Tuesday, January 20, 2015


As we saw in my last post, my ancestress Elizabeth (Hunter) Woodbury was brought
before the Essex County Massachusetts court for striking Elizabeth Herndon(sp?) the
maid of Elizabeth Woodbury's friend Elizabeth Hubbard. (Too many Elizabeths!!!).
Besides the testimony from various witnesses, I found the following letter from Mr.
and Mrs. Hubbard concerning the incident and the character (or lack thereof) of their

"To all Persons vnto whom these prsents may Come.

"Know yee, that whereas of late some persons have vnworthily (as I conceive) Endeavered, to present Elizabeth Woodbery, the wife of Humphry Woodberry, vnto the county court at Salem, as I am informed for strikeing a maide servant of ors, (Wee coulde have wished that the rules of charity had been attended herein Especially seeing or neighbours were not ignorant where we dwelt, & might have truely vnderstood the right of the business had they pleased to have spoken w'h vs which had doubtlesse prevented trouble to the grand-juror, & sinn in others. How farr the matter is gonn, or how farr prejudice may Carry it we know not. Nor is or purpose to charge any, or to bring discredit upon them, much lesse to blaze abroad the infamy of a servant, knone to all both in Lynn & Salem, that knew her at all, to be most vnfaithfull, and untoward in everything: So bad, unruly, sulen, careles, destructive, & disobedient, that we may truely say, she was fitter for bridewell, or the house of correction, then for any bodyes servant: Haveing occasion to be from home, & not dareing to leave such an one with or childe and house alone wee desired the aforesd Eliz Woodbery, or Lo. friend & Kinds-woman to be over her & in place of vs, and noe more then needs, if we had power to discipline such an unruly servant, so had shee from us: whither our Couzin gave her a blow or not we know not, but are sure such an vntoward provokeing wench Deserved enough, & did or Couzin at any time eyther then in or absence, or at any other time, when she ran from her mistres & worke, telling lies, at neighbours houses & refuseing to come home, we say did she first or last or any time strike her, when as shee was sent for her, & || she || refused to come home, while this wench was servant, w°h she was to the Later end of may 64. we doe both of us warne her in it and affirme that she did noe more then she had or authority for, & that her mistresse if prsent would have don the same; & we doe much wonder that there should so much be made of it, when as we conceive, had it been a breach of law for or couzin to have strook her, w'h it is not, she doeing of it by or power & reprsenting us; yet as we understd, there hath been noe wittnes brought th— testify aga. her: and if any of or neighbours, should out of envie to her, or us affrme and testify anything against her, wherein she hath offended them in striking or servant; we must professe, in or prsence she never strook her, nor gave her any bad language, and inor absence (as we sd before) she wasimpowered by us, as also when we sent her up and downe among the neighbrs to fete her home if she strook her at any time, we justify & allow her in it she was or servant a sad & bad one, and wt or sd kindswoman hath don is as if her mistresse had & we must owne her in wt she hath or might doe, & they may as well prsent us as her; who are ready to answer, knowing no law of gd nor man to be broken in this case; I wish or people as forward in prsent reall breaches of ye law of god, & man, as they are in this, w°h we feare not w'h out grounds to be an act of malice to her & us let su know, they doe not as they would be don by: P vs

"Jer. & Eliz. Hubbard.*"


Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1662-1667 (Google eBook)

 Essex Institute, Salem, Ma. 1913

So apparently Elizabeth Woodbury was a cousin to one of the Hubbards and was authorized
by them to mete out any punishment she might have felt Elizabeth Herndon deserved for failing
in her duties about the house! 

I love this letter for several reasons. One is that it is rife with the frequent misspelling common to
the early colonial documents. Woodbury alone is spelled two different ways in the second
sentence! It also is full of the florid phrasing of the period.

The best part is the description they give of Elizabeth Herndon. First they say they don't want to
"blaze abroad her infamy" but then they do exactly that, even going so far to say she should
probably be in "the house of correction" rather than being anyone's servant. It sounds like
something Carson from "Downton Abbey" might say if he were in a high dudgeon!

 And I wonder if Elizabeth Herndon was able to find work after she left the Hubbard household.  

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