>> Thursday, January 21, 2010
To encourage members to write about nefarious ancestors, GeneaBloggers sponsors something called "Black Sheep Sunday".
Two categories that can qualify an ancestor for black sheep status are armed robbery and involvement in the witchcraft trials.
In early 1684, the Gatchells were involved in the Great Corwin Burglary, which wasn't an armed robbery, but considering the column inches devoted to it in histories of Salem, one would think so.
It also qualifies as "involvement in witchcraft trials" on a technicality. The Corwin who was robbed was the father of witch trials judge Jonathan Corwin and grandfather of namesake Essex County Sheriff George Corwin, who arrested the accused and served as executioner of those found guilty.
According to Sidney Perley's History of Salem, Massachusetts, Vol III, pp 184-, Elizabeth Godsoe, a servant in the home of the elder George Corwin, told her husband and some of his associates that Capt. Corwin, a wealthy Salem sea captain, kept large amounts of money in a closet to which she had a key, and also in the cellar.
The husband, William, in turn told his friend John Collier about the money, after which Collier hounded Godsoe about stealing it.
On the night of 6 March 1683/84, a party consisting of William Godsoe, John Collier, Nathaniel Pickman, and David, a negro belonging to John English, went to Capt. Corwin's home at 214 Essex St, and by use of a borrowed ladder, stole several bags of English, New England, and Spanish coins worth a total value of £500.
The miscreants were soon discovered and went to trial the following June. In all, sixteen people were charged in connection with "burglary in breaking open a dwelling house in the night-time":
the Godsoes, Pickman, and Collier,
David, "Mr. Pilgrim's negro" who was leaving for Barbadoes when the theft was discovered,
Jane and William Lord, Sr. (possibly Eliz. Godsoe's parents),
Reuben and Abigail Guppy,
John and Wibra Gatchell,
their son Thomas Gatchell,
and Bethiah Gatchell, most likely Thomas's wife.
I don't know what the Gatchells' connection to these people was before the burglary, but am guessing from accounts of it that Thomas Gatchell and Nathaniel Pickman were friends.
William and Elizabeth Godsoe were sentenced to be branded with a "B" on the forehead, whipped 39 times or pay £10. They left Salem and were never heard from again.
As accessories, John Guppy, John Gatchell and son Thomas, Nath'l Pickman, and John Collier each were ordered to pay treble damages, be severely whipped 39 times or pay £10.
Capt. Corwin died five months after the trial, the excitement of it possibly hastening his death.