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.

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Homicide By a Woman

Good people who lived good lives are bad subjects for a family historian trying to create vivid profiles that snap, crackle and pop with individuality. Most of our families come from hardworking, warmhearted and respectable people who kept their names out of the newspapers. So our good folks are boring, unless, maybe, they were good and rich.  I’m among those fortunate to have long-ago cousins who did some bad, bad things.

Homicide By a Woman—A woman named Adaline Clark, residing in Freetown, Mass. has been arrested for killing David S. Hathaway, on the night of the 22nd inst., in that town.  The Taunton Gazette says the parties resided together, and had a drunken quarrel.  Hathaway was armed with an axe, and it appears that the woman, under apprehension of an attack from him with such a weapon, discharged a pistol, shooting him through the head and, killing him instantly…  

This was news from Southeastern Massachusetts to Boston, to New York City where the Tribune ran the story above on September 30, 1856. From that single paragraph, unravels a convoluted and frankly sordid story. For starters, the murdered man, David Simmons Hathaway, and the murdering woman, Adaline (Hathaway) Clark, were cousins, the grandchildren of Dudley and Margaret (Briggs) Hathaway. Both families had deep roots in Freetown, Massachusetts.

 

The Murdered

Twenty six years before his awful end, 18-year-old David Simmons Hathaway, Jr. was so deeply in love with Olive Barrows, that he marched himself into the town hall to register his intention to marry her. When you look at the Freetown records for 1830, below the marriage intention, you can see the town clerk added,

“Forbidden by David S. Hathaway,  father.”  

If David senior objected to the union for a reason other than his son’s youth, it’s been lost to time. But I’ll bet David and Olive surprised the community by waiting three, long years.  When David reached his majority (21) in 1833, no one could keep  him from making Olive his own.  The year after, a daughter, Sarah Briggs Hathaway, was born. She was to be the couple’s only child.

After the 1840 US census, Olive Hathaway disappears from record. David Hathaway became a man adrift who relied on alcohol to forget his sorrows and assuage his pain. If he was addicted to drink, it’s not hard to understand how  David’s character may have taken a dark turn. He may not have been a very good father.

In 1848, at 14 1/2 years, Sarah married John Peirce, a man 8 years older than herself. Two years later for the 1850 US census, Sarah and John were living with a Barrows family (probably relatives of her mother). I haven’t yet discovered where David was staying and what he was doing that year. His name resurfaces for the 1855 census in Freetown, and there he spent his last 14 months on Earth.

 

The Murderer

In March 1834, David’s cousin and neighbor, Adeline Hathaway, married another neighbor, Seth Clark.  Over the next 12 years, the Clarks produced four sons. The 1850 census shows Seth working as an unskilled  laborer,  and the family did not own their home. It must have been a struggle to feed and clothe their growing boys. Still, when the census enumerator stopped by in September, the Clarks appear to be an average family:

Seth Clark – Age 38 – Laborer
Adeline Clark – Age 36

Albert Clark – Age 15 – Attended school

Bradford Clark – Age 12 – Attended school
Rhodolphus Clark – Age 10
Phillip H -Clark – Age 4.

Not quite five years later, when the Massachusetts state census was taken July 17, 1855, the Clark household had changed significantly:

Seth Clark – Age 43 – Stone cutter
Adeline Clark – Age 40

Bradford Clark – Age 17 – Laborer

Phillip H -Clark – Age 9

David S. Hathaway – Age 43 – Farmer.

Seth has advanced from a laborer to a stone cutter, a skilled trade, which means he’s at last making a better wage. Two sons, Albert (20) and Rhodolphus (15), are missing from the home, and Bradford (17) is out of school and at work himself.

The final name in the household is David S. Hathaway. Perhaps, Adaline convinced Seth that her troubled cousin really needed a place to stay. There is no way for us today to know exactly when David came to live with the Clarks. We do know that they weren’t all living in harmony. The following bit among short items from Freetown, MA, appeared in March 1856:

David S. Hathaway was knocked down by Mrs. Seth Clark with a billet of wood for licking her son.

Adaline had a grievance, and few  parents wouldn’t seek to punish an adult who assaulted their child. However, to pick up a piece of lumber and beat a perpetrator to the ground, suggests a helluva temper. For the incident to make the papers as far away as Macon, Georgia, Adaline must have given David a spectacular thrashing.

 

The Murder

The opening newspaper quote makes the incident seem a clear case of self-defense: David Hathaway came home drunk out of his mind, and an argument ensued that escalated into an axe attack. Adeline Clark saved herself from a grisly fate by making a single, perfect, kill shot.  Self-defense was what Adaline told her neighbors that night.  Self-defense was what she told the authorities.

On examination, Adaline explained she’d gone to bed and was roused sometime later by the noise made by the falling-down-drunk David Hathaway who was attempting to get inside the locked back door. Adeline took an oil lamp to guide her way to the kitchen and let David inside. He took the lamp from her and shoved her outside into the rain. While she pounded and pleaded to be let back in, David guarded the door, axe in hand, and vowed he’d use it if Adaline reentered the house.

After an hour and a half outside in her rain-soaked clothes, Adaline said she heard a chair tip over, then a thud which she assumed was David having fallen down. At this point, Adaline went into the house and retrieved the pistol she had bought a week or so before and kept ready. By the lamp light in the front room, she saw David on the floor with the axe beside him. She claimed he reiterated his threat to kill her and “two or more of her children.” However, David was too incapacitated to stand up. That was the moment Adaline chose to fire a bullet into his brain.

Somewhere, in the interest of full disclosure, she added that she had been David Hathaway’s mistress.

Having given testimony that she believed completely justified her act, Adaline must have been knocked for a loop when the coroner’s jury rendered its verdict of willful and malicious murder.

 

The Trial

Adaline failed to realize that her own account of the shooting and the advance planning that went into it, were cold and calculating moves. Why didn’t she go to her neighbor’s house when David locked her out in the rain, before she killed him, instead of afterward as she did? In spite of the wilful and malicious murder finding, Adaline was tried at Taunton for the lesser crime of manslaughter.

It was a tough trial and jury deliberations did not go smoothly. Adaline was convicted in May 1858, but not sentenced right away. In hope of being granted leniency, Adaline appealed to the court of public opinion by publishing a “lengthy statement in the Fall River News detailing the nature of the troubles between herself and Hathaway…”

In October 1858, Adaline Hathaway Clark was sentenced to five years at hard labor in the New Bedford House of Correction.  At 45 years of age, Adeline was enumerated there among the other inmates for the 1860 US census. Having paid her debt to society, she was released in June 1863.

 

The Surprise Ending

Several newspaper stories about Adaline including the line,  She has a husband living in Rhode Island.  That’s right, we can’t forget about Seth Clark, head of household, husband and father until his world imploded. When Seth left Freetown we can’t say exactly;  why he left is an easy guess in light of Adaline’s publicly confessed adultery. It’s most likely that Adaline and Seth never laid eyes on each other again after 1856.

In the 1865 state census, ex-con, Adaline Clark lived again in Freetown with her 26-year-old son, Bradford. She claimed that year she was a widow, but she wasn’t.  In 1880 Adeline said she was divorced, but that was not true either. During that same enumeration, Seth Clark, alive and well in Providence, RI, said he was a widower. And so the estranged spouses alternated between wishing their legal bonds dissolved, and wishing the other dead – for the rest of their long lives. Seth died in 1892 at nearly 82 years, and Adaline went in 1896 at 82 and some months more.

It’s touching irony that Seth and Adaline Clark were laid to rest forever together in Assonet Burying Ground.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=82168445http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=82168471

We who know the worst about them should resist the urge to smirk, and consider this. The Clark children suffered instability, a broken home, and social stigma that must have hurt them in countless ways, –  and yet they understood that in the end, love is all that matters.

The surviving Clark children forgave and honored their parents so that Clark descendants strolling the peaceful yard today might think of Seth and Adaline as just another boring, long-married couple.

 

 

 

 Sources:

Macon Weekly Telegraph (Macon, GA); Volume: XXX   Issue: 32; Tuesday, March 4, 1856; Page 3. Homicide by a Woman

The Boston Herald (Boston, MA); Saturday, September 27, 1856; Page 2. The Tragedy at Freetown

The New York Tribune (New York, NY); Volume: XVI   Issue: 4820; Tuesday, September 30, 1856; Page 3. Homicide by a Woman

The Boston Herald (Boston, MA); Volume: VI   Issue: 127; Thursday, April 2, 1857; Page 4. Miss Adeline Clark

The Boston Traveler (Boston, MA); Saturday, May 8, 1858; Page 2. Murderers on their Defence

The Boston Herald (Boston, MA); Friday, August 14, 1863; Page 2. The Shooting Case…

National Archives (NARA); US Population Schedules.

Massachusetts. 1855–1865 Massachusetts State Census [microform]. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.

Ancestry.com, Massachusetts Town and Vital Records database.

Find A Grave <www.findagrave.com> photos courtesy of jtb, 2012; Seth Clark Memorial#82168445; Adaline Clark Memorial #82168471

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

“The Notorious George Barlow” – Part 2

The Scourge of the Quakers – A Tyrant’s Rise and Fall

            In 1657, George Barlow, a stranger to town with two sons and no wife, swore the Oath of Fidelity in Sandwich, Massachusetts. George declared he was free of legal bond, a  member of the church (Congregational, of course), that he would defend the colony and vote on local governance issues. Thus, the forty-something single father, George Barlow met the standard for respectability, but his life prior to this moment seems lived off the record.

It happened that the term for the current Sandwich constable, William Bassett, was coming to an end.  On Bassett’s watch, Boston had disturbing reports that Plymouth Colony folks treated strangers with charity and tolerated differing views on Christianity as matters of conscience.

The Puritan masters lived in daily terror of eternal damnation and had documented sightings of Satan. They had reports of Quaker missionaries avoiding Boston for alternative routes into the country, so the government alert level was “code red.” And someone in Boston knew George Barlow was the blunt instrument they needed. On June 1, 1658, the General Court appointed Barlow constable for Sandwich – with a special mandate to harass religious dissenters, – and those who aided them.

The constable was tasked with jailing local offenders, administering punishment, and collecting fines and fees. He was also granted certain powers that included conscripting men to assist him. He could also appraise property and choose what goods to take in forfeiture when people had no money. A perk of the office allowed the constable to pocket ten percent of all monies collected. For a bully like George Barlow, was a dream come true. He could torment Quakers – and anyone else he liked, while making a good living for himself, and earning points with Boston.

A woman addresses an early meeting of Quakers. Few 17th Century minds could deal with the concept of equality.Image

Knowing their faith forbade them taking oaths (for loyalty belonged to god alone) and to harm others, George targeted Quaker men to conscript as deputies. He knew they must refuse, they wouldn’t fight, and they’d be fined. George impoverished several Sandwich families. From those with no money, George took what would hurt the most, –even to the essentials of living,  food, livestock, tools, household goods that included cooking pots. He sent men to prison in Boston, leaving behind women and children to fend off cold, hunger, and likely sexual harassment from…Constable George Barlow.

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Prominent Sandwich townspeople sympathized with the persecuted Quakers and helped the affected families. Non-Quakers also refused to serve Barlow as deputies and paid the price. We know of a few men who told George Barlow what they thought of him to his face.

 “At the 1 March 1658/9 Court “George Barlow complained against

William Gifford and Edward Perry in an action of defamation…”

 Thomas Clark told the court in June 1660 that “G[e]orge Barlow is such an one that he is a shame and reproach to all his masters; and that he… stands convicted and recorded of a lie at Newberry.”

Yet, on October 2, 1660, Boston promoted George to Special Marshal for Sandwich,  – and Yarmouth – and Barnstable:

“marshal Gorge Barlow shall have libertie to apprehend ant forraigne Quaker or Quakers in any pte of this Jurisdiction and to be prosecuted according to order provided in that case.”

However, at this point, Barlow’s career had reached its zenith. A few months after his jurisdiction expanded, George himself was fined 20 shillings by the court for cruelty to… wait for it…a Quaker!

            George had seized Benjamin Allen and locked him into the stocks at Sandwich overnight – with no legal provocation. He was also cited “for other wronges done by him unto the said Allin.” At the same court session, George was also ordered to return a shirt and other clothing he had taken from Ralph Allen. Additionally, the William Allen family was one of those impoverished, and not because William was a Quaker (at the time), but because he allowed Quakers to hold meetings in his home.

The political tide was turning. The legislature of Massachusetts Bay hanged four Quakers on Boston Common between 1659 and 1661 that included wife, mother and preacher, Mary Dyer. That year, King Charles II “explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone for professing Quakerism.” [2]

George Barlow was less and less able to pass himself off as respectable by any standard. He drank, he picked fights, he disturbed the peace, and he hauled family members into court. After his term in law enforcement ended and with it, his authority over others, George Barlow faded away. There is no record of the day he died. Ironically, the memory of George Barlow remains alive because of the people he victimized.

The Society of Friends established the oldest continuous monthly meeting in America at Sandwich, Massachusetts and its historians tell a story that is not a literal account, but one that captures the Quaker essence in a charming way. Scott Corbett in his book, Cape Cod’s Way, put it this way:

 “At a time when William Allen was in prison in Boston, Barlow paid a visit to the Allen home. He took the cow and all the food he could find, including some given to Mrs. Allen by neighbors. Then for good measure he confiscated the only kettle she had, and leered at her triumphantly. “Now, Priscilla, how will thee cook for thy family and friends? Thee has no kettle.

“George,” said Priscilla, “that God who hears the young ravens when they cry will provide for them. I trust in that God, and I verily believe the time will come when thy necessity will be greater than mine.”

Legend has it that Priscilla Allen was right.

***

Dear Readers, I’m surprised myself to announce a Part 3,  George Barlow – The Brute and Bully At Home,  is yet to come.

 ***

[1]  Title quote from The American Genealogist; Vol. XXVI, No. 4; October, 1950; Barclay, Mrs. John E.; Ann (Besse) Hallet, Step-Mother of Abigail (Hallet) Alden.

[2]  Boston Martyrs – Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_martyrs

Sources:

Sandwich Historical Commission; http://sandwichhistory.org/

Mass Moments: Quakers Outlawed in Plymouth; http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=347

Mary Dyer – Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Dyer

Boston Martyrs – Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_martyrs

Sandwich Monthly Meeting; http://www.capecodquakers.org/

Title page of book on the persecution of Quakers in New England (1660-1661); http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/thumbnail11.html

One Band of Brothers

November is the appropriate month to let you see the full image of this blog’s current header  featuring my great grandfather and four of his five sons in uniform in 1918.

Five men in uniforms stand in front of  a large tent at Camp Devens, Massachusetts in 1918.

Click for full size

They are at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, better known as Fort Devens, but originally a temporary spot for quick training military troops from New England. The likely scenario is that the boys were awaiting, or had received orders to ship out to their respective duty stations.

Their widowed father, John F. Roane, Sr., made the journey from Lowell to say goodbye and every man looking toward the camera was acutely aware that war meant this might be the last photograph they would ever take together.

I read warmth and pride on the face of my great-grandfather, who is dressed in his US Post Office uniform. The three army enlistees look appropriately serious, but, under the seaman’s cap, John Francis Roane, Jr. looks kind of excited to me.

When John registered in the 1917 draft, he was a single man employed as an ice cream tester, which sounds like a dream job to me, but John may have wanted work with a bit more weight. He certainly found it, as he served on a submarine chaser out of Newport, Rhode Island.

John’s twin brother, Francis Roane, (on the other side of John, Sr.) had more reason to look serious look. His year-old son died of meningitits in 1916, and he was  supporting a wife and infant daughter as a machinist in the US Cartridge factory at draft time. The army sent him overseas.

In 1921, Frank went back to Europe with a group of American Legionnaires who were feted by the king of Belgium. Frank famously struck up a conversation with the monarch himself (Albert I),  who remarked he liked Frank very much. The incident became legend of “the Peach,” as he became known in Lowell. There is plenty of evidence that Frank Roane shook off his early tragedy and knew how to have a good time.

Paul Roane is the short fellow on the end in the cloth cap and was the eldest of this generation of Roane men. When he registered for the draft, he was unmarried, and a secretary at the offices of the Harvard Brewery.  I know little about his service, but that he was proud of it, as he had been elected commander of American Legion Post 87.

James P.H. Roane, Sr . is the tall man on the left in this shot and my grandfather. I have not delved into his service record yet. He was  single and out on the road as a representative of the Loyal Order of Moose, and in registered for the draft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Though, like his older brothers, he was  a member of the American Legion, I suspect his military experience wasn’t  satisfying.

I recall my dad, James P.H. Roane, Jr., telling me that his father advised him to enlist in 1942, the year he graduated high school, rather than wait to be drafted, because he would have  no power to choose the job he’s do. Consequently, my  father enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, the forerunner of the Air Force, and was a flight instructor stateside for the duration.

We must not forget the service of women. My dad’s sister was a WAVE, which stood for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, but the branch was officially, the US Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve), and I’m delighted to report she recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

1904 Class Picture – Littleton, Massachusetts Lower Primary School

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1904 Class Picture - Littleton, Massachusetts Lower Primary School

One of these students is my grandmother, Edna Mae Keirstead (1898-1988). Her forebears were forced to flee from their farms in upstate New York during the American Revolution. At the end of the 19th century, Keirsteads from New Brunswick traced ancestral footsteps backward to the United States.

If anyone out there recognizes the teacher, or other children, please get in touch and/or feel free to copy and share the image.