Person:Deborah Moody (3)

Lady Deborah Moody
Facts and Events
Name Lady Deborah Moody
Gender Female

Gerard, James W. 1892. Lady Deborah Moody: a discourse delivered before the New York Historical Society, May 1880. [New York]: F.B. Patterson.

Source:Gerard, 1892:19-31

LADY MOODY. Such was the condition of nonconformity in New Bng- land when Lady Deborah Moody fled from England and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She was the widow of Sir Henry Moody, of Garesden, in Wiltshire, who was one of the baronets created by James in 1622.

Lady Deborah's maiden name was Dunch. The Dunches were an ancient family from Berkshire. Their politics favored liberty of conscience and freedom of Parliaments. Lady Deborah's father, Walter Dunch, was a member of Parliament in Elizabeth's time. Her uncle Edward was a member both in the time of James and of Charles I. His son, Sir William, was uncle by marriage to Cromwell, and the son of Sir William, as a member of Parliament during the troublous times of Charles the First and of Cromwell, was a strenuous advocate of the'rights of the subject.

Thus Lady Deborah, on the father's side, sprang from a family in close sympathy with those who battled for constitutional and natural rights. She drank in, from her family association, those principles of religious freedom that were trampled on in her native land, and the denial of which caused her to flee from it, an exile, never to return.

Of Sir Henry Moody little has been ascertained ; he was of a Wiltshire family. It is recorded in Burke's Extinct Baronetages that he died in about the year 1632. There was one son of the marriage surviving, Sir Henry, the younger, of whom mention will be made hereafter. There was also a daughter, whose history has not been ascertained.

About the time of the death of the elder Sir Henry the condition of the English subject was deplorable. The Crown claimed and exercised despotic power; the judges were servile tools; compulsory loans and extraordinary taxes were enforced; arbitrary detentions, at the King's will, were made; trade was interfered with by royal proclamation; torture was a part of judicial procedure, and he Court and courtiers derided the idea of any liberty in the subject. The Established Church, too, was at the zenith of its power, and daily approached nearer to the Romish ritual. Prelates sat in the Council and Star Chamber, and enforced conformity with unrelenting rigor. Every deviation from the prescribed doctrines was rank heresy; every word uttered against the established hierarchy was treasonable; the divine right of the king and of the episcopacy was adopted as a canon and enforced as a doctrine, under pain of excommunication. Printers, and even readers of reformed books, were prosecuted. Prelates became the statesmen, showing how close was the corporation of Church and State. Laud became Prime Minister, and Juxon Lord High Treasurer. Five years before leaving England, it is stated in Lewis's History of Lynn, Lady Moody had gone from her country residence to London, where she remained, in opposition to a penal statute, which enjoined that no person should reside beyond a limited time from their own homes. The Court of the Star Chamber made an order that " Dame Deborah Moody and the others should return to their hereditaments in forty days, in the good example necessary to the poorer class."

The state of the English subject then being that of slavery to the Crown and Prelacy, and the Lady Moody being a particular object of animadversion by the inquisitorial Court of the Star Chamber, she resolved to abandon her native land. She decided to settle in the colony of Massachusetts Bay. To this colony a strong tide of immigration was fleeing of those who sought it as a place of repose and religious peace. Many of the colonists, and some of the English patentees who formed the company, were persons of rank and influence. Lady Moody was evidently a friend of the Winthrops, father ami son, the former of whom had become governor of the colony.

There is a letter, among the Massachusetts annals, from Mrs. Priscilla Paynter to John Winthrop, Jr., dated in 1631, and directed to him as her beloved son, he being then in London. The letter states, among other things, that forty pounds, which was due as part of the marriage portion of his wife (who was a step-daughter of Mrs. Paynter). was lodged in "Lady Moudde's hands, which if you will be earnest with her, the letter states, " I make no doubt she will pay it forthwith." Lady Moody left England either before the year 1640 or early in that year, and was doubtless accompanied by several friends, some of whom went with her subsequently to New Amsterdam. If she had waited a little longer, she would have witnessed the commencement of the mighty political change whose throes and heavings throughout the laud were then hardly visible. Soon after her departure began the session of the Long Parliament, which put an end to the arbitrary jurisdiction of the Crown, and, within two years, expelled the Bishops from its sessions, and brought Stratford's career to a close, on the scaffold.

Lady Moody appears to have sailed without either of her children or any relatives—a harassed and lonely widow— voluntarily exiling herself for conscience sake. She established her residence in the colony, at the settlement then known as Saugus, but subsequently called Lynn. The colony, at the time of her arrival, had been settled not over twelve years, and was still in a rude state. In April, 1640, we find her name placed among the mem bers of the Congregational Church at Salem, situate about five miles north of Lynn.

She immediately busied herself in establishing a permanent residence in the country of her adoption. In May of the year 1640, the General Court of Massachusetts granted her 400 acres of land, to be selected by her, for a plantation. In 1641 she purchased the large farm of John Humphries, at a place then and now known as Swampscott, near Lynn. John Humphrey, whose farm she purchased, was one of the original patentees; he had married a daughter of the Earl of Lincoln. She was a sister of Lady Arabella Johnson, who succumbed to the hardships of her new life, soon after her arrival. The Humphrey farm was beautifully situated between the ocean clitfs of the Essex coast and a river in the rear. This farm was stocked with cattle, and was put under extensive culture by Lady Moody. She resided either at Lynn or at Salem, at which latter place she had a small house next to that occupied by the Eev. Hugh Peters. Peters subsequently returned to.England, to be one of Cromwell's fighting chaplains, and to lose his life for treason to Charles I., he being supposed to be one of those who stood masked on the scaffold when that monarch was beheaded. On Lady Moody's subsequent removal to New Neder- land, she leased her farm to Daniel King, who in 1651 purchased the same of her, it then consisting of about 1,200 acres. The purchase of the Humphrey farm seems to have somewhat embarrassed Lady Moody. Lechford, in 1641 says, "Lady Moody lives at Lynn, but is of Salem church She is a good lady, almost undone by buying Master Humphries' farm, Swampscott."

Hardly had she become comfortably settled in her new possessions, than she had personal experience that she was not to enjoy that religious freedom which had been the inducement of her exile. After her arrival, probably, she became impressed with the peculiar views on baptism that had been promulgated by Koger Williams and his followers, and which had taken root in all the New England settlements. In three years after joining the church at Salem, we mid that she was admonished by that church for denying the propriety of infant baptism. She was subsequently formally excommunicated by that church, for denying that the baptism of infants was of divine ordinance. Governor Winthrop, in his annals, speaks of her as follows: " The Ladye Moodye, a wise and anciently religious woman, being taken with the error of denying baptism to infants, was dealt withal by many of the elders and others, and admonished by the church of Salem (whereof she was a member); but persisting still, and to avoid further trouble, etc., she removed to the Dutch, agt the advice of all her friends. Many others infected with auabaptisni removed thither also. She was after excommunicated." We also find that, under date of December, 1842, in the proceedings of the Quarterly Court, "the Lady Deborah Moodie, Mrs. King and the wife of John Tilltou, were presented for houldinge that the baptising of infants is noe ordinance of God." Mrs. King was a neighbor of Lady Moody. She was wife of Dan'l King, who lived at Swampscott. John Tilton came over at the same time as Lady Moody, and afterwards removed with her to Gravesend, where he became an officer of the town.

The number of inhabitants at Lynn became greatly diminished after the year 1641, when the immigration from England seemed to fall off, and many of the best families, under the pressure of the theocratic administration of civil affairs, removed to other settlements in New England or to Long Island. This fact was adverted to in a petition presented in 1645 to the General Court, for the abatement of the general taxes to be paid by Lynn. The petition alludes to the departure of those who had paid a large part of the taxes, and speaks of " those fewe able persons which were with and of us, it's not unknowne how many of them have deserted us; as my Lady Moody, whose share in a former rate of this town, at £80, was about £_4, and her estate, left now in a life rate, pays not £1.10s."

It does not appear by the above extracts that Lady Moody was actually banished by the Government authorities; but the admonition and arraignment she was the subject of did not suit her high spirit and sensitive nature, and she preferred to abandon her friends and the country of her adoption, and flee to strangers, to remaining an object of reproach and criticism; and under restraint of all expression of her religious creed.

Again harassed—still seeking a haven of repose—Lady Moody, for a second time, became a voluntary exile. In the summer of 1643, she reluctantly bade farewell to the Massachusetts colony and the Pilgrim Fathers, and set her face towards New Amsterdam. The mode of transit, in those days, between New England and New Amsterdam was on the trading vessels passing through Long Island Sound. She was accompanied by some of her friends, who harmonized with her religious views, and was subsequently joined by others. There is a letter in the Massachusetts records, written in March, lb'43, stating that the Rev. Mr. Walton, of Marblehead, " is for Long Island shortly, there to set down with my Lady Moodie, from under civill and church watch, among ye Dutch:"

During her early sojourn, at New Amsterdam, Lady Moody does not appear to have been satisfied with her condition there. Possibly there may have been some ani- madversion upon her, on account of her peculiar religious tenets, and, it has been stated, that she was arraigned before the Director and Council on account of them. I have not, however, found the authority for this statement. We are led, however, to infer that there was some dissatisfaction or disappointment on her part, from a request that she made for a return to the .New England colony. This is evidenced by the contents of a letter written by Deputy-Governor John Endicott to Governor Wiuthrop. It is dated in the spring of 1644, and the original is now with the Winthrop family in Boston.

In the postscript of this letter are the following words : " SALEM, the 22d of the 3d mo., 1644. " SIR, since 1 wrot my Lettre, Mr. Norrice came to mee, to tell mee, that hee heard that the Lady Moody hath written to you to give her advice for her returne. I shall desire that she may not have advice to returne to this Jurisdiccion, unless shee will acknowledge her ewill in opposing the Churches, & leave her opinions behinde her, ffor shee is a dangerous woeman. My brother Ludlow writt to mee, that, by nicancs of a booke she sent to Mrs. Eaton, shee questions her owne baptisme & it is verie doubtefull whither shee will be reclaymed, shee is so farre ingaged. The Lord rebuke Satan, the adversarie of our Souls."

Matters, however, seem to have been amicably arranged with the New Amsterdam authorities, for Lady Moody and her friends were allowed to settle upon a large tract of laud on Long Island at that portion of the island known subsequently as the town of Gravesend, for which a patent was subsequently given. This place was situated on the southwesterly coast of Long Island, within a few miles of New Amsterdam.

The name was given to it by Governor Kieft, after the Dutch town (Gravensande) of that name, on the river Maas. Lady Moody, being a person of substance, no doubt had as comfortable a residence built for her as could be erected at that time. It was evidently a large substantial structure, for it was used as a sort of citadel when the town was attacked by Indians.

The settlement was made at Gravesende about two years before the date of the patent before referred to. It is supposed to have been in the spring of 1643; and the colonists immediately began to enclose their lands within palisades, and to plant and raise cattle, Coney Island being used as a pasture ground. Among her other possessions, Lady Moody owned a drove of hogs. From the old records we find that the crew of a certain English privateer, the "Seven Stars," landed on the farm of Anthony Jausen Van Salee, in the bay, and stole his pumpkins, and would have carried away a lot of hogs from Coney Island had they not learned that they belonged to Lady Moody.

In the winter following the settlement, the town had to undergo the horrors of a marauding attack from the Indians, but they were driven off by the stout colonists, some of whom were expert Indian fighters. Winthrop writes, in 1643, of Indians "who, having killed and driven away all the English upon the main, as far as Stamford (for so far the Dutch had gained possession by the English), they passed on to Long Island, and there assaulted the Lady Moody in her home several times, for there were forty men gathered there to defend it."

At another time, under an attack from the Indians, the settlers had to betake themselves to Amersfoort, or Flatlands, for temporary refuge. This was probably before the town was properly fortified by the palisades. Possibly it may have been these Indian attacks that led Lady Moody to desire to return to New England.

The first patentee in the Gravesend region was Anthony Jansen Van Salee, who figures, not very creditably, in the early history of New Amsterdam. His patent was for 100 morgens or two hundred acres of land, "over against Conyen (or Coney) Island." It is dated August 1st, 1639 ; and was confirmed in 1643. The patent from Director Keift to Lady Moody, and the first settlers at Gravesende, is dated 19th December, 1645. It gives and grants unto " Ye honoured Lady Deborah Moody ; Sir Henry Moody, Baronet ; Ensign George Bax- ter, and Sergeant James Uubbard, and any that shall join in association with them, a tract bounded on the creek adjacent to Coneyne Island; also, by land of Anthony Johnson and Robert Pennoyer, and by the ocean ; with privilege to graze cattle on Conyne Island ;"with power to erect a town and fortifications, and "to have and injoye the free libertie of conscience according to the costome and manner of Holland, u'ithout molestation or disturbance from any madgistrate or madgistras, or any other ecclesiastical minister that may pretend jurisdiction over them, and with liberty to constitute themselves a body politic as freemen of the Province and Town of Gravesende." Power was also given to nominate to the Director members of a minor Court of three men, to be constituted, and also a Schout or chief magistrate.

The patent is upon the condition that the patentees and their heirs "shall faithfully acknowledge and reverently respect the high and mighty Lord the Estates General of the United Belgic provinces, His Highness Prince Frederick, by the grace of God Prince of Orange; and the Right Honorable Lords of the West India Company." It will be observed that liberty of conscience and of worship, free from disturbance by the civil power, is fully provided for in this patent. Prior to the Gravesend grant, Gov. Kieft, in May, 1644, had made a grant of the whole of " Conyen Island," consisting of about 44 morgens of land, to one Gysbert Op- Dyke. A subsequent grant in the vicinity was made, in November, 1645, to one Robert Pennoyer. This tract is described as lying between the land of " A. Jansen (Van Salee) and Meleydie Moedy."

Gravesend was intended for a large city, and laid out in a circuit of ten acres, with streets converging to the centre. To each person was allotted a village residence within the pallisades, while without were the appurtenant farms.

In the proceedings in a certain action, instituted many years after the settlement by the magistrates of Gravesend, it appeared in the evidence taken before the notary that Lady Moody and her associates habitually used Coney Island for their cattle, and the valleys there for their hogs. The mag-is'rates claimed that Evart Petersen and Har- man Vedder, in the name of one De Wolf, a merchant of Amsterdam, under claim of right through Gysbert Op- Dyck, had given written notice to the petitioners to drive away the town cattle and that said persons had erected a salt kettle on the island. The magistrates prayed a mandamus, that the town of Gravesend might be maintained in possession of Coney Island, in such manner as they have possessed it for nineteen years.

Pieters and Vedder subsequently brought suit, and the magistrates put in answer, that Coney Island was granted to Lady Moody, her associates and successors in 1643, for pasture and for hay. Judgment was obtained in January, 1662, by the town, against the claim of Van OpDyck, in this action of Pieters and Vedder.

The settlers at Gravesend seem to have been generally affected with anabaptist views, aud to have had no settled church. In an account of the state of the churches in New Neder- land, given in 1657, by Domines Megapoleusis and Drisius, addressed to the classis at Amsterdam, they speak of the inhabitants of Gravesend as being Mennonists— " yea," the account states, " they, for the most part, reject infant baptism, the Sabbath, the office of preacher and the teachers of God's word; saying that through these have come all sorts of contention into the world. Whenever they meet together, the one or the other reads something for them."

After five or six years of settlement, we get an idea of Lady Moody's pecuniary condition and style of living,and the extent of her farming' operations, from a letter written in 1(549 by her agent to Wm. King, the purchaser of her Swampscott farm. On the back of this letter, apparently written by the lady herself, is a list of articles which she desired Mr. King to send her in part payment of the farm. This list is still extant among the town records of Salem, and is curious as showing the articles of wear, and the various implements in use at that day. Among the articles desired to be sent are, " Two yards of black Taffety; 40 yeardes of broade dowlasse; 40 yeardes of holland ; 40 yeardes, at 4s. per yard, of Broadclothe ; of whit fustenn, 10yards; of brown fussten, 10 yards; oune good greene Rugg ; oune paire of blankets; of narrow teek for boulsters and pyllows, 20 yards; one piece cullered stuff; one of shagy bayss, 20 yds; 8 seyeths for mowing (I pray let them be very good); of plow chains 3; & 2 peauter pots." There is also a request for nails, saws, angurs and other tools; shoes, skillets and other implements and articles for domestic use ; and for a hundredweight of iron.

Lady Moody seems to have retained very friendly feelings to the Winthrop family, notwithstanding her exile. The following is the copy of. a letter written by her to John Winthrop, Jr., the Governor of Connecticut. It is addressed " To ye worshipfull and my much honored friend Mr. John Winthrop, at his house at Pequid, give this," and the contents are as follows: [_1049 ?] "

WORTHI Sur,—My respective love to you remem[berecl,] acknowliging my selfe for youre many kindness[es] & respecte to me much obliged to you. I have written divers times to you, but I dout yon have not received it; at present, being in hast, 1 can not inlarg my selfe, only my request is y you will be pleased, either by this bote, if in your wisdom you see not a eonuenienter opertunitie, to send to me those things y Mr. Throgmortone brought for me, & I understand are with you, for I am in great need of ym, together with Marke Lucars chest & other things. So with my respective love to you & youre wife, with Mrs. Lacke, remembred, hoping you & they, with youre children, are in helth, I rest, comitting you to ye protection of y1 Allmighti. Pray remember my nesesiti in this thing. DEBORAH MOODY."

Lady Moody seems to have been on terms of great friendly intimacy with Director Kieft's successor, Governor Stuyvesant. Among the records we find a letter of September 3, 1654, from him to Lady Moody, informing her of the appointment of Commissioners to settle the boundaries between Gravesend, Anthony Jausen's land and the land patented to Pennoyer. The letter is subscribed as " Yonr honor's affectionnate friend, P. Stuyvesant."

The Gravesend settlers, it will be remembered, were mostly English; and, although they held their lands under a patent from the Dutch, on the condition of allegiance to the States General, were ever chafing under the Dutch rule, and ready to join in alliance with Connecticut and the other English settlements on Long Island. In 1653, war was carried on between England and Holland, which gave additional feeling of unrest to the Graves- end settlers, and caused a treasonable co-operation between them and the New England colonists. Cromwell, in 1654, made peace with Holland, just as the New Euglanders were preparing an expedition to attack New Amsterdam. Subsequently, in the same year, Gravesend became openly disaffected ; the colonists denied the right of the Director to pass upon nominations, and appointed twelve men of their own selection to manage the town. Ensign Baxter and Sergeant Hubbard were nominated magistrates. This nomination was distasteful to Stuyvesant; for those men were supposed to have treasonable designs against the Dutch authority. To settle matters, in.December of that year, Stuyvesant went in person to Gravesend, and stayed at Lady Moody's house.

Lady Moody seems to have acted as a pacificator in the matter. Her high standing and character among the set tlers gave her great influence over them. Stuyvesant, also, had a great respect for her; for he confided to her the nomination of the magistrates for that and for subsequent years, and her popularity with the Gravesend people reconciled them to this unusual procedure. Subsequently, in 1655, Baxter, Hubbard and other of the malcontents openly revolted and hoisted the English Hag, claiming that they were under English law. This revolt was speedily quelled by Stuyvesant, and Baxter and Hubbard were thrown into prison at New Amsterdam.

Among the records appears a letter written in 1655 from Lady Moody and John Tilton, clerk of the town, to Director Stuyvesant, notifying him of their selection of the town officers for his approval. The nomination was confirmed by the Governor, in spite of a remonstrance from the Dutch inhabitants of the town. The reasons of the remonstrance alleged were, that there was no Dutchman among the nominees, and that the Gravesend people had given out that no Dutchman should have anything to do with the government at Gravesend. In 1655 the settlement, it appears, was again attacked by some Indians, who had descended the Hudson River, and after devastating the settlements on the New Jersey coast and on Staten Island, passed over to Long Island, attacked the Gravesend settlement, and Lady Moody's house was besieged. The settlers were unable, unassisted, to beat off their savage foe, but made a .stout resistance until they were relieved by Dutch soldiers from New Amsterdam.

I have been unable to gather any more facts as to the life of Lady Deborah Moody, who was the only woman of rank that settled in our ancient Dutch State, and who, as Judge Benson remarks, came as another Dido to found a colony.