Mark Quilter made his living as a cow-keeper in the common land on the north side of town and seemed to always be in trouble. He was called before the court in 1647 and reprimanded for “sleeping in the barn” rather than watching the cows during his evening shift. He had a reputation in Ipswich for drinking and losing his temper and was always the butt of jokes and pranks.
One day young swineherds John and Thomas Manning couldn’t resist the opportunity to carry a young calf up the roof and drop it down the wooden clay-lined chimney of Quilter’s little house, whereupon the animal leaped out the fireplace wreaking havoc until the poor man was able to open the door. The Manning boys were brought to court for disturbing the peace. Such public insults caused Quilter to be overly protective of his authority at home, and occasionally inflamed him to violence.
The proof in the Porridge
On a March morning in 1664, Rebeckah Shatswell, the daughter of Simon Tuttle, arrived at the door of Quilter’s wife Francis “to bear her company.” When Quilter came into the house insisting on being fed, Rebeckah started an argument by suggesting that Francis hadn’t fed him breakfast. Francis replied that she had, and pointed to the meat in the porridge, When Rebeckah suggested that Francis may have eaten it herself, Mark went to the defense of his wife, hit Rebeckah Shatswell, and ended up in court.
Charge: Mark Quilter, upon complaint against him for striking the wife of Richard Shatswell.
Complaint: Richard Shatswell’s complaint against Mark Quilter, for cruel misusing of said Shatswell’s wife by coming to her and violently taking her from the chair on which she sat, throwing her down on the floor, her head against a door, her neck being doubled, then taking her up, and continuing violent shaking and thrusting her out of the house. And although he had so bruised her that she could stand only on one leg, he was so cruel that he would not give her leave to stay to recover her breath, when she asked him, all of which was done without any provocation.
Testimony of Rebeckah Shatswell: Rebeckah Shatswell testified that “being out of doors she saw Abigail Leeds (*a servant of John Kimball’s) go to Quilters; she having occasion to speak with her, went thither also. Presently afterwards came in Mark Quilter and asked his wife for some victuals. His wife answered, “What need you be so hasty?” This deponent (Rebeckah) answered, “It may be he had not his breakfast,” and Quilter’s wife said “Yes, two hours before, he ate meat!” To which Mark Quilter answered, “A poor deal.”
His wife answered thus, “Look here at my porridge, whether I did not boil a good deal of meat?” This deponent answered, “It may be you might boil a good deal and eat it up yourself.”
Then said Quilter, “Hold you your prating!” This deponent answered, “I prat no more than you, Quilter” who then replied, “I wonder folks will come to my house.” This deponent answered, ” I do not intend to trouble you; I came to speak with Goodwife Leads.”
Then said he, ‘Why do you sit here lying? To which this deponent answered ‘I lie no more than you,’ Then he came with violence.”
Witness: Mrs. Greene testified that being at the house of Mark Quilter that winter, she heard the tongs clang and heard his wife cry out and say, “This is a brave call for you, to make Mrs. Greene believe you strike the pig when you strike me.”
Witness: Robert Dunell said he saw said Quilter strike his wife.
Witness: Johanah Greene testified that Goodwife Quilter had “divers times come to my daughter’s house and begged of her to go over to the said Quilters and sit and work with her to bear her company; and my daughter hath oftentimes refused: and I have told her that she might do up her work and go to another body’s house; and they have a great family that can go to hers. And also Goody Quilter begged very hard that day at my daughter and Goodwife Brewer to go over there and bear her company that very day she was hurt. And further Goodman Quilter hath been towards her divers times very familiar and Goodwife Quilter said last Friday night that my daughter did not give her husband Quilter any provoking words.”
Witness: Mary Brewer testified that she saw a bruise on Goodwife Shatswell’s thigh the day that Goodman Shatswell went to the honored Major Denison’s house to complain against Mark Quilter.
Witness: Elizabeth Roper deposed that she heard Goodwife Shatswell say that Mark Quilter had warned her against coming to his house, but it was no more than he has done to his other neighbors, etc.
Witness: Joseph Browne deposed that Simon Tuttle said at Goodman Roper’s that Goody Shatswell had been warned, and she was “Right enough served” for going there.
Witness: Francis, the wife of Mark Quilter testified that if Goodwife Shatswell had gone when her husband told her to, he would not have used violence; also that she came often to her house to borrow things which said Shatswell knew to be against her husband’s wishes; also that her children were often laughing at him and provoking him; and that the Thursday before this happened, Goodwife Quilter told Goodwife Shatswell that her husband objected to her coming to his house, and she wished she would not come except when be was not at home.
Witness: Goodwife Merchant, aged about fifty years, deposed that she heard Richard Shatswell’s wife say, when Quilter was angry with his wife on account of something which had been done with his bed, ”If I had such a husband I would make everything fly.”
Witness: Sarah Tuttle, aged nineteen years, deposed that she heard Goody Quilter say that her husband ”did not forwarn cousin Shatswell of his House.”
Witness: Goodwife Leads and Mary Sheffield testified that Goodwife Quilter said she wondered that her husband would do so by Goody Shatswell, because she thought she wheedled with him as little as any woman.
Witness: Johanah Green testified that “Goodwife Quilter had diverse times come to my daughter’s house.” (*Johanah was the widow of John Shatswell (father of Richard) and was married to John Greene. The Shatswells eventually became the owners of Green’s Point off Town Farm Road.)
Verdict of the Court:
Mark Quilter, upon complaint against him for striking the wife of Richard Shatswell, was fined and bound to good behavior, especially toward his wife. Richard Shatswell was awarded costs.
Sources and further reading:
- Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750
- Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters
- Records and files of the Quarterly courts of Essex county, Massachusetts, Vol. 3