“Wording it over the sheep” and behaving badly

Samuel Hunt came to Ipswich after arriving with his Puritan parents in New England at the age of four in 1636. Samuel Hunt was made a “Freeman,” May 3, 1654, in Concord, at the age of about twenty-three, which allowed him the right of suffrage and to hold office. Upon receiving an inheritance from his uncle Robert Best, he moved to Ipswich, where he knew of a great cove on the river where wharves could be built and a fishing industry established. He established a fishery and built a wharf, which survived until 1682 when it was swept away by a flood, caused by a warm spring rain that melted a large buildup of snow

For 200 years, Great Cove was called “Hunt’s Cove”

Hunt married the only child of Joseph and Agnes Redding, Elizabeth, an attractive, high-spirited young lady, with a mind and will of her own. They established a farm and raised corn as the main crop. Soon there was a well, orchard, barns, a smokehouse, a spring house, as well as boat houses and many other facilities to keep all of his enterprises going. They had two sons William and Sam, and a third named Peter who did not survive infancy. For 200 years, what we call Great Cove downstream from the County Street Bridge was known as “Hunt’s Cove”.

Samuel and Elizabeth’s confrontations with their neighbors brought them frequently to the court.

The following stories are from a biography of Samuel and Elizabeth Hunt, written by Louella Jones Downard and edited by Elaine C. Nichols.

Wording it over the Sheep

“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. Both, feeling entirely justified, 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” and that Samuel took Joseph by the collar and tripped him up. At this point John Sr. appeared with a pitchfork and struck Samuel twice. If the younger John Lee hadn’t interfered, Samuel would have been killed.

“Another person testified that he heard that Samuel Hunt had pulled the hair from Joseph Lee’s head. In response, Samuel owned that he had and added, “had it not been for the old man, I would have pulled them all out!” The three fighters were fined and bound to good behavior. Four months later they were released from the bonds apparently having behaved themselves.”

Dig up stumps, he would not

In 1664, the Ipswich militia was ordered “to march into the wolf pen playne and there commanded to clear the said playne to fit it for the exercise of the regiment the next day.” There were some who “spoke mutinously and to the abuse of authority here established.” Samuel Hunt agreed with them saying “the major had done more than he could answer for and that he would maintain it before all the world and furthermore that if the major or any other officer commanded him to dig up stumps he would not.” When Sgt. French commanded him to assist in carrying some officers out of the field he refused.

All the offenders brought to trial on the complaint by Walter Roper, for their “mutinous and seditious works.” Some were more outspoken than Samuel and all were found guilty at the trial which began March 29, 1664. Samuel was sentenced to be disenfranchised (no longer a free man), he was dismissed from the company in disgrace, he must pay 2 shillings a day to the company instead of training, he was ordered to prison until he paid a fine of £10, and bound to good behavior. His father in law, Joseph Redding put up his property along with Samuel’s as surety. Samuel appealed the sentence, but the higher court of Boston did not see fit to reverse the sentence admonishing him “to humble himself for his miscarriage against authority, and to be sensible of his great sin therein committed against the Lord.

No Longer a Freeman

On March 28, 1665, Samuel was released of his bond for good behavior and restored to freedom. Samuel Hunt was not a “freeman” again until a decade later when he and his son, Sam, were made Freeman together. In 1675, the Indian chief “King Phillip” began his last stand against the encroaching Englishmen. Samuel Hunt, now 44 years old, was in Lt. Jeremiah Swains company. Samuel and his son Samuel marched away with Maj. Appleton on the 8th of December 1675 toward Dedham Plain and participated in the “Great Swamp Fight.” Samuel Hunt, Sr. was still serving in Capt. William Turner’s company at the Great Falls fight in 1676, in which he and his son both received the rank of “Ensign,” which in British Army was the lowest commissioned officer, ranking next below Lieutenant.

Stealing a bodkin

In 1669, Elizabeth Hunt accused Sara Roper of stealing a bodkin (a long, pin-shaped instrument to fasten up hair). Elizabeth had allowed young Joseph to play with it in church and dropped it between two women sitting in front of them. Elizabeth heard it fall, and seeing Sara put her hand down where it fell, expected to have it returned. However, it was not, and when church was over she and Mr. Wilson searched for it, but could not find it. Consequently, Elizabeth complained to the court. By the time the trial came Sara Roper had returned the bodkin. She explained that she had found it in her cuff when she had undressed that night. She was found not guilty since she had returned it.

Detaining a horse

Samuel Hunt had bought a beautiful, dark bay or blackish-brown colt with one white foot. Near Hunt’s Cove, at Labor in Vain field, lived Lt. Samuel Appleton. He had raised a colt of the same general description as Hunt, free to roam at will. When it became lost Lt. Appleton took the Hunt colt and claimed it as his. Then began a number of instances of one taking the colt from the other one and in 1674 Lt. Appleton charged Samuel Hunt with stealing his colt. Hunt was fined 50s and ordered to pay cost to Lt. Appleton. Samuel now charged Lt. Appleton with “detaining a dark bay horse from him.” At the end of this trial Lt. Appleton was found guilty and ordered to pay £5 damages to Samuel or return the horse.

Children behaving badly too

Meanwhile, Samuel’s teenage children began to behave badly. Two witnesses deposed that they had noticed in time of service and on the Sabbath day that Samuel hunt Jr. was very disorderly, laughing, talking,spitting, striking boys with sticks and throwing things into the gallery. Thirteen year old Elizabeth was brought into court on the complaint of Thomas Burnham, Sr. for many misdemeanors against his daughter Abigail in church. Testimony from many showed that Abigail and Elizabeth pushed each other around, shoved each others chairs, and placed themselves so others had a hard time passing. It was further complained that Elizabeth looked at her father and laughed and that on another occasion she held her head down and smiled – apparently in triumph or pleasure at what she had done. It was also complained that her mother encouraged her in these activities. Samuel Hunt, Jr. was admonished for disorder in the meetinghouse. Court then found Abigail and Elizabeth “culpable of disturbance and disorder in the meetinghouse, but being under family government, ordered their parents to correct them for offenses past and to keep them in better order for the time to come. “Goodwife Hunt was also admonished.”

Elizabeth Hunt was buried at the Old North Burying Ground with a granite tombstone inscribed, “Eliza Hunt, aged 72 yrs., deceased. Feb. 15, 1706. A tender mother, a prudent wife, At God’s command resigned her life.”

In 1682 the Hunt’s wharf, fishing weirs, and a great deal of other property were swept away or damaged by a flood caused by a warm rain that melted a large buildup of snow. Samuel and Elizabeth lost their daughter, Elizabeth, on July 9, 1689, just eighteen days after the birth of her fourth child. She was only twenty-eight years old. Court documents recorded that in 1693, Samuel Hunt of Ipswich, and wife Elizabeth, “conveyed to Joseph Hunt, of Ipswich, all of their estate, in consideration of a maintenance.” There is no known date for Samuel Hunt’s death. Elizabeth died in 1706 and is buried at the Old North Burying Ground in Ipswich.

Further reading:

4 thoughts on ““Wording it over the sheep” and behaving badly”

  1. These stories are so interesting! .. I had kin living in Ipswich at this time so I can ‘picture’ their lives. Thanks!

  2. Samuel and Elizabeth (Redding) Hunt are my 11th great-grandparents (my Hunt line comes through their son Samuel who married Ruth Todd.) Thanks for sharing these stories about them – very interesting!

    From my research, I believe Samuel came with his parents, William and Elizabeth (Best) Hunt and his brother, Nehemiah, to Concord in 1635. I hope to get back to Concord and Ipswich again to explore more!

    1. Samuel and Elizabeth are my 11th great-grandparents, as well. Two years ago I was helped by a friend to finally obtain information about my father’s father, Frederic Backus Hunt,…after several years of fruitless effort. We come through Samuel and Elizabeth’s son, Joseph whose descendants followed settlements to the coast and then interior of Connecticut and, finally, to Pittsfield, MA, where I was born. I grew up in Stow, MA knowing nothing of our being descended from the very first Puritan settlers of nearby Concord (William Enos Hunt). What a fantastic thing. Ipswich and Concord are on my list for visits and further online investigations.
      Thank you!! I can’t wait to gaze and meditate upon Hunt’s Cove.

      1. Hello cousin!
        Glad you found your connection to the Hunts of Ipswich and Concord. My Hunt line from Ipswich went to Tewksbury/Billerica, Heath, Fitchburg, MA before going to Andover, NY, Kansas, Idaho (where my dad was born.) I was born in VA as an Army ‘brat’, though Seattle WA has now been my home for almost 50 years.

        I’d like to clarify that our Hunt immigrant from Halifax, England to Concord, MA is WILLIAM HUNT (not Wm. Enos Hunt) Enos was his brother who was born in 1605, a year after Wm.(1604) in Halifax. They both died in Marlborough, MA but ten years apart (Wm. in 1667 and Enos in 1677.) which is why they’re easily confused!
        Best, Barbara
        p.s. There is a great book called “Good Wives” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that includes stories on Eliz. Redding Hunt. Elizabeth and Samuel Hunt were both renegades of sorts in Ipswich!

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