Thursday, August 20, 2009


This has to be one of my favorites of the court record transcriptions I've recently
discovered. One reason is the statement Roger Haskell gives in his own defense;
it could be a Yankee farmer two hundred years later commenting on fools he doesn't
want to suffer gladly.

The second reason is that this illustrates why we need to check every imaginable
alternative spelling of names in old New England records. In the course of this one
document the name Haskell is spelled ten different ways! These are:


Here's the case:

Osmand Trask v. Roger Hascall. Battery. In assaulting him upon the highway, 
striking himseveral blows with a pitchfork, bringing blood and bruising his 
body. Verdict for plaintiff.

Writ, dated, 13: 9 : 1661, signed by Hillyard Veren, for the court, and served 
by Benjamin Balch, constable. Roger (his mark) Haskall bound for his 
appearance at next Salem court. 

Wit: Roger Conant.

Roger Conant, Henry Herick and Benjamin Balch certified that they had 
measured the highway at the clay pit by Roger Hoscal's hill, and found it two
 poles and five feet in breadth and four poles to the further part of the pit.

Summons, dated, 14 : 7 : 1661, to Osmond Trask of Salem, upon complaint 
of Roger Haskell that said Trask had taken away clay in a forcible manner to
the damage of the highway, to appear at Epswidg court, and signed by 
Samull. Simonds.

Hosea Traske's bill of charges, 21i. 2s. 4d.
Jefferie Massey, aged about seventy years, testified that the clay pit in the 
lane near the house of Rodger Haskoll was within the bounds of twenty acres
 of land long since granted to William Wodberie and widow Brane. Sworn 
before Hillyard Veren, cleric.

Nicolas Woodbery, aged about forty years, and William Haskell, aged about
forty-two years, deposed the same.

John Harris, aged about eighteen years, testified that he saw Roger Hasgall 
come out to Osmond Trask with a pitchfork, and strike him two blows on the 
head or shoulders, so that said Trask cried out, whereupon deponent's master, 
William Dodge, together with Jo[hn] Dodge, William Fiske and deponent ran
to them. Sworn in court.

William Dodge deposed that he saw Osmund Trask digging clay over against 
Roger Hascall's door, and the latter threw said Trask down and told him " he 
would fetch yt would Sett him further." Sworn in court.

William Hasksall testified that the old fence that was set up formerly did stand
over part of the clay pit hole, and that the four poles set out for the highway did
not reach over the said clay pit by six feet, etc. Robert Hebord deposed the same. 
Sworn in court, 12: 10:1661, before Hillyavd Veren, cleric.

Georg Emory testified that he let said Trask's blood on Sept. 12, being distempered
in his body. Sworn, 17 : 7 : 1661, before W. Hathorne.

John Dodge, aged twenty-two years, testified that he took the said Hasgall away 
from Trask, and asked him if he would kill the man, etc. Sworn in court.

John Saffal, aged about thirty years, testified that he was going- to Salem on 14
 : 5: 1661, when he heard the dispute. Roger Haskal, being surveyor, ordered Trask
to stop digging, etc. Sworn, 9: 25: 1661, before Daniel Denison.

John Miller, aged about twenty-two years, deposed that Hascall gave Trask leave
to dig clay there.

Philip Fowlar and wife, Mary, testified that about a year since they were coming to
Hasscall's in the evening and both their horse and themselves were in danger
from the clay
pit in the highway, etc. Sworn, Oct. 19, 1661, before Daniel Denison.

Elizabeth Thorndike, aged twenty years and upward, deposed that she was at 
Haskall's house, during the stir between plaintiff and defendant, and looking 
out through a broken place in the window, she saw Haskall go down the hill. 
She did not see him strike Trask, but the latter held up his spade and made for
said Haskall two or three times, etc  Sworn, 21:8:1661, before Wm. Hathorne.

William Haskall, aged fifteen years, deposed that when Traske came to get clay,
father told him to go with him to the lower side of Trask's oxen. That the 
latter struck at his father, whereupon Haskall took up a pitchfork, etc. Trask held 
deponent's father by the neckcloth. About three weeks before, his father had 
forbidden  Trask digging clay there and had driven away his oxen. Sworn, 21: 8 : 
1661, before  Wm. Hathorne.

Roger Hascoll's plea: That he had a right to his own land, according to law; that he 
could bring sufficient evidence to prove his damage in having a pit nearly six feet 
deep laid open so near his door, which was very dangerous for his cattle and carts, 
being so near his gate;that he could prove that he had possessed this land thirteen
or fourteen  years, and he had never forbade any person passing over it, yet they 
did so by his  sufferance; that he should like to know how those who said it is a 
highway, know it to be so, as he had enjoyed it longer than some of them had 
known their right hand from their left, and if it were so, he would have known it 
before a stranger; he forbade  plaintiff digging clay there on account of the 
danger to those  who passed that way,  and because Trask had no need of it, 
having a great deal of  clay at his own door much nearer than Hascoll's land; he 
was continually doing  damage by pulling down defendant's fences, carting over 
his land, letting out his  cattle and letting in swine  which rooted up his ground, 
pretending to have leave;  that he struck said Trask  only in self-defence, etc.

-Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts Vol II
1656-1662 (pp323-324).


T.K. said...

Jeez, Bill, I'm working on a post about a court case right now, but yours is WAY more exciting than mine!

Bill West said...

Thanks, T.K. but I think any court case record is exciting because of what it tells us about our ancestors, sometimes things we wouldn't find anywhere else!

I'll look forward to reading that post of yours when you post it!

Will Haskell said...

The William Haskall (brother of Roger) that is mentioned is my 8x great grandfather. I have seen that case once before, but it is great to see it again in your blog.

Bill West said...

My Haskell connection comes through my Ellingwood line.Nice to meet another cousin!