Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Saturday Challenge- Badly Behaving Relatives

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music):

1)  Who is one of your relatives (ancestor or not) who behaved poorly during his or her life?   It can be any time period.

This took a little contemplation as I could think of a few candidates depending on how you define behaving poorly. However, I decided probably the most notorious ancestor and the one I wonder what he was actually guilty of, would be my ninth great-uncle, Joshua Tefft (1646-1676).

Who else can claim a person hung for High Treason in New England during the Colonial era? Knowing nothing else, but the fact that you raised your hand, I know we are related. That’s because Joshua is the ONLY person.

How and why did this happen? We will never really know.
Coggeshall Farm as Joshua's farm might have looked

What we do know is that Joshua fell in love and married a woman named Sarah. Who was Sarah’s father? He likely was Major John Greene, a prominent citizen of Rhode Island. That was the rumor, but the only truth of her parentage known is that she was Indian. Wampanoag Indian. The Tefft family had lived on the frontier of Rhode Island for 14 years in peace with their neighbors, so it is not all that surprising that Joshua knew and fell in love with an Indian woman.

Sarah gave birth to a son, Peter, in March of 1671/2 and died two days later.

Joshua was a man with a baby and no wife caught between two cultures. It was during this time period that he got in trouble. He did not attend the Baptist church services near his home. He was associating with Indians. It was said that he fought with the Indians (this was during King Phillip’s War) against the colonists. Any of these things would put others at odds with him. Combined, they meant trouble, deep trouble.

During the Great Swamp Fight he was with the Indians, having stayed behind to defend his land and livestock while others fled. He apparently fought along side them. He claims he was a slave of the Indians and was not even armed. Others testified that he was a marksman that willingly shot and killed several people. Which side was right? In the end it didn’t matter. The colonists were believed over Joshua.

A 1647 Rhode Island statute reads: "For High Treason (if a man) he being accused by two lawfull witnesses or accusers, shall be drawn upon a Hurdell unto the place of Execution, and there shall be hanged by the neck, cutt down alive, his entrails and privie members cutt from him and burned in his view; then shall his head be cutt off and his body quartered; his lands and goods all forfeited."

And so Joshua made history, gory history in Rhode Island. But what was he guilty of? We will never know for sure. Treason? Love? Not attending church? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Stubbornness in not fleeing with the rest? All of the above?

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