John Cisti, Watch Thief, (17??–bef 1785) & Elizabeth Paris (1724–1800)

John Cisti, Watch Thief, (17??–bef 1785)
Elizabeth Paris (1724–1800)

John Sisty (Cisti) Home Page

A word of caution - I have made a careful effort to include only information in this article that I have obtained certain documentation for. This documentation is included in the references section. It seems to me that as far back as 1850 information is available to determine certain things as parentage, marriage, birth and death facts. When we go further back prior to 1850 documentation is harder to obtain and some conjectures and assumptions come into consideration. With them comes an increased possibility that the conclusions reached are incorrect. Therefore this information regarding John Cisti and Elizabeth Paris is presented with that in mind.

There is concern that while the felon and the wanton do make an engaging couple, it is a little dangerous to assume that either one of them were our ancestors. John Cisty probably was - the name is so uncommon that his presence in an adjoining state fourteen years after the thief was transported makes it more than possible that they are the same, but it is still by no means certain. Eliza Paris is not nearly so uncommon a name - there are a number of other candidates, especially when similar names, such as Parrish (even more common than Paris) are included. Any of them have as good a chance of being our Eliza Paris as this one does.

Elizabeth Paris was born on the 21st of May 1724 in Delaware. Her parents were Edward Paris (1699-1735) and Susannah Molten. Edward and Susannah were married the 6th of May 1719 in Kent County, Delaware. Elizabeth’s siblings were Tamar (1720-??), Moses (1721-1792) and William (1727-1813).

After William’s birth in 1727 and before May 1729 Edward and Susannah moved their family to Maryland.

On the 27th of May 1729 Edward and Susannah apprenticed three of their children, Tamar, Moses and Elizabeth to Thomas Phelps of Baltimore County, Maryland. Tamar was nine years old, Moses was seven years old and Elizabeth was five years old. The son would be apprenticed until he reached age 21 and the daughters would be apprenticed until they reached the age of 16 or the day of marriage. In exchange Moses would be taught the trade of carpenter and Tamar and Elizabeth would be taught “to spin, soe n(o/e)t and doe housework.” At the expiration of their times Moses would be given a new suit of cloth and a set of carpenters tools sufficient to build a Tobacco House. The children would be taught to read the Bible.

The County of Middlesex, which encloses the City of London, is one of the smallest in England having an area of barely 280 square miles. The pygmy county has for centuries been the most densely populated. An official estimate made in the late 18th century was that one in three of all felons in England were convicted in the County of Middlesex. On the most reliable evidence at present available, the total number of convicts transported from England to the Americas between 1615 and 1775 was about 30,000.

The Act of 1717 “for the further preventing robbery, burglary and other felonies” was a landmark in the history of transportation, and set a rigid pattern which was to be followed for the next 58 years. For the first time the justices themselves were given the power to impose sentences of transportation for all but the most serious or the most trivial offences. Every official encouragement was offered for the dumping of unwanted offenders on the labour-hungry colonies: for the most populous areas of the City of London, Middlesex and the surrounding counties a scheme was devised whereby the cost of transportation was defrayed from State funds and contractors appointed to provide the ships and to superintend this specialized business.

In general the more serious cases (by contemporary standards) were sent for trial at the Session of Goal Delivery which met eight times a year, and the vast majority of the sentences of transportation were imposed by this court which sat at the Old Bailey. There was, however, no uniformity of practice in deciding which cases should be tried where, except that capital offences such as murder, highway robbery and counterfeiting were the prerogative of the Session of Goal Delivery. (Coldham)

Old Bailey Sessions House in 1750

John Cisti, Theft - grand larceny, 21st July 1736.

Reference Number: t17360721-32
Offence: Theft (grand larceny)
Verdict: Guilty (lesser offence)
Punishment: Transportation

37 John Cisti , was indicted for stealing a silver Watch, value 5 l. the Goods of John Donnel , June 26 .

John Donnel. The 26th of June, the Watch was stole on board a Ship (The Willing Mind) riding off the Armitage. I was just got out of Bed to roll some Goods out of the Hold; and while I was in the Hold, he stole the Watch out of my Breeches which lay on a Chair in the Cabbin. I advertised it, and the Watchmaker he had sold it to, brought me the Watch again. I took the Prisoner before Justice Farmer, and he confessed the Fact, and signed his Examination.

The Confession being proved, was read.

Middlesex. The Examination and Confession of John Cisti , July the 1st, before me Richard Farmer, Esq: &c.

The said Cisti being charged before me, by John Donnel, Master of The Willing Mind Ship, that on Saturday, June the 20th, he the said John Cisti stole out of the Cabbin in the said Sloop a Watch, value 40 s. the Property of John Donnel; he confesseth and saith, on the 26th of June he took the said Watch, and sold it to one Major Woolhead in Leadenhall street for 42 s. and farther saith not. John Cisti.

Major Woolhead. I had the Misfortune to buy this Watch of the Prisoner, three or four Days afterwards I saw the Advertisement: it did not come up fully to the Description in the Advertisement, for the Maker's Name is advertised (W A Y) and the Name on the Watch is WISE; however I immediately carried it to the Prosecutor, who own'd it; the Prisoner was taken up, and carried before Justice Farmer, where I saw him sign his Confession. Guilty, single Felony.

John Cisti was sentenced on the 21st of July 1736 to be transported to America.

John Cisti was transported aboard the HMS Dorsetshire to Virginia. They set sail from London in December 1736 with 169 convicts and landed in Virginia in January 1737. The captain of the ship was William Loney. In exchange for the felons Captain Loney received 190,069 tobacco, £399.12.6. Virginia money and £3.4.0. Sterling.

An 18th century account, in doggerel verse, written by one James Ruel, and entitled The Poor Unhappy Transported Felon’s Sorrowful Account of Fourteen Years’ Transportation at Virginia in America tells how the felons were transported:

I’d much rather chuse to die than go.
In vain I grieved, in vain my parents wept,
For I was quickly sent on board the ship.

With melting kisses and a heavy heart,
I from my dearest parents then did part.
In a few days we left the river quite
And in short time of land we lost the sight.

The Captain and the sailors us’d us well
But kept us nude lest we should rebel.
We were in number about three score,
A wicked lousy crew as e’er went o’er.

Oaths and tobacco with us plenty were,
For most did smoak and all did curse and swear.
Five of our number in the passage died,
Which soon was thrown into the ocean wide.

And after sailing seven weeks or more,
We at Virginia all were set on shore,
Wher to refresh us we were washed clean,
That to our buyers we might better seem.

Our things they gave to each they did belong
And they that had clean linen put it on.
They shaved our faces, comb’d our wigs and hair,
That we in decent order might appear

Against the planters did come down to view
How well they lik’d this fresh transported crew.
The women from us separated stood,
As well as us by them for to be viewed.

Meanwhile, Eliza Paris had an illegimate son named Joshua Paris. He was baptized at St. George’s Parish, Baltimore County, Maryland on the 16th of May 1740. She was indicted for bastardy in August 1740 but not brought to trial. No further record has been found of Joshua.

Captain Loney’s voyage with John Cisti would be his last voyage with felons. He worked for contractor Jonathan Forward. Captain Loney retired to Hatton Garden in London before being detected by his former employer in the artful concealment of accounts for the sales of convicts. In Chancery Court in 1743 Captain Loney was also accused of switching the marks on hogsheads of tobacco so that he received the good quality leaf consigned to Forward, and his master the inferior kind. Forward estimated that he had been swindled out of £1,400 by Loney’s frauds and by his unpleasant habit of collecting his master’s debts and applying them to his own uses.

The Maryland Gazette included the following -

Annapolis, August 28, 1751
The Philadelphia Post Rider hereby gives Notice, that he is to be spoke with every Fortnight, during the Remainder of the Summer Season, from Wednesday Noon, to Thursday Noon, at the House of Mrs. Jennings, or at the post- Office in Annapolis, where any Gentleman or others, who have any Commands, may depend on being faithfully served by
Their humble Servant,
John Sisty

The Pennsylvania Gazette of 5 September 1751 included the following -

John Cisti, the Annapolis post-rider, can be spoke with at specified times and places, one being the house of Mr. Claxon, at the Sign of the Three Tuns in Chestnut St.
Benjamin Franklin in 1779

Benjamin Franklin was appointed as one of the two Deputy Postmasters General of the colonies in 1753. He visited nearly all the post offices in the colonies and introduced many improvements into the service. He established new postal routes and shortened others. Postal carriers now could deliver newspapers.

Before Franklin there had been one mail a week in summer between New York and Philadelphia and one a month in winter. The service was increased to three a week in summer and one in winter.

The main post road ran from northern New England to Savannah, closely hugging the seacoast for the greater part of the way. Some of the milestones set by Benjamin Franklin to enable the postmasters to compute the postage, which was fixed according to distance, are still standing. Crossroads connected some of the larger communities away from the seacoast with the main road, but when Benjamin Franklin died, after serving also as Postmaster General of the United States, there were only seventy-five post offices in the entire country.

The Pennsylvania Journal of 31 January 1760 contained this –

Notice is hereby given that I, John Cisty, being employed by a number of gentlemen, intend to ride as a Messenger between Baltimore town in Maryland and Philadelphia, once a Fortnight during the Winter and once a Week in Summer. Any Gentleman having letters to send, then by leaving them at the London Coffee House, may depend they shall be called for by their humble servant,
John Cisty

Before 1861 John Sisty married Eliza (Elizabeth) Paris.

On 31 January 1861 John Sisty was born to Eliza Paris and John Cisti.

An article in the Winterthur Portfolio by John F. Walzer called Colonial Philadelphia and Its Backcountry mentions John Sisty’s post route –

“This day received thine per Sistey Post, informing of the remainder of the goods being shipt for Christeen,” a Deer Creek retailer wrote Philadelphia merchant Stephen Collins in 1761.

In 1722 Maryland passed a law to encourage the killing of wolves, crows and squirrels. Everyone in the county was to produce three squirrel skins or crows heads per year. They were to be destroyed to prevent them from being presented a second time. If more than three scalps were presented then they would be paid two pounds of tobacco for each scalp. A book called Inhabitants of Cecil County Maryland provides lists of people who paid bachelor taxes, plantation taxes, militia personnel, constables, etc. We find John Cisti listed on Constable Nathan Baker’s List of Persons Paid For Squirrel Scalps Destroyed In 1761.

In 1765 John Cisti was a witness to a will for Elizabeth Mitchell in Charles Town, Cecil County, Maryland. Elizabeth’s children were Robert and Margaret Mitchell and the property was Lot No. 95 in Charlestown, bought of John Kirkpatrick. The executor of the will was Edward Mitchell, Esq. and the other witnesses were Edward Dougherty and Thomas Rosin.

About 1780 John Sisty, the son of Eliza and John, married Ann Gelling.

William Sisty was born 30th of August 1781 to Ann Gelling and John Sisty.
John Sisty was born 26th of March 1783 in Newark, Delaware.
Marys Sisty was born 13th of November 1784.
Curtis Sisty was born the 10th of April 1787.
Mary Sisty was born the 24th of June 1789

In about 1785 the impoverished widow of John Sisty wrote to Benjamin Franklin who was postmaster general. No response from Mr. Franklin has been located.

Eliza Sistey to Benjamin Franklin, c. 1785
Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.
Permission to publish required.

The Honnorable
Benjamine Franklan

Honnor’d Sir

The unfortunate person who begs Leave to present you this, is widow to the late John Sistey, who formerly Rode post for many years, when your honnor was post master general. My husband being intirely reduce’d to poverty, recommend me on his Death bed, that if ever your honnor return’d to America, to adress you for what assistence your goodness may please to bestow, being now far advance’d in years and by the Infermity attendent on old age am unable to suport my self with out the help of Charity, if your honnor will please to Consider the unhappy Circumstance of the wife of your old servant, it will be thankfully receive’d, by your honnors most

humble Servant

Eliza Sistey


Children of John Cisti:

Last updated: Sunday, 09-Sep-2018 18:57:11 MDT | Author: Ed Mashmann