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Rankin Family History Project



John Thorpe's Indiscretion

John Thorpe, son of William Thorpe, was sentenced to be "severly whipped" because of an "indiscretion" with Rebecca Potter, daughter of William Potter.



At a Court held at New Haven the 7th of August 1666

"John Thorpe and Rebeckah Potter were called; the said Rebeckah having charged the said Thorpe with abusing her and being the father of the child she now has; she was told that she was a sad object before the Court, and therefore was now called to speak the truth in the case concerning the person she charged to be the father of her child, and was told that God had spared her life when she was in danger, they desired she might improve it for her good:

"She answered, that one time as she was coming back from the mill, John Thorpe was in the way of gathering nuts, and he took hold on the horse bridle and pulled her down and would have her gather nuts, and they went a little way together, and he said he would lie with her, but she objecting against it, and he answered that he would do a maid no wrong with that, and then he had the use of her body and so he went away; this was in indian harvest last.

"The second time was at Goodman Clark's hulking time. The day before she said she went to the towne and spake to John Thorpe and Sam Cooke to come up to the husk at her mother's; and so they came the next night and, and when they had done hulking as they was going home to the towne, they called in at Goodman Clark's house where she was, (Goodman Clark and his wife being gone to Connecticut and having leave of her mother for her to be there until they came home), then John Thorpe took her by the hand and deferred a private room to be with her in; Martha Wakefield* told her they might go into the stone room and so they did and was there an hour or more together; and in the room was a bed and pulled her down and said he would have the use of her body and said again as before that he would do her no wrong, that is, she thought she should not be with child and so it would not be known, etc.

"The midwife was called to know what she had to say in the case, who answered that in the time of Rebeckah's greatest extremity she put her to it to speak the truth about the father of the child, and she said that there was no other but John Thorpe had anything to do with her upon that account: and he was the father of the child.

"John Thorpe was called and asked what he had to say hearing what he was charged with. He answered that he could not accuse himself, he confessed that he see her the first time pass by him, but he said nothing to her except it were, God be with you; but Rebeckah replied in Court to his face that she could show him the walnut bush he tied her horse to: And for the second time, though he denied that he was in the stone room with her, yet he confessed he was with her alone in another room half an hour; but denied the fact charged.

"The Court having heard what he could say, and finding him false in his answers, and rendering himself apparently suspicious of being guilty of the fact charged by several circumstances, did by way of sentence declare, that the John Thorpe be severely whipped and kept in custody until he give bond for the keeping of the child.

"And for Rebeckah Potter, the court having told her the greatness of her sin by way of sentence declared, That though her fact deserves the like punishment, yet considering her work as a nurse that she only pay two pound ten shillings fine to the treasury, and stand by John Thorpe when the sentence is inflicted on him.


"* Martha Wakefield is the daughter of John Wakefield, born Apr 1650. Her father died in 1660, and her mother was now wife of goodman (James) Clark."

Source:  Ancient Town Records 1649-1684

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