Testimony indicates that Samuel had not achieved notable success in either weaving or literacy, though he bragged about his skill with a loom.  When the five years were up, Pike offered Samuel’s father an old loom that appeared to be rotten.  The court found for the plaintiff and ordered Pike to provide ” A good loom with all things fitting for it..”   He was a nephew of John Proctor, who was executed for alleged witchcraft, Salem 19 Aug 1692

1673 – Nicholas NORTON joined in the ” Dutch Rebellion ” with others of his townsmen, and when it had collapsed he was tried, convicted and forced to pay a fine of £51. Through a maze of conflicting land grants, changing political allegiances, and settler unrest, Thomas Mayhew. (self-styled “Governour Mayhew”) began to rule his island with an iron hand. The attempt of the Mayhews to create a hereditary aristocracy on the Vineyard met with increasing opposition as more and more colonists arrived. When the Dutch temporarily recaptured New York in 1673, open rebellion broke out and lasted until the English re-won New York and restored the authority of the Mayhews on the island. An appeal to both the Governor and to the council of the Massachusetts Bay to return to the form of government originally intended in the Lord Stirling grant met with no success, Governor Mayhew refusing to the petitioners, who represented over half of the landowners on the island. Failing any concern from the Massachusetts Bay council over the matter, the ‘rebels’ attempted to form their own independent government, succeeding with the dual government for little over a year. During this time, Governor Mayhew “…was quietly putting the screws on individuals where he could, fining them so heavily that it amounted to a sequestration of their property.

Sep 1673 – Colonial laws regulated the subject of extravagant dressing. The court recorded:

“Diverse women at Springfeild (sic) presentd at ye Courte in March last for that being of meane estate they did weare Silkes contrary to Law vixt Goodwife Labden (,) Goody Colton (,) Goody Morgan (,) Goody Barnard (,) Mercy & Hephzibod Jones (,) Hunters wife & Daughter & Abell WRIGHTS wife, & warned to this Courte the six former app’ring in Courte they were admonisht of their extyravagancyes & dismist.”

Sep 1675 – Benjamin Crispe’s son Zechariah was aquitted in Boston Court of the  murder of Edward Lewis.  Lewis was hit over the head with a quart pot & died 24 hours later.  Zechariah was found over the Lewis’ unconscious body.   Dorothy Jones and Maurice Bret were also charged and acquitted.   See Benjamin Crispe’s page for details of the testimony.  Here’s a few highlights;

Rachel Codner (age 26) sometime in hard weather this winter, Dorothy Jones brought her some “exceedingly” bloody linen to wash: sheets, aprons, handkerchiefs, & several napkins. “upon sight of which” wit. asked DJ’s maid about it. DJ’s maid (HH) said “her masters nose bleed; butt ye deponent replied shee could not think itt could bee so.” Addendum: Hannah Hinckman, DJ’s maid, owned that she had carried the linen to RC, & that RC had asked her how it had become so bloody.

Dorothy Jones: says she did not know that Edward Lewis was killed in her house, but she knew about the sheets, & claims that “shee is troubled wdith convulsion fitts & doth often bleed.” Only she & her husband were in the house, to her knowledge. Admits that she and Maurice Betts “had words severall times together but never said that Shee could tell which would touch said Morris his life, but that hee hath done many things which did not please her at about cleering the house in Season. She doth not know but that Folber [?] might report that her house was as bad as Goodwife Thomas’s.” Says she has not washed for 18 yrs. without bloody linen.

Samuel Mosby: about 10 weeks ago, witness was in company with Edward Lewis, Maurice Betts, & Mr. Sedwick and Capt. Weaver at night at the coffee house. Witness fell asleep. “when he awaked he saw Morris Breck and Ed: Lewis quarreling they having bin at card playing and ___ he parted them, and took uip Lewis his quarrell.” Zachary Crispe told witness the week following that EL “was gone to ____.” Saw EL Friday about 4 o’clock: says that MB “took up a pot or candlestick” and struck EL.

MB: says they were playing cards for money. Denies that he had a quarrel with EL or that he was in company with him on the night in question.

Richard Knight (50): March last, as he was about to go away fr. Dorothy Jones’ house, heard DJ make “a bitter exclamation & complaint against Marrice Brett for gameing & disorder in her house & said that shed knew enough by him to hang him or bring him to the Gallows.” She repeated the same in his & MB’s presence in April.

1678 – John PERKINS’ son Thomas was made a Freeman in 1664 and was a grand juror in 1666 and 1667 and a sekectman in 1668, 1676 and 1682.  He became a deacon in 1677 and was a tythingman that year and in 1678 he hauled Thomas Baker into court for laughing in church!

1680 – John PERKINS’grandson Zacheus must have been the cause of much sorrow.   According to his own confession, on an election day at Wenham he fell in with a Frenchman, one Nicholas Jennings (surely a much distorted version of a French name) whom he had known at Narragansett.  Jennings invited him to go to Salem to drink and they rode over in the evening and tied their horses to a tree in an orchard.  Jennings told Zacheus to remain there to look after the animals and went away, returning after gtwo hours when they went to the shop of Mr. Thomas Maule.  The door was open and Jennings went in and brought out a bundle of goods which he gave to Zecheus , then going in again, he came out with a sak of goods which he laid on his horse.  ”Soon they parted as they heard the watch coming.”  Zacheus reading to Topsfield and Jennings to Marblehead.

This was not Zacheus’ only offense.  He had stolen a silver cup from Mr. Joseph Whitting, a gold ring from Goodman Robinson of Topsfield, and goods and money from Mr. Batten.  Found guilty at his trail on May 4, 1680 he was sentenced to be branded on the forehead with the letter “B” and publically whipped whidh was crried out on May 6 “immediately after lecture.”  He was to pay Mr. Maule £250 and Mr. Batten £24 which presumably his father had to assume.

3 Jan 1715 –  Samuel WEBBER’s son Benjamin and daughter-in-law Mehitable Allen were punished for premarital sex.

In the York County, Province of Maine Court of General Sessions on 3 Jan 1715, “Wee present Benjamin Webber & Mehittable Allen now his wife both of york for fornication….they owing the fact. Its Considered by the Court that they recieve Seven Stripes apiece on their naked backs at the post & pay fees of Court 7 Shillings or pay a fine of Thirty Shillings apiece to his Majesty & fees of Court as aforesd & Stand Committed” (Province and Court Records of Maine, volume 5, p. 173). [Compiler’s note: I can not determine if they took the seven lashes or paid the thirty shillings].

“Young married persons, whose courtship had been carried on under the convenient and comfortable New England `bundling’ device, and had anticipated events unwisely, found themselves in the hands of the law, when their first child appeared in advance of the physiological period of gestation. After labor was safely over both of them were hauled into Court and ordered to the whipping post to receive a dozen stripes each at the hands of the public executioner. It is probable that many cases of premature delivery were unjustly punished” (Charles Edward Banks. History of York, Maine, Volume II, page 239).

From an article “The Truth about Bundling,” Yankee Magazine, September 1991, page 12: “Bundling, an old custom permitting unmarried men and women to court, fully clothed, in bed. What is the use of sitting up all night and burning out fire and lights, when you could just as well get under cover and keep warm. It was respectable enough in the early history of New England when religion was an all-powerful influence on behavior. But in succeeding generations, the innocent practice was corrupted producing an amazing number of sturdy brats. About 1785, unmarried women blushed to read lines like these:

She’ll sometimes say when she lies down,
She can’t be cumbered with a gown,
And that the weather is so warm,
To take it off can be no harm…

The result was such a general storm of banter and ridicule that no girl had the courage to stand against it and as the ministers continued to thunder against bundling, the practice finally was killed off.

17 Jan 1717/18 – Samuel WEBBER’s daughter Deborah was punished for having a child out of wedlock.

In the York, Maine court session of 7 Jan 1717/18, one Jacob Perkins was accused of being the father of “a bastard Child begotten on the body of Deberah Webber, She not being yet Delivered.” In the court session 01 July 1718, Jacob Perkins denies the fatherhood of Deberoh Webber’s child. “Joseph Sayward….Appeared And Acknowledged himself bound & Obliged in a bond of fifty pounds that the Town of York shall not be Charged with the Maintainance of said Child, Its therefore Considerd by the Court that the said Jacob Perkins be Acquitted paying fees of Court 20 shillings.” [Compiler’s note: Joseph Sayward is the husband of Mary Webber, oldest sister of Deborah]. In the same court session, “Deberoh Webber Junior Appearing to answer her presentment for haveing a bastard child, Its Considered by the Court that She recieve Ten Stripes on her naked back at the post & pay fees of Court shillings, or pay a fine of Thirty Shillings to the King & fees as aforesd & to Stand Comitted.” [Compiler’s note: I can not determine if Deborah took the ten stripes or the Thirty Shilling fine].

Jacob Perkins was married first in 1708 to Lydia Stover.  He married second in Hampton 17 Oct 1717 to Anna Littlefield, only three months after the trial.  Deborah named her son Joseph Perkins,  b. 8 Feb 1717/18 York, Maine.  Twelve years later, Deborah married Andrew Wescott about Apr 1729.

2 July 1717 –  Deberoh Webber Senior was charged with being drunk in this court session.

“Whereas Deberoh Webber Senior was presented to the Last Court for being Drunk, And Thomas Webber for not frequenting the Publick Worship of God, And being all apprehended by the Constable, but not Appearing….Answer for their Contempt as the Severall Crimes for which they Stand presented….” [Compilers note: I can not determine the final outcome of these cases].

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4 Responses to Crimes and Misdemeanors

  1. Pingback: Favorite Posts | Miner Descent

  2. Wendell Livingston says:

    Love your site! Well written, documented with wonderful info, and presented with a sense of humor. Perfect.

  3. Pingback: Favorite Posts 2011 | Miner Descent

  4. Pingback: Favorite Posts 2012 | Miner Descent

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