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Weather Forecast. Diane Rapaport used to be an attorney. Part of her work was slogging through old court records. But the records from Puritan New England surprised her. She came upon a treasure trove of stories about our ancestors that prompted her to close her law …. We have recently launched a new and improved website. To continue reading, you will need to either log into your subscriber , or purchase a new subscription. If you are a current print subscriber, you can set up a free website by clicking here.
She came upon a treasure trove of stories about our ancestors that prompted her to close her law office and become a full-time writer. Sometimes they come from as far away as New Hampshire. They were not allowed to meet in groups and they were not to tell anyone about their beliefs. Quakers were also persecuted in England and some Quaker men protested by taking off their clothes. The Quaker woman who walked into a Puritan meeting and dropped her dress in front of the congregation was also protesting actions of the colonial authorities, but whether it was the English men who inspired her remains unanswered.
The woman in question, Lydia Wardell, was a very strong and opinionated woman who tended to stir things up wherever she went and went on to be one of the unsung heroes of personal freedom in our history. But there is more than Wardell in the book to inform and delight. Family connections counted then as they do now, according to one case in the book, where Harvard students are suddenly possessed of a devilish desire to party, then as they do now.
It lasts for days, with people coming in from surrounding communities and mixing together with no apparent respect for social distinctions. Somebody eventually blew the whistle and the instigators were sought out for punishment. The investigation was quietly dropped. Rapaport also spoke of an incident that started in her hometown of Lexington and took her protagonist to Connecticut and Rhode Island and into trouble just about anywhere he went.
In those days Rapaport said most folks were good neighbors anyway, especially when it came to roaming livestock. His name pops up lots of times in the court records. He had a teenage servant girl who fell totally in love with him, and, of course, he got her pregnant and was shipped off to Rhode Island to a woman in Little Compton.
One of the first things you learn from talking to Rapaport is that the Puritans, or at least the people who lived among them, were not saints by any stretch. Finally she did come to his room, supposedly, to borrow a cup of sugar and he offered her a shilling for her favors.
He claimed he wasn't guilty but said she was one of several women that were trying to walk out of his store with goods without payment when he refused them credit. When he tried to prevent them, he said, one woman went after him with an axe. The judge warned him not to be alone with such women again.
Later he went to Massachusetts and appeared in similar cases, a rogue to the end. He took up with another morally challenged colonial named Mary Rosse, whose several confidence schemes in New England were driven by her charismatic personality. She was once expelled from a town tied to the back of a cart and whipped by the townspeople until the cart got to the next town line where those citizens would whip her until she got to the next town line and the chain went on until she was out of the jurisdiction. Rapaport, whose first book, New England Court Records: A Research Guide for Genealogists and Historians, tells how to research court records and encourages people to seek out and read the legal papers that have accumulated over the centuries.
Log in Subscribe. Main menu Toggle . This item is available in full to subscribers. Attention subscribers We have recently launched a new and improved website. Please log in to continue E-mail Password Log in. Need an ? Not so pure after all: A revealing chronicle of colonial crime in the Naked Quaker. Posted Wednesday, April 22, pm. Comments No comments on this story Please log in to comment by clicking here. Other items that may interest you. Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions.
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Not so pure after all: A revealing chronicle of colonial crime in the Naked Quaker