18 March 2012

Ancestry Part 2: a Hiracano and a Murder

Lizzie's family is a cascading succession of unusual and famous names from England and New England, making it unusually easy to track down her forebears.  In fact, thanks to her famous ancestor General John Bayley, there are entire books written about portions of her lineage.  That's how I know that she is descended from one of the most colorful early settlers of New England: John Bailey of Salisbury.

John Bailey was born in Chippenham in the county of Wiltshire in England sometime in 1590.  He married (to Eleanor Knight nee Emery) and had four children, and dwelt in the town of Salisbury, working as a weaver.  But he was not happy with his lot in Salisbury.  Perhaps he was unhappy with the opportunities there, or perhaps he had gotten into some mischief, or perhaps he just had the urge to wander.  Whatever the reason, he took ship for the New World when he was 44 years old, in 1635.  Bailey left behind his wife and some of his children, taking along his eldest son John Jr.

Immigration to America has never been a small thing, but in 1635 it was downright courageous.  The first successful colony, that of Jamestown in Virginia, had been settled in only 1607.  When Bailey took ship, he was traveling to an almost unknown world.  All that was certain about the Americas was that they were dangerous, cold, hostile, and vast.  This was rightly called a Great Migration.

Things got crazy right from the start for the Baileys.

The father and son were on the Angel Gabriel, a stout galleon that had once been used in Sir Walter Raleigh's raids on the Spanish.  It sailed with four other ships from Milford Haven on June 22nd.  One of the reasons we know some details of the voyage is that the James, another member of the convoy, carried Dr. Richard Mather, ancestor of famous colonials Increase Mather and Cotton Mather.  The good doctor kept a detailed diary.

This diary is exceedingly boring, as most are.  There is a great deal of discussion about the direction of the wind, and the various vomiting passengers, and the delicious dolphin they caught in their fourth week.  But near the conclusion of the voyage, the James and the Angel Gabriel, now separated thanks to James' superior speed, had the misfortune to be at sea during an event called the "Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635."

Says Dr. Mather:
And tho: we had two stormes by ye way, ye one upon Munday ye 3d of August, ye other on Saturday ye 15th of ye same, yet or gracious God (blessed and forever blessed bee his name) did save us all alive in ym both, & speedily assuaged ym againe. Indeed ye latter of ym was very terrible and grievous, insomuch yt wn wee came to land wee found many mighty trees rent in pieces in ye midst of ye bole, and others turned up by ye rootes by ye fiercenesse thereof: and a barke going from ye bay to Marvil head, with planters & seamen therein to y’ number of about 23, was caste away in ye storme, and all ye people therein perished, except one man & his wife, that were spared to report ye newes. And ye Angel Gabriel beeing yn at ancre at Pemmaquid, was burst in pieces and cast away in ye storme, & most of y’ cattell and other goodes, with one seaman & 3 or 4 passengers did also perish therein, besides two of ye passengers yt dyed by ye way, ye rest having yr lives given ym for a prey. But ye James & wee yt were therein, with or cattell & goods, were all preserved alive.  The Lords name be blessed forever.

Unsurprisingly, in Increase Mather's 1670 book The Life and Death of Richard Mather, he attributes this turn of events to divine providence.  He says that the "fearful Storm (which the Americans are wont to call an  Hiracano)" and which posed "no small danger" to the James and Dr. Mather, was saved thanks to "the Lord strangely turn[ing] the Wind in an instant", though "the very same strange and sudden turn of Wind which saved the Vessel wherein Mr. Mather was, ruined the other which came from England at the same time."

According to J. Henry Cartland's 1899 Ten Years at Pemaquid, the Angel Gabriel, bearing John Bailey and his son John Jr., was the first shipwreck experienced by colonists going from the Old World to the New.

It was a rough start to a new life in the colonies.  There is a plaque at Pemaquid Point, Maine, where the wreck occurred as the ship was driven onto the rocks in the outer harbor.

Cast ashore and ruined, John Bailey and his son made their way inland from Maine to Massachusetts, joining the town of Newbury.  The town was only two months old - a small cluster of villages - but it nonetheless must have been too populous for Bailey, because only two years later he made his way further west, into the unsettled land, to strike out on his own in 1637.

Bailey claimed some land at the point where the Powow River drains into the Merrimack River.  His farm, which still has a crumbling old stone-lined pit that was once a cellar, is now mostly part of Alliance Park, the site where the U.S.S. Alliance was built in 1777.

Today, a "Bailey Pond" and "Bailey's Hill" commemorate John Bailey's settlement in this spot, as well as a plaque honoring the first settlers of what would later become Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Things were looking up.  Bailey, his son, and a hired man named William Schooler had started fishing the river and cultivating a farm.  The other locals who had begun settling the area had agreed to assign exclusive fishing rights to the entire Powow to Bailey, on condition that he deliver a portion of his catch for general consumption.

William Schooler, Bailey's employee, was a bit of a character.  A London vintner and notorious adulterer, he had fled to enlist as a mercenary in Holland after wounding a man in a duel, and from there had deserted and gone to the New World.  He was a man of low reputation, and not the sort of person with whom you wanted to associate yourself.

It was perhaps Bailey's own fault, then, that he too was arrested for the murder of young Mary Sholy on June 6th.

As recounted in Murder and Mayhem in Essex Country by Robert Wilhelm, Mary Sholy was a poor young maid working in the town Pascataquack (now Portsmouth).  She had been in Newbury for an unknown purpose in 1636, and had sought out a guide to escort her back home.  William Schooler, then unemployed, had seized on the opportunity to make some money, and agreed to escort her to Pascataquack for fifteen shillings.  He didn't actually know the route very well, since he had never been there, but money was money.

At the time, the rough and dangerous road from Newbury to Pascataquack was more than thirty miles, a fair journey on foot for two people through wild land.  Yet Schooler was back in Newbury within two days of departure - far too short a time for the full return journey - with blood on his hat and a scratch across his nose.  He explained that he had killed a pigeon and run through some brambles on the journey, but had escorted Mary to within a few miles of her destination.  Though suspicious, the residents of Newbury permitted him to leave.  He took up residence and employment with John Bailey, out of town and away from accusing eyes.  No word arrived of Mary.

Six months later, her body was found in the Winnacunnet Woods by an Agawam Indian, naked and decomposing.  Tensions among the natives and colonials were high - enlistments for militia had started to enable a war on the Pequod tribe - so the Agawam was careful to bring colonial authorities to the murder scene.  Shortly thereafter, they marched to the Bailey farm at Amesbury, and arrested both men there under suspicion of murder.  The first murder in America had occurred only seven years earlier, with Mayflower Compact signatory John Billington's killing of John Newcomen and subsequent hanging, but criminal processes were well-established thanks to the experience of such men as Governor John Winthrop.

Upon reviewing the evidence, John Bailey was released with apology, while William Schooler was hanged, despite the relatively circumstantial evidence.  He was a man of poor character, suspected of being an atheist, and so the scanty evidence was enough to see him executed two months after arrest.

Bailey went home, but didn't stay out of trouble - despite his close shave with one of the first American murders.  Only two years later, he was heavily fined for illegally and unfairly buying up Indian lands.  The fine was five pounds, a large sum at the time, but was remitted on condition he return the lands to their rightful owners.

Perhaps rightfully, these incidents and Bailey's testy relationship with other residents had given him a bad reputation.  He'd had his fishing rights stripped from him for failing to turn over fish to the town (although they were reinstated that same year) and he was suspected of being an adulterer because his wife was still in England.  This was an unfair accusation - he had often requested that she join him in America, but thanks to his too-lurid description of the shipwreck of the Angel Gabriel she had never found the courage to make the journey (though one daughter found her way over).  Still, the townspeople seem to have disliked him, because in 1651 he was again arrested, this time for living apart from his wife.

The court in Ipswich ordered John Bailey to reunite with his wife, either in England or in America.  Things could no longer remain as they were: he could no longer be permitted to damage the morals of the community.  And because his wife was clearly not going to make the trip, this verdict amounted to a sentence of exile.  But later that year and before the verdict could be enforced, John Bailey died.  He left behind his son and a daughter, Joanna, as well as a big imprint on the history of Massachusetts and America.  His family would intermarry repeatedly with his wife's family, the Emerys, and populate much of New England.

Henry Rowland Crapo describes John Bailey in his 1912 Certain Comeovers as a "rather pathetic old fellow with which the world seemed on the whole to go somewhat awry."  This is a harsh judgment, but a just one.  From the first to the last, John Bailey's American experience was a rough one, often through no fault of his own.  We can only be glad that the Baileys' beginning was also their nadir: things just got better.

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