Featured image: Grape Island, blockprint by Evelyn Goodale

Grape Island is a part of the Parker River Wildlife Refuge at Plum Island, and was once a small, but thriving community. Jacob Perkins, Matthew Perkins, William Hubbard, Francis Wainwright, Thomas Hovey, Thomas Wade, Benedictus Pulsifer, Captain John Smith, Samuel Dutch, and Nathaniel Treadwell were among the owners in the 17th Century.

Luke Perkins and his wife, Elizabeth were notorious disturbers of the peace in 17th Century Ipswich, and she was said to have had a “venomous tongue.” It was a happy day for the town in the 1680’s when Luke and Elizabeth loaded their goods into a boat and set sail for the solitary island farm owned by his father on Grape Island. However, Luke did not fulfill the conditions of their stay, and was ordered by the Court to transfer the property back to his father. An agreement was made that upon Luke’s relinquishing all claim to the house and land, his father would convey to him another house on half an acre of land.

Grape Island, photo by George Dexter (1862- 1927)

Luke repudiating this agreement, took it to court, lost his case, and went to jail rather than submit to the order of the court. He was released after giving bonds in the sum of £1000 not to molest his brother Abraham, who was in the possession of his property.

None of this sat well with Luke’s wife Elizabeth, and at the Quarter Sessions Court March 29, 1681, Elizabeth was “presented” for saying that she wished Luke’s father Jacob, his mother Sarah, and his brother Abraham were all “tied back to back so that she might see them carried to the gallows, there to be hung.”

The northern end of Grape Island, photo by George Dexter, circa 1900
The northern tip of Grape Island, photo by George Dexter (1862- 1927)

Elizabeth didn’t hold back in court: “What do you tell me of father & mother? Tell me of the devil! My mother-in-law has one foot in hell already and the other will be there quickly,” It was her scandalous charges of gross immorality against Rev. Mr. Cobbett, Pastor of the Ipswich church that drew the ire of the court, to which Luke added, “Mr. Cobbett is more fit to be in a hog sty than in a pulpit!”

The Grand Jury found Elizabeth Perkins guilty of “the most opprobrious and scandalous words of a high nature against Mr. Cobbett and her husband’s natural parents, and others of his relations, which was proved, and in part owned.

The sentence was read:

“That a due testimony may be borne against such a virulent, reproachful and wicked-tongued woman, this Court doth sentence said Elizabeth to be severely whipped on her naked body, and to stand or sit the next Lecture day in some open place in the public meeting-house at Ipswich and when the Court shall direct, the whole time of the service with a paper pinned on her head, written in capital letters, for reproaching ministers, parents & relations.”

Elizabeth Perkins paid a fine rather than be whipped, but the rest of the sentence was executed. They continued to live on Grape Island, and a deed conveyed to Francis Wainwright in 1701 includes a year’s rental fee of 5 pounds from Luke Perkins for his use of the farm.

Sources:

 

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