Thursday, May 23, 2013


Being a fairly successful merchant, John Barnes had several indentured servants
in his household and apparently at least one slave. He seems to have not been a
cruel master since there are no records of runaways from his service, but there
are a few cases where his servants requested their contracts be taken over by
another colonist.

Two of the cases involving John's servants interested me. The first involves a
servant named John Wade who had taken a boat trip to Duxbury with a man
named Edward Holman, another merchant of Plymouth Colony who would
have been a business rival of John Barnes.:

2Feb 1657
John Barnes complained against Edw Holman for intertaining John Wade, his
seruant, and for carrying the said Wade to Duxburrow in his boate, without
his masters concent. The Court finding the said Holman, vpon examination of
him, to bee faulty both att this time and att other times in like manor, hee was
fined ten shillings ; and the next time hee, the said Holman, shalbee found faulty
in such like carryages, on due proofe, towards any of the seruants of the said
John Barnes, hee is centanced by the Court to pay vnto him the sume of twenty

Att the same Court, the said John Barnes complained against his said seruant,
John Wade, he ran vp and downe like vnto a runagate, and hee could haue noe
comaund ouer him, and therefore desired hee might bee freed from any further
care or inspection ouer him ; on which the Court ordered the said Barnes to keep
his said seruant vntill hee could send word to his father, and take further order
with him about him.  Plymouth Court Records   Vol3 p126

Reading how John Barnes described his "runagate" servant, I wonder just how old
John Wade. Children were indentured sometimes at a young age and his behavior
seems to indicate that John Wade was perhaps just a a normal active boy.

The second case caught my attention because it involves a man from Boston, a
Mr Rocke. Boston was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony's

5Jul 1666
In reference vnto Thomas Barnes, servant vnto Mr John Barnes, of Plymouth, vpon
complaint vnto the Court of the nott agreement between the saiid mr and servant,
the case being refered by such as were interested therein, viz, the said Mr Barnes,
and Mr Rocke, of Boston, in the behalfe of the said Thom Barnes, for a full and finall
determination,vnto our honored Gov, he hath ordered, with the consent of the Court

aforsaid, that the said Thomas Barnes shall be surrendered vp vnto the said Mr Rocke,
to be att his dispose, and that he is released from his master, John Barnes, prouided
that the said Mr Rocke pay or cause to bee payd vnto the said John Barnes the sum of
 ^  ^. Vol 4 p133

The amount to be paid by Mr Rocke is missing from the transcription. All there is are those
two "^ ^". The "Gov" referred to was Governor Thomas Prence, with whom John had once
exchanged indentured servants.

Next, the story of the unusual death of John Barnes,.

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