My historical novels Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife, Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter, colonial New England, travels, and whatever else seizes my fancy...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's In a Name: Part 2

Thanksgiving is over, and we’ve remembered our beloved Pilgrims’ first feast.  Like us, they called it Thanksgiving Day, but wait – did they call themselves Pilgrims?  As it turns out, many of our most familiar names are not what people actually called themselves.

The Pilgrims called themselves Saints.  In practice they were Separatists, because they wished to separate themselves from the Church of England.  Were all of the Plymouth Thanksgiving celebrants Pilgrims?  Not at all.  The Saints were joined on their voyage by Strangers and Adventurers, as William Bradford called them.  A few came to invest in the New World, hoping to find gold or stores of furs.  Others were valued tradesmen – John Alden was a cooper, hired to tend the Mayflower’s cargo.  Myles Standish was a professional soldier, and valued for his military experience.

The Puritans did not want to entirely separate themselves from the Church of England – they wanted to purify it of Catholic-style trappings.  Ornate robes, music, and plaster saints distracted the eye and the mind from worship, and they thought that the Anglican hierarchy was corrupt.  That desire to “purify” the church led to the derisive term “Puritan,” but that is not what they called themselves either.  As early as the 1560s, Puritan writings described themselves as “God’s elect.”

The Puritans applied an insulting name to the Religious Society of Friends that we remember today – Quakers.  Friends, as they called themselves, said that they “quaked before the spirit of the Lord,” so the Puritans called them Quakers, and the name stuck.  The Shakers gained their nickname in a similar manner, because members of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing were said to “shake” when touched by the Holy Spirit.  The Mormons got their derisive name from the Book of Mormon used by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They prefer to be called “Latter Day Saints” but find Mormon tolerable.

Religious societies are not the only groups to be remembered by a name they did not choose.  When explorers and settlers met indigenous groups, those peoples were often supplied a name for them by their neighbors.  Those neighbors were not always friendly, and neither were the names they supplied to Europeans, but those are the names we remember.  I am most familiar with North American tribal people and names, so here are a few American examples:

“Iroquois” was used by French fur dealers, who obtained the term from Wyandot enemies who called the New York tribes “black snakes.”  The Iroquois prefer Haudenosaunee – “They are building a Longhouse.”

“Sioux” is another Algonkian name for the more westerly Lakota or Dakota tribes, and means “foreign speaking.”  Not necessarily insulting, but true – the Lakota spoke a different language than the Algonkians.

That trend continued across the United States, with one group naming another.  “Navajo” was used by the Spanish settlers in the southwest to describe the Dine, or Children of God, and comes from a Hopi word for “corn stealer.”  It is amazing that the Navajo tolerate that name; the Papago, or “tepary bean eaters” (as the Pima Indians named them) have officially changed the tribe’s name back to the one they prefer: Tohono O’odham.

When asked by the Spaniards who had built the beautiful pueblo ruins which still grace the Four Corners states, the Navajo said it was the “Anasazi” or “Ancient enemies.”  The term Anasazi is now being replaced by “ancestral Puebloans,” because those peoples were the ancestors of today’s Hopi and Zuni tribes.  They don’t wish to have their ancestors described as enemies, and neither would we.

As for personal names, who among us hasn’t been given a nickname they despised?  I will close with a woman near to my heart saddled with an undesirable name – Herodias Long.  Her baptismal record has not been found, and she was called Herodias only on a transcript of her marriage license.  Harwood, Horod, or Horred is the form used on her marriage license allegation, and in contemporary New England records until her children and grandchildren began using the full name Herodias again.

Given the distressing nature of Herodias’ biblical namesake, who instigated the execution of John the Baptist, it is not surprising that Herodias Long contracted her name to a less-recognizable variant.  Did she dislike the name Herodias, and would she have wanted her descendants to call her Horred?  If so, Herodias Long is not the first person – or peoples – to be remembered by a name they did not choose.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Feast or Fast?

The “First Thanksgiving” in 1621 was nothing new.  Days of thanksgiving were regularly held in Europe long before Plymouth’s Pilgrims had their famous feast.

However, it was the first day of thanksgiving held in New England, and the Pilgrims – or Saints, as they called themselves – certainly had cause to celebrate.  They had survived a perilous crossing, famine and disease which halved their numbers, forged good relationships with their Wampanoag neighbors, and harvested enough food to keep them alive for another winter.

On what date did the Pilgrims and Wampanoags begin their three days of feasting?  It is not known.  Some time between September 18th and November 11th, William Bradford wrote in his journal about the “First Thanksgiving,” held after the Pilgrims had gathered their “small harvest” and prepared their homes for winter.  Neither Bradford nor Edward Winslow, who also described the event, recorded the exact date, but this is Winslow’s account:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Days of Thanksgiving were regularly held in New England after 1621 to thank God for good harvests, victories in battle, the safe arrival of ships, and even Puritan victories in England.  The index of Governor John Winthrop’s journal mentions eight of them held in Massachusetts between 1630 and 1649.

Winthrop’s journal index does not list the somber twins of Thanksgiving - days of fasting, prayer and humiliation.  They may have been too frequent to enumerate.  New England's General Courts regularly ordered days of prayer to beg for God’s help with sickness, foul weather, earthquakes, Indian threats, and poor crops.

Days of humiliation sent the colonists from the fields to the meeting house to discover their personal sins, to praise God, and to beg His help with their woes.  Oddly, sometimes the Puritans held days of thanksgiving even when their crops were poor, as though they dared not alienate God by mourning the disappointing harvest that He had seen fit to provide.

Days of Humiliation continued long after the colonies became the United States of America.  In April 1863 Abraham Lincoln declared a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer to beg delivery from “the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, [which] may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins … [and ask that God restore] our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace."

Later that year, Lincoln set our familiar annual Thanksgiving Day as the last Thursday of November.  Nearly a century later, on April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman formalized a National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday of May, an updated version of the good old-fashioned day of humiliation and fasting.

What of Christmas?  Since that celebration is not found in the Bible, the Puritans associated it with idol-worship and paganism, but that is a tale for another day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What's in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

While I was writing my historical fiction novel, Rebel Puritan about Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter, the last thing I expected was that I would be called upon to defend my famous ancestor’s name.  After all, what other genealogical datum point is as constant as a person’s name?  As it turns out, even a name can be disputed.

 John O. Austin called my ancestor Herodias in his 1887 Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island Families.  Most genealogists - Caroline Robinson, Frederick A. Virkus, Clarence A. Torrey, and G. Andrews Moriarty – agree: our woman was named Herodias.

True, there is no “Herodias” in Rhode Island’s records.  She was called Horod, Horred, Harwood, and several other variants.  The only contemporary reference to “Herodias” was in an extract of her London marriage license, which was destroyed in World War II.  All that survives is that extract, which reads, “Mar. 14, 1637 Herodias Long married to John Hicks by license at St. Faith’s-Under-Paul’s.

A few months after Rebel Puritan was printed in 2011, I got an email from Gene Zubrinsky, FASG.  He said that it was very doubtful that Herodias was our woman’s actual name, citing a 2003 article by John Anderson Brayton.  The article argued that “[T]he name ‘Herodias,’ which as the result of modern finger-painting has become the name by which she is now known, does not appear in the literature until the nineteenth century, and there is no official reason to think that she was named other than Harwood.”
I had not seen Brayton’s article before.  It was in the journal of the North Carolina Genealogical Society in 2003.  While it is a respected publication, it is not where one ordinarily looks when researching New England.

I am grateful to Mr. Zubrinsky for bringing it to my attention, for it contained a vital document that I had missed.  Before he married Herodias Long in 1637, John Hicks made an allegation to a representative of the Bishop of London, swearing that he and the future Mrs. Hicks were of age and that the bride’s father gave his permission.  The record still exists:

Mar. 14, 1636  [1637 new style] “Wch daie, appeared p[er]sonally John Hicke of ye parish of St. Olaves in Southwark Salter and a batchelour aged about 23 yeares and alledged that he intendeth to marrie with Harwood Long spinster aged about 21 yeares ye daughter of William Long Husbandman who giveth his Consent to this intended marriage And of ye truth of the pr[e]mises as also that he knows of no Lawfull let or impediment by reason of anie pr[ior] contract Consanguinity affinitie or otherwise to hinder this intended marriage he made faith and desires license to be married in ye parish Church of St ffaith London [signed] John Hickes”

I will not address John Hicks’ fraudulent affirmation of Herodias’ age and parental consent in this note, although it is consistent with my portrayal of him in Rebel Puritan.  The vital point is that John called his bride “Harwood,” and that is what Zubrinsky says is our woman’s proper name.  He also feels that even if her birth name actually was Herodias, she used a shortened form, so it is “inappropriate” for any of us to call her Herodias.

It was apparently Joseph Warren Gardner, a 6th-generation descendant of Herodias, who supplied her name to John. O. Austin for his 1887 book.  Regarding the family’s memory of our woman’s actual name, Mr. Zubrinsky represents an exclusionist school of thought which assumes that “a fundamental principle of genealogical and historical analysis [renders such] unsupported pronouncements … untrustworthy.”  Though my heroine’s granddaughter (and two great-granddaughters) was also named Herodias, Mr. Zubrinsky believes that it was her daughter who created the name from Harwood as a more elegant version of her mother’s name. I disagree.

Herodias, through her fortunate alliance with John Porter and his huge tracts of land, made her children wealthy.  Her Gardner children were Porter’s heirs.  Her Hicks children also benefitted when William Haviland, who married Herodias’ first child, Hannah Hicks, was granted a substantial chunk of Porter’s land.  In 1705 Herodias’ Gardner children sold 400 acres of prime real estate, and sent the money to Thomas Hicks, Herodias’ first son.

It is my belief that Herodias’ descendants knew well what their notorious mother’s real name was.  She may not have divulged it to her family until late in her life.  But when the name Herodias was published in the 1880s, not one of her descendants complained in print that her name was actually Harwood or Horred, even those who were repelled by Herodias’ scandalous acts.  That, along with the extracted remnant of Herodias Long’s marriage license, gives me cause to believe that our woman was, indeed, named Herodias.

It is no wonder that she contracted her name to Horred.  In a highly religious society, the association with the biblical Herodias, who had instigated the death of John the Baptist, would have been very hard to endure.  The Herodias in the Bible controlled her own life in ways that horrified her contemporaries.  She broke biblical law when she abandoned her husband to marry his brother, and she obtained bloody revenge against a man who disparaged her in public.

Pretty shocking, but perhaps the biblical Herodias’ first husband gave her very good reasons for leaving him, left unrecorded by male scribes.  Most women in Biblical times were forced to remain with their first husband, no matter how unsuitable, and that attitude was still at work in the 17th century.

Herodias of Rhode Island and her biblical namesake both chose to leave their spouses.  And while we can’t condone the slaying of John the Baptist for his criticism, today we celebrate women who refuse to accept the status quo.  Think of Lady Godiva and her naked protest against her husband’s punitive taxes, Rosa Parks, and even Hillary Clinton, who was reviled for her prominent role during her husband’s presidency.

Like her notorious namesake, the Herodias of 17th century Rhode Island steered her life, separating from unsuitable husbands and speaking out against Puritan abuse of the Quakers.  I believe that if Herodias was alive now, she would celebrate her controversial name.  I can do no less.

Curious readers and Herodias descendants can find much more information about Herodias Long, including my sources and transcripts of articles about her family at:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Herodias/Harwood (Long) Hicks vs John Hicks: A New Transcription

Herodias/Horod/Harwood Long is the protagonist of my historical fiction novel, A Scandalous Life: Rebel Puritan.  One of the most notorious women in 17th century New England due to her stormy domestic life, Herodias was separated from John Hicks after requesting Rhode Island's first divorce because of his abuse.

On December 3, 1643    Herodias complained to Rhode Island’s governor that her husband was beating her.  Probably she intended to have her petition heard by the General Court sitting in Newport at that time, but the Hickses' case was apparently not aired until the next spring.

Though Herodias and John Hicks were separated in some time after March 1644, Herodias’ accusation was not entered into the Rhode Island colonial records until 1655, when George Gardner was charged with keeping John Hicks’ wife as his own.

The following document from the Rhode Island colonial records was transcribed by Josephine C. Frost for her article, "John and Harwood Hicks," which was printed in 1939 in the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, Volume 70, pg. 116.  The article was missing a few words and phrases, but with the help of a 100-year old dictionary, I was able to supply them.  Words differing from Josephine Frost's transcription are in boldface:

This witnesseth tht in the yeare 1643, decemb. the 3d/ Harrwood Hicks, wife to John Hicks, made her Complaint to us of Many greevances, & Exstreeme violence, that her Husband used towards her, uppon which she desired ye peace of him uppon ye Examination whereof we found such due grounds of her Complaints by his Inhumane & barbarous Carriages such Crewell blows on Divers parts of her body, with many other like Cruelties, that we fearing the ordenarie & desperate afects of such barbarous Cruelties, murthering, poysioning, drowning, hanging, wounds & Losse of Limbes, Could not but bind him to ye peace, Moreover we found him soe bitterly to be Inraged, & soe desparate in his Expreshions, uppon which the poore woman fraught with feares, Chose Rather to subject herselfe to any Miserie than to Live with him; He also as desirous thereof as She, Solicited us to part them, with much Impretunyty we therefore diligently observing & waighing, ye prmeses Conceived & Concluded, that it were better, yea farr better for them to be separated, or devorced than to Live in such bondage being in such parfect hatred of  one another, & to avoayde & prevent the said desperate hazards premised, yet observing & knowing how Odious this act was amongst men, Refused to order theire separation, but tould them theire act should be theires wherein if they agreede we would be witnesses thereof uppon which they Came to an accord, & declared it to us which Accordingly we doe testifie the same, being perswade that god had separated them soe Inmeewtablie, that they were free from that marriage bond before god, Now we being Majestrates in this place, & in Commission for ye peace, & by order we are to walke accordinge to ye Lawes of England, under grace of our Soveraigne, had no direct Rule to walke by to devorce them did therefore under grace by our Authoritie declare them duly separate in wittness where of we therfor sett to our hands this is a True Coppie Pr me

Wm. Lytherland

[witnessed by]
William Coddington
John Coggeshall
Nicho. Easton
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