Haverhill, Mass. First Congregational Church - Disciplinary Case Records
During the colonial period, the local church often functioned as the legal authority in matters of morality. Parishioners were disciplined by the congregation in instances of intemperance (excessive drinking), adultery or fornication outside marriage, and other breaches of their duties as members of the Christian community. Punishment in such cases usually consisted of censure — a temporary restriction from attending services and participating in church business — until the guilty party made a formal confession or request for forgiveness.
Mr. Dowe was both accused of and defended from habitual drunkenness by his neighbors. He subsequently made a confession and request for forgiveness, though these records do not indicate whether the church accepted it.
|initial complaint||Ayer, William||ca. 1738||testified that Stephen Dowe was "very much disguised with drink"|
|testimony||Gile, James||ca. 1738||testified that Stephen Dowe was "very much disguised with drink"|
|testimony||Clough, Hannah ;
|1738/39||testified May 3d 1738/1739 [sic] that she lived with Stephen Dow February and March and never saw him drunk. Anne Roberts testifieth to all above written.|
|testimony||Little, Thomas ;
|ca. 1739||testimony about Stephen Dowe's drunkenness|
|testimony||Robards, Sarah||ca. 1739||living with Stephen Dow|
|request for forgiveness||Dowe, Stephen||ca. 1739|
As a result of suffering an illness with symptoms similar to a miscarriage, Miss Foster was accused by several women in the congregation of fornication outside marriage.
|testimony||Clement, Ruth ;
Davis, Grace ;
|1731/32||testimony given against Lydia Foster in suspicion of having miscarried an illegitimate child, notarized by the pastor|
The single document in this case describes an altercation of some sort between Mr. Gile and a Mr. Haynes.
|examination||Harriman, John ;
|1726||evidence not sworn, examined by Rev. John Brown, 5 Jan. 1726|
Mrs. Patee repeatedly gossiped about Mrs. Peaslee's being drunk, but the accusations were found to be unsupported by others' accounts. Mrs. Patee was then found guilty of "public scandal" and suspended from Communion. She made a confession, but her restoration was delayed because many members of the congregation doubted her sincerity.
|testimony||Corlis, Ruth||ca. 1729||re: Susanna Patee / Lydia Peaslee conflict|
|testimony||George, William ;
Peaslee, Nathaniel Jr.
|1729||testimony relating to Susannah Patee, defaming Mrs. Lydia Peaslee|
|deposition||Peaslee, Judith ;
|deposition||Bradley, Ruth||1729||"Declared this Evidence Sept. 5, 1729"|
|testimony||Davis, Katherine ;
Edwards, Lydia ;
|vote||Patee, Susanna||1729||"At a Church Meeting after the Lecture, Voted that Mrs, Susanna Patee the wife of R. P. is guilty of public Scandal…"|
|testimony||Little, Daniel||1729/30||testimony about Samuel Patee, Judith [Kezzer], Nathaniel Peasley, and Lydia Peasley|
|evidence||Thompson, [Doctor]||1729/30||re: Susanna Patee / Lydia Peaslee|
|vote||Patee, Susanna||1729/30||Church Vote after Mrs. Patee's Petition to the Church|
|church meeting appointment||Patee, Susanna||1730/31||"Appointed a church Meeting to be the next Friday after the Lecture, to lay before the Church the case of Mrs. Su. Pa…"|
|vote||Patee, Susanna||1730/31||regarding case of Mrs. Susanna Patee|