........ Conjecture, noun, the formation of judgments or opinions on the basis of incomplete or inconclusive information. Source: Encarta Dictionary

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Conjecture #3: Penelope and Richard Stout married in late 1648/early 1649.

When did Penelope marry Richard Stout? This date is often associated with the date of the shipwreck but let’s save the shipwreck for next week and argue these two controversial events independently.

Two Marriage Opinions: 1644 or 1648
The popular answer is circa 1644 and the minority opinion is soon after the slander trial on 12 Sept 1648. Let’s deal with the minority opinion first because its argument is simply that the trial record lists her name as Penellopey Prince because she was a widow (See Conjecture #1) and thus hadn’t yet remarried. If she had remarried, she would have been referred to the wife of Richard Stout or possibly as Mrs. Stout.

The 1644 Argument
The argument for a marriage date of 1644 was introduced by Dr. John Stillwell in 1916 and relies on A) the documented fact that the two eldest sons of Richard Stout (namely, John and Richard, Jr.) were awarded full land grants of 120 acres based upon residence in New Jersey before 1 Jan 1665 as adults, not minors, and assumption B) that the sons were thus eighteen years of age in 1664. Because no one suggests that Richard had sons from a prior marriage, assumption C) is that the first son was born about one year after the marriage date of Richard and Penelope and the second son between two and three years after the marriage date.

Working backwards, the math is
Before 1 Jan 1665 = ages of sons are 19/20 and 18
Before 1 Jan 1647 = second son’s birth
1645 = first son’s birth
1644 = Marriage date

A marriage date much earlier than 1644 is implausible because Gravesend was settled in 1643, then abandoned because of Indian troubles and resettled in 1645. Also it is generally accepted (without proof) that Richard Stout arrived in New Amsterdam around the spring of 1643.

Two Challenges to Majority Opinion
I challenge the interpretation of both the date 1 Jan 1665 and the legal age of eighteen.

The Concessions Document
The charter that the new governor of New Jersey brought with him in 1665 designating the requirements for land grants to settlers was a little more generous than the one announced the same year for the Carolinas. The concessions for New Jersey and Carolina had three things in common:
1. They encouraged rapid settlement by reducing the size of the land grants in later years.
2. They required settlers to physically occupy the land to eliminate speculators.
3. They gave the largest grants to heads of household, wives, and able-bodied men ready and able to defend the colony against Indian attack and half-grants to “weaker” servants.

The section of the New Jersey Concessions under which the Stouts claimed land stated, “To every master or mistress that shall go before the first day of January, which shall be in the year one thousand six hundred sixty-five; one hundred and twenty acres of land. And for every able man servant, that he or she shall carry or send, arm'd and provided as aforesaid” [which an earlier section explained as arm'd with a good musket, bore twelve bullets to the pound, with ten pounds of powder, and twenty pounds of bullets, with bandiliers and match convenient, and with six months provision for his own person], “ and arriving within the time aforesaid, the like quantity of one hundred and twenty acres of land: And for every weaker servant or slave, male or female, exceeding the age of fourteen years, arriving there, sixty acres of land.”
Challenge #1: The Day After 31 Dec 1665 is 1 Jan 1665 
According to Wikipedia the English legal year began on March 25 until the conversion from the Julian to Gregorian calendar nearly a century later in 1752. Therefore the legal date of 1 Jan 1665 is the day after 31 Dec 1665, or 1 Jan 1666 as we would think of it. To reduce confusion, a date between 1 Jan and 24 Mar was often written in the format of 1 Jan 1665/66 but not in legal documents.

To further confirm the deadline of 1 Jan 1665/66, consider the timeframe of relevant events, including the fact that the document itself didn’t arrive in New York until July 1665:
8 Sept 1664—Col. Nicholls captured New Amsterdam for the English and renamed it New York.
10 Feb 1664/65 – Lords Proprietors of New Jersey, John Lord Berkley and Sir George Carteret (both of whom were also among the proprietors of the Carolinas), signed the Concession and Agreements document with the 1 Jan 1665/66 deadline.
29 Jul 1665—the new governor Philip Carteret (relative of Sir George Carteret) arrived in New York with the documents, the first English ship since the conquest.
Aug 1665—Governor Philip Carteret accompanied the first settlers to found Elizabethtown, the capital of New Jersey. These able-bodied settlers accompanying the governor received 150 acres.
1 Jan 1665/66—deadline for other settlers to receive maximum land grants of 120 acres.

Challenge #2: Able Man Servant or Weaker Servant

Secondly, how do you distinguish “able man servant” from “weaker servant or slave, male or female, exceeding the age of fourteen years”? I claim that a “weaker servant” is one not “arm'd with a good musket, bore twelve bullets to the pound, with ten pounds of powder, and twenty pounds of bullets, with bandiliers and match convenient.” Thus, a weaker servant is anyone whom the master would not trust with a musket, such as an African slave, a feeble old man, or an untrustworthy servant brought along to claim and work the land, whereas an able man servant is any male over the age of fourteen who can handle a musket. The inclusion of slaves may seem odd but there were numerous slaves in New Amsterdam/New York and the language was copied from the Carolina document intended to lure slave-owning sugar planters from the Caribbean.

Also consider the history of Gravesend. Attacked and burned by the Indians in 1643 before it was properly built. Resettled in 1645 with a town charter that required residents to maintain a section of the palisade wall and to stockpile musket, lead, and powder. In fact, a person could not buy a lot in Gravesend without an armed, able-bodied man to live on it. Plus the story about Tisquantum warning Penelope to flee from an impending Indian attack. And the Peach War of 1655. In those circumstances do you think it likely that a fourteen-year-old boy knew how to handle a musket?

The New Math
Therefore the revised math is
By 31 Dec 1665 = ages of sons are 15/16 and 14, satisfying Concessions requirement.
By 31 Dec 1651 = second son’s birth
1650 = first son’s birth
After 12 Sep 1648 and before mid-1649 = Marriage date
Thus a marriage around 31 Dec 1648 would allow a plausible thirty-six months to birth two children, sons luckily enough, and would allow Penelope to still be an umarried widow  on 12 Sep 1648.

Just Wondering
I wonder if the descendants of other New Jersey settlers have better documented ages of their ancestors’ children who claimed land under the same provisions.

Comments Please
Please use the comments section to express your opinions about my conjecture and the logic behind it or to ask questions that might spur further research.



  1. Jim, this is excellent rationale. I had never looked into the terms of who was qualified to receive a full land grant. I assumed that perhaps they just fudged a bit, and said the boys were a bit older than they were to receive more land (after all, they were already settled there, and who is going to come around with a measuring stick and say, "wait a minute, this boy looks like he's under 18!"?)

    I am confident that Penelope was unmarried as of her appearing in the court record of September 1648. If she had been married, this fact would have been mentioned (as it was with all other women who made appearances in court, noting them as "wife of ...", etc.); then again, if Penelope was so inclined to observe certain Dutch traditions, then perhaps she did not use her husband's surname, in which case, official records might continue to refer to her by her maiden name (but, here again we would have a contradiction, if her first husband was named Prince, she would have been using a previous married name and not her own surname! If she chose to use her maiden name--in the Dutch tradition--then this would suggest that her maiden name was actually "Prinse"-or something like it-and her first husband's name was something different.) But I don't think that's the case. At any rate, if Penelope were married when she appeared in court in 1648, the fact almost certainly would have been recorded, but it was not. She and Richard married after September 1868.

    Family traditions claim (perhaps incorrectly) that Penelope was 22 years old and Richard was 40 when they married. A marriage in late 1648 or early 1649 would give them 20 years to have all their children, the youngest of whom, David, usually being claimed to have been born about 1669.

    --Nick Sheedy (nsheedy@yahoo.com)

  2. "And the Peach War of 1655. In those circumstances do you think it likely that a fourteen-year-old boy knew how to handle a musket?"

    my answer to that is, yes. I have ancestors who were as young as 13 serving in The Rev. War and the Civil War so to think that a 14 year old in 1655 knew how to handle a musket, I would have to say, yes they could and probably very well.

    I am curious what do you have as the birth years of all of their children?

  3. To Carrie. I have no info on birth years. I consider most of what I've seen to be estimates.

  4. Nick has already brought up this point, but it was common for Dutch women to retain a family name, and not use their spouse's name. It would also be possible that the person recording the events might use the name he was used to, rather than her newly married name.

    Which is to say the use of Principe in the deposition doesn't qualify as a solid clue.