Central New York Research. The eclectic ramblings of doing genealogy and growing up in that part of Upstate New York that is the central and Finger Lakes regions. With ancestors all over the northeast and beyond, there will be forays outside the area with trips and news on family history as well as local history.
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
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.
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?