Stories

Rowdy Nights at Quartermaster Perkins’ Tavern

(Story adapted from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters, and the Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts.)

John Perkins Jr., son of the early Ipswich settler, was assigned the role of Quartermaster for the military preparations of the town, a title of which he retained throughout his life and included in deeds and other public documents.

In 1668, Quartermaster Perkins bought an eight acre lot from William Hubbard with house, barns, and stables on High Street north of Mineral St. Observing that business at the nearby White Horse Inn was profitable, he sought license in 1668 to keep an ordinary, and received permission to open his house and draw wine, but not to sell to townsmen to be drunk in the house.

High Street was a part of the Bay Road, and Perkins’ inn became a popular resort for town folks and travelers. Evidently the Quartermaster allowed large liberties to his patrons, for his house became the scene more than once of violent disorder. In March 1672. there was a shooting affray in which Mark Quilter, a notorious drunk was ordered away, the candle was blown out, and someone shot him in the darkness.

Every man of military age was obliged to be present for military practice. An ordinance of 1663 required that “troopers and soldiers shall not either singly or in companies remain in arms & vainly expend their time & powder by inordinate shooting in the day or night” after their release. When the company was dismissed on this occasion, they took themselves to Perkins’s establishment. For two related episodes, the Quartermaster was presented at Court for allowing gaming in his house and for the boisterous outbreak on training day after the militia had been dismissed. Their behavior was so scandalous that the whole lot were summoned to Ipswich Court on May 1, 1672:

“We present Mr. Dudley Bradstreet, Mr. Nathaniel Wade, Mr. Thomas Wade, Mr. Samuel Jacobs, John Wainwright, Thomas Bishop, Elihu Wardell, John Cogswell, Mr. Nathaniel Rogers, Mr. Samuel Rogers, Mr. Ezekiel Rogers, Mr. John Brown, John Lee, Edward Nealand, and Mark Quilter for disorder in Quartermaster Perkins house upon a trayning day in shooting of pistols in the house after the colors were lodged, & for breach of the peace.”

This was a strange conglomeration, the son of Simon and Ann Bradstreet, three sons of the Reverend Nathaniel Rogers, and two sons of Mr. Jonathan Wade as well as young John Wainwright and John Cogswell, some wearing the proud title of Mr. while hobnobbing with fellows of the baser sort in a very democratic spree!

When Abraham Perkins succeeded the Quartermaster, he was handed specific conditions that he “shall not suffer any unlawful play or Games, in said house, garden, orchard or elsewhere, especially by men servants or apprentices, common laborers, Idle persons, or shall suffer any Town Inhabitants to be in said house drinking or tipling on ye Saturday night after ye sunset or on ye Sabbath day, nor wittingly or willingly admit or receive…. any person notoriously defamed of for theft, incontinency or drunkenness.”

Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts

Court held at Ipswich, May 1, 1672: Presented for disorder in Quartermaster Perkins house upon training day in shooting pistols in the house after the colors were lodged and for breach of the peace.

Shooting Pistols

Deposition of John Edward, aged about forty years: “Upon a training day Last summer at this Towne I was attending at Quartermaster Perkins house, drawing beer for his Guests and being too & fro in several rooms of the House, I saw in one room these persons in which room there was much disturbance & offence given to the master of the House by shooting of pistols in the room, in so much that the Quartermaster & his wife often went & sent to bid them “Cease firing in your Room!” Not withstanding their earnest charges and entreaties were little regarded, so that ye Quartermaster was forced to throw open the casements and bid them that If they would shoot, to shoot out there! But his words were little regarded, for as I passed, I saw them shoot in the room & so much that some in the room complained.”

“And after this, one in the Room called for one dozen of beer for Mark Quilter. I did not take notice that Mark had called for it himself. Then Mr. Samuel Jacobs said, “Bring half a dozen of beer & we will have no more, & if Mark Quilter will not pay for it, I will.” So I went & fetched it for him that called for it & said, “This is for you.” And then Mark Quilter came down to the bar & asked If anything was charged to his account. I answered, “No.” He replied, “Nor charged — I call for it myself, only he gave me a pint of wine to drink with them, then I came up after the wine was carried up.” And many drank to him & I took notice that Mark had two cups full before him & another drunk to him & he took the cup, but would drink little.”

“And presently Thomas Bishop was shooting under the table. Mark complained & said, is this the kindness you pretended in drinking to me? I’ll stay no longer with you.” And about this time the light was put out, so I went to light it & the Quartermaster, coming up, said “Sir, depart the room, for I will have no such disorder here.” All was in a tumult, and Mark was very angry, his clothes burned with shooting under the table. And Our Master said, “Mark get you gone, for they will do you mischief, and I being busy lighting the light as the Quartermaster went down, the light was blown out as I did light it, & Mark going to follow ye Quartermaster, two persons clapt to the door & the rest pressing about about him, a pistol was shot by some, but who I know not did the execution among the several pistols who then shot.”

“And Mark said, ‘You have lamed me!’ I then did light the light and cried out, ‘You have killed the man!’ And all the persons were hustling and gone out of the room. Two as they went presented & snapped their pistols at Mark as they went, as he was lying by the door & bleeding.”

“I viewed his wound and cried again, ‘You have killed the man’ for he lay speechless & ready to die away. Help came up presently and labored to stanch the blood, and Quartermaster took care the Doctor might be sent for presently. I going down saw not any one of these persons mentioned but Mark left in any room of the house, all being gone, so he was carried away by those the Quartermaster called.”

Mark Quilter, aged about forty-two years deposed that he went to the Quartermaster’s “to talk with Mr. John Burr upon business, when I told them I did not care for drinking.” Some answered & said “You must kiss the cup, then.” And I, going to follow the Quartermaster, was stopped by those that sat on each side of me, Mr. Dudley Bradstreet & Mr. Samuel Jacob on one side, & Elihu Wardell & Mr. Thomas Wade on the other side. Deciding then to creep under the table I was stopped by some holding my coat behind. Watching my opportunity I got from behind the table & making towards the door, it was shut. Then some cried, “Here is the man, here is the man….Mark Quilter, presented for taking and selling a sheep of Phillip Fowler’s to Robert Peirce, and saying that he never took any sheep out of the flock of the shepherd when the latter was not present, when Mr. John Burr testified that he took one before sunrise.” (Mark Quilter died at Ipswich on Nov. 4-6, 1678 as a consequence from “being shot in his leg.”

Breach of the Peace

Alexander Orhort deposed that Quartermaster Perkins, desiring him to attend in the room where Obadiah Bridges and Andrew Peters were, said he saw Bridges take Perkins by the shoulders. Andrew Peters in ye meantime pulling Quartermaster by ye hair, & John Clarke sitting at ye end of the table, arose up & said unto Obadiah, “Why do you abuse the Quartermaster thus? Shall he not be master of his own house?” Obadiah answered, “No, he shall not.” Then John Clarke answered “yea” but he shall.” Thereupon John Clarke went to obadiah Bridges & struck up his heels & held him down. Samuel Clarke was not present when this happened.

Joseph Fowler aged about nineteen years testified that he was at his grandfather Kimball’s barn and “I heard a stir in Quartermaster’s new house, and knowing my master was there I went in to Quartermasters house, and when I came in, I asked the maid what was the matter. She told me she could not tell. I made to the Chamber where my master was and in going I met with John Clark. I asked him what was the matter. The said Clark told me that my master and the quartermaster was quarreling, and said that Obadyah stepped in between, but I laid Obadiah soon at my foote and I went up into the Chamber and they were all coming down into the lower room, and my master went out at the door and in going out the quartermaster took my master by the collar and struck him, and my master did not lift up his hand against the Quartermaster.

Edward Chapman, Constable, deposed that sometime the last winter Obadiah Bridges came to his house and asked him to go to the Quartermaster’s where they found many persons in a hubbub, blood being drawn and the peace broken. Deponent called for silence and some then said that Bridges held Perkins while Peters beat him or cuffed him and pulled his hair. The quartermaster said “Carry Goodman Peters to the stocks.” and among them it was said if it had not been for John Clark, Perkins would have been injured. Deponent went with Peters to the Major but he was not at home, so he charged them to appear before Mr Symonds in the morning, which they did, having Josiah Linden and Sander as witnesses.

Andrew Peters and Obadiah Bridges affirmed that the quartermaster agreed to bear John Clarke harmless and so the latter had reason to speak well of him. Obadiah Bridges testified that he had some business with Goodman Peters at his house and after they had finished, the latter invited him to drink part of a pint of wine, and they went to the quartermaster’s etc.

Martha Huggins aged sixteen years deposed that the evening that the trouble between her master Quartermaster John Perkins and the others took place they were all in the new chamber which we commonly call “The Kings’ Arms.” Mr. Matoone and Samuel Clarke of Portsmouth and Serg. Thomas Waite being present with them were in the lower room where the family commonly keepeth. Deponent drew two pots of beer for them in the lower room.

Thomas Smith aged about twenty four years deposed that the quartermaster told him that Bridges was not to blame and did all he could for peace and that he was as good a conditioned man as ever came to his house.

Location of Quartermaster John Perkins’ Tavern

The John Perkins lot is shown in the map of early land grants to early settler William Payne. Thomas Franklin Waters indicated the location of the house at between 56 -64 High Street, and provided deeds associated with it:

Mr. William Hubbard transferred property, containing eight acres, with house,” barns, stables, sellers, out houses etc.” on the 16th of February 1668-9 to John Perkins (Ips. Deeds 3: 126). Perkins sold his son Samuel half an acre on Baker’s Lane (Mineral Street) with John Day’s lot on the south; the lot alluded to as occupied once by the widow Rofe, May 14, 1679 (Ips. Deeds 4:285); and to Samuel Moses a small lot, 2 rods 4 ft. wide, 5 rods 4 ft. deep ,abutting on High St. and the Marshall Robert Lord’s land, Nov. 20, 1682 (Ips. Deeds 5: 176). Moses built a house, which he mortgaged to Mr. Joseph Bridgham of Boston, March 16, 1685 (Ips. Deeds 5: 186). John Allen Jr., of Marblehead sold this house and the quarter acre of land, “formerly Samuel Moses late of Ipswich” “in ye long street so called” bounded by land of Mr. Abraham Perkins to Edward Eveleth, Nov. 15,1708 (21: 19).”

Elizabeth Lowater, daughter of Capt. Stephen Perkins, and Daniel Giddings held some of the original Perkins land. The whole estate, six and one half acres with buildings was conveyed to to John Harris, July 7, 1795 (164: 236). Col. Nathaniel Harris inherited a portion. He acquired the Gould property as well and occupied the old house, which was burned about 1858, when a fire swept off a number of buildings in this neighborhood. The 1856 map shows this stretch of houses owned by Nathaniel Harris on High Street.

Sources and further information: 

Records of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County MA

Stories from the Courts

In 1641, the General Court established four quarter-annual courts kept yearly by the magistrates of Ipswich & Salem, two to be held at Salem & the other two at Ipswich, with jurisdiction in all matters not reserved to the Court of Assistants. Read the stories of Ipswich residents who faced the magistrates.

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