Saturday, August 15, 2015

Petition of the Poor, Distressed Widow - 52 Ancestors #33

Grace (Pratt) Dutch came from England to Gloucester, Massachusetts to join her husband, Osmund. Osmund died in 1685 and Grace found herself in dire circumstances. She needed money to support herself. Although she lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Samuel & Esther (Dutch) Elwell, there are indications that they did not treat her well. There were no social programs to provide for her and she needed to petition the court for permission to sell off some of the lands of her late husband. 

"The Humble Petition of the Poore distressed widdow Grace Duch of the towne of Gloucester to the honoured General Courte now setting at Boston this 21st July 1685

Yoer poore humble and distresed petitioner sheweth that whereas it pleased God to take away my deare husband out of this live in December last past with whome I lived above fifty yeeres with whome I Lived very poore in the Later parte of his Life and underwent a great deale of Sorrow and trouble hee being very ancient: by his owne relation above a hundred years of age & was very helpless for several yeeres before hee dyed and but Little wherewith all to mayntayne him and my Selfe but I Laboured for only sume cattle which wee ware Little the better for and Land which have Layed wast with out fences severall yeeres soe that it have not beene any wise benificiall to us while hee Lived nor to mee since his death and which the honoured county Court holden at Ipswich last March when the inventory of his Estate was regestered was informed of at the county court holden at Salem last June and [written over] made my addreses that there might bee some of the Land Sold for my maintenance in my old age haveing nothing to helpe my Selfe neither for ffood nor rayment of which I have not [conveniences?] and now am by Gods providance taken sicke and am in very great want which doth make mee humbly crave of this honoured courte to take into yer serious consideratione and grant mee the favour that there my bee an acre or two of Salte marsh sold for my prsent relieufe which is the only thinge that will yield money without which youer petitioner cannot bee supplyed in the tyme of my great distress I should not have made soe bold with yoer honours but that I was informed by the honoured county Courtes above mentioned that they could not grant the sale of any of the Land or else yoer poore petitioner had not made soe bold with yoer Honours therefore pray pardon on the bldnesse and grant the humble & needy request and desires of yoer Humble and needy petioner whoe prayeth for yoer Honours wealfare  Grace Duch

The Court gave her permission to sell the land belonging to the estate if her children should not provide for her. In June, she sold an acre and a half to her grandson, Christopher Hodgkins and another acre and a half to her son-in-law, Samuel Elwell. The sale to Elwell notes that she was in great want of clothing, meat, drink, and attendance. 

Grace died on October 10, 1694. 
(Not stone of Grace Dutch)

Grace (Pratt) Dutch                                                 Grace (Pratt) Dutch
Esther Dutch                                                             Grace Dutch
Robert Elwell                                                            Samuel Hodgkins
John Elwell                                                               Jonathan Hodgkins
Rhoda Elwell                                                             Rachel Hodgkins
Thomas Edgecomb                                                  Elizabeth Moody
Mary Edgecomb                                                       William Ackley
Benjamin Perley Philbrick                                     Sarah Ackley
Lizzie Philbrick                                                         Mary Jane Abbott
Ray Everett Cotton                                                  Fannie May Capen
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother              Thomas Richard Carter - my grandfather


  1. Cry woe on her family for not taking care of her! And then for her to go beg the court for the right to sell her own property. Women suffered a lot at the hands of men back then.

    1. I am alarmed that the daughter with whom she lived is in my line of descent. I do wonder why the other children did not step forward to help either. The laws really hampered women when it came to being able to care for themselves. It was a way of maintaining social control. Even adult unmarried men had restrictions that required them to be under the supervision of a family unit.