Sunday, May 12, 2013


Among the entries in the Plymouth Court Records Volume 1 1633-1640, there is
this entry for a trial on Sept.3 1638 that would have consequences for my ancestor
Stephen Hopkins:

Arthur Peach, Thomas Jackson, Richard  Stinnings, and Daniell Crosse were indicted
for murther & robbing  by the heigh way.  They killed and robd one Penowanyanquis,
an Indian, at Misquamsqueece, & took from him fiue fadome of wampeux, and three
coates of wollen cloth.
The jurys names that went vpon them were these:-
Sworne                                         Sworne
Willam Hatch,                          John Paybody,
John Winslowe,                      Richard Sillis,
Willm Pontus,                          Humfrey Turner,
Edward Foster,                        Samuell Hinckley,
Richard Derbye,                      Giles Rickett,
John Holmes,                           Gabriell Fallowell,

They found the said Arthur Peach,  Thomas Jackson, and Richard Stinnings
guilty of the said felonius murthering & robbing of the said Penowanyauquis,
but say that they, nor any of them, had any lands or tennements, goods, or cattles,
at the tyme of the said felonie comitted that they know of ; and so say they all.
Daniell Crosse made an escape, & so had not his tryall ; but Peach, Jackson, &
Stinnings  had sentence of death pnounced ; vizt, to be taken from the place from
whence they came, and thence to the place of execucon, and there to be hanged
by the neck vntill their bodyes were dead, wch was executed vpon them accordingly.

Now Stephen had no part in that trial, either as a witness or a juror. The consequences
didn't become apparent for a few months, but eventually they couldn't be ignored
and they led to a few tense days in court the following February. The year is still recorded
as 1638 because under the old English calendar March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation
was the first day of the new year. That was changed to January 1st in 1752 when the
Gregorian Calendar was adopted by England and all its territories:

4Feb 1638
Concerning Mr. Stephen Hopkins and Dorothy Temple, his servant, the Court doth
oder, wth one consent, that in regard by her couenant of indenture shee hath yet
aboue two years to serue him, that the said Mr Hopkins shall keep her and her child,
or puide shee may be kept wth food and rayment during the said terme; and if he
refuse so to doe, that then the collony ;puide for her, & Mr Hopkins to pay it. p111 

Mr Steephen Hopkins is committed to ward for his contempt to the Court, and shall
so remayne comitted vntill hee shall either receiue his servant Dorothy Temple, or
els puide for her elsewhere at his own charge during the terme she hath yet to serue
him. p112

The connection with the murder trial was that one of the defendants, Arthur Peach,
was  the father of Dorothy's child. I don't know the exact reason  for Stephen's
refusal to fulfill his responsibilities under the terms of Dorthy's indenture contract
with him. Perhaps he may have know the victim since he had dealings with the
Indians on the colony's behalf.  It could also be he felt that Dorothy's association
with a murderer reflected badly upon him as her master. Whatever the reason,
the issue was resolved four days later. The Court Record doesn't say if Stephen
spent that whole time in the jail:   
8Feb 1638
The 8th of Februar., 1638.  Memorand : That whereas Dorothy Temple, a mayde servant
dwelling wth Mr Steephen Hopkins, was begotten wth child in his service by Arthur
Peach, who was executed for murther and robbery by the heigh way before the said
child was borne, the said Steephen Hopkins hath concluded and agreed wth Mr John
Holmes, of Plymouth, for three pounds sterl., and other consideracons to him in
hand  payd, to discharge the said Steephen Hopkins and the colony of the said
Dorothy Temple and her child foreuer ; and the said Dorothy is to serue all the residue
of her tyme wth the said John Holmes, according to her indenture.p113

So Stephen paid John Holmes 3 pounds and some other items to take over  Dorothy's
contract.  While that ended his legal problems, it wasn't quite over for poor Dorothy.
Premarital sex, or fornication as the Pilgrims called it, was sternly dealt with in
Plymouth Colony. By the following June her baby was delivered and Dorothy was back
in court:
4June 1639
Dorothy Temple, for vncleanes and bringing forth a male bastard, is censured to be
whipt twice ; but shee faynting in the execucon of the first, thother was not executed.

I haven't found any mention yet of the fate of Dorothy and her infant son. I hope she
found a husband to take care of them that they lived out the rest of their lives


Pam Carter said...

I have some relatives from my mom's side on the jury - Paybody, Pontus, and Hinckley!

Les said...

Interesting story, especially since I saw a reference to John Peabody, whom I recently found to be an ancestor.