Edward Rawson (1615 – 1693) and his unfortunate daughter Rebecca

Edward Rawson

Edward Rawson is my 9th Great Grandfather

He’s a Puritan on the Lindsey / Rawson side of our tree, so this will be of most interest to the Lindseys in the family.

Rather than write the story anew, I present a story written by the Reverend Glenn Tilley Morse in 1921:

EDWARD RAWSON, SECRETARY OF THE MASSACHUSETTS
BAY COLONY, AND HIS UNFORTUNATE
DAUGHTER REBECCA.

By Rev. Glenn Tilley Morse,
President of the Historical Society of Old Newbury, Newburyport.

AMONG the many interesting portraits which the New England Historic Genealogical Society exhibits on the walls of its building in Boston, two especially attract attention. They were received by the Society over fifty years ago, from Mr. Reuben Rawson Dodge and are likenesses of Edward Rawson and his daughter, Rebecca. The artist is unknown. Edward Rawson’s portrait is plainly inscribed “Natis, 15th April, 1615 Aetatis suse 55, 1670,” the exact date of his birth and the probable date of the painting. Mr. Dodge discovered them nearly a century ago in the old Rawson House in Quincy, Massachusetts. They had been handed down through Mr. Dodge’s grandfather, Ebenezer Rawson, and the family of Judge Dorr, of Mendon, for at least five generations. In the original portraits, even more than in the accompanying illustrations, the subjects are distinguished and impressive enough to excite the interest of those who are discerning, to know something of their personal history.

Edward Rawson was born in the village of Gillingham, Dorsetshire, England, April 15, 1615. His grandfather, Edward Rawson, was a man of considerable property, a silk and woolen merchant at Colnbrook, seventeen miles west of London, and died in 1603, leaving two sons, Henry and David, minors. David Rawson became a merchant-tailor in London. He married Margaret, daughter of the Rev. William Wilson, D. D., of Windsor and died, leaving three small children, William, Edward, the subject of this sketch, and Dorothy. He left a large estate, for those days, under the administration of his step-father, Thomas Woodward, his brother, Henry Rawson, and his wife’s brothers, Dr. Edward Wilson and the Rev. John Wilson. Edward was only two years old when his father died.

Edward Rawson’s mother was a woman of culture and refinement and she tenderly nurtured the children for the few years she lived after her husband’s death. Her father, the Rev. William Wilson, D. D., of Merton College, Oxford, was prebendary of St. Paul’s and Rochester Cathedrals, was rector of Cliffe, County of Kent, and in 1584 became Canon of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Her brother, Edmond Wilson, was a successful physician in London and, in 1633, gave to the Colony of Massachusetts Bay the large sum of £1,000. Her other brother, the Rev. John Wilson, emigrated to America and became the minister of the First Church in Boston. Her great-uncle was Edmond Grindall, D. D., the Archbishop of Canterbury, a vigorous and noted opponent of the Roman Church.

Edward Rawson was only thirteen when his mother died. We know little about his early life. He may have lived with his uncle, Henry Rawson, at the old homestead in Colnbrook or with some of his other relatives. He was certainly well educated. He married Rachel Perne, a daughter of Thomas Perne and a niece of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, who was one of the first settlers of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1633, and of Hartford, Connecticut, a few years later.

Rachel Perne
Rebecca Rawson

We know that both Edward Rawson and his wife had relatives prominent in Massachusetts and that many English people from Hampshire and Wiltshire, counties adjoining Dorsetshire, the home of the Rawsons, had settled in Newbury.

Edward Rawson appears in Newbury in 1637. On April 19, 1638, when he was only twenty-three years old, he was chosen town clerk, notary public, and registrar for the town of Newbury. He must have been an unusually promising and able young man and faithful to his duties for he was reelected annually until 1647 and to this office of town clerk was added that of selectman. Also, in 1638, he was elected Deputy from Newbury to the General Court and was the youngest member of that court. He was reelected Deputy until 1650, when he was chosen Secretary of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, an office which he held for thirty-six years.

Before the year 1638, Newbury had no visible means of punishing offenders against the law; there were no stocks, whipping post, and the like. The General Court was not satisfied with this state of things and ordered the town of Newbury to provide, within a limited time, a pair of stocks, or in default of this, to be fined five pounds. The General Court also took note of the public highways and fined Newbury six shillings and eight pence for defects in the roads and enjoined the town to repair the defects before a certain date.

Rawson was appointed to “judge small causes in Newbury,—this includes all matters of less than forty shillings.” He was a member of various committees to lay out the commons. In 1645, the General Court gave him the following commissions, “In Answer to ye peticon of ye Towne of Newbery, Edward Rawson is Appointed and Authorized by this Courte to marry such as are published according to ye order of ye Courte and during ye Courts pleasure.”

Among the men prominent in public affairs in the vicinity of Newbury, previous to 1650, none were more frequently honored with offices of trust and importance than Edward Rawson. The large tracts of land granted to him indicate that he was a man of considerable wealth and contributed largely to the financial support of the new settlement. Nearly six hundred acres of meadow and upland were laid out to him. The grant originally extended from the Merrimac River to the easterly side of Turkey Hill. Later, a portion of this land was exchanged for three hundred acres on the westerly side of Turkey Hill along the banks of the Artichoke River. The hill was noted as the favorite resort of wild turkeys and afforded beautiful views of the surrounding country. The low, level marshland was fertile and was cultivated as a farm. It was known as Rawson’s meadow until four or five years ago, when Newburyport took, by right of eminent domain, the upper Artichoke for a water supply, built a dam, and flooded many acres of land that had been in the possession of the oldest families, the Rawsons, Morses, Emerys, Rogers, Browns, and others, for nearly three centuries. The Rawson Meadow is no more, or rather, it lies at the bottom of a great reservoir, covered and lost in the wake of modern progress.

The dwelling house of Edward Rawson was on “the westerly side of the country road, now High Street, and near the head of Woodland Street.”

This house and forty acres of land was sold on December 13, 1651, to William Pillsbury of Dorchester. The terms and conditions of the sale are named in the deed now on file in Salem—Essex Deeds, book 13, leaf 94. William Pillsbury and his descendants occupied this locality until recently. The old house was destroyed many years ago, but on the site was erected another house of the same dimensions and general style of architecture. The overhanging eaves, the projecting second story, the small paned windows of different sizes, irregularly placed, the low ceilings, the wide rooms with hardwood floors and open fire-places have all been restored. The place has the appearance and atmosphere of the time when Edward Rawson sold it to William Pillsbury in 1651.

Important man though he was, he had to toe the mark very carefully in those days of punctilious observance of laws and rules. There is a record, June eighth, 1638, of his being fined five shillings for being absent when Court was called. But he seems to have proven that it was not his fault, for the record says that “Edward Converse, ferryman, was admonished for not providing boats and ferryman on time and was ordered to pay his (Rawson’s) fine.” People in those days seem to have had their difficulties of transportation, even as we have them. But in those days there was a Great and General Court which put the blame where it belonged and punished those who pretended to furnish the transportation if they failed in their agreement; even as they, at that time, compelled the towns to repair defects in the roads. Oh, for the good old days and the Great and General Court to take care of the citizen!

Edward Rawson was appointed, by the General Court, a commissioner for the town of Newbury and one of a committee, with Bradstreet and Winthrop, to settle the plantation of Winnicunnet, afterwards called Hampton, New Hampshire. He was appointed also, one of a committee to levy rates and taxes for the Colony. He seems to have had a powder mill, for it appears by a record in 1639 that “Edward Rawson is allowed five hundred acres of land in Pecoit so as he go on with the business of powder, if the saltpetre come.” On May 15, 1649, he was appointed, with Mr. Bellingham, Mr. Norwell, and Mr. Hill, to examine the writings left by Gov. John Winthrop and to put them in order. Very likely the Journal of Governor Winthrop, that was afterwards published, was among the papers thus referred to.

In 1649, “Mr. Edward Rawson, with Mr. John Spencer and Mr. Woodman, was chosen by the town to join with those men of Ipswich and Rowley, that was appointed a committe about Plum Island.” The town of Newbury petitioned the General Court to grant them the whole of Plum Island. In answer to this petition, the Court granted two fifths of the Island to Newbury, two fifths to Ipswich and one fifth to Rowley.

In 1650, he was elected secretary of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. Soon after this, he sold his house in Newbury, but kept, apparently, his farm at Turkey Hill and Rawson’s Meadow, and took up his residence in Boston. The street on which he lived in Boston was called Rawson’s Lane and bore his name until 1800, when it was changed to Bromfield Street. Here he owned some acres of land which bordered on the Common. He and his wife were members of what was called the “First Church of Boston,” the pastor of which, Rev. John Wilson, was his mother’s brother. After Mr. Wilson’s death, Edward Rawson was one of twenty-eight disaffected members of the First Church of Boston who founded the Third or Old South Church.

The corporation in England, for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Indians in New England, chose Edward Rawson, steward or agent for receiving and disposing of such goods and commodities as should be sent to the United Colonies and the Commission of the Colonies confirmed the choice at a meeting held at New Haven in September, 1651 and appointed him to the trust. It seems that a charge of negligence in the performance of his duties in that capacity was preferred against him. The praying Indians are said to have complained to Ratcliff or Randolph that they could not get the clothes which were allowed them. He was removed from office but the charge is believed to have been groundless; for Andros, who removed him, and Randolph who succeeded him, had sufficient motives to induce them to excite prejudice against him among the Indians. Andros was proved to be untrustworthy and, soon after, was seized by the colonists and sent back to England.

When a warrant was sent to Boston by King Charles II for the apprehension of the regicides Goff, Walley, and Dixwell, Edward Rawson, the Secretary of the Colony, countersigned it. And his correspondence with Gov. Leete of Connecticut shows zealous efforts to apprehend them, but without success. In his office as Secretary, he was obliged to proceed against the Quakers who broke the laws. Some would have us believe that he persecuted them harshly; but I have found no evidence of such cruelty. Besides being Secretary, he was Recorder of the County of Suffolk for many years and was given several grants of land for extraordinary service.

Rawson belonged to the type of persons in the Colony who could, by means of their own estates, give their time and services to the welfare of the Colony without depending upon full

remuneration for that service. Many of them also gave large sums of money to help forward the well-being of the Colony. As town clerk, he was paid five pounds a year. His salary as Secretary of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay during the first nine years of his service was only twenty pounds, less than one hundred dollars a year. The inhabitants were poor and few and were unable to pay heavy taxes for large salaries. Edward Rawson paid his clerk twenty pounds a year, the whole of his salary, and every year he spent large sums of his own money for the good of the Colony. In 1659, his salary was increased to sixty pounds and for special services, he was awarded, from time to time, nearly four thousand acres of land.

Edward Rawson and his wife, Rachel Perne, had twelve children. Their oldest child, a daughter, they left in England. All that we know of her is that she was married to “an opulent gentleman.” His other children were born in Massachusetts. One daughter married Rev. Samuel Torray, of Weymouth, and another married Thomas Broughton of Boston. Three of his sons, Edward, David, and John, went to England and settled. Edward graduated from Harvard College in 1653. Two sons, William and Grindal, lived in America and the Rawson descendants in this country come through them.

Rebecca Rawson
Rebecca Rawson

Edward Rawson’s ninth child and sixth daughter was named Rebecca. She was born in Boston on May 23, 1656. From all accounts, she must have been an unusually attractive and accomplished girl. She was born of excellent family and in the very best environment that Boston had to offer. She was tenderly nurtured and carefully educated and was pronounced by her contemporaries to be one of the most beautiful polite and accomplished young ladies of Boston. She was rather tall, genteel in person,graceful, and had a pleasant wit. Of a generous, loving disposition, she was constantly befriending and helping those in distress. She was much flattered and sought after and courted by the very best people.

We gain an excellent idea of her from a book that John Greenleaf Whittier wrote in 1849, called “Margaret Smith’s Journal.” It is one of the best and most vivid pictures of the time ever written. Mr. Whittier has taken a few liberties with dates and persons, but he has produced a truer representation of the last half of the seventeenth century in this vicinity than the most exact lists of dates and facts could give. His account is correct in spirit and essentially true.

Into the life of this merry, care-free, joyful girl, came a young man of respectable appearance and pleasing manners. He was received by the best people and favored by her father. He was introduced as Sir Thomas Hale, Jr., the nephew of Lord Chief-Justice Hale of England. He seemed well acquainted with Sir Thomas Hale’s family and affairs. He won the confidence of the Rawson family and, when he asked for Rebecca’s hand in marriage, the family and she, herself, were flattered and pleased. She had the breeding and education, the bearing and culture that fitted her for the polite world and she thought herself worthy to be a great lady, the wife of a baronet.

She was married in Boston, on July 1, 1679, as the records show, “by a minister of the Gospel, in the presence of near forty witnesses.” It was a brilliant wedding and Rebecca, now addressed as Lady Hale, was much envied by the young women in the best Boston society. She was handsomely furnished and embarked with Sir Thomas for England with every reason to expect a happy and useful life as a great lady.

They arrived safely in England.

Tired of the ship, they went on shore at once with a few belongings, leaving their trunks on board the vessel. They spent the first night at an inn and the second at the house of a friend. The next morning, he arose early, took the keys to the trunks, and told her he would go to the vessel and have the trunks sent up in time for her to dress for dinner. The trunks came and she waited for him to come with the keys, until it was almost dinner time. She finally had the trunks broken open and, instead of finding her beautiful clothing, jewels, and other property, she found herself robbed of everything and the trunks filled with shavings and rubbish.

Her kinsman ordered his carriage and drove with her to the inn, where they had passed the previous night. She inquired for Sir Thomas Hale, but was told that he had not been there for some days. She said she was sure he had been there the night before; for she was his wife and had been there with him. The landlord said that one Thomas Rumsey had been there with a young lady, but she was not his lawful wife, for he had a wife already in Kent. At this astounding news, the unhappy girl fainted and being taken back to her kinsman’s home, she lay ill for many days; during which time, by inquiries made and letters from Kent, it was learned that this Rumsey was a graceless young spendthrift, who had left his wife and two children three years before and gone to parts unknown.

Rumsey had succeeded in ingratiating himself with others besides the Rawson family. He had gained the confidence of John Hull, the treasurer and mint-master of the Colony, who advanced him two hundred and fifty pounds in silver, on bills drawn on Sarah, Viscountess Croyden, who was found to be a myth.

Among the papers still preserved in the Massachusetts State Archives is adocument containing the sworn testimony of Theodore Atkinson and Mary, his wife, both of Boston. It reads as follows:—

“About the 3rd month in the year 1678, Thos. Rumsey came to me and tendered his service for 1 yr. to work with me; & told me he was a Kentishman & his father lived near Canterbury, & that his father was a yeoman & had an estate of 400 a year; also that his father had died when he was young & that his father’s estate did fall to him at his mother-in-law’s decease; & pretended that he came to New England on account of religion; & he hired himself to me for a year for to attend my business, keep my book of accounts & gather in my debts; but when he had been about a month with me he pretended he was one highly bred, but would not say further what he was; but 5 mo: after, he told me his father was a knight & baronet. So he lived and carried himself, pretending he was highly bred, that I did not set him on work because he promised me he would satisfy me for what charges & expenses I was out about him; but a little time after he came to me he began to discover himself so as his religion did seem to wear away, & before the year was expired he changed his name & said his name was Hailes, & professed he had been a great traveller in the streights for about 2 & 20 months, & his mother was called Lady Hailes & paid him his money by bills of exchange from time to time; that she was a lady that had 300 p’ an. of her own that she brought with her, & that his father had 800 a year and a vast estate where he durst not nor would not mention lest he should be laughed at and not be believed, & that all his father’s estate after his mother’s decease was his. Those & such like stories he made use of to put a cheat on Mr. Edward Rawson of Boston, to accomplish his abominable villainy & deceive him of his daughter, Mrs. Rebecca Rawson, who he was married unto by a minister of the Gospel on the first day of July, in the year of our Lord 1679, in the presence of near 40 witnesses.”

Rebecca Rawson never saw Thomas Rumsey again. She had thought herself the wife of a nobleman and she was left unwed and disgraced. She was too proud to return to America or to live on the charity of relatives. During the next thirteen years, she lived in England, supporting herself and her child by her own ingenuity and industry. She was skilled in many arts, such as painting on glass and the like. Finally, however, the solicitations and entreaties of her father and friends in America persuaded her to return. She took passage with one of her uncles, in a vessel belonging to him, bound for Boston by way of Port Royal, Jamaica. She left her child in England in the care of a sister who had no children and desired to keep it. The ship arrived at Port Royal and, after a few days delay, was about to set sail for Boston, when, on June 9, 1692, the place was visited by a tremendous earthquake. The chief part of the city, which was built on a shelving bank of sand, slipped into the sea. All the shipping in the harbor was destroyed. The ship on which Rebecca Rawson was traveling was swallowed up, with its passengers and crew. Her uncle, who happened to be on shore at the time, settling up his accounts, was the only person saved out of the entire ship’s company to divulge the sad news of the fate of this most accomplished and talented, but unfortunate young woman.

5 thoughts on “Edward Rawson (1615 – 1693) and his unfortunate daughter Rebecca

  1. My mother was a Rawson and I too am related to Edward Rawson. I see a family resemblance in Rebecca Rawson. Poor woman. Does anyone know what happened to her child? Did she marry, etc.? Thank you.

  2. Hello, and thanks very much for your Rawson history.
    Could you make an important correction. Your first illustration is not of Edward’s wife Rachel Perne, but of daughter Rebecca Rawson, it’s the painted portrait which hangs in the New England Historic Genealogical Society lobby next to her father’s. I can vouch for this, having seen and photographed the portraits in person. The larger image you show above for Rebecca Rawson is an etching made from the same portrait. No image of Rachel Perne exists. Many sites on the web have made same error, so the confusion is understandable.

    Second, (for anyone interested) it’s likely that Edward Rawson was not born in Gillingham, but London or Colnbrook. When colonists indicated their place of origin, it was generally the town from which they left, which was not always where they were born. The well known Rawson historian, Ellery Bicknell Crane wrote ‘we may reasonably infer that he was born in London.’ Edward’s parents were residents of London, his father dying just before the birth, and his mother marrying the adjacent merchant of same London neighborhood, William Taylor, shortly after, so no indication she had ever left London, though with family in Colnbrook that could have been a possibility. Unfortunately a huge church fire in Colnbrook destroyed all their parish records. Edward does not show up in Gillingham records until his marriage to Rachel Perne, (whose family owned nearby Perne/Purne’s Mill and Manor House) and subsequent baptism of his first children. I can confirm this, having visited Gillingham and seen parish records online.
    One of the mysteries then, was how did Edward Rawson, whose family were of London/Colnbrook, wind up marrying a young woman down in Gillingham, Dorset? As you’ve noted, Edward was related to the Archbishop Edmund Grindal via the Archbishop’s younger sister Elizabeth Grindal, Edward’s maternal great grandmother. But additionally can be found in Richard L. Mesle’s essay ‘The Life and Times of Edward Rawson’ a brief summary of Rachel Perne’s ancestry, that she was ‘the granddaughter of a Grindal, maiden name of her grandmother and by this connection related to the Archbishop of Canterbury.’ Other sources confirm that Archbishop Grindal had another younger sister, Rachel Grindal, who married John Hooker (uncle of New England Puritan Rev Thomas Hooker), whose daughter was Mary Hooker Greene, whose daughter Rachel Greene married Richard Perne– the parents of our Rachel Perne. Therefore Rachel Perne and her husband, Edward Rawson, (if above is truly accurate) were apparently 3rd cousins, and their shared great-grand uncle was Archbishop Edmund Grindal. In that time, marrying a cousin was a common if not preferred practice, and certainly would help explain how Edward wound up in Gillingham.
    It’s my own theory (just a theory) that Edward Rawson may have come to the Perne family as a teen apprentice and wound up marrying the daughter, perhaps as part of the plan.

    1. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful and well written narrative covering the background of Edw. Rawson and the sad story of his daughter. From research I’ve done, this sums up events very well. My descent is through the EMERYs who first settled the community of Newbury in 1635 in the Colony. We were fairly amused when my research revealed my husband was descended from their neighbor, one Edw. RAWSON who arrived in 1637 & embarked on his career with MA Bay Colony — AND the interesting coincidence that Edward’s father, David RAWSON, named & awarded monies (in his will dated 1617) to a John EMERY, son of John Emmerie of Colbrook. Did they know one another in England? Also appreciated comments posted 22 Jun 2016 – insightful. Thanks again!

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