Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Horrible Crime

This was a difficult blog post to write. Many times the colonial court records are filled with offenses that amuse us today. However, an attack on a thirteen-year-old girl is not amusing in any time period.

The basis for this story comes from The Great Migration Begins sketch of Humphrey Wyeth based on the research of Robert Charles Anderson.

My connection to this story comes from Thomas & Abigail (Wyeth) (Jones) Chadwell. Thomas Chadwell, Jr. was the second husband of my 10th great-aunt, Abigail (Wyeth) Jones. In 1667, an accusation of rape was leveled by the couple on behalf of Abigail's niece, Sarah Bursley, age 13. Sarah was the daughter of John & Susanna (Wyeth) Bursley. John was "of Exeter" and is not the same as the John Bursley in The Great Migration Begins, Vol. 1.  The accused rapist was a man named John Simple of Charlestown. I have not been able to find more information on major characters in this case. I don't know the age of John Simple, his marital status, or what happened to him after he was convicted. Likewise, I don't know what happened to Sarah, why it seems she was living with her aunt and uncle, or if she wasn't living with them, how they happened to be the first to see her after the attack. Did she have a family of her own one day?

First Sarah told her story and her uncle put up a bond for her appearance in the General Court.

On 14 march 1666/7, upon the "complaint of [worn] Chadwell his wife,""the examination of John Simple aged [blank]" was conducted. On the same day, "Sarah Bursly aged about 13 years sayeth that on Wednesday night last about eight a clock, John Simple without speaking to her she having a candle in her hand he took her by the arms & threw her upon the ground upon her back & put up all her clothes & lay upon her unbuttoning his britches, and by violence thrust his member into her body... & she was & now remains sore & that he made blood to come from her which is apparent & evident to her aunt, she likewise sayeth he had several times told her he would lie with her but never did until last night & then he begged of her that she would not tell her aunt." "Tho[mas] Chadwell binds himself in the bond of twenty pounds for Sarah Bursly's appearance at the General Court or else at the next Court of Assistants." [SJC Case #814]

The indictment of John Simple came around September 1667. The charges were set and the jury found him guilty of rape.

In an undated document (probably on or just before 3 September 1667), "Jno Simple you are indicted by the name of John Simple of Charlestowne for not having the fear of God before your eyes & being instigated by the devil did on or about the 13th of March last past attempt & commit a rape upon the body of Sarah Bursly a girl of thirteen years of age as by the evidence may appear."  "James Everell in the name of the rest [of the grand jury]" stated that "we find this bill that John Simpull commited a rape on the body of Sarah Bursly." "Tho[mas] Deane in the name of the rest [of the petit jury] ... find him guilty of an attempt upon the body of Sarah Bursly and a rape committed." [SJC Case #814]

Abigail Chadwell recounts how she found Sarah crying, listened to her account of the rape, and examined her niece.

On 3 September 1667, "Abigaell Chadwell aged five and forty years," deposed that "having been from her house on 13th March last a little time [worn] quarters of an hour or thereabouts and when she came home [worn] [kins?] woman Sarah Bursley, crying and this deponent [worn] reason wherefore she wept she made answer [that] John Simple had almost killed her and almost split her whereupon I took her up into the chamber and searched her [worn] and according to my apprehension found that he had abused her body finding some blood upon her shift and she deposeth [and] testifies upon oath that there was no man besides himself in the [house?] with her nor any after as she [illegible] till such time as that my husband [and] the constable came in."

Later that day, poor Sarah was examined by five other women of the town. I can't imagine how traumatic this must have been for Sarah.

On the same day, "Mary Sprague aged about 70 years Alice Rand aged about 72 years Suretrust Rouse aged about 67 years Anne March aged about 70 years" and "Hester Kettel aged about 60 years" deposed that upon "searching Sarah Bursly they found that some man had entered her body."

Humphrey Wyeth - grandfather of Sarah Bursley
Mary (Wyeth) Perkins - sister of Abigail (Wyeth) (Jones) Chadwell & aunt of Sarah Bursley
Luke Perkins, Sr.
Luke Perkins, Jr.
Mark Perkins
Ann (Perkins) Packard
Cynthia (Packard) Dunham
James Dunham, Jr.
Florilla (Dunham) Ellingwood
Nina K. (Ellingwood) Gibbs
Annie F. (Gibbs) Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

1 comment:

  1. History is often unpleasant and difficult to read. Detachment is the only answer but it can be just as difficult to achieve.