George Barlow emigrated from England and arrived at Sandwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, by around 1657. He became a constable, and marshall for Sandwich, Barnstable and Yarmouth. This was the era of Massachusetts purging the Quakers from their borders, and the constable was responsible for upholding the right to fine Quakers. George Barlow had the right to take goods in exchange for fines, and the right to keep ten percent as his fee.
Henry C. Kittredge wrote of George Barlow: "It was his habit to take not what would be most valuable to the authorities, but what would be most poignantly missed by the Quaker families." He tells the story of Priscilla Allen, whose husband was driven out of town, leaving her and the children with only a cow. The marshall took the cow, all the corn in the house, a bag of meal that had been given by neighbors, and her only copper cooking kettle. Kittredge further wrote that George Barlow had, "so far as can be discovered from contemporary authorities, not a single good trait."
From Stratton’s “Plymouth Colony” he writes “In a case of 5 March 1660/1, Barlow himself was fined twenty shillings for cruelty to Benjamin Allen, making him sit in the stocks at Sandwich for most of the night without cause, and ‘for other wronges done by him unto said Allin.’ Allen was a Quaker, but nonetheless the court protected him…” and “In May 1665 Barlow was accused of ‘attempting the chastity of Abigaill, the wife of Jonathan Pratt, by alluring words and actes of force…’”
George Barlow married a Mrs. Jane Besse, widow to Anthony Besse, with whom she had eight children. It seems that the Barlows marriage was quite tragic, probably since he was a mean spirited man. According to a Plymouth Colony Court record of March 4, 1661/2, Dorcas, Ann, and Mary Besse were before the Court for "crewell and unnatural practice toward their father-in-law George Barlow." (Father-in-law meant step father in those days.) The 1662 records show that Daisy, the cow, had been taken by George Barlow, and the court ordered that Daisy be returned to his step-daughter Jane Besse.
George Barlow named only four children in his will, two from his first wife and two from his second wife. He was mean spirited even to these children, for in his will, which was dated August 4, 1684, and proved on October 31, 1684, he gave only five shillings each to Aaron and Moses, adding "that is all I give them." To his wife Jane and their sons John and Nathan he gave his land which amounted to about eight acres, his house, his farm stock and equipment, and his "household stuffe."
I am not a direct descendant of George Barlow, but many Barlows intermarried with distant cousins in my family tree. He would make a great Blacksheep ancestor! Look at all the records he left for us to uncover in Massachusetts!
I found him mentioned in the records of John Howland, Jr. born 24 February 1627, son of Mayflower passengers John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. I’m descended of two of his sisters, Desire, who married John Gorham, and of the sister Hope, who married John Chipman. It seems that John Howland, Jr., was sympathetic to the plight of the Quakers and he was opposed to George Barlow.
Another ancestor, William Bassett, born 1624 in Plymouth, was fined ten pounds “for spreading false reports of the marshall.” He succeeded George Barlow as the constable, about 1661, in the town of Sandwich. This William Bassett was the father of William Bassett III, who attended Harvard College and became a superior court judge of Massachusetts 1710-1715, and served as Chief Marshall of Plymouth. Hopefully he was a more just and fair man than his predecessor, George Barlow!
For more information see:
“Plymouth Colony, its History and People, 1620-1691” by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Ancestry Publishing, 1986 (see pages 93 and 99 for the stories of George Barlow, available at Google Books)
“Cape Cod and Its People and Their History” by Henry Crocker Kittredge, Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930
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Copyright 2010, Heather Wilkinson Rojo