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Sunday, August 23, 2009

THE CASE OF RALPH FARNHAM JR.

My 10x great grandfather Ralph Farnham (Farnum, Farnam, Varnum) left Southhampton
England on 6Apr,1635 on the ship "James" along with his wife Alice and three children:
Mary, Thomas, and Ralph. They first settled in Ipswich but eventually moved to Andover
where a good many of my other ancestors also settled.

I believe the Ralph Farnham Jr in the following transcription to be the grandson of the
first Ralph. For one thing, Ralph the I was reportedly 32 years old when he arrived in the
New World. The events here take place in Sept 1682, and Ralph II who was born
around 1633 is a far more likely candidate for the "Ralph Sr." of the transcript. His son
Ralph III was born in 1662 which would put him at 20 years old when the accusation
against him was made.

Ralph Farnham Jr. was accused by Elizabeth Gould, a servant girl, of being the father
of her child. Such incidents were of course frowned upon in Puritan New England and
penalties ranged from whippings and/or imprisonment to fine and marriage. It looks
like Elizabeth Gould's pregnancy caused a bit of a stir in the area, judging by the
testimony given by witnesses in the case. Two other men seem to have been among
those Elizabeth insinuates fathered her child.

Interestingly enough, Ralph apparently never testified in his own defense:


"Andrew Allen, aged about sixty-six years, deposed that having heard of
Elizabeth Gold's condition and he being at work one day, Elizabeth's
master Andrew Foster, sr., came to deponent's house and he told him he
was sorry to hear of what had happened in his family. About three days
after, the old man came again to his house and told him privately that
Ralph Farnums was the father of the child, as she said. Foster's son
Abraham desired him to go to Farnums and ask him if he would own it.
Toward evening deponent went to Foster's to speak to the maid first and
they called her into the room where "they kept" and she confessed.
Deponent heard Hester, wife of Abraham Foster, say that her father-in-law
detected the trouble before they sent said maid to Chelmsford.
Sworn June 16, 1682, before Daniel Denison.

Elizabeth Allen, aged about eighteen years, testified that Elizabeth Gold
told her that Ralph Farnum was not the father and she did not know who
was, but that Deacon Frie had spoken to him about it and Farnum did not
deny it, and she would have him as sure as his name was Ralph. Deponent
heard her say at her mother's house, etc. Sworn June 16, 1682, before
Daniel Denison.

Joseph Barrett, aged about thirty-two years, testified that sometime in
November last, being at the house of Samuell Foster, sr., of Chelmsford,
Abraham Foster, son-in-law of said Samuel, desired him to take Elizabeth
Gold into his house and if she proved chargeable he would satisfy him for
all expense. Deponent asked as to her condition and hesitated about taking
her. Last spring deponent came with some others to Andover and going to
Abraham Foster's house told him privately that Elizabeth charged him with
being the father. He did not deny it, but stood pale and trembling for nearly
a quarter of an hour and said he would not answer until he had spoken with
Betty. Deponent told him he was going to the selectmen to have a place
provided for her, her apprenticeship being out, and Foster said they would not
do it, but he had provided a place at Hugh Stone's. They went there, but
Stone refused to receive her. Sworn in court.

Bridgit Chandler, aged about forty years, testified she was asked to determine
as to Elizabeth's condition, so she went to the house of Andrew Foster, sr.,
etc. Deponent's sister Allen desired to come into the room, but Elizabeth
would not allow her, etc. Sworn June 16, 1682, before Daniel Denison.

Susanna Ossgood, aged about thirty years, testified that she told Elizabeth
that her sin was aggrevated by her not telling who was the father and asked
her how she could clear John Allen, etc. Sworn June 16, 1682, before Daniel
Denison.

Dudley Bradstreet, aged about thirty-three years, testified that Ralph Farnum,
sr., told him that his son Ralph had so solemnly denied it that he could not
believe him guilty. Later he questioned Elizabeth and from what passed
between them he was convinced that she lied notoriously.

Faith Allen, aged about sixty years, deposed that she chided Elizabeth for
what she had done, etc. Deponent's sister Chandler, etc. Sworn June 16,
1682, before Daniel Denison."

Not a very flattering picture of Elizabeth Gould, is it? But keep in mind, as
my Mother used to say, it takes two to tango, and Elizabeth seems to have
had more than one dance partner. That seems to have swayed the court in its
decision:

"Ralph Farnam, jr., charged with being the father of Elizabeth Gould's
child, was discharged, there being no evidence that she charged him
with it. Several testified that she denied it and said she did not know
who the father was."
-Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts
Vol VIII

1680-1683 (pp381-383)



So the case was dismissed, although I have a few questions, such as why Ralph
was brought to court in the first case? Was the rumor causing so much trouble that
the town officials filed the charge to clear the air? Or was it some enemy of the
Farnhams hoping to embarrass them in a public arena?

And of course, I'd really like to know what happened to Elizabeth Gould and just
who was the father of her child?

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

thanks for this fleshed out story. I have only read that He was a witch accuser! Cyrus was my 10x grandfather also.