Saturday, December 23, 2017

The 17th century war on Christmas

© 2017 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.

From Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, by William Bradford, governor of Plymouth Colony.
He was writing of Christmas, 1621. 

Apparently, there was a "war on Christmas" long before Fox News Channel invented one. Puritans, Pilgrim separatists, Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, and almost every religious group in New England (except a few Anglicans and Catholics) treated Christmas as any other day on the calendar. 

Notice that Governor Bradford said it was a matter of “mirth,” not of “weight,” as if he didn’t want to make a big deal out of differences of opinion on the observance of Christmas. Among the separatist Pilgrims, there were Adventurers, those who were there primarily for commercial purposes, not for religious reasons. Bradford allowed them the liberty of their consciences.

I read a court record in the 1640s, where the Rhode Island colonial assembly met for regular business on December 25, as reported by the Rhode Island Recorder, William Dyer. 

So as the author of this William and Mary Barrett Dyer website, I wish you happy holy-days in whatever traditions and beliefs you and your family are free to cherish. The Dyers were part of the tapestry of religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all, that were encoded as freedom of religion and speech in the US Constitution.

Christy K Robinson 


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)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Soe Scandalous a Life

Or: The Evolution of a Novelist 
© 2017 Jo Ann Butler, by permission
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.

I’d like to share a bit about myself by way of introducing my latest book, The Golden Shore. It joins Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife in my Scandalous Life series, homage to Rhode Island’s diverse origins, and also to one of its most notorious rebels, Herodias Long.

I’ve been in love with colonial America for 45 years. The seeds of that love affair were planted by a 1961 National Geographic article about Pompeii. I was only 7, but I read that magazine to shreds. From that day on I longed to become an archeologist!

My first dig was not in the shadow of Vesuvius, but at an 18th century mill village Connecticut. That summer I was immersed in the durable minutiae of colonial life – stuff people threw away or lost – as I excavated a cellar dug in the mid-1700s, then filled with 18th century trash after the house burned.
Most of my finds were the stuff we leave behind at picnics today – bones, bottles, and food containers. Organic stuff – apple cores & such – decay quickly, but glass survives burial very well. I found scads of glass fragments, and a few intact bottles as well. Metal was precious, so they reused or reworked it, but pins, buttons, coins, nails, and children’s toys are easily lost, to be found by me.
Ceramics were the plastics of the colonial world. Clay is cheap, widely available, and more easily shaped than molten glass, but earthenware is also fragile, especially porcelain and fine tableware. I found shattered plates, mugs, and storage jars by the bucket load.

I went on to dig at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, site of a Revolutionary War victory over the British, and then at the burned-out home of Robert Livingston, a New York signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Do you see a trend here? I love colonial America, and can still guess the age of a ceramic chip by its glaze and design, a nail by its head and shank, and a bottle by tool marks on its neck and lip. I use that knowledge to set scenes and furnish Herodias Long’s home in my Scandalous Life series.

Then I tore up a knee, and had to quit archeology. It wasn’t long before Mom and I took up genealogy – more colonial America! Mom’s ancestry is top-heavy with Rhode Islanders, most of them younger sons with no chance to inherit the family farm. They were given their portions and told, in essence, “Go west, young man." 

Cast out, or trailblazing? My forefathers were Rhode Island’s founders, creating one town after another because, as one researcher quipped, nobody wanted to live with anybody else. In 1636 Roger Williams, champion of Rhode Island’s freedom of worship, was cast out of Salem, Mass., for heresy. Several families followed him, and they built Providence. A few years later, those who preferred Samuel Gorton’s firebrand preaching followed him south to build at Warwick.

The Puritans left England because they didn’t want to live with Anglicans. In 1637 Anne Hutchinson’s heresy spurred them to eject her and her numerous followers, and they created Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Two years later, yet another factional schism sent a large group, including George Gardner and the Dyer family, to the far end of the island, where they built Newport.

At the same time, John Hicks and his fourteen-year old wife Herodias arrived from Weymouth, MA, seeking new opportunities as described in Rebel Puritan. I am proud to claim Herodias and George Gardner as my most notorious ancestors. The child bride Herodias (Long) Hicks, or Herod, as I spell the shortened name she used, is the inspiration of my Scandalous Life series. 
Butler's trilogy, screenshot from Amazon.
The books are listed in reverse order.

The Gardners’ children, along with other second-generation Rhode Islanders, bought huge tracts of land from the Indians and built Kingstown on the western shore of Narragansett Bay. Their children prospered on that golden shore.

George Gardner never left Newport to live in Kingstown, but Herod did. Though he was near 60, John Porter also left his home – and his aged wife – for Kingstown. Why? I set forth my thoughts in The Golden Shore.

Genealogy led me to these intriguing persons, but when I work up a family line, I am never content with a list of names and birth dates. Why did a family leave a community – was it a shortage of land or a natural disaster? Were they exchanging one preacher for another? Were they seeking a fresh start or were they cast out? These are the sort of questions a novelist loves, and many are answered by town histories and colonial records.

Each leaf I painted on my family tree added to my knowledge of New England’s history, politics, and what misbehavior was considered worthy of punishment. As the title of my series hints, Herod Long’s contemporaries considered her scandalous. Early genealogists agreed. They described her as erratic, impulsive, and neurotic. Perhaps so, but Herod had good reasons to feel cranky.

In Rebel Puritan, Herod gave a petition to Rhode Island’s governor in December 1643, begging to be divorced from John Hicks. She preferred to subject herself to any misery than to live with his abuse. Even though Governor Coddington found ample evidence of Hicks’ inhumane and barbarous behavior and cruel blows on divers parts of her bodie, he persuaded them to try married life again.
Six months later Hicks had not reformed, as an order to pay a substantial bond to ensure his good behavior shows. Instead, he vanished, taking the couple’s young children with him. At the end of 1644 a letter surfaced from Hicks, now living on Long Island. He declared that he wanted nothing more to do with Herod, for the Knot of affecion on her part have been untied long since, and her whoredome have freed my conscience. Shortly thereafter, Herod was living with George Gardner, bore a son to him in 1645, and that is where Rebel Puritan ends.
For a post about a land deed from 
William and Mary Dyer to
George Gardner in 1644, click HERE.

A colonial soap opera, right? Yes, and no. I prefer a broader viewpoint, and include the tumultuous alliances and divisions of New England’s early history, largely forgotten these days.

As for what drew me to Herod Long, I like kick-ass women, and her character shines over the 400 years and 11 generations that separate us. Also, looking at that big picture again, Rebel Puritan, The Reputed Wife, and now The Golden Shore let me explore the impact that our foremothers had on the formation of New England. 

What impact could colonial women have? After all, we’ve all heard that they lived humble lives. Married women couldn’t enter contracts, and very few were literate. Herod was typical when she signed documents with an X.

Paintings of the first Thanksgiving depict Pilgrim women serving food (I can set a colonial table with ease thanks to my archeology background), but that’s not all they did. They gardened, sewed and spun, and cared for livestock, but they also defended their homes if need arose.

With primitive forms of contraception deemed evil, women bore children one after another (with many births recorded only under the father’s name). Divorces due to abandonment, infidelity, or abuse were rare, but even an abusive man kept his children unless he didn’t want them. Herod lost her children when John Hicks abandoned her.

If a woman brought land to a marriage, it became her husband’s. Herod received an inheritance, but bitterly complained in a petition that John Hicks took it from her. Yes, he did, and it was completely legal.

Women weren’t allowed to vote, but the same was true of men who weren’t approved by the town. Puritan colonies took it even further – men who were not church members could not vote, and they would not be admitted to membership if their beliefs were unorthodox.

Women could be church members, but could not preach. When Anne Hutchinson critiqued Puritan sermons in her own home, Massachusetts’ government jailed and banished her, and her heretical soul was condemned to hell.

The Puritans came to regret their actions, for that strong-willed woman’s charisma was responsible for the existence of Rhode Island. Before Anne Hutchinson’s exile, no Englishmen lived near Narragansett Bay, apart from a few traders and Roger Williams’ fledgling Providence.

When Anne was cast out, some 80 families followed her, establishing towns on land they bought from the Narragansett Indians. The Puritan colonies – Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Connecticut – indignantly claimed the Narragansett Bay region, but King Charles I gave Rhode Island a charter anyway and validated its deeds.

Mary Dyer, prominent in The Reputed Wife, was one of many Quaker missionaries who preached in defiance of law. Many Rhode Islanders were receptive to the Quakers’ message, but when they preached in Puritan colonies, they were punished with increasing severity. Herod Gardner carried her infant daughter 60 miles through wilderness to protest the whippings and brandings, and was herself jailed and whipped. Two years later, Mary Dyer and several Quaker men were hanged in Boston for defying banishment.

English Quakers reported the barbarities to the newly-enthroned King Charles II, already no friend of Puritans (who had deposed and beheaded his father). Especially horrified by the abuse of women, including Mary Dyer and Herod Gardner, he ordered the hangings to cease. Charles praised Rhode Island’s liberty of conscience – freedom to worship as one chose without molestation, upheld Rhode Island’s charter and protected them from encroachment by Puritan colonies. 

These women truly influenced American history. Anne Hutchinson’s popularity with liberal-minded colonists led directly to the creation of Rhode Island. The sacrifices of Mary Dyer, Herodias, and the other Quakers, influenced a king to support Rhode Island’s freedom of worship – a concept enshrined a century later in the Declaration of Independence.
Unfortunately, it took much longer for women to gain legal rights, but their struggles are a dominant theme in my books. In The Golden Shore, Herod again faces the loss of her children and property to her husband – actually her unwed domestic partner of two decades, as she reveals to the court. What will she do to retain her independence, and what will she surrender for love? As we saw in Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife, Herod is capable of great sacrifice, and great strength.

Many women endured horrible marriages because they feared their abusive husbands’ revenge, but though she faced impoverishment and humiliation, Herod Long stood up and said, “I want out.”
In The Reputed Wife, Herod stood up to Massachusetts’ Puritan governor and said, “Torturing people for their beliefs is wrong.” Whether she acted from faith or pure humanity; Herod walked into harm’s way to defend them, knowing what would happen.

In The Golden Shore, Herod stands up again when a relationship goes sour. She seeks a second legal separation, but it’s clear that she learned a lesson from John Hicks. This time she asks for ownership of land she worked for, child custody, and support for her youngest daughter.

Genealogists are familiar with these details of Herod Long’s life, but I won’t reveal any more secrets here. However, in The Golden Shore I sought solutions that work for everyone, and leave my characters as friends – and more. Hopefully they will leave readers content as well.

Jo Ann Butler is an archaeologist, musician, 17th-century researcher, and the author of three books and numerous articles on early-colonial America. She lives in Fulton, New York.  Her website is and her Amazon author page is HERE.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Announcing new Dyer book, by Johan Winsser

Occasional guest blogger, Johan Winsser, announces the publication of his scholarly study of Mary and William Dyer.

Winsser's book, published Nov. 13, 2017, is
available on Amazon, at

“An authoritative and careful biography of Mary Dyer and her husband, William, which breaks new ground, dispels common beliefs, and balances both the Quaker and puritan sides of the story.”
—H. Larry Ingle, author of First Among Friends: George Fox and the Creation of Quakerism

“A well-researched and balanced work that makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the people and issues of the seventeenth-century Atlantic world.”
—Francis Bremer, author of John Winthrop: American’s Forgotten Founding Father

Mary Dyer is widely esteemed as one of the “Boston martyrs”— four Quakers hanged by the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1659 and 1661. When she returned to Boston in 1660, after having been banished twice from Massachusetts, she committed an act of deliberate civil disobedience that cost her her life, led to the downfall of the puritan government, and advanced the fundamental principles of freedom of conscience and expression.

More than three-and-a-half centuries later, the state continues to exercise its mandate to preserve the peace and social order, while also protecting the constitutional exercise of free speech and self-expression. The challenge, always, has been to identify and then enforce the balance between the rights of individuals or groups to practice their beliefs, and the rights of others to likewise enjoy their liberties. The story of the Dyers—especially Mary’s story—is how that challenge played out between the New England puritans and the Quakers, and how her life and death shaped the outcome of that conflict.

Breaking New Ground: A Partial List
·      Gloucestershire, Saint Martin’s, and the Dyer Origins
·      The Dyers and the London Antinomian Underground
·      The Case for William Dyre’s Previously Unidentified Brother
·      William Dyre’s Second Return to England
·      The Dyre Portrait
·      Mary Dyer, the Quakers, and the Limits of Toleration

Johan Winsser is a former college professor, telecommunications engineer, and competitive runner. He is the author of several academic articles related to Mary Dyer and early New England, and now pursues his interests as an independent scholar. He lives with his family in the Northwest Hills of Connecticut.  For more information, visit .

Monday, October 30, 2017

Reflector ovens…in the 17th century?!

© March 9, 2012 by Carolina Capehart

On Facebook recently [2012] there was quite a lively discussion, as well as plenty of oooohhhing and ahhhhhing, amongst my assorted friends about the tin (or is it copper?) reflector oven that’s depicted in the painting below:

This is entitled simply “The Cook.” It was done by the Dutch painter Gabriel Metsu (1629-1667) and was most likely completed by him at some point between 1657 and 1662.

Yes, you read that correctly: between the years 1657 and 1662. Indeed, Metsu was a mid-17th century painter.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit it: I thought these ovens were only in use during the 19th, maybe the very late 18th, century (at least here in America). I’m not really sure why. I’ve used them often, but I’ve never really given it much thought. I’ve never investigated whether they were available/used earlier. Of course, I’ve done quite a bit of 18th century hearth cooking, but my main focus has typically been the 19th. Not to mention, that’s the time period in which I was initially trained (at Conner Prairie, back when the year 1836 was the focus). However, based on this painting, apparently reflector ovens were around, even as early as the mid-1600s.

At the same time, though, it is a Dutch painting. So perhaps reflector ovens were common in Europe, even during the 17th century, but were they also used on this side of the pond? It seems likely that they may’ve been imported. Or perhaps they were made here. However, I think it is generally believed that being a tinsmith was more of an 1800s profession. You know, due to British control of manufactured goods, that sort of thing. Or, perhaps not? It’d definitely be interesting to research this further, and to look at store inventories, newspaper ads, ship records, and other assorted documents, to see if, and when, such ovens were made in, or transported to, the colonies.

In any event, when this painting and the ensuing discussion took place on Facebook, I remembered a passage I’d read in Prospect Books’ facsimile reprint of Hannah Glasse’s book, The Art of Cookery, made Plain & Easy (1747). In the glossary is this definition (and illustration) of “Tin Oven”: The reference to a tin oven, [on page] 91, is to the ‘Dutch oven’ which was in common use and which stood in front of the fire. The food being cooked was exposed to direct heat and also to reflected heat from the polished tin interior. A door in the back could be opened to permit viewing and basting.

Now, what’s interesting is that all the receipts on page 91 in Glasse’s book are for fish, and only one specifically calls for cooking the dish in “a Tin Oven.” It’s the receipt [recipe] “Salmon in Cases.” The instructions say to wrap salmon pieces in paper and “lay them on a Tin Plate.” It then states that “a Tin Oven before the Fire does best” (I imagine as opposed to a brick bake oven). Which, of course, obviously means that the fish is not put on the spit!

So, in a typical tin reflector oven, where would you put a plate of fish “in cases”? On the floor/bottom of it? But that puts it too low in relationship to the fire, yes? So, in order to gain some height, could the plate perhaps be balanced on top of the spit? Could that work, would it stay securely? (I’m thinking maybe, but not likely?) Then I thought, “Well, perhaps Glasse means one of those tin ovens with a shelf? The ones that are often used for small breads (either loose or in a pan)?” And if so, does that mean those types of tin ovens were also around in the early to mid 18th century? Makes perfect sense, yes? Or no? And so, is there possibly a slight problem with this glossary’s definition of “Tin Oven”: i.e. it’s not just the ones with a spit and basting door, but it’s also other types?

Luckily for me, I was scheduled to cook again at the hearth in the kitchen of the Israel Crane House on Sunday, March 1, which meant I’d be able to conduct my own experiments.

I could figure out just how this fish receipt was to be cooked. What fun!

So, stay tuned!

For the results of Carolina’s experiment with reflector ovens, along with photos, see her blog article: 

*****  *****  *****
 Carolina Capehart, who passed away in April 2017, dabnabit (one of her favorite words), was a friend of those of us who study and report on the 17th century.  This is my remembrance of Carolina:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Clothing fashions during the Dyers' lifetimes--part 2

© 2017  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.

This post is the second of two, on fashions of the early and mid-17th century, during the lifetimes of William and Mary Barrett Dyer and Anne and William Hutchinson. I tried to cover the various social strata. Part one of the fashion parade is HERE.

25. 1630s: Posthumous Portrait of Mary Fielding,
by Anthony Van Dyck

26. Lady Penelope Nicholas Wearing a Brown Dress and White Chemise

27. 1630s: Portrait of Miss May, by John Michael Wright

28. 1637: Lucy Percy, Countess of Carlisle.
Her husband was governor of Barbados.

29. 1638: Anne Carr, Countess of Bedford

30. 1640s: Frances, Lady Whitelock, 1614-1649, by Michael Dahl

31. 1649-Gloves worn to his execution by King Charles I

32. 1640s: A royalist's child is interrogated by Roundheads
(puritans/parliamentarians) during the Civil Wars.
"When did you last see your father?"

33. 1640s-Esther Tradescant and son detail,
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Was Esther murdered for her husband's valuable

34. English puritan children

35. Dutch colonists in New Netherland (New York)

36. 1640s-50s: Lady Elizabeth Cromwell, daughter of Oliver Cromwell

37. 1655: Woman Writing a Letter, by Gerard Terborch

38. Woman Reading a Letter, by Jan Vermeer

39. A woman arranging flowers, by William Bradford.

40. 1650s-60s: Lady Elizabeth Cromwell
41.  ca 1630s: Anna Dalkeith, Countess of Morton and Lady Anna Kirk

42. ca 1640s-50s: Anne Dudley Bradstreet, 1612-1672,
Massachusetts Bay Colony pioneer. Her father was
Governor Thomas Dudley, and her husband,
Simon Bradstreet, also became governor.

43. 1660: Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-feather Fan,
by Rembrandt

44. 1670s: Elizabeth Clarke Freake and Baby Mary

45. Netherlands family group: The Christmas Feast or St. Nicholas Feest, by Jan Steen.
The puritan English did not observe Christmas, and no New Englanders
celebrated Christmas, as it was considered too close to Catholicism.
I like the details of new toys, new shoes, food treats, and all the children happy
but the boy--I wonder what disappointed him?

46. Late 1600s (or more likely early 1700s): An English family group.
Notice the extended family of grandparents, adult children, and grandchildren.

47. 1660s-Man and woman holding hands

Christy K Robinson is author of these books:

We Shall Be Changed (2010) 

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)   

Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 (2014) 

The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport Vol. 3 (2014)  

Effigy Hunter (2015)   

Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)


And of these sites:  

Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)

Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)

William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)

Mary Dyer Illuminated (Vol. 1)
Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (Vol. 2)
The DYERS of London, Boston & Newport (Vol. 3)

All are available in paperback and Kindle at