Hannah Salter and her notorious past

Hannah Salter came with her husband Henry in 1677 and settled in Salem, West Jersey. They owned 10,000 acres there, an enormous tract, much of it salt marsh around Lower Alloway Creek.  They were active as traders, Hannah as much as Henry. When Henry was sued by John Shackerly in 1678, for not fulfilling a sale of silver plate that Hannah made, Henry admitted that she bought and sold goods as much as he did, and the court found for Shackerly.

Henry died the following April, leaving his land to Hannah. They obviously lived a wealthy life. His inventory six embroidered chairs, “Turkey work”, a silver watch, a silver case and tooth picker.

Hannah moved across the river to Tacony and settled into the life of a real estate speculator. She bought and sold land in both West Jersey and Philadelphia County, over ten transactions. She was active in the courts. She sued people and they sued her, mostly over debts and land. She made her will in 1688 and died a week later. It must have been something infectious; her son John died the same week.

Here’s the back story that makes Hannah’s later life so unexpected. Before she married Henry, she had been a follower of James Nayler, leader of a Quaker splinter group. His small group of followers, mostly women, thought he was the Messiah. In October 1656 Naylor rode into Bristol on a donkey, with the women surrounding him, singing and strewing palms in his way. Mainstream Quakers were appalled. The authorities saw it as blasphemous. Naylor was tried and imprisoned for two years. Hannah acknowledged her fault, continued as a Quaker and ten years later married Henry Salter. What a pity she did not leave a memoir.

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