Saturday, January 10, 2015

Standing Up to Persecution - 52 Ancestors #2 Thomas Spencer

The theme of the second week of the 52 Ancestors Challenge is "King." This can be interpreted in a couple of ways, including an ancestor who reminds you of Martin Luther King, Jr. I decided to write about a Quaker (or at least a Quaker sympathizer) ancestor who stood up in the face of persecution and lost a basic civil right (the right to vote) for holding firm to his beliefs. African Americans were also disenfranchised and the victims of violence, intimidation, and even lynching for standing up for their rights. There is a difference in that the persecution was based on skin color in one case and based on religion in the other but both groups faced intense hatred and persecution by certain elements of society. 

Thomas Spencer was my 10th great-grandfather and an early immigrant to the Piscataqua region. He was married to Patience Chadbourne, daughter of William, before 1629. Thomas was born in England about 1596 and died in York County, Maine (probably Berwick) in 1681. Thomas first came to Piscataqua in July of 1630 but he returned the England three years later and came back to settle in 1634. He was on the ship, the Pied Cow in 1634. It is unclear whether Patience came with him in 1630 or came later in 1634. Like many immigrants, he had a variety of occupations, from planter to lumberman to tavernkeeper. 

Thomas and Patience lived in Strawberry Bank (Portsmouth), Piscataqua (Kittery Point), and finally in Newichawannock (South Berwick). They also lived for awhile in Saco but ended their lives in Berwick. Patience died on November 7, 1683. 

The Quaker religion, or the Society of Friends, was established around 1647 by a man named George Fox. Quakers did not practice baptism, formal prayer, and had no ordained ministry. This quickly put the Quakers in conflict with the Puritan clergy in New England. Quakers were put in stocks and lashed with whips, some even had their ears cut off. In 1658, a law was passed in Massachusetts (which had authority over the province of Maine), that banished Quakers from the colony and instituted death by hanging for those who were found in violation of the law. In 1659, three Quakers were arrested and sentenced to hang. They were William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and Mary Dyer. The two men were hanged first and Mary was given a reprieve. Mary Dyer refused to be deterred from her evangelism and returned to Massachusetts the next year and she too was then hanged. I wrote about her death and my ancestor, Humphrey Atherton in this post

In 1659, Thomas lost his right to vote for entertaining Quakers. He was part of a larger group of Quakers and Quaker sympathizers who lived in the Berwick area. At one time, they gave shelter to three Quaker women who were driven out of Dover, New Hampshire after being stripped to the waist and whipped until bloody. 

The couple was frequently in trouble with the courts regarding their religious practices. In 1663, they were presented for "neglecting to come to the publique meeteing on the Lords day to heare the word preached for about the space of 3 Moenths." In July 1675, they were presented for the same offense. Thomas and Patience are not listed as being Quakers but they lived in an area with a large Quaker population, were obviously not interested in the local church, and were willing to sacrifice their own rights and comforts for the Quakers. 

Children of Thomas & Patience (Chadbourne) Spencer:

  1. William b. abt 1630
  2. Margaret b. abt 1632
  3. Susanna b. abt 1636
  4. Humphrey b. abt. 1638
  5. Elizabeth b. abt 1640
  6. Moses b. abt 1642

My Line: 
Thomas Spencer
Margaret Spencer
Elizabeth Goodwin
Elizabeth Emery
Benjamin Tarbox
Jedidiah Tarbox
Patience Smith
Sarah Shepard
Laura E. Emmons
Estes Gilbert Yates
Linona Alice Yates - my grandmother


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