Person:Rachel Varney (2)

Rachel Varney
b.abt 1631
m. 7 Apr 1629
  1. Rachel Varneyabt 1631 - 1707/8
  2. Varney1633 - Btw 1654-1672
  3. Humphrey Varneyabt 1636 - bef 1714
  4. Corp. Thomas Varney1641 - 1692
  • HThomas Cooke - bef 1650
  • WRachel Varneyabt 1631 - 1707/8
m. BEF 1649
  1. John CookeAbt 1650 - Bef 1697
m. by 26 Jul 1652
  1. Rachel LangtonABT 1651 - 1673/74
  2. Mary LangtonABT 1652 - 1706
m. 10 Oct 1661
  1. Thomas Vinson1661/62 - 1675
  2. Abigail Vinson1668 - 1707
Facts and Events
Name Rachel Varney
Gender Female
Birth[5] abt 1631
Marriage BEF 1649 to Thomas Cooke
Other[5][11] 23 May 1650 Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statespetitioned court to remit fine levied against deceased husband
Other[5][6] 17 Sep 1650 Salem, Essex, Massachustetts, United Statespresented inventory of deceased husband's estate in court
Other[5][7] 31 Dec 1650 Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statesdebt due her acknowledged in court
Marriage by 26 Jul 1652 to Joseph Langton
Divorce 22 May 1661 Essex County, Massachusetts, USAfrom Joseph Langton
Marriage 10 Oct 1661 Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statesto William Vinson
Property[9] 20 May 1664 Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statesw/ husband sold gristmill and adjoining lands
Other[3] 1672 Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statesnamed in mother's will
Other[4] 1692 Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statesaccused of witchcraft
Property[8] 6 Mar 1692 Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statessold part of husband's estates
Other[5][4] 24 Sep 1692 Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts, United Statesreleased from prison on bond
Death[1][5][10] 15 Feb 1707/8 Gloucester, , Massachusetts, United States


Coming to Massachusetts

Rachel Varney was born sometime around 1630, probably in England. (Suggestions that she was born in Barbados seem to be based on the assumption that her mother Bridget was a widow of Jeffrey Parsons, an assumption that has been adequately disproven.[12]) She arrived in Ipswich, Massachusetts with her parents William and Bridget Varney, probably in 1649. At that time she was already married to her first husband, Thomas Cooke. William Varney and Thomas Cooke were given “liberty” to reside in Ipswich at the same time, on 13 November 1649.

Three Marriages

As a number of researchers have noted, Rachel seems to have had poor judgment regarding her choice of husbands. Thomas Cooke almost immediately ran afoul of the courts in Ipswich, both for negative remarks about the minister, and for drinking and partying late at night – the former considered a more serious offense than the latter. Shortly thereafter, he and Rachel moved to Lynn, where presumably Thomas was employed at the first iron works in the Village of Hammersmith. The move, however, did not stop his drinking, and he died soon after, leaving Rachel with a young son (John Cooke).

Rachel apparently returned to Ipswich, where she married again, to Joseph Langton. Joseph was another man fond of wine. He also apparently resented caring for another man’s child and soon ended up in court for mistreating Rachel’s young son. After about ten years of marriage to Joseph and two daughters (Rachel and Mary Langton), Rachel petitioned the courts for a divorce, probably on the grounds of desertion and infidelity.[13] Her petition was granted.

Almost immediately, Rachel married for the third and last time. Her third husband, William Vinson of Gloucester, was the antithesis of her first two husbands, older and known for being sanctimonious. He was prosperous and presumably provided a good home for Rachel and the two children she had with him (Thomas and Abigail Vinson). He also apparently accepted her children by previous marriages, as they are mentioned either directly or indirectly in his will. And he apparently was trusted by Rachel’s mother, who mentioned him in her will and entrusted him with Rachel’s inheritance.[3]


Because of the differences in their ages, Rachel had a long widowhood after William’s death in 1690. Given his prosperity, it should have been a quiet and comfortable end to a sometimes difficult life. It wasn’t. Within two years she and several other women of Gloucester were accused of witchcraft as the hysteria that began in Salem reached north. Because the jail in Salem was filled, Rachel and the others were held in the Ipswich jail. The conditions, according to them, were grim. In a Petition to the Honourable Governer and Councell and Generall Assembly now sitting at Boston, they stated:
“. . . some of us have Lyen in the prison many monthes, and some of us many weekes, who are charged with witchcraft, . . .; we hope you will put on the bowells of compassion soe far as to concider of our suffering condicion in the present state we are in, being like to perish with cold in lying longer in prison in this cold season of the yeare, some of us being aged either about or nere four score some though younger yet being with Child, and one giving suck to a child not ten weekes old yet, and all of us weake and infirme at the best, and one fettered with irons this halfe yeare and all most distroyed with soe long an Imprisonment: Thus hoping you will grant us a releas at the present that we be not left to perish in this miserable condicion we shall alwayes pray &c.”[14]

Fortunately, they were released for the winter and the public hysteria died down. As far as is known, the remaining years of Rachel’s life were uneventful.

  1. Information from Ferrin Leavitt, GEDCOM received Sep 1999, Questionable quality.
  2.   Information from William Brown Oulton, Christina Lake, BC, Questionable quality.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Babson, John J. History of the town of Gloucester, Cape Ann: including the town of Rockport. (Gloucester Mass.: Procter Bros., 1860), p. 173, Secondary quality.

    Bridget [Knight] Varney's will [1672] mentions daughter Rachel Vincion, and son-in-law William Vincion.

  4. 4.0 4.1 Felt, Joseph B. History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Printed by C. Folsom, 1834), p. 342 (Appendix), Secondary quality.

    September 24 [1692]. On bonds for their appearance, Mary [sic], wife of Hugh Row, Phebe, wife of Timothy Day, and widow Rachel Vinson, all of Gloucester, are released from Ipswich prison, having been confined there for witchcraft.

  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Barber, Kathleen Canney, and Janet Ireland Delorey. William Varney of Ipswich and Gloucester, Massachusetts. The American Genealogist. (Jul 2006), Secondary quality.

    Gve birth as about 1630; but had to be under 21 when father's estate inventoried, so should be about 1631

  6. Massachusetts (Colony). Quarterly Courts (Essex County). Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts. (Salem, Massachusetts: The Essex Institute, 1911-1925, 1975), Vol 1, p. 196, Secondary quality.

    Rachell, wife of Thomas Cooke, deceased, sometime "inhabiting" at Ipswich, broght in an inventory of the estate of her husband. Amount, 35li. 8s. He left no will and she was appointed administratrix. Inventory of estate of Thomas Cook, deceased taken by William Bartholmew and William Varney

  7. Massachusetts (Colony). Quarterly Courts (Essex County). Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts. (Salem, Massachusetts: The Essex Institute, 1911-1925, 1975), Vol 1, p. 204, Secondary quality.

    John Gorum of Hamersmith acknowledge judgment to widow Rachell Cooke of Ipswich

    Hammersmith was the name of the village associated with the Lynn ironworks. See "The History of Lynn including Nahant" by Alonzo Lewis

  8. Essex County (Massachusetts). Register of Deeds. Deeds, 1639-1866; index to deeds, 1640-1879 (Essex County, Massachusetts). (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971), Vol. 10, p. 62; FHL # 0866019, Primary quality.

    See Estate Sales for abstract

  9. Essex County (Massachusetts). Register of Deeds. Deeds, 1639-1866; index to deeds, 1640-1879 (Essex County, Massachusetts). (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971), Vol 38, p. 272; FHL #866031, Primary quality.

    See Gloucester for abstract

  10. Deaths, in Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts, United States. Vital Records of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849. (Salem, Massachusetts.: Essex Institute, 1917), p. 314, Secondary quality.

    Vinson, Rachall, , Feb. 15, 1707

  11. Barber and Delory Source: Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, ed., Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, 5 vols in 6. Boston 1853-54. Vol. 3, p. 194.
  12. Willis S. Parsons. “Jeffery Parsons of Loddiswell, Devonshire and Gloucester, Massachusetts”. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 142:(July 1988)
  13. A husband's infidelity was accepted ground for divorce at the time. See: Sheila McIntyre, “The Correspondence of John Cotton, Jr. (1640-1699)”, American Ancestors 11:2 (Spring 2010), pp. 39-42.
  14. Petition of Ten Prisoners at Ipswich. The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 3: edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum (1977) / revised, corrected, and augmented by Benjamin C. Ray and Tara S. Wood (2010). Salem witchraft papers