Monday, January 14, 2013


John Rolfe won his case against Henry Greenland. Unfortunately, I haven't
been able to find out what reparations Greenland was ordered to make for
his advances to Mary Rolfe. It wasn't jail time because Greenland was involved
in other lawsuits, mainly over money owed him for his medical services.
After a few years he left Newbury for Maine where he had several scrapes with
the authorities, one involving a charge of mutiny. Somehow he managed to
stay out of jail and eventually left New England to settle in New Jersey with his
wife and raise a family near Piscataway.

 John and Mary Rolfe removed to Nantucket for a few years, then to Cambridge.
They too raised a family  but John died in Newbury in 1681 at his brother's house.
Oddly enough he had purchased land in Woodbridge New Jersey shortly before
his death, and Mary moved there with most of their children. I wonder is she
and Henry Greenland ever met again.

In time my 9x great grandfather John Emery regained his seat on the Grand Jury.
I am of the opinion it was his entertaining Quakers in his house rather than
his involvement in the Greenland case that had caused him to lose it in the
first place. He died in Newbury on 3Nov 1683.

The story of Mary Rolfe and Henry Greenland has been cited in three books
about women and the social history of colonial America.In writing about it
myself I was more interested in the actual events and how my ancestor and
his family were involved. I will say the whole thing reinforces my belief that
we can't judge our ancestors by modern standards,  I believe that "when a
woman says no, she means no!" and that her decision should be respected. 
But in this case, it's hard to know if Mary Rolfe really meant "NO!",  given
the testimony from witnesses.

Certainly the reaction of the neighbors and townspeople of Newbury wasn't
what we'd expect today. Here's a woman who had a man climb through a
window and into her bed, had another man chase her ardously around a barn
in the dark, and spent the night with a third man, a hatter. Other than a bit of
gossiping, nothing much was done about it until her mother complained to the

Another point this story illustrated is that life for our New England ancestors
was not the stereotyped image many have of the dour pious Puritans. It was
more of a mix of "Merry Old England" with Puritanism, There were periods
when one or the other would be in ascendancy, such as the religious
hysteria of the Witch Trial period but then the pendulum would swing back
the other way, In short, our ancestors weren't saints. Occasionally, they
fought, or cheated, or stole, sometimes to such an extent they woud
end up in court.

I'm glad they did, because there are records for me to find, and stories such
as that of John Emery, the Rolfes, and Henry Greenland for me to share with

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