Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pigs & Bacon - 52 Ancestors #38

One of my favorite stories about an ancestor because it is so funny to know that someone named Bacon got in trouble for stealing pigs. 

I bought a copy of Diane Rapaport's, New England Court Records, which is primarily a source book detailing repositories of early court records. Near the back of the book she recounts several interesting stories. One she originally wrote as a magazine article caught my eye. She calls this story "The Case of the Purloined Pigs." The story itself was interesting enough but even better to find my ancestor was the one doing the purloining (if that isn't a word, it should be). 

Michael Bacon, (you have to smile at the irony), showed up at the house of William Munro, of Cambridge Farms, after a late November snowstorm looking for his pigs. He was known for letting his pigs wander and this time they had traveled a considerable distance from his home in present-day Bedford. After separating Bacon's pigs from those of the Munro family, the Munros went about their business. Bacon's pigs did not seem to take kindly to being told where to go and soon returned to the Munro's. This time Michael did not take the time to sort them out. He just started herding them all away, toward his home. Martha Munro yelled for him to stop but he ignored her, prompting William to put on some snowshoes and go after him. 
Today this is about 4.5 miles on a nice road ~ 9 minutes by car, but it was over the meadow and through the woods in 1662.
William Munro was a tough Scotsman who had worked his way from Scottish prisoner of war to indentured servant to landowner. His livestock were valuable for food and income and he wasn't about to let even one of them be taken. Bacon's reputation left a lot to be desired. He showed up often in court records for multiple offenses: letting his livestock run free and causing damages to the crops of others, land disputes, slander, forgery, breaches of contract, and a paternity case. 

When Munro caught up with Michael Bacon, he found that one pregnant sow was missing and another was too "tired and spent that shee could not come back" so he had no choice but to leave her with Bacon. He gathered up the other pigs and returned home. The next day he want to the local constable's deputy and told him what happened. They went to Bacon's home and as in the past, Michael denied any of it had happened. When he couldn't convince them that nothing had happened, Bacon admitted that he had Munro's pigs with him the day before but said that he didn't have them anymore. "If Row [Munro] lost them, he must go look for them." Bacon did not offer to help. 

The next day Munro and two of his neighbors searched for his missing pigs and found one stuck in a drift but still alive. They brought her home but were still missing the other pregnant sow. Fed up, he took a trip to the nearest magistrate, Thomas Danforth's house, in Cambridge, and filed a claim against Michael Bacon. Because the amount was small, the matter did not need to go to court and Danforth issued a warrant ordering Michael Bacon to appear at Danforth's home to answer the complaint made by William Munro. Michael Bacon did not show up to answer the warrant but Munro appeared with several other witnesses to testify and Bacon lost the case. The penalty was for the constable's deputy to take a "branded steere" from Michael Bacon to make sure the damages were paid to William Munro. 

However, before Munro could collect on the judgment, his missing sow mysteriously appeared. She was delivered by a man claiming he "found" her and was asked by Bacon to bring her back. The sow was "lamed and went but upon three legs." William Munro was not impressed and demanded the judgment be paid. Michael Bacon asked for a rehearing and ended up owing, not only the original judgment but also the added costs of witness time and constable's fees. 

Still Bacon refused to pay and appealed to the Middlesex County Court. He hired a lawyer to draw up a petition with a number of technical arguments. The April 2, 1672, trial was held at the Blue Anchor Tavern. It appears that Munro also hired an attorney. The result was the same as before, Munro prevailed and more court charges were added to what Michael Bacon now owed. Rapaport says this is where the court records for this case end and based on that she concludes that Michael Bacon paid the judgment. So ends the case of Mr. Bacon and his purloined pigs. 

Illustration from -

Michael Bacon - 11th great-grandfather
Mary Bacon - 10th great-grandmother
Mary Lakin - 9th great-grandmother
Joseph Willard - 8th great-grandfather
Sybel Willard - 7th great-grandmother
Samuel Haskell - 6th great-grandfather
Martha Haskell - 5th great-grandmother
Sally Houghton - 4th great-grandmother
Florilla Dunham - 3rd great-grandmother
Nina Ellingwood - 2nd great-grandmother
Annie Florilla Gibbs - great-grandmother
Fern Lyndell Carter - grandmother