Thursday, August 09, 2012


((Today marks the 325 anniversary of the death of my 9x great grandfather
William Gerrish. He seems to have had one of those abrasive personalities
and was involved in some interesting court cases, including this one.
First posted June 22, 2009. ))

Both Stephen Greenleaf and Stephen Greenleaf Jr. had made good marriages with
women from prominent colonial families. Stephen the elder had married Elizabeth
Coffin, daughter of Tristram Coffin; Stephen Junior married Elizabeth Gerrish,
whose father was Captain William Gerrish.

The Greenleaf, Coffin and Gerrish families ran profitable mercantile and ship
construction businesses in the towns of Newbury and Amesbury as well in Boston.
And despite the religious beliefs of the founding Puritan fathers, the business
world back then was just as competitive as it is today. Take the case of William
Gerrish and Thomas Woodbridge.

Actually, make that cases. They faced each other in court in Essex County at least
three times, twice over debts, and the third time my ancestor William Gerrish took
Thomas Woodbridge to court for slander:

"Capt. Wm. Gerrish v. Thomas Woodbridge. Slander. Withdrawn.:

Caleb Moody testified that he heard Woodbridge say that Captain Gerish 
was a cheating knave, that he had cheated him out of 180li., and that he
had told a damnable or devilish lie. Sworn in court.

Jno. Joanes and Steven Swet testified. Sworn in court.

Joseph Hills, aged about seventy years, deposed that in the presence of 
Mr. Henry Sewall he heard Woodbridge say that there were fifty men in 
Newbury who would say that Capt. Gerrish had cheated them and that
he would be cast out of the church. Deponent asked Rev. Mr. Jno.  
Woodbridg to give him a meeting at his son's house, which he did,
and said Hills then declared
that the meeting was to prevent contention 
between Capt. Gerrish and Woodbridge. Mr. Jno. Woodbridg said he 
was very much troubled at his son's speeches many times and he had 
counselled him to moderation, and asked deponent to advise him how 
to act. "I answered yt he was more able to advise himselfe also ye sd 
Tho. Woodbridg then said yt what he had spoken to mee about Cheating 
he had spoken to som others and bid them goe tell Capt Gerrish."  
Sworn in court.

Anthony Somerby, aged sixty-six years, deposed that Woodbridge said
Gerrish had without question cheated the town of Newbury of many a
pound, and that he doubted not that he had taken away the boards 
from Mr. Richardsun's house. Sworn in court.

Tristram Coffin, aged forty-four years, deposed that Woodbridge called 
Capt. Gerrish a cheating knave and that he made a profession of religion
to cover his knavery, whereupon deponent advised Woodbridge to be more 
moderate in his words, for Capt.Gerrish was a rational man and would do
what was right. Also at said Woodbridge's house, the latter asked deponent 
why he told Gerrish he was drunk. Deponent said he did not tell him so but 
he did say that he believed "that he wass six and twenty." Woodbridge said 
that he was as well then as at this present time, and also that there were 
only five men in town who would not say that Gerrish had cheated them, to
which deponent replied that he had traded with Capt. Gerrish
for many 
score pounds and he had never cheated him. Daniell Lunt said the same. 
Woodbridge replied that Lunt, deponent and Rich. Doell were three of the 
five, that he would make Capt. Gerish's house a dung hill and would make 
Capt. Gerish "fly the town" or else he should make him fly the town, and 
within eight months he would make it appear what Capt. Gerish was, etc.
Sworn in court."

Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts 
Vol.VI 1675- 1678 Essex Institute, Salem, Ma. 1917 pp125-126

I think "180li" must be 180 pounds. I'm also not sure what the reference about
being "six and twenty" means in reference to drunkeness unless it was the 17th
century equivalent of "three flags to the wind" or something? I feel some
sympathy for poor John Woodbridge asking for advice in how to deal with his
verbose son Thomas!

You can read the particulars of the other two cases in the same book on
Googlebooks which includes very long lists of trade goods with fascinating

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