Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gloucester Intrigue

An interesting story unfolds in early 1663/1664. The wife of Thomas Prince* was seen doing a variety of strenuous activities, such as daubing clay on her house just before she gave birth to a stillborn child. It appears that William Browne was also blamed for frightening Goodie Prince just before she gave birth. Debrow Skilling deposed that she came to Goodie Prince's house and found her trembling and shaking and saying that Browne had been there and spoken such words to her "that her time was but short and the deuece (?) would fetch her away speedily." The commissioners of Gloucester, Sylvester Eveleth and William Vinson took this sworn testimony. It was feared that Goodie Prince might not survive and local women were taking turns tending to her.

Then there was the possibility that one of the girls caring for Goodie Prince, Mary Davis, spent the night in the bed of John Megus/Meagers a servant in the Dutch household. Some testimony seems to hint at scandal while another testimony seems to suggest that while Mary slept in his bed, he was in another room or another building.

Hanna Verry, aged about twelve years, deposed that she was at Goodman Prince's house when his wife lay in. Mary Davis being her nurse, and Goodman Prince at that time was at deponent's father's house, Thomas Verry's. Goodwife Prince desired her husband to be sent for and deponent went with Mary Davis, it being very late in the night about eleven or twelve o'clock, and when Mary returned instead of going home, she desired her to go in the opposite direction to Goodman Duche's house. Deponent said she must go home and go to bed, but Mary told her that she would go back with her. Said Mary knocked and called at the door, and Goodman Duch did not make any answer, but John Meagers asked who was there. Mary answered "a maide." Then Meagers came to the door and whispered a while with her and Mary pushed deponent away and went into the new room. Deponent stood at the door and called for Mary to go home with her, but the latter said she would stay with Mary Duch so Hannah went home alone. 

Osmond Dutch deposed, Jan. 19, 1663, that his daughter Mary saw Mary Davis in John Megus' bed in the morning and that Megus told deponent that he went into his other cabin. Sworn before Samuel Symonds. 
On Jan. 21, 1663, John Megus was bound for appearance at Ipswich court, William Canning, surety, and John Davis was bound for his daughter Mary Davis' appearance before Samuel Symonds. 

Grace Duch, aged about fifty years, testified that she was called in the night to a woman who was not well and when she came home in the morning, her husband told her what happened. Meager said he wondered that his landlady Duch did not hear Mary Davis, etc. The later had been around with the "Showlers" that night. (Any ideas on what the "Showlers" are?)

The testimony of Mary the wife of John Roe --
She saith that she did heare Mary Davis say that John Megus did let her in, & that he did lye in one Cabbyn & she in an other. This taken upon oath 28th of March 1664.

I haven't found any more information on the outcome of the story, but old court records are definitely interesting.

For more information:
Essex Court files
The Essex Antiquarian - volume 11, pp. 128-9.

*Margaret (Skillings) Prince, her daughter, Mary (Prince) Rowe, and her granddaughter, Abigail Rowe were all accused of witchcraft during the hysteria of 1692.

Osmund & Grace Dutch
Esther Dutch
Robert Elwell
John Elwell
Rhoda Elwell
Thomas Edgecomb
Mary Edgecomb
Benjamin P. Philbrick
Mary Elizabeth Philbrick
Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother

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