a tree-rific journey into family history

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

The Savory Branch in Plymouth Colony Court Records: drunk under an hedge in an uncivil and beastly manner

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I recently did some work on a branch of my tree which settled at Plymouth Colony. Thomas Savory (1617-1676) arrived from Wiltshire, England during The Great Migration and married Ann. She may have been an Eddy or a Rogers, depending on whose account you are reading. When researching ancestors in the last century or two, there is usually a decent amount of records available. When I find myself in the 1500s or 1600s, I am at the mercy of many semi-sourced accounts. Fortunately, this ancestor came from an English-speaking nation with many records and settled into a heavily-documented region. Not all branches are so easy. I can trace colonial American branches with some confidence by relying on local histories, court records, and church records from their original country. The courts had a lot to say about my 10x great-grandparents, Thomas and Ann Savory! Although I did not travel to Massachusetts to read these summaries of court records, I found several excerpts online. For now, I must assume their authenticity. In addition to land transactions and a will, I also found the following juicy stories:

The court records included Thomas and Ann Savory legally giving two of their young children to other couples to educate and train them. At first, I assumed this was an indication of poverty, but a little reading online indicated that this was actually common at Plymouth. This ensured the child literacy, job skills, and religious education. Today, I would have difficulty turning my five year old son over to a local carpenter, but this was a different world.

In 1652, the court appointed Thomas Savory to serve as undermarshall. He held the post until 1670 when he was terminated for “having been found several times unfaithful in the performance of his said office.” He was reinstated a month later. Thomas Savory was arrested more than once for drunkenness, and the jury recommended a whipping in one incident. Ann Savory was once fined for being drunk on the Sabbath instead of attending church. She was even with a man named Thomas Lucas. A commentator wrote that he was essentially the town drunk, and that the wording here does not suggest adultery. I’ll let you decide:

“Ann, the wife of Thomas Savory, was presented before the Court to answer for being at home on the Lord’s day with Thomas Lucas at unreasonable time, viz:, in the time of public exercise in the worship of God, and for being found drunk at the same time under an hedge, in uncivil and beastly manner, was sentenced by the Court as followeth, viz: for her accompanying of the said Lucas at an unreasonable time as aforesaid, she was sentenced to sit in the stocks during the pleasure of the Court, which accordingly was performed and executed; and for her being found drunk as aforesaid, fined five shillings; and for prophaning the Lord’s day, fined ten shillings, according to the laws in such cases provided.”

Drunk under an hedge in an uncivil and beastly manner? Sit in the stocks? Apparently the Puritans were not as pure and stuffy as I first thought…


“Yankee Jim” Brown: my outlaw ancestor

James B. Brown, my 4x great-grandfather, married Morelda (sometimes Zurilla) Wilson in Morgan County, Alabama in 1846. They had five known children: Isaac Van “Dock” Brown, Sarah Ann Brown Graves, Lena Jane Brown, James H. Brown, and Mary Brown. Another family historian recorded that in the Civil War, Yankee Jim was a neutralist. He lived at Brown’s Point located on Brindlee Mountain in Alabama. The Union troops ravished the countryside, but they spared James Brown’s whiskey distillery. After the war, he moved to Marshall County before dying at his daughter’s residence in Cullman County in his mid-late 90s.

In April 1906, James B. Brown lay on his deathbed in Cullman County, Alabama. As oral tradition has it, the nearly 100-year-old whiskey distiller left his sons with one last shocking revelation:  he came to Alabama some 70 years before to escape the law. He was the sole survivor in a shootout with the law that resulted from an illegal counterfeiting ring (perhaps in his home state of Pennsylvania). He rode south to Alabama where he assumed the name James Brown. Apparently, his deathbed confession did not include his real identity.  He was known as Yankee Jim because of his accent although other accounts record him as nicknamed Dago (an ethnic slur for Italian descendants). In census records, he lists his mother as a New Yorker and his father from New York or Wales. The lack of solid information regarding Jim’s real identity or his crimes has made this a brick wall in my research. So if you know if any Pennsylvania counterfeiting shootouts, please leave a comment.

Morgan County, Alabama marriage record for James B. Brown and Morelda Wilson dated July 24, 1846. Her name is sometimes given as Zurilla or Sarillda.




Isaac Van “Dock” Brown (1847-1919), the son of a secretive scoundrel, is pictured here with his wife Caledonia Jones (1853-1891).

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