And yet another family in my lineage that suffered at the hands of those who played politics with the power of the witch hysteria.
William Vinson is my 10th great grandfather. He was born the son of Sir Francis Vincent, 1st Baronet of Stoke D’Abernon and Lady Sarah Paulet in June 1608 in Stoke, Surrey, England and he died on September 17, 1690 in Gloucester, Essex County, Massachusetts.
He married Sarah Wakely in 1635 in Salem, Massachusetts and she gave him eight children: Sarah (1639-1708), Hannah (1642-1675), Elizabeth (1644-1683), John (1648 – 1718), William (1651-1675), Richard (1652-1652) and Jacob (1658-1658).
Sarah Wakely Varney died in 1659 and he married Rachel Varney on June 10, 1660 in Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts. She gave him Thomas (1662-1675) and my 9th great grandmother, Abigail (1668-1728). Abigail married Jacob Elwell on July 6, 1686 in Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts.
“William Vinson and his wife, Sarah, who were in Salem in 1635, removed to Gloucester in 1643. Jeffrey Parsons, who left England in his youth, came to Gloucester from Barbados about 1655 and in 1657 married their daughter, Sarah Vinson. …All of these families were vital to the history of ancient Gloucester and all of the nine men served on the board of selectmen during the early years of the town, Tybbot, Brown, Collins, Vinson and Eveleth serving between 1642 and 1648.”
– In ancient Gloucester on Cape Ann (p. 83) from Four Boston Grandparents.
“…It wasn’t long before others of Stone’s mind openly challenged Mr. Blynman’s pastoral abilities, and some ceased attending services altogether. The pastor fared worse in September 1649, when he was called to court by Anthony Day for having torn up a writ that Day had taken out against William Vinson (or Vincent). Mr. Blynman’s defense was that he did it, not “out of any contempt of authority, but only to stop the proceeding that the matter might be privately healed.” Blynman was let off with an admonition “to beware of the like rash carridge for time to come.”
Mr. Perkins ended up suing and winning a defamation suit in 1653, after one of his detractors accused his wife and three other women of the church of witchcraft. The three women, all defenders of Mr. Perkins, also won slander suits against the accuser. Their names were Agnes Evans, wife of William; Grace Dutch, wife of Osman; and Sarah, wife of William Vinson, the same man Mr. Blynman had unsuccessfully tried to ‘heal’ of debt by ripping up the complaint against him.
In the further annals of Gloucester, the name of Agnes Evans does not reappear. As soon as her reputation was restored, her family removed to Topsfield and joined the Perkinses. Of the only two women accused of witchcraft who remained in Gloucester, their innocence would become even more apparent over time. For if they had possessed powers to peer into the future, Sarah Vinson and Grace Dutch would have implored their husbands, for their sake and the sake of their children, to forsake Cape Ann forever.
Though Goodman Rowe paid his fine, he was not forgiven. Had his wife, Bridget, possessed the psychic abilities attributed to witches, she would have gladly allowed her husband to give the farm over to the devil, and with their sons, John and Hugh, be gone from Gloucester forever. On Nov. 5, 1692, in what appears to be a rekindling of a 40-year-old feud involving the families of the proponents of Gloucester’s unsuccessful pre-Emerson church leaders – Blynman, Perkins and Millet – four Cape Ann women were indicted together. They were Rebecca (Dolliver) Dike, wife of Richard Dike; Esther (Dutch) Elwell, wife of Samuel Elwell; Mary (Prince) Rowe, wife of Hugh Rowe; their daughter Abigail Rowe; and Rachel Vinson, the widow of William Vinson.
By the time of their arrest, Margaret Prince, Mary’s mother and Abigail’s grandmother, and step-in-law to Rachel Vinson, had been moldering for two months inside the Ipswich jail. They were accused by William Stevens, his son James Stevens, and son-in-law Nathaniel Coyt of having ‘committed Sundry acts of witchcraft’ on the body of Mary Fitch of Gloucester, age 16. According to the Salem Witchcraft Papers, “James Stevens testifieth and saith that Mary Fitch did say that she felt A woman upon the bed, and put forth hir hand, and felt the hand and felt the hair of hir head and A peg in it, also testifieth that she said she was squesed to pieces, whereas I saw no body hurt hur.” It will be remembered that Mary Rowe’s father-in-law, John, was the man who consigned Gloucester to the devil four decades earlier, in a tirade aimed at his fellow townsmen for the ill comportment during the ministries of Blynman and his successors.
It was during that time that William Stevens had, in the late 1650s, coveted the church eldership for himself, but was frustrated by John Rowe and others. Some of those others were Sarah Vinson and Grace Dutch, both of whom had been cleared in 1653 of witchcraft accusations prompted by their support for Blynman and Perkins. Esther Elwell, presently accused, was the daughter of Grace Dutch, and Rachel Vinson became William Vinson’s wife after Sarah Vinson’s death. It seemed that revenge was taken most ruthlessly of all on William Vinson and John Rowe – both long dead by 1692 – Rowe for his utterances against his fellow townsmen in 1653, and Vinson because the Rev. Blynman had tried to protect him from the embarrassment of legal proceedings back in 1649.
Not only was Hugh Rowe sorely hurt by the arrest of his wife and daughter, but further damaged in light of the fact that his deceased first wife was William Vinson’s daughter. Winter was coming in when Abigail Rowe was separated from her mother and grandmother and jailed in Salem, while her mother Mary and Goodwives Dike, Elwell, and Vinson were remanded to Ipswich, there to be sorrowfully greeted by their Gloucester neighbors and kin. What transpired between Goodwife Rowe and her aging mother, Margaret Prince, the sharpness of her tongue probably dulled by long months of imprisonment, can only be imagined. Some of their words, however, were put to paper, in a December plea that should have softened the hearts of their cruelest judges:
“To the Hon. Gov. and Council and Gen. Assembly now sitting at Boston: The humble petition of us whose names are subscribed hereunto now prisoners at Ipswich humbly showeth, that some of us have lain in the prison many mos., and some of us many weeks, who are charged with witchcraft, and not being conscious to ourselves of any guilt of that nature lying upon our consciences; our earnest request is that seeing that winter is so far come on that it cannot be expected that we should be tryed during this winter season, that we maybe released out of prison for the present upon bail to answer what we are charged with in the spring. For we are not in thus unwilling nor afraid to abide the trial before any judicature appointed in convenient season of any crime of that nature; we hope you will put on the bowells of compassion so far as to consider of our suffering condition in the present state we are in, being like to perish with cold in lying longer in this cold season of the year, some of us being aged either about or nere 4 score, some though younger yet being with child, and one giving such to a child not 10 weeks old yet, and all of us weak and infirm at the best, and one fettered with irons this halfe year and almost destroyed with so long an imprisonment. Thus hoping you will grant us a release at the present that we be not left to perish in this miserable condition, we shall always pray.”
(Source: Linda Faye Johnson (Tucker), the 9th Great Granddaughter of Robert Elwell )
In this piece above – William Vinson is the earl’s son – Grace Dutch, the grandmother of William’s daughter’s husband Abigail (Abigail married Jacob Elwell – his mother was Esther Dutch, her parents were Grace and Osmond Dutch), and Sarah Vinson, William’s first wife. Yes, this all happened before Abigail was born – perhaps it was the shared experience that kept the families close enough for Abigail and Jacob to marry later. The later indictment included Esther (Dutch) Elwell (Jacob’s mother – Grace Dutch’s daughter) and Rachel Vinson, Abigail’s mother and William’s second wife.