I’m told, though I’ve seen no primary evidence, that Scots in early Massachusetts suffered some of what we would call discrimination today. I’ve also been told that many of them hastened to move west across the Connecticut River, far enough to escape established Puritanism/Congregationalism and to preserve their Presbyterian traditions.
Both Munroes, moreover, came from backgrounds of nonconformity to the Congregational establishment of Massachusetts. William’s was in his Scottish blood, and his experiences with Cromwell’s victorious army can hardly have disposed him favorably toward the Puritans. Martha’s “father was in trouble with Puritan authorities for founding an illegal Baptist church in Charlestown.”*
Be that as it may, William and Martha rejected any western option and chose to cast their lot with the English Puritan settlers of New England. By the time he became a Cambridge landowner in 1660, William had apparently switched his denominational allegiance. One could of course enjoy full citizenship only by “owning the [Congregational] Covenant.”
Once committed, the Munroes were good, hard-working, peaceable citizens. In contrast, may we note, to their neighbors the Bacons. Between 1660 and 1671, the Middlesex County Court fielded seventeen complaints** involving Michael Bacon,*** including eight as plaintiff and seven as defendant, with such topics as breach of covenant, slander, debt, damage to wheat by hogs, and forgery. Several neighbors who show up elsewhere in this account appear as Bacon’s adversaries: John Johnson, Ralph Read, Edward Mitchelson, and Thomas Gleason. Over the same period, the Munroes were entangled in no such complaints at all. The Court record first mentions the Munroes, indeed, late in the autumn of 1671, when they had to lodge a formal complaint against (guess whom?) Michael Bacon, for stealing their swine.
The timing is most interesting: by that November, I speculate, Mary Ball was part of the Munroe household; a year or so earlier, she had been Bacon’s servant and underage, surreptitious paramour. Only seven months before, the Court had bound him to support their child. One doubts that Michael Bacon came to “Scotland” that snowy late-November evening with perfect equanimity of mind.
*Rapaport, Diane, “Scots for Sale: the Fate of the Scottish Prisoners in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts.” New England Ancestors, 4, 1 (Winter 2003).
**Middlesex County (Massachusetts) Clerk of Courts, Card index to births, deaths, wills, and miscellaneous court records, 1600-1799. FHL US/CAN Film 1420474 Item 3.
***Some of these actions may have involved “our” Michael’s aging father, also Michael Bacon. Which in no way diminishes the contrast between the two families.
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William and Mary
Updated Feb 2014
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