Roger Terrill stands up before the Court on behalf of his brother-in-law

by Conrad W. Terrill and Nancy Tyrrel Theodore, July 2009

This story is comprised of two Jurisdiction of New Haven Court cases in which Roger Terrill was involved. We have decided to let the Court records tell the story, in their own words, and in their own spelling! The two cases tell us something about everyday life in the Ufford household in Milford in the 1650s. Of course the household experienced better days, but you wouldn’t expect to find records of those in Court proceedings. These records here may be all that are available to us.

When Thomas Ufford’s son John was charged with fornication with the maid (an extremely serious charge in Puritan times), Thomas, undoubtedly failing in health, asked son-in-law Roger Terrill to stand in for him at Court. So Roger stood in for Thomas and lent support to John by his presence there. And John and the maid, Martha Netleton, were let off without corporal punishment (whew!), although both had to pay hefty fines to the Jurisdiction. And happily, but perhaps unexpectedly, the Court decided to permit John and Martha to marry, which is what they fervently wished to do. The Court felt compelled, however, to warn both Martha and her father that previously, at the time of the divorce proceedings between John and his first wife, Hannah, the Court had decided that John was unworthy of marriage, and had forbidden him to remarry.

The case had a further unexpected twist: The Court decided to re-examine the divorce case since it now appeared that Hannah, who had since remarried, had not been guiltless. This second case was perhaps held on a later day of this same session of the Court. It quickly becomes apparent in the proceedings that the marriage between John and Hannah was an arranged one, and that no one considered it necessary to get Hannah’s approval. From the start, Hannah was a rebellious bride. We won’t spoil the story by telling more of it in this prologue. We’ll just comment that when a panel of Puritan magistrates brought up the possibility of the death penalty with regard to your case, thoughts of continuing a rebellious stance vanished, and complete compliance with conditions of the Court’s more lenient decision became a matter of utmost urgency!


From: Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New Haven, from May 1653, to the Union, together with the New Haven Code of 1656, by Charles J. Hoadly, M.A., Hartford: Case, Lockwood and Co., 1858. (OCR-transcribed by Google, and proofed by CWT.)

[Case 1: from pp. 201-202]

AT A COURT OF MAGISTRATS HELD AT NEWHAUEN FOR THE JURISDICTION, THE 25th 3d Mo: 1657.

Present.

Theophilus Eaton, Esqr, Gouernor.
Mr. Stephen Goodyeare, Dept. Gour.
Francis Newman, }
Mr. Benja: Fenn, } Magistrats.
Mr. William Leete, }


John Vffoote was called before the court, and charged wth committing fornication wth Martha Netleton, wch was his fathers seruant, and first was read what had passed at a former court, when his wife and he was deuourced, and he was told that he might obserue thereby how carefull the court was to doe nothing in that buisnes but vpon cleere ground, wch they had then from himself, that he was not fitt for that relation, neither wth that woman nor wth any other, and judged so himselfe yt he neuer should be fitt, wch was also confirmed by his father. Now it is a strange thing, that after all this he should miscary in this manner.


John Vffoote confessed that he had committed filthyness wth this woman, Martha Netleton, and that she was wth child by him, and professed he was sorey for his sinn therein committed against God, but yet desires the court to consider the case, [132] being before (though by his owne fault) || deuourced for insufficieney, wch he hopes might in time haue appeared otherwise, if his wife had caryed it toward him as she ought, but now findeing the neede of that help, was by ye power of temptation and corruption in his owne heart ouercome, he desired the court would be fauourable to him, and yt he might haue libertie to marry this woman Martha, wch is his fathers desire also, as Rogger Terrill who is appointed by his father did now declare to the court, and goodman Netleton, the father of the woman, being prsent desired ye same also.


Martha Netleton confessed that she hath committed fornication wth John Vffoote, and is wth child by him, wch was in Nouembr last; she was told there are some suspitions that she hath caryed it ill wth some other p[er]son, but she denyed it and said she is as innocent in that case as the child new-borne.


The Court hauing considered the case did declare, that as things are now represented to them, they thinke he is not vncapeable of marriage, howeuer things haue passed formerly, wch they intend to inquire after. The fact now committed they thinke deserues corporall punishment, but considering she is wth child, and as they vnderstand hath some faynting fitts and so may be apt to receive hurt by it; they haue considered his case also as it hath bine presented, and by way of sentenc doe order, that John Vffoote paye, as a fine to the jurisdiction, tenn pound, and that Martha Netleton paye, as a fine to the jurisdiction, five pound, and if further miscariage be proued hereafter, they must expect to heare of it againe, and for the marriage, the court is willing that attending the law in that case, and proceeding in a sober way, they may marry so soone as they shall see convenient for ym; but she and her father were told that they haue heard what hath passed concerning formerly, and yet notwthstanding by this their desire they show that they judg him a man fitt for that relation, and therefore how-euer things may proue, they haue no cause to make any more questions in that case; they all declared themselues satisfyed in that p[ar]ticuler.


[Case 2: from pp. 209-212]

John Beard and his wife Hannah, wch was formerly the wife of John Vffoote, was called before the court, and she was told that the court hath heard sunderie reports of her ill cariage, wth wch they are much vnsatisfyed, and p[ar]ticulerly that she did not cary herselfe as a wife towards Jno Vffoote when she stood in that relation to him, but hath wthdrawne that loue and respect wch she ought to haue showed, and hath showed more familiaritie and content in ye company of others then was meete and comely for one in that relation. It is reported that vpon marriage day to Jno Vffoote, she should say that she was resolued to keepe herselfe a maide for one yeare, and there be more then one that say that John Woods reported this, that his wife then liuing at Milford heard her say so. Hannah Beard said that she remembers it not.

John Vffoote who in this case complained as haueing bin wronged by her, presented some testimonies to the court, wch were read, wherein Mris. Ferman, Elizabeth Hinde ye wife of Tho: Hinde, and Isabell Langden the wife of Tho: Langden, doe joyntly and seuerally affirme that they heard goodwife Beard say when she was Jno Vffoots wife, when a fast was kept at old Vffoots house, I did not fast, but filled my belly as full as I could, and when they prayde one way I prayde another way. This Hannah Beard acknowledged was true, and said it was her great sinn for wch she is sorey; she was told it is a high p[ro]vokation of God, and that wch sheweth a prophane spirit in her, beside the discouery of her spirit in refferrenc to John Vffoote who was then her husband. This fast was kept [137] to seeke God to fitt him for his duty toward her, || but it seemes she had no desire that should be obtayned, but rather that he might continew vnable still, (if it were so,) that she might thereby wringe herself from him, for when they prayd God to fitt him, she praide otherwise.

Thomas Hinde, his wife, and goodw: Langden doe testifye they heard the said Hannah Beard say, that if she was p[ar]ted from John Vffoote, she would quickly be married againe, and also that they heard her say at another time, when she was Jno Vffoots wife, that John Vffoote was a foole and she could make him say what she listed. These things were fully proued, and she denyed them not, and was told that the carriages doe show that she had no wife like affection to John Vffoote, wch might make him say as he did; and John Vffoote now said that she told him if he would confesse himselfe insufficient, she would liue wth him halfe a yeare longer, and in that time he hoped it might appeare otherwise, whereby he was drawne to say as he did, but it was his great sinn, but ye said Hannah denyed that euer she said so to him. Another writeing from Mris. Ferman was read, wherein it is testifyed that she heard goodw: Beard say, when she was John Vffoots wife, that it is a pittious case that she must liue wth one that she did neuer loue. The court told her that they haue heard of some vnsuitable carriage wth other men, and in p[ar]ticuler one that Mr. Hudson can speake to, who was called, and affirmed that while this woman was Jno Vffoots wife, he being occasionally at Milford in the winter time, some snow being newly fallen, and he not very well, wanted a horss to come home, he mett wth a sea-man, whose name he desirs to conceale, that told him that he could help him to one, and he had him to John Vffoots; they went into the house and this young man asked for his wife, he said she was not at home, she was gone to Newhaven, they sat downe a while and tooke a pipe of tobaco, and in that time she came home and there was such mutuall familiaritie betwixt this sea-man and her as he thought was vnseemely and he was troubled at it; the man was knowne to be loose and vayne in his life and conversation, and his cariage a greife to his relations, but she called him brother, and he called her sister, and there was some whispering betwixt them, holding their faces neere together, manyfesting much intimacy, and when they were come forth he asked him how they came so familiar, he said he vsed to frequent the house, but the magistrate heard of it and threatened him, and then he durst goe no more, but then they improued ye night season, and went into the meeting house and discoursed together. Goodw: Beard was asked what she said to this, she owned what was said was true, onely that aboute the meeting house she denyed, but said that the generallitie of her carriage hath bine vnsuitable for a wife, yet she had bine no hinderanc to him in way of conjugall duty, wherevpon some other testimonies were read, formerly taken by Capt. Astwood, brought then to cleere his sufficiency and her refusall, for ye first Obed Soward, Francis French and some other affirme, the p[ar]ticulers whereof modesty suffers not to mention, but ye summ is that it showes an appearanc of his sufficiency before marriage, for the second, vizt, her refusall, Thom: Langden vpon oath affirmeth, that lying at goodman Vffoots one night in the chamber ouer ye roome where Jno Vffoote & his wife lay, he heard them discourse together and heard her say, if he would not let her alone, she would goe out of ye bed and lye in ye floore, after he spake to her of it, she owned ye words, but gaue this as the reason, that her husband would not let her [138] haue any cloathes to couer || her. This was the night after the day of humiliation had bine at goodman Vffoots.


Edward Camp now in court affirmed, that he lay one night at goodman Vffoots, in the chamber ouer the roome where John Vffoote and his wife lay, and when they were in bed he heard say plainely, stand away, let me alone; some body laye wth him whom he asked the reason of this disturbanc, and he said alass that was nothing to what they sometime haue.


Mr. Fenn said that he hath heard that sometime ther hath bine such disturbance as the old man hath bine faine to rise out of his bed and call to ym, and wish his daughter to attend advice.


Goodwife Beard was told that these things doe make it probable that she hath willfully refused to doe her duty to her husband, but she would not owne it. Mr. Hawley, brother to ye said Hannah Beard, now informed the court, that Mris. Astwood told him, that her husband Capt. Astwood told her, that Jno Vffoote hath said ther was no blame one her part; wch is no maruell if he should, seeing she hath said he was a foole and she could make him say what she lists.


Richard Baldwine, being desired by her and her brother, had libertie to speake, and informed that she yeilds herselfe guilty of much euill and of many vnworthey and vnsuitable cariages for one in such estate as she was, (and feares she may be culpable of punishmt thereby,) specially before the courts counsell to her, but after she yeilded her-selfe and sought help from him, but Rogger Terrill who spake for old Vffoote said that the night after the courts admonition, she refused and run out of bed. Mr. Fenn said old goodman Vffoote spake to the same purpose, and Thomas Langdens testimony lookes that way, being the night after ye humiliation, and for her seekeing help of him, Jno Vffoote saith that one time she spake something that way, but it was in scorne.


The Court hauing heard these seuerall passages, tooke the matter into serious consideration, and doe conceiue that the former deuource, in respect of them wch procuried it, seemes to be a horrible sinn, and goodwife Beard hath cause to lay it sadly to heart, for the scope of the proofe seemes to runn that way as if she did refuse her duty and befooled him and drawne him to say what she listed, to force herselfe out of his hand. And were the thing fully proued, it could be no less then death, for he that puts away his wife, except it be for fornication, and marries another, committs adultery, and the same law is in case of ye woman. But vpon the proofe as it is, the court doth judg that it deserues to be punished both wth fine and corporall punishment, but considering of Hannah Beard as a wife and subject to some weakness, wch the court would not increase, therfore they shall pass it wth a fine, and seeing she did receive of Jno Vffoote formerly thirty pound for wrong done by him to her, wch now appeares otherwise, that she therfore repaye him that thirty pound back againe, and for the charge and trouble the jurisdiction hath bine at in this buisnes, that she pay ten pound as a fine to ye jurisdiction, and that she make a full acknowledgmt, both here and at Milford, of her miscariages as it hath now appeared, and if after any further fact be proued, the court must take the matter into consideration againe and possibly come to another sentence. Goody Beard now before the court and many witnesses owned her sinn and acknowledged herselfe guilty of these miscariages as hath bine related.