Kent County Selected Miscellaneous Records
-- 1800's --
Coroner's Inquests & Children born out of Wedlock
Transcribed from records at the Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware
Contributed by Stacey Bliss Ricketts, Chuck Martin, Ned Heite, Betty & Ray Terry
Coroner's Inquests (posted here 28 Jan 2000)
John Carter of Duck Creek was killed 1800 by Felix O'nail
Lydia Dean of Little Creek died in 1816. She drowned in Duck Creek at Leipsic
Jesse Dean of Little Creek died in 1842 by a tree falling on him (click to view record)
James Morgan of Dover died 1828 causes were unknown
Jacob Tilghman of Dover Hundred died in 1848 by blows inflicted by Benjamin Norwood
John Hartshorn of Murderkill hundred died in 1725 murdered by James Butcher Alias James Miller
Children born out of Wedlock (posted here 28 Jan 2000)
Filed 1/14/1805 Mary Carter gave birth 9/21/1805 to a baby boy, father was Anthony Law ... witness was Thomas Clark
Filed ( ) Mary Carter gave birth 10/27/1804 to a baby girl, father unknown... witness was Henry Carter Filed 6/15/1805
Susanna Carter gave birth to a baby boy on 2/17/1805 by Thomas Reed Jr..... witness Thomas Reed Sr. Filed 5/21/1804
Bethena Morgan gave birth to a male child on 4/15/1805 father unknown.... witness Evan Morgan Filed (( ))
Ann Morgan gave birth - sex unknown by William T. Ralston....witness James B. Ralston Filed 11/2/1801
Rachel Miller gave birth to a male child father was Nathaniel Watson ...... witness John E. Dingfield Filed 4/3/1801
Pricilla Clark gave birth to male twins. Father unknown... witness Joseph Craight Filed 7/20/1801
Ann Muncey gave birth to a female child by John F. Watts ..Witnesses William Watts/James Wood Filed 3/19/1805
Prudence Chambers gave birth to a child by Jonathan Coursey.... witness John O'neil
Thoughts & comments regarding records pertaining to children born out of wedlock:
From Neil Keddie (Lower Delmarva Rootsweb List) -- "Crimson Is The Eastern Shore" 3 Mar 2000:
... I will heartily agree...concerning the amount of ---shall we say--"lusty" behavior that occured in the Chesapeake during the 17th and 18th centuries. I am certainly not denying that. To read the court cases and particularly some of the language used in the depositions does put them in the class of X Rated material (I refer you to the case before the Talbot County court concerning allegations brought forth by Bridgett Johnson against John Clymer and Elizabeth Madbury 17 September 1672). But I would not necessarily put all these cases into the context of "Harlequin" romances.
First of all, this is a very young population that we are dealing with--primarily made up of Indentured labor who were single and averaging probably between the ages of 16-24 (anybody have high school or college age kids here, or remember those times?) Couple this with a sex ratio of approximately 6 males to every 1 female and we can see that the Eastern Shore was not only Crimson, it was awash in raging hormones as well. The imabalance in the ratio would not begin to come down until early in the 18th century as we begin to see a growth of first of all a creole and later native-born population.
Certainly, lewd behavior, and the old favorite "fornication" was frowned upon for its immorality---we cannot deny that. This was usually dealt with by the offending parties standing before the congregation wrapped in the white sheet and confessing their sins. But equally important was the need for some degree of "social" control as well. For a female indentured servant to become pregnant meant the loss of her labor (and in the case of her death during child-birth, the loss of the "planter's investment). And since the servant was a "dependent" and not "free" the question of support for the child was a major consideration. These were the days before AFDC and the state was not about to take on the responsibility of raising the child. So, it was imperative for the father to be named. If the father was himself "unfree" then the question is "who" will raise this child. In most cases, the time of the "offenders" as indentured servants was increased to cover lost labor and additional expenses. In some cases--where this happens between "free" individuals, then a bond would have to be posted to insure that the "father" would take responsibility for support. In many cases where no father was named, then someone might step forth and post a bond for the mother--who in turn would work off the bond for a set period of time.
Additionally, bastardy threw a wrench into two of our British and Provincial ancestors' most cherished ideals--that of "lineage" and "estate." As I have said earlier, this is a highly ordered and structured society---and those two concepts--Lineage and estate--were paramount concerns of our ancestors. To have bastard children running about who didn't fit into this "great chain of being" was to have a highly disordered society and was to threaten the sanctity of both. Everyone was to have a place within that society and also to know that place--and a good deal of where you fit in was determined by "who" you were and "what" you had and were entitled to.
Yes, there was a high incidence of premarital sex, and I believe that the amount does not drop until probably some time in the 19th century as society and culture begin to shift in response to other forces at work. But premarital sex was not really a big deal so long as the offending couple married and probably most did--the ones that we are more aware of are those who didn't and were brought to court. To get a fairly good look at this phenomenon, I would recommed two books, "Good Wives, Nasty Wenches and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia" edited by Kathleen Brown and "Founding Mothers and Fathers" by Mary Beth Norton who has done some excellent work on the lives of Colonial women as well as women during the Revolutionary era.
But to get back to "Crimson is the Eastern Shore"--this was not a time of "gorgeous Fabio-like" hunks and "Jane Seymour-like" women as the cover art for the paperback edition would lead one to believe. This was a hard and brutal era in American history inhabited by rather tough people and it was a society--particularly during the period that the book covers--where the spectre of death hung heavy throughout the region. This was not a time of "gothic" romance--in fact "romance" as we have come to concieve of the notion would not appear as a popular ideal until the 18th century with the popularizing of the notion in such novels as Fielding's "Tom Jones" and others.
And don't be alarmed concerning your ancestors---for those who showed up in the courts as they did, there were probably ten others who beat the rap by posting their marriage bans in a rather hasty fashion at the local chapel....
From Ron <firstname.lastname@example.org> (Lower Delmarva Rootsweb List), 2 Mar 2000
...I would add just a few things to what Neil has written. First, a study of court records from Accomack Co., VA and Somerset County, MD reveals that, especially in the 1600's, fornication was very often punished with the lash. Hardly a court session went by without some man or woman being sentenced to a number of lashes "well laid on" for just such "extra curricular" activity. Women seem to have been punished this way more than men, and indentured servants more than free people. I think that Neil is right in thinking that the main reason this was frowned upon was that, in the case of female indentured servants, it rendered them unfit for work for some months. The court records certainly show that occasionally the Jerry Falwell of that time would rear his santimonious head to condemn out-of-wedlock sex, but this is rare. Coventry Parish records from Somerset County record at least one example of the birth of a child before the marriage of the parents. I'll bet if I took the time to analyze them more closely, I'd find more than one instance of this. There used to be an old saying on the Shore, "The first baby can come at any time. After that, it takes 9 months."
Secondly, the courts often added a year to the indentured service of a woman who became pregnant, thus paying her master back for the time she would lose from useful work. It is interesting to note that Maryland as in Massachusetts in the 1600's and 1700's, any man who a woman in labor named as the father of her child was legally held to indeed be the father. It was believed that a woman in labor was incapable of lying about paternity.
Finally, although it is not an easy read, John Barth's The Sot Weed Factor evokes the atmosphere and bawdy--at least to modern sensibililties--nature of colonial Eastern Shore life. Barth should know all about bawdy Eastern Shore life. He taught briefly years ago at what is now Salisbury State University. How bawdy he was, I cannot say.
A certain amount of very colorful Elizabethan bawdiness survived until modern times on the lower Eastern Shore. John Carey published a marvelous book about this titled A Faraway Time and Place. A constant theme in the writings and diaries of travelers through the Eastern Shore in the 1700's is just how much alcohol the people consumed. Hard cider was regularly drunk at breakfast, for instance. But then, just last night I was reading how Benedictine monks in at least one monastery in Britain during the Middle Ages were alloted over a gallon of beer a day.