Saturday, May 27, 2017
ABBOTT & BARKER & THE CASE OF THE HAY HEIST
I found this while researching m earlier post about Goodt West. It is significant for me because of the rather lengthy testimony of George Abbott Sr. and Richard Barker. Both of them are my paternal ancestors: George is my 9x great grandfather through my grandfather, and Richard my 8x great grandfather through my grandmother. So it was fun for me to picture them together trailing cart tracks in search of stolen hay1
The case was presented at Ipswich, Ma. on 31Mar 1663:
Mr. Simon Bradstreet v. Bray Willkins, Sam. Willkins and John Willkins. Trespass. For carrying away a parcel of hay. The jury found a special verdict. Court found for the plaintiff,
Richard BarkerJ and George Abbott, sr.,J testified in the action between Mr. Bradstreete and Bray Wilkinson, that they followed two tracks of a laden cart from Mr. Bradstreete's rick till they come into that way that said Wilkinson had gone with Rich. Barker's hay and saw where they had cut down wood and brush from Mr. Bradstreete's rick to go with it into that way. They followed the said tracts till they came to Goodman Wilkinson's field and then left them in the cart way leading to his house and when they reached the house they looked purposely around but could find no tracks that had gone that spring beyond his house. They further testified that it could go no other way, there being no other house or farm on this side the river and no possible going over the river at that time without swimming cart and cattle. In the way from Mr. Bradstreete's rick we found hay scattered, and one load newly set by the stony brook which they judged and believed was Mr. Bradstreete's hay, and had no doubt that he who had Rich. Barker's hay also had Mr. Bradstreete's. Rich. Barker further testified that Bray Wilkinson came to him about a fortnight before he missed his hay, when his son and he were loading hay at his rick, and said Wilkinson said that he was in great want of hay and knew not what shift to make. Wilkinson also said that the hay that Rich Barker left would beburned, but Barker replied that it would not be unless somebody played the knave with him and that he intended to take it away. Notwithstanding this, said Wilkinson took or caused to be taken away the hay without the knowledge or consent of said Barker and when charged with it would not own it. Since Mr. Corwyn gave deponent twenty shillings for it and would have given him five pounds because he had been so ill dealt with, etc. Sworn, 4:3: 1663, before Simon Bradstreet,* and on May 5, 1663, in Ipswich court.
Thomas Abott deposed that there was a parcel of hay about three loads, which he helped to get for Mr. Bradstreet at a meadow commonly called Beachin meadow, taken away to said Bradstreet's great damage both for want of the hay and the loss of cattle sustained thereby. Mr. Bradstreet was obliged to buy hay at a great rate and much time was lost in sending a team for the hay, not knowing that it was gone. The journey occasioned the loss of the work of two oxen for two months, by reason of their tiring for want of hay to refresh them when they came thither, it being about six miles to the place. Sworn in court.
John Longley, aged about twenty-three years, testified that he lived with Bray Wilkins and he heard Goodman Wilkins say that Mr. Georg Curwin of Salem had brought a load of hay for him, and that it was in Andeavor's meadows. Further that said Wilkins' two or three sons with John Gingill went for the hay and the first day they mired their cart and came home without any hay. They went again the next day and the two days following and brought home some hay which deponent saw at night when he came from work, etc. Sworn in court.
John Godfry deposed that coming from Salem with Bray Wilkins toward his house, there was some discourse about hiring something of deponent, and the latter told him that it was reported that said Wilkins had stolen Mr. Bradstreet's hay. Wilkins answered that he did not steal it but he took some of it, for it would have been burned or spoiled and it would be better for him to have it than have it spoiled. Sworn in court.
Special verdict: They found that in the year 1661, Mr. Bradstret had two parcels of hay in the Beching meadow which were lost and the evidence showed scattering of hay to stong brook and two or three loads of hay like those lost were found at Goodman Wilkeson's house, etc. If the evidence be legal, they found for the plaintiff, if not, for the defendant.-pp45-46
Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1662-1667 VolIII
Although the jury seems to have dithered with a "special verdict" the Court ruled in favor of Simon Bradstreet. I wonder how he was recompensed for the stolen hay?