Thursday, May 17, 2012

William Dyer and the Anglo-Dutch war

© 2012 Christy K Robinson 

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
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The First Dutch War,
by Abraham Willaerts (Dutch painter)

On 17 May 1653, William Dyer, along with newly-elected Governor John Sanford and Nicholas Easton, formed an admiralty court to attend to Rhode Island colony’s part of all prizes secured in the war against the Dutch. “Prizes” were Dutch ships and their cargo, Dutch trading posts or farms encroaching on what the English colonists considered their chartered territory, or even Dutch trade goods from the East Indies carried by English, American, French, or Spanish ships. This taking of prizes, or privateering, was a powerful and lucrative business. It was a license to be a pirate in the employ of a government. The privateer shared a percentage of the prize with the employer, along with the advantage to the authorizing government of valuable ships which could be fitted for their own navy.

The first Anglo-Dutch war (there were three of them) was all about trade with foreign ports, following England's Navigation Act. 
Cross-section of a 17th-century merchantman,
the sort that Dyer and Hull may have commanded--or taken as prize.
It's certainly a ship that plied the West Indies, America's east coast,
the Mediterranean, and the English Channel.

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. And, to that end, you are to appoint one or more persons to attend the care of that business; and we conceive the bearer hereof, Mr. William Dyer, is a fit man to be employed therein; and you are to give account of your proceeding to the Parliament or Council.”

It was signed by James Harington, president of the Council of State that month, and John Thurloe, clerk of the council—and spymaster for the Commonwealth of England.

(Did Thurloe, who had a network of spies in the West Indies, America, and Europe, expect spy reports from William Dyer? Hmmm… Interesting thought, because William appears to have been a royalist, not a fan of the puritan parliament.)

With very similar language to the orders from England, Rhode Island’s legislature commissioned him commander-in-chief upon the sea on May 27.

[I modernized the antiquated spelling for your ease of reading.]

This certifies whom it may concern that whereas we the free inhabitants of Providence Plantations having received authority and power from the Right honorable Council of State by authority of parliament to do something ourselves from the Dutch, the enemy of the Commonwealth of England, as also to assist them as we shall think necessary as also to seize all Dutch vessels or ships that shall come within our harbors within our power.

And whereas by true information and great complaint of the severe condition of many of our cantonments of English natives living on Long Island are subjected to the double sovereigns of the Dutch province at the manors there and the desperate hazard they are subjected to by the bloody plotting of the governor and all, show who are decided and declared to have demand in and any ways of the Indians by bribes and promises to set off and destroy the English natives in those places by which exposure one cantonment is put in trouble as quite desperate hazards and in continual fear to be set off and murdered unless some speedy and defensible remedy is so provided.

These present we consider and as all neighbors by our general assembly met the 19th of May 1653. It was agreed and is to remind by the said assembly that it was necessary and for our own defense (where if the English there should be attacked or set off) we could not long enjoy our stations chosen as before we have thought it necessary both to defend our selves and so sustain them to give.

And we hereby give by virtue of our authority provided us before full power and authority to Capt. William Dyer and Capt. John Underhill to take all Dutch ships and vessels as shall come into their power and so to defend themselves from the Dutch and all enemies of the Commonwealth of England. And do further think it necessary that they offend the Dutch, offer all inducements also to take them by indulgence, and to prevent the effusion of blood, provided also that no violence be given nor no detriment sustained to them it shall submit to the Commonwealth of England which being which authority though thus may offend them at the Expedition of Capt. William Dyer and Capt. John Underhill who by devise and counsel of three councilors one of which councilors dissenting have power to bring the same to conformity to the Commonwealth of England provided that the states so provide and all vessels taken be brought into the harbor at Newport and according to the law to show before and states that further provided also that these seized and authorized by us do give account of their proceedings to the said Court and assistants of the Colony and accordingly provide further instructions to order their assigns by the President and assistants aforesaid.

It is further provided that Capt. John Underhill is constituted Commander-in-Chief upon the lands and Captain William Dyer Commander-in-Chief at the sea, yet to join in counsel to be assisted both to other for the preparings of the several seizures for the honor of ye Commonwealth of England in which they are employed.
Given under the Seal of the Colony of Providence Plantations this the present 27th of May, 1653.
Per me, Will Lytherland, General Recorder.

Captain John Underhill was magistrate of Flushing, New Netherland (later called NewYork), a Dutch territory, from 1651-1653, all the time he was commander-in-chief upon the land for the English citizens of New England. He was married to a Dutch woman, Helena; her mother, also Dutch, resided with their family. Underhill was a military officer-for-hire from his training days in 1620s Netherlands, to his career with the English colonists in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and on Long Island. After some run-ins with the Massachusetts courts, they refused his compensation and he couldn’t find work, so he sailed back to England, where he also could not find the right fit. So he offered his services to the Dutch of Long Island and Manhattan for some years. Now, with a conflict brewing in the English Channel, he was back in the employ of the English, and he was knowledgeable about the disputed territories, defenses, finances, and weaknesses of the Dutch in New England.
This 1635 map considers Connecticut and Long Island to be
"New Netherland" for settlement and trading purposes.
In other words--the Dutch claimed it as their own.

A commission was given May 27, 1653, to Captains Dyer and Underhill to “go against the Dutch” in the first Anglo-Dutch war of 1652-54. The war had been fought, on and off, in the English Channel since the year before, and it was destined to end in treaty early in 1654. But during the second half of 1653, with the unscrupulous Captain Edward Hull authorized to prey on Dutch vessels in Long Island Sound, the Anglo-Dutch war was fought between the shores of Long Island and Connecticut. The two commanders were ordered to do their best to prevent violence and bloodshed if possible.

According to Rhode Island records, Dyer’s and Underhill’s first target was the House of Good Hope, a Dutch trading post on the south side of the tributary to the Connecticut River at Hartford. 

Huyshope Avenue and Park River, Hartford, the site of
House of Good Hope.
Google Maps.

This is the location of House of Good Hope: south bank of Little River (now the underground Park River) where it met the Connecticut River. The street called Huyshope memorializes the grounds of the trading post. The smaller river was diverted and covered over, and is now covered by Park Street and buildings. Photo: 

Paddling Hartford’s Park River (formerly Hog River, formerly Little River), article:

According to my research, there was no battle at House of Good Hope in William Dyer's raid. The Dutch traders had abandoned the fort before their goods could be taken as plunder.

To read more about William Dyer's real-life role as Commander in Chief Upon the Seas, read the biographical novels Mary Dyer Illuminated (Vol. 1) and Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (Vol. 2), available in paperback and Kindle, HERE:  


Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cures for what ails ye

© 2011 Christy K Robinson  

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. 

Woman bathing in a stream,
Some unpleasant medical and physical conditions, it seems, have been around forever. Many of them are preventable with hygiene practices, healthful eating practices, or knowing which products we can purchase at the supermarket or corner store like Walgreens, CVS, or Boots.

Twelve generations ago, all sorts of quack remedies were available to treat conditions we generally avoid by bathing, cleaning our teeth, eating wholesome, fresh foods, and drinking pure water. Immersion bathing probably wasn’t very common for city dwellers, and without many changes of clothing, the aromas must have been quite ripe at any time of the year. 

Because of the cost of consulting a physician, many with minor ailments benefited from the skills of an herbalist-healer or midwife. Depending on the spiritual climate, though, healers were sometimes accused as witches.

An array of potions and lotions that were considered cures for baldness, body odor, halitosis, and flatulence is chronicled in The Path-Way To Health. The book's subtitle reads: "Wherein are to be found most excellent and approved Medicines of great vertue, as also notable Potions and Drinks, with the Art of distilling divers precious Waters, for making of Oyls, and other comfortable Receit for the health of the body, never before printed."
This edition says 1654, but the original
edition would have been 1596.
These libraries carry the 228-page book.

The book’s intended market was the physician, but probably also the apothecary who supplied the ingredients: snail’s blood, arsenic, lye, bird eggshells, herbs, distilled and brewed alcohol, seeds, cats' dung, and oils.

The author, Peter Levens, a physician and surgeon, held an MA degree from Oxford University in England, as did Dr. John Clarke, the principal author of Rhode Island’s charters of liberties and a Baptist minister. (The Master’s degree would not have been in medicine. In Dr. Clarke’s case, it was in theology.) Dr. Clarke was a friend and neighbor of William and Mary Dyer in Portsmouth and Newport, Rhode Island, and was one month younger than William Dyer.

Peter Levens lived in the 16th century, obtaining his Bachelor’s degree at Oxford in 1556 (during Queen Mary’s bloody reign), his MA in 1559 (just after Elizabeth I ascended the throne), and then practicing medicine and teaching grammar school. The Path-Way to Health was published in 1596, 1608, 1632, 1644, 1654, and 1664. This medical journal was written in English at a time when all scholarly work was recorded in Latin. Levens believed that books written in unknown or difficult-to-understand languages hid knowledge from people, and those who hid such wisdom were guilty of “malice exceeding damnable and devillish.”

Dr. Clarke, who emigrated to Boston in 1637 and moved with the Hutchinsons and Dyers (and many others) to Rhode Island, returned to England from late 1652 to about 1664, where he was the Rhode Island agent or representative working for their interests, and where he practiced medicine in London. Three editions of Path-Way to Health were published during the times Dr. Clarke lived in England! It’s very likely that he would have known of, or possibly used, this journal. I wonder if he treated Newport families with these or other remedies from the book.
Visit of the Physician, by Gabriel Metsu, 1660s

Some of Path-Way’s suggested cures:

To cure baldness:
Take the ashes of Culver-dung [chicken dung] in Lye [potassium salts from ashes], and wash the head therewith.
Also, Walnut leaves beaten with Beares suet, restoreth the haire that is plucked away. Also, the leaves and middle rinde of an Oak sodden in water, and the head washed therewith, is very good for this purpose."

To take away haire in unwanted places:
Take the shels of two Egges, beat them small, and stil them with a good fire, and with that water annoynt the place; or else take hard Cats dung, dry it and beat it to powder, and temper it with strong Vineger, then wash the place with the same, where you would have no haire to grow.
Also, take the bloud of a Snaile without a shel, and it hindereth greatly the growing up of haire.
Also, take Labdanum [a sticky brown resin], the gum of a Ivie tree, Emmets Eggs, Arsenick and Vineger; and binde it to the place where you wil have no haire to grow.
Or boil Frankensence and Barrows grease into an ointment.

A remedy for louse nits:
Smear the scalp with the gall of a Calfe.

Where nails have been rent from the flesh:
A mixture of brimstone, arsnick and vinegar can ease pain.
Take Wheat flower, and mingle the same with Honey, and lay it to the nails, and it wil help them.

For stinking breath:
Wash the mouth out with water and vinegar, followed by a concoction of aniseed, mint and cloves sodden in wine.

For a stench under the armpits:
First, pluck away the haires of the arme holes, and wash them with white Wine and rosewater that cassialigna has been sodden in, and use it three or four times.

To help break wind in the belly [flatulence]:
Drink a mixture of cumin seeds, fennel seeds and aniseeds in wine three times a day.

For women with great bellies:
Take an handful of Isop, a handful of Herb-grace, a handful of Arsmart, and seethe all these herbs in a quart of Ale til it come to a pint, then preserve the same in a glass, and give the woman so grived a quarter of a pint at once, first in the morning and last at night.

For Womens paps [breasts] that arte rancled and be ful of ache:
Take Grounsel, and two times as much of Brouswort, and wash them both, and stamp them, and temper them with stale Ale, and straine it through a cloth, and give it to the Patient thereof first thing in the morning and last at night.
1517--Feldbuch diagram of blood-letting points.

Rules for Blood Letting:
The vein above the thumb is good against all fevers.
The vein between the thumb and the forefinger, let blood for the hot headache, for frenzy and madness of wit.
Also be ye always well advised, and wary, that ye let no blood, nor open no vein, except the Moon be either in Aries, Cancer, the first half of Libra, the last half of Scorpio, or in Sagittarius, Aquarius, or Pisces.

Hmmm, I wonder if the snail minded being “bled” outside of those prescribed times!

Most of us, even the back-to-natural-remedies folks, vegans, PETA supporters, and just plain squeamish (that would be me), give thanks for antiperspirant, moisturizer, Rogaine, tweezers or wax, antiseptic, mild soap and minty shampoo, analgesic burn ointments, Gax-X, toothpaste and breath fresheners. Not to mention hot showers any time we wish!


Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Dearest Dust

Lady Katherine Dyer and the epitaph to her beloved husband
Hand-holding effigies of Katherine Mortimer and Thomas Beauchamp,
Countess and Earl of Warwick, St. Mary's, Warwick.
Both died in 1369.

Guest post by Johan Winsser

In 1641 Lady Katherine Dyer erected in the church of St Denys in Colmworth, Bedfordshire, a large, ornate tomb to the memory of her beloved husband, Sir William Dyer, who died twenty years earlier at age 38. It is composed of prostrate statues of Sir William and Lady Katherine Dyer and below them, between the carved figures of Faith, Hope, and Charity, smaller statues of their seven surviving children and one grandchild, who died in infancy.

Inscribed on the tomb is the following remarkable epitaph.

If a large hart, joined with a noble minde
Shewing true worth unto all good inclin’d
If faith in friendship, justice unto all,
Leave such a memory as we may call
Happy, thine is; then pious marble keepe
His just fame waking, though his lov’d dust sleepe.
And though death can devoure all that hath breath,
And monuments them selves have had a death,
Nature shan't suffer this, to ruinate,
Nor time demolish’t, nor an envious fate,
Rais’d by a just hand, not vain glorious pride,
Who'd be concealed, wer’t modesty to hide
Such an affection did so long survive
The object of ’t; yet lov’d it as alive.
And this greate blessing to his name doth give
To make it by his tombe, and issue live.
Altar at St. Denys, Colmworth, Bedfordshire

My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowzy patience leave to stay
One hower longer: so that wee might either
Sate up, or gone to bedd together?
But since thy finisht labor hath possest
Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly; and thy widowe bride
Shall soone repose her by thy slumbering side;
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
My nightly dress, & call to prayer:
Mine eyes wax heavy & the day grows old,
The dew falls thick, my blood grows cold.
Draw, draw the closed curtayns: & make roome:
My deare, my dearest dust; I come, I come.

Sir William (1583-1621) was the eldest son of Sir Richard Dyer of nearby Great Staughton, Huntingdonshire, and therein closely related to the prominent West Country Dyers that included Sir James Dyer, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and Sir Edward Dyer, the Elizabethan courtier and poet. Sir William was an active man who was once called to account for hunting deer in the king’s park and on another occasion was party to a melee in which a man was killed. He was heir to a substantial estate, but owing to the early death of his father and his own youthfulness, came into straightened times that required him to lease and sell off much to meet his obligations.

Sir William’s sister Anne married first the much older Sir Edward Carre of Sleaford, Lincolnshire, and second, Sir Henry Cromwell, cousin to the future Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. While the ancestry of Mary Dyer’s husband William and his possible relationship to Anne (Dyer, Carre) Cromwell remains unknown, it is notable that Sleaford is adjacent to Kirkby Laythorpe, where William was born, that William did very well on behalf of Rhode Island (and himself) when he appeared before Cromwell’s Council of State seeking a new charter for Rhode Island and a privateering commission; and that Anne’s son, Sir Robert Carre, was in 1664 sent to New England, New York, and Delaware to bring those colonies to the king’s account—and on whose coattails William and Mary’s son William, quickly rose to be customs collector and mayor of New York.

Lady Katherine was the daughter of John D’Oyley of Merton, Oxfordshire, and stepdaughter of Sir James Harrington of Exton, Rutland. “My Dearest Dust” is often attributed to Katherine Dyer, but uncertainly so. It is a beautiful and sophisticated composition, and no other works known to be by Katherine have been identified. Certainly she had the intelligence, family background, and likely private education to write it. But did she, or did she borrow or commission it? Its intimacy—and that she never remarried—argues that she wrote it herself.

Of curious note is the detailed dress of the four Dyer sons portrayed on the monument. Although Bedfordshire and the prominent West Country Dyer families were for the most part royalist, and two of the sons are dressed as such, the other two are dressed as roundheads (Puritan parliamentarians), thus suggesting a sad division in this family.

And how long did Lady Katherine have to wait to join her husband? Thirty-three years.

Read more:
English Heritage report on St. Denys church of Colmworth   "There is a fine monument in the chancel to the memory of Sir William Dyer, kt., who died in 1621, at the age of thirty-six, and his wife Catharine, daughter and co-heir of John Doyley of Merton, Oxfordshire. It was put up in 1641 by his widow and is of alabaster and black marble, with a canopy having a central arched panel, containing heraldry flanked by scrolls carried by three Corinthian columns. Under it lie, at two levels, the alabaster effigies of Sir William and his wife, both excellent pieces of sculpture, and below on the panelled base, between figures of Faith, Hope and Charity, are four sons and three daughters, standing, their attitudes very effectively varied, their treatment and that of the three symbolic figures being very far removed from the dull, mechanical journeyman's work so often found at the time. At Lady Dyer's feet is a figure of Henry, her grandson, only son of Sir Lodowick Dyer, who died in infancy 22 September 1637. At the back are two large shields: Dyer quarterly impaling Doyley of twenty-three quarterings, and the Doyley coat. Over the columns are three shields showing marriages of the children: Dyer impaling Lozengy argent and gules, Gery impaling Dyer, and on a lozenge Dyer impaling Doyley."
Johan Winsser has been researching and writing about Mary Dyer for many years. Some of his research is found on his DyerFarm website. Thank you, Johan, for your contributions to Dyer genealogy research, and to this Dyer blog.