Puritans v. Quakers – Boston Martyrs

There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here!  We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.

In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines,  prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting.   Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661.   Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished.  Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? ”

In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants.  Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans.  Is our modern perspective accurate?

Navigate this Report
1. Puritan Perspective

2. Quaker Perspective
3. Trials & Tribulations

4. Boston Martyrs
5. Aftermath

4. Boston Martyrs 

In 1649, John Endicott succeeded John Winthrop as Governor in and he was far more intolerant of religious dissention. He feared that if he permitted the Quakers to express their views in Massachusetts Bay Colony, the whole structure of the Church-State partnership might collapse.

Gov. John Endecott

Jul 1656 –  Two Quaker missionaries, Anne Austin and Mary Fisher landed in Boston  to bring the message of the “inner light” to the New World and immediatley became targets of the civil government.   These two members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) left England, where Fisher had suffered beatings because of her beliefs, and sailed to Barbados. After apparently finding success in Barbados, the two missionary women set sail in July 1656 aboard the Swallow. They landed in Boston and immediately became targets of the civil government. Deputy-governor Richard Bellingham, in charge during the absence of Governor William Endicott, ordered the women confined to the ship. Their books and belongings were taken and searched. News of the heretical views of the Quakers had preceded these women across the Atlantic. Ann and Mary had brought approximately 100 books or writings with them, and these were burnt, and the pair cast into prison. Fines were levied against anyone speaking to them, and the women were stripped and searched for any evidence of witchcraft, and their prison window was boarded up so that no one could see them.

One man, Nicholas Upsall, came to their rescue, and paid the fine either to be permitted to speak with them and/or provide them with food. The women were kept confined in this manner for five weeks, then shipped back to Barbados. Governor Endicott is reported to have stated that he would have had the women beaten. Fear of the Quaker “heresy” was indeed great. Ann Austin and Mary Fisher were persecuted before there were any laws enacted against the Friends in America

On August 9, 1656, the port authorities were alerted to search the Speedwell as it entered Boston Harbor before anyone landed. The passenger list had “Q’s” beside the names of four men and four women, and Endicott ordered these eight brought directly to Boston court. Christopher Holder (later to marry Richard SCOTT’s daughter Mary) and John Copeland led the group and they dumbfounded Endicott and the local ministers with their familiarity with the Bible. More irritating to Endicott was Christopher Holder’s knowledge of the law. When they were marched off to jail, Holder and Copeland made immediate demands for their release, stating that there was no law that justified their imprisonment.

Gov. John Endecott

Governor Endicott knew this was true. There was nothing in the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter which permitted the imprisonment of anyone merely on grounds of their religious beliefs, and so he devised a tactic to get rid of the Quakers. The Massachusetts General Court met in mid-October of 1656 and 1657 and succeeded in passing several laws against “the cursed sect of heretics … commonly called Quakers” which permitted banishing, whipping, and using corporal punishment (cutting off ears, boring holes in tongues). On October 14, 1656 the Court ordered:

That what master or commander of any ship, barke, pinnace, catch, or any other vessel that shall henceforth bring into any harbor, creeks, or cove without jurisdiction any known Quaker or Quakers, or any other blasphemous heretics shall pay … the fine of 100 pounds … [and] they must be brought back from where they came or go to prison.

After trying to cover all the loopholes in any possible entry to Boston, the Court addressed what it would do with anyone who persisted successfully. It was decided that such a person should go to the House of Correction and be severly whipped, kept constantly at work, and not allowed to speak to anyone. They set up certain fines: 54 pounds for having any Quaker books or writing “concerning their devilish opinions,” 40 pounds for defending any Quaker of their books, 44 pounds for a second offence, and the “House of Corection for a third offence … until there be a convenient passage for them to be sent out of this land.” These laws were read on the street corners of Boston with the beat of drums for emphasis.

Christopher Holder and John Copeland sat in their cells where they could hear the rattling of the drums and realized they were going to have to leave on the next available ship departing for England.  After eleven weeks Holder, Copeland and the other six Quakers of the Speedwell were deported to England, but they immediately took steps to return.

In October 1656  Massachusetts Bay Colony established the following law:

“Whereas there is a cursed sect of heretics lately risen up in the world, which are commonly called Quakers…” upon entering within a jurisdiction, “shall be forthwith committed to the house of correction, and at their entrance to be severely whipped, and by the master thereof be kept constantly to work, and none suffered to speak with them…” and it is ordered “that what person or persons soever shall revile the office or person of the magistrates or ministers, as is usual with Quakers, such person or persons shall be severely whipped, or pay the sum of five pounds.”

Mary Dyer’s return to New England in 1657 was ill-timed.  Upon her return to America from England, unaware of the new laws,  Mary Dyer, accompanied by Ann Burden, made a stop-over in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on her journey home to Rhode Island so that Ms Burden could settle the estate of her deceased husband in Boston.  Mary Dyer and Ann Burden were arrested almost immediately upon setting foot on Massachusetts soil as undesired missionaries of the outlawed religion.  Despite their protests, they were kept in jail incommunicado in darkened cells with boarded up windows. Mary’s books and Quaker papers were confiscated and burned. Mary finally was able to slip a letter out through a crack to someone outside the jail, but it took a long time to reach William Dyer in Newport.

Two and a half months later, Governor Endicott was startled when William Dyer barged into his home, demanding that his wife should be freed immediately. While Endicott knew that William had been disenfranchised by Boston, he was still highly respected by the Boston authorities for his prominent position in Rhode Island. They would have to free Mary Dyer because of William’s prestige, but only on a condition. William was put under a heavy bond and made to “give his honor” that if his wife was allowed to return home, he was “not to lodge her in any town of the colony nor to permit any to have speech with her on the journey.” Under no condition should Mary ever return to Massachusetts.

Back in Rhode Island, Mary became a prominent Quaker minister, traveling over the new country. Preaching “inner light,” Mary rejected oaths of any kind, taught that sex was no determinant for gifts of prophecy, and contended that women and men stood on equal ground in church worship and organization. In 1658 she was expelled from New Haven for preaching.

At the end of 1658 the Massachusetts legislature, by a bare majority, enacted a law that every member of the sect of Quakers who was not an inhabitant of the colony but was found within its jurisdiction should be apprehended without warrant by any constable and imprisoned, and on conviction as a Quaker, should be banished upon pain of death, and that every inhabitant of the colony convicted of being a Quaker should be imprisoned for a month, and if obstinate in opinion should be banished on pain of death. Some Friends were arrested and expelled under this law.

Meanwhile, Christopher Holder and the seven other banished Quakers had returned to England. Christopher wasted no time in getting in touch with George Fox,  in order to secure a ship for a return trip to New England. While Mary was being rebuked in New Haven, Christopher Holder and John Copeland were being ordered to leave Martha’s Vineyard. Hiding in the sand dunes for several days, they met up with friendly Indians who volunteered to help them cross over to Massachusetts.

They landed in Sandwich where they found a community of people unsettled in their religious affiliations and had who had just lost their minister. Holder and Copeland were received with enthusiasm by about eighteen families who were ready to become Quakers. Many of these families were our ancestors and their relatives.  You can see their stories in my post Puritans V. Quakers – Trials and Tribulations.

Finding a beautiful dell by a quiet stream in the woods, they called their enchanted hideaway “Christopher’s Hollow,” a name which has remained with the place. (See Google Maps Christopher Hollow Road). A circle of Friends gathered together and sat on a circle of stones to share their religious convictions. It was the first real Friends meeting in America, and the start of regular meetings.

Happy with this success, Holder and Copeland moved from Sandwich to Duxbury, from town to town in Massachusetts, leaving fifteen converted Quaker “ministers” in their wake. Eventually, Governor Endicott got wind of their activities and alerted scouts throughout New England to arrest them, but they remained free until they walked into Salem, Endicott’s home town.

When Holder arrived at the Salem Congregational Church, he listened to the sermon of the day, then arose from the rear of the church to challenge what had been said and present Quaker alternatives. One of Endicott’s men seized Holder, hurled him bodily to the floor of the church and stuffed a leather glove and handkerchief down his throat. Holder turned blue, gagged, and gasped for life. He was close to death when Samuel Shattuck, a member of the congregation, pushed Endicott’s man aside and retrieved the glove and handkerchief from Holder’s throat and worked hard to resuscitate him. A lifelong friendship between Shattuck and Holder started at that moment.

Preceding Ms. Dyer’s and Ms Burden’s arrest by two days, Holder, Copeland and Shattuck were all taken to Boston prison.  Starved, beaten and whipped, the three men spent the next two and half months in jail. Shattuck was freed by paying a 20 shilling bond. Holder and Copeland were brought before Endicott who ordered that each should have thirty lashes. After several months, they were released from prison, but were soon to return.

Also jailed were Holder and Copeland’s host, Salem church members, Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick . Though Lawrence was released, his wife remained imprisoned for seven weeks for having in her possession a paper written by their guests.

Shortly after their release from jail, Christopher Holder and John Copeland first went to Martha’s Vineyard but was turned away by Thomas Mayhew, and then on August 20, 1657, arrived in Sandwich where they were welcomed by many families.  On April 15, 1658, Endicott’s spies arrested them in the middle of a meeting and marched them to Barnstable where they were stripped and bound to the post of an outhouse. With the standard three-corded rope, they were each given 33 lashes until the bodies ran with blood. The Friends of Sandwich stood in horr as “ear and eye witnessses” to the cruelty.”

After recovering from the scourging, Holder and Copeland returned again to Boston on June 3, 1658 where they were once again arrested. On September 16, 1658 by the order of Governor Endicott, Christopher Holder, a future son-in-law of Richard SCOTT, had his right ear cut off by the hangman at Boston for the crime of being a Quaker. Richard’s wife, Katherine MARBURY SCOTT  (Anne Hutchinson ‘s sister), was present, and remonstrating against this barbarity, was thrown into prison for two months, and then publicly flogged ten stripes with a three-corded whip.   Mrs. Scott protested

“that it was evident they were going to act the work of darkness or else they would have brought them forth publicly and have declared them offences, that all may hear and fear.”

For this utterance the Puritan Fathers of Boston

“committed her to prison and they gave her ten cruel stripes with a three-fold corded knotted whip” shortly after “though ye confessed when ye had her before you that for ought ye knew she had been of unblamable character and though some of you knew her father and called him Mr. Marbury and that she had been well bred (as among men and had so lived) and that she was the mother of many children. Yet ye whipped her for all that, and moreover told her that ye were likely to have a law to hang her if she came thither again.”

To which she answered:

“If God calls us, woe be unto us if we come not, and I question not but he whom we love will make us not to count our lives dear unto ourselves for the sake of his name.”

To which vow, Governor icott, replied:

“And we shall be as ready to take any of your lives as ye shall be to lay them down.”

On October 19, 1658, the Massachusetts authorities during a stormy session had passed by a single vote a law banishing Quakers under pain of death.

June 1659 – Two Friends, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson, felt called to go to Massachusetts, although a new law imposed the death penalty on Friends.  Richard SCOTT’s daughter,  Patience , only eleven years old at the time, went to Boston as a witness againt the persecution of the Quakers, and was sent to prison; others older being banished.

“and some of ye confest ye had many children and that they had been well educated and it were well if they could say half as much for God as she could for the Devil.”

This prompted Mary Dyer to return and protest their treatment. For this action, she was put back in jail. Dyer was released after her husband wrote a letter to Endicott.

William Dyer wrote a letter to the Massachusetts authorities, dated August 30, 1659, chastising the magistrates for imprisoning his wife without evidence or legal right. “You have done more in persecution in one year than the worst bishops did in seven, and now to add more towards a tender woman,” wrote William, “… that gave you no just cause against her for did she come to your meeting to disturb them as you call itt, or did she come to reprehend the magistrates? [She] only came to visit her friends in prison and when dispatching that her intent of returning to her family as she declared in her [statement] the next day to the Governor, therefore it is you that disturbed her, else why was she not let alone.” (Click here to read full text of William’s letter.)

On Sep 12 1659, the Quakers were released from prison and banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony under threat of execution should they return. Nicholas Davis and Mary Dyer obeyed, but Robinson and Stephenson felt it their duty to remain and continue their ministry, deteremined to “look [the] bloody laws in the face.” Within a month they were again arrested. When it was learned Christopher Holder was again in jail and threatened with further torture, Mary Dyer, Hope Clifton and Mary Scott (future wife of Christopher Holder and Anne Hutchinson’s niece) walked through the forest to Boston from Providence to plead for his release and that of others. Mary Dyer was arrested while speaking to Holder through the prison bars.

There was no mistaking the moves of Holder, Robinson, Stephenson and Mary Dyer. They deliberately challenged the legal right of Endicott to carry out the death penalty. Doing what their compatriots were doing in England, they returned to the field as soon as they were released, willing to lay down their lives, if necessary, yet never striking a blow in retaliation. Passive non-resistance and religious appeals constituted the ammunition and weapons of this Colonial Quaker army. They had all been banished with the assurance that if they returned death awaited them.

On Oct 19 1659 Mary Dyer was brought before the General Court with Robinson and Stephenson. Asked why they had returned in defiance of the law, they replied that “the ground and cause of their coming was of the Lord.” When Gov. John Endicott pronounced sentence of death, Mary Dyer replied, “The will of the Lord be done.” “Take her away, Marshal,” commanded Endicott. “Yea and joyfully I go,” responded Mary Dyer.

That week in jail, Mary, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson sat in their cells writing pleas to the General Court to change the laws of banishment upon pain of death. (Click here to read the full text of Mary’s letter.)

On October 27, the three Quakers were led through the streets to the gallows with drums beating to prevent them from addressing the people. Robinson and Stephenson were hanged, but Mary Dyer, her arms and legs bound and the noose around her neck, received a prearranged last-minute reprieve as a result of intercession of Gov. John Winthrop, Jr. of Connecticut, Gov. Thomas Temple of Nova Scotia and her son.

Mary Dyer, her arms and legs bound and the noose around her neck, received a prearranged last-minute reprieve as a result of intercession of Gov. John Winthrop, Jr. of Connecticut, Gov. Thomas Temple of Nova Scotia and her son.

Back in her cell, Mary composed another letter to the General Court, from which comes the inscription on her statue at Boston: “Once more the General Court, Assembled in Boston, speaks Mary Dyar, even as before: My life is not accepted, neither availeth me, in Comparison of the Lives and Liberty of the Truth and Servants of the Living God, for which in the Bowels of Love and Meekness I sought you; yet nevertheless, with wicked Hands have you put two of them to Death, which makes me to feel, that the Mercies of the Wicked is Cruelty.” (Click here to read this second letter in its entirety.)

On October 18, 1659, William Dyer, Jr.’s petition on behalf of his mother to Mass. authorities, was thus answered: “Whereas Mary Dyer is condemned by the General Court to be executed for her offence; on the petition of William Dyer, her son, it is ordered the said Mary Dyer shall have liberty for forty-eight hours after this day to depart out of this jurisdiction, after which time being found therein she is to be executed.”

Mary returned unwillingly back to Rhode Island. She was accompanied by four horsemen who followed her fifteen miles south of Boston. From there she was left in the custody of one man to escort her back to Rhode Island.

Once home, Mary longed for the companionship of other Quakers. She busied herself across Long Island Sound on Shelter Island where a group of Indians had approached her, asking if she would hold Quaker meetings with them. Although Mary was out of danger in this environment, she was not content. She made it known that she must return to Boston to “desire the repeal of that wicked law against God’s people and offer up her life there.” In late April, 1660, in obedience to her conscience and in defiance of the law and without telling her husband, she returned once more to Boston.

It took a week for the news to reach William Dyer that Mary had left Shelter Island. Quickly, he wrote again to the magistrates of Boston. (Click here to read William’s moving letter.) Governor Endicott received the letter and presented it to the General Court. Too bad if William was having trouble with his wife. She was giving them trouble, too. She had no right to come back and defy their orders. The General Court summoned Mary before them on May 31, 1660.

“Are you the same Mary Dyer that was here before?” Governor Endicott asked her.”I am the same Mary Dyer that was here at the last General Court,” she replied.

“You will own yourself a Quaker, will you not?”

“I am myself to be reproachfully called so,” Mary said stiffly.

Governor Endicott said, “The sentence was passed upon you by the General Court and now likewise; you must return to the prison and there remain until tomorrow at nine o’clock; then from thence you must go to the gallows, and there be hanged till you are dead.”

Mary Dyer did not flinch. “This is no more than what you said before.”

“But now it is to be executed,” said Endicott. “Therefore prepare yourself tomorrow at nine o’clock.”

“I came in obedience to the will of God to the last General Court desiring you to appeal your unrighteous laws of banishment on pain of death,” said Mary, “and that same is my work now, and earnest request, although I told you that if you refused to repeal them, the Lord would send others of his servants to witness against them.”

“Are you a prophetess?” asked the Governor.

“I speak the words that the Lord speaks in me and now the thing has come to pass.”

Endicott reached his saturation point and, waving to a prison guard, yelled, “Away with her! Away with her!”

At the appointed time on June 1, 1660, Mary was escorted from her prison cell by a band of soldiers to the gallows a mile away. Apprehensive that a gathering crowd might become uncontrollably compassionate, the Magistrates took every precaution to cut off communication between Mary Dyer and her followers. Led through the streets sandwiched between drummers, with a constant rat-a-tat-tat in front and behind her, Mary Dyer walked to her death.

When Mary Dyer returned to Boston, protesting the harsh laws against the Quakers, she was arrested again. Once more, she was sentenced to hang.

Despite these precautions, some of the followers were able to get close enough to appeal to her to acquiesce in banishment. “Mary Dyer, don’t die. Go back to Rhode Island where you might save your life. We beg of you, go back!” “Nay, I cannot go back to Rhode Island, for in obedience to the will of the Lord I came,” Mary said, “and in His will I abide faithful to the death.”

At the place of execution the drums were quieted and Captain John Webb spoke, trying to justify what was about to happen. “She has been here before and had the sentence of banishment upon pain of death and has broken the law in coming again now,” he said. “It is therefore SHE who is guilty of her own blood.”

Mary contradicted him. “Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust laws of banishment upon pain of death made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Therefore, my blood will be required at your hands who wilfully do it.” Mary then turned towards the crowd and continued, “But, for those who do it in the simplicity of their hearts, I desire the Lord to forgive them. I came to do the will of my father, and in obedience to this will I stand even to death.”

Pastor Wilson cried, “Mary Dyer, O repent, O repent, and be not so delued and carried away by the deceit of the devil.” Mary looked directly at him and said, “Nay, man, I am not now to repent.”

John Norton stepped forward and asked, “Would you have the elders pray for you?” Mary responded, “I desire the prayer of all the people of God.” A voice from the crowd called out, “It may be that she thinks there is none here.” John Norton pleaded, “Are you sure you dont’ want one of the elders to pray for you?” Mary answered, “Nah, first a child, then a young man, then a strong man, before an elder in Christ Jesus.”

Someone from the crowd called out, “Did you say you have been in Paradise?” Mary answered, “Yea, I have been in Paradise several days and now I am about to enter eternal happiness.”

Captain John Webb signalled to [our ancestor] Edward WANTON (1632 – 1716),, officer of the gallows, who adjusted the noose.  He was “so affected at the sight” of Mary’s courageous sacrifice “he became a convert to the cause of the Friends ” He was a prominent Boston shipbuilder who converted to Quakerism and moved to Scituate, Massachusetts in 1661. The Wanton family was among the most prominent families of colonial Rhode Island, Two of his sons, one nephew and one grandson become Governors of Rhode Island and were known as the “Fighting Quakers.”    Three years later Wanton was arrested in Boston for holding a Quaker meeting in his home.

Mary needed no assistance in mounting the scaffold and a small smile lighted her face. Pastor Wilson had his large handkerchief ready to place over her head so no one would have to see that look of rapture twisted to distortion – only the dangling body. As her neck snapped, the crowd stood paralyzed in the silence of death until a spring breeze lifted her limp skirt and set it to billowing. “She hangs there as a flag for others to take example by,” remarked an unsympathetic bystander. That was indeed Mary Dyer’s intention – to be an example, a “witness” in the Quaker sense, for freedom of conscience.

Mary Dyer

Despite all the frantic attempts of the Boston magistrates to rid themselves of the challenging Quakers, they failed. Mary’s death came gradually to be considered a martyrdom even in Massachusetts, where it hastened the easing of anti-Quaker statutes. In 1959 by authority of the Massachusetts General Court, which had condemned her nearly 300 years before, a bronze statue was erected in her memory on the grounds of the State House in Boston. A statue of her friend, Anne Hutchinson, stands in front at the other wing. The words of   Mary Barrett Dyer, written from her cell of the Boston jail are engraved beneath:

My Life not Availeth Me
In Comparison to the
Liberty of the Truth’

Mary Dyer - Massachusetts State House Statue

William Leddra

William’s home was in Barbados, but he is said to have been by birth a Cornishman; and his occupation, it appears, was that of a clothier. We find him engaged very early in visiting the West Indies as a minister, and in 1657 he proceeded in that character to New England.

Reaching Salem [in July 1658], William Brend and William Leddra were warmly welcomed by the few faithful Friends of that place, with whom they were favored to hold several meetings to their mutual refreshment and comfort.

On First-day, the 20th of Fourth Month, they attended one held at the house of Nicholas Phelps, in the woods, about five miles from Salem. A magistrate of the town hearing of the intended meeting, came with a constable, for the purpose of breaking it up, and securing the two strangers; but failing in his purpose, he left the company, with a threat that he would prosecute the Friends who were present. From Salem the two gospel messengers traveled to Newburyport, where also they had some religious service. Their passing thus from place to place, in the very heart of the Puritan population of New England, and by their powerful ministry making converts to the doctrines they professed, aroused the fears of the local magistracy to this new state of things.

After leaving Newburyport, they were soon overtaken by a zealous ruler of the place, who arrested them and carried them to Salem. The court, which was then sitting in the town, had the Friends brought up for examination. Here they were interrogated respecting the doctrines they were promulgating, but their answers were so clear and convincing, and they appealed so effectually to the consciences of the magistrates, that the latter confessed they discovered nothing heretical or dangerous in their opinions.

The court, however, told the prisoners that they had a law against Quakers, and that law must be obeyed. An order for their committal immediately followed, and in a few days they were removed to Boston prison. Six Friends of Salem were also committed for having attended the meeting at the house of Nicholas Phelps.

William Brend and William Leddra, who were deemed special offenders, were separated from their companions. They were placed in a miserable cell, the window of which was so stopped, as not only to deprive them of light, but also of ventilation, while all conversation between them and the citizens was strictly forbidden. The jailer, following the cruel course which he had pursued towards Thomas Harris, refused to allow them an opportunity of purchasing food,  though they offered to pay for it. But he told them, it was not their money, but their labor he desired. Thus he kept them five days without food, and then with a three-corded whip gave them twenty blows. An hour after he told them, they might go out, if they would pay the marshal that was to lead them out of the country. They judging it very unreasonable to pay money for being banished, refused this, but yet said, that if the prison-door was set open, they would go away.

The next day the jailer came to W. Brend, a man in years, and put him in irons, neck and heels so close together, that there was no more room left between each, than for the lock that fastened them. Thus he kept them from five in the morning, till after nine at night, being the space of sixteen hours. The next morning he brought him to the mill to work, but Brend refusing, the jailer took a pitched rope about an inch thick, and gave him twenty blows over his back and arms, with as much force as he could, so that the rope untwisted; and then, going away, he came again with another rope, that was thicker and stronger, and told Brend, that he would cause him to bow to the law of the country, and make him work. Brend judged this not only unreasonable in the highest degree, since he had committed no evil, but he was also altogether unable to work for he lacked strength for want of food, having been kept five days without eating, and whipped also, and now thus unmercifully beaten with a rope. But this inhuman jailer relented not, but began to beat anew with his pitched rope on this bruised body, and foaming at his mouth like a madman, with violence laid ninety-seven more blows on him, as other prisoners that beheld it with compassion, have told ; and if his strength, and his rope had not failed him, he would have laid on more; he threatened also to give him the next morning as many blows more. But a higher power, who sets limits even to the raging sea, and has said, “to here you shall come, but no further,” also limited this butcherly fellow; who was yet impudently stout enough to say his morning prayer. To what a most terrible condition these blows brought the body of Brend, who because of the great heat of the weather, had nothing but a serge cassock upon his shirt, may easily be conceived. His back and arms were bruised and black, and the blood hanging as in bags under his arms; and so into one was his flesh beaten, that the sign of a particular blow could not be seen; for all was become as a jelly. His body being thus cruelly tortured, he lay down upon the boards, so extremely weakened, that the natural parts decaying, and strength quite failing, his body turned cold. There seemed as it were a struggle between life and death; his senses were stopped, and he had for some time neither seeing, feeling, nor hearing; till at length a divine power prevailing, life broke through death, and the breath of the Lord was breathed into his nostrils.

Now, the noise of this cruelty spread among the people in the town, and caused such a cry, that the governor sent his surgeon to the prison to see what might be done; but the surgeon found the body of Brend in such a deplorable condition, that, as one without hopes, he said, his flesh would rot from off his bones, before the bruised parts could be brought to digest. This so exasperated the people, that the magistrates, to prevent a tumult, set up a paper on their meeting-house door, and up and down the streets, as it were to show their dislike of this abominable, and most barbarous cruelty; and said, the jailer should be dealt withal the next court.

But this paper was soon taken down again upon the instigation of the high priest, John Norton, who, having from the beginning been a fierce promoter of the persecution, now did not hesitate to say, “W. Brend endeavored to beat our gospel ordinances black and blue, if he then be beaten black and blue, it is but just upon him; and I will appear in his behalf that did so.” It is therefore not much to be wondered at, that these precise and bigoted magistrates, who would be looked upon to be eminent for piety, were so cruel in persecuting, since their chief teacher thus wickedly encouraged them to it.

24 Mar 1661 – After several other arrests and jailings, William Leddra stood at the foot of the tree where he was to be hanged. As his arms were being tied he said, “For bearing my testimony for the Lord against deceivers and the deceived, I am brought here to suffer.” His final words were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

A few moments later, he became the last Quaker to swing in Boston for the crime of returning from banishment. Even the court acknowledged that it “found nothing evil” in William. Even so, he had suffered beatings and banishment for preaching in Massachusetts. When he dared to return in 1660, Puritan authorities arrested him. The charges against him were typical. He had sympathized with the Quakers who were executed before him; he had refused to remove his hat, and he used the words “thee” and “thou,” which, to Quakers, implied the equality of all people. William lay in prison all that winter without heat. But on the last day of his life, chained to a log in a dark cell, he wrote to his wife:

“Most Dear and Inwardly Beloved, “The sweet influences of the Morning Star, like a flood distilling into my innocent habitation, hath filled me with the joy of [God] in the beauty of holiness, that my spirit is, as if it did not inhabit a tabernacle of clay. Oh! My Beloved, I have waited as a dove at the windows of the ark, and I have stood still in that watch, wherein my heart did rejoice, that I might in the love and life speak a few words to you sealed with the Spirit of Promise, that the taste thereof might be a savor of life to your life, and a testimony in you, of my innocent death.”

Edmund PERRY’s son-in-law Robert Harper,  a prominent Quaker in Boston caught Leddra’s body under the scaffold when the hangman cut it down. For this sign of respect toward his dead friend, Robert and his wife, were banished. Our Quaker ancestors were also hounded in the courts.







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Puritan v. Quakers – Quaker Perspective

There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here!  We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.

In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines,  prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting.   Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661.   Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished.  Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? ”

In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants.  Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans.  Is our modern perspective accurate?

Navigate this Report
1. Puritan Perspective

2. Quaker Perspective
3. Trials & Tribulations

4. Boston Martyrs
5. Aftermath

2. Quaker Perspective

The “Friends”, “Children of the Light” or “Quakers” were the most libertarian and fanatical of Protestant reformers, rejecting in toto formal religion. Anathema to the original English Quaker, George Fox, were priests in any form of employ of the state (“hirelings”). Moved by his own “direct revelation of the divine” – aren’t they all – he eschewed “steeplehouses” (churches) and relied on his charisma alone to draw vast outdoor crowds. The hot gospelling, spirit-filled hysteria attracted a following and alarmed the Puritan elite, not least because the Friends refused any form of deference, oaths or tithes.

George Fox

Among Fox’s ideas were:

  • Rituals can be safely ignored, as long as one experiences a true spiritual conversion.
  • The qualification for ministry is given by the Holy Spirit, not by ecclesiastical study. This implies that anyone has the right to minister, assuming the Spirit guides them, including women and children.
  • God “dwelleth in the hearts of his obedient people”: religious experience is not confined to a church building. Indeed, Fox refused to apply the word “church” to a building, using instead the name “steeple-house”, a usage maintained by many Quakers today. Fox would just as soon worship in fields and orchards, believing that God’s presence could be felt anywhere.
  • Though Fox used the Bible to support his views, Fox reasoned that, because God was within the faithful, believers could follow their own inner guide rather than rely on a strict reading of Scripture or the word of clerics.
  • As the Bible makes no mention of the Trinity, Fox also made no clear distinction between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In 1647 Fox began to preach publicly: in market-places, fields, appointed meetings of various kinds or even sometimes “steeple-houses” after the service. His powerful preaching began to attract a small following. It is not clear at what point the Society of Friends was formed but there was certainly a group of people who often travelled together. At first, they called themselves “Children of the Light” or “Friends of the Truth”, and later simply “Friends”. Fox seems to have had no desire to found a sect but only to proclaim what he saw as the pure and genuine principles of Christiani in their original simplicity, though he afterward showed great prowess as a religious legislator in the organization he gave to the new society.

There were a great many rival Christian denominations holding very diverse opinions; the atmosphere of dispute and confusion gave Fox an opportunity to put forward his own beliefs through his personal sermons. Fox’s preaching was grounded in scripture but was mainly effective because of the intense personal experience he was able to project.  He was scathing about immorality, deceit and the exacting of tithes and urged his listeners to lead lives without sin, avoiding the Ranter‘s antinomian view that a believer becomes automatically sinless. By 1651 he had gathered other talented preachers around him and continued to roam the country despite a harsh reception from some listeners, who would whip and beat them to drive them away  The worship of Friends in the form of silent waiting seems to have been well-established by this time, though it is not recorded how this came to be.

Fox was first arrested for blasphemy in October 1652, but was released on a technicality.  He was arrested again for blasphemy in 1653. It was even proposed to put him to death but Parliament requested his release rather than have “a young man … die for religion”. Further imprisonments came at London in 1654, Launceston in 1656, Lancaster in 1660, Leicester in 1662, Lancaster again and Scarborough in 1664–66 and Worcester in 1673–75. Charges usually included causing a disturbance and travelling without a pass. Quakers fell foul of irregularly enforced laws forbidding unauthorized worship while actions motivated by belief in social equality—refusing to use or acknowledge titles, take hats off in court or bow to those who considered themselves socially superior—were seen as disrespectful.

In prison George Fox continued writing and preaching, feeling that imprisonment brought him into contact with people who needed his help—the jailers as well as his fellow prisoners. He also sought to set an example by his actions there, turning the other cheek when being beaten and refusing to show his captors any dejected feelings.

Parilamentarians grew suspicious of monarchist plots and fearful that the group travelling with Fox aimed to overthrow the government: by this time his meetings were regularly attracting crowds of over a thousand. In early 1655 he was arrested at Whetstone, Leicestershire and taken to London under armed guard. In Mar he was brought before the Lord ProtectorOliver Cromwell. After affirming that he had no intention of taking up arms Fox was able to speak with Cromwell for most of the morning about the Friends and advised him to listen to God’s voice and obey it so that, as Fox left, Cromwell “with tears in his eyes said, ‘Come again to my house; for if thou and I were but an hour of a day together, we should be nearer one to the other’; adding that he wished [Fox] no more ill than he did to his own soul.”

Cromwell was sympathetic to Fox and almost agreed to follow his teaching—but persecution of Quakers continued.

This episode was later recalled as an example of “speaking truth to power”, a preaching technique by which subsequent Quakers hoped to influence the powerful. Although not used until the 20th century, the phrase is related to the ideas of plain speech and simplicity which Fox practiced, but motivated by the more worldly goal of eradicating war, injustice and oppression.

The persecutions of these years—with about a thousand Friends in prison by 1657—hardened George Fox’s opinions of traditional religious and social practices. In his preaching, he often emphasized the Quaker rejection of baptism by water; this was a useful way of highlighting how the focus of Friends on inward transformation differed from what he saw as the superstition of outward ritual. It was also deliberately provocative to adherents of those practices, providing opportunities for Fox to argue with them on matters of scripture. This pattern was also found in his court appearances: when a judge challenged him to remove his hat, Fox riposted by asking where in the Bible such an injunction could be found.

In  July 1656,the first Quaker missionaries, Anne Austin and Mary Fisher landed in Boston  to bring the message of the “inner light” to the New World and immediatley became targets of the civil government.  For their story, see Puritans V. Quakers – Boston Martyrs

John Ap John

John was the brother of our ancestor Mary JOHNSON PEASLEE.

Born: 1625
Died: 1697
Place of Birth: Cefn Mawr
Famous For: First person to become a Quaker in Wales.
Biography: Local historian Howard Paddock writes about the religious pioneer from Cefn.
It is generally accepted that John ap John was born about 1625 at a freehold property called Pen y Cefn in the county of Denbighshire. The son of a yeoman farmer, he became one of the country’s leading dissenters. It was John ap John who first brought Quakerism into Wales and because of this he is commonly called ‘The First Apostle of Welsh Quakerism.’ The very first Quaker Meeting in Wales was held at his home in Cefn Mawr, an area which was then known as Cristionydd Kenrick, a township within the Parish of Ruabon.
John ap John was educated at Wrexham where he possibly came under the influence of Walter Craddock, a leading Puritan preacher. During the Civil War it is thought that John ap John served as a Chaplain with the Parliamentarian Army at Beaumaris, Anglesey. After the war, he joined Morgan Llwyd’s Church at Wrexham, where he soon became a leading member and travelling preacher.
It was through Morgan Llwyd that he met George Fox, the founder Of the Society of Friends. In 1653, John ap John stayed at Fox’s headquarters in Swarthmore, Lancashire where he learned about the philosophy of ‘The Inner Light’ and the teachings of George Fox. When John ap John was convinced of the truth he became the very first Welsh Quaker.
To say simply that he spent the greater part of his life tramping through Wales preaching the Quaker message would be to ignore the bravery of this man. For these were the days of religious intolerance, when heretics were condemned to death and the Law Courts threatened to burn Quakers. He spent a life-time being persecuted and was incarcerated because of his beliefs in the jails of Cardiff, Usk, Tenby, Swansea, Welshpool and possibly Carmarthen. He was gaoled for such offences as refusing to remove his hat in the presence of a social superior and fined for holding religious services inside his own home
In 1681, John ap John met William Penn in London and was instrumental in persuading Penn to allocate 30,000 acres of his American land to Welsh Quakers.

John ap John died in 1697 at the home of son in law, John Mellor of Ipstones, Staffordshire, and was buried in nearby Basford. He lies in an unmarked grave in what today simply looks like a field.

Anne Hutchinson

There was dissent to Puritan beliefs in New England almost from the beginning and Anne Hutchinson, the daughter of our ancestor Rev. Francis MARBURY played an important role.

Anne Hutchinson (1591–1643) was one of the most prominent women in colonial America, noted for her strong religious convictions, and for her stand against the staunch religious orthodoxy of 17th century Massachusetts. She was a Puritan whose religious ideas were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area, and her popularity and charisma created a schism in the Boston church which threatened to destroy the Puritans’ religious experiment in New England. Creating the most challenging situation for the ruling magistrates and ministers during her first three years in Boston, she was eventually tried and convicted, then banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony with many of her followers.

Anne Hutchinson figures prominently in an excellent book , The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell.

Anne is a key figure in the study of the development of religious freedom in England’s American colonies and the history of women in ministry. She challenged the authority of the ministers, exposing the subordination of women in the culture of colonial Massachusetts. Although her religious ideas remain controversial, her implicit rejection of state authority to prescribe specific religious rites and interpretations, was later enshrined in the American Constitution. The State of Massachusetts honors her with a State House monument calling her a “courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.”

Anne Hutchinson Massachusetts State House Monument

Born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England, Anne was the daughter of Francis Marbury, an Anglican minister with strong Puritan leanings, who had been imprisoned for two years, and then later put under house arrest for his overt criticism of the Anglican hierarchy for not staffing churches with better trained ministers. Marbury was also a school teacher, and when under house arrest, he used his time to teach his children, and Anne grew up with a far better education than most girls, who generally had few educational opportunities in 16th century England. As a young adult living in London, she married there an old friend from Alford, William Hutchinson, and the couple moved back to Alford where they began a family and visited various churches in the area. Hearing of a dynamic young preacher named John Cotton in the market town of Boston, Lincolnshire, about 21 miles away, the couple went to hear him preach, and thereafter made the difficult trip by horseback at every opportunity. Enamored with Cotton’s preaching, Anne Hutchinson was distraught when Cotton was compelled to emigrate following threats of imprisonment for his Puritan messages and practices.

In 1634, after the birth of her 14th child, Hutchinson followed Cotton to New England with her husband and 11 living children, and soon became well established in the growing settlement of Boston, in the English colonies. She was a midwife, and very helpful to those needing her assistance.  In 1637, Anne delivered a stillborn, deformed baby of her friend and future Boston Martyr, Mary Dyer.  Puritans believed that birth defects were punishments for the parents sins. See below for the story of Mary and Anne’s troubles with the Puritan authorities.

She was very forthcoming with her personal religious opinions and understandings. Soon she was hosting women at her house once a week, providing commentary on recent sermons, and sharing her religious views, including criticism of many local ministers. These meetings became so popular, that she soon began offering meetings to men as well, to include the young governor of the colony, Harry Vane, and up to 80 people a week were visiting her house to learn from her interpretations and views of religious matters. As a follower of Cotton, she espoused a “covenant of grace,” while accusing all of the local ministers (except for Cotton and her husband’s brother-in-law, John Wheelwright) of preaching a “covenant of works.” Several ministers complained about Hutchinson to John Winthrop, who served several terms as governor of the colony, and eventually the situation erupted into what is known as the Antinomian Controversy, resulting in Hutchinson’s 1637 trial, conviction, and banishment from the colony.

Anne Hutchinson Preaching

With encouragement from Roger Williams, Hutchinson and many followers established the settlement of Portsmouth in what would become the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. She lived there for a few years, but after her husband’s death, threats of Massachusetts taking over Rhode Island compelled her to move totally outside the reach of Boston, into the lands of the Dutch. Sometime in 1642 she settled with her younger children in New Netherland near an ancient landmark called Split Rock in what would later become Bronx, New York City. Here she had a home built, but tensions with the native Siwanoy were high, and following inhumane treatment by the Dutch, the natives went on a series of rampages known as Kieft’s War, and in August 1643, all but one of the 16 members of Hutchinson’s household were massacred during an attack. The lone survivor, nine-year old Susanna Hutchinson, was taken captive, and held for several years before being returned to family members in Boston.

Anne Hutchinson’s brother-in-law, Richard SCOTT Sr. (1605 – 1680) was one of the first Quakers in the Rhode Island colony.  He came over in 1634 on the ship “Griffin” and was admitted to the church at Boston, 28 Aug 1634.  His wife, Katherine Marbury’s father was also the daughter a London clergyman, Rev. Francis Marbury.

Governor John Winthrop relates:

“One Scott and Eliot of Ipswich were lost in their way homewards and wandered up and down six days and ate nothing. At length thoy were found by an Indian, being almost senseless for want of food.”

Richard removed in 1634 to Ipswich and before 1637 to Providence, Rhode Island. 20 Aug 1637 – Richard signed the famous Providence Compact.  Roger Williams established a settlement with twelve “loving friends.” He called it “Providence” because he felt that God’s Providence had brought him there.  He said that his settlement was to be a haven for those “distressed of conscience,” and it soon attracted quite a collection of dissenters and otherwise-minded individuals. From the beginning, the settlement was governed by a majority vote of the heads of households, but “only in civil things,” and newcomers could be admitted to full citizenship by a majority vote. In August of 1637 they drew up a town agreement, which again restricted the government to “civil things.” In 1640, another agreement was signed by thirty-nine freemen, which declared their determination “still to hold forth liberty of conscience.” Thus, Williams had founded the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separated, a place where there was religious liberty and separation of church and state.

Richard Scott - Signature on Providence Charter

16 Jan 1639 – Governor Winthrop says of Mrs. Scott:

“At Providence things grew still worse, for a sister of Mrs. Hutchinson, the wife of one Scott, being affected with Anabaptistery and going to live at Providence, Mr. Williams, was taken (or rather emboldened) by her to make open profession thereof and accordingly was re-baptised by one Holyman, a poor man late of Salem. Then Mr. Williams re-baptized him and some ten more. They also denied the baptism of infants and would have no magistrates.”

1655 – Scott was admitted a freeman. He and his family were constantly subjected to religious persecution.

Mary Dyer – Future Boston Martyr

William and Mary Dyer were open supporters of Anne (Marbury) Hutchinson (sister of our ancestor Katherine MARBURY SCOTT)  and the Rev. John Wheelwright during the Antinomian controversy. Mary and Anne were friends, and when Mary went into premature labor on October 17, 1637, Anne, an experienced midwife, was called to her side. After hours of agonizing labor, Mary’s body gave forth a stillborn daughter. The child was badly deformed. Also present at the stillbirth were the midwife Jane Hawkins, and at least one other unnamed woman, who was reputed to be the source of the information later spread about the monstrous birth that, one observer later wrote, was “whispered by s[ome] women in private to some others (as many of that sex as[semble] in such a strang business).” William Dyer and Anne agreed that the birth must remain a secret, knowing that the unfortunate birth could play into the hands of the Boston magistrates. Mary herself could be personally blamed for the malformed baby.

While English law permitted a midwife to bury a child in private, a midwife could not lawfully deliver or bury a child in secret. Anne Hutchinson immediately sought the counsel of Rev. John Cotton about whether the stillbirth should be publicly recorded. Although he had betrayed her politically, Anne felt she could count on him in this crisis. Cotton, with a flash of nonconformity, dismissed the ancient folk wisdom that held that infant death was conspicuous punishment for the parents’ sins and advised her to ignore the law and to bury the deformed fetus in secret.

Acting on this special dispensation, Jane Hawkins and Anne buried the stillborn child – exactly as they had always done in old England where custom-imbedded law dictated to the midwife: “If any child be dead born, you yourself shall see it buried in such secret place as neither hog nor dog, nor any other beast may come unto it, and in such sort done, as it may not be found or perceived, as much as you may.” The birth and burial remained a secret for five months.

Gov. John WinthropIn November, 1637, William was disenfranchised and disarmed along with dozens of other followers of Anne Hutchinson. On March 22, 1638, when Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated from the church and withdrew from the assemblage, Mary Dyer rose and accompanied her out of the church. As the two women left, there were several women hanging around outside the church and one was heard to ask, “Who is that woman accompanying Anne Hutchinson?” Another voice answered loud enough to be heard inside the church, “She is the mother of a monster!” Governor Winthrop heard this and was excitedly questioned Cotton, who broke down and confessed that “God, Cotton and Anne Hutchinson” had buried a deformed child five months ago. Although the child had been buried “too deep for dog or hog,” it was not too deep for Winthrop who ordered it exhumed. Winthrop and the clergymen who examined it showed an inordinate interest in the physical characteristics of the “monster.” According to John Winthrop’s Journal, Mary Dyer, who was “notoriously infected with Mrs Hutchinson’s errors,” was divinely punished for this sinful heresy by being delivered of a stillborn “monster.” Winthrop included gruesome, detailed descriptions in his journal and in letters sent to correspondents in England and New England:

It was a woman child, stillborn, about two months before the just time, having life a few hours before; it came hiplings [breach birth] till she turned it; it was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the shoulders and were like an ape’s; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp, two of them were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked upward all over the breast and back, full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback; the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the back should be; and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been; behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl, with sharp talons.

Excommunicated and banished in their turn, the Dyers followed Anne Hutchinson to Rhode Island where William became one of the founders of Portsmouth. On 7 March 1638 he was one of the eighteen who signed the companct and he was elected Clerk. The Dyers ultimately settled in Newport where by 19 March 1640 William had acquired 87 acres of land. He served as Secretary for the towns of Portsmouth and Newport from 1640-47; General Recorder 1647; Attorney General 1650-1653.

In 1652 William and Mary Dyer accompanied Roger Williams and John Clarke (1609-1676)  on a political mission to England. Mary remained for five years, becoming a follower of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, whose doctrine of the Inner Light was not unlike Mrs. Hutchinson’s “Antinomianism

Continue to my post Puritans V. Quakers – Boston Martyrs for more of Mary’s story and her sad end.



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Puritans v. Quakers – Puritan Perspective

There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here!  We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.

In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines,  prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting.   Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661.   Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished.  Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? ”

In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants.  Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans.  Is our modern perspective accurate?

Navigate this Report
1. Puritan Perspective

2. Quaker Perspective
3. Trials & Tribulations

4. Boston Martyrs
5. Aftermath

1. Puritan Perspective

The Puritan’s secular life went hand in hand with their spiritual life.  You had to be a church member in order to become a “freeman.”  It seems that every other immigrant to New England in the 17th C. held public office.    I’ve tagged over 150 of our ancestors with the category “Public Office”  With annual terms for selectman, constable, fence viewer, grand jury, general court, etc. everyone who wanted to had a chance to participate.  I think this participation is one of the most important sources of the American identity.  Here are definitions of a few of the terms:  Early New England Public Offices

The Puritans were members of the official state church of England, the Anglican Church, but they felt it needed to be reformed and restructured (purified) to be more Protestant.

When Charles I took the throne and in 1630 and made William Laud, a pro-Catholic, anti-Puritan church leader the Archbishop of Canterbury much of England’s Puritan population fled England. Laud harried them out, putting a price on the heads of more outspoken and powerful Puritan ministers, making it a criminal offense to attend Puritan worship services, and generally doing his best to squash all opposition to the Anglican Church.

In 1630 the Great Migration of Puritans under John Winthrop headed to what is now Boston, and formed the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans were forced out because they wanted to reform human civilization through religion, to wipe out poverty, and to make a heaven on Earth in which everyone was free to discover God’s will for themselves.

But these were not generalized goals; that is, the Puritans did not believe that any or every religion, diligently applied, could result in such a paradise. They believed that only their reformed version of Anglican Christianity could put such goals within reach. They were not completely crazy for thinking so. In the world they knew, the world of European and especially English Christianity, the Puritans were the only group calling for an end to poverty, the only group demanding that all people, even women, be taught how to read (so they could read the Bible, God’s word), and the only group that required its members to work hard to improve the world on a person-by-person basis.

Puritans were supposed to live exemplary lives in every respect so that anyone they dealt with—their customers, friends, even strangers they met—would see God through them, and be inspired to seek God themselves. Thus the Puritans might be excused for thinking their religion was the only one that could save the world. In their limited experience of the world, theirs was the most actively reformist faith. They left England to preserve that faith, so that Puritanism would not be diluted or destroyed.

The Puritans did not encourage religious diversity or practice religious tolerance in New England, not because they were terrible, hateful people, but because they were on a mission, and they feared God’s wrath upon themselves if they failed in that mission to create a holy nation on Earth. They left England to establish a Puritan state where Puritan Anglicanism—Congregationalism—could be practiced. They did not leave England to establish a state where people were free to practice whatever religion they wanted. It is incorrect to say the Puritans wanted freedom of religion; they did not. They wanted to be able to practice their own religion freely. Those are two very different things.

In the brave new Christian colony of Massachusetts Bay government and church were as one. The state existed only to further God’s purpose. New England’s very existence was a covenant with God. Thus heresy was a civil offence, as was profanity, blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, sodomy, Sabbath-breaking – and of course, witchcraft. A misjudged curse – “willful blaspheming the holy name of God” – would merit a painful sojourn in the stocks.

The small townships established across the New England landscape clustered about their church/meeting halls, snuggled up to Jesus. With a profane, carnal, wilderness all about them, theirs was a citadel of God-fearing self-control and restraint. Authority came directly from God, not a king or a bishop, and was entrusted to the Elders who interpreted His Holy Book and guided self-governing communities of the pure. A minority of Puritans supported a limited form of centralised leadership, Presbyterianism, but most favoured “each congregation an entire and independent body-politic under Christ” –Congregationalism. Wary of outsiders, the Congregational churches accepted a member only if he could demonstrate that he was indeed among God’s elect.

As believers in “predestination” the Puritans suffered the psychotic torment of never being really sure that they had received the “gift of God’s grace” and were forever striving for more diligent standards of biblical behaviour. A sumptuary law of 1634 forbade “rich apparel” – woollen or linen clothes trimmed with silver, gold, silk, or lace. Another in 1651 expressed “utter detestation” that men and women “of mean condition” should be wearing the garb of gentlemen (those with “visible estates of £200” or more).

The first Puritans of New England certainly disapproved of Christmas celebrations, as did some other Protestant churches of the time. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659. The ban was revoked in 1681 by the English-appointed governor Sir Edmund Andros, who also revoked a Puritan ban on festivities on Saturday nights. Nevertheless, it was not until the mid-19th century that celebrating Christmas became fashionable in the Boston region.  Likewise the colonies banned many secular entertainments, such as games of chance, maypoles, and drama, on moral grounds.

They were not, however, opposed to drinking alcohol in moderation.  Early New England laws banning the sale of alcohol to Native Americans were criticized because it was “not fit to deprive Indians of any lawfull comfort aloweth to all men by the use of wine.” Laws banned the practice of individuals toasting each other: it led to wasting God’s gift of beer and wine, as well as being carnal. Bounds were not set on enjoying sexuality within the bounds of marriage, as a gift from G  In fact, spouses (albeit, in practice, mainly females) were disciplined if they did not perform their sexual marital duties, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 7 and other biblical passages. Puritans publicly punished drunkenness and sexual relations outside of marriage.

New England differed from its mother country, where nothing in English statute required schoolmasters or the literacy of children. With the possible exception of Scotland, the Puritan model of education in New England was unique. John Winthrop in 1630 had claimed that the society they would form in New England would be “as a city upon a hill;” and the colony leaders would educate all. These were men of letters, had attended Oxford or Cambridge, and communicated with intellectuals all over Europe; and in 1636 they founded the school that shortly became Harvard College.

Besides the Bible, children needed to read in order to “understand…the capital laws of this country,” as the Massachusetts code declared, order being of the utmost importance, and children not taught to read would grow “barbarous” (the 1648 amendment to the Massachusetts law and the 1650 Connecticut code, both used the word “barbarisme”). By the 1670s, all New England colonies (excepting Rhode Island) had passed legislation that mandated literacy for children. In 1647, Massachusetts passed a law that required towns to hire a schoolmaster to teach writing.

Alexis de Tocqueville suggested in Democracy in America that Puritanism was the very thing that provided a firm foundation for American democracy. As Sheldon Wolin puts it, “Tocqueville was aware of the harshness and bigotry of the early colonists”; but on the other hand he saw them as “archaic survivals, not only in their piety and discipline but in their democratic practices”.  The theme of a religious basis of economic discipline is echoed in sociologist Max Weber‘s work, but both de Tocqueville and Weber argued that this discipline was not a force of economic determinism, but one factor among many that should be considered when evaluating the relative economic success of the Puritans.

Rev. John Lathrop

In 1623 Rev. John LATHROP renounced his orders and joined the cause of the Independents. Lothropp gained prominence in 1624, when he was called to replace Reverend Henry Jacob as the pastor of the First Independent Church in London, a congregation of sixty members which met at Southwark. Church historians sometimes call this church the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church, named for its first three pastors, Henry Jacob, John Lothropp and Henry Jessey.

Rev. John Lothrop - Portrait -

They were forced to meet in private to avoid the scrutiny of Bishop of London William Laud. Following the group’s discovery on April 22, 1632 by officers of the king, forty two of Lothropp’s Independents were arrested. Only eighteen escaped capture. They were prosecuted for failure to take the oath of loyalty to the established church. They were jailed in The Clink prison. All were released on bail by the spring of 1634 except Lothropp, who was deemed too dangerous to be set at liberty. While he was in prison, his wife Hannah House 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 18 Sep 1634.

Gov. Thomas Prence

Thomas PRENCE was not part of those religious dissenters who sought religious freedom in America, but he apparently sympathized with them. Perhaps not knowingly, he took two steps that led to his leadership role. He married Patience BREWSTER, daughter of the community’s religious leader, Elder William BREWSTER , and in 1627 he became one of eight colony members who assumed the pilgrims’ debt to the London merchants who had backed establishment of the colony.

He became governor of Plymouth, for the first time, in 1634; he was elected again in 1638 and served from 1657 to 1673. After the death of Governor Bradford in 1653, he became the leader of the Plymouth Colony serving in that capacity until his death.

He was distinguished for his religious zeal, and opposed those that he believed to be heretics, particularly the Quakers. He became infamous for the banishment of those who would not conform to his specific church law, including Samuel Gorton, the first governor of Rhode Island. He restructured the local government to secure his position and led the persecution of numerous people for offenses such as smiling in church, harboring non-church members, and tending garden during the Sabbath.

He also procured revenue for the colony’s grammar schools so future generations would be better educated.

George Willison in Saints and Strangers noted that in 1646, Thomas Prence was opposed to religious tolerance and, in 1657, was a leader in Quaker and Baptist persecutions. In Duxbury, the policy of Gov. Prence “met stiff opposition led by Henry and Arthur HOWLAND [our ancestors] and others. Henry Howland was up on the malicious charge of ‘improperlie entertaining’ a neighbor’s wife, and his young son, Zoeth, was put in the stocks for saying that he ‘would not goe to meeting to hear lyes, and that the Divill could preach as good a sermon as the ministers,’ with which many townspeople seemed to agree, choosing to pay a fine rather than attend public worship.”

Imagine Gov. Prence’s feelings when he discovered that “one of his chief enemy’s sons, young Arthur Howland [also our ancestor], was surreptitiously courting his daughter Elizabeth. As the law forbade ‘making motion of marriage’ to a girl without her parents’ consent, the irascible old governor promptly hauled the ‘impudent’ youth into court and fined him five pounds for ‘inveigeling’ his daughter. The young lovers were not discouraged and remained constant, for seven years later Arthur was again in court, was fined and put under bond of 50 pounds ‘to refrain and desist.’ The couple continued to behave ‘disorderlie and unrighteously,’ finally breaking the iron will of the old governor.” They were married and, “in good time the names of their children, Thomas Howland and Prence (Prince) Howland, were inscribed on the baptismal roll of the church.”

1657 –  Arthur Howland Jr.,  an ardent Quaker and son of Arthur HOWLAND Sr., 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.”

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.

Major Richard Waldron

1662 – Richard SCAMMON’s son-in-law, Major Richard Waldron was the local magistrate whose stern Puritan action  toward three persistent Quaker women proselytizers became the stuff of condemnatory poetry by Whittier. He ordered them to be marched behind a cart through eleven townships and stripped to the waist and whipped in each. When released in the third township they were marched into, the women left for Maine



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Great Swamp Fight – Aftermath

The Great Swamp Fight on December 19, 1675 was the most significant battle of King Philip’s War, what has been called the bloodiest (per capita) conflict in the history of America.  It was a critical blow to the Narragansett tribe from which they never fully recovered.  In April 1676, the Narragansett were completely defeated when the Wampanoag sachem Metacom was shot in the heart by John Alderman, a Native American soldier.  The Narragansett tribe was not recognized by the Federal Government until 1983 and today includes 2,400 members.

As I worked out our family genealogy, the Great Swamp Fight kept appearing again and again.  Our family seems to have an especially intimate relationship with this battle, but I’m beginning to think that every family was equally involved.  Nine direct ancestors participated, four were officers and one was killed.  27 close relatives were part of the fight of whom 6 were officers, six were killed or died of their wounds and six were wounded and survived.  Of the three small regiments involved, eleven officers were our ancestors or their children.

Navigate this Report
1. Overview
2. Background
3. The Battle

4. General Staff
5. Massachusetts Regiment
6. Plymouth Regiment
7. Connecticut Regiment

8. Joshua Tefft – the Only American Drawn & Quartered

9. Aftermath

9. Aftermath

The Indians retaliated in a widespread spring offensive beginning in February 1676, in which they destroyed all English settlements on the western side of Narragansett Bay. They burned Providence on March 27, 1676, destroying Roger Williams’ house, among others. Across New England, Indians destroyed many towns, and the attackers raided the suburbs of Boston. In spite of waging a successful campaign against the colonists, by the end of March, disease, starvation, battle loses, and the lack of gunpowder caused the Indian effort to collapse.

Rading parties from Connecticut composed of the colonists and Indian allies, such as the Pequot and Mohegan, swept into Rhode Island and killed substantial numbers of the now-weakened Narragansett. A mixed force of Mohegan and Connecticut militia captured Canonchet, the chief sachem of the Narragansett, a few days after the destruction of Providence, and delivered him to Connecticut authorities. When he was told he was to die, he replied, “I like it well that I should die before my heart has grown soft and I have said anything unworthy of myself.” He asked to be executed by Uncas, chief sachem of the Mohegan. Uncas and two Pequot sachems closest to Canonchet’s rank among his captors executed him in Indian style. The English treated Canonchet as a traitor, and had his body drawn and quartered. A mixed force of Plymouth militia and fellow Wampanoag hunted down Metacomet. He was shot and killed by John Alderman, an Indian soldier who had earlier served with him. The war ended in southern New England, although in Maine it dragged on for another year.

After the war, some surviving Narragansett were sold into slavery and shipped to the Caribbean; others became indentured servants in Rhode Island. The surviving Narragansett merged with local tribes, particularly the Eastern Niantic. During colonial and later times, tribe members intermarried with Europeans, Africans, and African-Americans. Their spouses and children were taken into the tribe, enabling them to keep a tribal and Native American cultural identity.

Maine Townships

In 1727, after many delays and discouragements, the Legislature of Massachusetts performed the tardy act of justice granting to the officers and soldiers, or their legal representatives, who served in the arduous Narragansett expedition during King Philip’s War, a township equal to six miles square in the Province of Maine, to each 120 persons whose claims should be established within four months from the passage of the act. It was found that the whole number amounted to 840. Seven townships were granted, called Narragansett No. 1 (now Buxton, Maine), 2 (now Westminster, Mass), 3 (now Amherst, New Hampshire), 4 (now Goffstown, N. H.; In 1735, however, some grantees “found it so poor and barren as to be altogether incapable of making settlements,” and were instead granted a tract in Greenwich, Massachusetts.), 5 (now Bedford, New Hampshire), 6 (now Templeton, Mass.), 7.,  assigned to the company of Capt. John GORHAM and a few others, which was afterwards incorporated as the town of “Gorham,” by which name it is now known. The Gorham grantees commenced their settlement in the year 1736. They were from the towns of Yarmouth, Barnstable, Eastham, and a few from Sandwich.

John Gorham’s grandson Col. Shubael Gorham

Shubael was a military officer and had sailed with Colonel John March in 1707 and then again as an ensign in Captain Caleb Williamson’s Barnstable Company with Nicholson when the English took Port Royal in 1710.

His greatest service, however, was his successful effort  in obtaining the grants of Nargansett Townships to the heirs of the soldiers who fought in King Philip’s War.  Col. Gorham spent much time and money promoting the settlement of Gorhamtown.  He bought the shares of many who did not desire to emigrate, but his speculations in the wild lands proved unfortunate.  Buying such lands is like lottery tickets, a few get prizes.  Col Gorham was not one of the lucky ones.  He died insolvent in 1746, his own children being his principal creditors.

During the 1745 Siege of Louisbourg, Shubael Gorham of Barnstable was Colonel of the Seventh Massachusetts Regiment. His son, John Gorham, was Lieut. Colonel and became Colonel upon Shubael’s death.

The names of the grantees from Yarmouth were as follows, though what proportion of them settled there we have no means of ascertaining :

From Yarmouth— Samuel Baker, William Chase, John Thacher, John Hallet, John Matthews, Thomas Thornton, Edward Gray, Samuel Hall, Jona. Smith, Sam’l Jones, John Taylor, Thomas Fulton, John Gage, William Fellows, William Gage, Ananias Wing [son of John WING II], John Pugsley, Daniel BAKER, Rd. Taylor, Wm. Gray, Capt. John GORHAM, Thomas Baxter, James Maker, James Claghorn, Joseph Hall, Nath’l Hall, Elemuel Hedge [son of Captain William HEDGE], Joseph Wildens, Sam’l Thomas, John Crowell, John CHASE, Henry Golds, Rd. Lake, Jabez Gorham [Son of Capt. John GORHAM], Henry Gage, Everton Crowell, Jona. White. [In 1741, Wm. Gray is put down for his father’s, Edward Gray’s, heirs ; Sam’l Baker, for his father, Samuel (Francis BAKER‘s son); and Shubael Gorham, for his father, John GORHAM]

Voluntown, Connecticut

Most of the land which makes up the present town of Voluntown was granted in 1700 by the Court to the Volunteers of the Narragansett War in 1700, thus the name “Voluntown.”

Voluntown, New London, Connecticut

In 1705 the town was surveyed and boundaries were established. The plot was drawn up into lots, with each eligible volunteer receiving a lot. The land was rough terrain, although fertile soil, and was in a remote location.

In May 1708 the settlement was called the Plantation of Voluntown. It became the town of Voluntown, Connecticut in 1721. Town vital records begin 1708. Barbour collection records cover 1708-1850.

From History of New London county, Connecticut, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (1882)

VOLUNTOWN lies in the extreme northeastern part of the county, and is bounded as follows : on the north by Windham County, on the east by the State of Rhode Island, on the south by North Stonington, and on the west by Griswold. The surface of the town is uneven, but the soil is generally fertile.

The Volunteers’ Grant. — The greater part of the tract embraced within the bounds of the present town of Voluntown. was granted in 1700 to the volunteers in the Narragansett war, from which circumstance the town derives its name. From the organization of the colony it had been customary to make grants to officers and soldiers who had distinguished themselves in the service of their country. Major John MASON and, others engaged in the Pequot war were granted lands, which stimulated those who had performed such signal feats in the Narragansett war to ask for a grant of a town in acknowledgment of their services. The petition to the General Court for the grant was presented in 1696 by Lieut. Thomas Leffingwell, of Norwich, and Sergt. John Frink, of Stonington, “that they with the rest of the English volunteers in former wars might have a plantation granted to them.” The petition was formally received, and a tract six miles square was granted, ” to be taken up out of some of the conquered land.”

A committee ” of discovery” was at once sent out in search of suitable land for a plantation, but found their choice very limited, as most of the conquered land had already been appropriated by Major FITCH, the Winthrops, and others. The committee reported that the only available land remaining within the Connecticut limits was lying a short distance east of Norwich, bordering on Rhode Island. A committee consisting of Capt. Samuel Mason [John MASON’s son], Mr. John Gallup, and Lieut. James Avery was appointed to view the said tract and report whether it ” would accommodate a body of people for comfortable subsistence in a plantation way.”

After a deliberation of three years the committee reported favorably, and in October, 1700, Lieut. Leffingwell, Richard Bushnell, Isaac Wheeler, Caleb Fobes, Samuel Bliss, Joseph Morgan, and Manasseh Minor [Thomas MINER’s son] moved that the grant be confirmed. The original bounds of the grant were nearly dentical with those of the present township, except it extended on the east to Pawcatuck River.

Voluntown was a barren tract of but little value, and after the Narragansett war was claimed by the Mohegans. The Quinnebaug sachem Massashowitt also laid claim to it.

The first meeting of the proprietors or grantees was held at Stonington, July 1, 1701, to make arrangements for survey and appropriation. Richard Bushnell was chosen clerk of the company, and S. Leffingwell, James Avery, John Frink, and Richard Smith were appointed a committee ” to pass all those that offer themselves as volunteers.”

A number of years, however, passed before the division was completed, as the territory was still in dispute, and it was not until 1705 that the Mohegans’ claim was adjusted. In that year the town was formally surveyed and the bounds established.

But a narrow strip of land was accorded to the Mohegans under this survey, but during the same summer a considerable portion of the town was taken by Rhode Island. So greatly did it damage the grant ” that they feared their intended purpose of settling a plantation so accommodable for a Christian society as they desired was frustrated.”

At a meeting of the volunteers, held Nov. 14, 1705, it was decided to have the town resurveyed, computed, and laid out in as many lots as there was volunteers, and to number them, etc.

April 17, 1706, a meeting was held, when it was voted ” to go on and draw lots upon that part of the land laid out,” and the grant was made to one hundred and sixty persons who had enrolled their names as desiring to share the benefit of the grant. These were residents of New London, Norwich, Stonington, Windham, Plainfleld, and other neighboring towns. The list embraced officers, soldiers, ministers, chaplains, and others who had served the colony in a civil capacity during the war.

Notwithstanding the survey of the town had been made and the various lots designated, very little progress was made for several years in its settlement. Its soil was poor and its location remote and inconvenient. ” A pair of come four year old steers” was once given in exchange for eighty-six acres.

The first settler of Voluntown was Samuel Fish, soon followed by John Gallup, John and Francis Smith, Robert Parke, Thomas Reynolds, Thomas Coles, John Campbell, John SAFFORD Jr, Obadiah Rhodes and Samuel Whaley.

The loss of so important a portion of the town as that taken by Rhode Island caused the volunteers at once to appeal to the General Assembly for an equivalent and they petitioned that body that the vacant colony land lying on the north might be annexed. After various earnest petitions, four years later, 1719, the prayer of the petitioners was granted, and what is now the present town of Sterling, except a small strip on the north border, was annexed to Voluntown.

The annexed territory was surveyed as rapidly as possible by John Plumb, surveyor for New London County. Thirty lots were laid out and assigned to nineteen persons.

The first Congregational Church of Voluntown was established in 1720 upon the employment of a Reverend Wilson.

1696 – John WILLEY I ( deceased)  granted lands in Voluntown, Conn., in 1696, for their services in the Connecticut volunteers in King Philip’s War [Narragansett Hist. Beg., 1882, p. 146.]

Samuel PERKINS of Ipswich, Mass. was a cordwainer by trade. He served as a soldier in the Narragansett war, for which he received a portion of land at Voluntown, on the eastern border of Connecticut, which land afterward came into possession of his son Ebenezer PERKINS, who settled upon it, and in 1735 sold it to John Wildes of Topsfield, Mass.

Clement MINER was a Lieutenant in the Militia which was a considerable honor in his day. In the records of New London, Clement is mentioned as “Deacon” or “Ensign”, but the record of his appointment as Ensign has not been found. With his father and brothers, he served in King Philip’s War in 1676, and as a volunteer, was granted a lot in Voluntown, Connecticut. Clement’s brothers Ephraim and Joseph also received land in Voluntown.

Ephraim Miner lived at Stonington, CT, was a farmer, freeman, 1669, deputy to the general court, 1676, 1677, 1681, 1690093, 1699, 1701-05, 1713; lieutenant of train band. He served in the King Philip war and for his service received arable land and cedar swamp in Voluntown, CT.

Joseph Miner lived at Stonington and was a farmer and physician. He became a freeman 1669; deputy to the general court, 1696, 1706; selectman, 1694-98, 1704, 1709, 1719. He served in King Philip war and for his services received arable land cedar swamp in Voluntown, Connecticut.


In the 1740s during the First Great Awakening, colonists founded the Narragansett Indian Church, to try to convert more natives to Christianity. The church and its surrounding 3 acres were the only property never to leave tribal ownership. This continuous ownership was critical evidence of continuity during the tribe’s long documentation and success in gaining federal recognition in 1983.

he Narragansett Indian Church in Charlestown was founded in the 1740s. Constructed in 1994, this building replaced one that burned down.

In the 19th century, the tribe resisted repeated state efforts to declare it no longer valid because of intermarriage with other settlers. Tribal leaders resisted increasing legislative pressure after the Civil War to “take up citizenship” in the United States, which required them to give up their treaty privileges and Indian nation status. In testimony to the legislature, a Narragansett spokesperson explained that they saw injustices under existing US citizenship, and pointed to Jim Crow laws in effect that limited citizenship of blacks despite their rights under the law. They also resisted the idea that black ancestry was more important than all other ancestry in defining tribal identity. As the Narragansett saw it, they had brought people of European and African ancestry into their tribal nation by marriage and they became culturally Narragansett.

“We are not negroes, we are the heirs of Ninagrit, and of the great chiefs and warriors of the Narragansetts. Because, when your ancestors stole the negro from Africa and brought him amongst us and made a slave of him, we extended him the hand of friendship, and permitted his blood to be mingled with ours, are we to be called negroes? And to be told that we may be made negro citizens? We claim that while one drop of Indian blood remains in our veins, we are entitled to the rights and privileges guaranteed by your ancestors to ours by solemn treaty, which without a breach of faith you cannot violate.”]

The state persisted in its efforts at “detribalization” from 1880-1884. While the tribe agreed to negotiations for sale of its land, it quickly regretted its action and set about to try to regain the land. In 1880 the state recognized 324 Narragansett tribal members as claimants to the land during negotiations. Although the state put tribal lands up for public sale in the 19th century, the tribe did not disperse and its members continued to practice its culture.

Bella Machado-Noka, a Narragansett woman dressed for a powwow.

In 1978 the Narragansett Tribe signed a Joint Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Rhode Island, Town of Charlestown, and private property owners in settlement of their land claim. A total of 1,800 acres was transferred to a corporation formed to hold the land in trust for descendants of the 1880 Narragansett Roll, in exchange for agreeing that, except for hunting and fishing, the laws of Rhode Island would be in effect on those lands.

The tribe prepared extensive documentation of its genealogy and proof of continuity with the 324 tribal members of treaty status. In 1979 the tribe applied for federal recognition, which it finally regained in 1983 as the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.

Narragansett Tribal Seal

The state and tribe have disagreed on certain rights on the reservation. On July 14, 2003, Rhode Island state police raided a tribe-run smoke shop on the Charlestown reservation, the culmination of a dispute over the tribe’s failure to pay state taxes on its sale of cigarettes. In 2005 the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals declared the police action a violation of the tribe’s sovereignty. In 2006, an en banc decision of the First Circuit reversed the prior decision, stating the raid did not violate the tribe’s sovereign immunity because of the 1978 Joint Memorandum of Agreement settling the land issues, in which the tribe agreed that state law would be observed on its land.

After trying to develop 31 acres of land in Charlestown which the Narrangansett purchased in 1991 for elderly housing, in 1998 they requested the Department of Interior (DOI) to take it into trust on their behalf to remove it from state and local control. The state of Rhode Island sued the DOI over its authority to take land into trust on behalf of certain American Indians. While the authority was part of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, the state argued that the process could not hold for tribes that achieved federal recognition after 1934. In Carcieri v. Salazar (2009) the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Rhode Island.

The Narragansett Tribe is negotiating with the Rhode Island General Assembly for approval to build a casino in Rhode Island with their partner, currently Harrah’s Entertainment.

American English has absorbed a number of loan words from Narragansett and other closely related languages, including quahog, moose, papoose, powwow, squash, and succotash.


http://bigelowsociety.com/rod/battles.htm – Most contemporary accounts of these events are base on two letters written by Joseph Dudley and one written by Captain James Oliver. Joseph Dudley served as a chaplain for the army and was also on General Winslow’s staff. Captain Oliver was in command of the Third Company if the Massachusetts regiment.




http://quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=150 – Joshua Tefft’s Story



History of New London county, Connecticut, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men (1882) by Hurd, D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) (Story of founding of Voluntown)

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Great Swamp Fight – Joshua Tefft

The Great Swamp Fight on December 19, 1675 was the most significant battle of King Philip’s War, what has been called the bloodiest (per capita) conflict in the history of America.  It was a critical blow to the Narragansett tribe from which they never fully recovered.  In April 1676, the Narragansett were completely defeated when the Wampanoag sachem Metacom was shot in the heart by John Alderman, a Native American soldier.  The Narragansett tribe was not recognized by the Federal Government until 1983 and today includes 2,400 members.

As I worked out our family genealogy, the Great Swamp Fight kept appearing again and again.  Our family seems to have an especially intimate relationship with this battle, but I’m beginning to think that every family was equally involved.  Nine direct ancestors participated, four were officers and one was killed.  27 close relatives were part of the fight of whom 6 were officers, six were killed or died of their wounds and six were wounded and survived.  Of the three small regiments involved, eleven officers were our ancestors or their children.

Navigate this Report
1. Overview
2. Background
3. The Battle

4. General Staff
5. Massachusetts Regiment
6. Plymouth Regiment
7. Connecticut Regiment

8. Joshua Tefft – the Only American Drawn & Quartered

9. Aftermath

8. Joshua Tefft – the Only American Drawn & Quartered

In January 1676, Joshua Tefft was hanged, drawn and quartered at  Smith’s Castle in Wickford, Rhode Island  He was an English colonist who had fought on the side of the Narragansett during the Great Swamp Fight.

There is documentary evidence that both Joshua Tefft and his brother Samuel spoke the native Algonquin language.  Accounts after battle say Joshua married an Indian woman, a Wampanoag.   For fourteen years the Tefft family lived peacefully with their Narragansett neighbors, until the outbreak of King Philip’s War in 1675. While the Tefft family sought safety on Aquidneck Island, Joshua remained behind to care for the cattle.

Joshua Tefft’s farm was only two miles from the Narragansett stronghold  in the Great Swamp.  Tefft claimed that he had been taken captive by the Narragansett—his life spared only on the condition that he serve as their slave.  However, an Indian woman taken captive by the English of the United Colonies reported that Joshua was their “encourager and conductor.”

Tefft’s Hill is about 2 miles east of the Indian stronghold marked on this 1906 Map with a red “X”.   Smith’s Castle is about 15 miles northeast in North Kingston/Wickford.

Captain Oliver of Massachusetts reported that Joshua Tefft had “shot 20 times at us in the swamp.  Records indicate that Joshua wounded Captain Nathaniel Seely of Connecticut, who subsequently died.  An Indian spy reported that Joshua, “did them good service & kild & woonded 5 or 6 English in that fight & before they wold trust him hee had kild a miller an English man at Narragansett and brought his scalpe to them.”

Yet, Joshua claimed that “Himselfe had no Arms at all” at his interrogation recorded by Roger Williams in Providence   He was subsequently extradited to Wickford into the custody of General Josiah Winslow, Governor of Plymouth, and Richard Smith on January 16, 1676. Two days later at Smith’s garrison, Joshua was executed for high treason, the only Englishman to suffer such a fate in all New England history. Major William Bradford of Plymouth wrote: “The Englishman that was taken had his doom yesterday, to be hanged and quartered; which was done effectually.”

As set out in the Incorporation of Providence Plantations in 1647, the following provision details the process, presumed to have been used against Joshua Tefft at Smith’s Castle. Frequently, the victim’s body or head was publicly displayed as a warning to others.

For high treason, if a man, he being accused by two lawful witnesses or accusers, shall be drawn upon a hurdell unto the place of execution, and there shall be hanged by the neck, cut down alive, his entrails and privie members cut from him and burned in his view; then shall his head be cut off and his body quartered; his lands and his goods all forfeited.

What happened after Joshua Tefft’s execution seems to suggest that he was not guilty of high treason, but merely of seeking to preserve his own life and property under duress. The Rhode Island government swiftly admonished the soldiers of the United Colonies as unwelcome intruders, but there was little else that they could do.

After the war, the colonial government of Rhode Island took an almost solicitous posture towards the Tefft family. Joshua’s brother, Samuel Tefft, and his brother-in-law, the future Governor Joseph Jenkes, became freemen of the colony in 1677  In 1681, Joshua’s orphan son, Peter Tefft, was appointed three guardians: Jireh Bull, Justice of the Peace of Pettaquamscutt; the prominent John Greene of Warwick, who later became deputy governor of Rhode Island; and Peter’s uncle, Samuel Tefft.  The guardianship order made it clear that Peter, a nine year old boy in 1681, was a landowner apparently having right to all the possessions of his father, even though Joshua was executed as a felon by Puritan authorities, and even though colonial law required a convicted traitor’s lands and goods to be forfeited.

The Tefft Historical Park consists of at least five loci with American Indian artifact deposition, and multiple loci representing historic period occupation between the mid-17th to early 20th century.

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Great Swamp Fight – Regiments

The Great Swamp Fight on December 19, 1675 was the most significant battle of King Philip’s War, what has been called the bloodiest (per capita) conflict in the history of America.  It was a critical blow to the Narragansett tribe from which they never fully recovered.  In April 1676, the Narragansett were completely defeated when the Wampanoag sachem Metacom was shot in the heart by John Alderman, a Native American soldier.  The Narragansett tribe was not recognized by the Federal Government until 1983 and today includes 2,400 members.

As I worked out our family genealogy, the Great Swamp Fight kept appearing again and again.  Our family seems to have an especially intimate relationship with this battle, but I’m beginning to think that every family was equally involved.  Nine direct ancestors participated, four were officers and one was killed.  27 close relatives were part of the fight of whom 6 were officers, six were killed or died of their wounds and six were wounded and survived.  Of the three small regiments involved, eleven officers were our ancestors or their children.

Navigate this Report
1. Overview
2. Background
3. The Battle

4. General Staff
5. Massachusetts Regiment
6. Plymouth Regiment
7. Connecticut Regiment

8. Joshua Tefft – the Only American Drawn & Quartered

9. Aftermath

4. Roster of the Officers of the Army of the the United Colonies

As organized for the Naragansett Campaign, and mustered at Pettisquamscot, December 19, 1675.

General Josiah Winslow, Governor of Plymouth Colony, Commander-in-Chief  Severely wounded in the fight.

General Staff

Daniel Weld, of Salem, Chief Surgeon

Joseph Dudley, of Boston, Chaplain

Benjamin Church, of Little Compton, RI., Aid severely wounded in this fight (c. 1639-1718), considered the father of American ranging was the captain of the first Ranger force in America (1676). Church was commissioned by the Governor of the Plymouth Colony Josiah Winslow to form the first ranger company for King Philip’s War. He later employed the company to raid Acadia during King Williams War and Queen Anne’s War.

Church designed his force primarily to emulate Indian patterns of war. Toward this end, he endeavored to learn to fight like Indians from Indians. Americans became rangers exclusively under the tutelage of the Indian allies. (Until the end of the colonial period, rangers depended on Indians as both allies and teachers.)

Church developed a special full-time unit mixing white colonists selected for frontier skills with friendly Indians to carry out offensive strikes against hostile Indians and French in terrain where normal militia units were ineffective. His memoirs “Entertaining Passages relating to Philip’s War” were published in 1716 and are considered the first American military manual

Capt. Benjamin Church

5. Massachusetts Regiment

Samuel Appleton, of Ipswich, Major and Captain of First Company  (b. 1625 in Little Waldingfield, Suffolk, England – d. 15 May 1696 in Ipswich, Essex, Mass.) m1. . 2 Apr 1651 in Boston to Hannah Paine (1627  – 1656)   Hannah’s parents were William Paine and Anna North.  Her grandparents were William PAYNE and Agnes NEVES.

In November 1675, John HARVEY enlisted from Charlestown, Massachusetts as a soldier in Major Samuel Appleton’s Battalion and marched with it from Dedham into the Narragansett country and was “wounded but not disabled,” at the ‘Great Swamp Fight.”

Regimental Staff

Richard Knott, of Marblehead, Surgeon

Samuel Nowell, of Boston, Chaplain

John Morse, of Ipswich, Commissary

On the Narragansett Expedition which was appointed for the next December, the three colonies of Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts united in furnishing military forces to be under the command of Josias Winslow, of Plymouth, as general.

William WOODCOCK Sr.’s son John Woodcock’s Garrison in North Attleboro, Mass was a place of rendezvous for the Massachusetts portion of the army. Six companies under the command of Captains Mosely, Gardiner, Davenport, Oliver, Johnson, and Major Appleton, who commanded this portion of the force, and who, on the ” 9th Dec. 1676 marched with them from Dedham to Woodcock’s, the well known place of rendezvous, 30 miles from Boston, and there encamped for the night.”

His companies numbered four hundred and sixty-five foot, and one company of horse under command of Captain Prentice, so that the whole number must have been over five hundred. This was a large army for the infant colony of Massachusetts forty-six years only after the settlement at Boston. They marched over the ” Oulde Bay Road.” Here they rested, and then marched on to Seekonk, where they met the army of Plymouth Colony, under General Winslow, and where the two forces were united and moved on their way to the great Narragansett fight. These same forces must have rendezvoused at Woodcock’s on their return.

Officers of the Line

First Company: Samuel Appleton, of Ipswich, Captain of First Company and Major of the Massachusetts Regiment, Jeremiah Swain, Lt. Ezekiel Woodward, Sgt. (Acting Ensign) [son-in-law of William BEAMSLEY]

136 troops, 4 killed, 18 wounded including Lt. Swain

The official account read:

“A List of Major Saml Apleton Souldjers yt slayne & wounded The 19th Decemb ’75 at the Indian fort at Narragansett

Samuell Taylor of Ipswich, Isaac Illery of Glocester, Daniel Rolfe on Newberry, Samuel Taylor of Rowley,- 4 men slayne

Lieft. Jerrimyah Swayne of Redding, Roger Markes of Andiver, Isaac Ilsley of Newberry, Wm Standley of Newberry, Dani. Somersby of Newberry, Jonathan Emery of Newberry, Jn. Dennison of Ipswich, Jn Harvey of Newberry, George Timson of Ipswich, Tho: Dowe of Ipswich, Symon Gowen of Rowley, Benj. Webster of Salem, Ellja Thathan of Oborne, Tho: Abey of Wenham, Benj. Langdon of Boston, Solomon Watts of Roxbury, Jn. Warner of Charlestowne, Samuell Boutericke of Cambridge, eighteen men wounded who are at Road Island except ye Left. & Roger Marks – January 6 ’75”.

One of the four killed, Daniel Rolfe, was the grandson of Humphrey BRADSTREET.

Ezekiel Woodward was the son-in-law of William BEAMSLEY marrying his daughter Ann Jan 1649/50.  After Ann died, he married 20 Dec 1672 at Age: 48 in Wenham, Essex, Mass to Mrs. Elizabeth Soldart and became the step-father of Sarah (Soldart) Good (wiki) was the first person accused of witchcraft in 1692.

29 Feb 1675/76 – A bill presented by Serg’t Ezekiel Woodward of Maj Appleton’s company, in which his pay was for nine weeks as a common soldier £2 14 00 and he petitions for a sergeants pay. This shows the term of service in the Narragansett campaign to begin Saturday, Dec 4th as it closed, on Feb. 5.”

In May, 1676, the Court voted to repay the losses of divers persons who were “damnified” by the burning of Major Appleton’s tent at Narraganset.  Ezekiel was grantee for Narragansett Township No. 1. (now Buxton, Maine)

Thomas Hazen, son of Edward HAZEN Sr.  servied in Major Samuel Appleton’s company in the Narragansett campaign, 1675-76; Great Swamp Fight.  Thomas was an enlisted man at the time of this fight, but he was known as Corporal in 1689, Sargent in 1699, Ensign in 1700 and Lt in 1711.  As a reward for this service he was made one of the grantees of Narraganset Township No. 4 (later Greenwich, Mass.), the grant being confirmed about 1738-40.

Samuel RICHARDSON‘s son Joseph was admitted freeman 15 May 1672.  He was one of Major Samuel Appleton’s soldiers, and was engaged in the fierce assault on the Narraganset fort on 19 Dec 1675. He was a selectman of Woburn, 1693, 1694, and 1702.

Samuel PERKINS of Ipswich was a cordwainer by trade. He served as a soldier in the Narragansett war, for which he received a portion of land at Voluntown, on the eastern border of Connecticut, which land afterward came into possession of his son Ebenezer PERKINS, who settled upon it, and in 1735 sold it to John Wildes of Topsfield, Mass.

Greenwich was established in 1739 as Quabbin, incorporated as Quabbin Parish in 1754 and became the town of Greenwich in 1754. It was located along the East and Middle branches of the Swift River.   It was well known for its lakes and ponds, which were popular vacation spots. It was disincorporated on April 28, 1938 as part of the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir.It is now largely below water, except for the hilltops of Curtis Hill, Mount Liz and Mount Pomeroy, which are now islands.

Credited under Capt. Samuel Appleton

December 10. 1675

Thomas Davis 04 18 06
John Ford 03 10 00
Israel Thorn 03 18 00
Thomas Waite 03 18 00
Francis Young, Corpl 04 11 00
Ezekiel Woodward  son-in-law of William BEAMSLEY  05 17 00
Samuel Rust 04 00 00
Sylvester Hayes 05 03 00
Stephen Gullifer 02 10 06
Thomas Hastings 02 14 00
Roger Vicar 02 10 06
Stephen Butler 03 18 00
Robert Sibly 02 10 06
William Knowlton 04 16 10
Thomas Brown 02 10 06
Thomas Ferman 04 16 10
Isaac Ilsley 02 10 06
Samuel Brabrook 02 10 06
Arthur Neale 02 10 06
John Boynton (Son of John BOYNTON) 04 16 10
Israel Henerick 03 18 00
Robert Simson 03 18 00
Samuel Very 03 18 00
Philip Matoone 02 10 06
Philemon Dean 05 17 00
Gershom Browne 03 18 00
Andrew Heding 02 10 06
Robert Downes 03 18 00
Robert PEASE 03 18 00
Thomas Tenny 03 18 00
Thomas Hazen (Son of Edward HAZEN Sr.) 03 18 00
William Webb 02 10 06
Solomon Watts 02 10 06
Nathaniel Masters 04 16 10
Isaac Ellery 02 10 06
Daniel Ringe, Corpl 04 11 00
John Pengilly, Corpl 02 19 00
Stephen Greenleaf (Son of Edmund GREENLEAF) 08 16 10
Richard Hancock 03 18 00
John Whicher, Sergt 05 17 00
William Williams 03 18 00
Joseph Blancher 02 14 10
George Stedman 02 10 06
Thomas Sparke 03 18 00
John Raymond 03 18 00
Samuel Foster 03 18 00
Henry Cooke 03 18 00
Samuel Hebard 03 18 00
John Davis 03 18 00
Samuel Ierson 03 18 00
Joseph Eaton 02 10 06
James Brearly 04 16 00
Abial Sadler 03 18 00
William Wainwright 03 18 00
Benjamin Webster 04 16 10
John Warner 02 10 06
Ephraim Cutter 03 04 06
Thomas Abbey 03 18 00

Second Company: Samuel Mosely, Captain, Perez Savage, Lt.

Dainell Mathews and James Junson, Serjeants; James Smith, Dennis Siky, Clerke; Edward Wesson, Jno. Fuller, Richard Barnum, Samuell Fosdicke, Corporalls;

92 troops, 6 killed, 9 wounded including Lt. Savage.

Third Company: James Oliver, Capt. [son-in-law of our ancestor Thomas DEXTER Sr.], Ephraim Turner, Lt., Peter Bennett, Sergeant (Acting Ensign)

83 troops, 5 killed, 8 wounded

On Nov 17 1675, James Oliver was appointed to command the Boston company for the Naragansett campaign. He was one of the few officers who made it through the Swamp Fight uninjured.

Fourth Company: Isaac Johnson, Captain, Phineas Upham [grandson of our ancestor Richard UPHAM], Lt, Henry Bowen, Ensign.

75 troops, 4 killed including Capt. Johnson, 8 wounded including Lt Upham

On July 6, 1675, Capt. Johnson was sent with a small escort to conduct 52 friendly Indians to the army at Mount Hope. On July 15, 1675, on news of the attack upon Mendon, he was sent out there to relieve the town and was ordered back on July 26th. Upon mustering at Dedham Plain for the Naragansett campaign, Capt. Johnson was placed in command of a company made up of men from Roxbury, Dorchester, Milton, Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, and Hull, numbering 75 all told. At the battle of the Great Swamp fight Capt. Johnson was killed when leading his men against the barrier at the entrance to the fort. After his death and the mortal wound of Lt. Upham, the command of the company passed to Ensign Henry Bowen, later promoted to lieutenant.

Phineas Upham was grandson of our ancestor Richard UPHAM].,  In September, 1675, Lieut. Upham was a subaltern officer under Capt. John GORHAM, of Barnstable, and out on a scout after Indians in what is now the towns of Grafton, Oxford and Dudley, and the city of Worcester, then an almost unbroken wilderness.

Under date of Mendon, Oct. 1, 1675, Lieut. Upham addressed a letter to the Governor and Council of Massachusetts, in which he said, “Now seeing that in all our marches we find no Indians, we verily think that they are drawn together into great bodies, far remote from these parts,” and thus it in fact proved to be, and that drawing together into a great body was then being done on the island in the swamp, in what is now the town of Kingston, in Washington County, Rhode Island.

Phineas was assigned to Capt. Johnson’s company, and after that gallant officer’s fall, was himself fatally wounded, at the head of the company, inside the fort. He was among the wounded at Rhode Island, January 6, 1675/76. He died at Boston, October, 1676,

Thomas Holbrook, son of Thomas HOLBROOK Sr., Thomas served under Capt. Isaac Johnson in King Philip’s war and presumably was at the Narragansett Fort battle.  For this service his heirs received a share in the land granted to soldiers at Narragannsett No. 5 (Bedford, NH) in 1733.  He lived in Braintree.

Fifth Company: Nathaniel Davenport, Captain, Edward Tyng, Lt., John Drury, Ensign

75 troops, 4 killed including Capt. Davenport, 11 wounded including Lt. Ting.

In December 1675 Nathaniel Davenport was serving on the jury at the Court of Assistants when he was summoned to take command of the 5th Company in the Massachusetts Regiment for the Naragansett Campaign. This company was made up chiefly of men from Cambridge and Watertown. The company mustered at Dedham Plain and marched to Naragansett with the army. On December 19th , at the Great Fort fight, Capt. Mosely and Capt. Davenport led the way and were the first officers to enter the fort. The death of Captain Davenport follows:

“Before our men came up to take possession of the fort, the Indians had shot three Bullets through Capt. Davenport, whereupon he bled extreamly, and immediately called for his Lieutenant, Mr. Edward Ting, and committed the charge of the Company to him, and desired him to take care of his Gun, and deliver it according to Order and immediately died in his place….. And it is very probable the Indians might think Capt. Davenport was the General because he had a very good buff Suit on at the Time and therefore might shoot at him.”

Capt. Davenport left no children, and his nephew, Addington Davenport, inherited his Naragansett claim.  Lieutenant Ting (or Tyng) commanded the company during the rest of this campaign, and many credits are given under him as Captain.

Daniel WOODWARD , John BURBEEN and  John POLLEY are included on a list of men impressed in several towns where Capt. Davenport’s company was raised. Daniel is listed under Cambridge which is five miles from Medford where he lived most of his life and John Burbeen and John Polley are listed under Woburn.   Of course, many impressed were either excused for disability or escaped from the service in some other manner. The returns were dated from Nov. 25 t0 Dec. 3, 1675

Sixth Company: Joseph Gardiner, Captain, William Hawthorne, Lt., Benjamin Sweet, Ensign (promoted Lieutenant), Jeremiah Neal, Sergeant (promoted Ensign)

95 troops, 7 killed including Capt. Gardiner at the first charge of the gate, 10 wounded

Joseph Gardiner was the husband of Anne Downing, grand daughter of our ancestor George DOWNING.  Anne’s father Emanuel Downing  gave this house to his daughter Anne and her husband Capt. Joseph Gardiner. After Joseph was killed at the Great Swamp Fight, Anne remarried to the last Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony,  Simon Bradstreet

File:Gov Simon Bradstreet's Mansion.jpeg

Emanuel gave this house to his daughter Anne and her husband Capt. Joseph Gardiner. After Joseph was killed at the Great Swamp Fight, Anne remarried to Gov. Simon Bradstreet

Historians in Salem believe the house burnt or was torn down in the the late 1700′s or early 1800′s.  The lot is now the site of the Peabody -Essex Musuem which  may be considered one of the oldest continuously operating museums in the United States.

On May 12, 1675, the militia of Salem was divided into two companies by order of the Court, and by the same order the election of Joseph Gardiner as captain of the First Company in Salem was confirmed. When the expedition against the Naragansetts was organized, Capt. Gardiner was appointed, November 3, 1675, to command a company raised at Salem and the adjoining towns, and mustered his men, ninety-five strong, at Dedham Plain, December 10th , and marched with his army towrds the rendezvous at Wickford. During the march several skirmishes took place, and Mr. Hubbard relates that some of Stone-wall-John’s crew “met with some of Capt. Gardiner’s men that were stragling about their own business contrary to order, and slew his Sergeant with one or two more.” In “Capt. Oliver’s Narrative” it is related that on this occasion the Indians “killed two Salem men within a mile of our quarters and wounded a third so that he his dead.” The fall of Capt. Gardiner is related in Church’s “Entertaing History”:

“Mr. Church spying Capt. Gardiner of Salem amidst the Wigwams at the east end of the Fort, made towards him; but on a sudden while they were looking each other in the face, capt. Gardiner settled down, Mr. Church stepped to him, seeing the blood run down his cheek lifted his cap and calling him by name, he looked up in his face but spake not a word, being mortally Shot through the head.”

After the death of Capt. Gardiner, the command of his company fell upon his lieutenant, William Hathorn, under whom the men served the remainder of the campaign, until disbanded about February 7th to 10th. It is thus that the men were credited sometimes under Gardiner, sometimes under Hathorn, occasionally both; the latter’s name signed to the voucher on “debenter” which each soldier presented to the paymaster, doubtless confused the clerks and caused this appearance of double command.

His widow, then aged about thirty-four, married June 6, 1676, Gov. Simon Bradstreet, whose age was about seventy-three. She died April 19, 1713, aged 79. Leaving no children, Capt Gardiner’s Naragansett claim fell to the oldest male heir of his eldest brother Thomas. This heir was Habkkuk Gardiner, son of the Captain’s nephew Thomas, who in the list of claimants claims in the “right of his uncle, Capt. Joseph Gardiner.”

19 Dec 1675 – Joseph BATCHELLER’s son Mark  Batcheller was a soldier in the company of Capt. Joseph Gardner of Salem,    Mark Bachelder of Wenham along with Joseph Peirce and Sam’l Pikeworth, of Salem, and, were killed outright while endeavoring to force an entrance at the gate of the Indian fort.   Mark’s estate was valued at £131.

Another version of Joseph Gardner’s story from Salem Witchcraft, Volumes I and II, by Charles Upham

Captain Gardner’s company was raised in this neighborhood. Joseph Peirce and Samuel Pikeworth of Salem, and Mark Bachelder of Wenham, were killed before entering the fort. Abraham Switchell of Marblehead, Joseph Soames of Cape Ann, and Robert Andrews of Topsfield, were killed at the fort. Charles Knight, Thomas Flint, and Joseph Houlton, Jr., of Salem Village; Nicholas Hakins and John Farrington, of Lynn; Robert Cox, of Marblehead; Eben Baker and Joseph Abbot, of Andover; Edward Harding, of Cape Ann; and Christopher Read, of Beverly,–were wounded. An account of the death of Captain Gardner, in detail, has been preserved. The famous warrior, and final conqueror of King Philip, Benjamin Church, was in the fight as a volunteer, rendered efficient service, and was wounded. His “History of King Philip’s War” is reprinted, by John Kimball Wiggin, as one of his series of elegant editions of rare and valuable early colonial publications entitled “Library of New England History.” In the second number, Part I. of Church’s history is edited by Henry Martyn Dexter. Church’s account of what came within his observation in this fight, with the notes of the learned editor, is the most valuable source of information we have in reference to it.

He says, that, in the heat of the battle, he came across Gardner, “amidst the wigwams in the east end of the fort, making towards him; but, on a sudden, while they were looking each other in the face, Captain Gardner settled down.” He instantly went to him. The blood was running over his cheek. Church lifted up his cap, calling him by name. “Gardner looked up in his face, but spoke not a word, being mortally shot through the head.”

The widow of Captain Gardner (Ann, sister of Sir George Downing) became the successor of Ann Dudley, the celebrated poetess of her day, by marrying Governor Bradstreet, in 1680. She died in 1713.

John PERKINS’ grandson Zacheus Perkins must have been the cause of much sorrow.  To his credit he was a soldier under Captain Joseph Gardner of Salem in King Philip’s War and was at the Great Swamp Fight in 1676.   Found guilty of stealing at his trial on May 4, 1680 he was sentenced to be branded on the forehead with the letter “B” and publically whipped which was carried out on May 6 “immediately after lecture.”

Cavalry Company ( “Troop”): Thomas Prentice, Captain, John Wyman, Cornet (promoted Lieutenant)

20 troops, 1 killed, 3 wounded

John Wyman, the son of our ancestor Francis WYMAN Sr.  was wounded in Great Swamp Fight.     He was the second officer in the only cavalry troops the English had at the Narraganset Fort fight.   In this fight his son John was killed, but he escaped with a wound in his cheek from an Indian arrow.

John Sr. had an indentured servant named Simpson working in the Wyman tannery. Simpson was a Scot who had fought against Cromwell and when captured was sent to New England as an indentured servant. Simpson also fought in King Philip’s War.  After his son’s death, John petitioned the General Court to excuse Simpson from further duty;

To the Honorable Govers: ye Council now Sitting in Boston

The Petition of John Wyman.

Humbly Sheweth that yore Petitioner Hath beene often out in the service of ye Country against the Indians: his sone also was out and slaine by the enemy: and his servants hath beene long out in the warrs and now being reduced to greate wants for clotheing: desires liberty to come downe from Hadly where he now remains a garrison souldier: and he is a taner by traid and yore Petitioner bought him on purpose for that management of his tan yard: and himselfe being unexperienced in that calling doth humbly request that favore of your honors to consider the premisses and to grant his said servant Robert Simpson a dismission from this present service that so his lether now in the fatts may not be spoyled but yore Petitioner be ever engaged to pray &c.

Jno. Wyman.

John Baker, son-in-law of George POLLEY was “pressed into service” in December of 1675, when preparations for the Narragansett Expedition were being made.  He was one of 16 men from Woburn, Massachusetts who fought in the December 19, 1675 “Great Swamp Fight” against the Indians. He was wounded by musket fire and was crippled the rest of his life.

Years later, in the pension letters he wrote (to prove his military service) he said: “…..my arm being broke by shott, and ye shott whent thru part of my body below my shoulder. I was sent to Road Island, to ye doctor.  When I was able, my father detached me home, gott so much of a cure as I learned ye trade of a weaver. ”

In 1700, Massachusetts Bay Colony voted to pay £10 and an annual pension of £4 to John Baker of Swansea, Massachusetts. To obtain this pension, John had to write a series of letters describing his military service. There is a lot of information in these letters. For John’s service in King Phillips War and King Williams War, he was given a grant of land in Narragansett Township #4 (now Greenwich, Massachusetts).

Six other Woburn men were wounded in the fight:  Nathaniel Richardson [son of Thomas Richardson and Mary Baldwin and grandson of Thomas RICHARDSON Sr.] was wounded in the “Great Swamp Fight,” Dec. 19, 1675.  Eliah Tottingham, Caleb Simonds, Zachariah Snow,  Francis Wyman, Jr [son of Francis WYMAN], and Peter Bateman

6. Plymouth Regiment

Maj. William Bradford, of Marshfield, Major and Captain of First Company (father-in-law of Rev. James FITCH’s son James and grandson of Alexander CARPENTER) He was pierced with a musket ball that he carried through life and which found a lodgment with his corpse in the grave.  It is also said he was severely wounded in the eye.

Regimental Staff

Mathew Fuller, of Barnstable, Surgeon

Thomas HUCKINS, of Barnstable, Commissary   (1617 – 1679) Thomas was one of the twenty-three original members of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, charted in 1638. Thomas bore its standard in 1639.

The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts is the oldest chartered military organization in North Americaand the third oldest chartered military organization in the world.   While it was originally constituted as a citizen militia serving on active duty in defense of the northern British colonies, it has become, over the centuries primarily an honor guard and a social and ceremonial group in Massachusetts. Today the Company serves as Honor Guard to the Governor of Massachusetts who is also its Commander in Chief.

Officers of the Line

First Company: Robert Barker, of Duxbury, Lieutenant

Private Soldiers – The History of Rehoboth by Leonard Bliss, page 117, says, “The names of the Rehoboth soldiers who served in Philip’s war have been preserved, and are as follows:” Those engaged in the Narraganset expedition were, John Fitch, Jonathan WILMARTH , Jasiel Perry [son of Anthony PERRY], Thomas Kendrick [son-in-law of Anthony PERRY], Jonathan Sabin, John Carpenter, John Redeway, John Martin, John Hall, John Miller, Jun., John Ide, Joseph Doggett, Sampson Mason, Jun. “Those who served under Major Bradford were, Preserved Abell [son of Robert ABELL],  Samuel PERRY Stephen Paine, Jun., Samuel Miller, Silas T. Alin, Samuel Palmer, James Redeway, Enoch Hunt, Samuel Walker, Nicholas Ide, Noah Mason, Samuel Sabin, Thomas Read, Israel Read, George Robinson, Nathaniel Wilmarth. [son of Thomas WILMARTH]”’

Jasiel Perry died in Sep 1676 and was a soldier in King Philip’s War.  So far I have not found a specific record of his death. The fighting had ended by then, so maybe Jasiel died of his wounds,

Second Company: John GORHAM, of Barnstable, Captain, Jonathan SPARROW, of Eastham, Lieutenant, William Wetherell, Sgt. Non-commissioned Officers – William Wetherell, William Gray, Nathaniel Hall, Sergeants; John Hallet, Corporal.

The following Yarmouth men under Capt John GORHAM were paid for the hire of horses, the loss of arms, ammunition and money, loss in saddles and bridles in the Second expedition to Narragansett — William CHASE (not sure if the father or son)  £3 16 00, John WINGE II’s son Ananias £2 14 00, Francis BAKER’s son Samuel £4 10 00

Of the sums paid by the Plymouth Colony towns, as their proportion of the general assessment of £1000, voted by the court in 1676, the amount assigned to Yarmouth was £74 15s. 6d. In June, an additional levy of men was made, and £14 was assessed to Yarmouth for this purpose. In July the tax of the colony was £3692 16s 02d ; of this, the proportion of Yarmouth was £ 266 01. Large sums given that the estate of a typical freeman was £100 – £200.

John GORHAM died  5 Feb 1675/76 after being wounded 15 Nov 1675  by having his powder horn shot which split against his side, and he was severely weakened further from exposure. He died of the resulting fever.While John and Jonathan are both related to us, they are five generations removed from each other.

Johns son  Jabez, born Aug. 3, 1656, was wounded in King Philip’s War; his son Capt. John Gorham died of a fever in Swansea (where he was then stationed with his company), Feb. 5, 1676.

As a reward for service in the war with King Phillip, soldiers were given lands in Maine.   The town was named Gorham, Maine in John’s honor.  First called Narragansett Number 7, it was one of seven townships granted by the Massachusetts General Court to soldiers (or their heirs) who had fought in the Narragansett War of 1675.  The population was 14,141 at the 2000 census.

7. Connecticut Regiment

Robert Treat, of Milford, Major

Regimental Staff

Gershom Bulkely, Surgeon

Rev. Nicholas Noyes, Chaplain

Stephen Barrett, Commissary

Officers of the Line

First Company: John Gallop, of Stonington, Captain.  In 1672 a company of forty horsemen was organized; this was the first company of troopers in the county.

10 killed

Joshua Raymond was the cornetist, and is occasionally alluded to on the town records as Cornet Raymond, a title which was quite as familiar as that of captain or lieutenant.  He was later made commissary.  Joshua married Elizabeth Smith 10 Dec 1659 in New London, CT and was the son-in-law of  Rev. Nehemiah SMITH and Sarah Ann BOURNE.  He died 24 Apr 1676  New London, Connecticut as a result of wounds from the Great Swamp Fight.

Thomas MINER was a lieutenant in the Narragansett Campaign of King Phillip’s War in  1675-76 and reportedly took part in the “Great Swamp Fight” near Kingstown, RI even though he would have been 67 years old.  Almost all of the able-bodied men of Stonington were engaged in the Indian wars of their time.  Thomas was appointed Member of a Court Martial to meet in New London, January 2, 1676.

No list or roll of the Stonington men who participated in the early Indian wars has been preserved. The nearest approach to which may be found in “a list of the English volunteers in the late Narragansett war,” as prepared by a committee for that purpose in order to secure a grant of land for their services, as follows: Capt. George Denison, Sergt. John Frink, Capt. John Stanton, Capt. Samuel Mason, Rev. James Noyes, Lieut. Thomas MINER, Samuel Youmans, John Fish, George Denison, Jr., William Denison, Nathaniel Beebe, Henry Stevens, Edmund Fanning, Thomas Fanning, John Bennet, William Bennett, Ezekiel Main, William Wheeler, [son of Walter PALMER] Gershom Palmer, Samuel Stanton, Daniel Stanton, Manasseth Miner,Joseph Stanton, James York, Henry Bennett, Capt. James Pendleton, Robert Holmes,Thomas Bell, Henry Elliott, Isaac Wheeler, John Gallup, Nathaniel Chesebrough, [Thomas’ sons] Ephraim Miner, Joseph Miner, Samuel Miner, John Ashcroft, Edmund Fanning, Jr., John Denison, William Billings, and Samuel Fish.

Second Company: Samuel Marshall, of Windsor, Captain

14 killed

Third Company: Nathaniel Seely, of Stratford, Captain

20 killed  – Capt. Seely was wounded by Joshua Tefft and later died(See 8. Joshua Tefft below)

Fourth Company: Thomas Watts, of Hartford, Captain

17 killed

Fifth Company: John Mason, of Norwich, Captain, To the First and Fifth Connecticut Companies were attached Indian Scouting Companies, numbering seventy-five to each, made up mostly of Indians from the Mohegan and Pequod tribes.

9 killed including Capt. Mason

John Mason was son of our ancestor Maj. John MASON    John died of his wounds 12 Sep 1676.  It is probable that he was brought home from that sanguinary field by his Mohegan warriors on an Indian bier.  His wounds never healed. After lingering several months, he died, as is supposed, in the same house where his father expired, and was doubtless laid by his side in the old obliterated graveyard of the first comers. Though scarcely thirty years of age at the time of his death, he stood high in public esteem, both in a civil and military capacity. He had represented the town at three sessions of the Legislature, and was chosen an assistant the year of his decease. In the probate of his estate before the County Court he is called “the worshipful John Mason.

Second Letter of Joseph Dudley

Mr Smith’s, 21, 10, 1675

May it please your honour

The comming of the Connecticut force to Petaquamscott, and surprisal os six and slaughter of five on Friday night, Saturday we marched towards Petaquamscott, though in snow, and in conjunction about midnight or later, we advanced: Capt. Mosley led the van, after him Massachusetts, and Plimouth and Connecticut in the rear; a tedious march in the snow, without intermission, brought us about two of the clock afternoon, to the entrance of the swamp, by the help of Indian Peter, who dealt faithfully with us; our men, with great courage, entered the swamp about twenty rods; within the cedar swamp we found some hundreds of wigwams, forted in with a breastwork and flankered, and many small blockhouses up and down, round about; they entertained us with a fierce fight, and many thousand shot, for about an hour, when our men valiantly scaled the fort, beat them thence, and from the blockhouses. In which action we lost Capt. Johnson, Capt. Danforth, and Capt. Gardiner, and their lieutenants disabled, Capt. Marshall also slain; Capt Seely, Capt. Mason, disabled, and many other officers, insomuch that, by a fresh assault and recruit powder from their store, the Indians fell on again, recarried and beat us out of, the fort, but by the great resolution and courage of the General and Major, we reinforced, and very hardly entered the fort again, and fired the wigwams, with many living and dead persons in them, great piles of meat and heaps of corn, the ground not permitting burial of their store, were consumed; the number of their dead, we generally suppose the enemy lost at least two hundred men; Capt. Mosely counted in one corner of the fort sixty four men; Capt. Goram reckoned 150 at least; But, O! Sir, mine heart bleeds to give your honor an account of our lost men, but especially our resolute Captains, as by account inclosed, and yet not so many, but we admire there remained any to return, a captive women, well known to Mr. Smith, informing that there were three thousand five hundred men engaging us and about a mile distant a thousand in reserve, to whom if God had so pleased, we had but been a morsel, after so much disablement: she informeth, that one of their sagamores was slain and their powder spent, causing their retreat, and that they are in a distressed condition for food and houses, that one Joshua Tift, an Englishman, is their encourager and conducter. Philip was seen by one, credilbly informing us, under a strong guard.

After our wounds were dressed, we drew up for a march, not able to abide the field in the storm, and weary, about two of the clock, obtained our quarters, with our dead and wounded, only the General, Ministers, and some other persons of the guard, going to head a small swamp, lost our way, and returned again to the evening quarters, a wonder we were not prey to them, and, after at least thirty miles marching up and down, in the morning, recovered our quarters, and had it not been for the arrival of Goodale next morning, the whole camp had perished; The whole army, especially Connecticut, is much disabled and unwilling to march, with tedious storms, and no lodgings, and frozen and swollen limbs, Major Treat importunate to return to at least Stonington; Our dead and wounded are about two hundred, disabled as many; the want of officers, the consideration whereof the Genreal commends to your honer, forbids any action at present, and we fear whether Connecticut will comply, at last, to any action. We are endeavoring, by good keeping and billetting oue men at several quarters, and, if possible removel of our wounded to Rhode Island, to recover the spirit of our soldiers, and shall be diligent to find and understand the removals on other action of the enemy, if God please to give us advantage against them.

As we compleat the account of dead, now in doing, The Council is of the mind, without recruit of men we shall not be able to engage themain body.

I give your honor hearty thanks for your kind lines, of which I am not worthy

I am Sir, your honors humble servant

Joseph Dudley

Since the writing of these lines, the General and Council have jointly concluded to abide on the place, notwithstanding the desire of Connecticut, only entreat that a supply of 200 may be sent us, with supply of commanders; and, whereas we are forced to garrison our quarters with at least one hundred, three hundred men, upon joint account of colonies, will serve, and no less, to effect the design. This is by order of the council.  Blunderbusses, and hand grenadoes, and armour, if it may, and at least two armourers to mend arms.

The Rev. Mr. Bradstreet, of New London, records his death in these terms:

“My hon’d and dear Friend Capt. Juo Mason one of ye magistrates of this Colony, and second son of Major Jno Mason, dyed, Sept. 18, 1676.”

Posted in History | 19 Comments

Puritans v. Quakers

There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here!  We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.

In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines,  prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting.   Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661.   Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished.  Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? ”

In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants.  Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans.  Is our modern perspective accurate?

Navigate this Report
1. Puritan Perspective

2. Quaker Perspective
3. Trials & Tribulations

4. Boston Martyrs
5. Aftermath

Posted in Dissenter, History, Storied | 8 Comments

Edmund Freeman Sr.

Edmund FREEMAN (1566 – 1623)  He was Alex’s 11th Great Grandfather; one of  4,096 in this generation of the Shaw line.

Edmund Freeman - Coat of Arms

Edmund Honington Freeman was born about 1566 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. (Also have birth as 1570 in Pulborough, Sussex, England).  His parents were John FREEMAN and [__?__] Isham.  He married Alice COLES 1 Jan 1591 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. . He signed a will on 20 May 1623.  He died on 6 Jun 1623 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.  He was buried on 6 Jun 1623 in St. Mary’s, Pulborough, Sussex, England.

Edmund and Aliced were married in St Mary's Church Pulborough The oldest part of the church dates from about 1180 or 1220.

Alice Coles was born about 1576 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. Her father was George COLES. She signed a will on 13 Nov 1650. She died on 14 Feb 1651/52 in Reigate, Surrey, England. She was buried on 14 Feb 1651/52 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.

Children of Edmund and Alice:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Ellen Freeman 30 Jul 1592
Pulborough, Sussex, England
2. Edmund FREEMAN 25 Jul 1596
Pulborough, Sussex, England
16 Jun 1617
Cowford, Sussex, England
Elizabeth Beauchamp
10 Aug 1632
2 Nov 1682
Sandwich, Mass.
3. Capt. William Freeman 1598
Pulborough, Sussex, England.
Christian Hodsoll
between 1617 and 1624
County Essex, England.
Jane Skinner
15 May 1638
Cowfold, Sussex, England.
15 Sep 1666
Cowfold, Sussex, England
4. Alice Freeman  1601
Pulborough, Sussex, England
John Beauchamp
27 Dec 1615
Pulborough, Sussex, England
Feb 1651/52
Reigate, Surrey, England
5. Eleanor (Elinor) Freeman before
25 Aug 1603
Pulborough, Sussex, England.
7 Apr 1618
Pulborough, Sussex, England
6. John Freeman bapt.
24 Jan 1604/05
Pulborough, Sussex, England
Mary Lloyd
Elizabeth Noyes about 1644
Sudbury, Middlesex, MA.
7. Elizabeth Freeman baptized
27 Aug 1609
Pulborough, Sussex,
8. Thomas Freeman 1611 Last record Abigail manifest 1636

Edmond Freeman, senior, yeoman, and his wife Alice Coles lived at Pulborough, county Sussex, England, where he was buried on June 6, 1623. His will, dated May 20, 1623, and administered June 18, following, made his sons Edmond and William his executors, and disposed of over £800 besides his various lands and tenements aside from a bequest to Edmond, it gave £20 to each of his children. The testator’s widow, Alice, sister of George Coles, of Amberly, county Sussex, spent her later years at Reigate, county Surrey, in the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Alice and John Beachamp; and her will, dated Nov. 13, 1650, and proved Mar. 5, 1651/2, included a bequest to Edmond Freeman and his wife.

Alternate spelling “Edmond”. Edmund was a well-to-do yeoman of Pulborough. Marriage date not found. Will dated 30 May 1623 made bequests to wife, £200 and benefit of copyhold wherein I dwell and thirds of my lands for life; dau Alice Beauchamp £50; son John Freeman, three tenements in Pulborough now in occupation of the widow Sommers, Wepham and named Fouks in fee, also £100; to youngest dau. Elizabeth, £300; by seven grandchildren, £20 apiece, to my sister Harte £5; to kindred 20/ apiece; to the poor of the parish £5; to servants and others; to wives brother George Coles, £5; Edmund Freemand and William Freeman, my two eldest sons, to be my executors; rest of goods and lands to my executors; to Ligh church at Chichester, 6d. George Coles of Amberley and Nicholas Bell of Arundel (County Sussex) were to oversee will and have £5. My wife to have benefit of the lease for her life of the “brookes.” Testator made his mark. Admininstration 18 Jun 1623 (P.C.C., Swann 59.) Buried in Pulborough church, as requested in his will.

There were a lot of Freemans on board the Abigail .

Freeman John 35, #45
Freeman Marie 50, #58 (Age is probably an error.  John’s wife Mary Lloyd Freeman was born in 1608 and would have been 27 years old.)
Freeman Jo: 9, #59
Freeman Sycillie 4, #60
Freeman Thomas 24, #91 (Only record)
Freeman Edmund 45, #107
Freeman Edward 34, husbandman #135 (Probably our Edmond as age and wife’s and children’s names line up.  Who, then, is the Edmond passenger #107 above born in 1590? Edmund Freeman Sr did not marry Alice Coles until 1591.
Freeman Elizabeth 35, wife of Edward #136
Freeman Elizabeth 12, #149
Freeman Alice 17, #150
Freeman Edmund 15, #152
Freeman John 8, #153


2. Edmund FREEMAN Jr (See his page)

3. William Freeman

William’s first wife Christian Hodsoll was born in 1601 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.  She was baptized 23 Apr 1602, All Hallows by the Tower , London.  Her parents were John Hodsoll and Anne Maundy. Christian died before 15 May 1638 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.

William’s second wife Jane Skinner was baptized 27 Mar 1611 in Henfield, Sussex, England.  She had first married William Gratwick on 14 Oct 1630 in Cowfold, Sussex, England.

4. Alice Freeman

Alice’s husband John Beauchamp was born in 1593 in London, England. His parents were Thomas Beauchamp (1550 – 1613) and Dorothy Clarke (1572 – 1613). John died in 1652 in Pulborough, Sussex, England.

John Beauchamp (wiki) was an influential member of the company that financed the Mayflower.  He was granted two large tracts of land in Massachusetts.  He also patented tracts of land in Virginia and there is evidence that he traveled to Virginia.

John Beauchamp Plymouth's Silent Partner

“William Paddy, skinner, merchant from London, came in the James April 5, 1636, deputy, 1639.  Rem. to Boston.  He was one of the lessees of the trade at Kennebeck up to 1650.  Mr. John Beauchamp, one of the partners in Plymouth Company, calls him cousin in letter in Plym. Deeds, II; refers also to bro. Freeman, Paddy’s father, and to bro. Coddington.  He m. 24 Nov 1639, Alice, dau of Edmund Freeman; she d. 24 Apr 1651″

Children of Alice and John:

i. John Beauchamp, d. 1615

ii. Thomas Beauchamp,

iii. Alice Beauchamp, m. John Doggett

John Doggett was the son of John Doggett (or Dogett), “Mercer and Merchant Adventurer of Hamburg” (from his will), who (according to his descendants) was English, born in Suffolk, but operated a textile business in Hamburg for many years; will proved 1653 in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. This senior John was a member of the Merchant Adventurers of England (London merchants organized to trade with Europe). I’ve never seen evidence that John Beauchamp was actually a member of the Merchant Adventurers, but he probably was. He is referred to as a Merchant Adventurer often enough, and as a young man he worked for his uncle John Beauchamp, merchant of London and Amsterdam (from Uncle John’s will). We know he had investments in the American colonies, so it’s entirely likely that he also had investments or traded with merchants in Europe.

The younger John Doggett, eldest son of his family, was born in Hamburg (proved by his will) and was also a successful merchant of London (he left Alice well fixed in her widowhood). He was very likely a mercer (textile merchant) like his father. John Beauchamp was a dry salter (chemicals and the production of dyes), so he no doubt had dealings with textile merchants or was himself involved in the textile trade, a booming industry of that era in England. He and the senior John Doggett might have been friends (so that young John and young Alice met), or perhaps the Beauchamps and the Doggetts all lived in St. Swithin’s Parish, London, and Alice fell in love with the boy next door, or two streets over. Possibly Alice and John moved into the Beauchamps’ house in London after her parents moved to Reigate, or maybe they found their own house in the neighborhood, but they lived in St. Swithin’s or at least had their children christened there between 1645 and 1663, at the same church where Alice’s younger siblings may have been baptized.

iv. Mary Beauchamp, m. [__?__] Woolsey

v. Edmund Beauchamp, b. 16 Dec 1625 in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire, England; d. Sep 1691 in Annamessex, Somerset, Maryland will executed April 10, 1691, probated October 12, 1691. m. 22 Jun 1668, to Sarah Dixon;

File:Somerset County Maryland Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Crisfield Highlighted.svg

Annemessex Neck now Crisfield, Somerset, Maryland

Sent to the Eastern Shore of Maryland by Governor Calvert in 1666.  Received 50 acres of land from Lord Baltimore.  Served as clerk to the court from June to August 22, 1666. Then became clerk and keeper of the records of the proceedings of the court of Somerset County until his death.  Took part in the expedition against the Nanticoke Indians.  Speaks of himself in his will as “weaver, of London”.  In Maryland by 1665.  In 1665 assigns 50 acres to William Smith.

Sarah Dixon  b. 1655  baptized April 21, 1671, previously Quaker
m.(2) John White d. 1730  Supposed to have died leaving 5 minor children:  Mary, Sarah, Henry, Rachel, and Martha White

Edmund Beauchamp, who arrived in Maryland well educated and well heeled (since he bought Contention outright, without headrights, and promptly signed it over to his wife), was also a mercer of London, involved in the textile trade, and he had a son named Doggett. If he was John Beauchamp’s son, he may have gone to work for his father or (perhaps with brothers) carried on John’s business after John died. Or he may have gone to work for his brother-in-law, John Doggett. He may have lived with John and Alice Doggett when, unmarried, at least in 1653, he set off for London to make his own mark. If Edmund was about age 21, when his father wrote his will, about 23 when his father died, then John Doggett may well have been the person who guided him as a young mercer on his own in London.

vi. Richard Beauchamp,

vii. George Beauchamp,

viii. Elizabeth Beauchamp.

6. John Freeman

John’s first wife Mary Lloyd was born in 1608 in London, England . Mary died 14 Jun 1633.

John’s sccond wife Elizabeth Noyes was born about 1624 in Penton, Southampton, England.  Her parents were Peter Noyes (1592 – 1657) and Elizabeth [__?__] (1594 – 1636). After John died, she married Josiah Haynes, son of Walter Haynes and Elizabeth Goure, on 13 Nov 1649 at Sudbury, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.   Elizabeth died 1649 in Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass.

Elizabeth’s father Peter Noyes was born about 1591 in Penton, Southamtpon, England He died on 23 Sep 1657 in Sudbury, Middlesex, MA. He is called Peter Nyoyes, Deacon of the Church at Sudbury, 23 Sept 1657. Beneath is: Rec’d of Ens. Thomas Noyes, Clerk, as attests Tho. Danforth, Recorder The children, other than Thomas and Elizabeth attached to Peter are speculative. They may be children of an unknown relative. Given their approximate birth dates, they were almost certainly born in England, as Peter and the rest of the settlers did not arrive before 1638. Their birthdates are also speculative, other than Thomas who is specifically mentioned as being age 15 when he arrived with his father.

In one record, it is said Peter the emigrant, came on the ship “Confidence” in 1638, age 47. With him were a son Thomas, age 15, and a daughter Elizabeth, no age mentioned. No wife is mentioned. In NEHG 47:72, “Walter Haynes and Peter Noyes,” however a heretofore unpublished document by an early Noyes, gives that he came with 3 sons and 3 daughters. No wife is mentioned. Those are listed as Thomas, Peter, Josephus, Dorithy, Elizabeth, Abigail.

Children of John and Mary

i. John Freeman b. 1626 –

ii. Cicely Freeman b. 1631 –

iii. Sucilla Freeman b. 1631 –

Child of John and Elizabeth:

iv. Sgt. Joseph Freeman. b. 29 Mar 1645 Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass. ; m. Dorothy Haynes, daughter of Deacon John Haynes and Dorothy Noyes, on 6 May 1680 at Sudbury, Middlesex County, Mass.; d. 2 Feb 1697/98 at Preston, New London, CT.

vi. James Freeman b. 10 Jun 1647, d. 18 Jun 1647

vii. Elizabeth Freeman b. 23 Jun 1648 in Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass.; d.  bef. 10 Jul 1723 in Norwich, New London, CT; m.  6 Jul 1670 Sudbury, Middlesex, Mass to Thomas Gates.

7. Elizabeth Freeman

Elizabeth’s husband John Coddington was born 1605 in Pulborough, Sussex, England. He died after 13 Nov 1650.

8. Thomas Freeman

Thomas was passenger #91, age 24 on  The Abigail left London, England April to July 1635 with her master, Robert Hackwell, arriving in Massachusetts Bay.





Posted in 13th Generation, Historical Church, Line - Shaw | Tagged | 5 Comments

John Bliss

John BLISS  (1561 – 1617) was Alex’s 12th Great Grandfather, one of 8,192 in this generation of the Shaw line.

Thomas Bliss – Coat of Arms

John Bliss was baptized 2 Feb 1561 in Daventry, England.  His parents were William BLISS b. ABT 1533 in Daventry, Northampton, England and Elizabeth OLIPHANT  b. 1540 in Daventry, Northampton, England.  His first wife was Agnes or Annes [__?__].  He married his second wife, Alice Smith in 1614.  John died 7 Sep 1617 in Preston Parva, England and was buried 8 Sep 1617 in St. Peters, Preston Capes, Northampton, England.

St. Peters, Preston Capes, Northampton

Agnes or Annes [__?__] was born in 1571 in Daventry, Northants, England. She died before 1614 in Preston Capes, England.

Alice Smith was born about 1553 in Preston Capes, Northampton, England.  Her father was Walter Smith (1525 – 1567). Alice died 26 Mar 1625 in Little Preston, Daventry, Northamptonshire, England.

Children of John and Alice:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Thomas BLISS c. 1588
Preston Parva, Daventry, Northamptonshire
22 Nov 1614
Holy Cross Church, in Daventry, Northampton, England.
7 Oct 1647
Rehoboth, Mass.
2. George Bliss 1591
Preston Parva, Northampton, England
Ann Shaw
30 May 1635
Holy Cross Church in Daventry.
 31 Aug 1667
Newport, RI
3. Elizabeth Bliss 1599
Preston Capes, Norths., England
4. Constance Bliss
5. Agnes Bliss 1593
Preston Capes, Norths., England
John Harding
12 Jul 1629,
Preston Capes, Norths., England
6. Joane Bliss 1595
Preston Capes, Norths, England
John Payne

John was a blacksmith at Preston Parva (a small village near Preston Capes)  His first wife, by whom he had all but one of his children, is unknown. His second wife, who he married in 1614, was Alice Smith, and she was the mother of John Bliss (born 1615, died 1616).


1. Thomas BLISS (See his page)

2. George Bliss

George’s wife Ann Shaw was born 1593 in Preston Parva, Northampton, Devon, England.

George  and his wife joined Thomas and his family in their crossing to America, landing probably at Boston around 1638.  George may have resided a short time at Lynn, then Sandwich, Massachusetts.  On April 16, 1640, George was granted 1.5 acres of land.  He later removed to Newport, RI where he practiced his trade as a blacksmith.  In 1650, George was appointed (along with others) to make and mend all arms in Newport.  In 1657, Gov. Benedict Arnold described George Bliss as one of the original purchasers of the Island of Quononicut.  Later, Gov. Arnold’s daughter, Damaris, married George’s son, John.  George is listed in the Colonial Records as a freeman in 1655/56.

George bought land in Newport March 22, 1660. On that date articles of agreement were made whereby Sosoa, an Indian captain of Narragansett, deeded (June 29, 1660) a large tract of land called Misquamicutt [the Indian name of salmon] to seventy-six of the colonists, George Bliss being one of the number.  In 1669 the territory of Misquamicutt was incorporated under the name of Westerly.

George Bliss died August 31, 1667 at Newport.

Persecuted Cousins

There was another Thomas Bliss who immigrated to Hartford, CT.  Several sources state that he was the cousin of our Thomas and George,  The relationship is unproven, but it is interesting coincidence that both family branches had a Thomas, Johns, George and Jonathan.  This Thomas was from Devon while our Bliss ancestors originated in Northampton.

Tradition has it that Thomas Bliss, the emigrant, was the son and name-sake of a well-to-do, locally influential citizen in the village of Belstone, county Devonshire. In the opening decades of the 17th century the father, Thomas, Sr. had become a determined advocate of the Puritan cause and had participated with like-minded neighbors in the acts of protest against religious oppression. On one particular occasion, he and three of his sons (George, Jonathan and Thomas, Jr.) had accompanied a party, led by the local member of parliament, in riding up to London to engage both king and archbishop in direct confrontation. The upshot was their imprisonment and the levying of heavy fines (said to have been in excess of £1000) in lieu of their freedom. Payment of the fines required the virtual liquidation of the family estate, and even then there was not enough money to free all four Blisses. Thus one of the sons, Jonathan, remained in jail some while longer, was severely whipped in the public square at Exeter, and never thereafter recovered his health.

Impoverished and broken in his own health, Thomas, Sr. subsequently returned to Belstone and lived in the household of his daughter, Lady Elizabeth Calcliffe. She was the wife of a knighted gentleman who had remained a regular communicant of the Anglican church (thus avoiding persecution). As the crisis of the realm deepened, the father summoned his sons, divided among them what patrimony he still retained, and advised them to remove to New England. Thomas, Jr. and George left soon thereafter; Jonathan was too ill to join them, but sent at least one of his sons in their care. During the years that followed, Lady Calcliffe sought to help her relatives across the sea by sending them periodic shipments of clothing and food. And it was in her personal correspondence — regrettably, long since lost — that this part of the Bliss family history was remembered for succeeding generations.

Thomas was born about 1590. The particular location of his birth is not known. He resided in Rodborough, Gloucestershire at one time, and a son Nathaniel was born there. However, there were very few Blisses resident at Rodborough at that time and in fact no Bliss testators lived there during Thomas’ stay. It was not the place of his birth nor the place of his ancestors. The reason for his presence was one Margaret Hulins (or Hulings) of Rodborough whom he married in about 1617. Numerous Bliss records are traced to the Painswick area which has been termed “Bliss Country” by other researchers.

Thomas’ wife Margaret Hulings was born 15 Jul 1595 Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England.  Her parents were John Hulings and Margaret Lawrence. She married Thomas Bliss 18 Oct 1620. Margaret died 28 Aug 1684 – Springfield, Hampden County, Mass., full forty years after the death of her husband, and nearly fifty after she emigrated.

Some sites say that Thomas Bliss Sr was the son of William BLISS, John BLISS’ father so maybe the two immigrant Thomas Blisses really were cousins. Thomas Bliss, Sr. was a wealthy landowner, and was a Puritan, persecuted on account of his faith, by civil and religious authorities, under the direction of the infamous Archbishop Laud, that he was maltreated, impoverished and imprisoned. He was reduced to poverty and his health ruined by the persecution of the Church of England. He is supposed to have been born about 1555-60, and he died about 1635.

When the parliament of 1628 assembled, Puritans or Roundheads, as they were called by the Cavaliers or Tories, accompanied the members to London. Two of the sons of Thomas Bliss, Jonathan and Thomas, rode from Devonshire on iron-grey horses, and remained for some time-long enough, anyhow, for the king’s officers and spies to mark them, and from that time they, with others who had gone on the same errand to the capital, were marked for destruction. The Bliss brothers were fined a thousand pounds for their non-conformity, and thrown into prison, where they lay for weeks. Even their venerable father was dragged through the streets with the greatest indignities. On another occasion the officers of the high commission seized all their horses and all their sheep, except one poor ewe, that in its fright ran in the house and took refuge under a bed. At another time the three sons of Thomas Bliss, with a dozen Puritans, were led through the market place, in Okehampton, with ropes around their necks and also fined heavily.

On another occasion Thomas Sr. was arrested and thrown into prison with his son Jonathan, who eventually died from the hardships and abuse of the churchmen. At another time the king’s officers seized the cattle of the family and most of their household goods, some of which were highly valued for their age and beauty, and as heirlooms, having been for centuries in the family. In fact, the family being so impoverished, by constant persecution, was unable to pay the fines and secure the release of both father and son from prison, so the young man remained and the father’s fine was paid. At Easter the young man received thirty-five lashes.

After the father died, his widow lived with their daughter, whose husband, Sir John Calcliffe, was a communicant of the Church of England, in good standing. The remnant of the estate was divided among the three sons, who were advised to go to America to escape further persecution. Thomas and George feared to wait for Jonathan, who was ill in prison;, and they left England in the fall of 1635 with their families. Thomas, son of Jonathan, and grandson of Thomas Bliss, remained in England until his father died, and then he also came to America, settling near his uncle of the same name. At various times the sister of the immigrants sent to the brothers boxes of shoes, clothing and articles that could not be procured in the colonies, and it is through her letters, long preserved in the original but now lost, that knowledge of the family was handed down from generation to generation.

Thomas Bliss sold his property in England and sailed for America, in 1635. The name of the ship has not been revealed. Thomas’ wife, Margaret, accompanied him, along with several of their children, born in England. The Bliss group landed in Boston, then settled for a while in Braintree, Massachusetts. In 1639 they accompanied the Thomas Hooker party to Hartford, Connecticut.

The street where they lived there was first known as Bliss Street but is now called Trinity Street. In 1646, Thomas Bliss was a member of the Hartford Train-Band but the family removed to Springfield, Massachusetts and he died there.

Thomas Bliss’ wife Margaret is said to have been a good looking woman, with a square chin, indicating great strength of character. After the death of her husband, which took place about 1638, she managed the affairs of the family with great prudence and good judgment. She was energetic, efficient and of great intellectual capacity. Her eldest daughter married Robert Chapman, of Saybrook, Connecticut., April 29, 1642, and settled in Saybrook, where Thomas Bliss Jr. also settled, removing to Springfield, Massachusetts, on account of the malarial fevers then prevalent in Connecticut. She sold her property in Hartford and purchased a tract a mile square in Springfield, in the south part of the town, on what is now Main street. Margaret Bliss died August 19, 1684, full forty years after the death of her husband, and nearly fifty after she emigrated.

A large “house lot grant” was given to the Widow Bliss in Springfield. In 1644 the widow Margaret Bliss became one of only two women recognized in her community as a “Freeman.” She earned the esteem of the people of Springfield. John Homer Bliss describes her as follows:

“The Widow Bliss was a handsome woman with broad brow, fair hair and blue eyes, who managed her family’s affairs with great prudence after her husband’s death (about 1639). She was considered a woman of unusual mental ability. She died in Springfield on August 26, 1688”

Margaret was then at least ninety at the time of her death. A long life indeed for her generation. She left her name “Widow Bliss” on many of the pages of the town records, dealing mostly with land acquitions and improvements that affected her properties. On one occasion she was fined two pence for having a defect in her fences, which allowed her cattle to range on other’s property.

One entry in the town records is interesting showing a concern on her part for the rights of the local Indians:

Here ffolloweth Severall Grants of Land, Made by this Towne Beginning wth ye Yeare, 1665″: “Widdy Bliss hath granted unto her soe much of the pond as is at ye end of her lott in Long meddow: provided ye Indians be not molested in comeing to or gathering of their pease”

The inventory of Thomas Bliss of Hartford , husband of Margaret afterwards of Longmeadow , MA was presented 14 Feb 1650 and appears in Longmeadow Centennial, as does his estate. His children, Lawrence, John, Samuel, Elizabeth, Hannah and Sarah are mentioned, as well as daughter Heather who is not mentioned elsewhere. Not mentioned are the children Nathaniel, Anne, Mary, and Thomas, all of whom survived their father. It is to be presumed that they had received their share of the estate upon their respective marriages.

Margaret Bliss house, Springfield. Built 1695, probably by Margaret’s grandson, Thomas Bliss. Photo circa 1890. Courtesy of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts

Children of Thomas and Margaret:

i. Ann Bliss b. 1620 in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England; d. 20 Nov 1685 Saybrook, Middlesex, CT;  m. Robert Chapman b. 1 Jan 1616 in Hull, Yorkshire, England; d. 13 Oct 1687 in Saybrook, Middlesex, CT

ii. Nathaniel Bliss b. 1622 in Belstone, Devon, England or baptized 22 Dec 1622 at Rodborough, Minchin Hampton, Gloucestershire, England.   m. Catharine Chapin, daughter of Samuel Chapin, Deacon and Cicely Penny, on 20 November 1646 at Belstone, Devonshire, England.  He went to Springfield after his father’s death.  Nathaniel died on 8 Nov 1654 at Springfield, Hampden, MA, at age 31. He was buried on 10 Nov 1654 at Springfield, Hampden, MA.

After Nathaniel died, Catherine married Thomas Gilbert 31 Jul 1655.

iii. Samuel Bliss b. 1624 in Belstone, Devon, England; m. Mary Leonard Nov 10, 1665; d. 23 Mar 1720.

iv. Mary Bliss 16 Mar 1628 in Northampton, Hampshire, Mass.; d. 29 Jan 1712 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.; m. 26 Nov 1646 Hartford, CT to Cornet Joseph Parsons (1620 – 1683)

Mary Bliss Parsons, wife of Cornet Joseph Parsons, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Bliss of Hartford, Ct., both very prominent families, was born in England about 1628 and came to this country with her parents when she was about eight years old. She was eleven or twelve when they decided on still another move, to the rude little settlement of Hartford. There for a time life stablized, and Mary grew to womanhood as an average member of an ordinary New England community. In 1646 she married Joseph Parsons, a successful merchant, and went to live in Springfield. Henceforth, her life would be increasingly set apart from the average.

This painting is often referenced as Mary Bliss Parsons, but it is not.

In 1654 the Parsonses moved to Northampton. The family, which included eleven children, became members of the church. Local tradition has remembered Mary as being “possessed of great beauty and talents, but…not very amiable…exclusive in the choice of her associates, and…of haughty manners.”

In 1656, Mary was accused of witchcraft by some of her neighbors who were envious of their prosperity and endeavored in this way to disgrace them. She was vigorously defended by her mother, Margaret, but in 1674 a formal charge was made. She was sent to Boston for trial, where the jury gave her a full acquittal of the crime, and she returned home to Northampton. She and her husband removed back to Springfield in 1679. Soon after her acquittal in Boston , her son Ebenezer,was killed by the Indians at Northfield (Sept. 8, 1675). Those who had been instrumental in bringing her to trial said, “Behold, though human judges may be bought off, God’s vengeance neither turns aside nor slumbers.”

Samuel Bartlett complaint against Mary Parsons

Samll Bartlet of Northampton having lately lost his wife to his greate greife as he expresseth and ye rather for ye he strongly suspects yt she dyed by some unusuall meanes, viz, by meanes
of some evell Instruemt he presented to this Corte diverse evedences to shew the grounds of his feares & suspicioun Alsoe Goodman Bridgeman finding so ye Corte & Intreateing that
Diligent inquisition may be made concurring ye Death of ye sayd Woeman his Daughter for yt he also Strongly suspects she come to her and by some unlawfull & unatureall means
& for ye Diverse of ye testemonyes doe reflect on Goodwife Parsones Sen of Northampton yeCorte haveing read ye testemonyes doe thinks it meete yt ye case should be ffurther lookt into & therefore doe refferr ye sayd case & all other things Concerning ye sayd Goodwife Parsons yhave beene now Presented to ye ajournmt of this Corte which is to be kept at Northampton ye 18th Day of November next, for further Disquition & doe order yt she be warned thereto attend to answer wt shall be objected agst her & ye wittnesses are to be warned to appeare to testify before her viva vere wt they have already given in upon oath concerning her.

In 1656, soon after the Parsons family moved to Northampton, Joseph Parsons brought an action for slander against Sarah Bridgeman, charging that Sarah had accused Mary, his wife, of being a witch. On the docket of the Middlesex County Court, for its session of October 7, 1656, is found the following entry: “Joseph Parsons, plaintiff, against Sarah, the wife of James Bridgman, defendant, in an action of the case for slandering her [Parson’s wife] in her name. This action, by consent of both parties, was referred to the judgment of the Honored Bench of Magistrates.” A separate document records the magistrates’ finding in favor of the plaintiff and their order that the defendant make “public acknowledgment” of the wrong she had done. The acknowledgment was to be a dual performance – once in the town of Northampton and again at Springfield. Failure to fulfill either part of this requirement would result in a fine of £10.

The testimony against Mary Parsons was that following hard upon the heels of any disagreement or quarrel between Mary Parsons and any member of the Bridgeman family, a fatal disease would seize upon some horse, cow, or pig, belonging to the Bridgeman family and, as the disease could not be accounted for in any other way, it must be the result of Mary’s uncanny influence exercised by way of revenge.

The first set of testimonies was recorded at Northampton on or about the 20th of June. For example: Robert Bartlett testifieth that George Langdon told him the last winter that Goody Bridgman and Goody Branch were speaking about Mary Parsons concerning her being a witch. And the said George told to the said Robert that my [Langdon’s] wife being there said she could not think so – which the said Goody Bridgman seemed to be distates with. As also [according to Langdon] they had hard thoughts of the wife of the said Robert [Bartlett] because she was intimate with the said Mary Parsons.”

The other depositions in this early group enlarge on the gossip theme. The same Hannah Langdon mentioned in Bartlett’s statement testified that “Sarah Bridgman … told her that her boy when his knee was sore cried out of the wife of Joseph Parsons.” Bridgman had also alleged widespread “jealousies that the wife of Joseph Parsons was not right.” For a time Langdon herself had entertained suspicions of Mary Parsons, but recently “it hath pleased God to help her over them, … and [she] is sorry she should have [had] hard thoughts of her upon no better grounds.” These depositions converged on the issue of what Goody Bridgman had said.

The second major group of papers in the case carries a date several weeks later. They were taken before a different official, and probably in a different place (Springfield). They expressed a different viewpoint, as the recorder noted at the top of the opening page: “Testimonies Taken on Behalf of Sarah, the wife of James Bridgman, the 11th day of August, 1656.” The Bridgmans themselves supplied lengthy testimony on the events which had caused them to suspect Goody Parsons.

The previous summer the Bridgemans’ eleven-year-old son had suffered a bizarre injury while tending their cows: “In a swamp there came something and gave him a great blow on the had…and going a little further he…stumbled…and put his knee out of joint.” Subsequently, the knee was “set” but it would not heal properly – and he was in grievous torture about a month.” Then the boy discovered the cause of his sufferings: “He cried out [that] Goody Parsons would pull off his knee, [saying] ‘there she sits on the shelf.’ …I and my husband labored to quiet him, but could hardly hold him in bed for he was very fierce. We told him there was nobody…’Yea,” says he, ‘there she is; do you not see her? There she runs away and a black mouse follows her.’ And this he said many times and with great violence…and he was like to die in our apprehension.” At about the same time the Bridgmans had also lost an infant son:

“I [Sarah] being brought to bed, about three days after as I was sitting up, having the child in my lap, there was something that gave a great blow on the door. And that very instant, as I apprehended, my child changed. And I thought with myself and told my girl that I was afraid my child would die…Presently… I looking towards the door, through a hole…I saw…two women pass by the door, with white clothes on their heads; then I concluded my child would die indeed. And I sent my girl out to see who they were, but she could see nobody, and this made me think there is wickedness in the place.”

The decision of the court was in favor of the plaintiff and against Mrs. Bridgeman, and she was ordered to make public acknowledgment of her fault at Northampton and Springfield, and that her husband, James Bridgman, pay to plaintiff 10£ and cost of court.

But the charge of witchcraft against Mary Parsons did not end with the judgment in the slander suit. Her name was cleared, but only from a legal standpoint. In the years that followed, her husband prospered ever more greatly, her children grew in number and (mostly) flourished, her mother and brothers sank the Bliss family roots deep into the CT Valley. But her reputation for witchcraft hung on.

In 1674 the whole matter was renewed in court – with the important difference that now Mary Parsons was cast as defendant. Unfortunately, most of the evidence from this later case has disappeared. All that survives is the summary material from the dockets of the two courts involved. In August 1674, a young woman of Northampton, Mary Bartlett, had died rather suddenly. She was twenty-two, wife of Samuel Bartlett and the mother of an infant son. More importantly, she was a daughter of Sarah and James Bridgman. Her husband and father jointly believed, as they later testified in court, that “she came to her end by some unlawful and unnatural means, … viz. by means of some evil instrument.” And they had distinct ideas about the person most likely to have used such means.

On September 29, the Hampshire County Court received “diverse testimonies” on the matter. Mary Parsons was also there – on her own initiative: “She having intimation that such things were bruited abroad, and that she should be called in question…”the fact that Mrs. Parsons voluntarily appeared before the court desiring to clear herself of such an execrable crime, and that subsequently she argued her own case before the court must not be overlooked. On both these occasions she met her accusers boldly, protesting her innocence, and showing ‘how clear she was of such a crime.’ In this trial Mrs. Parsons was called to speak for herself and from the meager report upon record, undoubtedly did so most effectively.” The court examined her, considered all the evidence, and deferred further action to its next meeting in November. There followed a second deferral “for special reasons” (about which the court did not elaborate).

On January 5, 1675, the county magistrates conducted their most extended hearing of the case. The previous depositions were reviewed and (apparently) some new ones were taken. Both Samuel Bartlett and Mary Parsons were present in person once again.

Mary was “called to speak for herself, [and] she did assert her own innocency, often mentioning … how clear she was of such a crime, and that the righteous God knew her innocency – with whom she had left her cause.” The magistrates decided that final jurisdiction in such matters belonged not to them but to the Court of Assistants in Boston. Still, considering “the season” and “the remoteness” [i.e., of their own court from Boston] and “the difficulties, if not incapabilities, or persons there to appear,” they determined to do their utmost “in inquriing into the case.” Among other things, they appointed a committee of “soberdized, chaste women” to conduct a body-search on Mary Parsons, to see “whether any marks of witchcraft might appear.” (The result was “an account” which the court did not disclose.) Eventually, all the documents were gathered and forwarded to Boston.

At the same court, and apparently as part of the same proceeding, “some testimony” was offered “reflecting on John Parsons.” John was Mary’s second son: he was twenty-four at the time, and as yet unmarried. How and why he should have been implicated in the charges against his mother cannot now be discovered; but the evidence was in any case unpersuasive. The court did “not find…any such weight whereby he should be prosecute on suspicion of witchcraft” and discharged him accordingly.

Meanwhile, the case against Mary Parsons moved towards its final round. On March 2, Mary was taken to Boston, “presented” at the Court of Assistants, and formally indicted by the grand jury. Thereupon the court ordered her commitment to prison until “her further trial.” The trial came some ten weeks later (May 13, 1675). An imposing roster of Assistants lined the bench: the governor, the deputy-governor, and a dozen magistrates (including her husband’s old associate, John Pynchon). However, her fate rested with “the jury of trails for life and death” – twelve men, of no particular distinction, from Boston and the surrounding towns. The indictment was read one last time: “Mary Parsons, the wife of Joseph Parsons…being instigated by the Devil, hath…entered into familiarity with the Devil, and committed several acts of witchcraft on the person or persons of one or more.” The evidence in the case was also read. And “the prisoner at the bar, holding up her hand and pleading not guilty, …[put] herself on her trial.” The tension of this moment must have been very great, but it does not come through in the final, spare notation of the court recorder: “The jury brought in their verdict. They found her not guilty. And so she was discharged.”

The jury gave her a full acquittal of the crime. Of Mary’s life subsequent to 1674 there is little direct information. She and her husband would eventually give up their home in Northampton and move back to Springfield. Joseph would died in 1683, leaving a substantial estate of £2,088, and Mary would enter a very long widowhood.

She remained thereafter in Springfield, completed the rearing of her numerous progeny, and saw her sons – and then her grandsons – assume positions of prominence in several CT Valley towns. Death claimed her in January, 1712, when she was about eighty-five years old. She was not again tried for witchcraft, but neither was she ever free from local suspicion.

v. Lawrence Bliss b. 628 in Of Rodborough, Gloucestershire, , England; d. 8 Nov 1676 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.; m. Lydia Wright

vi. Thomas Bliss b. Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England went to Norwich. d. 15 Apr 1688 Norwich, CT  He went to Saybrook, CT after his father’s death.

vii. Hannah Bliss b. 1633 in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England; d. single 25 Jan 1660

vi. John Bliss b. 1635 in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England; d. 10 Sep 1702; m. Patience Burt.

vii. Elizabeth Bliss b. 1640 in Hartford, Hartford, CT; m. Miles Morgan (second wife) 15 Feb 1670 and had one child.

viii. Hester Bliss b. 1640 in Hartford, Hartford, CT, m. Edward Foster

Thomas Bliss Springfield – Bio









The first century of the history of Springfield: the official …, Volume 2 By Springfield (Mass.), Henry Martyn

http://ccbit.cs.umass.edu/parsons/hnmockup/ (Goody Parsons Witchcraft Case)


Posted in 14th Generation, Dissenter, Witch Trials | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Nine Men’s Misery – 1676

On March 26, 1676 during King Philip’s War, Captain Michael Pierce led approximately 60 Plymouth Colony colonial troops and 20 Wampanoag Christian Indians in pursuit of Narragansett Indians who had burned several Rhode Island towns and attacked Plymouth, Mass. as part of King Philip’s War.

Nine Men’s Misery Monument

Pierce’s troops caught up with the Narragansett Indians but were ambushed in what is now Central Falls, Rhode Island. Pierce’s troops fought the Narragansetts for several hours, but were surrounded by a larger force of Narragansetts. The battle was one of the biggest defeats of colonial troops during King Philip’s War with nearly all killed in the battle, including Captain Pierce and the Christian Indians (“Praying Indians”) (exact numbers vary by account somewhat). The Narragansetts lost only a handful of warriors.

Nine of the colonists who were among the dead were first taken prisoner (along with a tenth man who survived). These men were purportedly tortured to death by the Narragansetts at a site in Cumberland, Rhode Island, currently on the Cumberland Monastery and Library property. The nine dead colonists were buried by English soldiers who found the corpses and buried them in 1676. The soldiers created a pile of stones to memorialize the colonists. This pile is believed to be the oldest veterans’ memorial in the United States, and a cairn of stones has continuously marked the site since 1676.

A more personal and detailed account of the massacre of Pierce’s party by the Indians gives us a flavor of the emotion felt by the English:

“Sunday the 26th of March was sadly remarkable to us for the Tidings of a very deplorable Disaster brought unto Boston about 5 a Cloak that Afternoon, by a Post from Dedham, viz., that Captain Pierce (of) Scituate, in Plimmouth Colony, having Intelligence in his Garrison at Seaconicke, that a Party of the Enemy lay near Mr. Blackstones, went forth with 63 English and twenty of the Cape Indians, (who had all along continued faithful, and joyned with them;) and upon their March, discovered rambling in an obscure woody Place, four or five Indians, who, in getting away from us, halted, as if they had been lame or wounded.

But our Men had pursued them but a little Way into the Woods, before they found them to be only Decoys to draw them into their Ambuscade: for on a Sudden, they discovered about 500 Indians, who in very good order, furiously attacqued them, being as readily received by ours. So that the Fight began to be very fierce and dubious, and our Men had made the Enemy begin to retreat but so slowly that it scarce deserved that Name, when a fresh Company of about 400 Indians came in; so that the English and their few Indian Friends were quite surrounded, and beset on every Side. Yet they made a brave Resistance, for about two Hours: during all that Time they did great Execution upon the Enemy, whom they kept at a Distance, and themselves in Order.

For Captain Pierce cast his 63 English and 20 Indians into a Ring, and fought Back to Back, and were double-double Distance, all in a Ring, whilst the Indians were as thick as they could stand, thirty deep. Overpowered with those numbers, the said Captain, and 55 of his English and ten of their Indian Friends were slain upon the Place; which, in such a Cause, and upon such Disadvantages, may certainly be stiled ‘The Bed of Honour.’ However, they sold their worthy Lives at a gallant Rate; it being affirmed by those few that (not without wonderful Difficulty, and many Wounds) made their Escape, that the Indians lost as many Fighting Men, (not counting Women and Children,) in this Engagement, as were killed at the Battle in the Swamp, near Narraganset, mentioned in our last Letter, which were generally computed to be above three Hundred

The “Nine Men’s Misery” site was disturbed in 1790 by medical students led by one Dr. Bowen looking for the body of one of the dead colonists, Benjamin Bucklin, who was said to be unusually large with a double row of teeth. They were stopped by outraged locals. The site was desecrated several more times until 1928 when the monks who then owned the cemetery built a cemented stone cairn above the site. The cairn and site can still be visited on the Monastery grounds.

Pierce’s Fight was followed by the burning of Providence three days later, and then the capture and execution of Canonchet, the chief sachem of the Narragansetts. The war was winding down even at the time that Pierce’s party was destroyed, and in August, King Philip himself was killed.

John LOW (1629 – 26 Mar 1676)  died  at Nine Men’s Misery a site in current day Cumberland, Rhode Island where nine colonists were tortured by the Narragansett Indian tribe during King Philip’s War. A stone memorial was constructed in 1676 which is believed to be the oldest veterans memorial in the United States.  Cumberland was originally settled as part of Rehoboth, Mass  which is listed as the location of John’s death.

Our ancestors’ children, John Millard, son of John MILLARD , Benjamin Buckland, son of William BUCKLAND  and John Sprague, son-in-law of William BASSETT  also died in the battle.

Respecting Rev. John HOWSE‘ grandson Respecting Shubael Linnel little is known. He is named in 1667 as a guardian of the children of the second Thomas Ewer. A Samuel Linael of Barnstable was killed at the battle of Rehobeth, and as the only Samuel Linnel of Barnstable in 1776 was Samuel, son of David, and as he is named as living in 1688 he could not have been the man killed in 1676. To reconcile these conflicting statements Amos Otis supposed that there is an error in the records, that Shubael, the guardian, is the same person who is called Samuel in the returns of the killed March 26, 1676

John WHELDON served in Plymouth’s 4th expedition against the Narragansett Indians, March, 1675, otherwise known as Pierce’s Ambush, then was exempted from military training in October, 1677 “on consideration that hee hath three sons fitted with armes for publicke service.”.

The site is located on the grounds of the former Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Valley, now the Cumberland public library, and is an approximately 15 minute walk behind the main building on a rise in the woods.

Directions:  Follow the road to the right past the main building, you will come to a low white building on your left and at that point should see a break in the chain link fence that is on your right. There is a low metal guardrail in the break, step over and you should be on a walking path. Turn right and not far up the path will divid, take the left path, it will bring you through a field. In the field, it again branches out – take the left again and keep walking out of the field through the trees. From leaving the field to reaching the monument is about the same distance that you walked to get out of the field from the start. Coming down over a small rise, there is a path to the right that brings you to the elevated area that the monument occupies – you can see the monument from the rise when on the path.



Posted in History, Violent Death | 13 Comments