Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Imprisoned in the Tower of London

Tower of London

Edward Gove was an early inhabitant of New Hampshire. About 1655, he moved from Massachusetts to Hampton, N.H. There he married Hannah Partridge, not Hannah Titcomb as seen in some sources. Proof of her identity is established in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 146, p. 15. Edward and Hannah lived on their farm and raised a large family - thirteen children, although not all survived to adulthood.

In 1682, Gov. Cranfield became the third royal governor of New Hampshire. Two descriptions of Cranfield come from historians Charles Bell, who called him "a needy, arbitrary and unscrupulous man" and Joseph Dow, who described him as "a man as unprincipled and as greedy of gain as the King himself." He after repeatedly butting heads with the colony's eleven member assembly, he dissolved it completely. This prompted an uprising that is sometimes called Gove's Rebellion. It was really more like a drunken and disorderly evening than a rebellion. Led by a trumpeter, Gove and some like-minded local men armed with pistols and swords "raised a ruckus" and were quickly arrested and then released. They expected that to be the end of it. Gov. Cranfield seemed to have other ideas and had them re-arrested and put on trial for high treason. Two weeks later, at the trial, most of the men were sent home but Edward Gove was found guilty...and the sentence for high treason was death! And what a gruesome sentence it was!

The sentence from Judge Richard Waldern:
"You Edward Gove shall be drawn on a hedge to ye place of Execution and there you shall be hanged by ye neck, and while yet living be cut down and cast upon ye ground, and your bowels shall be taken out of your belly, and your privy members cut off and burnt while you are yet alive, your head shall be cut off, and your body divided into four parts, and your head and quarters shall be place where our Sovereigne Lord ye King pleaseth to appoint."

Gov. Cranfield quickly sent Gove off to England for the sentence to be carried out. Edward Gove spent three years in the Tower of London. In petitioning for her husband's release, Hannah Gove described her husband as prone to "a distemper of lunacy or some such like, which he have been subject to by times from his youth and yet is until now, though at times seemingly rational." Gove decided to go with the "everyone else was doing it, so I didn't think it was wrong" defense citing other disturbances he had witnessed in the past. It's kind of funny that this excuse has survived the test of time and is still popular today. Finally, the King was decided that Gove would be released and he returned to Hampton. I wonder what Hannah's life was like while he was gone and how it changed when he returned. Edward Gove died in 1691.

When I visited the Tower of London (which is really a complex with multiple buildings and grounds) with students in 2008, I had no idea that I had a relative who had been imprisoned there. Here are some pictures I took.

Traitor's Gate
Cages for the ravens kept at the Tower

Students outside the Tower
Edward & Hannah (Partridge) Gove
Joseph & Mary (Gove) Sanborn
Samuel & Mary (Sanborn) Prescott
Jeremiah & Mary (Hayes) Prescott
Elisha Prescott
Thomas & Hannah (Prescott) Edgecomb
Oliver Smith & Mary (Edgecomb) Philbrick
Benjamin & Jane (Matthews) Philbrick
Francis Llewellyn & Lizzie (Philbrick) Cotton
Ray Everett & Annie (Gibbs) Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

Dearborn, Clarkson. "Seabrook Sketches." The Granite Monthly 15 (1893): 335-41.Google Books. Web. 26 June 2013.
Gove's Rebellion of 1683
1981 Nashua Telegraph article in Google News Archive


  1. Wow! My god father is a Gove. I'm forwarding him your story. We've worked on his Gove lineage back to Edward the prisoner. Now we have to work on his McKinney line (from Maine). He lives in Rye, so I think it's a hoot that his lineage came full circle back to his roots!

    1. It's one of the most interesting stories I've come across while researching my ancestors. Even more fun since I've visited the Tower of London.