Amorous Peasants by Albrecht DurerStories

The courtship and marriage of William Durkee and Martha Cross

Records of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County MAWilliam Durkee, an indentured Irish Catholic, and Martha Cross, the daughter of Robert Cross of Chebacco parish were servants in the household of Thomas Bishop in Ipswich. When Martha became pregnant by William, they were presented for fornication; the court ruled that they be punished and be married. They found themselves back in court when Martha’s father refused to comply and Durkee had his own misgivings.

The Essex Co. MA court records provide a detailed account of the case, where gossip and hearsay from their neighbors was presented as evidence. The court clerk recorded William Durkee’s name with several different spellings in the same document:

William Dirkey, presented for fornication, was ordered to be whipped not exceeding twenty stripes, and to put in security of 20£ to save the town of Ipswich harmless from the charges of keeping the child, or else go to prison….Martha Dirky, for fornication, is ordered to be whipped unless she bring a note from the treasurer, of threes £s paid to him.”

Thomas Bishop provided the surety, but after the birth of the child, Durkee filed a suit against Robert Cross when he refused to allow his daughter to marry Durkee.

Margrit Bishop testified that being asked by Martha whether she should go home to her father, deponent told her that it was best for her to do so. At that, William being discontented, she desired me in the presence of God to bear witness that she would have no other man but he. Furthermore, she said ‘why will not you trust me as well as I have trusted you hitherto?’ And hereupon she went away to her father.

Grace Searl testified that she heard Martha Crosse say, when her friends came for her, that she told William that if she went away she would come again and would not forsake him.

Thomas Bishop testified that Martha Crosse desired him several times to speak to her father, that she and William Durgy might be married …

Mary Bishop testified that Martha said it was her greatest comfort that her father had given his consent to her marriage, which was to take place on the nineteenth of the present month.”

The court ruled for the plaintiff, that Robert Cross must give his daughter in marriage or pay 5£s damages. Cross agreed to the settlement:

“Honored Sirs, you may Easily understand how the Case stands concerning my daughter, and I give them leave to marry, Your servant Robert Crosse.”

Cross also addressed a letter to Thomas Bishop:

“Neighbor Bishop, to you & your wife this is to let you understand our minds, the Case standing as it does: we leave your servants to your disposal…and we shall no ways hinder it. —Your much Respected Friend, Mr. Robert Crosse at Ipswich in New England, the 12 of the 7th month 64.”

But by now, William Durkee was having second thoughts about the marriage, and Robert Cross filed charges against Durkey for “abusing his daughter.” Cross frequently appeared in court, suing John Fuller in 1642; Joseph Fowler in 1649; Cornelius Waldo in 1651; William Durkee in 1664; Thomas Wells in 1668; and in 1670 Nicholar Vauden and Lawrence Clinton, two of his servants who had run away.

Back to court they went:

Goodman Story deposed that Martha Crosse conceived she had been cast out of her father’s favor and family, and was sore horrified and distressed in mind, and that her Sister Goodey Nelson came with tears to hear her: ‘Woe, said I,’ I thought my Sister would have died tonight: but she thought she could not live another day in that Condition: I being much affected with their Condition, said, ‘Why doe you not go to your Father & make your Condition known unto him? To which she answered, ‘Oh, I dare not go to speak a word in her behalf.’ Then I said, ‘will you go if I go down with you?’

“Then Goodey Nelson said, ‘I with all my heart,’ so we went down to Goodman Cross, and there we found them in a sad and sorrowful Condition very much horrified in their spirit, not knowing which way to turn or what to say, & as my apprehension then led me, I did treat with them about suffering them to marry, which he did, & that was the way then what we thought to be the best.”

William Nelson deposed that William Durken said, at the deponent’s house, after Goodman Story had been at his father’s, that he wished he had never spoken as he had, owning the child to be his, but he had eighteen meals a week and would spare six of them to keep the child.

John Bishop deposed that he heard William Durgee say that he had rather keep the child than keep her, but he presently said if he kept one he would keep the other, and they agreed to be married the next day.”

William Durkee married Martha Cross, daughter of Robert Cross, December 20, 1664 and they established their residence in Chebacco Parish. Sources list their children as John Durkee,  Martha (Durkee) Fuller, Thomas Durkee, Elizabeth (Durkee) Martin, William Durkee, Jane (Durkee) Martin, Mary (Durkee) Peck, Ann (Durkee) Palmer, Henry Durkee and Mercy (Durkee) Martin.

Sources and further information

More stories from the Essex Courts

sheep Troubles with Sheep - Thomas Granger of Duxbury was hung for sodomy in 1642, the first execution in the Colony. With great speed the court issued an edict suggesting spinning and weaving as suitable occupation for boys and girls to avoid idleness and immodest behavior.
Police open fire at the Ipswich Mills Strike, June 10, 1913 - On June 10, 1913, police fired into a crowd of protesting immigrant workers at the Ipswich hosiery mill. A young Greek woman named Nicholetta Paudelopoulou was shot in the head and killed by police. Fifteen persons, including the local leaders of the I.W.W. were taken into custody.
One Third for the Widow - Under Puritan law an adult unmarried woman was a feme sole, and could own property and sign contracts. A married woman was a feme covert and could not own property individually. Widows regained the status of feme sole but the Right of Dower entitled them to keep only one third of their property. When a woman was left a widow some men like vultures were ready to take the other two thirds.
Lydia Wardwell on her presentment for coming naked into Newbury meeting house - In 1661, Lydia Perkins of Newbury had become a Quaker, and the church issued demands that she appear and give reasons for her withdrawal. Her angry response was to appear naked in the Meeting House. She was ordered to appear at the Salem court, and was then taken to Ipswich and severely whipped.
“Dalliance and too much familiarity” - William Row v. John Leigh, Mar. 28, 1673: “For insinuating dalliance and too much familiarity with his wife and drawing away her affections from her husband, to the great detriment both in his estate and the comfort of his life.”
Persecution of Quakers Persecution of Quakers by the Puritans - Beginning in 1656, laws forbade any captain to land Quakers. Any individual of that sect was to be committed at once to the House of Correction, to be severely whipped on his or her entrance, and kept constantly at work, and none were suffered to speak with them. In Ipswich,  Roger Darby his wife lived on High St, and were warned, fined and dealt with harshly.
Drunk Puritans in Plymouth Colony Drunkards, liars, a hog, a dog, a witch, “disorderly persons” and the innkeeper - As the young boys who arrived with the first settlers of Ipswich approached adulthood, they developed a fondness for hard liquor and rowdiness, which frequently landed them in court.
Prisoner escaping colonial jail The first jailbreak in the Colony, March 30, 1662 - On the morning of the 30th of March, 1662, the Ipswich jailer found that a prisoner had escaped, the first offense of this nature committed in the country.
Ipswich MA and the Salem witchcraft trials Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials - During the Salem witch trials, Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road was tried and hung. The Ipswich jail was filled with the accused, but the ministers of the town opposed the trials as a delusion. Residents blocked the bridge to prevent the accusing girls from being brought into Ipswich.
Rowdy Nights at Quartermaster Perkins’ Tavern - The Quartermaster's house became the scene more than once of violent disorder. The company's behavior was so scandalous that the whole lot were summoned to Ipswich Court on May 1, 1672.
The wearing of long hair and wigs - The wearing of long hair was a burning theme of address in the early Puritan pulpit. The clergy prescribed that the hair should by no means lie over the band or doublet collar. In 1649, the Governor and seven of the Assistants declared their “dislike and detestation against the wearing of such long hair, whereby men doe deforme themselves, and offend sober and modest men.”
masconomet tombstone The Bones of Masconomet - On March 6, 1659 a young man named Robert Cross dug up the remains of the Agawam chief Masconomet, and carried his skull on a pole through Ipswich streets, an act for which Cross was imprisoned, sent to the stocks, then returned to prison until a fine was paid.
Amorous Peasants by Albrecht Durer The courtship and marriage of William Durkee and Martha Cross - William Durkee, an indentured Irish Catholic, and Martha Cross, the daughter of Robert Cross of Chebacco parish were servants in the household of Thomas Bishop in Ipswich. When Martha became pregnant by William, they were presented for fornication. The court ruled that they be punished and married.
Mason’s Claim - On January 4, 1681, John T. Mason presented the King's letter to the General Court, which ordered "all said tenants" to appear in Ipswich. If an ancient claim was confirmed, every land title would be worthless and a landed medieval system known as "quit-rents" could be grafted upon New England.
Appleton's Pulpit Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Commission The defiant Samuel Appleton - In 1687, a warrant was issued for the arrest of several Ipswich men for being "seditiously inclined and disaffected to his Majesty's government." The 62-year-old Major Samuel Appleton scorned the appearance of submission and remained imprisoned in the cold Boston Jail through the winter.
Puritans drinking Strong drink - Colonial liquor licenses were granted to Ipswich men of highest esteem. They were bound “not to sell by retail to any but men of family, and of good repute, nor sell any after sunset; and that they shall be ready to give account of what liquors they sell by retail, the quantity, time and to whom.”
Grape Island Hotel, circa 1900, Ipswich MA 300 years on Grape Island - Grape Island was once a small but thriving community, and briefly a popular summer resort. In 1941, 3000 acres of Plum Island including Grape Island were purchased by the U.S. government to establish the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
The Ipswich jail on Green Street The Ipswich jails - The second jail in the Colony was erected in Ipswich in 1656. Sixteen British prisoners were kept hostage in the cold and cruel stone jail during the War of 1812. A large brick House of Corrections was constructed in 1828 at the site of the present Town Hall on Green Street.
The Alexander Knight House in Ipswich MA The sad story of Alexander Knight - In 1648, Alexander Knight was charged with the death of his chiled whose clothes caught on fire. A jury fined him for carelessness after being warned. The town took mercy and voted to provide him a piece of land "whereas Alexander Knight is altogether destitute, his wife alsoe neare her tyme."
Death in a snowstorm, December 1, 1722 - On December 1, 1722, Daniel Rogers was returning to Ipswich from a court case in Hampton and took a wrong turn that led deep into Salisbury marshes. His body was found a few days later near Salisbury beach. Suspicion fell on one Moses Gatchel but no charges were filed, there being a lack of solid evidence.
Mark Quilter and Rebekkah Shatswell arguing over a porridge A 17th Century neighbors quarrel - Mark Quilter was a cow-keeper on the north side of town with a reputation for drinking. When Goodwife Shatswell visited Goodwife Quilter and insulted both of them, Quilter lost his temper.
Bundling in Colonial America Bundling - As settlers moved west into the cold New England frontier away from the Puritan strongholds, it was not uncommon for unmarried persons to be invited to sleep in the same bed for warmth. The definition of bundling evolved and developed over time into a ritual of courtship.
Luke and Elizabeth Perkins, notorious Disturbers of the Peace and a “Wicked-tongued Woman” - Luke Perkins and his wife, Elizabeth were notorious disturbers of the peace in 17th Century Ipswich, and she had a "venomous tongue." It was a happy day for the town when Luke and Elizabeth loaded their belongings into a boat and set sail for the solitary island farm owned by his father on Grape Island.
Samuel Symonds, gentleman: complaint to Salem court against his two servants, 1661 - Philip Welch and William Downing, both children, were kidnapped from Ireland in 1654, and sold to Samuel Symonds in Ipswich. After 7 years they refused to continue working on his farm and demanded their freedom. They were arrested and brought to trial.
The hanging of John Williams and William Schooler, July 1637 - In 1637, two men convicted on separate counts of murder were executed in Boston on the same gallows.  John Williams was convicted of killing John Hoddy near Great Pond in Wenham on the road to Ipswich. William Schooler was tried in Ipswich and found guilty of killing Mary Scholy on the path to Piscataqua.
Chebacco women build a meetinghouse The women of Chebacco build a Meeting House, March 21, 1679 - When Chebacco Parish (now Essex) began building their own meeting house, Ipswich authorities obtained an order that “No man shall build a meeting house at Chebacco.” Abigail Proctor saw a glaring legal loophole...
Patronage and Scandal at the Ipswich Customs House - In 1829, the position of Ipswich Customs Collector was granted to Timothy Souther, a man of prominence and one of the old line Democrats who held office there under President Andrew Jackson. Souther resigned in August, 1840 after being charged with graft.
Pomp slave hung in Ipswich “Dying Confession of Pomp, a Negro Man Who Was Executed at Ipswich on the 6th August, 1795” - On Aug 6th 1795, Pomp an African-American slave was hung for chopping off the head of his master. He was confined in Ipswich jail, and a sentence of death was passed. He was held there until the day of his execution, which was attended by a "cheering crowd of thousands" after a sermon by Rev. Dana.
Land Bank Scheme Illegal Currency: Ipswich and the Land Bank scheme of 1740-41 - In September 1740, two Massachusetts Land Banks organized and issued 50,000 pounds of notes of varying amounts, without legal authorization of the Crown, and over the objections of the governor and his Council. An Act of Parliament declared all the transactions of the two Bank Schemes illegal and void.
The Muster Murder of 1787 - During the Boston Muster of 1787, Daniel Foster of Rowley participated in the customary celebration of shooting musket balls into the air, and accidentally killed Amos Chapman of Ipswich. A jury ordered his execution, but Governor John Hancock opposed capital punishment and pardoned Foster.
“Wording it over the sheep” and behaving badly - Samuel often had words with his neighbor John Lee Sr. over the handling of cattle and sheep, and in 1668 the two landed in court for disturbing the peace. Neither would not admit to any wrong. A witness testified that John's son Joseph hit Samuel with a club as they “were wording it over the sheep”
The hanging of Ezra Ross and Bathsheba Spooner, July 2, 1778 - In 1778, sixteen-year-old Ezra Ross of Ipswich was condemned to death for the murder of Joshua Spooner of Brookfield. Spooner's wife Bathsheba became the first woman executed in the newly-created United States of America. Ezra Ross is buried in an unmarked grave at the Leslie Road Cemetery.

Categories: Stories

Tagged as: , ,

5 replies »

  1. Do you have any period sources for him being Irish Catholic? This trivia bit appears in on-line family trees all the time, but I have never found any documentation from the period saying that he was, and the only citation these trees use is each other. In fact, being allowed to marry Martha Cross in 1664 Massachusetts would indicate that he was *not* Catholic.

    The trees claiming that he was Irish and that he was Catholic all trace back to each other, never citing what they’re basing either of those things on. I’ve yet to find anything in Ipswich records supporting either assertion, or the idea that him being Irish Catholic is why he didn’t own land.

    The best I can tell, the idea of him being Irish Catholic doesn’t appear until the turn of the 20th Century, during the great boom of “vanity genealogies,” which tended to make the ancestors of the people paying for the genealogies seem a lot more dramatic/notable/exotic than they were. It doesn’t seem to exist in any discussion prior to that — unless you’ve found something definitive from his actual time period, in which case, please share!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.