Monday, August 3, 2009

No MAN Shall Build a Meeting House at Chebacco (now Essex, Massachusetts)

I love this story. Its about some "just regular folks" in the family tree. Thomas Varney was born about 1630 in the Barbados and removed to Massachusetts to settle at the Chebacco section of the town of Ipswich before 1650. His first wife was Abigail Proctor, who was also just a "regular folk" except that her brother John was hung as a witch in 1692. Perhaps being a bit different from all the other Puritans in town ran in the family.

Usually most of the women in the family tree have blank spaces next to their vital statistics. We know their husbands were farmers or fishermen or maybe ministers, but the women hardly ever left identifying information. Abigail (Proctor) Varney's story can't be found in the history books, nor even in the town history. I really had to dig into the court records to find out more.

Chebacco was a section of Ipswich many miles from the meeting house.  The folks who lived there worshipped in a private house, and could not get consent from the First Parish to build a meeting-house.  The directive stated "No MAN shall build a meeting house at Chebacco" [emphasis mine]. 

So some women, without the knowledge of their husbands, as the Record says, and by the advice of a few men, went to other towns, and obtained help to raise a house of worship, March, 1679. Two men and three women were prosecuted for this act. May 28th. The Province Council order these individuals to confess, that such conduct was irregular at the next Quarterly Court in Salem, and thus be excused. --- The sanctuary, so erected, may be truly said to have been built "in troublous times." It stood to the northward of the present one, on the road leading to Ipswich.  The women were Abigail Varney, Hannah Goodhue and Sarah Martin.

Abigail was the leader of the party of women who raised the frame of the meeting house at Chebacco.  They met at her house, and enlisted the men from other towns (outside of the ban, which named only "men of Chebacco") like Wenham, Gloucester and Manchester. The women were arrested, acknowledged their offence, but they had already accomplished their purpose. Chebacco later became it's own parish, and now it's own town. The town of Essex has been separate from Ipswich, Massachusetts since 1819.

And that's all I know about Abigail. But it's more than I know about most of the women in Massachusetts in the 1600's and 1700's.

My line of descent from Thomas Varney and Abigail Proctor...

Gen. 2. Mary Varney b. 1669 m. Thomas Choate in 1690 in Ipswich

Gen. 3. Anne Choate b. 1691 m. John Burnham on 21 Oct 1710 in Ipswich

Gen. 4. Jeremiah Burnham b. abt 1716 in Chebacco Parish m. Abigail Andrews on 2 Dec 1736

Gen. 5. Abigail Burnham b. 12 Apr 1741 in Chebacco Parish m. Isaac Allen on 24 Nov 1763 in Chebacco Parish

Gen. 6. Joseph Allen b. 22 Sep 1776 in Chebacco Parish m. Judith Burnham on 5 Apr 1799 in Chebacco Parish

Gen. 7. Joseph Allen b. 31 Jul 1801 in Chebacco Parish m. Orpha Andrews on 28 Oct 1824 in Essex

Gen. 8. Joseph Gilman Allen b. 1830 in Essex m. Sarah Burnham Mears on 24 May 1863 in Essex

Gen. 9. Joseph Elmer Allen b. 1870 in Essex m. Carrie Batchelder on 1 Nov 1892 in Essex

Gen. 10. Stanley Elmer Allen b. 1904 m. Gertrude Matilda Hitchings on 14 Feb 1925 in Hamilton, Massachusetts (my grandparents!)

More information on Abigail Varney and the Chebacco Meetinghouse:

Copyright 2009, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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