Friday, June 26, 2009


As the previous posts about Willam Gerrish have shown, he appears to have been a
man who cut a wide swath through life and not the type to back down in an argument.
He even found himself embroiled in a long running dispute in the Newbury church
during which some of my ancestors were on opposing sides: Captain Gerrish and
Tristram Coffin were supporters of the Reverend Parker while Stephen Greenleaf and
John Emery were part of a faction headed by Edward Woodman. I won't go into
details here because the controversy raged for twenty-six years from 1646 until
1672, but I mention it as another example of William Gerrish's pugnacity.

But such a combative nature was bound to create some enmity against Gerrish and the
first example of this might very well not be his clashes with Thomas Woodbridge,
but rather a petition from the townsfolk of Newbury. Now Gerrish had been elected
to a post of leadership in the militia in 1649, but problems soon arose:

"Mr. William Gerrish, having been elected " lieutenant of the Troop of horse for Essex,"
was confirmed in that office by the county court held at Ipswich, March 27, 1649. Some
question having arisen in regard to the validity of the election, the subject was brought to
the attention of the General Court May 26, 1658."

`In ansr to the petition of the inhabitants of Newbury &c humbly craving that they might
haue the bennefitt of the law that no man should haue comand of the horse & ffoote both,
that Capt Gerrish may be required to desert the horse & wholly attend the ffoote, or
attend the horse & medle no more wth the ffoote, that so they may be excer by him vpon
whom they must depend in time of neede, i.e. theire leftnnt allowed & approved of by the
Court. The Courte Judgeth it meete to graunt their request.'

On the same day, John Emery, John Webster, and several other inhabitants of Newbury
were ordered "to appeare before the General Court in October next, to answer wt is laid
them"; and Henry Short, Richard Kent, Richard Knight, Nicholas Noyes, and Anthony
Somerby were ordered to attend as witnesses.

`October 19, 1658 the Court having heard the case relating to the military company
of Newbury. preferred by Jno Emory, Senr who, wth his sonnes, John Emery,
Junr & Jno
Webster & Solomon Keyes, haue binn so busy & forward to disturbe the peace
of the place
by their actings in seuerall respects & occationed much trouble to this court
in refference
thereto, Judg it meete to order that the said John Emory, Senr, Jno Emery,
Junr, Jno Webster
& Solomon Keyes be seuerally admonished to beware of the like
sinfull practizes for time
to come, wch this court will not beare: and that they pay the
seuerall chardges of theire
neighbors at the last Court and this, in coming for releife
from such under courses. Costs
allowed in all, was fower pounds, eight shillings & ffees '-

Currier, John J., History of Newbury, Mass. 1635-1902 Damrell & Upham, Boston, Ma
1905 (pp495-496)

Both the Emerys and John Webster were supporters of Edward Woodman, and Mr.
Currier points to the incident as evidence of the far-reaching divisive effects of
the Newbury church argument.

But did it play a part in the events of 1675-1676. when Captain Gerrish found himself
once more in the center of controversy?

To be continued....

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