The Five Wives of Benjamin Hathaway – Part 1

 

What  comes to mind when you find out a person has been married five times? I thought, Oh…there’s got to be a bit of scandal here. Did a wife or two run off? Did one wife, or two wives, or more wives, meet mysterious ends? 

Now I feel a bit ashamed of my suspicions, for the true story of five-times married Benjamin Franklin Hathaway calls to mind Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events – minus the snark.

Benjamin F. Hathaway was born on May 1808, in Freetown, Massachusetts. He was the seventh known child, and fifth known son of Jael and Mercy (Davis) Hathaway. Like most families in the early American republic, this Hathaway family of middling circumstances, farmed with all able bodies pitching in. By 1830, Jael (and Mercy) were empty-nesters, all their children flown.

Benjamin probably left home in his early teens. The youngest of five Hathaway, sons, his future depended on acquiring a skilled trade. It’s likely, his father, Jael Hathaway (or someone in the family circle) found the boy an apprenticeship with a master carpenter and that would lead him away from rural Freetown. In the southeastern Massachusetts of the times, the action was in the village of New Bedford. There the whaling industry would expand opportunities for many workers, and the favored few with capital would reap incredible riches.

Bringing to mind early business opportunities in New Bedford, MA.

Whaling grew New Bedford, MA from a village into a bustling city with great wealth.

Building business and acquiring property

Benjamin F. Hathaway plied his carpentry skills on A. Robeson’s wharf as a ship joiner, and found employment as a house wright, during the 1830s and 1840s. But Benjamin wasn’t content to remain an employee. Sometime before the year 1849, he partnered with Thomas Booth to establish Booth & Hathaway, house-wrights and ship joiners.

Booth & Hathaway at 158 North Water Street, soon added lumber supply to its offerings. By 1852, Booth & Hathaway was listed in the city directory at numbers 157 and 158 North Water street. The 1860 federal census indicates that Booth had left the partnership, and Benjamin remained in business on North Water Street as a lumber dealer.

That year’s enumeration shows that Benjamin F. Hathaway owned real estate valued at $18,500 and personal property worth $2500. For perspective, compare this with the state of my direct ancestor, John P. Roane, a grocer in Lowell, MA who listed $1000 in real estate and $200 in personal property in that same 1860 census. Yeah, Benjamin had done well for himself (of course, it helped that he was American born and Protestant).

During the next years, the nation suffered the bloody War of the Rebellion (Civil War), which affected business and fortunes, for good and ill. Things changed for Benjamin, for at the end of 1865, he pulled out of the lumber market and launched a new venture in coal, which appears to have been a sound move. Benjamin became a respected member of the New Bedford Board of Trade.

Hathaway Coal employed 10 men in operating that coal business at 590 Acushnet Avenue through 1889, the year before Benjamin died. Among the assets mentioned in his will (1888), there is…

real estate situated on the east side of Acushnet Avenue at the foot of Willis street in said New Bedford and known as the wharf property.”

Benjamin never completely retired. After 40 years as a proprietor, his company would keep him engaged to some degree, even as he entered his eighth decade.

In many respects, Benjamin Franklin Hathaway emulated his Boston-born namesake (Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790). He mastered a trade, kept learning, worked hard, and leaped when he recognized an opportunity. With persistence, Benjamin dramatically improved his material circumstances.

What about love?

Ben wasn’t all about business, not by a long-shot. That he married a series of five women, and sired (at least) 15 children is evidence that he pursued ambitions on the domestic front with as much zeal and doggedness as he did commerce. This part of the story begins with this transcription from New Bedford vital records:

Benjamin F. of N. B., and Ann Maria Bliffins of Freetown,
int. Aug. 27, 1834.

Benjamin turned 26 in May that year. He had worked perhaps, 10 years, to become a reputable ship joiner and house wright, a man able to support a wife – and a family.

Next time: First wife, Ann Maria Bliffins

Sources and / or references:

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events; Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Series_of_Unfortunate_Events
  2. United States Federal Census, 1820-1880.
  3. National Park Service, New Bedford Whaling; https://www.nps.gov/nebe/learn/historyculture/stories.htm
  4. New Bedford Guide: New Bedford Early Villages; https://www.newbedfordguide.com/new-bedfords-early-villages/2013/04/09
  5. Wikipedia; New Bedford; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bedford,_Massachusetts
  6.  Ancestry.com; New Bedford, MA; Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records.
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An Aged Lovers Triangle

The Boston Herald – Monday August 1, 1892

HUSBAND ALMOST KILLED

Had a Bloody Fight with His Wife’s Aged Lover

[Special Dispatch to the Boston Herald]

Fall River, July 31, 1892. Alexander Pittsley and Charles Hersom and his wife,  Jane Elizabeth, each more than 70 years of age, who live at Slab bridge, Freetown, were yesterday locked up in the central police station.

Pittsley has, up to within six months, lived a sort of hermit’s life. He resided in small hut and earned his living by doing odd jobs.

About six months ago, Hersom and his wife came here from Norton , and established themselves at Slab bridge.

The wife pitied Pittsley so much that she urged her husband to let the old hermit become a member of the family circle. This was done and all went swimmingly for a while, until it became apparent to Hersom that his wife and Pittsley had fallen in love.

A row ensued and Hersom was fined for assault and battery on his wife. This was about a month ago.

Just after the trial, Pittsley, who still remained at the house and Mrs. Hersom eloped, taking the husband’s horse and wagon and a load of his household goods. They established themselves in Norton.

Hersom was evidently content to get rid of his erring spouse, for he made no attempt to follow them.

Friday night, however, Pittsley and Mrs. Hersom came back to the Slab Bridge home for another load of furniture. The wagon was piled high with goods and the rig hidden away  in the woods. Then Pittsley and Mrs. Hersom paid a visit to the Pittsley hut. They found Hersom there.

The two old men began a bloody fight and Hersom was badly battered about the face and had an arm injured. He was almost killed. Pittsley and his companion became alarmed at the condition of the deserted husband, and started off on the road to Taunton, while Hersom sought Officer Marble.

The officer captured the couple after a lively chase of three miles.They had become weary and were resting at the roadside when they were placed under arrest.

The quartet came to this city yesterday, Pittsley and Mrs. Hersom being handcuffed.

Hersom’s arm was in a sling and his face was decorated with cuts and sticking plaster.

Pittsley is well known to the police here having been arrested for minor offences. The exact nature of the charge to be preferred against him is unknown.

While the 1892 press hyped this incident and played it for laughs, I was moved that a man and woman in their seventh decade of life, were alive to love, and new possibilities. (I will concede that taking off with the horse, wagon, and household goods was not the most honorable exit strategy.) I wanted to know what happened to Charles H. Hersom, Jane Elizabeth Hersom, and Alexander Pittsley.

That Pittsley “almost killed” Hersom is hyperbolic. The article portrays him as ambulatory, with an arm in a sling and minor facial wounds. And Hersom was a soldier in the Union Army, with the Massachusetts 4th Regiment of Infantry; he must have gotten a few licks in on Alexander. Furthermore, we are told the month before, Charles Hersom was fined for beating up his wife. And yet, the Second District court sentenced the abused wife, Jane Elizabeth Hersom, to two months, while Alexander Pittsley was sent away for four months to the House of Correction for assault.

After that, Jane Elizabeth Hersom disappears from record.

Charles H. Hersom, stays around for a long time.

About four years after the incident, in 1897, Charles H. Hersom married wife number three, Margaret (Cunningham) Lester. He was 75 and she was 37.  Margaret bore him four daughters, in addition to three children he had with wife number one, an Irish lass named Mary. He married her in 1864 and the family were living in Canton, Massachusetts for the 1870 census. Charles liked lived in Freetown with his new young wife and kids until 1913, when after a six-day bout with bronchitis, he died, at 93 years of age.

Pension Index card for Charles H. Hersom.

Index card shows Charles H. Hersom got an Invalid pension in 1877; his minor daughter got a benefit in 1915 and wife Margaret collected a widow’s pension in 1917.

For Alexander Pittsley, who served the harsher sentence, life was rarely kind. That he lived in a hut “like a hermit” and had been “arrested for minor offences” are clues that he suffered some form mental illness that kept him on the margins of society. On November 4, 1898, at 74 years and 10 months, Alexander starved to death “off Summer Street” in the town of Foxboro.

I want to think that Alexander and Jane Elizabeth, who discovered love in winter, were able, at least for a moment, to find joy in each other.

Ken Burns – Please, Love Thy Loyalist Ancestor, Too

I never thought I’d say this, but Ken Burns disappointed me. Of course, the documentary films he’s given us are priceless –  The Civil War – Baseball – Jazz, and recently, The Roosevelts. But this same Ken Burns, when he learned one of his ancestors was a Loyalist (or Tory) during the American Revolution, reacted as though told Darth Vader was his father. Considering that Burns also has a Virginia ancestor who owned slaves, – this stung and stunned me.

It happened that I was watching the October 2014 Season 2 episode of the wonderful PBS series, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. that featured Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, and Anna Deavere Smith. I gave myself several months , to make sure I wasn’t overreacting,  and here I am. I’ll give you two reasons why, the first, as you may have guessed, is that I have Loyalists in my tree; second, Burns, steeped in history, should know that in any war, people caught up in power struggles – are not simply good guys or bad guys. Ken Burns, of all people, should realize that it wasn’t the Civil War, but the American Revolution that first pitted brother against brother.

Most Americans were farmers, many with deep roots in the land, some with Mayflower ancestors. Through generations of tilling, toiling, and building, families developed farms and expanded homes that they were proud to pass on to their children. They obeyed the laws and paid their taxes; they prayed for peace, so they could get on with their lives. But sometimes their neighbors wouldn’t let them. From U.S. History.org:

Patriots subjected Loyalists to public humiliation and violence. Many Loyalists found their property vandalized, looted, and burned. The patriots controlled public discourse. Woe to the citizen who publicly proclaimed sympathy to Britain.”

D. Hamilton Hurd’s History of Bristol County, Massachusetts (1883) mentions my own revolutionary era ancestors among the Chase, Hathaway, Briggs and Paine families below:

   “At a legal town-meeting held at ye public meeting-house house in Freetown on ye 31st day of May 1777, ye following Tories were voted for trial, viz.: George Brightman, William Winslow, Luther Winslow, John Winslow, Jael Hathaway, Solomon Terry, Abiel Terry, Abiel Terry, Jr., William Hathaway, Silas Hathaway (2nd), Silas Terry, Ebenezer Terry, Benjamin Tompkins, Ralph Paine, Job Paine, Job Paine (2nd), George Chase, George Chase, Jr., Bradford Gilbert, Ephraim Winslow, Ammi Chase, Horah Durfee, Jonathan Dodson, Job Terry, Silas Sherman, Benjamin Cleaveland, Abraham Ashley, John Briggs. – Then Maj. Joshua Hathaway was chosen agent in behalf of ye said town.”

Another book, Divided Hearts – Massachusetts Loyalists 1765 – 1790 by David E. Maas (1980), lists some of the names above: [Note: inimical means hostile or malevolent]

Ammi Chase – Freetown; shipwright RM & L 1777 Family L guilty inimical trial 1777

Eber Chace, Jr. – Bristol County RM inimical trial 1778

Ezra Chace, Jr. – Bristol County RM inimical trial 1777

George Chace, Jr. – Freetown; husbandman RM F; guilty inimical trial 1777; J 1777

Silas Hathway – Freetown; boatman RM inimical trial 1777

Illustration for the American Revolution

It wasn’t only neighbors who turned against one another, families were wrenched apart too, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. My 5th great-grandfather, James P. Chase (1745-1816), born in Freetown, was chased away from there, lived in New York for a time, then fled with the 80,000 or so other American loyalists to New Brunswick, Canada. James, however, may be seen as a bad guy, because he actually profited from the war, and I wouldn’t argue. But he paid an awful cost.

Nearly all of James Chase’s 17 brothers and sisters remained near their Massachusetts birthplace, even his brother, George (1755-1787), the Loyalist sympathizer mentioned above. His brothers, Edward Chase (1742-1815) who served 4 days in the Third Company of Freetown Militia in August 1780 and Greenfield Chase (1854-1810) who served in the First Company for 6 days – are Patriots to their proud descendants.

I hope Ken Burns will eventually find a way to embrace his Loyalist ancestor. Those times were difficult for all Americans; terrifying for those tortured by mobs; deadly for those who fell defending their homes and families from the British – or from former friends and neighbors. I believe, people of character acted with honorable intent, whether they chose to stand for tradition  – or to blaze new trails in the history of the world, both Patriot and Loyalist ancestors are worthy of respect.

For those interested, there is even a membership organization called Loyalists & Patriots.

Sources & Resources:

Wikipedia – Loyalist (American Revolution); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_(American_Revolution)

AmericanRevolution.org; The Loyalist Pages; http://www.americanrevolution.org/loyalist.php

Divided hearts, Massachusetts loyalists, 1765-1790 : a biographical directory / compiled and edited Maas, David E. [S.l.] : Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ; [Boston] : New England Historic Genealogical Society, c1980.

U.S. History: The American Revolution; 11b. Loyalists, Fence-sitters, and Patriots; http://www.ushistory.org/us/11b.asp

History of Bristol County, Massachusetts with Biographical Sketches; D. Hamilton Hurd, (1883; reprint, Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1883), 285-308. Cit. Date: 12 Jul 2014.

The Notorious George Barlow – Part 3

The Brute and Bully At Home

George Barlow’s life before 1657 is a void. He brought to Sandwich, two sons, Moses and Aaron, but no wife.  Some researchers conjecture the marriage and births took place in England, and that George may have had other children. Presumably, his first wife died and presumably, of natural causes, but this article is about George’s life with a new wife.

The year 1657 was a milestone for Jane Besse, too, albeit a sad one. Her husband Anthony, one of the town’s original founders, fell ill in February and died in May. In the 18 years before, Anthony and Jane had built a house in the Spring Hill section, improved land, acquired livestock and other necessities which sustained a family of five girls and two boys.

Anthony Besse had a will, a standard instrument to convey property to heirs, but details add color to the legalese. Anthony named Jane his executrix, proof that he trusted in her judgment and abilities (perhaps surprisingly, this action was not uncommon). My attention was drawn to the bequests:

To Jane my wife, three Cowes… blacking Moose and Cherrey…

“To Dorcas my daughter two heifers… Nubbin and Spark and one more now

 which we call young moose;

“To Ann my daughter one heifer which we call pretty

To Nehemiah my son one heifer formerly Disposed to him Called Coll:

“… unto my two sonnes…Nehemiah and David…two steers…Burnett & Raven; 

“To my Daughter Mary one heifer wee call browne; 

“To my Daughter Jane one heifer wee call Daysey.”

While most seventeenth century wills designate livestock like inanimate property (description – cows, steers, horses, etc. and a quantity), the Besse animals were unique individuals with names, – Nubbin, Spark, Pretty, Brownie, Daisy… suggesting the Besses were good-natured and caring folks.  Anthony knew his children’s favorites and assigned parting gifts to make them happy. Yet, how hard it must have been for the Besses to be happy when this thoughtful and loving family man was gone from their lives!

Some months after burying Anthony, Jane gave birth to his last child.  The widow had to cope with the needs of eight fatherless children, a house, farm, animals, – and grief, a burden daunting for the stoutest heart. We don’t know how long the Widow Besse was on her own, and typically, widows remarried.  However, what moved Jane Besse to yoke herself to the cruel and tyrannical George Barlow – is beyond understanding.

The date of their marriage escaped record, but Plymouth County Court records document that it wasn’t going well. On March 4, 1661/62, Jane’s eldest daughters, Dorcas, Ann, and Mary Besse, went before the court for –

“crewell and unnatural practice toward their father-in-law George Barlow.”

Apparently, having failed to earn respect at home, George handled his stepdaughters the way he handled everyone who pissed him off, – he hauled them into court. To be fair, details of the case suggest the girls were not entirely blameless, and punishment was duly ordered.

At the same time, the court recognized the Barlow household was getting out of control. George and Jane –

“were both severely reproved for their most ungodly living in contention with the other, and admonished to live otherwise.”

Conflict was inevitable when George moved in with Jane, – into the house built by, and filled with memories of Anthony Besse. To make that situation work would have required a man of great sensitivity and delicacy, – not a man known from Cape Cod to Boston for his dickishness. George, the evil stepfather, appears in court again on June 3, 1662.

We learned above that Anthony Besse’s will gave his daughter Jane a heifer the little girl herself probably named Daysey (Daisy). Added on to Jane’s natural affection for Daisy, was the cow’s status as remembrance of her departed father. So George took it away. If he gave a reason for doing so, the court ruled it invalid:

“concerning a cow belonging to Jane, daughter of Anthony Bessey, of Sandwich, the Court have ordered G[e]orge Barlow, in whose hands the cow has been for some time, to return her to the overseers of the estate of the said Anthony Bessey, to be disposed of by them for the use and the good of the said Jane Bessey.”

In that same year (1662), two of the Besse girls he took to court, Ann and Mary, got married. This development would have significantly decreased domestic tension. Then in 1664, Nehemiah Besse, Jane’s eldest son, reached the age of majority and took over his father’s property. This prompted George and Jane to move some miles away from Spring Hill to Pocasset, (part of Bourne, Massachusetts today).

A change of scene can mean a fresh start in life, a chance to make things better, – but George got worse. On March 6, 1665/66, he was fined ten shillings for being drunk – a second time. Then in May 1665, he was accused of –

attempting the chastity of Abigaill, the wife of Jonathan Pratt, by aluring words and actes of force.”

It seems surprising that after these public transgressions, Jane bore George two sons, John (about 1669) and Nathan (1670).  Because she was also cited by the court for the couple’s scream fights, it’s doubtful she meekly forgave him. And, though it is awful to contemplate, the possibility that George also used “actes of force” on his wife is consistent with his character. In 1677 he was back in court for being “turbulent, and threatening to drive away the minister, Mr. Smith.” He returned in 1678 for being a “turbulent fellow” and was bound over for the next court session.

Fanatical, delusional, or just plain mean, George Barlow apparently believed he was right about everything. There’s no evidence he ever tried to reform his antisocial behavior, or regretted the terrible suffering he caused. He held grudges to the grave. In his will, to Aaron and Moses, sons of his first marriage, George gave only five shillings each, adding, “that is all I give them,” a verbal twist of the knife his sadistic nature couldn’t resist even as he prepared for death.

A widespread and popular story claims that George Barlow “ended his days alone and in want.” A version in Quaker tradition says he was reduced to begging for food and was fed by the very victims of his religious persecution. This would  be poetic justice, karma, and just deserts for this horrendously horrible human being; if only it were true. For the Quakers especially, it’s morality tale stressing the virtue of forgiveness, even for enemies. In real life, the craven George Barlow got away clean.

As mentioned earlier, George had a will because he had an estate. While it may have amounted to less than his neighbors, – eight acres, a house, farm stock and equipment, and household furnishings, – it refutes the notion that George was destitute and starving on the streets of Sandwich.

He wasn’t alone at the end either. The sons he had with Jane, John and Nathan, managed to stay in his good graces; he named them co-executors. George left his house, land, livestock, and all remaining worldly goods to the boys and their mother. George made his will on August 4, 1684 and it was probated October 31, 1684, so he also had time to make spiritual reckoning and prepare any arguments he might need for a heavenly court.

Despite all that passed between them, there’s little doubt Jane Besse Barlow dutifully nursed her truculent husband to the end. The awful George Barlow most likely died in his own bed, surrounded by family on a lovely fall day. He would have imparted his final words (typically religious admonishments) and had a good death. So the tale of George Barlow illustrates that life is not fair!

Somehow, the Barlow progeny all appear to have been respected members of the community. The sweetest outcome is that some married into Quaker families.  Barlow’s boys, John and Nathan, married and had seven sons between them, – but none of them carried the name George.

I imagine Jane was a happier widow this time around. I picture her pausing between chores to gaze toward the hearth for a moment. The aroma of a meat and vegetable stew emanates from an iron kettle and mingles with the scent of baking bread. Before the children and grandchildren tumble inside for the meal, Jane revels in the unaccustomed peace of her home, – and she whispers her heartfelt thanks to God.

SOURCES:

Plymouth Court Records. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010)

 The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010)

Cape Cod, Its People and Their History, Henry C. Kittredge; 1930.

Sandwich Historical Society; http://sandwichhistory.org

The History of The Society of Friends on Cape Cod by James Warren Gould; http://www.capecodquakers.org/smm_history.html

George Barlow of Sandwich Massachusetts – From the research of Edson Barlow; Barlow Genealogy 1998-2004; http://www.barlowgenealogy.com/GeorgeofSandwich/georgemass.html

Roane’s Pennsylvanians and Hot Dance

Roane's Pennsylvanians

Frank Roane is at the far right of his band, Roane’s Pennsylvanians.

A recent link I stumbled upon at Archives.org brought to mind an exciting episode in Roane history that occurred when I had barely begun my journey.

I received a telephone call from an Al Giordano, who was a fan of early 20th century dance bands. He told me that BMG Music, when it acquired RCA Victor, inherited its properties. He had recording sheets from Studio 1, 24th Street, New York, dated January 28, 1932 and June 2, 1932, for sessions with Roane’s Pennsylvanians. In order to put together a new CD issue, he needed some authoritative information about Frank Roane. Wow.

I put out a cousin distress call and was able to get  my aunt to confirm that her Uncle Frank, AKA Francis J. Roane, AKA “Peach” Roane (1893-1942) was a master of ceremonies for weekly dances at the Commodore Ballroom in Lowell, Massachusetts. His signature schtick was delivering this announcement in an English accent,

The next daaance is the last daaance…

(Clearly, you had to be there to get the effect.) A direct line cousin added that some evenings Roane’s Pennsylvanians played the Commodore, Frank’s daughter, Mary Katherine, would sing with the band. Though band leader, there’s no evidence Frank was a musician (he did have the Roane family gift for song). He was rather, a manager and promoter.

In naming the group, I suspect he chose to trade on the popularity of another orchestra known as The Pennsylvanians. Modest soul that he was, he appended his name, created a brand and earned a modicum of lasting fame in music history. The University of Massachusetts Center for Lowell History has a Commodore Ballroom Collection that contains sheet music and photos of  bands that played at there and Roane’s Pennsylvanians is included among the “excellent local bands.” They played regional gigs to popular acclaim, and got that RCA contract.

The CD produced by The Old Masters and issued in 2000, is called, Alex Bartha’s Traymore Orchestra & Roane’s Pennsylvanians. The songs Frank Roane’s band recorded in 1932 are all fox trots in the Hot Dance category. Among the song titles you’ll detect a hint of Harlem / Black culture:

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Cast Your Sins Away, Charlie Two-Step
Chinatown, My Chinatown
Good-Bye Blues
Is I in Love? I Is
Sleep, Come On and Take Me
When You and I Were Young, Maggie
We’ve Got to Put That Sun Back In The Sky
Why Don’t You Get Lost?

There were great dance beats, novelty tunes that incorporated scat singing. The Victor label issued records by Alex Bartha and Roane’s Pennsylvanians under the pseudonym, Williams’ Cotton Club Orchestra to expand market appeal. In fact, jazz great, Cab Calloway and His Orchestra also recorded the then new Harold Arlen / Ted Koehler tune, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Click on over to Archives.org and you can listen to Good-Bye Blues.

Witch Tales for Children

With great delight, last year I told my grown children I’d discovered a 10th great-grandmother, Susanna Roots (1621-1692) was an accused witch. From a safe vantage point in the 21st Century, this bit of trivia just seemed a ‘cool’ addition to family lore. Then we gathered together to feast and celebrate the winter holidays and my 10-year-old grandson asked me for a more detailed story of Susanna, the almost witch. The more I’ve considered it, the less cool it seems. A month has passed and I’m still struggling with how and how much to tell an intelligent, good and kind youngster about what happened to the victims of the worst in human nature.

History knows Susanna only as the wife of husband, Josiah Rootes (1613-1683). He came from Kent in England and arrived in New England on the ship Hercules with his mother and brother in spring 1634/35. He acquired property and Susanna as wife around the year 1639. The couple had six children and lived on the Bass River, which was part of Salem, Massachusetts until 1668 when it was set off as the town of Beverly.

On June 25, 1678, Josiah made a sworn accusation of thievery against William and Elizabeth Hoar. He claimed the family had stolen (clothing, apples, wood and hay) from him for nearly twenty years, and he had only just discovered proof – in the form of Goody Hoar’s apron.

That same day, Susanna first appears on record: Susanah Roots, aged about fifty-three years, Mary, wife of Heugh Woodbery, aged about forty-eight years, and Sarah Roots, aged about twenty-four years, deposed that about two months ago they saw Mary, wife of Samuell Harres and Tabitha Slew carry a parcel of small linen into Samuell Harris’ house.

Accusing neighbors of stealing is an ugly thing in a small community and perhaps, friends of William and Mary Hoars, Mary Harres and Tabitha Slew nursed enmity toward the Rootes family.

Five years after that, in the spring of 1683, Josiah Rootes died. He named Susanna executrix of his will and stipulated, “…my loveing wife Susanna [have] the use & improvement of all my small estate, what ever untill such time, as my son Jonathan cometh to the age…” and if she did not remarry, “[Jonathan] shall pay unto her, his said mother eight pounds, [yearly] duerring the terme of her widdowhood, or her natural life, and let her have the use of the west end of my now dwellinghouse, of a bed, beding, her firewood brought to the doare [door].”

For the period, this is an appropriate provision for a wife who worked land, maintained a household, bore and nurtured six children. Josiah’s specification that Susanna have the sunny west-facing room with cozy bed and fire burning is lovely and fitting after 40 years of toil at his side.

But Susanna did not execute Josiah’s will and a year later, she lost control of the living Josiah bequeathed her. Other men governed the 60-year-old widow as her health and strength declined with age. Nine years later, as she approached her 70th year, she would find herself carted into Boston and thrown into jail on a charge of witchcraft, which carried a sentence of death.