Colonial Records – cannot the man see!

At a Councill held at Philadelphia ye 7th of ye 7th Mo. 1683.

The Petition of Hugh March and Other Persons against James Kilner, Mr. of the Levee of Leverpoole, was read, and ye Council proceeded to Examine into ye Business.

Hugh March Compts Saith yt Mr. James Kilner Trode upon him on board the Ship, whereupon, he said Dam it, cannot the man see! for which ye Mr. beat him and made his mouth bleed.

James Kilner Confesses he being in a Storme, trode on him by change, and ye Other Daming of him and calling him foole, Caused him to Cuff him.

John Fox complaineth against James Kilner, and Saith he bid him cleane the Deck, he answered it was cleane already, whereupon ye Master beat him.

James Kilner answered that one night he Spake to Jno. fox to cleane ye Deck, who said he would not, and also gave him ye Lie, whereupon ye Mr. Struck him.

Edward Jones said he drew some Water and afterwards The Mr. seeing ye hhd of water open, feel upon ye sd Jones, and beat him with a staff and made his nose bleed, and afterwards drew him by ye harid of the head to the Mainmast, kickt him on the side, and run his fingers up his nose.

James Kilner answereth yt he asked ye said Jones why he lett ye water run at wast, who said he did not let it run at wast and gave him ye like and other ill words, whereupon ye Mr. struck him.

Nich. Newtin declareth between both, that there was a Caske weh wanted a pegg, That was almost out, and ye Master spake to Edwd Jones to put a pegg into it, which he did, but still it runn out, whereupon the Mr. struck him several blows.

Adjourned till ye 8th 7th Mo. 83.

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Colonial Records – Witch

At Councill held at Philadelphia ye 27th of the 12th month, 1683.

Margarit Matson’s Indictmt was read, and she pleads not Guilty, and will be tryed by the Countrey.

Lasse Cock attested Interpriter between the Propor and the Prisoner at the Barr.

The Petty Jury Impanneld; their names are as followed:  Jno. Hasting, foreman; Albertus Hendrickson; Robt Piles; Robt Wade; Nath. Evans; Edwd Darter; Wm. Hewes; Jer. Collet; Jno. Kinsman; Jno. Gibbons; Walter Martin; Edw Bezac.

Henry Drystreet attested, Saith he was tould 20 years agoe, that the prisoner at the Barr was a Witch, & that severall Cows were bewitcht by her; also, that James Saunderling’s mother tould him that she bewitcht her cow, but afterwards said it was a mistake, and that her Cow should doe well againe, for it was not her Cow but an Other Person’s that should dye.

Charles Ashcom attested, saith that Anthony’s Wife being asked why she sould her Cattle; was because her mother had Bewitcht them, having taken the Witchcraft of Hendrick’s Cattle, and put it on their Oxon; She myght Keep but noe Other Cattle, and also that one night the Daughter of ye Prisoner called him up hastely, and when he came she sayd there was a great Light but Just before, and an Old woman with a Knife in her hand at ye Bedd’s feet, and therefore shee cryed out and desired Jno. Symcock to take away his Calves, or Else she would send them to Hell.

James Claypoole attested Interpritor betwixt the Propor and the Prisoner.

The affidavid of Jno Vanculin read, Charles Ashcom being Witness to it.

Annakey Coolin attested, saith her husband tooke the Heart of a Calfe that Dyed, as they thought by Witchcraft, and Boyled it, whereupon the Prisoner at ye Barr came in and asked them what they were doing; they said boyling of flesh; she said they had better they had Boyled the Bones, with severall other unseemly Expressions.

Margaret Mattson saith that she Vallues not Drystreet’s Evidence; but if Sanderlin’s mother had come, she would have answered her; slao denyeth Charles Ashcom’s Attestation at her Soul, and Saith were is my Daughter; let her come and say so.

Annakey Cooling’s attestation concerning the Gees, she denyeth, saying she was never out of her Conoo, and also that he never said any such things Concerning the Calve’s heart.

Jno. Cock attested, sayth he Knows nothing of the matter.

Tho: Balding’s attestation was read, and Tho: Bracy attested, saith it is a True coppy.

The Prisoner denyeth all things, and saith that ye Witnesses speake only by hear say.

After wch ye Govr gave the jury their Charge concerning ye Prisoner at ye Barr.

The jury went forth, and upon their Returne Brought her in Guilty of haveing the Comon fame of a witch, but not guilty in manner and forme as Shee stands Indicted.

Neels Mattson and Antho. Neelson Enters into a Recognizance of fifty pounds apiece, for the good behavior of Margaret Matson for six months.

Jacob Hendrickson Enters into the Recognizance of fifty pounds for the good behavior of Getro Hendrickson for six months.

Adjourned till ye 20th day of ye first Mo., 1684.

Colonial Records – Response to Penn’s Letter

10th Febry, 1697-8.

Att a Councill Held at philad die Jovis, 10th February, 1697-8.  WM. MARKHAM, Esqr., Governor et ysdem ut antea.

Joseph Growdon, Chairman on the Comittee appointed further to peruse the sd Letter & strictlie to inquire into ye Complaints yrin mentioned, & to report the same to the Gor & Council by way of ansr to the said Letter, this day Exhibited to the Gor & Council their report in writing, viz: The Comittee having perused & thoroughly Considered the proprietor’s Letter, Charging the Governor & Council to suppress forbidden trade & piracie; & also the growth of vice & Loossness, & within this governmt, doe Humblie make this Report unto the Governor and Council.

First.  As to the Scotch & dutch trade, wee are not privie yrto nor any of us Concerned therein, but if any such trade has been & escap’t unpuneshet, It may rather be attributed to the Connivance or neglect of those officers appointed by Edward Randolph to inspect those things, or others particularly appointed in that behalf; for wee can say, that the magistrats & Courts of Justice have been ready & diligent upon all occasions to punish, suppress, & Discourage all illegal trade that came to their knowledge.

Second.  As to Imbracing of pirats, &c. Wee know of none that has been entertained here, unless Chinton & Lassell, with some others of Avery’s Crew, that happened for a smal time to sojourn in this place, as they did in some of the neighbouring governments; but as soon as the magistrats in Philadelphia had received but a Copie of the Lords Justice’s proclamation, gott all that were here apprehended, & would have taken the Care & Charge of securing ym, untill a Legall Court had been erected for their trial, or an opportunity had presented to send ym to England; but before that Could be effected, they broke goale & made their escape to New york, where Hues & Crys wer sent after ym,  And as to pirats’ shipps wee know of none Harboured or ever came in here, much Less encouraged by the Gor or people, who as it is well known, are generally sober & industrious, & never advanced yr estates by forbidden trade, piracie, or other ill ways, notwtstanding what is suggested by or enemies to the contrary.

As to the growth of vice, Wee cannot but owne as this place hath growne more populous, & the people increased, Loossnes & vice Hath also Creept in, which wee lament, altho’ endeavours have been used to suppress it by the care & industry of the magistrats from time to time, offenders Having received deserved & exemplary punishments, according to Law.

As to Ordinaries, Wee are of opinion that there are too many in this governmt, especiallie in philadelphia, wch is one great cause of the growth of vice, & makes the same more difficult to be supprest & keept under.

On the whole, Wee being at all times Heartily inclined to show or Loyalty to the King, & readie ovedience unto His Laws, do think it necessarie, & do yrfore make or request to the Gor & Council, that an Ordinance be made, & a proclamaon do forthwith Issue from the Governor & Council, strictly to suppress forbidden trade & pirats, if any shall Happen; and also the growth of vice & Loossnes within this governmt, until some wholsome & severer Laws be made for more effectuall remedy, and the ordinaries or Houses of entertainment be reduced to a Less number, & and that all such as have not alreadie given good securitie for keeping good orders, and discharging the plave according to Law, be speedilie required so to do or otherwise to be suppressed, & for the future that the Justices in the Quarter Sessions in each Countie may have the approbaon, if not the Licensing Ordinarie keepers throughout the government.

The which report being read in Councill, It was put to the vote by the Gor, Whether they approved yrof, & whether they esteemed it to be a proper ansr to the sd Lettr.  It was Caried in the affirmative, N. C.

Then the Gor did Resolve the whole members of Council Into a grand Comittee, to draw up a proclamaon to suppress forbidden trade & unlawll piracie, the growth of vice & Loossnes; & to regulate & reduce the ordinaries, untill severer Laws can be made agt such enormities, & to bring in their report & a draught of a proclamaon to the Gor & Council the 12th instant.

Adjourned to the 12th February, 1698

Colonial Records – William Penn’s Letter on Vice

While we at the HJL focus on Berks County starting roughly around 1720s.  It is just one piece of a huge history that was taking place in Pennsylvania.  English history in Pennsylvania begins with the signing of the Charter in 1682.  Following the charter an entire system of government is established and people begin populating the area around Philadelphia.  This history is not totally lost to us.  Buried in our stack room, is a series of books titled the Colonial Records. The Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission (PHMC) references the Colonial Records as such: “A total of sixteen volumes containing the minutes of the Provincial Council, 1683-1775, in Volumes I-X; those of the Council of Safety (and of the Committee of Safety), 1775-1777, in X and XI; and those of the Supreme Executive Council, 1777-1790, in XI-XVI. These were printed directly from the manuscript books with no editing apparent Issued 1838-1853.

These records, which precede the Pennsylvania Archives Series, are full of history tidbits on the founding and running of our province.  Buried in the minutes are Sheriff Appointments, Road Petitions, Accusations of Witchcraft, and the Crafting of Laws.  And yes, while reading government minute books often fall on the “boring side” (have you ever read the Congressional Record?  There are 2 pages of debate on whether to give the congressional janitor a raise, before the debate on the Repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793. snore), you never know what gems you may find, when turning the pages.

The Colonial Records are the story of Us.  It is the Us before we became a county and a state.  It tells the story of trying to carve out a civilization in a new world and away from those that govern you.  It tells individual stories and some of those stories are really interesting.

While Luke continues to bring more of Scholla to life, I will try and highlight some of the interesting “goings on” occurring almost 4 centuries ago.  As always, if you would like to learn more about any document or collection we have in the HJL, please visit us!

Att a Council Held att Philadelphia Die Mercury, 9th Febry, 1697-8

The Governor exhibited to the Council a Lettr from the proprietor, directed for him, to be opened only and read in a full Council; Which being through to be as full a Council as could be got in such a season of ye year, It was yrfor Resolved that the sd Lettr should be opened and read which was done.  The contents grof wer as follows, verbatim, viz: “London 5th 7m., 1697.  Friends, The accusaons of one sort, & the reports of another that are come for England agt yor governmnt, not only tent to or ruin, but disgrace.  That you wink at Scotch trade and a Dutch one too, Receiving European goos from the latter, as well as suffering yors, agt the Law & English interest, to goe to the other; Also, that you doe not onlie wink att but Imbrace pirats, Shipps and men.  These are yor accusaons, and one Fra. Jones of philadelphia has Complained of them to Gor Nicholson, becaus it wa not redrest in the governmt.  The Reports are, and a nameless Lettr is come to me besides from Philadelphia, to ye same purpose, that there is no place more overrun with wickednes, Sins so very Scandalous, openly Comitted in defiance of Law and Virtue: facts so foul, I am forbid by Comon modesty to relate ym.  I do yrfore desire and charge you, the Gor & Council for the time being, to issue forth some act or acts of state forthwith to suppress forbidden trade and piracy, and also the growth of vice and Loosness, till some severer Laws be made agt them: And I do hereby charge that no Licence be granted to any to keep publick houses, that do not give great securitie to keep Civil houses, and are not known to be of a sober Conversaon, and that the Courts of Justice in each County have approbaon, if not Licensing of ym, In order to prevent such acts of the Lewdness and Idleness as are too often seen in such places; And that you take Care that Justice be Impartially done upon trangressors, that the wrath and vengeance of God fall not upon you to blast your so very flourishing beginning.  I hasten to you as fast as ye Complaints here agt you will give me leave, that make my presence now but too necessary.  Let neither base gain nor a byast affection mak you partial in these Cases, but for my sake, yor own sakes, and above all for God’s sake, Let not the poor province Longer suffer under such grievous and offensive Imputations; and will oblige him that loves you, prays for you, and prays to be with you, and is with true Love your real friend & affectionate proprietary.                             WM. PENN.”

The Contents whereof, & the Complaints yrin mentioned being strictlie inquired into, The Gor did appoint Samll Carpenter, Joseph Growdon & Wm. Clarke a Committee of Council further to peruse the sd Letter, & to inquire into the sd Complaints, & to make report yrof to the Gor & council next day, by way of ansr to ye sd Letter.

Adjourned to 10th instant.

A Brief History of Berks County, part 1

After 5 1/2 years assisting researchers in the Henry Janssen Library, it is interesting to learn how little people know of their ancestors and the time in which they lived.  The following is a brief history of Berks County, as I have learned it, by answering research request.  All of us at the Henry Janssen Library, have reviewed and interpreted multiple resources to formulate answers to help researchers understand the early history of the county. We are not expert historians writing a thesis, just teachers trying to make connections for people so they understand their family’s history.  I will not be citing those sources, however if you are interested in learning more, please contact me and I can point you to some books that may be of interest.  Many of the early histories are online at https://archive.org/, which is an online book database.  You can view these editions on your kindle, as a pdf, or just on your computer.  If more researchers understood the time their ancestors lived, I truly believe they would have a greater appreciation of their ancestors and realize you do not need to be famous to make history!

Statement: “My ancestor was born in Berks County in 1684.”

Answer:  No, not likely.

Why:  In 1684, the only people in Berks County were the Lenni Lenape, also known as the Delaware Indians. On February 28, 1681, King Charles II granted a land charter to William Penn as a payment for a debt owed to Penn’s father.  We celebrate this transaction every year.  Charter Day, celebrated on March 9 this year, is sponsored by PHMC and is a free event at the Daniel Boone and Conrad Weiser Homesteads.  Pennsylvania turned 333 years old in 2014 and the original charter went on exhibit at Pennsbury Manor.  William Penn instituted the colonial government on March 4, 1681.  In 1682, Penn signed a peace treaty with Tammany, leader of the Delaware tribe, which allowed for the settlement of Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia area was originally the Delaware village of Shackamaxon.  In 1701, Penn issued a Charter, establishing Philadelphia as a city.

While today, Philadelphia encompasses roughly 141.6 square miles, in 1701, it was considerably smaller and surrounded by forests. Eventually, as immigrants began arriving from Germany (mainly), Sweden and beyond, the population pushed out and began exploring the wilderness.  On October 21, 1701, William Penn granted, Swedish Lutheran Minister, Andreas Rudman 10,000 acres along the Manatawny Creek.  This area, as it turns out, was a significant economic center for the Delaware Indians with trails leading to Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania.  The first settlers to reach Berks County established Morlatton Village, now Douglassville in 1716, fifteen years after the land grant.  From Morlatton Village, settlers begin buying up land in the Oley Valley, forming what are now Oley, Earl, Pike, District and Rockland Townships.  In 1723, Conrad Weiser arrived with a group of settlers from the Schoharie Region in New York and started the settlement of what are now Bern and Heidelberg Townships.

Something to remember: Berks County is still Indian Territory and all land belongs to the Delaware.  As more settlers arrive, they start taking more land not covered in the earlier treaties.  In 1737, the Penn Family and the Delaware signed the highly disputed Walking Purchase Treaty.  Because of the Treaty, the Penn’s gained ownership over 1,200,000 acres of land, which encompasses the present-day counties of Bucks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike and Schuylkill.  This left Berks County open for settlement.

Your ancestors might have been in Pennsylvania in the late 1600s, but they were not in Berks County.

Coming up…How your ancestors came to Berks County

Image of the Charter to William Penn from the PHMC website:

…Do solemnly and sincerely Declare and Swear

We whose names are hereunto Subscribed Do solemnly and sincerely Declare and Swear, (or affirm,) That the State of Pennsylvania is and of right ought to be a free Sovereign and Independent State – and I do forever renounce all Allegiance, Subjection and Obedience to the King or Crown of Great Britain, and I do further swear (or solemnly, sincerely, and truely declare and affirm) that I never have since the declaration of Independence, directly or Indirectly aided, assisted, abetted or in any wise countenanced the King of Great Britain, his Generals, fleets or armies; or their adherents in their claims upon these United States, and that I have ever since the declaration of the Independence thereof demeaned myself as a faithfull citizen and subject of this or some one of the United States, and that I will at all times maintain and support the freedom, sovereignty and Independence thereof.

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A researcher doing their family genealogy, at some point, may happen upon the words written above.  Known as the Oath of Allegiance, this particular oath was in force in Pennsylvania between June 13, 1777 and March 13, 1789 and is one of the main primary resources to prove admittance into the Daughters, Sons or Children of the American Revolutions (DAR, SAR and CAR).

That would not be the first oath the early settlers of Berks County would take, though it would be their last.  Early German settlers were required to take an Oath upon landing in Philadelphia, swearing allegiance to King George II, and his successors, and the proprietors of Pennsylvania before they could enter the city and begin their new life.  Members elected to the Pennsylvania Convention, which would later form the government for the Commonwealth, were required to take an oath, which was very religious and compelled the acknowledgement of the Christian Religion: “I, –, do profess faith in God the Father and in Jesus Christ his Eternal Son, the true God, and in the Holy Spirit one God blessed evermore, and do acknowledge the sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration” (Wescott, viv).

This oath is definitely not something one would expect their elected representatives to a convention, about to form the government of the Commonwealth, to take.  Before assuming their positions, Justices of the Peace, appointed by the Convention, had to take an “oath of renunciation of the authority of George III, and one of allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania” (Wescott, xv).

On September 28, 1776, the Convention adopted a Constitution and immediately put it into practice.  “Members of the Assembly before taking their seats were obliged to take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution, and to act faithfully, and to subscribe a declaration of a belief in one God the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were given by divine inspiration” (Wescott, xv).  While today we might find this oath objectionable because of the Separation of Church and State written into the U.S. Constitution, members of the 1776 Assembly took offense because it did not require a belief in Jesus Christ and left government positions open to people of non-Christianity based religions and even Deists.

In June of 1777, the Legislature passed a Militia Law that not only enrolled all men fit for military service, but also required an oath of allegiance and a test.  Persons were required to take a test to prove their allegiance, by answering a series of questions.  The Militia Law, with the Oath requirement, is the first time that the Commonwealth required an oath from someone other than a public official.  Because of this act, we have “Book D”, or the ledger that contains the names of men in Berks County, who took the Oath of Allegiance.

The Oath, not only solidified allegiance to Pennsylvania and the United States (as it was later tweaked for members of the Continental Army), but also served as a Rite of Passage making a person (or grown child) a citizen.  In 1784, members of the Assembly called into question the need for the Oath of Allegiance and Test Laws.  In March, a petition was presented, under the idea that “unanimity and harmony could not exist at a time when one part of the people were deprived of certain benefits which others enjoyed”, and requested that a committee be appointed to revise the law to reflect these new attitudes. (Wescott, xxxii).  This petition was almost unanimously defeated and sparked a 3-year debate regarding the rights of Pennsylvania Citizens.  A few successful attempts were made at repealing and altering the Test Laws and Oath of Allegiance.  In 1788, the Assembly appointed a committee, which reported:

That however proper it may have been during the late war, when, and by the division of a powerful nation it became necessary for individuals to make a solemn declaration of their attachment to one of the other of the contending parties, to your committee it appears that in times of peace and of well established government they are not only useless but highly pernicious, by disqualifying a large body of the people from exercising many necessary offices and throwing the whole burthen thereof on others, and also by alienating the affections of tender through, perhaps, mistaken minds, from a Government which by its invidious distinctions they are led to consider as hostile to their peace and happiness.   (Wescott, xli).

In response to the committee’s suggestion, on March 13, 1789 the Assembly repealed all laws requiring any oath or affirmation of allegiance and restored citizenship to persons disenfranchised by former laws.  Foreigners were still required to take an oath of allegiance to become a citizen (still enforce today) and their names are registered by the Recorder of Deeds.

Title

Donated in 1910, “A True List of Persons Names which has taken the oath of allegiance & fidelity to the State of Pennsylvania”, is, I believe an invaluable historical resource.  Locked in my office, the “Oath” only comes out on special occasions.  Inside is a who’s who of Berks County’s finest families.  A few were able to sign then names, while Clerks, such as Henry Christ, wrote the rest.  On December 8, 1787, the last group of Berks County residents took the oath.

Henry Christ

For more information…

Bibliography:

Wescott, Thompson. Names of Persons Who Took The Oath of Allegiance to the State of Pennsylvania, Between the Years 1777 and 1789, With A History of the “Test Laws” of Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: John Campbell. 1865.  

Strassburger, Ralph Beaver.  Pennsylvania German Pioneers.  A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals In the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808. Edited by William John Hinke.  Norristown: Pennsylvania German Society. 1934.