Friday, April 3, 2009

"Did John Godfrey Burnt Down Matthias Button's House?"

Ancestory Chain: 1 JR/ 2 Lark / 3 Camilla SMITH 4 / 5 Harriet Camilla ENSIGN / 6 Martin Luther ENSIGN / 7 Horace Datus ENSIGN / 8 Isaac ENSIGN / 9 Datus ENSIGN / 10 Sarah MOODY / 11 Sarah EVARTS / 12 Mary FRENCH / 13 Mary BUTTON / 14 Matthias BUTTON / 15 Thomas BUTTON.

MATTHIAS BUTTON


ORIGIN: Unknown
MIGRATION: 1633
FIRST RESIDENCE: Boston
REMOVES: Ipswich 1636, Haverhill 1652
OCCUPATION: Mariner.
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: There is no evidence that Matthias Button was ever a church member, but at least one of his wives was, and perhaps more.
EDUCATION: Signed deeds and bonds by mark.
ESTATE: Matthias Button sold one half acre houselot in Ipswich to William Symmons of Ipswich, it "having been granted to John Thornton, deceased, and falling into hands of the grantor by marriage with Joane, widow of said Thornton, who is living," entered 16 November 1639 [Essex Ant 8:3]. On 14 June 1644 Matthias Button of Ipswich sold to Thomas Welles of Ipswich two parcels given to Button by the town, one of meadow, the other upland, thirteen acres [ILR 1:155].
On 18 March 1658[/9?] "Matthias Button and Tegell his wife of Haverhill" sold to John Hazeltine of Rowley six acres of planting land, three acres of meadow at Hawke's Meadow and three commonages with all privileges belonging thereto [NLR 1:104-06].
On 14 February 1664[/5?] "Matthias Button of Haverhill" mortgaged to Mr. John Ward of Haverhill "my mansion or dwelling house and a parcel of land belonging to me"; Elizabeth ac~knowledged the deed and made her mark [NLR 2:23]. On 11 April 1665 "Matthias Butten of Haverhill" granted to "my brother-in-law George Wheelar for the use of my wife Elizabeth Butten" fourscore acres of upland, part of his third division [NLR 2:24]. Elizabeth sold thirty of the eighty acres almost immediately to son-in-law John Kingsbury, 28 December 1670 [ELR 33:229]. On 7 December 1673 she deeded twenty acres near Hawk's meadow to "Peter Green my son-in-law" [NLR 3:107].
Button brought in an account of what he had lost in the fire "when John Godfrey burnt his house," which totalled œ111 1s., and included "the house itself with the cellar and leanto," "a musket with a firelock," "a sword and a pair of bandoliers, 2 pound of powder," "16 pound of lead," "a great brewing tubb" and "the loss of his owne time and which is the most damage to his estate the death of his wife occassioned hereby, œ20" [EQC 4:373-5]. His daughter Sarah refused to swear to the inventory, saying that her father had sold the butter he was claiming to the merchant for hats, and that the amount of linen in the house was much overstated. The bedding had been seen since the house was burned. Button angrily told Abraham Whitaker that if he swore against the inventory, he would strike him, and that if there were some things in the inventory which should not be there, there were some things left out which should have been in, so they might set one against the other [29 August 1670, for June Term, 1671, EQC 4:375].
The clerk of the writs at the October Term, 1672, was ordered to inquire after the estate left by Matthias Button and to bring an inventory to the next Salisbury court [EQC 5:104]. Captain Nathaniel Saltonstall was appointed administrator pro tempore at the April Term, 1673, and the court addressed the fact that widow Elizabeth Button refused to relinquish her dower right as the court directed, despite having received land from her husband in his lifetime [EQC 5:153]. Saltonstall ac~knowledged a judgment to Daniel Ela from Button's estate at the April Term, 1674 [EQC 5:297].
The estate of Matthias Button was inventoried in four installments. On 2 December 1672 six swine were appraised at œ3. On 5 April 1673 a collection of moveables was valued at 14s. 6d. On 7 October 1673 a second collection of moveables was valued at œ2 1s. 6d. And finally an inventory of the remainder of his estate, taken on 9 March 1673/4, totalled œ99 11s. 8d., of which œ35 wasreal estate: "3 acres Duck meadow, 8li.; Spiggot meadow 3 acres, 8li., Strong water meadow 3 acres, 5li.; land about the house 7 acres, 14li.," the latter appeared to have a mortgage [EPR 2:300; NLR 2:2:325].
At court 14 November 1676, it was ordered that the estate be divided into five equal sums, "a part for each child, and that the share to the two daughters be delivered to their husbands as soon as possible and the other shares at age or marriage" [EPR 3:101].

BIRTH: By 1610 based on approximated date of first marriage.
DEATH: Haverhill 13 August 1672 "Husband of Elizabeth".
MARRIAGE: (1) By 1633 Lettice _____; "Lettyse Button the wife of Mathew [sic] Button" admitted to Boston church 26 January 1633/4 [BChR 18]; died after 1635 and before 1639.
(2) By 16 November 1639 Joan (_____) Thornton, widow of John Thornton of Ipswich [Essex Ant 8:3]; died by about 1650.
(3) By about 1650 Teagle _____; died Haverhill 4 February 1662[/3] as a result of the firing of their house by John Godfrey (see COMMENTS below).
(4) Haverhill 9 June 1663 Elizabeth (Wheeler) Duston, born about 1622 (deposed aged forty-seven 29 June 1669 [EQC 4:154-55]), daughter of John Wheeler, and widow of Thomas Duston [Pillsbury Anc 1107-09]; died Haverhill 16 July 1690.
CHILDREN:
With first wife
i MARY, bp. Boston 23 February 1633/4 [BChR 278]; m. Haverhill 6 December 1652 Edward Yeomans.
ii DANIEL, bp. Boston 22 February 1634/5 [BChR 279]; no further record; presumably died without issue before 10 April 1654, when his half-brother of the same name was born.
With third wife
iii SARAH, b. say 1650 [possibly daughter with second wife]; m. Haverhill 6 January 1673[/4] James Kingsbury.
iv HANNAH, b. Haverhill 11 May 1652; presented for fornication in 1673, thus unmarried at that date [EQC 5:233]; probably still alive on 14 November 1676, as otherwise there would not be five children to receive the distribution of their father's estate.
v DANIEL, b. Haverhill 10 April 1654; apprentice to John Dresser Sr. April 1672 [EQC 5:40]; slain at Muddy-Brook Bridge 18 September 1675 with Capt. Lathrop [Bodge 136]; his 1677 estate was divided among his brothers and sisters, indicating he was unmarried [EPR 3:124].
vi ABIGAIL, b. Haverhill 16 June 1656; deceased before the division of her father's estate in November 1676.
vii MATTHIAS, b. Haverhill 17 March 1657/8; m. Haverhill 16 or 24 November 1686 Mary Neff.
viii PETER, b. Haverhill 17 July 1660; m. by about 1690 Mary Lanphear, daughter of George Lanphear [NEHGR 153:139-40].
ix PATIENCE, b. Haverhill 1 June 1662; d. Haverhill 30 October 1662.
ASSOCIATIONS: "Thomas Davis, constable of Haverhill, according to the Governor's warrant, brought in Stephen Kent, Matthias Button, Dutchman, and John Mackcalamy, Scotchman" [EQC 1:278, March Term, 1653].

COMMENTS: R. Glen Nye and Katherine (Watson) Nye identify Matthias Button as "a son of Thomas Button of Harrold, Bedford Co., England. He was baptized there October 11, 1607" [Button Gen 23]. Such a baptism does exist, but there is no other evidence in support of this claim. Furthermore, since our Matthias is called at one point a "Dutchman," he presumably derived from a Germanic-speaking region on the Continent and not from England.
In a letter [undated but circa April 1636] to her mother, Margaret Winthrop, Mary Dudley asks that her mother send her "a child's chair for I can get none made here and goodman Button's Boat shall call for it a fortnight hence" [WP 3:242].
Matthias Button sued Thomas Boreman for an undisclosed offence at the December Term, 1641, probably relating to the sale of land in Ipswich [EQC 1:38, 7:86]. In relation to a retrospective case about this land, Daniel Hovey deposed in September 1678, aged sixty years, that "living in the house of Goodman Buton at the time of the earthquake in June forty years since and being at that time at work with him in his planting lot at the place called Button's point..." [EQC 7:87]. Isaac Cummings and Thomas Newman recognized Button's stray swine at March Term, 1647 [EQC 1:113]. Thomas Perkins sued Matthias Button, Abraham Wear and Robert Beacham for debt at September Term, 1647, implying that the three defendants may have been connected in business in some way [EQC 1:125].
Matthias Button acknowledged judgment to William Marston, Sr., of Hampton at the April Term, 1664 [EQC 3:147, 199]. At March Term, 1665, "Matthias Button acknowledged judgment in open court to Mr. Jewett's executors, Mr. Philip Nelson and Jeremiah Jewett, in corn and cattle" [EQC 3:241].
Matthias Button had the poor judgment to deal with the notorious John Godfrey. Owing him a bond dated 12 January 1663[/4], at June Term, 1668, Button was sued by Godfrey for debt and the jury found for Button. The court disagreed and set the verdict aside. In this case John Hutchins and Abraham Whitaker deposed that four years before, Godfrey had them accompany him to Button's to demand the cattle valued to œ12 that Button owed him.

Butten said, "I will now look up my cattle and pay thee." Godfrey told him to bring them to town to Goodman Kent's before twelve o'clock where they would be appraised, and he would give up the bond. Godfrey chose Stephen Kent for his appraiser and Button chose Bartholomew Heath. The cattle were brought before the time and appraised, but Godfrey would not come to receive them, although deponents remained till almost night [EQC 4:29].

Even with the verdict set aside by the court, Godfrey evidently harbored a grudge. At the April Term, 1669, less than a year later, Button sued him for "firing his chimney which caused his house to burn and the goods therein, also the death of his wife, and for running away as soon as he had done it." The court, which did not have the power to rule in a case of wrongful death, brought a verdict anyway, and awarded Button œ238 2s. [EQC 4:130-31].
More detail about this case is seen in the June Term, 1669, when Godfrey sued Matthias Button for "unjust molestation." Button won, but the court again set the verdict aside. From the deposition of Edward Clark, we learn that Button gave Godfrey an acquittance (9 January 166[2]/3), before the burning of his house [EQC 4:152]. Godfrey was accused, in the course of testimony, of being in two places at once, and appearing suspiciously the day after Goody Archer was buried, among other trappings of witchcraft. Matthias's fourth wife, Elizabeth Button, deposed

aged about forty-seven years,...that on a rainy day, she and her daughter Saray laid in a bed by the fireside about twelve or one o'clock there was a great noise about the house which this deponent took to be the cattle, but when she was awake she saw a shape of a man and [it] sat in a great chair and being a great fire near the bed and near the chair within a yard and a half I saw Godfrey sitting and I would faine have struck him but could not put forth my hand and I did what I could to wake the maid that was in bed with me but could not for I could neither speak nor stir and thus he continued for the space of two hours and I see him three or four times but as soon as I had come to settle myself in the bed he vanished away to my apprehension for he went strangely out and the door was fast and when I rose in the morning I went to the dore and it was fast bolted [sworn 22 June 1669, EQC 4:154-5].

Godfrey was found legally not guilty of witchcraft by the Court of Assistants, but was found "suspiciously guilty." By the next term, he was back in court, unsuccessfully suing the deputy, Daniel Ela, for extortion [EQC 4:179]. The case would not go away. Ela sued Godfrey for "willful firing and burning of the dwelling house of Matthias Button, which was the cause of the death of said Button's wife." Godfrey replied, "Why should I bely myself; there be the witness: and asked whether he should go and execute himself; ... protested that he was cleared of firing the house and knew not of it: and that he went to Corlis his house, and there remained until Button came with his family" [EQC 4:185]. In a calmer deposition, Godfrey "acknowledged that he was at Button's house the day before the house was burned and went about ten or eleven o'clock to Corlis' house; that he said to Goody Button, lying upon the bed, `Woman weigh me out some meat,' and she arose and gave him meat and brought in water; also that he made a little fire of small wood upon the hearth" [EQC 4:186].
Button apparently paid Ela for his services as deputy and attorney, and the court found Ela's charges to be excessive. During testimony at November Term, 1669, it was revealed that Button had agreed to give Ela one third of all he "should return of John Godfray for the burning of my house and goods" [EQC 4:199].
Godfrey sued Matthias Button again at the June Term, 1671, trying to overturn the conviction for burning Button's house.

The humble request of Matthias Button: that having been sued by John Godfrey `and I lying very sick and weak for this great while so that I am not able to do anything nor to come to the court the hand of God have been and is still so upon me that I humbly beseech the honored court to consider how unjustly Godfrey sues me out of my own county contrary to law as I conceive because it will appear by evidence that Godfrey belongs to one town and County therefore if he find himself aggrieved he should try in the same county where we both live, therefore I humbly beseech the Court that your poor petitioner may have justice in the case as the Lord shall direct you [EQC 4:373].

As late as 29 June 1671, the court was still ordering Godfrey to pay Button in this case and Godfrey was still countersuing Ela [EQC 4:450, 5:51]. Button sued Godfrey one last time, and the case being called at the October Term, 1672, Button did not appear, and Godfrey was discharged [EQC 5:102]. Button had died the preceding August.
At the June Term, 1673, Godfrey sued Edward Clark, claiming that Clark had fraudulently prevented him from receiving even one penny of a œ138 judgment Button was to pay Godfrey pursuant to a Court of Assistants' decision dated 13 March 1671/2 [EQC 5:182]. (For copies of these and other papers in the disputes involving Button, Godfrey and Ela, see RCA 3:151-61, 212-13.)

Note: John Godfrey Was Tried 3 Times For Witchcraft - 1659,1665 & 1669.

1. The Essex Antiquarian, Volume 1 through 13, Sidney Perley, ed. (Salem 1897-1909).
2. Ipswich Land Records, manuscript, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Massachusetts.
3. (Old) Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Deeds.
4. Essex County, Massachusetts, Deeds, microfilm copies.
5. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1636-1686, 9 volumes (Salem 1911-1975).
6. The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1635-1681, 3 volumes (Salem 1916-1920; rpt. Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1988). Citations to the unpublished probate records are to case numbers, or to register volumes (which begin with volume 301).
7. The Records of the First Church in Boston, 1630-1868, Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volumes 39, 40 and 41, Richard D. Pierce, ed. (Boston 1961).
8. The Essex Antiquarian, Volume 1 through 13, Sidney Perley, ed. (Salem 1897-1909).
9. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1636-1686, 9 volumes (Salem 1911-1975).
10. Mary Lovering Holman, Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury ... 2 vols. (Concord, 1938).
11. George Madison Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip's War being A Critical Account of That War with A Concise History of the Indian Wars of New England From 1620-1677 (Leominster, Massachusetts, 1896; rpt. Baltimore 1967).
12. The Probate Records of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1635-1681, 3 volumes (Salem 1916-1920; rpt. Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1988). Citations to the unpublished probate records are to case numbers, or to register volumes (which begin with volume 301).
13. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 1 through present (1847+).
14. R. Glen Nye, Button Families of America (n.p. 1971).
15. Winthrop Papers, 1498-1654, 6 volumes, various editors (Boston 1925-1992).
16. Records of the Court of Assistants, 3 volumes (Boston 1901-1928).


This history from:
"The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633."

2 comments:

Apple said...

What an interesting story - a 17th century soap opera.

Mama Stacey said...

I am descendant of Henry Kingsbury and found this tale while researching Elizabeth Button. Fascinating!