History of Springfield, MA
Pages 49 - 88
LOCATION OF THE FIRST MEETING HOUSE.
There is nothing in the town records to show where religious services were first held. In the absence of a meeting house it is probable that they were conducted at the residence of some of the settlers, at thehouse of William Pynchon, at Mr. Moxon's or possibly elsewhere. The first mention of a meeting house is under date of January 10, 1645, when it was voted that every inhabitant should give 28 days' work toward such purpose, no man to be required to work over six days at a time. It was first voted to take forty rods of land from the lot of Thomas Stebbins, but later six rods square was deemed sufficient, and for the re-mainder of the forty rods Stebbins was to allow a rod in breadth fro a way to the training field. February 28, 1645, a bargain was made with Thomas Cooper to build the meeting-house It was to be 40 feet long, 25 wide, nine feet between joints, to have four large windows, two on each side and one on each end. There were to be two turrets, one for the bell and the other for a watch-house. It was to be completed by the 30th of September at an expense of 80 pounds. On the 26th of March, less than one month, the town acknowledged that Cooper had fulfilled his bargain. He was to receive in payment, "wheate, pease, pork, wampum, debts and labor." It stood, as is generally known, on the south side of our present Court Square, a few feet back from Main Street, near what is now Elm Street on which it faced.
This lot was originally Henry Gregory's, but when he withdrew from the town and went to Connecticut, Thomas Stebbins, son of Rowland, purchased it. On this spot was erected the first building devoted to religious worship in this State west of Boston and vicinity, and the first public building for any purpose in Springfield. This was the beginning of our present First Church. Thomas Cooper, the builder of the meeting-house, came with John Stiles' company from England to Windsor, removing thence to Springfield when still a young man.
In 1650 John Pynchon appears to have driven an advantageous bargain to make a chamber in the meeting-house:
"February 6, 1650. It is agreed by the townethat if Mr. John Pynchon will make a chamber over the meeting howse and board it he shall have the use of it Intirely to himself for Ten years, and then if the Town need it they may have it, provided they alow the said Mr. John Pynchon the charge that he hath been aboutit, or else he is to have the use of it longer till they do alow him the charge that he layed out about it."
Evidently this gave dissatisfaction when the voters reflected upon what they had done, and two years later it came up in town meeting again for consideration when this action was taken:
"There falling out some disputes betwixt Mr. John Pynchon and the towne in reference to the above mentioned bargain, about the meeting house chamber, it was put to vote whether the Inhabitants be willing to take the chamber into theyr hand again presently, promising to pay Mr. John Pynchon his wholl charge that he hath bin at about it, for the time past; and he to have the use of the chamber till October next, provided he lay not above 400 bushells of corne in it; if he exceed that quantity he is to underprop ye floor at his own charge, as Richard Sykes and Thomas Cooper shall judge meete. It was voted affirmatively to all the particulars, whereupon George Colton and Robert Ashley wer nominated by Mr. John Pynchon and appointed by ye vote of ye inhabitants, to gather in ye rate that shall be made by the Selectmen for the charge layed out about this floor, and see it payd into Mr. Pynchon by ye 20th of February next, in marchantable wheate at 3 shillings 10 pence per bushell."
The chamber, coming into the hands of the town, was let for many years to different individuals as a place for storing grain, though John Pynchon does not appear to have occupied it again after giving it up to the town.
THE BURYING GROUND AND TRAINING FIELD.
West of the meeting-house, on the banks of the Connecticut, William Pynchon and Henry Smith by order of the town, bargained with Francis Ball and Thomas Stebbins, acccording
to a report made to the town February 26, 1645, for 2-1/2 acres of land for a burying ground and a training field.
Here were the home lots of the two; Ball on coming here from Connecticut bought the improvements of the lot owned by John Woodcock, on which are now located the Chicopee bank building, the Hampden County Court House, and the Elm Street grammar school building. The town took an acre of Ball's lot and an acre and a half of the Stebbins lot, for which it gave in payment double the number of acres elsewhere. A street had been previously opened from Main Street to the meeting-house, and this was continued two rods wide to the training-field. After Ball's marriage and four years after his settlement in Springfield, he was drowned in the Connecticut River. His widow married Benjamin Munn, who continued to reside on her home lot until his death. In 1645 Thomas Cooper, who was then one of the selectmen, mad this entry in the town book:
"It was voted that Thomas Stebbins and Benjamin Munn should have use of the trayning place for pasture for the term of ten years, for certayne, and for the term of their own personal living, if they live longer, upon condition that they keepe it cleare of offensive matter, as wood and brush, or the like and they are now to sow it with inglish grass seed."
This lot was used for exercising the military company, and for a burying ground for about 200 years. When the first settlers came from England to this country, evidently the first impulse of the settlers was to arm for defence; but where the enemy was to come from to make the attack was not explained. Nevertheless they set about preparing for defence by training the youth as well as the elder men in the manual of arms. They evidently cherished their military titles, regarding them as tokens of honor. Under the date of Nov. 14, 1639, is this record:
"It is ordered yt the exercise of training shall be practiced one day in every month, and if occasions do sometymes hinder, the ye like space of tyme shall be observed another tyme
though it be 2 dayes after one another. And yt this tyme of trayning is referred to ye discretion of Henry Smith, who is chosen by mutuall consent to be the Serjant of ye Company who shall have power to choose a Corporall for his assistant, and who soever shall be absent himselfe with out a lawful excuse shall forfeit 12 pence & yt all above 15 yeares of age shall be counted for soldiers, and the tyme to begin the first Thursday in December next."
AN EARLY ADOPTION OF REFERENDUM.
Referendum, or the submitting of certain public measures to the people for approval, after having been discussed at considerable length in recent times, and no doubt it has been con-sidered in the light of a new discovery, - certainly as something never practiced in this country. In Springfield it is more than 250 years old. When the selectmen were elected in 1646, this vote was adopted:
"By mutual consent it is agreed to refer into theyr the Selectmen's hands the ordering of all prudential affayers of the town, and whatsoever they so order in reference to the good of the towne shall stnd in force as ye act of the towne, provided that what orders or con-clusions they shall agree upon, be openly published before the generality of ye towne after a lecture, or at any trayning day, or any other public meeting; and in case there be no negative vote by the generality of the towne within 7 days after, then it shall stand and be taken for granted that the towne by such silence doe confirme and establish theyr orders."
The "generality of the towns" is understood to mean a majority of those having right to vote. This practice was maintained for many years. The second volume of records shows by frequent statement that measures adopted by the selectmen were read on public occasions with the date of reading affixed to the selectmen's degree.
The making of public roads was one of the early duties to
A TOLL ROAD ESTABLISHED.
which the selectmen were called, and the first toll road was authorized in 1648. The Selectmen were allowed liberty to set a certain toll on carts that shall pass any high-way which shall appeare more than ordinary chargeable in the reparation of it." At a town-meeting held November 7, 1648, it was voted as follows:
"It is agreed that those who will joyne to make a cartway over ye meddow against Robert Ashley's shall have liberty to barr up ye Cartway, and to take 4 pence per load of any others that shall cart over said way, who have not Joyned in making of it. Those who have given in their names to make ye cartway are as followeth:
This road was at some point north of the present village of West Springfield. In 1660 a toll bridge was established over Mill river, where the street railway now crosses the river on the way to Forest Park. The town voted:
"The lower end of the Towne have Liberty to make a cart Bridge over ye mill river, above ye old mill, & such as Joyne not in making of it, if they shall make use of it they shall allow or pay to ye makers of it 3 pence per Load for Three years."
This establishes the locality of Pynchon's grain mill nearer than any other record in the first volume; it must have been at or near the site of the mill which is still in existence here.
EXCLUDING UNWORTHY PERSONS.
Unworthy persons of those liable to become a town charge, were not admitted for settlement, the founders thus undertaking to guard at the beginning against all undesirable characters. As early as 1642 this vote was passed:
"It is agreed with the generall consent and vote of the Inhabitants of Springfield: That if any man of this township shall under the colour of friendship or otherwise intertayne any person or persons here, to abide or continue as inmates, or shall subdivide theyr house lots to entrtayne them as
tenants or otherwise, for a longer tyme than one month, or 31 days, without the generall consent & allowance of the inhabitants (children or servants of the family that remayne single persons excepted) shall forfeit for the first default xx shillings, to be destrayned by the Constable of their goods, cattell or chattails, for ye publique use of the Inhabitants. And alsoe he shall forfeit xx shillings per month for every month that any such person or persons shall soe continue in this township, without the generall consent of the Inhabitants: and if in ye tyme of theyr abode after ye limitation they shall need releefe, not being able to mayntayn themselves, then he or they that entertayne such persons shall be lyable to be rated by the Inhabitants for ye releife & maintenance of the said party or parties, as the Inhabitants shall think meete."
In 1659 John Wood was called to account for giving entertainment to Isaac Hall for the space of two months and was fined 40 shillings. Quince Smith was regarded as another undesirable person. He was given liberty to tarry in town "2 months from ye 18th of December, 1660; if he tarry longer it must be by a new liberty from ye Selectmen." On the 18th of February he was warned by the selectmen to depart the town. The sons of even the first settlers were not admitted as inhabitants, to be voters and assume the responsibiliies of citizenship, without giving bonds to the town to secure it against any charge which might possibly arise on their account. Deacon Chapin gave bonds of 20 pounds each when two of his sons were admitted, Henry Chapin in 1660 and Josiah Chapin in 1663. At the time of Henry's admission, Elizur Holyoke gave bonds in the sum of 20 pounds to the town treasurer for the admission of Samuel Ely, "to secure the town from any charge which may arise to the town by the admission of said Ely or his family." - the same as had been imposed on Deacon Chapin.
BEFORE THE SELECTMEN AND THE COUNTY COURT.
Looking back, in the light of the present, the first settlers of Springfield formed almost a spotless community, not
entirely unlike some of the remote rural communities of recent times. There were no thefts, little drunkenness, and no brutal assaults. The breaches of the public peace wer mostly of a trivial nature, and with rare exceptions would not now call for considera-tion. The shorcomings of the first settlers consisted mainly in not living strictly up to "town orders," such as failing to ring the swine, not maintaining suitable fences, and occasionally departures from the standard set by the "fathers of the town." But there were no crimes committed that would shock the community, such as breach of public trust, assault or murder. The offenses of our ancestors were mostly of a nature which would now, rarely, if at all, be heard of in our courts. There was no lack of vigilance and no lack of public officers to enforce what was then held as a public offense. At a very early day "Two wise and discreet men" were chosen annually at the town-meeting, "to present on court days all breaches of Court or Town orders, or any other misdemeanors as shall come to theyr knowledge, either by their own observation or by credible information of others, and they shall take out process for the appearance of such as are delinquent, or witnesses, to appear on sayd days, when all presentments shall be Judicially heard and examined by the magistrate. These to stand in this office for a year or till others be chosen in their roome."
The cases of breach of town orders came before the Selectmen, and the graver offenses before the county court, held twice a year, which was at Northampton in March and in Springfield in September, for which 12 jurymen were summoned, selected mainly from the jurisdiction of the two towns, but from other settlements in part at a later period. the first two trials, when William Pynchon was the magistrate, were before a jury of six, all residents of Springfield, as no other settlements had been made hereabouts prior to his departure in 1652 for England.
One of the breaches of town orders relates to a defective
fence in what was later West Springfield. Reice Bedortha and John Bragg had been chosen fence-viewers on the west side of the "Great River," and they discovered that John Scott hd a very defective fence, to which they called his attention. They found "20 rods al-together deficient & 20 defects in other places. Having given him warning and yet upon a 2nd view a month after they found the aforesaid defects; and a 3d tye they found ye defects a fortnight after." The Selectmen considered his case and summed up his great neglect as below:
"The Selectmen doe Judge that after ye first warning to the 2nd view should be accounted as but one defect. But the 20 rod is now 20 shillings & ye 20 other defects, 20 shillings more. After ye 2nd warning when ye viewers went the 3d tyme to see it a fortnight after being 12 days at 12 pence per rod, makes 20 shillings every day which comes to 12 pounds the 12 days; togiher with ye 40 shillings aforesaid makes ye whole 14 pounds, one half whereof ye Towne order gives to ye viewers & ye other halfe to ye Towne."
"John Bagg complaining agains Reice Debortha, his partner, for one rod defective. Reice disowning it to be his fence, the Selectmen judged that ye fence must first be determined his before he can be concluded defective, or lyable to ye fine." But this was not the end. It being shown that Bedortha and Bragg had bee remiss in their public duties as fence viewers, they too were brought to justice, as the record shows:
"It is ordered that ye viewers of fences, viz: Reice Bedortha and John Bragg, for neglecting their Charge in not viewing fences according to order, shall pay a fine of ten shillings to ye Towne, that is 5 shillings apiece."
Fines for having defective fences were not imposed upon the white settlers only. The viewers at a later date, Edward Foster and Thomas Miller, complained of the "Indian] Catonis & his company for not doing up the water fence belonging to their land in the field, they having had warning, about 4 or 5 rods being defective upon the land next to the river, besides ye securing of the river, for which neglect they are fined to pay 2-1/2 bushels of Indian corne." The Indians were neither prompt menders of fences nor in payment of fines. At the next meeting of the Selectmen they entered their decree in this case:
"The Indian fence into Agawam river being still defective it is ordered that ye viewers shall amend it & have double compensation according to law & have warrant to ye constable to levy it & also to levy the 2-1/2 bushels of Indian Corne, which they were fined at the last meeting of ye Selectmen."
INDISCRETIONS OF OUR PURITAN YOUTH.
The sons of our Puritan ancestors could not have been entirely unlike the boys of our present time, but they had the law laid down to them in a summary manner when they trans-gressed. The Selectmen, Deacon Chapin, Nathaniel Ely, George Colton, Rowland Thomas and Elizur Holyoke, in 1664, made observation and recorded this decree:
"The Selectmen considering the great damage done to ye glass windowes in ye meeting house by children playing about ye meeting house. They do order that if any persons children or others, shall be found playing at any sports about the meeting house, whereby ye glass windows therof may be endamanged, such persons shall be liable to a fine of 12 pence a peece for each tyme they shall be found so playing, which fine is to be paid within 3 days after such default, and if the Governors (fathers) of any youth that soe offend shall re-fuse to pay the said fyne, such youths shall be liable to be whipt by the Constable before 3 or more of ye Selectmen, who shall determine ye number of stripes to be inflicted, & if any
other persons so offending shall refuse to pay ye said fyne as aforesaid, they shall be liable to punishment as aforesaid, & all such fines shall go one half to the informers, & the other half to ye Selectmen for the use of the town in bearing publik charges."
This had the desired effect as no record was made of the boys beingwhipt under the direction of the benign Deacon Chapin and his fellow-members of the board. But the spirit of youth was evidently abroad and if they could not throw stones at the meeting-house windows, they could do some other things even at the risk of being punished. The argus eyes of the conservators of the public peace were not unmindful of improprieties by whom-soever committed, as the following indicates:
"It being observed & complayned of that persons do frequently take liberty to ride very swiftly with their horses in the streets to ye endangering of children and others, it is therefore ordered that if any person be observed to run his horse or to ride faster than an ordinary gallop in ye streets of this town, except upon such urgent occasions as shall by ye Selectmen be judged warrantable so to do, he shall be liable to a fine of 3 shillings, 4 pence, to be paid, one shilling to the informer & the rest to ye Towne. This order not to extend to Troopers in tymes of their excercise."
"Troopers" were the members of the cavalry company, who might be out for exercise on a training day. The first to trangress this order were Thomas Stebbins, Jr., Timothy Cooper, John Hitchcock, Samuel Bliss, Jr. and Jonathan Ashley, all young men. On notification to appear, Stebbins went before the Selectmen, who for "fiersely galloping & running his horse last Wednesday forenoon, in ye street from Goodman Miracks upwards, acknowledged it and was sentenced to pay 3 shillings, 4 pence." The others not appearing, their trial was continued till the next lecture day, when they were fined 2 shillings, 4 pence each."
Youthful indiscretions began to show themselves about this time within as well as without the meeting house. At a meeting of the Selectmen April 7, 1669 it was voted:
"Miles Morgan and Jonathan Burt are ordered to sit in ye gallery to give check to the disorders in youth & young men in tyme of Gods worship. Anthony Dorchester is to sit in ye Guard Seate for ye like end."
The preceding are not the only instances in which the youth of that time were transgressors of the established customs. Even Elizur Holyoke's sons were subject to disciplin and were brought into court with others. In the Pynchon Magistrate Book is the following record:
"Thomas Noble, Constable, presenting Thomas Thomson and John Horton for the last Sabbath, June 7, 1664, in the evening about 1-2 hour after sunset, Samuel & Elizur Holyoke, being accessories in sayd fray; the Commissioners upon examination of the case do find that the said four persons did profane the Lord's day and therefore determine that they all shall be admonished thereof, and that Thomas Thomson, John Horton and Samuel Holyoke shall pay a fine of 5 shillings apiece to the County, or be whipt by the Constable on the naked body with three stripes apeice, whereupon they were all admonished and the three former desiring to pay their fines than otherwise, were ordered to pay them to the County Treasurer."
The Justices, or Commissioners, as they called themselves, who sat in this case, were Deacon Samuel Chapin and Elizur Holyoke, the latter the father of the Holyoke boys. Thomas Thomson was a Windsor youth who resided here for a short time.
JOHN PYNCHON'S EXPERIENCE IN PORK RAISING.
In 1656 John Pynchon set out on a pork-raising speculation, on Freshwater river, now in Enfield, Conn. - at that time within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. He procured a grant of land, 20 acres for himself and 10 acres for George Colton and Benjamin Cooley. When granted it was with the agreement that "if they doe not make use of it themselves it is to return into the Townes hands agayne - they are not to sell it to any other."
The sequel was not recorded until October 8, 1660, when it appeared that Cooley had with-drawn, Pynchon taking his portion. The record give the conditions and the results:
"According to order by the Selectmen there was granted parsell of land at fresh water brooke, to Mr. Pynchon, George Colton and Benjamin Cooley, in proportion as they carry on their design of keeping swine there. In all forty acres of upland, ten acres to each quarter part, and thisupon conditon that they doe within two years carry on the design of keeping swine there. If they fail in carrying on that design within two years, or such of them doe faile, they forfeit the land & it remains to the other or them that do keep swine there; or else falls to the town, if none carry on that design of keeping swine. The design of keeping swine there was accordingly caryed on & within the tyme limited, and continued until Windsor corne fields eat up ye swine."
This quotation is in the handwriting of John Pynchon, and what he probably intended to say was that the swine ran out of the Enfield woods, in which they were fattening on acorns, and other nuts, into the Windsor corn-fields and ate so much that they consequently died from the effects and not by being eaten up by the fields.
In the grants of land at Woronoco were sixty acres on the request of Thomas Merrick and David Ashley to Timothy Mather of Dorchester, and forty acres to his father, the Rev. Richard Mather, the first minister of that town. The family of the Rev. Mr. Mather were of more than ordinary ability. His sons, with the exception of Timothy, were ministers. Two went back to England and preached there during their lives. Another, Eleaze Mather, was the first minister of Northampton and it was his daughter, Eunice, who became the wife of the Rev. John Williams, and was killed by the Indians after the burning of Deerfield, on the way to Canada. From her is descended Mrs. Elizabeth Storrs Mead, president of Mount Holyoke College at South Hadley. Timothy, the father of the family, is the ancestor of all who bear the name of Mather in New England. This grant at Woronoco remained in the family for a considerable period.
ROUND HILL GIVEN TO PYNCHON FOR BRINGING SHEEP TO TOWN.
The name "Round Hill," applied to the elevation between North Main and Plainfield streets, is nearly as old as Springfield itself. The hill is mentioned in the record by that name not many years after the settlement was begun. In 1654, it was, with adjoining land on the west, given to John Pynchon by the town on condition that he woud bring 40 sheep into the town and offer them for sale to the inhabitants. This, too, was the introduction of that important domestic animal into this region. Among the "Several particulars which was voted unto by the Towne upon a trayning day, May 29th, 1654, was the following:
"In consideration of this said land the said John Pynchon doth promise to purchase 40 sheep within the space of six months, andhe to use his best indevoure to bring them into Towne and there to dispose of them as he shall see cause, provided he sell them not to any out of town in case any in towne will buy them.
"The 15 acres of land was laid out to him, part of it under the round hill next to his 3 corner meddow and part of it upon ye round hill: It goeth over ye round hill and leaving a part of it. John Pynchon desired the rest of ye land on that hill & so down to ye brooke called Endbrooke, or 3 corner meddow brook, being about six acres, so that in all Mr. Pyndhon hath about 21 acres."
At a later day this grant to Pynchon was increased to 23 acres, on account of his introducing the 40 sheep. "Three-corner meddow" is now Hampden Park, and Endbrook in later days came to be known to Springfield as North-end brook. The level region, on part of which stands Brightwood, was known to the first settlers as the "Plaine" and has not the name of Plainfield street, of the present time, come down to us from that fact?
OUR VILLAGE BLACKSMITH CAPTURED BY CROMWELL AND FORCED TO MIGRATE.
The blacksmith was an important and useful citizen in all the New England settlements. In the early days his work was needed by everyone who was tilling the earth and clearing the forests. In many communities unusual efforts made to secure a competent workman in this craft, who was given valuable grants of land to make a permanent abode in the town and per-form such work as was most needed; in fact, it was a calling that came nearer and was in closer touch with the people of those early times than any other. Longfellow's picture of the smith in later days might apply to him of ancient Springfield:
Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a might man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
Our smith was John Stewart, a thrifty and bustling Scotchman, whose early adventures made him an interesting character, though he appears to have embarked in a failing cause, which brought to him deportation from his native land to the wilds of America, where he served more usefully and with greater credit to himself than when he was fightin the battles of King Charles I in his own Scotch Highlands.
But let us go back to the record here prior to his advent in Springfield. The town was without a permanent smith and might have had none, for nearly ten years after the beginning of the settlement. Under date of January 8, 1646, this record was made:
"George Colton and Miles Morgan are appoynted to doe theyr best to get a smith for ye Towne." Eight months later, September 4th, this entry in the records was made:
"A bargaine was driven the day above said betwixt the towne of Springfield and Francis Ball for a Shop for a Smith which is to be 12 foote wide, 16 foote in length, six foote stud
betwixt joynts, a chimny for the forge, runged, to be boarded both roofe and sides, to make a doore and windowe in the end, with a beam in ye middist, for which work to be sufficiently accomplished by September 28th, next, the towne doth condition to pay him five pounds either in wheat at 3 shillings 8 pence per bushel, or in worke as he shal need it, to be payd in unto him ye 10th of March next, at the house of Henry Smith. He doth also agre to find boards for ye covering and sides, with nayles & hinges, etc., and what he wants else, andhe is to bring in his account what boards he useth and what other charges he is at, for which he is to be payd as before in wheate at 3 shillings 8 pence per bushel, or in worke as he and they shall agree. It is agreed that this house shall remayne in the hands of the towne till they see cause to dispose otherwise of it"
What success George Colton and Miles Morgan had in getting a smith is not known, nor the date of John Stewart's coming to Springfield, but he is the first one mentioned and probably was the first to take up his residence here.
His quitting Scotland was enforced by Oliver Cromwell after the battle of Dunbar, he having been engaged on the side of the vanquished. Prior to this event, the marquis of Montrose, who began his career as a covenanter, went over into England and there came under the influence of Charles I, whose cause he espoused in opposition to his former declarations. He returned to the Highlands of Scotland and there raised the royal standard, around which he gathered an army and then waged war in behalf of the king. Into this service went our John Stewart who was, as he says, engaged in five battles till the tide turned against the cause which he was serving. The royal army was then under David Leslie, and had more than double the numbers of that commanded by Cromwell. Confident of success, Leslie left his entrenchments at Dunbar and marched to the open plain, when Cromwell seized the opportune moment and won the day, capturing the entire army not already slain in the en-gagement. Many of the prisoners were deported and John Stewart was among the number. On coming to England he was sold to service and John Pynchon was the buyer.
As he was a capable smith he was put to work in the smithery, which had been built by the town and in Pynchon's accounts appear credits to various ones for "Your helping John in the Smithery." November 29, 1653, before Elizur Holyoke and William Warriner, was made this agreement between Pynchon and Stewart:
"I agree with John Stewart to allow me yearly 12 shillings in Smithery work for 3 years, which is for my staying (waiting) so long for that 30 pounds which is due to me from him for releasing him from my service. And he the said John Stewart consented & promised to allow me for three years twelve shillings per year in mending or making of Iron work. John Pynchon."
In 1658 the shop was given to Stewart by the town, and he pursued his calling many years. One of his public duties was to see that all swine above three months old were ringed, and the Selectmen appointed him "to goe twice every week through the town, from March to November, to take notice what swine are unrung and to demand of the owners for every such swine, and in case any shall refuse to pay him 6 pence for ringing them, warrant will be granted to the constable to distraine, who shall have 3 pence for his pains."
Stewart prospered for some years and received various grants of lands. In his old age he became infirm and finally bedridden, and among other misfortunes a horse was taken from him for use in an expedition in pursuit of Indians and died from hard usage. When Sir Edmond Andros came into power as governor of New England, Stewart sent him a petition, now in the State archives at Boston, wherein he recounts his service under the king and what he had suffered here. It is in the handwriting of James Cornish, of Northampton, who was clerk of the courts for Hampshire county under Andros's administration, and is as follows:
"To His Excellency Sir Edmund Andros, Knight, Governor & Captain General in Chief of all His Majesties Territory in New England:
"Whereas your poor petitioner was in service in five battles under the noble Marquis of Montrose in Scotland, for His Majesty, King Charles the First & thereby suffered & received many dangerous wounds, having escaped with his life through mercy, yet his health has been and is likely to be deeply impayred whilst he lives, being altogether left uncapable of getting a livelyhood in this world for himself and family; that although having a trade which might afford him a comfortable living, he through God's providence waslayd about three years last past bedrid, and so continues uncapable to gaine any reliefe in his sad condition, and never received one penny towards all his service, wherein he was engaged. Was afterwards taken by Lord Cromwell in the fight at Dunbar, and after sent into this land where I was sold for eight years service to purchase my future freedom.
"God having bestowed some small estate on your poor petitioner whilst he gave him ability to labour, may it please your excellency, I had lately a horse pressed from me for service in this country, in pursuit of Indians, which dyed in the service by the wrong he received before he came home. Your poor petitioner was greatly disappointed by his loss, which was all the team he had & havig ben contrayned to buy another which cost 6 pounds, 10 shillings for supply of his familys present want, although he is very doubtful whether this will prove so serviceable as the former did.
"Your humble petitioner most humbly craves that your Excellency would vouchsafe to order a just & due satisfaction to him for his so great damage & your petitioner shall daily pray for the best of blessings on your Excellency & remayne your most unworthy humble servant, John Stewart. Spring, 19th September, 1688.
As Andros was not looked upon at that time with greater favor than was his royal master in England, our Puritan ancestry did not honor John Stewart's draft. The poor man quited this world's troubles April 21, 1690, and two days later his Will was presented to probate, Samuel Marshfield and Obadiah Miller making oath that they were present and saw him sign it.
The battle of Dunbar took place September 3, 1650 when 4,000 of the Scotch army were slain and 10,000 taken prisoners by Cromwell. Deportation of the prisoners must have begun very soon afterwards. The ship John & Sarah cleared from London and passed the search office at Gravesend on the 8th of November, 1651 for Boston with 272 Scotch prisoners who were consigned to Thomas Kemble of Charlestown. John Stewart probably came in a previous ship as his name is not on the list. Rev. John Cotton in a letter to Cromwell, under date of Boston, July 5, 1651, wrote:
"The Scots whom God delivered into your hands at Dunbarre and whereof sundry persons were sent here, we have been desirous (as we could) to make their yoke easy. Such as were sick of scurvy or otherwise have not wanted for physic or chyrurgery. They have not been sold for slaves to perpetual servitude but for 6 or 7 or 8 years, as we do our own; and he that brought themost of the, I heare, buildeth houses for them as their owne, requiring 3 days in the week to worke for him, by turns, and 4 days for themselves, and promiseth as soon as they can repay him the money he laid out for them, he will set them at liberty."
John Stewart was not the only one who gave service to Pynchon under like conditions or for payment of passage. It appears to have been a common custom for young unmarried men to pay for their passage in labor, after their arrival, and John Pynchon must have secured them personally, or by an agent in Boston.
HAMPSHIRE COUNTY CREATED.
The movement for creating a county organization in this part of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, which resulted in the formation of the County of Hampshire, was begun in a special town-meeting held February 26, 1662, which declared:
"Upon conference & serious consultation, the Town by vote concluded it convenient & necessary that there should
be all due consideration concerning setling the Townes in this Western part of the Collony into the forme of a County: In order whereunto Capt. Pynchon, Lieut. Holyoke & Ensign Cooper" -
Here the record, which is in the handwriting of Elizur Holyoke ends, but we find that at the next meeting in May of the General Court, the proposition was presented by John Pynchon who was present as the deputy from Springfield - his second years' service. The county organization was perfected, thus signalizing an important event in the progress of our local government, and almost the first entry of John Pynchon into public life, beyond the confines of the township. He was now in his 36th year, and for more than 40 years after this he was an important figure in the history of the Connecticut valley, of which Springfield was the central point of action. The creation of courts and the settlement of towns, all eminating at suggestion from this central poinnt, gave Springfield a fore-most rank among the places outside the settlements along the eastern seaboard, and marked an era in the little settlement, founded 26 years before under difficulties which to spirits less courageous might well have seemed to great to overcome.
MINOR EVENTS, BUT NOT WITHOUT INTEREST.
Our Selectmen must have had regard for financial responsibilities, and sometimes returned the offenses against their commands to profitable account. In 1660, Richard Fellows, having sold his land by promise contrary to order, whereby it was forfeited to the town, they took off the forfeiture on condition that he "supply the Towne with a sufficient horse for a journey to ye Bay this next Spring or Summer, when ye Towne shall please to call for it." This might have been with a view of supplying the transportation for the deputy to the General Court when he went to Boston.
Monopolizing official positions was not confined to the General Court. In 1660, John Pynchon was Selectman, Town Clerk, Town Treasurer and Moderator of all town-meetings for the year, which with his numerous business interests must have kept him well occupied.
The annual town-meetings, after the town's affairs were placed in the hands of Selectmen who were elected by the people, were at first held on the first Tuesday of November of each year. At a special meeting in January 1660, it was voted that henceforth the "Generall Towne meeting for the choice of Towne officers shall be on ye first Tuesday in February." The town was called together at the usual time in November, and after much deliberaton it was concluded to adhere to the former vote. At the February meeting it was voted that "Hence forward yearly at ye Generall Towne meeting there shal be a moderator chosen who shall stand as moderator not only for that day but for all town meetings the year ensuing." At this meeting it was voted that the moderator shall always be "chosen by papers," that is by ballots, which is the first mention of a vote being taken other than "by the erection of hands."
The town constable was an important officer in early times, and was elected with more than ordinary care, regard being had to those qualities which would make him an acceptable and efficient official in maintaining order and in collecting town rates and fines. At the meeting in 1660 it was voted:
"That henceforth ye choice of Constable shall be after this manner: The Constable whose tyme is expired before he goes out of his place, shall Nominate two men, and ye Towne Commissioners or chiefe civil power in Towne shall Nominate one more or two which they pleas. The three men, or 4, if 4 be nominated, shal beput to vote, & ye that hath most votes shall be Constable the yeare ensuing, who by Country Law (law of the General Court) is lyable to Five Pound fine for refusing of ye office."
At this meeting Robert Ashley was chosen Constable, "& had his oath given him, which he took ye same day. Lawrence Bliss was chosen Constable Deputy for supply of ye Constables place in his absence."Toil in its hardest aspect must have been expressed in
the faces of those who wrestled with the difficulties which beset every one on the banks of the Connecticut at the beginning, and toil was alike honorable to all. Everyone labored in the fields and in the woods, or in following such work as the settlers required. We find Richard Sikes, who was on the first board of selectmen, not only following the vocation of a farmer but doing whatever came to him, and while he had stood as one of the foremost of "discreet men," we note his public service in sweeping the meeting-house and in ringing the bell for meetings, marriages and funerals. The record under the date of February 10, 1653 says:
"Richard Sikes hath covenanted to ring the bell and to sweep the meeting house according to former terms, namely 12 pence the week, provided he will have his liberty to leave the work at a months warning. His pay to be payed halfe merchandable Indian corne and halfe merchandable wheat, to be payd at one intire payment at the end of June next, ending the date hereof, but if he leave the work after the payment is made is to abate 1 shilling the week.
"There is granted to Richard Sikes for ringing the Bell for marriages and burials 1 shilling a time. This pay to be payd by those who shall imploy him for such service."
He continued to serve the town in this office for several years, for which he received 52 shillings a year.
Taxation does not appear to have aroused much if any hostility concerning town affairs, during the first 30 years. Whatever charge of a public nature was held to be necessary was cheerfully met. John Pynchon, Elizur Holyoke and John Dumbleton were the only ones that were even in a single instance, dissatisfied, and that relates to an early reservation in which they simply fell back upon a prior exemption as a right. In the first compact "Three-Corner meadow," our Hampden Park was divided between William Pynchon who had 20 acres, Jehu Burr and Henry Smith, who had 10 acres each. It was mutually agreed at the time that these three individuals should have 40 acres granted to them, to be free of all charges forever, as compensation for their continued prosecution
of the settlement at great expense, while others fell off. William Pynchon's interest went to his son; Jehu Burr's and Smith's went to Holyoke and Dumbleton. In 1656 the question of taxing these lots came up and after considering the original agreement, they were declared to be free of all taxes by the town.
With the boundless wilderness at hand, the founders nevertheless guarded the possibilities of a greater demand for lumber, when some settler pleaded for liberty to transport boards and planks to other settlements, probably down the Connectcit, and the town adopted this order:
"It is ordered that any person that desires to transport boards or planks shall first Tender such to the Selectmen, & if they provide an chapman in ye town within 21 days, at an indifferent price, then ye owner thereof have liberty to transport or re-sell them out of ye Towne."
"Indifferent" was intended to convey what we should mean by using the word impartial. "What indifferent persons shall judge," is an expression frequently found in all early records. With such limited opportunities for acquiring even the means of living, and such an ample supply of timber, it would seem that a broader view might have been taken, without endangering the wants of the little hamlet. At that time all boards not riven were sawed by hand, and there was not much danger of overstocking the market or exhausting the forests.
Killing wolves now and then brought money to depleted pockets. The town paid a bounty for many years of 10 shillings to any one who would kill a wolf within five miles of the town, and payments in this account often swelled the town's indebtedness, in which the youths as well as the older persons had a share in creating.
These minor events which have been recorded with considerable minuteness are the side-lights of early days in Springfield. They may seem trivial and to some uninteresting but little by little they reveal to us the conditions and the surroundings help to form the picture of life here at the outset, and of those who brought civilization and a higher conception of the needs of humanity to the western world.
We may regard them as narrow and contracted in many of their views, but they lived up to the divine light within, and whatever may have been their failings in some respects, in the light of our greater liberality of thought, they held firmly to the purpose for which they had come, and they never deviated from the convictions which led them from home and country. In this we have a grand example of faith united with patience, born in the hearts of a simple people, whose achievements have been greater than that of the courts and kings they so willingly left behind them to found a state and a government resting on the consent of the governed.
At a town meeting February 18, 1656, "it was voted by consent that whosoever within this township shall kill any ffox or ffoxes shall be allowed 3 shillings ffor any ffox so killed pvided they bring here the body or head unto any of the Selectmen." Subsequently this was reduced to "only 12 pence apeace for every two ffox killed in ye bounds of ye Towne."
On May 10, 1698, it was "Voted to allow Mr. Mackcranny twenty shillings out of the Rates for his killing four Catamounts, itt was also further voted that if any Inhabitants of this Towne shall hereafter kill or destroy of the forementioed wild creatures within the Bounds of this Towne & bring the head & tail of every one soe killed unto the Selectmen or Towne Treasurer, they shall bee allowed for soe doeing five shillings for every such creature so destroyed." On November 22, 1716, "It was voted to raise Ten pounds in money for Wolves."
THE 2ND CORNE MILL.
The first mill erected not being adequate, on February 6, 1665, "This being the Genll Town meeting, it was considered that there is great necessity of a Corne mill that shall be serviceable for a more comfortable supply of this than there late has been." A committee was appointed "to consider what course they judge best to be taken for the supply of the Towne." They were to report whether it is best to continue
the present mill or build a new one in some other place. "and the said persons are desired and earnestly entreated by the Towne to consider seriously & speedily what they judge behoofeful in ye case; who also have power to call the Towne together as need shall require to declare what they apprehend requires in the case."
This committee called a town-meeting on February 26, 1665, and reported in favor of a new mill, and Capt. Pynchon agreed to spend 200 pounds in erecting the mill if the town would disburse the additional amount necessary to complete it. "But the Plantation being not cheerful to engage therein, Tryall was made what would be disbursed by particular persons; and divers psons did thereupon promise to allow Capt. Pynchon towards ye worke certain sum." Thirty-one townsmen subscribed money and labor to that end.
At the same meeting on February 26, 1665, the town made a grant of fifty acres of upland, thirty acres of meadow, "if he would build a saw mill on fresh water brook or on the old mill stream," within three years, otherwise, "this grant to be voyd."
This offer not being attractive, on August 1, 1666, the town voted Capt. Pynchon "for his encouragement," and in addition to the former grants, thirty acres on "Old Mill Streame," "the free use of ye said streame for ye said Worke, as also free liberty for felling and Sawing what trees he shall please that are upon the Comons belonging to ye Plantation except such trees as are between ye Bay path & Chicuppe River."
Great attention was given to highways, those necessary means of communication. The method of determining them is shown by the order of the Selectmen on "October ye 12th, 1650. It is ordered there shal be a highway of 5 or 6 rod broad from ye way that leads to ye mill up to the cart bridge that is over the mill river & soe from that bridge up into the Pyne plaine on ye South side of ye mill river to be laid in place most convenient by Benjamin Parsons, Jonathan Burt & Nathaniel Pritchard."
WITCHCRAFT IN SPRINGFIELD. HUGH AND MARY PARSONS.
Certain shadows from the Dark Ages still cast a gloom over the New World in the seventeenth century, and it is not strange their malign influences should have fallen upon the little settlement of Springfield. The belief in witchcraft had prevailed throughout the world from the earliest times, and in even the most enlightened countries of Europe, the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent persons have been sacrificed to the delusion.
With the Puritan settlers this belief came to New England, but during the first sixty or seventy years of our history thee were only a few isolated cases that found their way into court. Some forty years before the terrible outbreak in 1692, at Salem Village, Springfield had what was practically its sole visitation of the witchcraft craze. It came under strange and sad circumstances, only a part of which are disclosed by the record, but enough appears to make a distressing story, in which the alleged killing of an infant child by its insane mother is the central event.
Hugh Parsons, a sawyer and bricklayer, and Mary his wife, were the unfortunate principals in the sad case. They were married at Springfield October 27, 1645, her name before marriage was Mary Lewis. Three children were born to them: Hannah b. August 7, 1646; Samuel b. June 8, 1648, died about the last of September, 1649; and Joshua, b. October 26, 1650 and said to have been killed by his mother March 4, 1651. Parsons seems to have been a roughspoken fellow, quick to engage in a quarrel and both he and his wife appear to have shared the general belief in witches. Some trouble occurred in 1649 between them on the one hand and Reice Bedortha and his wife Blanche on the other, in which the Widow Marshfield, who nursed Mrs. Bedortha in confinement, took part. The result was a suit by Mrs. Marshfield against the Parsons for slander, she alleging that Mary Parsons had called her a witch. Mr. Pynchon, as magistrate found Mary guilty and sentenced her to receive twenty lashes or pay £3 in damages, which amount was paid in 24 bushels of Indian corn. This affair, together with other
troubles, apparently affected Mary Parson's health, and finally her mind gave way. Hugh fell under the suspicion of witchcraft and the most absurd and childish stories were told of him. In February, 1651, Hugh and Mary Parsons were arraigned before Mr. Pynchon upon formal charges of witchraft. The special complaints against Mary were the bewitching of Martha and Rebecca Moxon, children of the minister, while her husband was accused of practicing develish arts upon perhaps a dozen persons. The records are not altogether satisfactory as to details, but it appears that the examination of Hugh Parsons was ad-journed from time to time, beginning February 27 and ending about April 7. Some of the witnesses giving their testimony. His wife was one of his accusers.
The testimony heard by the magistrate was nonsensical in the extreme, but no more so than such as was received in England in all seriousness by so great a judge as Sir Matthew Hale about this period. Here are some specimens of it: Hannah Lankton several times found the pudding cut from end to end when she took it from the bag, and on one such occasion Hugh Parsons came to her door about an hour after. He did not satisfactorily explain his errand to the court, which thereupon infers "that the spirit that bewitched the pudding brought him thither."
Thomas Miller joked Parsons about the pudding while eating dinner in the woods with a number of men engaged in lumbering. Parsons said nothing, but a few minutes later, when the men resumed work, Miller cut his leg.
Blanche Bedortha, having had some words with Parsons, suffered from unusual cutting pains after her next confinement. Parsons had trouble with Mr. Moxon about making bricks for the latter's chimneys, and threatened to "be even with him." Then there were stories of be-witched cows, a strange disappearance of an ox tongue from a boiling kettle, and other queer doings about town. For one and all of these there was but one explanation, - the devilish doings of
Hugh Parsons. Mrs. Parsons also complained of rough treatment at her husband's hands, and of his frequent absences from home. There was evidence that he was at Longmeadow at the time of the death of his child Samuel, and that he received the news with no display of natural grief.
On March 4, 1651, before Hugh's examination was concluded, occurred the death of his youngest child, Joshua, an infant five months old. Mary at some time during March declared herself a witch, telling of her own misdoings in words which demonstrated her insanity, and either at the same time or later confessed to the murder of her baby. She was sent to Boston for trial, as was her husband at the close of his long examination. Mary Parsons was dangerously ill at the sitting of the General Court in May, but was tried on the 13th upon an indictment for witchcraft and was acquitted. To the charge of murder she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death. She was reprieved until May 29 and from the absence of any record of further action it is believed that she died in prison before that date. The full record of Mary Parson's case, as found in the Records of the General Court, is as follows:
"The Court understanding that Mary Parsons now in prison, accused for a witch, is likely through weakness to dye before trail if it be deferred, doe order, that on the morrow, by eight of the clock in the morning, she be brought before and tried by, the Generall Court, the rather that Mr. Pynchon may be present to give his testimony on the case." [This paragraph appears under date of 8th day, 3d month, 1651.]
"May 13, 1651 - Mary Parsons, wife of Hugh Parsons, of Springfield, being committed to the prison for suspition of witchcraft, as also for murdering her oune child, was this day called forth and indicted of witchcraft: By the name of Mary Parsons you are heere before the Generall Court chargded in the name of this comon-wealth, that not having the feare of God before your eyes nor in your hart, being seduced by the divill and yielding to his malitious motion, about the end of February last, at Springfield
to have familiarity, or consulted with a familiar spirit, making a covenant with him, and have used diverse divillish practises by witchcraft, to the hurt of the persons of Martha and Rebeckah Moxon, against the word of God, and the laws of this jurisdiction, long since made and published. To which indictment she pleased not guilty: all evidences brought in agaist her being heard and examined, the Court found the evidences were not sufficient to prove her a witch, and therefore she was cleared in that respect."
"At the same time she was indicted for murdering her child by the name of Mary Parsons: You are here before the Generall Court, chardged in the name of this comon-wealth, that not having the feare of God before yur eyes nor in your harte, being seduced by the divill and yielding to his instigations and the wickedness of your owne harte about the beginning of March 1st, in Springfield, in or neere your owne house, did willfully and most wickedly murder yur owne child, against the word of God and the lawes of this jurisdiction long since made and published. To which she acknowledged herself guilty."
"The Court finding hir guilty of murder by her own confession, etc., proceeded to judgment: You shall be carried from this place to the place whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution and there hand till you be dead."
A marginal note states that she was reprieved to the 29th of May. Hugh Parson's trial was put off for a year, probably from the difficulty of bringing witnesses to Boston. He was tried at a Court of Assistants May 12, 1652. Besides calling witnesses upon certain facts, the prosecution undertook to use in evidence the written testimony of most of the Springfield witnesses, which had been forwarded to the Bay by Mr. Pynchon; the accusation of the persons supposed to be bewitched were also offered, together with Mary Parson's confession implcating her husband. The jury returned a remarkably discriminating verdict, declaring that "by the
testimony of such as appeared in court" they find so much against the prisoner "as gives them ground not to clear him," but that if the General Court should hold that the written testimony, the "impeachment" or accusation of the alleged victims and the confession of the wife were "authentic testimonies according to law," then the jury find him "guilty of the sin of witchcraft."
Upon reviewing the case the General Court reversed the verdict and acquitted Parsons. The grounds of their action are not set out, but can readily be inferred from the verdict. The introduction of the depositions of absent witnesses, the hearsay evidence of the wife's confession and the ravings of the afflicted was too gross a violation of the prisoner's rights to be overlooked by a court which undertook to follow the forms of established law, and Parson's life was saved. Had the court exercised such appelate jurisdiction in the Salem cases, forty years later, the colony would in all probability have been spared the disgrace of the barbarous executions that then took place.
Hugh Parsons never returned to Springfield. John Pynchon sold his lands and effects and sent him the proceeds. He, according to Bond's History of Watertown, went to that place was married again and died there. The records relating to his case are as follows:
"October 24, 1651 - It is ordered that on the second Tuesday in the 3d month next, there shall be a Court of Assistants held at Boston for the trial of those in prison accused of witchcraft, and that the most material witnesses at Springfield be summoned to the Court of Assistants, to give in their evidence against them accordingly."
May 31, 1652:
"Whereas Hugh Parsons of Springfield was arrained and tried at a Court of Assistants, held at Boston, 12 May, 1652, for not having the feare of God before his eyes, but being seduced by the instigation of the divill in March 1651, and divers times before and since at Springfield, as was conceived, had familiar and wicked converse with the divill, and
hat used diverse divillish practises, or witchcrafts to the hurt of diverse persons, as by several witnesses and circumstances appeared, and was left by the grand jury for further triall for his life."
"The jury of trialls found him guilty. The Magistrates not consenting to the verdict of the jury, the cawes came legally to the Generall Court. The Generall Court, after the prisoner was called to the barr for triall of his life, perusing and considering the evidences brought in against the said Hugh Parsons, accused for witchcraft, they judged he was not legally guilty of witchcraft and so not to dye by law."
Historians who have studied the case of Mary Parsons as narrated in the records have differed in their conclusions as to her guilt and as to whether or not she suffered the death penalty. Some have come to the conclusion that her confession of murder of he child was only an insane delusion, no more to be relied upon than her self-accusation of familiarity with the devil, or the story which it is recorded she told Constable Thomas Cooper to the effect that she with her husband and two women all under the spell of witch-craft, had passed a night prowling about Stebbins's lot, being, she said, "sometimes like cats and sometimes in our own shape." Be that as it may, the townspeople unquestionably believed her guilty. The entry in the town records of deaths, in the handwriting of Henry Burt, sets out that "Josuah Parsons, the sonn of Hugh Parsons, was kild by Mary Parsons his wife, the 4 day of ye 4 month 1651." While this does not prove the fact of her guilt, it establishes that it was regarded as sufficiently proved to be made a matter of official record.
Whether the death sentence was carried into effect would seem to be a question of more doubt. She was doubtless just lingering between life and death, a mental and physical wreck, at the time of her trial before the General Court. Unfortunately the records of deaths in Boston at that period in question were very imperfect, and while her name does not appear therein we can draw no inference one way or
the other from its absence. Charles W. Upham, in "Salem Witchcraft," sums up as follows all that we can justly infer as to the outcome of the sad case:
"We are left in doubt as to the fate of Mary Parsons. There is a marginal entry on the records to the effect that she was reprieved to the 29th of May. Neither Johnson (author of "Wonder Working Providence") nor Hutchinson (in his "History of Massachusetts Bay) seem to have thought that the sentence was ever carried into effect. It clearly never ought to have been. The woman was in a weak and dying condition, her mind was probably broken down, the victim of that peculiar kind of mania - partaking of the character of a religious fanaticism and a perversion of ideas - that has often lead to child murder."
No other cases of witchcraft attended with serious results was ever brought to trail in Springfield after the Parsons prosecutions. It is not unlikely that the sad results of these cases opened the eyes of the people to the folly of the current belief, and the Connecticut Valley was too far removed from Boston for the influence of the Puritan clergy to be as effective in the stimulation of witchhunting as it was yet to prove in the tragedies of Salem. We can easily condemn our ancestors for their superstition and folly, yet we should remember that only a few generations separated them from the darkest years of Christendom, and they rather deserve praise for so speedily throwing off under their new conditions the yoke of bondage to fear of supernatural influences.
PYNCHON'S HERESY - HIS BOOK BURNED IN THE MARKETPLACE AT BOSTON.
William Pynchon's career in New England was brought to a sudden termination about the year 1651, under circumstances which reveal a side of his character that we should not have looked for in the enterprising merchant and pioneer and the stern magistrate. In 1650, after fourteen years residence in Springfield, he published a book entitled "The Meritorious Price of Man's Redemption, Justification, etc."
This work was a protest against the Calvinistic theology as preached by the clergy of that day, and proves Mr. Pynchon to have been a profound scholar, a logical writer, and an in-dependent thinker. He read his Bible in the original tongues, and while a sincere believer in the literal truth of the Scriptures and in the exact fulfillment of prophecy, he was his own interpreter and he would not accept as a part of his faith the system which Calvin had framed in all its terrible details. In his book he condemned specially the doctrine that Christ suffered the wrath of God and the torments of hell to pay man's debt to his Creator.
His theory of the atonement was that, inasmuch as sin came into the world through Adam's disobedience, so Christ by his perfect obedience, paid the full price of our redemption."
The killing of Jesus was not the display of God's wrath, but was the work of the devil through his instruments, the Jews and the Roman soldiers. The theory that the guilt of the world was laid upon or imputed to Christ he denounced unsparingly. "If Christ bare Adam's sin," he says, " by God's imputation, and his curse really, then you make Christ to be dead in sin." Again - "If our Mediator had stood as a guilty sinner before God by his imputing of our sins to him, then he could not have been a fit person in God's esteem to do the office of Mediator for our Redemption."
A large part of the work deals with the subleties and abstractions of now by-gone theology but the one thought stands out strongly that God the Father is a God of Justice, and the writer burns with indignation at the unworthy conceptions of the Almighty which the old theologians taught. Quoting Ezekiel's words, "One man shall not die for another's sin," he adds: "By this rule of justice God cannot inflict the torments of hell upon an innocent to redeem a guilty person.." "I hold it a point of gross injustice for any Court of Magistrates to torture an innocent person for the redemption of a gross Malefactor." On another page he writes:
"There is no need that our blessed Mediator should pay both the price of his Mediatorial obedience, and also bear the Curse of the Law for our redemption. "I never heard that ever any Turkish Tyrant did require such double satisfaction of any Redeemer for the Redemption of Galley slaves. I never heard that ever any Tyrant did require to pay both the full price that they demanded for their redemption of their galley-slaves and to bear their punishment of their curse and slavery also in their stead. Therefore, I cannot choose but wonder at the common doctrine of imputation, because it makes God the Father more rigid in the price of our Redemption than ever Turkish Tyrant was, and to be a harder Creditor in the point of satisfaction than ever any rigid Creditor was among men."
The book is written in the form of a dialogue between a tradesman, who is seeking for light, and a minister, who replies to his queries in accordance to Mr. Pynchon's views. It is of great rarity, only three copies being known to exist at the present time. One copy is in the Congregational Library in Boston, one is owned by Dr. Thomas R. Pynchon, of Hartford, and the other is in the British Museum. Beginning on page 89 of the present volume is reprinted substantially the whole of Mr. Pynchon's book, omitting the questions, the answers to which are sufficiently complete in themselves for an understanding of the scope and purpose of the work.
In view of the rigid adherence to the established doctrines enforced by the Massachusetts clergy at that time, it is not to be wondered that Mr. Pynchon's book should have aroused a storm of wrath and indignation. The boo, which was printed in London by James Moxon (very likely a kinsman of the Springfield minister), was received in Boston early in October, 1650. Copies of it were laid before the General Court, which was then in session, and were read by the members with undisguised horror. Such a heretical publication, in their view, tended to undermine the very foundations of the colony. The following vote was passed:
"Octobe 16, 1650 - The General Court now sittinge at Boston in New England, this sixteenth of October, 1650. There was brought to our hands a book written, as was therein subscribed, by William Pynchon, gent, in New England, entitled "The Meritorious Price of our Redemption, Justification, etc., clearing it from some common Errors, etc., which booke, brought over here by a shippe a few days since, and contayninge many errors & heresies generally condemned by all orthodox writers that we have met with, we have judged it meete and necessary for vindication of the truth, so far as in us lyes, as also to keep and pre-serve the people here committed to our care & trust in the true knowledge & fayth of our Lord Jesus Christ, & of our own redemption by him, as likewise for the clearing of ourselves to our Christian brethren and others in England, (where this book was printed and dispersed,) hereby protest our innocency, as being neither partyes nor privy to the writing, composing, printing, nor dilvulging thereof; but that on the contrary, we destest and abhorre many of the opinions & assertions theein as false, eroneous, hereticall; yea, & whatsoever is contayned in the said book which are contrary to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, & the generall received doctrine of the orthodox churches extant since the time of the last and best reformation, & for proof and evidence of our sincere and playne meaning therein, we do hereby condemn the said book to be burned in the Market Place at Boston, by the Common Executioner on the morrow immediately after lecture, & doe purpose with all convenient speed to convent the said William Pynchon before authority, to find out whether the said William Pynchon will owne the said book as his or not; which if he doth, we purpose (God willing) to proceed with him according to his demerits, unless he retract the same & give full satisfaction both here & by some second writing, to be printed and dispersed in England; all which we thought needfful, for the reasons above aleaged, to make known by this short protestation & declaration. Also we further propose, with what convenient speed we may, to appoynt some fitt person to
make particular answer to all material and controversyall passages in the said book & to publish the same in print, that so the errors and falsityes therein may be fully discovered, the truth cleared & the minds of those that love & seek after truth confirmed therein."
It being put to vote in the House of Deputies six of its members voted in the negative, viz: Capt. William Hathorne, the Speaker, and Henry Bartholomew of Salem; Joseph Hills of Malden, Richard Walker of Reading, Stephen Kingsley of Braintree and Edward Holyoke, sitting for Springfield, - the father of Elizur Holyoke.
The following was also adopted immediately after the passage of the preceding:
"It is agreed uppon by the whole Court, that Mr. Norton, one of the reverend elders of Ipswich, should be entreated to answer Mr. Pynchon's book with all convenient speed."
"It is ordered that the foregoing declaration concerning the book subscribed by the name of William Pynchon, in New England, gent, should be signed by the Secretary, and sent into England to be printed there."
"It is ordered that William Pynchon shall be summoned to appeare before the next General Court of Election, on the first day of their sitting to give his answer for the book printed and published under the name of William Pynchon, in New England, gent., entitled The Meritorious Price of our Redemption, Justification, etc., & not to depart without leave from the Court."
The books were accordingly burned forthwith in the market place, a few copies presumably saved for the use of the authorities and the clergymen who were interested in bringing the author either to justice or to a more orthodox frame of mind.
Mr. Pynchon's disappointment and grief at the cruel destruction of the fruit of his labor must have been intense. He had published the book, undoubtedly, as a labor of love, hoping to spread among his people a more wholesome religious spirit than that inspired by the old theology and
probably without realizing that he was to be reproached with attempting to overturn Christianity and to be summoned to court like a common criminal.
He attended the May session of the General Court in 1651, both in the capacity of a witness against the unfortunate Mary Parsons and to answer to the complaint as to his book. He was detained a fortnight or so in Boston, and at the request of the Court he conferred with the leading clergymen of the colony about his alleged heresies. One layman even with Mr. Pynchon's learning, could hardly compete in argument with three eminent divines skilled in the discussion of the metaphysical nicesties in which the schools of that day delighted.
As a result of a prolonged conference he practically acknowledged himself in error on a single point - that Christ's sufferings were more than mere trials of obedience, as he said, but were appointed as the "due punishment for our sins." He did not admit, however, nor did he ever afterward, that Christ actually suffered the torments of hell. Still, it was a great concession and was so regarded by the Court, as will be seen by the record:
"May 22, 1651 - Mr. William Pynchon, being summoned to appeare befor the Generall Court, according to their order, the last session, made his appearance before the Court, and be-ing demanded whether that book which goes under his name, and then presented to him, was his or not, he answered for the substance of the book, he owned it to be his.
"Whereuppon the Court out of their tender respect to him, ordered him liberty to conferr with all the reverend elders now present, or such of them as he should desire and choose. At last he took it into consideration, and returned his mind at the present writing, under his hand, viz:
According to the Court's advice, I have conferred with the Reverend Mr. Cotton, Mr. Norrice, and Mr. Norton, about some points of the greatest consequence in my booke, and I hope I have so explained my meaning to them as to take off the worst construction and it hath pleased God to let me see that I have not spoken in my booke so fully of the price and
merrit of Christ's sufferings as I should have done, for in my book I call them but trials of his obedience, yet intending thereby to amplifie and exalt the mediatorial obedience of Christ as the only meritorious price of man's redemption. But now at present I am much inclined to think that his suffereings were appointed by God for a farther end, namely, as the due punishment for our sins by way of satisfaction to devine justice for man's redemption.Subscribed your humble servant in all dutifull respects,
Boston 9:3mo., 1651.
"The court finding by Mr. Pynchon's writing, given into the Court, that through the blessing of God on the paines of the reverend elders to convince him of his errors in his booke conceive that he is in a hopeful way to give good satisfaction, and therefore at his request, judge it meete to grant him liberty, respecting the present troubles of his family, to return home some day the next week if he please, and that he shall have Mr. Norton's answer to his booke up with him, to consider thereof, that so at the next session of this Court, being the 14th of October next, he may give all due satisfaction as is hoped for and desired, to which session he is hereby enjoyned to make his personall appearance for that end.
"It is ordered that thanks be given by this Court to Mr. John Norton for his worthy paynes in his full answer to Mr. Pynchon's book, which at their desire he made, & since presented them with: & as a recompence for his paynes and good service therein, doe order that the Treasurer shall pay him twenty pounds out of the next levy."
What Mr. Pynchon's family troubles were, to which the Court refers, we do not know, but it is not unlikely that their existence made him less firm in resisting the urgent arguments of the clergymen than one would have expected. He must have returned to Springfield saddened and disheartened, having found his faithful work of fifteen years in the wilder-ness and his success in building up the chief settlement of the Connecticut valley all set at naught by his old associates
in Boston in view of what they felt to be his almost unpardonable sin, the writing of the truth as he believed it.
During the summer which followed, William Pynchon's plans for the future were formed. He was in no mood for a contest; he was an old man and he knew that the outcome would be dis-grace, confiscation of his property, ruin, and the destruction of his hopes and plans for the career of his son. He had retracted all that he could conscientiously do; the theologians were not satisfied, and if he remained in the colony must surely come, and with it ruin. He would return to England. The country which had persecuted the Pilgrims would now shelter him from New England by the Puritans there he could pass his closing days in peace. It is a sad commentary on the extremes to which the Bay authorities proceeded.
In pursuance of his plans he conveyed to his son John Pynchon, as a gift, on September 28, 1651, all his lands and buildings on both sides of the Connecticut River at Springfield. At this time his land grants from the town aggregated about 280 acres and the conveyance made John Pynchon the largest land owner in the town. He also succeeded to his father's business and later to his position as magistrate.
The Court met according to adjournment on the 14th of October but Mr. Pynchon did not appear. Ten days later, on the 24th, the following was entered on the records:
"The Court doth judge it meete and is willing, that all patience be exercised toward Mr. William Pynchon, that, if it be possible, he may be reduced into the way of truth and that he might renounce the errors and heresies published in his book, and for that end, doe give him time to the next Generall Court, in May, more thoroughly to consider of the said errors and heresies in his said book, and well to weigh the judicious answer of Mr. John Norton, and that he may give full satisfaction for his offence, which they more desire than to proceed to so great a censure as his offence deserves. In case he should not give good satisfaction, the Court doth therefore
order, that the judgment of the cawse be suspended till the honorable Court in May next, and that Mr. William Pynchon be enjoyned under the penalty of one hundred pounds to make his personall appearance at and before the next Generall Court, to give full answer to satisfaction if it may be, or otherwise to stand to the judgment and censure of the Court."
"It is ordered by this Court that the answer to Mr. Pynchon's book written by Mr. John Norton shall be sent to England and to be printed."
Here ends the record history of this remarkable case. Mr. Pynchon and his wife, and Rev. Mr. Moxon and family left Springfield and returned to England, but the date of departure is not known. His son-in-law, Henry Smith, followed him early the next year. Whether the prosecution was quietly dropped, or whether he went in defiance of the authorities, there is nothing of record to show. In the rural village of Wraysbury, England, not far from Windsor, Mr. Pynchon passed the rest of his life in tranquility. He published several theological works, among others a rejoinder to Mr. Norton's reply to his former book. He died October 29, 1662 aged 72.
The Rev. John Norton, who wrote the reply to Mr. Pynchon's book, was a clergyman of marked ability, and became soon afterward minister of the First Church in Boston. It was from his home estate that his widow gave, years afterward, the landon which the Old South Church was built. He was a vigorous writer and one of the most skilful defenders of Calvinistic theology. In his reply he took up Pynchon's book, paragraph by paragraph and combatted his unanswerable logic. The book he declared contained three "damnable heresies," the results of which would be these:
"The first holdeth us in all our sin, and continueth the full wrath of God abiding upon us.
"The second takes away our saviour.
"The third takes away our righteousness and our justification.
"What need the Enemy of Jesus, grace and souls add more?"
Mr. Norton's earnestness in the matter and his kindly personal feeling for Mr. Pynchon are well expressed in the concluding paragraph of his book, in which he expresses the hope "that truth may look down from heaven - preserve the Reader from every false way and lead him into all truth; magnifie his compassion in the pardon and recovery of the Author, a person in may respects to be very much tendered of us; in so saving of him (though as by fire) as that his rising again may be more more advantageous to the truth, comfortable to the people of God and honourable to himself, than his fall hath been scandalous, grieving or dishonorable."
William Pynchon's book, literally and figuratively, was "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." The details of his theology are of less importance to us than the fact that he alone in all New England dared to proclaim the faith that was in him when that faith was opposed to the lawfully established religion. It was a marked step forward in the evolution of religious truth, and we see in it a glimmering of the great light which many years later was to break over New England and dispel the gloom of an antiquated and cruel theology. When he tests the rules of divine justice by the common standard of man's justice, he makes a bold departure from Calvinism, and one recognizes the same spirit which has inspired others in later times.
Several of Pynchon's friends in England addressed appeals to the Governor and Council and the clergy in his behalf. The first which is printed in Mr. Norton's book, is a signed reply by five of the leading Massachusetts ministers to the appeal of certain English clergymen, and the second is the reply of the Governor and Council to a letter from Sir Henry Vane, both of which follow Mr. Pynchon's book.
On page 90, eleventh line, which reads, "Though I say that Christ did suffer," should read, "did not suffer."
p.89 to p. 125 is the whole of the book by William Pynchon which will have to be scanned.
Continued to Next