It all began when Israel Taylor, the doctor, was accused in 1688 of defaming Francis Swift, wife of John Swift. Taylor had been spreading the story that Nicholas Randall, Swift’s servant, had been lying with Swift’s wife. Taylor justified himself by saying that he believed the story to be true and that in his conscience he did God good service in telling it. The story had been spread about Bucks County.
But was the story true? Andrew Dunk said that he heard Israel Taylor tell Michael Bucher that Gabriel Shallow said Nicholas Randall would lay his head upon his mistress’ lap until 12 a clock at night and then they would go together into the barn. Benjamin Jones said that Gabriel Shallow said Nicholas Randall would sleep with his mistress’ head in his lap and she sleep with her head in his lap and that he called John Swift a cuckoldy rogue and that his mustard pot would work when he was from home and that they would go together into the barn in the night.
The grand jury must have found this to be too much hearsay, for they bound Taylor over for trial. The next month John Swift did not appear, maybe fearing more discussion of his wife’s behavior, and the case was dismissed.
If this was not bad enough, Nicholas married into a family with its own court troubles. His wife was Elizabeth Willard (the younger), step-daughter of Ralph Draycott. Ralph had come over as a servant to Henry Maddock of Chester County. Elizabeth Willard (the older) was widowed when her husband died in 1685, and she soon married Ralph. Her brother-in-law George Willard gave her and Ralph a piece of land to support her children—Susanna, Elizabeth and son George.
But Susanna was not a proper Quaker maiden. In 1688 she became pregnant, with no husband, and was hauled into court to answer for it. The child was born dead, and she was let off with a fine. Perhaps she persuaded the father, one John Bradshaw, to pay it. In 1690 things were more serious. She was pregnant again, this time delivering a son. And the father was her step-father Ralph Draycott!
As the court put it, she bore the child “to the high dishonor of God and great scandal of the Government”. She and Ralph were each to forfeit half their estates. He had to pay to maintain the child and to find sureties for his good behavior, since he had broken out of jail while awaiting trial. George (the elder) stuck by his family, deeding another piece of land to Ralph so he could support the family.
Time passed, and the Draycotts and George Willard the elder moved to Bucks County. Elizabeth married Nicholas Randall, while Susanna married John Shaw, an English Quaker, who had moved from Chester to Bucks County about the same time. When George made his will in 1706, a few months before he died, he left bequests to Susanna and John’s children, also to Draycott’s son Philip, who may have been the son of either Susanna or Elizabeth (the elder). He made his nephew George (the younger) and John Shaw the executors. This was a big mistake.
A few years later Elizabeth Draycott complained to Middletown meeting that John Shaw was cheating her son George in his dealings with the estate. The meeting sent the usual committee to meet with Shaw but were unable to persuade him to give George his proper share. Three years later Shaw was disowned for acting “contrary to the trust reposed in him by George Willard.”
Some years later, William Tidmarsh complained in court that he had bought a lot in Philadelphia from George Willard Jr and John Shaw, as executors of the estate. It was discovered that George Willard the elder had sold the lot in his lifetime and that neither George Willard the younger nor the said John Shaw had any title to it. The court allowed him to sell the remainder of the estate to recover his loss. It looks as though George and John were both a bit grasping.
That was not quite the end of the chicanery in the family. In December 1712, Ralph Draycott was dead. In his will he left a cow and calf to Elizabeth Randall, Nicholas’ daughter, when she came of age and the rest of his estate to his son Philip, “to maintaine my wife handsome and descent [decent] as she ought for to be during her life.” He did not mention Susannah Shaw, although she was still alive and in the process of bearing ten children with John.
Ralph died owing money to John Swift. Nicholas Randall was the administrator, but he was detaining the debt, keeping the estate’s money for himself, so Swift took him to court and the sheriff sold 178 acres of Draycott’s land to pay the debt. Ralph’s son Philip bought the land.
The story goes on into the next generation. Is it any surprise that in 1754 Philip had to buy 28 acres that the sheriff was selling for debts of Philip’s son Ralph? Or that in 1757 John Shaw (the son of the first John Shaw) sued Philip Draycott for debt, and the sheriff sold 150 acres of Philip’s to pay it?
In 1750 one of the Draycotts, either Philip or Ralph, discovered “black lead”, possibly graphite, on the farm of John Naylor. He kept it a secret from Naylor, quietly extracted the lead, and sold it in Philadelphia. When Naylor discovered it, instead of taking Draycott to court, he allowed him to continue in this business.
- It is perhaps a little embarrassing to have these people as ancestors. The best character in the family might belong to Elizabeth Shaw, granddaughter of John and Susanna. About 1750 she married John Randall, grandson of Nicholas. After John died Elizabeth married John Banes, and divorced him before 1792, an unusual early divorce, and one that might have required some strength of character. He had run away and left her and married another woman! Even before then he may have run up debts. Her father’s will of 1771 left her money specifically “for her own separate use and maintainance, esclusive of her husband, who is to have no power to dispose of or intermeddle with the same; neither is it to become liable to her husbands debts or incumbrances.” ↩