Sunday, August 11, 2013


The General Court (the legislature of Massachusetts) was not amused by the reaction
of the citizens of the towns that had presented petitions in support of Robert Pike, and
did what governing bodies in America have often done in sticky situations: they
appointed a committee to investigate why people had signed the petition. Among
those appointees was my ancestor, William Gerrish. I think the report submitted
about the signers from Newbury reflects his prickly temper. It also produced an
amusing and terse encounter with another of my ancestors, John Emery.

Again, the story is from John James Currier's History of Newbury Vol.1 pp163-4
My ancestors' names are in red:

"This petition, with several other petitions from neighboring towns, was presented
to the General Court at a session held May 14, 1654. The deputies as well as the
magistrates were evidently disturbed and irritated by this unexpected display of
friendship for Lieut. Robert Pike, and promptly appointed a committee of investigation.

In answer to the petiCon of Hampton, Salisbury, Newbery, Haverill & Andover, subscribed by severall in each toune, this Court cannot but deeply resent that so 
many psons of seuerall tounes, condiCons & relations, should combine together 
to psent such an vnjust & vnreasonable request as the revoaking the sentance past 
the last Court, agt Left Robe Pike & the restoring of him to his former libertie, 
wthout any peticon of his oune, or least acknowledgment of his great offence, fully
proved against him,  which was no lesse then defaming this Court, and charging them
with breach of oath  &c wch the peticoners call some words lett fall by occasion. 
The court doth therefore order in this extraordinary case, that Mr Bradstreet for 
Hauerill & Andover, Capt  Wiggins for Hampton, Capt Gerrish & Nicho Noies for Newbery, & Mr Winsly & Mr Bradbury for Salisbury, shall & heereby are appointed Comisioners to call at a time as they shall think meete & require a reason of theire 
vnjust request & how they came to be induced to subscribe the sd peticon & so make theire retourne to the next sessions, that the Court may consider how to pceed farther therein."

In October, 1654, Capt. William Gerrish and Nicholas Noyes reported to the General Court the reasons given for signing the petition by the men of Newbury: —

Francis Plummer and Robert Morse say the reason is because he is a useful man, and thought they might petition without offence. It was in the liberty of the Court to accept 
it or reject it and . . . they could not see they had done amiss in petitioning.

John Bishop being desired to go into the meeting house to explain .. . about the petition he said he could not stay, but the constable said he must. He came into the house before us; said, would the General Court have the reasons, they are in the petition, and that was all he would say, and so turned his back and away he went

Benjamin Swett saith every free subject hath liberty to petition for any that had been 

in esteem, without offence to any.

John Emery demanded our Commission and the sight of the petition, and then would answer. Being produced, he answered we had no power to demand who brought him the petition; and hearing John Bond make answer, told him he was a wise man in a bold, flouting manner. His carriage we conceive was (insulting). f

Others said they were friends of Robert Pike and out of respect for him they petioned for his release, while others confessed that they were ignorant of the words spoken by him & sentence imposed upon him by the Gen. Court and intended no offence to that 

honorable body in asking for his release.

After a careful examination of the answers returned by the men from Newbury and
other towns in the vicinity, the General Court ordered November 1, 1654, the petitioners whose answers were not satisfactory to appear at the county court and give bonds in
the sum of ten pounds to answer for their several offences. The names of the Newbury
men "to be summoned by warrant from the dark of the court" were: "Jno Emery, Sen
Jno Hull, Jno Bishop, Benjamin Swett, Daniell Thirston, Jun. Joseph Plomer, 
Daniell Cheny, Jno Wilcott." Ŧ

*Massachustts Colony Records, vol. Iv., part I., p. 104.
t Massachusetts Archives, vol. K., p. 299. "The New Puritan," pp. 44 and 45.
I Massachusetts Colony Records, vol. K., part I., p. sic."

I can imagine the scene between my two ancestors: John Emery giving his terse
answers to the questions and William Gerrish bristling at his "insulting" attitude.

I also need to see if I can find the petitions from the other towns to see if there
are others of my ancestors in the list of signees.

To be continued.

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