Tuesday, June 04, 2013


My colonial immigrant ancestor John Dunham was a deacon of the church at
Plymouth  Colony. While the Deacon was a respectable citizen, his sons did their
share of hell-raising before settling down.

The oldest son, John Jr. first appeared in the Plymouth Court Records on criminal
charges in 1646 when he was twenty six years old, for something I personally find

4Aug 1646
In the case betwixte Samuell Eddy and John Dunham, Jun, abiyt ye said
John Dunhams giving poyson to the said  Samuell Eddy's dogg, the Court,
having taken the same into serious consdieracon. vpon hearing what could be
said on both sides. the Courte doth order yt ye said John Dunhame sall finde
sureties for his good behavior vnto ye next Court
. Vol2p107

By that next Court session, things seemed to have calmed down considerably
between John Jr and Samuel Eddy and they'd found two neighbors to mediate
between them: 

27Oct 1646
In a case of difference twixte John Dunham, Jun, and Sam Edie, the Court orders,
& the said John Dunham agreed therevnto, that Mr Wm Paddie and John Cooke,
Jun, shall heare, end, & determine all former civill differences twixte them to
this psent day.
Vol2 110

Eventually, Deacon John Dunham passed away. John Jr became a father of a son also
named John. He was now John Senior. There are two appearances that caught my
attention. In the first, he was the victim:

Att this Court, John Dunham, Senir, came into the Court and complained against
John Dotey, that hee mett him in the high way, and did crewelly beate him, and
affeirmeth that hee goeth in danger of his life because of the said Dotey, and hath
taken an oath before the said Court for the truth of the pmises, and prayeth a
warrant of the peace against him.
John Dotey acknowlidgeth to owe vnto our sov lord the Kinge the sume of 20:00:00
John Soule the sume of                                                                                  10:00:00
Samuell Smith the sume of                                                                            10:00:00

The condition that if the said John Dotey shall and doe keep the peace towards our
sov lord the Kinge and all his leich people, and in speciall in reference vnto the
said John Dunham,and appear at the Court of his matie to be holden at Plymouth
the last Tuesday in October next, and not depart the said Court without lycence;
that then, &..."
- Volume 5 p25

The condition of John Dotey's  release seems to be some sort of ritual phrasing that
peters off into that "&", prpbably the equivalent of "yada yada" for that period. Also
40 pounds seems to have been the standard fine in cases like this.  The reason I think
this is becuase the exact same phrase and fine are used a year later when John was
the perpetrator. It should be noted that "carriages" does not refer to baby carriages,
but to how a person behaved or "carried" themselves.

7June 1670
John Dunham, Senr, being bound ouer to this Court to answare for his abusive
speeches and carriages towards Sarah, the wife of Benjamine Eaton,  and being
conuict thereof, was contanced to be bound to his good behauior.
John Dunham acknowlidgeth to owe vnto our sov Lord the Kinge the sume of 40.

The condition, that if the said John Dunham be of good behauior towards our
sou lord the Kinge and all his leich people, and is speciall towards Sarah. the wife
of Benjamine Eaton, and appear att the Court of his matie to be holden at Plymouth
aforesaid the last Tuesday in October next, and not depart the said Court without
lycence; that then , & e
.V ol5 p 40

As bad as my 8x great grandfather John Dunham Jr.'s behavior might have been at times,
his brothers were as bad, if not worse. I'll didscuss them next.


Celia Lewis said...

Oh those Dunhams! The court must have been rather tired of all their bad behaviours! Ah well, it's at least entertaining reading, Bill!

Diane B said...

Bill, interesting post! I am a descendant of Samuel Eddy. The Great Migration Begins entry for Samuel mentions that in 1636 Samuel was given three acres next to John Dunham the Elder. I guess they were neighbors. Anyway, I want you to know we're not still mad about the dog. We got over that a couple hundred years ago.

Wendy B. said...

I dunno, Bill. My mom's still saying she wants reparations...

Diane B.: I'm also descended from Samuel Eddy, via his son, Obadiah. Hello, cousin!

Unknown said...

As a direct descendant of Deacon John Dunham I would like to apologize for the lewd and lascivious acts of some of my ancestors.
(Name and address withheld to avoid litigation... )

Unknown said...

Here are some others I think you missed:

In Dec. of 1681 Samuel Dunham was excommunicated from the Plymouth church for two years for intemperance (or, as Pastor John Cotton would elsewhere write, for being an "old drunkard" [Cotton Papers, 6, #6]) [Plym. Ch. Rec., 1:157].
On Mar. 7, 1682 Samuel Dunham, Sr. of Plymouth was fined five shillings by the Plymouth court "for being overtaken with drink" [Plym. Col. Rec., 6:82].
On June 17, 1683 Samuel was "called forth to manifest his repentance publicly in order to his reconciliation with the church" [Plym. Ch. Rec., 1:252]. The members of the church found his speech satisfactory, and he was reconciled to the church on July 1, 1683.

On Nov. 20, 1689 Samuel Dunham was accused of taking the Lord's name in vain, having been heard to say "the curse of God is upon the head & pluck, with many other unsavory speeches; partly by intemperance in drinking which sister Jackson testified against him before
the elders to his face" [Plym. Ch. Rec., 1:267]. He was laid under admonition and told not to come to the Lord's Supper until he had fully repented. He was accepted again to communion Sept. 8, 1690 [Plym. Ch. Rec., 1:270]. [Note: For more information on this family member see the Dunham Family's American Heritage].
Lascivious and Suspicious Conduct

March 5, 1660/1661 (GC, PCR 3:210):
Josepth Dunham, for diuers laciuiouse carriages, was sentanced by the Court to sitt in the stockes, with a paper on his hatt on which his fact was written in capitall letters, and likewise to find surties for his good behauiour. [Released, paying his fees.] Josepth Dunham, oweth vnto our souern lord the Kinge the summe of 20:00:00.

August 1, 1667
John Dunham was brought to court for "for his abusive carriage towards his wife in continual tyrannizing over her, and in particular for his late abusive and uncivil carriage in endeavoring to beat her in a debased manner, and for frightening her by drawing a sword and pretending therewith to offer violence to his life..." Dunham was sentenced to be severely whipped, but "through the importunity of his wife" the execution of the sentence was suspended, depending on his future behavior, and he had to provide bail of 20 pounds against his continued good behavior and appearance at the next court. (PCR 4: 104) No further mention of wife abuse by John Dunham.

March 5, 1677/1678 (CM, PCR 5:253):
Joseph Dunham, for laciuiouse carriages vsed toward Elizabeth Ringe, fined twenty shillings, to the vse of the collonie.