By now, with all the feuds, splits, rifts, elopements, affairs, inflated bills, and insulting pamphlets, even I’m losing track of what was going on in Woburn in 1752. The major points are:
- Some powerful citizens, particularly former town representative Roland Cotton and justice of the peace Jonathan Poole, really didn’t like the Rev. Edward Jackson, junior minister of the town’s first church.
- In fact, since Jackson had arrived in 1729, that congregation had split into four meetings, with the newest and closest led by Roland Cotton’s brother, the Rev. Josiah Cotton.
- Jackson, a bachelor, employed Kezia Hincher as a housekeeper. She was a poor unmarried widow who lived with her sister and brother-in-law, Rebecca and Ebenezer Richardson.
- Hincher gave birth to an illegitimate child early in 1752.
- The Cotton brothers accused Jackson of being the baby’s father, Roland privately and Josiah publicly.
On 28 Aug 1752, Roland Cotton sent Jackson (who was, incidentally, his old college classmate) a one-sentence letter of apology:
SirIn other words, the minister could show Roland Cotton’s written apology to everyone in town as a way to clear his reputation.
Some months Past Upon my Seeing a Writeing Purporting a Certificate Under the hand of Mrs. Hannah Poole of Reading a Midwife “That she Diliverd the Widow Keziah Hincher your late housekeeper of a Bastard Child and That ye Said Hincher in the Time of her Travil Charged You with being the Father of it,” I Mentioned To Sundry Persons (Some of Whom were Under your Pastoiral Care) That ye Said Poole had in Writeing Under her hand Certified Those Facts, and That I Believed them to be True, as Indeed for Want of due Examination & Consideration I then did,
But being Now Senseable That I was Mistaken therein, and being also Convinced That the Writeing aforesaid was false & Counterfeit, Malisiousely Contrived Made and Published With an Intent Unjustly to procure your Removal from the Ministerial Office by Induceing your Church & Congregation to believe you were the Father of That Bastard Child a Crime Whereof I believe You are Altogeathere free & clear, I think Myself in Justice bound to make you Sattisfaction as far as it is in my Power for ye Injury done you in Mentioning a thing so Prejudicial to your Carracter & Reputation and declareing My belief thereof before any persons but More Expetially before those under your Pastoral Care
And I do Acknolege My Misconduct Therein and Ask Your Pardon therefor, And as the Injury done you has been Made Publick I am Content this Also Should be Made so if you think Proper
Whereupon the Rev. Mr. Jackson sued for libel.
TOMORROW: Jackson takes the Rev. Josiah Cotton to court.