Archive | August 2015

Jacob Perkins: Cooper and Constable or Philanderer and Fornicator

Jacob Perkins Warrant

My eighth great grandfather led an illustrious life. I am descended from him through two of his children, Joseph Perkins and John Perkins. Born in Ipswich, Massachusetts on 15 Feb 1685, he later purchased extensive lands in York and Wells, Maine. He lived near the area that is now called Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine.The book Jacob Perkins of Wells, and His Descendants by Thomas Perkins written in 1947 paints a pretty picture of Jacob. He worked as a cooper (barrel maker) and was a selectman, surveyor of roads and the town constable in Wells. He was a large man, called “Much Big Perkins” by the local Indians of whom it was said that he was not afraid. In 1736 he was appointed to the committee to help finish the meeting house in Wells. Good citizen, hard worker, nice guy. Right? Well, the records tell a different story.

The Perkins book states that Joseph Perkins born on 8 February 1717 was the son of Jacob and his first wife Lydia. The vital records of York, Maine, however, state that: “Deborah Webber, her Child, called Joseph Perkins [was] born in York Feb. 8, 1717.” Province of Maine Court records in October of that year show that Jacob Perkins was called into court to answer a charge of “bastardy.”

Court Record [6:228] “We present Deberoh Webber of york for haveing a bastard Child.”

[6:229] “Jacob Perkins being bound over to this Court by recogniscence for being the reputed father of a Bastard Child begotten on the body of Deberoah Webber of York, he Denying the fact, And Joseph Sayward of sd York Appeared and Acknowledged himself bound & Obliged in a bond of fifty pounds that the Town of york shall not be Charged with the Maintenance of sd Child, Its therefore Considered by the Court that the sd Jacob Perkins be Acquitted paying fees of Court 20s.”

In other court records, Jacob is charged with multiple counts of  “non-attendance at church,” “profanity,” “trespassing,” “cursing,”  “assault” and “debt.” Bad guy? Good guy?

Jacob denied the charge of “bastardy” and was acquitted. He was charged 20 shillings for court fees, the equivalent of a little over $210.00 dollars in today’s money. In addition, the town of York refused to be responsible for the welfare of Deborah’s child. (Where is Maury Povich and DNA testing when you need them?)

Joseph died before 15 October 1747, long before his (alleged) father, Jacob, who died intestate in 1772.  Joseph would not be mentioned in any probate records. Sadly, we may never know if Jacob ever acknowledged that Joseph was his son.

Murder in Maine

Newspapers can tell a powerful story.

Reported in the Portland Advertiser (Portland, ME) July 8, 1834, Volume XXXVI, Issue 40, Page 4:

Supposed Murder. Mr. Andrew Gerrish, of Gouldsborough, Me. (trader) went up to Frenchman’s bay on the 28th ult., in company with a man named John Cole, who had lived with him several months. On the 31st the boat returned to Goldsborough [sic], with Cole only on board. On landing he was asked where Mr. Gerrish was – after some hesitation Cole said he had landed him on Grindstone point at the entrance of the harbor. Apprehensions being entertained for the safety of Mr. Gerrish, from his continued absence, &c. search was made, and no trace of him was found. Cole has been arrested, on suspicion of murder, examined before a Justice, and bound over for his appearance at the next Supreme Court, to be holden at Castine on the 1st of July. It is said marks of blood were discovered on Cole’s jacket, on his return from Frenchman’s bay, and that a lock of grey hair was found in the boat. Mr. Gerrish was a native of Kittery, Me. and 57 years of age.”

Follow-up a week later from the Newburyport Herald (Newburyport, MA) July 15, 1834, Page 2:

“Mr. John Cole, of Kittery, says the Belfast Advocate, who was arraigned at the Supreme Court sitting at Castine last week, on suspicion of having murdered Mr. Andrew Gerrish, of Gouldsboro was discharged by the court, the Grand Jury finding no bill against him.”

And finally two weeks later from the Gloucester Telegraph (Gloucester, MA), August 6, 1834, Volume VIII, Issue 63, Page 1:

“The body of Mr. Andrew Gerrish, sen. whose supposed murder was mentioned recently, has been found at sea with a rope round the neck, to which a stone had been apparently attached. The body also exhibited other marks of violence. Cole, the person accused of the act, had been examined and discharged before the discovery of the body.”

Andrew Gerrish was my fourth great-grandfather.