Thursday, December 27, 2007

Family Feud . . . 17th century Style

Today I was entering some information into my genealogy database regarding my Perkins family in Essex County, Massachusetts. The source for the information came from Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County Massachusetts; volume IV, 1667-1671. Salem, Mass.: Essex Institute, 1914. I found what appears to be a feud between the Perkins and Brabrooke families.

In the September 1668 minutes, there was the case of "Richard Brabrooke v. Abraham Perkins. Trespass upon a replevin. Verdict for defendant. Court did not accept the verdict."

In the footnotes, this is further explained that there was a writ of replevin dated 11 August 1668 which was for 15 or 16 cattle belonging to Richard Brabrook (his name is spelled several ways throughout the proceedings recorded) which had been impounded by Abraham Perkins. I wish I knew a little more about the case, but it appears that some cows got into the corn. Some of the statements in the footnotes are rather interesting. "John Willestone and Jacob Perkins deposed that none of the cattle that went on the common were known to break into this corn, etc. Sworn in court." "James Giddings and John Anddruse deposed that they were present when Abr. Perkins sent his man John Williestone to Brabrock, etc. They appraised the damage at twenty bushels." "John Burnam, sr. deposed that he saw Perkins drive this unruly bullock to the pound, which animal had taken a post out of the ground from a fence and carried it away. Sworn in court." "Thomas Watts deposed concerning Brabrok's cattle. Sworn in court." Wouldn't you love to know what he said about those cows? Here's my favorite line: "Samuell Roggers and John Browne, sr., deposed that they being appointed by the town to view a fence adjoining the common in the new pasture, when they came near, said how can any man expect to save any corn by such a fence, etc. Sworn in court." [p. 49]

That was rather interesting, in and of itself, but a few pages over, also in the September 1668 minutes is something even more fascinating. It involves a 16 year old Brabrooke and Jacob Perkins, which I presume to be the uncle of Abraham rather than his brother. "Mehittabell Brabrooke, complained of for suspicion of setting a house on fire, being convicted of extreme carelessness if not wilfully burning the house, was ordered to be severely whipped, and to pay 40li. damage to Jacob Perkins." The footnotes tell the story that while her Master Jacob Perkins and his wife were in town that she basically burned the house down with her pipe. I read over the way she claims it happened, and I'm afraid that I have to agree that there is no way that she was telling the truth that it was an accident. In fact, it seems odd that she looked back and saw the fire, and then didn't tell Abraham Perkins' wife Hannah when she went across the field. Instead she appears to have been trying to keep the fire from being discovered until it was well underway. She did finally make a comment about the fire. My favorite deposition in the case is from Goodwife Brag who testified that "she heard Goodwife Brabrock say that Mehitabell was a filthy, unchaste creature." [pp. 56-57]

It doesn't stop there . . . I've read ahead and have already found a case involving the same names and their witnesses at odds with one another in a slander suit. [pp. 76-77]

It sounds to me like a family feud. I suspect that those on both sides of this dispute would have never imagined that a little over 100 years later that members on both sides of the feud would marry one another.

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