The Quaker's righteous indignation and uppity-female speech scarred her for life.
© 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
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
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.
SCOTT TO JOHN WINTHROP, JR.
the hand of John Winthrop called Governor, at Harvard in New
England, there deliver with trust.
Providence, this 17 June 1658
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,
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.
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,
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
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
Well, conspicuous if you have
learned about the lives and accomplishments of a certain set of people in a
particular time and place.
This article on Katherine Marbury Scott was first published in the book, The DYERS of London, Boston, & Newport,
copyright 2014 by Christy K Robinson, published by CreateSpace. It is available in paperback and Kindle editions.
Christy K Robinson is author of the books: