Monday, September 14, 2009


The dispute between Edward Berry and the Haskells seems to have begun in Nov 1672
when he sued Nicholas Woodbury in Salem Court over ownership of a piece of land.
Remember that Berry had married Elizabeth Hardy Haskell, widow of Roger Haskell.
Elizabeth had inherited land of her own from her mother and then apparently allowed
her husband to dispose of part of it.

Or had she?

This is how it played out as recorded in "Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of
Essex County, Massachusetts Vol 5 1672-74" :

"Edward Berry and Elizabeth, his wife v. Nicholas Woodbery. Review of a case tried at
the last Salem court

Writ, dated 12:9:1672, signed by Hilliard Veren, for the court, and served by Henry
Skerry, marshal of Salem. Bond of Nicolas Woodbery.

Nicholas Woodberrey's bill of cost, 14s. 6d.

Copy of the will of Roger Haskall, taken from the Salem court records
of 26 : 4 : 1667, by Hilliard Veren, cleric.

William Hascoll, aged about fifty-five years, and Samuel Gardner, aged about forty-five
years, testified that at the time of the sitting of Salem court in June, 1672, they went to
Edmond Berrey's house to call his wife to court. She told them that she had freely given
up all her right in that land to her former husband Rogger Hascol before his death, and
wished her children to enjoy it. Also she was unwilling for her present husband to sue for it.
She said that her husband Roger Hascall was half purchaser with her mother Hardy of all
the land they bought of Mr. Geffard, that is, of Garfard's point and the four score acres in
controversy. Sworn, 18 : 9 : 1672, before Wm. Hathorne, assistant, and also sworn in court.

Jacob Barney, sr. and William Dodg, agents for Mr. Gervis Garford, testified that they laid
out to Roger Hascoll eighty acres lying between Lord's hill and Burch plain, and that said
Dodge saw William and John Haskall deliver it to Nicholas Woodbery by turf and twig.
Copy made by Hilliard Veren, cleric. Sworn in court."

So far it seems a fairly straight forward case. Elizabeth Berry had testified that she'd given
her deceased first husband Roger Haskell her rights over the land in question and that he'd
been a partner with her late mother in buying the four acres from Mr. Gafford. Two men
employed by Mr Gafford swore to having handled a sale of 80 acres to Roger Haskell, and
then witnessed it sold to Nicholas Woodbury by "turf and twig".

Now the "turf and twig" ceremony used for the sale dates from medieval England. The seller
would hand the purchaser a piece of sod and a branch from a tree or bush on the property
to signify the transfer of ownership from one to the other. This was usually done before
witnesses as was done in this case. The sellers were William Haskell, Roger's brother,
and John Haskell, Roger's oldest son while one of Mr Gafford's agents was William Dodge,
Roger's son-in-law.

So it would seem that everything was on the up and up in the sale to Nicholas Woodbury.
Elizabeth Berry had even testified to that.

So why was she suing Nicholas Woodbury? The answer would come in a petition to the
court which included an astonishing admission.

To be continued...

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