© 2014 Christy K Robinson
|How Commonwealth England perceived Quakers in 1655|
From time to time, I post a life sketch of people who were important members of 17th-century England and New England, and whose lives or influence intersected with the lives of William and Mary Dyer.
Katherine Marbury, the younger sibling of the famous Anne Marbury Hutchinson, was born between about 1607-1610 as one of 15 or 20 children of Rev. Francis Marbury and Bridget Dryden Marbury. Not all of the children survived infancy or childhood. (The dates and numbers of children vary by genealogical records. One record had Katherine’s birth date six years after her father’s death.) Some records give Katherine’s birthplace as Alford, Lincolnshire, but their family had moved to London by 1605, and her father died there in 1611. Perhaps one of her educated siblings taught Katherine to read and write. Many women could read, but few could write, and Katherine did write.
Katherine married Richard Scott in 1632 in Hertfordshire, about 28 miles northwest of London. In May or June 1634, they set sail with Anne and William Hutchinson on the Griffin, moving their households and children to Boston to follow their minister, Rev. John Cotton, who had emigrated the year before. The Church of England was making life dangerous for dissenters like Cotton.
|The Scotts owned two lots, behind Roger Williams' |
The Hutchinsons settled in Boston; the Scotts moved first to Ipswich, near Salem, where they would have been exposed to the teachings of Rev. Roger Williams. There, they also would have been well acquainted with Gov. John Endecott and John Winthrop, Jr. When Roger Williams fled to what would become Providence Plantations, Rhode Island, to escape Puritan persecution, the Scotts also moved. Richard wrote the Compact that Providence founders signed. Their house plot backed up to Roger Williams’ property. And they, like other original settlers, had other parcels of farmland, pasture, woods, and marsh nearby, the better to make use of natural resources.
On January 16, 1638, Gov. John Winthrop wrote, “At Providence things grow still worse; for a sister of Mrs. Hutchinson, the wife of one Scott, being infected with Anabaptistry, and going last year to live in Providence, Mr. Williams was taken (or rather emboldened) by her to make open profession thereof, and accordingly was rebaptized by one Holyman, a poor man late of Salem.” There is no other evidence that Katharine Scott had, or wished to have, any influence upon Roger Williams. They never agreed, and upon two occasions Roger Williams had her, with other wives of his neighbors, arrested, but he did not carry his suits to a conclusion before the Court. Source: Stephen F. Peckham, "Richard Scott and his Wife Catharine Marbury, and Some of Their Descendants," New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 60 (1906):170
From 1638 to 1642, when William Hutchinson died and Anne moved away, Katherine and Richard didn’t live far from her older sister. It was 28 miles by land, but it would have been a quick trip by water. Anne, a midwife, would have been welcome assistance as Katherine’s first children were born. Katherine herself may have been a midwife, since it was their mother who trained her daughters to the profession.
In any case, Katherine’s family was growing. She gave birth to nine children, and most survived to adulthood. Two of the girls, Mary Scott Holder, and Patience Scott Beere, are said by Quaker historians to have accompanied Quakers on speaking missions to Boston. Because of their youth, and possibly because of their cousin Edward Hutchinson’s legal influence in Boston, they were confined at the jailer’s home instead of in the prison, until their fees and fines were paid. Both girls, at age 11 and 16, accompanied Mary Dyer on her walks from Providence to Boston, knowing from their own and their mother’s experience that they risked whippings, forced labor, or even death.
But I’ve jumped forward several years. Let’s go back to the 1650s.
In 1650, Richard Scott’s property taxes were second only to Benedict Arnold, which means that he was a wealthy man. His initial profession was shoemaker (his father was a London clothier), but he must have become wealthy by real estate transactions, farming, and perhaps sea trading. Though Katherine Marbury had aristocratic roots, her father was a poor clergyman and teacher, the father of many children, and died when she was a toddler. Katherine would not have brought money to the marriage. That tells us that Richard Scott must have worked hard, bought some indentured servants, and taken some risks that paid off.
Richard may have sailed to England in 1654, and become a Quaker there. Most people think that he became a Quaker Friend, though, in 1656, when the first missionaries sailed to America and the Scotts provided hospitality to them in their home in Providence. Surely there must have been transatlantic correspondence for the Scotts, who were Baptists, to embrace such a change so early. The Scotts are considered to be the first Quaker converts in New England.
Among the first missionaries were Quakers from England and Barbados, and one of them, Christopher Holder, fell in love with the teenage Mary Scott, who was still too young to marry. Holder, John Rous, and John Copeland traveled New England to preach their faith, and to disrupt the Puritan services. When they were beaten nearly to death, or starved in prison and released, they came back to Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, for sanctuary and recuperation.
In June 1658, Katherine Scott wrote a protest letter to John Winthrop, Jr., governor at Hartford, Connecticut, about the Quaker persecution there. Unfortunately, Winthrop was away and didn’t receive her letter for months.
KATHERINE SCOTT TO JOHN WINTHROP, JR.
For the hand of John Winthrop called Governor, at Harvard in New England, there deliver with trust.
Providence, this 17 June 1658
John Winthrop, — Think it not hard to be called so, seeing Jesus, our Savior and Governor, and all that were made honorable by him, that are recorded in Scripture, were called so. I have writ to thee before, but never heard whether they came to thy hand; my last, it may be, may trouble thee, concerning my son; but truly I had not propounded it to thee but to satisfy his mind, and to prevent his going where we did more disaffect; but I hear no more of his mind that way. I hope his mind is taken up with the thing which is the most necessary, and first to seek his kingdom, &c. Therefore let you be burred in silence: but my later request I must revise, and that is only out of true love and pity to thee, that thou mayest be free, and not troubled, as I have heard thy father was, upon his death bed, at the banishment of my dear sister Hutchinson and others. I am sure they have a sad cup to drink, that are drunk with the blood of the saints.
O my friend, as thou lovest the prosperity of thy soul and the good of thy posterity, take heed of having thy hand, or heart, or tongue lifted up against those persons that the wise yet foolish world in scorn calls Quakers: for they are the messengers of the Lord of Hosts, which he hath in his large love and pity sent into these parts, to gather together his outcasts and the distressed of the children of Israel: and they shall accomplish the work, let the rage of men be never so great: take heed of hindering of them, for no weapon formed against them shall prosper. It is given to them not only to believe, but to suffer, &c., but woe to them by whom they suffer.
O my friend, try all things, and weigh it by the balance of the sanctuary: how can you try without hearing of them, for the ear tries words as the mouth tastes meat. I dare not but bear witness against the unjust and cruel laws of my countrymen in this land: for cursed are all they that cometh not out to help the Lord against the mighty; and all that are not with him are against him, &c. Woe be to men that gather and not by the Lord, & cover with a covering, and not with his Holy Spirit: which woe I desire thou mayest escape.
But finally in 1658, the Quaker missionaries’ repeated disobedience in Massachusetts Bay Colony was too much for Gov. Endecott. He and the magistrates of the court sentenced the three Quaker men to have their right ears cropped as previously threatened.
The hearts of Boston residents were softening because of the severity of punishment of Quakers, who were other (possibly misguided but not heretical) Christians. They saw their neighbors fined, their stock or crops confiscated, and lives threatened, yet the Quaker numbers grew exponentially.
The court decided to execute judgment on the three Quaker men secretly, inside the prison and away from the public. They wanted to punish the Quakers and banish them without arousing sympathy. The method of ear amputation involved binding the prisoner’s head to a post and then slicing off the ear, or sometimes the prisoner’s head was locked in the pillory and his ears nailed to the board and later sliced off. It was not a common punishment, but three Puritans had been cropped in 1637 by Church of England officials. Perhaps Endecott thought this was a fitting revenge, 21 years later. William Dyer referred to that episode in a 1659 letter, so it was at the top of their minds, and exemplified cruelty.
Quaker historian George Bishop wrote,
"And Katharine Scott, of the Town of Providence, in the Jurisdiction of Rhode Island (a Mother of many Children, one that had lived with her Husband, of Unblameable Conversation, and a Grave, Sober, Ancient Woman, and of good Breeding, as to the Outward, as Men account) coming to see the Execution of John Copeland, Christopher Holder, and John Rouse, all single young men, their ears cut off the 7th of the 7th month [7 Sept.] 1658, by order of John Endicott, Gov., whose ears you cut off, and saying upon their doing it privately, -- That it was evident they were going to act the Works of Darkness, or else they would have brought them forth Publickly, and have declared their Offence, that others may hear and fear. -- Ye committed her to Prison, and gave her Ten Cruel Stripes with a threefold corded knotted Whip, with that Cruelty in the Execution, as to others, on the second Day of the eighth Month [2 October], 1658. Tho' ye confessed, when ye had her before you, that for ought ye knew, she had been of an Unblameable Conversation; and tho' some of you knew her Father, and called him Mr. Marbury [Mister was a term of respect], and that she had been well-bred (as among Men) and had so lived, and that she was the Mother of many Children; yet ye whipped her for all that, and moreover told her -- That ye were likely to have a Law to Hang her, if She came thither again -- To which she answered, --If God call us, Wo be to us, if we come not; and I question not, but he whom we love, which will make us not to count our Lives dear unto ourselves for the sake of his Name, -- To which our Governor, John Endicott replied, --And we shall be as ready to take away your lives, as ye shall be to lay them down. --... '
|Whips left skin flayed, sometimes down to the bone, |
resulting in horrific scars. I chose not to
post modern photos in this article.
"The whip used for these cruel Executions is not of whip cord, as in England, but of dried guts, such as the Base [bass] of the Viols, and the three knots at the end, which many times the Hangman lays on with both his hands, and must needs be of most violent Torture and exercise of the Body."
Katherine knew that private punishments were against the law, because executions and whippings were meant as a warning to the public not to err. She publicly protested the wrongdoing of Gov. Endecott and his deputies on two points: that they were cruelly torturing the Quakers, and that they were going about it against their own laws. Her protest, made worse because a woman was accusing men, resulted in her being cast into the prison for a month, as well as being publicly exposed, nude to her waist, and whipped 10 stripes with the triple knots, which was a common punishment for lawbreakers.
Katherine was about 50 years old. She knew exactly what she was doing, and what the consequences would be. In 21st-century language, she was telling them, “Bring it on!”
The Massachusetts State Archive holds the original document, signed by Edward Hutchinson (Anne’s son and Katherine’s nephew), that says,
Petition submitted to the general court by Edward Hutchinson regarding the disposition of fees paid for the release of his aunt and three other Quakers from jail. General court order directing that the fees be taken by the jail keeper until further order. Consented to by the magistrates and deputies.
Katherine and her daughters were released to Edward’s custody, and sent home to Providence to recover. The three earless Quaker men were incarcerated until they could be hustled onto a ship (at their expense, which they refused to pay) and sent to England.
The winter of 1658-59 was a quiet one in the Quaker-versus-Puritan conflict. Most of the original Quaker missionaries went to England or the West Indies to preach, or to heal from their wounds.
In May of 1659, several Quakers heard God’s call for them to go to Boston and take a stand against the bloody laws that so persecuted their brothers and sisters. They left Newport to gather at the home of Richard and Katherine Scott. But as their boat came into the harbor and they transferred to a canoe, one of the women drowned in the sinking of the canoe. They found Sarah Gibbons’ body at low tide the next day, and buried her in the Scotts’ orchard. William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and 11-year-old Patience Scott went on to Boston, and Mary Dyer followed a few weeks later. That was the beginning of the end for Robinson and Stephenson, and Mary Dyer was reprieved from the gallows in October 1659.
Katherine sailed (almost surely from Newport, and not Boston, where she’d been banished on pain of death) to England with her daughter Mary Scott, in March or April 1660, to see Mary safely married to the one-eared Christopher Holder in August 1660. (Mary had two children with Holder, and died in 1665.) Katherine came home in September-October 1660. Apparently, she became disenchanted with Quakers on that trip. Rev. Roger Williams said in a letter of September 8, 1660 to Governor John Winthrop Jr.: “What whipping at Boston could not do, conversation with friends in England and their arguments have in great measure drawn her [Katherine Scott] from the Quakers and wholly from their meetings.”
Richard Scott of Providence died before July 1, 1679, at about age 73. He had remained a Quaker until he died. And Katherine must have returned to Quaker beliefs, because her death is noted in Quaker records. She was about 75-80 years old, and died in Newport on May 2, 1687. Her daughter, Patience Scott Beere, lived in Newport, so Katherine may have been living with her daughter’s family after Richard died.
In the book Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, I speculated (after several years of research and reading hundreds of books and articles) that the Scotts and Dyers were closely connected through the Hutchinson family. Mary journeyed to Boston with two Scott daughters, and she stopped at Providence between her winter at Shelter Island and her May 21, 1660 appearance in Boston. William’s May 27, 1660 letter to the Massachusetts court used bitter words against the nameless people who had helped her on her final journey. (Katherine and Mary Scott were in England, so that would be Richard Scott.) And when the names were provided to John Clarke for the 1663 Rhode Island charter, Richard Scott’s name, though a founder of Providence and an early Rhode Island settler, was conspicuously missing.
Well, conspicuous if you have learned about the lives and accomplishments of a certain set of people in a particular time and place.