The saga of Philip and Patrick Conway

In Bucks County Court in the 4th month of 1687 Jane Coverdale complained against Philip Conway. Jane said that about three months before, he came to her bed side and said he had sworn he would have her either by night or by day. About a month after that he came to her house and she was so afraid lest he should lay violent hands on her, that she was forced to call back a youth that was newly gone out of the house to stay until Conway left. 1

Eliza Hickman and Elizabeth Ridgway said that about the going away of the last frost Philip Conway came into the house of Richard Ridgway drunk and was very abusive and threw several things into the fire and swore several oaths—four at least—by the name of God, and once cursed the Quakers. He was fined for swearing and behaving contemptuously toward the court.

For attempting to lie with Coverdale’s wife Philip had to give security for his appearance at next court. He posted bond but was held in the jail nonetheless, where he shouted curses at the justices and kicked the door. The court ordered that the 40 pounds he had put up as a bond for his good behavior be forfeited, and that it be levied on his lands and goods.

Philip behaved himself for a few years, but in the spring of 1690, he was back in court, accused with his brother Patrick of stealing from William Fisher. Fisher testified he went to the house of Philip Conway in order to seek a mare of his that was lost, and after he had found her he returned home again and found his house broken up and his chest unlocked. The key was stuck in his chest. When he left the house he hid the key under his bed stead and the only person who saw him hide it there was Patrick Conway. After a search an inkhorn of Fisher’s was found in Philip Conwa’s house.

How did Fisher know to look for his mare at Philip’s house? Sam Rose,  a laborer, testified that he went to haul hay at Fisher’s. When the horse was missed they found tracks of a man and horse, tracked them in the snow between three and four miles and found the track led toward the house of Philip Conway.

Although the evidence looks black against them, the jury found Philip and Patrick not guilty.

But at the same court Patrick Conway was indicted for stealing half a hide of leather. Charles Thomas said that December last year he came to Walter Forrest’s mill with leather to sell and it lay outside two or three days, and he missed one side and William Fisher told him he saw two sides of leather in Patrick Conway’s house. Conway told Fisher that Charles Thomas had sold him one side and given him the other. This time the jury did not believe him. They found Patrick guilty and ordered him to make three-fold restitution.

The next year Philip was back in court again, for stealing a mare from John Swift. Swift testified that he found a mare in the woods four years before and took her up and notified the rangers, but they refused to take her. About three weeks before he saw the mare in Conway’s custody. Nicholas Randall, Swift’s servant, added that Swift put an ear mark on her and that she broke away. After that he saw the mare at Conway’s house and asked about it. Conway said that the governor was not here to claim here and that he himself would have her. 2

But there was even more testimony. William Fisher said that he took up a colt, but that Patrick and Philip Conway came to his house and demanded it. He refused to deliver it. Patrick knocked him over while Philip took away the colt. The jury convicted Conway of stealing the mare and both of them of forceably taking a colt from Fisher. Patrick was sentenced to make restitution and to be whipped. Philip was fined, whipped and banished from the government.

This is the end of them in Bucks County.

But, in Chester County,  just a few months later, they were accused of stealing a horse. Patrick was committed to the county gaol, from which he escaped. Philip was accused of being an abettor in the theft. The horse had been fettered but the fetter and the key to unlock it were both missing. When the constable went to search fo the fetter he searched up and down in Patrick’s house until at last William Woodmansee put his hand in a cask and said, “Here is the fetter.” So they asked Patrick where the key was. He said he did not know, but at last his wife said that he had it, and it was found in his pocket.

It came out in the trial that Philip had coached Patrick to say that the horse was Thomas Kersey’s, and that he had bought the fetters. When Patrick seemed afraid that the theft would be discovered, Philip told him, Thou art the [most] faint hearted man that lives.”

They were found guilty. Philip was sentenced to leave the province within 14 days. After this they disappear from the records of Pennsylvania.

  1.  Conway used a more explicit term in his boast, which is in the court record.
  2. Animals found in the woods with no ear marks for identification were taken up by the rangers and became the property of Governor Penn.

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