Family:Benjamin Knowlton and Mary Pike (1)

Facts and Events
Marriage[1] 1674 Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
  1. Roger Thompson. Sex in Middlesex :Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699. (Massachusetts: THE UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS PRESS AMHERST, 1986)

    Not actually married but they had a child in Oct 1674 (the court ruling he was the father)

    Benjamin Knowlton and Mary Pike, both of Reading, appeared in court, charged with fornication on 6 October 1674, three weeks before Mary gave birth to a child. The justices were faced with a bafflingly contradictory array of evidence collected after the initial complaint of James Pike, Mary's father. Richard Russell had examined the pair face to face on 20 August. Mary said "Ben Knowlton had the use of her body the first week of April last & no other man whatsoever at one time or another." Knowlton responded "as in the presence ofGod [he] never had the use of her body in his life; he was never in her company save in the presence of her father and mother."
    There was an embarrassing amount of evidence against Knowlton. Not only had the pair been "together a considerable while before her being with child came to be known in the town, " but he had asked some incriminating questions: "What is the matter with you? You are not well. Are you breeding?" He demanded later "why she did not acquaint him with the crime charged on him before she published it abroad in the town." He was also alleged to have said, "If the said Mary would have told him how it was with her within a month after the fact committed, he would have married her and the world should have been never the wiser. " A neighbor ofthe Pikes, Sarah Thompson, gave Mary an excellent character; she was "helpful, diligent and no carriage in her justly offensive." William Symmes, minister's son and leading selectman of Reading, and Jonathan Poole, the town's representative, described a meeting between the two parties on 3 August at Deacon Cowdrey's with Mary's father present. Mary charged that "Knollton . . . did it once & no more . . . about day light shutting in on the first fift day [Thursday] in Aprill last." Knowlton, duly "cautioned to remember that god & his conscience did know how far he was guilty," again denied any guilt. He sluffed offone question about some incriminating comments. He was then asked "what made him to say to a credible person (being urged to owne wherein he was guilty) that he had denied the fact so often & to so many that now he knew not how to owne it."
    He admitted the words, "adding that if he were guilty he would have owned it; that that was his meaning." This was not particularly persuasive. To a neighbor's challenge, he admitted "throwing her [Mary] on the cabin bed . . . on [militia] company trayning day at night."
    Knowlton had an alternative candidate for fatherhood and several witnesses to support his case. One had "seen Mary Pike and Edward Hodsman aloan in the Bushis two or three our within the nit and Richard Beats and Mary Pike likewise both of them severall times."
    Another "heard Edward Hodsman say Mary Pike was such an one as hee could doe what hee would with her." Several testified that "Edward Hodsman said that Goodman Pike would not let him have his daughter hee [Pike] would be glad ere long for to come with his cap in his hand and entreat him for to have his daughter." Hodsman then departed for Rhode Island.
    Why should he want to marry a pregnant Mary unless he had himself made her so? Since she charged Knowlton with one offense only sixand-a-half months before she gave birth, perhaps Hodsman had been with her beforehand. Although Mary quickly changed the date to early February and two witnesses deposed that Hodsman had planned the Rhode Island trip long before Mary conceived, the evidence seems nicely balanced. Someone was plainly lying, and Reading residents thought it was Knowlton. The court shared this view; "Benjamin Knowlton is to stand as the reputed father of the said child & is sentenced to make provision for the maintenance thereof & to give security. It sentenced Mary Pike to twenty stripes or a fme often pounds, later abated to five pounds.