Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Quaker ancestors: A Story of the Early Quaker Trials

There is a people not so rigid as others are at Boston and there are great desires among them after the Truth. Some there are, as I hear, convinced who meet in silence at a place called Salem."-Henry Fell (in a letter dated 1656) June 27, 1658 


Sketch from History of Salem Sidney Perley Phelps Farm

      It was a warm, sunny morning. Three men made their way through Salem Woods to a Quaker meeting at the farm of Nicolas and Hannah Phelps, tucked away some five miles from the Puritan meeting house. Robert Adams of Newbury, familiar with the road, carefully led two men, William Ledra and William Brend, welcomed missionaries from the Barbados.
     Hannah and Nicolas Phelps arranged the meeting for the same hour as the Puritan church service in order to dodge any interruptions, and they had good reasons. The Quaker group was already under the watchful eyes of local officials who warned them to return to the true church. William Hathorne had recently issued an order to his deputies: “You are required by virtue hereof, to search all suspicious houses for private meetings, and if they refuse to open the doors you are to break open the door down upon them, and return all names to ye Court.”
     The brilliant rays of sun grew stronger and warmer as Robert and the two missionaries approached the generous, open landscape of the Phelps farm. Robert Adams surveyed the copasetic surroundings and smiled wryly - this place was the perfect gathering spot for the followers of the Light, just far enough from Hathorne and his colleagues.
 

     However, William Hathorne was interrupted during Sunday service that morning with news of a “disorderly meeting taking place.” The agitated magistrate immediately dispatched Edmund Batter, James Underwood, and John Smith to the Phelps home to interrogate the offenders. He leaned into Batter with a hard, directive tone. “Clean out those heretics and bring them to me. But Batter, not all at once … Cage a few, summons the rest for court.”
     Heavy hooves pounded with authority as the determined constables made tracks toward the Phelps house. The tranquil energy of the group shifted as the herd of intruders grew closer. Margaret let out a terrified shriek when she heard the loud command from outside.
     “Break it down.” It was her husband, John Smith. The axe worked fast and the splintered door flung open. Batter entered first, followed by his fellow ferreters. John Smith lunged toward Hannah like a rabid animal, but she did not flinch.
     Stepping back, she said, “Pray ye, John, what right have you to be here and lose thy temper quick, or do you mean to spoil God’s worship?” Smith, bug-eyed with fury, began shouting obscenities. Everyone stood motionless, everyone except Hannah, whose fiery spirit could not resist a verbal assault.
     They plunged into a hot spurred argument, but Batter feared that if he did not gain control quickly, the others would engage. He grabbed John and asserted, “Save her for later, Smith. She will soon be shackled in body and mouth.”
     Smith’s heated state began to temper, and he scanned the room for Margaret. “Get home, woman," he commanded. "You disobey me and God … I may not fix your unlawful state.”
     Batter speedily confined the rest of the group and ordered them to line up outside. He then carefully chose whom he would haul in, following Hathorne’s instructions. He knew maintaining order mandated a delicate formula, so he took nineteen to the jail and let the rest go with a summons to appear in court in two days' time.
     While the constables broke up the meeting, Adams skillfully shuffled the two Williams out the back door and cautiously led them to the stalls. From there, they managed to vanish into the thick woods, but the ride back to Newbury did not take them down the same majestic path on which they arrived. Instead, Adams chose a dense growth of unmarked forest that provided a safe fortress for a brief time.
     Hathorne sent orders to Captain William Gerrish, the elected townsmen in Newbury, to search the home of Robert Adams in order to apprehend Leddra and Brend. Gerrish was an excellent candidate for the job; he already had the trust and favor of Adams
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Grave of Robert Adams in Newbury MA from Life from the Roots Barbara Poole 

     William Gerrish made his way to the Adams' home with Reverend Timothy Farrell. He intended to resolve the situation amicably. Gerrish had a congenial history with Adams - their wives were friends, their children played together, and they shared a good working relationship, both in private and public office. Gerrish knew Adams favored the Quaker faith, and he was not the only one - several folks in Newbury were dissatisfied with public worship. Thomas Parker, the former minister, was forced to resign, and Newbury had not yet appointed a replacement.
     As Gerrish approached the home, the playful laughter of Adams’ children echoed from the front yard all the way to the meadow marsh. Gerrish spotted Hannah and Elizabeth sitting on lawn, arranging fresh cut wild flowers. Gerrish waved and both women smiled.
     Gerrish felt anxious; he never thought he would be visiting Adams under such unwelcome circumstances. However, Gerrish was not weak. He knew he had a duty to uphold the law. As the men stepped up to the entryway, Eleanor cheerfully greeted them and then called for her husband, who was in the back room with Leddra and Brend. Robert received them and introductions were made.
     Gerrish reached into his pocket for the dreaded documents. “Robert, I have a summons for William Leddra and William Brend to appear tomorrow in Salem. I promise no harm will come to anyone, but we will need to have the minister here ask them some questions.”
     “What questions do you have? Please sit and I will have Eleanor bring some refreshments,” replied Robert.
     “That would be most welcome, Robert, and Mr. Leddra and Mr. Brend, do you agree to…”
 

     Raising his hand, the irritated minister interrupted Gerrish. “This is official business. These two men are well known Quakers and have come here to defy our ways and our God!”
     Robert ordered the minister out immediately, telling Gerrish he could stay, but only to confer with his guests. Gerrish realized that Robert would not cooperate as fully as he had hoped. Leddra and Brend quickly announced they would leave town, but when they attempted to go in peace, Gerrish followed, pleading that no harm would befall them if they turned themselves in. Gerrish was not aware that the Salem constables had already surrounded the Adams' home - he was merely a means to trap these men.

The Sentencing
"The hat choketh because it telleth tales. It telleth what people are; it marketh men for separatists; it is a blowing a trumpet, and visibly crossing the world; and this, the fear of man cannot abide. My hat, is plain. Thine is adorned with ribbons and feathers. The only difference between our religions lies in the ornaments which have been added to thine." - George Fox, Quaker June 29, 1658 - John Gendry Tavern, Salem



          The court magistrates assigned that day were Simon Bradstreet, General Dan Dennison, and Major William Hathorne. The men and women apprehended and summonsed at the alleged Quaker meeting arrived at Gendry's Tavern to face charges. As they entered, Robert Lord, Clerk of Courts, announced, “Persons who had attended a meeting on the preceding Sabbath, at the residence of Nicholas Phelps, in Salem, are brought before this County Court.” The men filed in wearing their hats according to Quaker custom. Edmund Batter forcefully removed their headwear, not about to entertain their unorthodox notions of equality.
      Simon Bradstreet, anxious to interrogate the instigators, signaled Robert Lord to bring Brend and Leddra before him. Lord announced them: “William Brend and William Leddra, who belonged to the Island of Barbados, but had come from England, approach.”
     Bradstreet began his inquiry. “Why and what for do you come to these parts?”
      Brend stepped forward and answered, “To seek a Godly seed that the Lord required, and to make passage to New England with the encouragement that our mission should be prospered.”
      From the back of the room, one of the accused, Samuel Shaddock, stood up and asked, "How might you know a Quaker?"
     Bradstreet replied, “Thou art one for coming with thy hat on.”
Shaddock responded indignantly, "It was a horrible thing to make such cruel laws, to whip and cut off ears, to bore fiery rods through the tongue, simply for not putting off their hat.”
     Leddra humbly approached the bench and requested permission to address the court. “You seem to be convinced we are evil criminals. Perhaps you should send some of these magistrates to our meetings, so that they might hear and give account of what is done and spoken, rather than draw conclusions about that which you are unfamiliar with." 

      Judge Dennison responded, "If you meet together without an ordained minister and sit in silence, we may still conclude that you speak blasphemy, for men of the cloth are God's voice and chosen leaders.” Denninson motioned for Leddra to sit down. “Now, Mr. Lord, I wish to see Nicholas Phelps.”
     Nicholas stood up and cautiously stepped up to the bench. Bradstreet read his charges. “Nicolas Phelps, you are charged for siding with the Quakers, possessing written material that denies the God-elected magistrates and ministers, holding a forbidden meeting, and absenting yourself from the public ordinances.”
     Nicholas nodded.
     Bradstreet then asked, “Mr. Phelps, do you now openly profess yourself a Quaker, as you had removed your hat when you came in here?’
     Nicholas shook his head affirmatively.
     Bradstreet continued his line of questioning. “I have here a pamphlet found in your home, advocating this said heresy. Is it yours?”
     Nicholas nodded and replied, “If you prosecute me for keeping on my hat, could not you bring yourself to come and join us as William Leddra asked of you, so you may make a decision after you witness our worship?”
     Dennison broke in and responded, “As I told you all before, you and we are not able to live together, and at present, the power is in our hands, and therefore you must bend to our will!”
     Provided Southwick stood up and traced the row of magistrates with an outstretched finger, shouting, “You are nothing more than a band of merciless persecutors!”
      Denninson pounded his fist on the table, his face flushed with anger. After scanning the room, he belted out, “You Quakers bring forth blasphemies at your meetings, and for these transgressions, will incur punishments far beyond fines and fees, unless you renounce your heretic ways and return to the true church, or move out of this jurisdiction. The court will now deliberate and resume shortly to deliver your sentences." 

     When the court reconvened, not one of the accused chose to renounce their newfound faith. Therefore, Robert Lord read the sentences as prepared by the magistrates. William Brend and William Leddra were to be confined at the Boston Gaol. Nicholas Phelps was fined 40 shillings for defending a Quaker writing and for holding the meeting at his house. He was also whipped for wearing his hat in court and sentenced to the House of Corrections in Ipswich for an indefinite period.
     Joshua Buffam, Samuel Gaskin, Lawrence Southwick, Samuel Shaddock, and Josiah Southwick were fined for absence from public ordinance, whipped for wearing their hats in court, and sent to the Boston Gaol. Cassandra Southwick was sentenced with the five men under the same charges, with the exception of the wearing of a hat, and was also whipped. 

     Daniel Southwick, Edward Wharton, Anthony Needham, Robert Buffum, Thomas Bracket, Joseph Pope, Mary Trask, John Hill, Margaret Smith, Hannah Page, and Tasman Buffum were all fined 25 shillings for each absence from public ordinances.
     Provided Southwick was fined 20 shillings for her absences and put in the stocks for one day for charging the magistrates as persecutors. She would also pay 5 shillings to cover the cost of her punishment in the stocks.
     Several of the accused did not appear in court that day, including Robert Adams, Henry Trask, Hannah Phelps, Gertrude Pope, Anne Needham, and Hannah Gardner; however, they were all fined for their absences. Additionally, Adams was fined for harboring Brend and Leddra in his home. 


A few of the court documents and records: 
From Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Volume 2 published on The University of Virginia site






Hannah Phelps hauled in for making statements against Higgenson. William Flint paid fine. Court 1658. 

From The Annals of Salem

 


Hannah Phelps is banished for attending Mary Dyer trial in 1659.
Phelps family connection with Hawthorne family Hawthorne in Salem
The earliest record of the Phelps family in Salem is when Eleanor Phelps married her second husband, Thomas Trusler. They were members of the first church of Salem in 1639. Trusler was in Salem by 1629 when a kiln for burning bricks and tiles was built, a business he operated until his death in 1654. Eleanor Trusler was taken to court, in April 1644, for her Gortonist opinions, saying "our teacher Mr. Norris taught the people lies."
Governor Winthrop was advised to bind her over to Boston Court as an example others might fear, lest "that heresiee doeth spread which at length may prove dangerous." At the Trusler trial, one Cassandra Southwick testified that Eleanor "did question the government ever since she came." 
Eleanor Trusler died in 1655, and her sons Henry and Nicholas Phelps inherited her farm in West Peabody, Massachusetts. The first meeting of the Friends (Quakers) was held in this house. Nicholas Phelps half of the house and lands were taken for the payment of fines. Batter, the treasurer, apparently turned it over to Nicholas brother, Henry, who owned the other half interest. Henry may have married Batter's sister. Henry sold the entire estate to Joseph Pope on 18 Jul 1664. Many years later, the place returned into the Phelps family and then remained in the family until Francis Phelps took the ancient house down in 1856.
    Brother of Henry and Nicholas, Edward Phelps married Elizabeth Adams, daughter of Robert Adams. They lived in Andover and granddaughter was part of the Salem Witch Trials see Sarah Phelps 

Quaker Cemetery, 1718, Essex Street at Pine Street, Salem, Massachusetts. It is adjacent to the former Quaker Meeting House.

1 comment:

  1. I am a descendant of the Shadduck (Shattuck), Buffum and Pope families (among others) of "Salem". In my limited research, l have found Joseph and Bethshua Folger Pope, both Quakers, accuse others in the community of acts of witchcraft--l'm "struck" by the irony and try not to be judgemental having not lived in that time nor under their circumstances---can you add any insight for me ?? Thank you ---

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