NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

November 26, 2013

Persecuted Quakers finally find refuge

(Continued)

The tragic events that followed were nothing short of extreme cruelty. Confined to the Boston jail, Brend and Leddra were starved and repeatedly beaten with a three-pitched rope until they were on the brink of death. The disapproving sentiment of the public reached Endicott. Knowing he had to intervene, Endicott sent in a surgeon. Russell L. Jackson asserts that the aged Brend, with help from an “unseen Healer,” rose from his sick cot as he still had more light to spread and preach about in New England.

In August 1659, Thomas Macy was prosecuted and fined 30 shillings for hosting four Quakers. Two of his guests, William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson, would later be executed upon the gallows on Dec. 27, 1659.

Fed up with the Puritan government, Macy “shook the dust from off his feet” and departed to Nantucket, where the iron hand of these despots did not reach. Thomas left “because he could not in justice to the dictates of his own conscience longer submit to the tyranny of the clergy and those in authority” (Macy Papers). His journey was a spiritual sign of deliverance as he, his family, Isaac Coleman and Edward Starbuck survived a fierce storm that raged like the Furies on their open boat.

Others like Coffin, Swain, Pike and Folger joined Macy on Nantucket. Allen Coffin noted that, while it was not an Elysium, the island was indeed blessed with “plenty’s golden smile” and “a refuge of the free.” Thanks to these brave, forward-thinking men, Nantucket became the first settlement to enjoy complete separation of Church and State.

On March 16, 1663, John Emery was presented to the court at Ipswich and charged with entertaining Quakers. The whole ordeal caused quite a buzz, and Rev. Parker showed up with a posse, demanding some answers. Sarah Emery asserts: “At this period one can scarcely depict the commotion such an incident must have caused in the secluded and quiet settlement of Quascacunquen, on the banks of the winding Parker, or appreciate the courage evinced by John Emery and his wife in thus rising above popular prejudice, and fanatical bigotry, and intolerance.” For this offence, the court fined Emery four pounds, plus costs and fees.

While we are grateful to live with religious freedom, we must also be grateful that our ancestors’ spirit, courage and light was not extinguished despite the tyrannical terror of dark Puritanical forces.

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank You to the Port Library Archives and Cheryl Follansbee.

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Visit Melissa Berry @ http://ancestoryarchives.blogspot.com.

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