a tree-rific journey into family history

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…


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

  1. That’s a great story! For a really well written book about colonial culture, not just in Pennsylvania, but Virginia and Massachusetts as well, check out David Hackett Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed.”

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