Showing posts with label John Godfrey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John Godfrey. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Devil went down to Newbury

Newburyport News Witches were among us before 1692 by Melissa Berry

                                “Cotton Mather came galloping down

                                           All the way to Newbury town

                                 With his eyes agog and his ears set wide,

                                  And his marvellous inkhorn at his side;

                                       ... And the tales he heard and the notes he took

                                   Behold! Are they not in this Wonder-Book?”

                                                                           — John Greenleaf Whittier

Old Newbury had its share of spectral sensation way before 1692. The “unseen fury” of the Morse home held hostage by an evil presence is colorfully told by Cotton Mather, and court records reveal a herdsman shacking up at the Spencer-Peirce Farm who had “familiarity with the devil,” bewitching the entire countryside: cattle and citizens.

In 1679 the Morse home was the center of a rogue evil possession cooked up by grandson John Stiles whose “juvenile imposture” was “universally received as proof Satan resided there.” Stiles’ hoax “lithobolia attacks” are well documented by Emerson Baker in “The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft and Conflict in Early New England.”

The little scamp Stiles never did ‘fess up. Poor Caleb Powell, the only one not drinking the Kool-Aid in the matter, knew it was the little whippersnapper, and Coffin’s history calls it a “tragic-comedy” when his well-intentioned intervention turns into a witchcraft conviction. Powell was acquitted by spring; however, Goody Morse was brought up on charges for possessing her home and grandson. She managed to get out alive, but not without a grueling year of trials and jail time.

Another naughty knave coasted into town weaving an abominable web that no one could untangle. John Godfrey, wicked warlock of Essex County, supposedly “accompanied by an evil Spirit,” and “being instigated by the devil,” had “made much hurt & mischief by several acts of witchcraft to the bodies & goods of several persons as by several evidences may appear contrary to the peace” (court records). If truth be told, Godfrey was no more of a black arts augurer than Morse was a witch, but Essex County residents wanted him to get the rope.

Godfrey arrived on the ship Mary and John with John Spencer to work the farm in Newbury herding cattle. Spencer locked horns with the local Puritan posse and returned to England, leaving the estate to his nephew, John Spencer. Godfrey stayed on and mastered a position as local herdsman. However, his deviant lifestyle was more wolf than shepherd.

Godfrey’s plebeian nature (cursing, drunkenness, tobacco smoking, traveling on Sabbath, slander) was constantly landing him in front of the magistrates who administered heavy fines and public humiliation, one sentence ordering him to stand “upon pillory with inscription written in Capital letters upon a paper: for suborning witnesses.”

Godfrey had a side profession selling and deeding properties. His methods for collecting were anything but orthodox. He had filed 100-plus laws suits and counter-suits over property, goods and services. He won more than he lost, ticking off the community and earning a reputation as a bullying loan shark. Fed up with “the devilish rogue,” the town folk cried witchery on him.

The Spencer farm would be the subject of his witch convictions (1669) when William Osgood, a carpenter, was hired by Spencer to build a barn. Godfrey had words with Osgood and years later he bought land from him. Both transactions were not harmonious; and after 20 years of bad blood and Osgood’s relatives and friends getting the screws from Godfrey, they all came together to testify in a series of court appearances.

Godfrey became an infamous “perennial witchcraft suspect” often found “suspiciously guilty” but not “legally guilty” and was released with a verbal warning to discontinue his “blasphemous” way of life. He always returned to the nest of his accusers and almost immediately resorted back into his cheeky lifestyle and no one got free from his tyrant web. He did visit the gallows and was sentenced to stand with a halter about his neck followed with a whipping, but that was for setting fire to a home he had tried to foreclose on.

Baker points out that these earlier cases “demonstrated that witches could be held accountable for a wide range of evil deeds, not just unleashing their specters to harm people.” Furthermore, Baker adds, “the fact that all these earlier cases were convicted but spared shows just how reluctant the government of Massachusetts had become, by the 1680s, to execute a witch. These facts make the cases a most interesting contrast with the trial and execution of so many witches in Salem a decade later.”

Thanks Emerson Baker, And look for “A Storm of Witchcraft: The Trials of Salem and a Nation” in 2014.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Phelps at the Finish (Andover Phelps Family)

By Charlotte Helen Abbott Andover Historical Society 8/18/1905

After examination of the early proprietor's books, and the deeds of those who first parted with the  land taken by Edward Phelps, I find that he bought the lot of Job Tyler in North Parish, and the division lots that fall to it after that date brought his outlying land north and east of Blanchard's lots,  and near Haggetts pond.  But he bought more of Russe and Chandler, which brought his holdings nearer the West meeting house.  Samuel Hutchinson and others took the North Parish lots, so that in the days of Samuel and Francis Phelps, the surviving members of migrations were all located around Haggetts pond and in the Merrimac woods, and having intermarried with Danes and Chandlers and Mooar, we can guess that the last holdings of Chandler Phelps; one fourth of a mile north of the church, and that of Joshua, grandfather of the late residents of this estate near the pond and the Lowell railroad, indicate the main holdings in West Parish.  John Godfrey, of lpswich, also sold 40 acres to old Edward in 1666,  apparently held by mortgage from Job Tyler, so when we, sometime in the future, proceed to locate the Tyler lots, something more definite will be found of the North Parish home of  the first arrivals of the Phelps infants.
Samuel Phelps and his wife, Priscilla Chandler lost the eldest Samuel at Lake George 1750.  His brother, Joshua, born 1738, married Lois Ballard, a daughter of old Deacon Hezekiah Ballard and Lydia Chandler, so related closely to many allied families here - Dane, Holt, Deacon Nathan Abbot, and many others, who may not know how it is they are cousins to Phelps blood.
Henry Phelps married Mary Ballard, a cousin of his sister-in-law, Hannah married Benjamin Mooar of Lewiston, Me., and Priscilla married PhiIemon Dane (called Daniel in the Phelps book). These are best known to us from continued residence.  The children of Joshua include Lois, wife of lsaac Blunt, Jr., represented still by Charles Blunt and the family of the late Samuel, Hannah married Nathan Abbott, and one of her children was our faithful carpenter Nathan, who was well known in my childhood on the list of Abotts and Clement's men. The only son who survived, Joshua Phelps, born1774, died in 1801, and his wife, Mary Gilson of Pepperell, of a family allied to other lines here, lived to 1856.  In the next generation we are all familiar with the quiet lives at the old homestead still standing in the West Parish, a fine model of its style, held by Joshua, wife Dorothy Watson, from Sandwich, N. H. He was the third of the name to hold the estate, where he died in 1873 at 76, she passing at 84 in 1880.  After a life of journeying to and fro across the country. Joshua died here from an accident, in 1886, a single man following his brother Asa, who died in 1862, in California.  Mrs. Gilman and her sister Dorothy Phelps, were the last to hold the most ancient of the Phelps' estates in direct line. Samuel Phelps, son of Joshua, was a blacksmith, latest at Syracuse, N.Y.  Mary married Levi Bean in 1819, Lydia married Jonathon Abbott, Jr., Henry, born 1807, and his wife Eliza, Merrill, well known by her remarkable strength which sustained her through long years of sorrow and care, and who recently died in North Andover with her daughter, represent the Joshua line.  Henry Phelps and Mary Ballard saved Mary who married Joseph Chandler in 1806, in the line of Mrs. Peter Smith, and Chandler Phelps, who died at 82 in 1868.

Most of Chandler Phelps' life was spent, I should judge, on what very likely was the oldest holding in West Parish of the early Samuel, if I can judge from legacies of heirs and sales to the neighbors, before his day.  He married twice, Lydia Parkhurst, a Chandler cousin, and mother of the children, and again Hannah Frye Ballard, daughter of Hezekiah.  Only two children grew up, Herman, wife Esther Merrill, and Jacob, who died at 31, leaving a widow, Rebecca (Chandler) who married John Russell of Wilton, N.H.  Herman is represented by Frank Chandler Phelps, wife Abbie T. Hardy, and several in the tenth generation in his family, and a brother, Herman, and wife AlIen Ward, I have with three children and not traced outside as yet.  Frank Phelps has our banner family in the line holding this name, though there is plenty of the blood line. Samuel, Francis, and his wife Phebe Holt, an aunt of Dane Holt on Prospect Hill farm, born 1722, had by their alliance a chance for a large and long-lived family. The Phelps' book says he lived awhile in Hollis, N. H. and died in Pepperell, Me.
So many errors cling to this line, that I hesitate to back up this statement till verified.  The date of his death l758, at 38, and the widow's second marriage (by book) with Thomas Marshall, very likely determined the home of the children who "pop up" unexpectedly in Tewksbury, Mass., when they were old enough to marry.  Timothy of Hollis and Hanover, N. H., Phebe, born 1750 outside of Andover, so here in Andover at 16, in 1766 warned by authorities as to her lack of claims on pauper accommodation, in case she came to grief, (a great benefit to genealogists was this sweeping warning out of Essex County in 1766), and Joseph, born 1748, of whom the book and I agree mainly in the two wives he annexed, Ruth French and Isabel Isabel Dutton, and he lived in Tewksbury.  His sister Phebe, the warned maiden, married Jacob Foster of Andover, who owned the farm up on the North Andover line near the Richardson stables, latest of the lucky descendants of Andrew Foster and his witch wife Ann, whose cottage stood on the training field.  No pauper in her ranks.
Joseph Phelps, by his first wife, Ruth French, left Ruth, wife of Ephraim Foster, Francis of Danvers, wife Hannah Dandee.  Isaac, born 1778, died on a voyage to the West Indies, Joseph, who married Rebecca Abbott, daughter of Moses Abbott and Elizabeth Holt, Jonathan, who married Abigail Abbott, her sister, lived on Salem street many years, dying at 88 in 1866, Samuel and wife Sally Brooks, of Lexington, Elisha and Mary French of Northfield, Mary, wife of Amos Sheldon of Danvers and Shirley, Jacob and wife Rebecca Reed, of South Natick, these were children of Ruth French, adding two infants who died.  She saved the Phelps name.  By second wife, Isabel Dutton, Lydia, wife of a Jonathan Abbott not placed by book, Timothy, who married Dorcas Chamberlain of Dedham, Theodore, Joel, our veteran shoemaker, who lived on Central street so long, marrying twice, but left only one heir James, Hannah, born 1801, not traced, Henry, 1806, married Lydia Foster and moved to Dedham.  There, look at that record and think that all but two of the seventeen matured and thirteen were married.  We all know the happy home the sisters had together so long on Salem street, Elizabeth Holt Phelps, Belinda Jane, children of Joseph, and who kept a very successful club dining-room for students, and cut gowns for the maidens who graduated from abbott and Punchard.  Hannah Holt Phelps, of this happy, hospitable group of cousins, still survives, and resides with her eldest son, Rev. George Gutterson, whose record as an olive tree almost equals his great-grandfather's.  Her sister, Priscilla, wife of Richard Moore, so long resident, all these we have known in joy and sorrow, friends of our fathers and of us the middle-aged Abbotts and Holts and Chandlers.  These Phelps from old Henry down always had things happen to them, and I cannot do justice to the romance of the incidents kept for the family ear alone, that might fill this bare outline of a virile, long-lived gifted race of Salem Quakers.