John Anderson and the headless hog

In March 1682 in Chester County Court John Anderson stood accused of theft. He requested a trial by jury and got a jury of six Swedes and six Englishmen. Richard Noble deposed that he, with several others, found several pieces  of burnt pork or bacon in Anderson’s house. They also found hidden and unfrequented places in an out house of Anderson’s, where (as an Indian had before then informed them) Anderson used to hide pork. Furthermore Anderson threatened the officers who came to search. Francis Walker deposed that a person who bought a piece of pork from Anderson told him the pork had a bullet in it.

Since Anderson had a headless hog, he was asked where the head was. He said he left it down the river, and his boy said, “No, the hog’s head is upon the mill at home.”

While they were at it, they examined the suspicious circumstance of a stranger who stayed at Anderson’s. This came to nothing. The jury found the prisoner not guilty and he was discharged. The court record did not show whose hog may have gone missing.

This was not the only prominent case of hog theft. In December 1686 Joshua Hastings sued Francis Yarnall for stealing his hog. A jury was summoned and a parade of witnesses began.

Allen Robenett said that he knew the boar of Hasting and to the best of his knowledge it was the same boar. Francis Baldwin agreed. Randal Malin added that the boar was bitten in the stone by David Ogden’s dog. John Hastings said that he with his own knife marked Hastings’ boar and that boar was at home all one summer and the winter following and that he saw him no more until he saw him at Francis Yarnall’s and that he knew it to be Hastings’ boar. William Malin saw a sandy colored boar but he knew not whose it was. Judith Calvert said there was a boar that kept company with their swine but afterward she heard it was Hastings’ boar and it went from thence and was away some time and when it came again it had been bitten on the stones.

But other witnesses supported Yarnall’s claim to the boar. George Maris said his mark was Yarnall’s mark, and in every respect both of growth and shape it was Yarnall’s boar. John Calvert said Yarnall’s boar was about three months at his house and afterward Yarnall took him away and the boar was bitten on the right side of the stones. John Fox said the boar had one stone hanging down lower than the other and that he was bitten by the dogs on the right side of the stones. Jane Calvert was not sure. Margaret Hollingsworth said that the boar was a right boar before he was bitten and that he was supposed to be Joshua Hastings’ boar by the neighborhood and was there most of the winter.

Caleb Pusey said that Yarnall asked him whether there was a boar about his house with one stone. Thomas Bristow said that he certainly knew the boar and that it was the very boar of Francis Yarnall. John Maris said he knew Yarnall’s boar and when the boar was again by Yarnall he knew it certainly to be the same boar. George Maris the younger said he knew Yarnall’s boar and it was the same boar that Yarnall brought to them to view when he fetched him home. John Hallowell said the boar was at his house and that is was the same boar which he saw at the end of the summer and that the boar was at Jacob Simcock’s and he believes it was the Yarnall’s boar.

The jury must have had a hard job of weighing this inconclusive evidence. In the end they found for Joshua Hastings and fined Yarnall 25s with the cost of the court suit. Yarnall was not pleased and said he would appeal to the court of equity.

One thought on “John Anderson and the headless hog”

  1. Can you please tell us where you found the records of the court case in December 1686 where Joshua Hastings sued Francis Yarnall. Colonial Townships are dated from the appointment of their first officer. On the third day of the first week of the tenth month, 1686, the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania, appointed a constable for Middletown Township. Middletown Twp was part of Chester County until part was split off and Delaware County was created in 1789. Up to and including 1751, the Julian calendar was used in England, Wales, Ireland and the British colonies. On the Gregorian calendar that date would be December 14, 1686. We think this court case prompted the appointment of the Constable and the creation of the Township. We would love to find the records of the actual case. If you can point us in that direction that would be great. Thank you.

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