Tuesday, July 29, 2014


On the same day that Stephen Webster brought my ancestor Robert Swan to court
over stolen wheat,  there was a second court case involving the two men. Apparently
Webster didn't take the theft of his wheat very well. From the Essex County Court records:

Stephen Webster was fined for speaking reproachful words to Robert Swan.*

*Robert Swan's complaint to the Worshipful Mr. Bradstreete against Stephen Webster : For saying that he would be the death of him, and for saying that Swan was a weak man and he could drive a dozen such as he before him through the town; also for threatening to burn said Swan's barn, which might be disastrous to himself, wife and children, for his dwelling house was very near the barn, etc. Elizabath Whiticker and Samuell Gile, jr., deposed that the same day that Robert Swan was charged with taking away the wheat, Stephen Webster said that if it had not been for Goody Swan, he would have knocked Robert in the head, etc. Sworn, Sept. 25, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Barthellme Heth deposed that Stephen Webster came to him with some neighbors to ask counsel, and soon after Robert Swan came for the same purpose. Webster desired counsel before his father Emiry and John Griffen, etc. Sworn in court. Abigale, wife of John Remington, deposed that being abroad in a hemp yard, she saw Webster go to her brother Swan's, and her sister Swan go with him to the barn. Webster said to Swan, "art thou a church Member, and dare to doe lyes," with which he stabbed at him with the fork he had in his hand, making a mark on his breast. Webster stood on the rails that were set up on the outside of the barn to fence in the mow, etc. Sworn, Sept. 22, 1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Robertt Swan deposed that they at first agreed about the wheat and shook hands and later Webster told him that he had played him a scurvy trick, sometimes he had put two sheafs together and Joseph Leigh, for many offences, was sentenced to pay a fine, to be severely whipped and bound to good behavior. He was to be imprisoned until the fine was paid, and upon his petition, the corporal punishment was changed to a fine and a fortnight's imprisonment.* again only one and a half. This he had done by taking some wheat out of the sheaf, putting it at the end of the band, drawing it up to the heads and twisting it together and made the band longer. Deponent told him that it was horrible wickedness for him to make deponent appear guilty when he was guilty himself, and he said it was good policy to use means to keep himself out of snares, etc. Elizabeth (her mark) Swan, wife of Robert Swan, deposed concerning the assault in the barn. She took the pitchfork from the men, and Webster told Swan that he would be the death of him if he hanged for it, etc. Sworn, 10 :6 :1665, before Simon Bradstreete.f

Elizabeth (her mark) Swan, daughter of Robert Swan, deposed. John Griffen deposed that being at the house of his father Sherred, etc. 

 p277  Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1662-1667 (Google eBook) Essex Institute, 1913 

And that's all there is. I hope that whatever Stephen Webster was fined offset the
treble damages 7x great grandfather Swan had to pay. Reading this, I could
picture the two men in the barn, Webster poking at my ancestor with the pitchfork
until Robert's wife Elizabeth (Acey)Swan marched in to take the pitchfork away
before something serious happened between the two fools.

I love these Essex County court records. They give me a glimpse of what my
ancestors did and said. In this case, it painted a picture of a day in Robert Swan's
life that could have ended badly.

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