Friday, February 10, 2012

How the Women Went From Dover

Three Quaker women from England appeared in Dover, New Hampshire in 1662 to preach against the established church.  These women spoke out against the customs of the established minister John Reynor.   Major Richard Waldron, a local magistrate,  issued this decree:

“To the constables of Dover, Hampton, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ispwich, Wenham, Lynn, Boston, Roxbury, Dedham, and until these vagabond Quakers are carried out of this jurisdiction.
You, and every one of you, are required, in the King’s Majesty’s name, to take these vagabond Quakers, Anne Colman, Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose, and make them fast to the cart’s tail, and driving the cart through your several towns, to whip them upon their naked backs not exceeding ten stripes apiece on each of them, in each town; and so to convey them from constable to constable till they are out of this jurisdiction, as you will answer it at your peril; and this shall be your warrant.”
Richard Waldron
Dated at Dover, December 22, 1662

According to Sewall’s History of the Quakers:

"The women thus being whipped at Dover, were carried to Hampton and there delivered to the constable . . . The constable the next morning would have whipped them before day, but they refused, saying they were not ashamed of their sufferings. Then he would have whipped them with their clothes on, when he had tied them to the cart. But they said, 'set us free, or do according to thine order.' He then spoke to a woman to take off their clothes. But she said she would not for all the world. 'Why,' said he, then I'll do it myself.' So he stripped them, and then stood trembling whip in hand, and so he did the execution. Then he carried them to Salisbury through the dirt and the snow half the leg deep; and here they were whipped again. Indeed their bodies were so torn, that if Providence had not watched over them, they might have been in danger of their lives."

The order was carried out in Dover and at Hampton, (both now in New Hampshire) with the idea of running the women all the way to Rhode Island.   In the town of Salisbury, which is now on the Massachusetts side of the border) the constable, Robert Pike, refused to follow the order.   A man named Dr. Walter Barefoot convinced the constable to name him as a deputy, and he took them to safety in Kittery, Maine. 

Strangely, the women eventually returned to Dover, where over one third of the people converted to the Quaker religion.   The towns people prophesized that Waldron’s victims would be avenged.  Prophetically, he was killed in an Indian raid a few years later. 

John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker poet, wrote this poem for the Atlantic Monthly, Volume 51, issue 308, page 805 -6 in June 1883.  He was an ardent progressive, and the Atlantic Monthly was a liberal Boston journal.  Whittier lived in nearby Haverhill, Massachusetts, on the New Hampshire border.   Many of Whittier’s poems are based on New Hampshire legends, or Quaker history, such as the Ballad of Cassandra Southwick, which I blogged about at this link:

Just like Cassandra Southwick, I am related to one of the characters in his poem about the three Quaker women from Dover, New Hampshire.  Unfortunately this time it is the villain, Richard Waldron.   Waldron married Ann Scammon, sister to my 9x great grandmother, Elizabeth Scammons who married Thomas Atkins.  Richard Waldron was born 6 January 1615 in Warwickshire, England, and died on 17 June 1689 in Dover, New Hampshire during the Cochecho Massacre.  His cruelty was not just a figment of Whittier’s rich imagination.  Even the Penacook Indians were so angry with his reign over them that:

 The Indians rushed into Major Walderne's garrison. He attempted to defend himself with a sword but was quickly overpowered and tied to a chair. The furious Penacooks each slashed the 74 year old man across the chest with his own sword, crying out " I cross out my account!" They hacked off his nose and ears then thrust them into his mouth. Finally, they forced him to fall upon his sword. Even in death, the Indians were not done with vengeance: they cut off the hand that had cheated them by holding down down the scales during trading. The final act of revenge was to burn the house to the ground, and murder or take captive the rest of Walderne's family.”

From the 1909 Heritage Walk Tour Booklet at the Dover, New Hampshire Public Library, 

How the Women Went From Dover 
by John Greenleaf Whittier

The tossing spray of Cocheco's fall
Hardened to ice on its rocky wall,
As through Dover town, in the chill, gray dawn,
Three women passed, at the cart-tail drawn!
Bared to the waist, for the north wind's grip
And keener sting of the constable's whip,
The blood that followed each hissing blow
Froze as it sprinkled the winter snow.
Priest and ruler, boy and maid
Followed the dismal cavalcade;
And from door and window, open thrown,
Looked and wondered gaffer and crone.
"God is our witness," the victims cried,
"We suffer for Him who for all men died;
The wrong ye do has been done before,
We bear the stripes that the Master bore!
"And thou, O Richard Waldron, for whom
We hear the feet of a coming doom,
On thy cruel heart and thy hand of wrong
Vengeance is sure, though it tarry long.
"In the light of the Lord, a flame we see
Climb and kindle a proud roof-tree;
And beneath it an old man lying dead,
With stains of blood on his hoary head."
"Smite, Goodman Hate-Evil!--harder still!"
The magistrate cried, "lay on with a will!
Drive out of their bodies the Father of Lies,
Who through them preaches and prophesies!"
So into the forest they held their way,
By winding river and frost-rimmed bay,
Over wind-swept hills that felt the beat
Of the winter sea at their icy feet.
The Indian hunter, searching his traps,
Peered stealthily through the forest gaps;
And the outlying settler shook his head,--
"They're witches going to jail," he said.
At last a meeting-house came to view;
A blast on his horn the constable blew;
And the boys of Hampton cried up and down,
"The Quakers have come!" to the wondering town.
From barn and woodpile the goodman came;
The goodwife quitted her quilting frame,
With her child at her breast; and, hobbling slow,
The grandam followed to see the show,
Once more the torturing whip was swung,
Once more keen lashes the bare flesh stung.
"Oh, spare! they are bleeding!" a little maid cried,
And covered her face the sight to hide.
A murmur ran round the crowd: "Good folks,"
Quoth the constable, busy counting the strokes.
"No pity to wretches like these is due,
They have beaten the gospel black and blue!"
Then a pallid woman, in wild-eyed fear,
With her wooden noggin of milk drew near.
"Drink, poor hearts!" A rude hand smote
Her draught away from a parching throat.
"Take heed," one whispered, "they'll take your cow
For fines, as they took your horse and plow.
And the bed from under you." "Even so,"
She said. "They are cruel as death I know."
Then on they passed, in the waning day,
Through Seabrook woods, a weariful way;
By great salt meadows and sand-hills bare,
And glimpses of blue sea here and there.
By the meeting-house in Salisbury town,
The sufferers stood, in the red sun-down,
Bare for the lash! O pitying Night,
Drop swift thy curtain and hide the sight!
With shame in his eye and wrath on his lip
The Salisbury constable dropped his whip.
"This warrant means murder foul and red;
Cursed is he who serves it," he said.
"Show me the order, and meanwhile strike
A blow at your peril!" said Justice Pike.
Of all the rulers the land possessed,
Wisest and boldest was he, and best.
He scoffed at witchcraft; the priest he met
As man meets man; his feet he set
Beyond his dark age, standing upright,
Soul-free, with his face to the morning light.
He read the warrant: "These convey
From our precincts; at every town on the way
Give each ten lashes." "God judge the brute!
I tread his order under my foot!
"Cut loose these poor ones and let them go;
Come what will of it, all men shall know
No warrant is good, though backed by the Crown,
For whipping women in Salisbury town!"
The hearts of the villagers, half released
From creed of terror and rule of priest,
By a primal instinct owned the right
Of human pity in law's despite.
For ruth and chivalry only slept,
His Saxon manhood the yeoman kept;
Quicker or slower, the same blood ran
In the Cavalier and the Puritan.
The Quakers sank on their knees in praise
And thanks. A last, low sunset blaze
Flashed out from under a cloud, and shed
A golden glory on each bowed head.
The tale is one of an evil time,
When souls were fettered and thought was crime,
And heresy's whisper above its breath
Meant shameful scourging and bonds and death!
What marvel, that hunted and sorely tried,
Even woman rebuked and prophesied,
And soft words rarely answered back
The grim persuasion of whip and rack!
If her cry from the whipping-post and jail
Pierced sharp as the Kenite's driven nail,
O woman, at ease in these happier days,
Forbear to judge of thy sister's ways!
How much thy beautiful life may owe
To her faith and courage thou canst not know,
Nor how from the paths of thy calm retreat
She smoothed the thorns with her bleeding feet. 

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. As interesting as I think many of my New England ancestors would be, I have a suspicion that we would greatly dislike each other if we were to meet.

  2. Wow... it always amazes me to think that the Puritans braved the journey across the Atlantic to get away from religious persecution!

    A few of my ancestors were Quakers, and one was punished for giving hospitality to them.

  3. Yet more examples of man's inhumanity to man (and woman). . . from Waldron's cruelty to that of the Penacooks. The only heros here are the three women, Constable Pike and Dr. Barefoot. Thank you for sharing this bit of our collective history.

  4. Thank you for sharing this! Robert Pike, the constable who freed these women, is one of my 8th great-grandfathers on my father's side.