Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mary Dyer's last 44 miles

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

The estimated walk time from Providence to Boston would take 14 hours, but these days, the road is paved and level; in Mary Dyer's time it would have been uphill and downhill, over streams or low, wet places, with gullies eroded after strong storms. The English colonists and farmers were not on the best of terms with Native Americans. There were bounties on wolves. Cougars and bears lived in the forest. Mary had walked it before in company of protective men, but on the last two occasions, she had only the company of sisters Mary Scott (age 17) in 1659 and Patience Scott (age 12) in 1660.

The road between Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, was a familiar one to William and Mary Dyer. When it was hardly more than an Indian path through the forests and streams of Massachusetts, William had been part of the scouting parties which purchased Rhode Island from the Narragansett Indians. 
Then in the snowy spring of 1638, he and Mary elected to walk the path with the Hutchinson party after their expulsion from Massachusetts. They probably shipped their possessions around Cape Cod, but walked away like the Bible’s children of Israel, as a symbolic exodus from the heavy, theocratic hand of the Massachusetts Bay authorities.

The road would have been enlarged by commercial traffic and military expeditions during the late 1630s and early 1640s. William Dyer, as a Rhode Island government official and an attorney, would have traveled the road back to Boston many times. We don’t know if Mary accompanied him, because the next record we have of Mary is that she arrived by ship at Boston in March 1657 and was imprisoned as a Quaker. 

William took Mary back to Newport, via the road to Providence, in summer 1657. But between 1658 and 1659, she’d made the trip from Providence to Boston several times with other Quakers, each time to support the imprisoned or call for their release. She was herself arrested several times, and was sentenced to be hanged on October 27, 1659. However, she was reprieved and was supposed to go home to Newport, Rhode Island.

She did, but not for long. (Her husband William said the next spring that the last time he saw his wife was in November.) About two weeks later, she’s mentioned as being in Plymouth Colony’s town of Sandwich, visiting the Quakers there. She was jailed and released.

She must have traveled from Sandwich to the Sylvester home on Shelter Island (eastern reaches of Long Island). There, she spent the winter in the company of her Friends, some of whom had been severely persecuted in Boston. In May 1660, Mary sailed across Long Island Sound, eastward to Narragansett Bay. Not stopping at her home in Newport, where resided her husband and children, she continued up the estuary and Seekonk River to Providence. Richard and Katherine (Marbury) Scott were co-founders of Providence, and were undoubtedly friends of many years—since at least 1635 when the Scotts, Hutchinsons, and Dyers lived in Boston. Katherine was Anne Marbury Hutchinson’s youngest sister, and was about a year older than Mary. Richard became a Quaker on a 1654 trip to England, which would make him the first Quaker in New England, if not America. His conversion predated the arrival of Quaker missionaries in 1656 and 1657. So the Scott home in Providence would have been the hub for Mary’s and other Quakers’ forays into Massachusetts.
This modern plotting of the route from Providence, RI, to Boston, MA, follows US 1 or 1A most of the way.
It's likely that this was also the original Indian path and later a wagon road.

Mary could have used her husband’s horses or rented a ride for herself and Patience Scott. But I believe this walk was symbolic of her first forced march from Boston, with the Hutchinsons. She walked out then, and now she was walking back to prove they’d not been able to beat her down. This was on her terms.

Mary Dyer and Patience Scott (12-year-old daughter of the Scotts, and niece of Anne Hutchinson) arrived in Boston on May 21, 1660, having walked from Providence, Rhode Island. Patience had walked this road several times, too, and had been jailed in Boston the summer before for preaching Quaker beliefs.

Mary and Patience arrived during the annual proceedings of the Massachusetts Bay Court, when the Governor, deputy governors, and other officials would be in Boston for annual elections, to hear superior court cases, and vote legislation based on their blend of religious and civil law. John Endecott had been reelected governor on May 20, and at his home in Salem that night, there had been a terrific thunderstorm for six hours, from 9pm to 3am. The lightning was so severe and long-lasting that it was recorded in the Salem annals. Mary and Patience were probably spending the night in the forest or countryside outside Boston's peninsula, and might have been subjected to similar weather.

On the morning of May 21, Mary Dyer and her Quaker Friends from Salem and Plymouth gathered in Boston to protest the extreme persecution of Quakers, knowing full well that they would be jailed, probably beaten, and in Mary's case, executed (June 1, 1660). To enter Boston, Mary would have walked past the gallows at the fortification on Boston Neck.
US 1, the road between Boston and Providence, in the Wrentham area.

As suggested by the Google map, a direct hiking route from Providence to Boston would be about 44 miles. I don’t know if this is the route Mary’s road would have taken—over the course of decades and centuries, roads don’t really move or change, they just enlarge or maybe straighten a bit. I imagine that the U.S. 1 and Interstate-95 corridors had their origins on the old Indian footpath, the most direct and easy route, that became a wagon road, then was paved, and at last became a turnpike. The path plotted on Google runs that corridor.

Mary thought, on her last two journeys, that she was going to her death. She must have had faith that she was protected by God while on his errands through a wilderness that was both spiritual and physical.

And remembering the Ginger Rogers quip about dancing backwards and in heels, Mary did it in long skirts, carrying a pack of supplies for sleeping and eating on the journey. Surely there was plenty of time over the two to four days they were walking, for communion with God and each other. Mary’s next walk would be from the prison to the gallows on Boston Neck.

If it were you, would you make the long, hard walk of 44 miles, or would you take an alternate mode suggested by Google? They suggest public transit. Now, where's the public demonstration or the civil disobedience in that??

*****
 
Vol 2 of the duet on
Mary Dyer
Christy K Robinson is author of two biographical novels on William and Mary Dyer, and a collection of her nonfiction research on the Dyers. In 1660, Mary Dyer was hanged for her civil disobedience over religious freedom, and her husband’s and friends’ efforts in that human right became a model for the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights 130 years later. The books (and Kindle versions) are available on Amazon. CLICK HERE for the links.
And if you'd like to own or give an art-quality print of Mary Dyer's handwriting, her letter to the General Court of Massachusetts, CLICK HERE

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wall Street’s beginning: Plenty of bull

© 2013 by Christy K Robinson

Source: Bloomberg
 Three hundred sixty-some years ago, there were definitely bulls on Manhattan Island, but there was no Wall Street. The colonists of the Dutch West Indies Company inhabited the southern tip of the island, a city they called New Amsterdam. It was the Dutch capitol in America, from which they administered parts of Long Island, Delaware (after they snatched it from Swedish colonists), New Jersey, and their opportunistic settlements in Connecticut and the Hudson River Valley. Their director-general was Pieter Stuyvesant, who had administered the colony since 1647.

After Stuyvesant traded away large portions of territory to the colonies of New Haven and Connecticut, his Dutch colonists were quite upset with him. The tensions with the Native Americans were always ready to flare up, and several unscrupulous Dutchmen had been discovered selling rum, firearms, and ammunition to the Indians--firearms and ammo that could be used to massacre colonists.

In 1652, a naval war between England and the Netherlands had broken out not only in the English Channel, but in the Caribbean and the trade routes and ports of the Atlantic. Piracy and privateering were rampant. The English settlers on Long Island and the coasts along Long Island Sound learned that the Dutch were paying the Indians to attack the English and drive them off.

When settlers like the militia commander Captain John Underhill, a magistrate in the New Haven-governed area of Long Island, called for his fellow Englishmen to rise up against “the iniquitous government of Pieter Stuyvesant,” he was first imprisoned for sedition, then kicked out of New Netherland. (Captain Underhill had a Dutch wife and mother-in-law, so living among the Dutch was not a foreign concept to him.)

In the winter of 1652-53, both the English and Dutch settlers on Long Island were dissatisfied with Stuyvesant’s governing. They held community meetings and sent deputies from each village to demand reforms of the director-general, which he dismissed with the arrogant statement, “We derive our authority from God and the Company, not from a few ignorant subjects.”  

Captain William Dyer was at this time Rhode Island attorney general, and had already been commissioned by England’s Council of State in early October 1652. His orders were to “raise such forts and otherwise arm and strengthen your Colony, for defending yourselves against the Dutch, or other enemies of this Commonwealth, or for offending them, as you shall think necessary; and also to take and seize all such Dutch ships and vessels at sea, or as shall come into any of your harbors, or within your power, taking care that such account be given to the State as is usual in the like cases.” 
 
New Amsterdam city plan in 1660. The wide street is now known as
Broadway, and the Wall is shown with guard posts. It's interesting that
like the original Amsterdam, there are canals for goods transport.

On March 17, six wealthy men of New Amsterdam, meanwhile, fearing both Indian and English attacks on their city, raised six thousand guilders to build a defensive palisade. They contracted with Thomas Baxter, a young English colonist living there, to, within two weeks, provide masses of cut lumber and logs to build the wooden wall. (Baxter would shortly thereafter criticize Stuyvesant and leave his small home and catboat, to join the privateer forces under William Dyer and John Underhill.)

Stuyvesant ordered all men of the town, under pain of fine, loss of citizenship, and banishment, to dig a defensive ditch and post holes for the palisade that would run right across the island there, and make two gates and gatehouses, at what would later be called Broadway, and at the water gate on the East River. The wall was 2870 feet long, from the western end on the bluff of the Hudson River, to the East River. The palisade was built during the month of April, and completed on May 1, 1653. The earthen wagon road inside the palisade was called Waal Straat.

In May, Dyer and Underhill were commissioned by Rhode Island and the United Colonies of New England as Commander-in-Chief Upon the Seas (Dyer) and Commander-in-Chief Upon the Land (Underhill).

William Dyer and John Underhill never attacked New Amsterdam, and the First Anglo-Dutch War ended by treaty in January 1653. But from 1680-82, Dyer’s second son, William Dyer the younger (born 1640 in Newport, Rhode Island), was mayor of the city of New York.

The Wall, having decayed over the last forty years, was dismantled in the 1690s, and the street that ran along the palisade became one of the most famous streets in the world—the home of high finance, and synonymous with greed and corruption.

********** 
Mary Dyer, having been made famous by Quaker historians, has received all of the attention over the last 400 years, but her husband William Dyer was a remarkable man in his own right. Read about both of them in the biographical narratives by Christy K Robinson.  Click HERE to learn more about the Dyers.