GenMassachusetts-L ArchivesArchiver > GenMassachusetts > 2003-10 > 1067307388
Subject: Re: [GM-L] Our ancestors had itchy feet !
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 21:16:28 EST
In the early settlement of Massachusetts Bay Colony, there was no separation
of church and state. You were expected to support the minister of the
established church (Congregational) and, as each town was laid out, a plot for the
minister was set aside. Anyone who deviated from this support and/or attendance
at meeting, was brought into court. See the Records and Files of the
Quarterly Court of Essex County for specific cases.
The appearance of the "Quakers" (as members of the Society of Friends were
known) in the mid 1650s was particularly disturbing as it challenged the
established church and, in essence, the government. The attempt to rid the Colony
of "this cursed sect of heretics" resulted in harsh laws, barbaric punishments,
banishment and even death. One of the penalties for failing to recant after
the third time was having a hot iron used to bore a hole through the tongue.
Specifics can be found in Records of the Governor and Company of the
Massachusetts Bay in New England by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff.
For those residing in Plymouth Colony, the best source for understanding life
and laws is Plymouth Colony by Eugene Stratton.
As to reasons to migrate - some were simply occupational. A brickmaker, for
instance, was in great demand in the infant communities and offered
inducements to reside there. As the equipment for mills became available, locations
near a waterfall were highly desirable (even necessary) and land was often bought
or sold to accomplish this.
The conditions were primitive for those who had the courage to migrate into
virgin territory. There were no roads, no buildings - but the inducement of
cheap land in exchange for settling was particularly attractive to families in
which the divided land could no longer support the number of children. This
meant one had to erect a building to certain specifications and clear a specified
amount of land within a set time limit to take advantage of the offer. If
the proprietor died before the agreement was finalized his heirs were under no
obligation to honor the agreement. I believe it is the History of Industry,
Maine which points out this very poignant situation of land and buildings being
lost for this reason.
Greed had little to do with the acquisition of land- unless you were the
absentee proprietor. Those who settled the land were attempting to survive and
provide for a family.
In the early 19th century, parts of Maine were subject both to drought and a
devastating summer of cold weather. Families were forced to move to find a
way in which to survive.
Bottom line - before we make any judgments as to motives, read the histories
of the various towns - the work, the failure of crops, the lack of integrity
on the part of the proprietors. One of my own ancestors, in an attempt to
better support his family of 10 children, went from southern Massachusetts to
Maine...no horse, no wagon. One assumes they used rivers and the sea as their
route but it sure could not have been an easy trip which undoubtedly lasted
weeks....and still had to erect shelter AFTER they arrived.