Saturday, July 22, 2017

The new church and the pastor's battle with a chicken

Enjoy this guest post, a slice of life in 1682 New England.
© 2017 Ken Horn

Those old, stern Puritans. I love to study them. And because they are my ancestors, and some of my forebears experienced persecution at the hands of their ministers and leaders, I love to criticize them. But Puritan clergy were not always the staid, stern destroyers of all that might be enjoyable.

Old Tunnel Meeting House, Lynn, Mass., 1682.
Notice the signature of "Jeremiah Shepard," the hero of
this story.
Photo: Digital Commonwealth, Massachusetts Collections Online
I came across a delightful account of a feast given at the dedication of the Old Tunnel Meeting-House in Lynn, Mass., in 1682:
"Ye Deddication Dinner was had in ye greate barne of Mr. Hoode which by reason of its goodly size…. Ye kine [cattle] that were wont to be there were forced to keep holiday in the field."

Kine "forced to keep holiday in the field." Better than
being on the menu!
Photo: Colonial Williamsburg
 Though the cows were out and the place had been swept and cleaned, it appears that “the fowls persisted in flying in and roosting over the table, scattering feathers and hay on the parsons beneath.” The writer was apparently too delicate to mention what else they might be scattering on the parsons and the table beneath.

The sitcom begins when a Reverend Mr. Shepard runs afoul of a fowl: 
The fowl might have been upset at the loss of a family
member or two, for purposes of the meal.
"Mr. Shepard's face did turn very red and he catched up an apple and hurled it at ye birds. But he thereby made a bad matter worse for ye fruit being well aimed it hit ye legs of a fowl and brought him floundering and flopping down on ye table, scattering gravy, sauce and divers things upon our garments and in our faces. But this did not well please some, yet with most it was a happening that made great merryment.”

The banquet ended with some "mawdlin songs and much roistering laughter."

The account ends: "So noble and savoury a banquet was never before spread in this noble town, God be praised."

Indeed. One wonders how long it took for townfolk to pass by the unfortunate Rev. Mr. Shepard without snickering. And this would surely come to mind every time the poor parson preached.

Rev. Jeremiah Shepard, 1648-1720, was the son of Thomas Sheperd, one of three inquisitors of Anne Marbury Hutchinson while she was incarcerated in Joseph Weld's home in Roxbury during the harsh winter of 1637-38.

For more on Rev. Jeremiah Shepard, who was a strange bird himself, see Wikipedia.

Also see the 1905 book, Life of Rev. Jeremiah Shepard: Third Minister of Lynn, 1680-1720,  by John Joseph Mangan.  Rev. Shepard was accused of wizardry in the Salem witch trials and narrowly escaped trial and imprisonment.

Dr. Ken Horn is a minister and author, a history-loving descendant of Anne and William Hutchinson and William and Mary Dyer, and lives in Springfield, Missouri.

1 comment:

  1. A most entertaining post—but Ken's relation is unlike anything I have ever read in the seventeenth century records. So I did a quick Internet search for its origins (perhaps Ken knows better) and tracked it back to James Robinson Newhall (1809-1893). Newhall was a "self-made man," a newspaper entrepreneur, a self-taught lawyer, and, later, an amateur historian of Lynn, Massachusetts. His memorial biography in a New England Historical and Genealogical Society publication compares his historical writing to that of Washington Irving. Until someone can refer me to a contemporary source, caveat emptor!


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