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Enticed into an act of uncleanness

John Rolfe (1634-1681) and Mary Scullard (1642-1687)

Operators of a Mill in Cambridge

Parents of Several Early Woodbridge Settlers

 

Members of the Rolfe (Rolph) family were among the early settlers in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The parents of these first Woodbridge Township settlers were John Rolfe (1634-1681) and Mary Scullard (1642-1687) who were my eighth great-grandparents.

 

John and Mary were members of early immigrant families. John was born in 1634 in Wiltshire, England and traveled with his parents in 1639 where they were among the first settlers of Newbury. Mary’s parents arrived in Newbury by 1637 where Mary was born in 1642. Mary and John were married in Newbury in 1656 and their first three children were born in Newbury.

 

It was after the birth of the third child that Mary became the victim of an attempted sexual assault or was a willing participant in a sexual impropriety. John was a fisherman and was on a trip to Nantucket in 1663. Prior to leaving on the trip, John arranged for a single woman Betty Webster to stay with Mary and the new young infant. Two English doctors, Henry Greenland and John Conlin, were new in town. The story goes that Mary and Betty were at dinner with Betty’s step-father John Emery. The two doctors were boarding with John Emery and also at the dinner. Betty and Mary were perhaps a little flirtatious with the two doctors. At any rate, a few nights later Dr. Greenland showed up at Mary’s house and Betty let him in. Mary, who had already gone to bed, stayed in bed. While Betty was building up the fire, Greenland took off his clothes and jumped in bed with Mary who immediately fainted. Around this time, a servant John Lessenby came by and attempted to see what was going on; the two women and the doctor all kept quiet for fear of being at risk of their lives (due to Puritanical punishments). But Lessenby snuck through the window and discovered Greenland in the bed with Mary. Lessenby and Mary talked it over and decided it was best to keep in under wraps; the reasoning was they did not want to create an uproar involving this doctor of high standing. But the word got out in a few days. Mary admitted being “enticed into an act of uncleanness” but god had helped her to resist him. One of the older women in the community wanted John Emery to send Greenland to Court, but Emery said he would just keep a closer eye on him. But the older woman and one other woman pressed the issue and had the matter reported to the Magistrate. Greenland was charged with attempted adultery. He was found guilty and given the choice of a fine or a public whipping (don’t know which he picked). When John Rolfe returned, he sued Greenland for damages. Greenland continued to be something of a trouble maker and he left the town by 1666.

 

Mary and John relocated to Nantucket soon after the incident in 1663. They had five more children there. Around 1670, they relocated again to an area of Cambridge (which is now Arlington) and purchased and operated the old Cook’s Mill which was along Mill Creek. (And they had four more children there.) The old mill had been abandoned by the previous owner (a really bad guy Captain George Cooke who was involved with burning several hundred Irish men, women, and children alive in Wexford, Ireland in 1652). But, anyway, John Rolfe built a new mill on the site which he operated until his death in 1681. Mary and her son Moses continued to operate the mill for several more years including laying out plans for a new mill and dam. You can read more about the history of the mill and read the gruesome story about General Cooke at this site: http://www.oldschwambmill.org/research/new_timeline.html

 

At least eight of the children of John and Mary Rolfe made the trip to New Jersey: sons John, Joseph, Henry, Moses, and Benjamin, daughter Hester(Esther) who married Jonathan Dunham and then Ezekiel Bloomfield, Jr., daughter Sarah who married Benjamin Cromwell, and daughter Hannah who married Elisha Parker.

 

Sources:

New England Historical Society: http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/henry-greenland-tries-to-seduce-a-young-puritan-wife-it-doesnt-go-well/

Essex Institute, 1913: Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts: 1662-1667

 

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