All posts by Curious Historian

Tracking through the swamp

In Chester County in the summer of 1690, John Martin, a weaver and servant to James Brown of Chichester, was indicted for stealing fourteen dressed deer skins from Thomas Brown John.

In the morning that the skins were stolen, Martin seemed to have a great color in his face, and his master James Brown said to him, “Thou are guilty”, to which Martin replied, “If I should confess then I should bring myself to publick shame.” But he seemed to have guilt in his face.

Thomas Brown John had gone to the sheriff George Forman when he discovered the loss and that his house was broken open. Forman gave him a warrant to search through the neighborhood but he found nothing. So Forman suggested that Brown John go back to his house and look for tracks. He went and immediately found a print of a shoe, with nails and clamps in the shoe. Then Forman gathered a search party and they tracked the prints, along the side of the fence and along the swamp until they came upon William Clayton’s new clear field and there in the swamp in a hollow tree they found the dressed skins. Then they went to James Browne’s house and took along with them the measure of the print of the shoe and measured John Martin’s and it seemed to be the very same and Martin seemed to be startled when they took his shoe off.

Francis Chads, the shoemaker, declared that he mended John Martin’s shoes with two nails and two pleats toward the toes.

The jury found Martin guilty and judgment was passed that he was to be sold into another province for eight years, to cover three-fold damages, and also damages to his master James Browne for service due on the indenture to him.

Slander and a hog in a barrel

In Chester County in 1686 Mouns Peterson sued Hans Urin for slander. The witnesses presented a damning picture of Urin. Thomas Bowles of Tinicum Island declared that Urin came among his carpenters and stole his nails and gave the carpenters a pot of rum not to call him a thief. (Bowles himself was not a spotless character. The following year he was in court himself for allowing people to be drunk at his house.)

Bowles went on to say that, coming some time after to Tinicum, Urin spread the report that Mouns Peterson had gotten all his estate by privateering and murdering of men and that Bowles should have a care of him. Robert Brothers being attested declared the same. Samuel Weight added that Urin offered him two pigs to stop his evidence.

The jury found for Peterson with twenty shillings damage and plus the cost of the court suit.

Urin must have held a grudge, since the next year he was an accomplice when Morton Mortenson, Mouns Peterson’s son, beat his father bloody with a paddle. Mortenson and Peterson were both neighbors of Urin.

In 1694 Urin sued Mounce Staker, another of his neighbors, for defamation, when Staker called him a rogue and a hog thief. Plenty of witnesses heard Staker say it. It stemmed from an incident when Urin was constable. Henry Taton said that as constable Urin had taken a pig from Mounce Staker and put it in a barrel, and that Staker got a warrant against Urine, and the Justice of the Peace John Blunston ordered Urin to give the pig back to Mounce. In the defamation matter the jury found for Urin with 12d damages, a minimal amount.

Randall and Draycott: a tale of lechery and greed

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.

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  1. 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.”

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.

Elizabeth Shorter and the absolute cheat

Elizabeth Shorter was a widow and a glover from London, who emigrated with her grandson Isaac. She settled in Abington, next door to her son-in-law John Rush, a blacksmith. In 1685 she bought his house and a narrow strip of land around it for £35. Most of this was to paid directly to other people, and only £10 to Rush himself; he must have been in debt. If this was a favor on Elizabeth’s part to her son-in-law, he repaid her badly. The following spring, in 2nd month 1687, he brought her a paper to sign, purporting to be a letter of attorney, but actually an extraordinary deed of gift conveying everything she owned to “my beloved son John Rush”.

It read in part, “For my special naturall favour which I bear toward John Rush of Philadelphia my beloved son and for divers other good causes. I do grant all my lands, goods, chattells, leases, deeds, ready money, plate, household stuff, appearall, utensills, brass, pewter, bedding and all other my substances whatsover, moveable and immoveable, quick and dead, of what kind nature quality or condition … freely and quietly without any manner of challenge claim or demand.”  She signed with her mark.

It must have been a shock to her when she found out what she had signed. But she knew exactly how to deal with it. She went straight to the governing body for the province, the Council in Philadelphia. At their meeting on 3rd month 1687, she appealed for help. “The Petition of Elizabeth Shorter, Widdow, was read, complayning that John Rush, her son in Law, instead of a Letter of Attorney that shee was to signe, prepared a Deed of gifft of all her Estate, with power of Atturney, to one Samll Atkins, to acknowledge the same in Court.” When the witnesses were examined, they admitted that the paper was not read to her, and that she could not read or write. “….so that it appeared to this board to be an Absolute Cheat.”  She was clearly able to get the fraudulent deed anulled, since later that year she sold one of her city lots, and she owned her Abington land until 1699. There is no record of what happened to John Rush.

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.

John Rambo and the rough wooing

In 1685 Peter Cock and his daughter Bridget sued John Rambo for breach of promise and for ruining Bridgett’s reputation. The court testimony was sensational. Bridget’s sister Catherine said that one winter night she heard a noise about midnight, and a plank opened and John Rambo jumped down into the room and then came into the bed where she was with her two sisters. It was pitch dark but they recognized him by his voice. He jumped into the bed. There was no room so Catherine and Margaret got out of the bed and left Bridget there, and they lay on the floor until daybreak.

John asked Bridgett if she would have him. She answered no at first and then when he asked her again she said yes. He swore “the devil take him if he would not marry her”. And in the morning he heaved himself out of the bed and left.

William Orion said that when Andrew Rambo was married to Peter Cock’s other daughter, he heard John Rambo, between the dwelling house and cow house, about midnight, say to Bridgett Cock, “God damme me my brother hath gott one sister and I will marrie tother.”

And Lasse Cock, brother of Bridget, deposed that about the end of February last, his sister Bridget went to the mill with corn, and they saw John Rambo. Bridget said, “John Rambo you are going to cheat me”, and he answered “God damme me I shall never marrie another woman but you.”

The jury found Rambo guilty. Bridget’s father Peter was fined five shillings for swearing in court.

But it did not work out quite as smoothly as that. A year later they were back in court.

In the meantime Bridget had borne a child, which John refused to maintain, and he was trying to marry another woman. Bridget sued him for 150 pounds damages. He claimed that he never offered to marry her. She produced the records of the earlier court.

It would seem a cut-and-dry case in her favor. But Lawrence Hiddings, a neighbor of the Cock family in Kingsessing, testified that Bridget had refused to let him have the child when he offered to maintain it, saying that it was more than he was able to do and that he did not have a nurse ready. The  jury found for him.

What happened?

The ending is a surprise. John and Bridget married and had eleven children. They moved to West Jersey where John became quite respectable—a justice of the peace and delegate to the assembly.  Let’s hope that Bridget got what she wanted.

David Davies the Welshman of Neshaminy

David Davies was a Welshman, son of the wealthy Richard Davies. David came in 1683 and settled in Neshaminy, far away from his countrymen in the Welsh Tract. The next summer his father wrote to Penn, glad that his son had arrived, because many on the Morning Star had been sick with dysentery. Davies wrote, “I was som time under great Exercise by Vistions that I had seene that maney of them were cast {in}to the sea but … but my wife was all along wel satisfied of the wel being of her sonn.” 1

David had written to his father that some of his neighbors were agitating to choose him for the Assembly, though Richard was hoping that this would be put off until David had his plantation in better order. Richard added to Penn that, “I am glad that his servants writts soe wel of him and that they serve him in love and that he is carfull of them.”  By then Davies’ neighbors were complaining that his dog was running loose and attacking their hogs. Middletown Monthly Meeting sent a committee to deal with him, and force him to pay a fine to widow Walmsley for the loss of her sow. 2

In 1685 David was accused of killing one of his servants. Five of Bucks County’s most important Quakers were appointed to try him. There is no record of the trial, but Davies must have been acquitted.

Soon after Davies was in trouble again with the Middletown Monthly Meeting. His servant Margaret Evans was summoned before the women’s meeting because of her disorderly behavior. She claimed she tried to leave him, but being his bound servant and he very unwilling to set her free, she was forced to stay with him. The men’s meeting took over and summoned Davies before them. He said that he would marry her, contrary to their advice, probably since she was not free to object.

He did marry her, and he died twenty days later.

She had a son and named him David.

Two years later she asked for a certificate of clearness, intending to go back to England.

The story is a wild one, yet we don’t know the things we most want to know. Why did this young man die just after his marriage? And why did Margaret name her son after him?

  1. Dunn and Dunn, Papers of William Penn, volume 2.
  2. Middletown Monthly Meeting, men’s minutes, 1st month and 7th month 1684.

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.

Hannah Day and her suitors

In 1692 John Day, a prosperous Quaker merchant of Philadelphia, was intending to go to sea. He wrote his will, left, and was never heard from again. He left a widow Hannah. She may have mourned for John but after a time she turned her eye toward remarriage.

Three years after John disappeared, the stern Friends of the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting advised Richard Sutton that he should not be too forward in getting into the affections of Hannah Day in order to marry. They told William Rakestraw the same thing. They advised Hannah not to entertain William Rakestraw, Richard Sutton nor any other person in order to marry until a certain account shall come of her husband John Day’s death.

Hannah tried again in 1699 with James Atkinson. By now it was seven years since John had left. The women’s meeting approved their proposal and brought it to the men, but the men’s meeting declared that, “There was no proof that  her late husband John Day is certainly dead, although long absent, therefore it is the advice of this meeting that they cannot proceed to marry among friends.” Hannah and James went ahead and married anyway; she died as his widow.

The meeting was not just hard on women. In 6th month  1687 Philadelphia meeting heard the appeal of the carpenter Thomas Marle. He explained that his wife Eleanor had been gone from him this eight or nine years, and desired their advice relating to his marrying again, as he was willing to change his condition. The monthly meeting put him off, and sent the question up to the Quarterly meeting, who sent it to the yearly meeting. The yearly meeting said that he could not take a wife among Friends if his wife might be yet living. He moved to another meeting and married a woman named Margaret. Since Thomas apparently ended up with ten children, he certainly did change his condition. 1

  1. It is not clear by which wife he had the children, but some of them must certainly have been by the second wife.