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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-05-01-02-0008-0006-0001

Editorial Note

This was a proceeding at the Middlesex General Sessions for September 1768, in which Lydia Gage accused Josiah Headley of being the father of her bastard child. Adams' docket for this term shows that he took Headley's case and that he “rec'd £1 4s. at one Time and 12s. more at another.”1 { 326 } Adams did not note the result, however, and, although some of the files of the case have survived, the records of the Middlesex Sessions for this term cannot be located. His minutes of the trial are printed here as an example of the testimony and argument in such a case. James Putnam appeared for Lydia.
In the files of the Middlesex Sessions, there remain five depositions in this case, none of them given by the witnesses in Adams' minutes.2 The depositions contain conflicting testimony as to whether Headley or Zachaus Parkes had offered Lydia £300 to accuse the other. The deponents also reported that she had at various times accused Parkes, Headley, and one Simeon Hagar, and that before Colonel Jones, presumably a Justice of the Peace,3 she had accused an unknown transient. It also appeared that she had earlier had an illegitimate daughter by Parkes, which was now being “kept” by the latter's brother Ephraim. According to one witness, she at one point threatened to accuse Ephraim because he was going to “put out” her first child, then stated that she had been forced to accuse someone other than Zachaus Parkes, lest Ephraim turn the child out.4 The pattern of instability suggested in these depositions and in the testimony in Adams' minutes is borne out by the fact that an order of the General Court dated 25 February 1762 had given Theophilus Mansfield of Weston (a deponent here) power to sell the real estate of his ward, Lydia Gage of Lincoln, a non compos mentis.5
1. JA, Docket, Concord Inferior Court, Sept. 1768. Adams Papers. The two were also bound over on the charge of fornication. See recognizances in Files, Middlesex Court of General Sessions, 1768. Office of the Clerk, Middlesex County Superior Court, East Cambridge, Mass. The child was a son born 30 March 1768 and named Josiah, doubtless in honor of the putative father. Vital Records of Lincoln 38 (Boston, 1908).
2. See Files, Middlesex Court of General Sessions, 1768. The depositions are those of James Adams, Lydia Farrar, Moses Underwood, Sarah Mansfield, and Theophilus Mansfield.
3. Both Elisha and John Jones were Justices of the Peace and of the Quorum in Middlesex County. See Whitmore, Mass. Civil List 138.
4. Deposition of Sarah Mansfield. Ephraim Parkes' testimony to the contrary appears in JA's minutes.
5. The order empowered Mansfield to sell real estate for his ward's support. See Order of 25 Feb. 1762, c. 390, 17 A&R 166. Mansfield's deposition in the Middlesex Files (note 2 above) seems to favor Headley.

Docno: ADMS-05-01-02-0008-0006-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1768-09

Adams' Minutes of the Testimony1

Middlesex Court of General Sessions, Concord, September 1768

Lidia Gage vs. Josiah Headley.
Sarah Garfield.
D[eaco]n Farrar.2 Last of Deer. It is Josiah Headleys. The next Saturday, she said she was sorry she had told me what she did. Not { 327 } because it want true, but because he said he'd get her whipped. 10 days after she said if the Premisses were not fullfilled, she would tell the whole Truth. Afterwards she said Headly [hired?] her to lay it to Zack Parkes, Simeon Hagar, or some body else. Said she had 2 or 3 meetings, with Headley. Parkes told me, that Headly said he would come and settle it. At the Groaning, I heard her say that it was Josiah Headleys of Weston the Miller and Tavernkeeper. Knew that she had chargd Parkes but never mentiond it to her.
Rebecca Brown.<Deposition vide—Aug.> I talked with her before and after she went before Coll. Jones. A Month before. She said she had Promisses of £300 and other Gifts, and her Brother Robert was to receive it. That Headly asked her to lay it to Zack Parkes, Simeon Hagar, or a transient Person unknown. She had wronged her soul, by clearing Headley. She lived with me 20 Year, never afraid to Trust her. Not given to lying. Robert Gage told me a week before his death, Mr. Headly a friend of his, and he did not choose to say any Thing unless under Oath.
Mrs. Horsemore. Last Winter, Lidia said she was sorry she had been to clear him up before his Wife. Headly had perswaded her in the shed under the Tree, nobody present. She said that it was Headleys to Deacon Farrar, and got soon after the Trooping at Sudbury. I've seen him, and you never see any poor Creature take on so. Deacon Farrar asked her how she came to lay it to Zach Parks.
Susannah Gage. Wife of Robt. Gage. January. I shant tell. Tis not a Man I can have, but a Man that can pay. Headly ta[l]ked so, that he convinced my Husband she had wronged Mr. Headley. She said that it was Headleys as true as a God in Heaven. That he perswaded her, and promised her Money. She came and asked my Husband if Money was left for her.
Lidia Parks. At Mr. Underwoods as she came from Horsemores. Lidia Gage said she would not damn her own Soul any longer for any Body. Headley told me, she had better take what she had and go off, or else he'd Send her to the Devil. Sister in Law to Zach. Parks. If he had not rid her skimmington3 he had some other Way.
Sufferana Hagar. Lived in the House with Lidia Gage. I knew She { 328 } was with Child, as soon as she did. She said she never had accused him of this Child, and was not a going to. Middle of July, I knew she was with Child. Never knew H[e]adley at the House. She never told me, who was the father, but she gave me two Hints, she said if Headleys family were affronted with her for such Things, they should be affronted worse before long. Latter End of Octr. or Beginning of Novr. I told Headley. He said he would take his Gun and shoot her. But I did not think, he intended to shoot deeper than some People think he had done. His General Character very good, till this came out.
Sarah Garfield. I asked her who was the father, 30 March, in Extremity, she said Headley and no Man else. I asked her how she came to clear him before Coll. Jones. She said He promised her Money and that she should never want. As she expected to answer it before God.4
Mrs. Allen. At the Travel [Travail]. She came in to our House a few days before her Travel. I charged her. She said she was told, that if she laid it to Parks she should get nothing, that Daniel Parks had been to a Lawyer, and told her those stories. That all Zack had was made over to maintain Phoebe, i.e. her last Child. Robert Gage told me there was no Truth in the story, that Headly had never offerd a farthing.
Mrs. Gage. At the Travel, as before. Headly came to our House and said he had an Arrant [Errand?] to do to Lidia from a Gentleman. She said Twas a transient Person, and Hagar and Pucker, a poor Toad. In January Headley calld her out under the shed, and talked with her. The family suspected Headley, before she chargd any Body. Under Guardian.
Ephraim Parks. Brother to Zach and Guardian. Zach denyd it. I went to her, and Asked her if she could clear him. She said Zack is clear, and I never laid it to him and ant a going to. He has had nothing to do with me. Did not threaten to put away Phoebe, nor say that she could get nothing.
Wm. Horsemore. Town ant so devilish good to me. They need not concern themselves. She did not lay it to any Body.
Simeon Hager. James Parks. Week before Trav[ail] talked with <Lidia Gage> Headley. Said he was going to Deacon Farrar to settle that Affair. Would you have me pay, if clear? No. I'm as clear as the sun.
{ 329 }
Putnam. If the Inconstancy can be accounted for, from a natural Source, so that she is believed, it is within the Law. The only Question is whether her Charge is true.
Her weakness, no Impeachment of her Veracity.
She would tell Deacon Parks the Truth. And she told him, it was Headley. Deacon Farrar meets with Headley. Headley said it was a Matter he would consider of. Tho he denyed the Charge.
A Difficulty arises, and a great deal is to [be] made of it. The next Time she told the Deacon she was sorry she had laid it to Headley. She did not pretend to say she had chargd him wrongfully. A Temptation—a snare—a Trap.
Another Objection, she is not the most chaste Woman. A common Strum.5 She may know, notwithstanding her Inchastity, who is the father. The law does not confine it, to any Number of Times.
Another Objection that being a Lyar, will discredit her Testimony.
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.
2. Probably the Humphry Farrar in whose family Lydia's child was at the time of his baptism, 31 Oct. 1773. Vital Records of Lincoln 38. The names of most of the other witnesses, including Hosmers (“Horsemores”) and Hagars, are found in the Vital Records, showing the local nature of the affair.
3. “To ride skimmington” in rural England was to hold “a ludicrous procession” of villagers intended to ridicule a shrewish woman, an unfaithful husband, or, alternatively, the victim of such a person. OED. Here the term is apparently extended to include the conduct which would cause such ridicule to fall either upon Headley's wife or upon Lydia. In Massachusetts, the word also seems to have connoted “mobbing.” See 1 JA, Diary and Autobiography291; JA's minutes, Hodges v. Gilmore, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.
4. According to the deposition of Lydia Farrar in the Middlesex Files (note 2 above), “Mrs. Sarah Garfield” was a midwife present at Lydia's labor, who asked her who the father was. 30 March 1768 was the date of the child's birth. See note 1 above.
5. “A handsome wench or strumpet.” OED.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/