The true story of a child who at twelve had to become a woman
England in the year 1636 was a tumultuous place. The Thirty Years War on the European Continent had spread to the high seas and around the world involving England in war against France and Spain. However, the most troublesome conflicts to the people of England were on their own soil. There were at least a dozen different groups that supported armies to enforce their ideas. Conflict was everywhere. The most vulnerable were those who had no one to defend them.
A woman who had lost her father and husband in the same year who had no other relative, brother, uncle, or son to protect her would feel desperate. Maria Long had no experience or training and no opportunity for an income of any kind. With her only living relative being her 12-year-old daughter, what could she do? No man seemed interested in taking her in. She and her daughter would soon be living on the streets of London, relying on the scraps that others my cast off. And how could she protect herself and her daughter from…from… She did not want to think of what else.
A neighbor told her to contact Mr. John Hicks. Word was that he was a wealthy man who ran a school for well born ladies. He was said to often take in young women of good birth whose fortunes had turned just as Maria Long's had.
Maria told her neighbor to tell Mr. Hicks of her plight. She was not as concerned about herself but about her 12-year-old daughter, Herodias who had that curse of beauty that attracted older men. There had already been men who had proposed marriage with Herodias. She was too young, the law said so, the church said so, everyone knew she was too young and still proposals had been made.
The neighbor contacted Mr. Hicks and he showed up at Mrs. Long's door within a day. The moment she saw him she was relieved. He was dressed as a gentleman, groomed as a gentleman, and spoke as a gentleman. After a short conversation she was convinced he was a well educated gentleman who was willing to spend his fortune helping young women become young ladies. He was pleased to hear that Herodias was only 12 since this was the ideal age. “So many come to me older when it is much more difficult to teach them.”
Mrs. Long was convinced that this was the best thing for Herodias. She only wished she were younger so she could… Forget that she told herself. She called her daughter in to meet Mr. Hicks. She had said nothing to her daughter in preparation and yet Herodias by her own nature impressed the man. He was so impress that he ask her if she wanted to come with him that very day to his school for ladies.
The man made such an impression on both mother and daughter that they immediately agreed with his proposal. In turn he surprised Mrs. Long by offering her a stipend of 10 pounds sterling. For Mrs. Long in her position this was a fortune. She was asked to sign a legal document. She tried to read it but she did not understand the legal terms which were in Latin. “It just says that your daughter is in my custody by your permission,” he assured her. That sounded reasonable.
Before an hour had passed, Herodias had packed all her possessions and was riding with Mr. Hicks in his carriage on their way to his school for young ladies. He talked to her about the good things she would be able to enjoy once she had completed her schooling. He talked about the friendships she would develop with her school mates. Herodias was excited.
“Here is my school,” he said as the driver turned the carriage into a small park-like garden in front of an impressive building. Within moments Herodias was standing on the steps of the school. A footman had taken her baggage and Mr. Hicks led the way into the large entryway. There they were met by a man and a woman who were dressed as servants.
The man said to Mr. Hicks, “My lord, may I speak with you privately.”
“Yes Clarence, just a moment,” Mr. Hicks said and turning to the woman he said, “Ruth would you take Miss Herodias to a private room and get her settled in and then show her around.”
“Yes, My lord,” Ruth said with a slight curtsy. Turning to the girl she said come with me Miss.”
Herodias and the footman followed Ruth up a broad marble staircase to the second floor. There they went a short way down a hall that to Herodias seemed to go on forever. Stopping at a door with carvings of stylized foxes, Ruth said, “This will be your room for the time being. Remember fox.”
Herodias looked at other doors close by and saw that each had a different animal. “Yes, ma'am,” she said with a slight nod.
Opening the door and ushering the girl in, Ruth said, “You will stay in here until you are called unless of course you wish to use the water closet and that is a short way down the hall to the right.”
“Yes ma'am…ah what is a water closet?” Herodias asked.
“An indoor privy,” Ruth said with obvious disdain.
The footman who had deposited Herodias' baggage near the dressing table was unable to suppress a chuckle.
Even with all of the excitement Herodias felt hungry. When Ruth asked if there was anything she needed she said, “I am hungry.”
“Yes of course. We find that for the first few days it will be best that food be brought to you so in about an hour a tray will be here for you. Can you last that long?”
It was obvious to Herodias she actually had no choice she agreed.
In less than an hour a tray of cold meat, cheese, and bread arrived with a glass of bitters. (bitters was a weak beer with just enough alcohol to kill water born bacteria) Although the amount of food was meager she felt somewhat satisfied when she had eaten it all.
Herodias made a visit to the water closet. There she saw strange porcelain fixtures that seemed extremely well designed for their function. They were badly stained brown from the cloudy, brown colored water the plumbing system delivered to them.
Back in her room Herodias wished she had something to do. She had hung her few pieces of clothing in the closet. She had placed her brush and comb on the dressing table. She had laid out he night gown and night cap on her bed in preparation of a good night's sleep. She removed her uncomfortable boots which her mother had insister were all the style in London. They were used boots that someone else had worn. That woman had died and Herodias' mother had bought them from her son for six pence.
Herodias thought that women of quality wore stockings but she had none. There were so many thing that she did not have. She wanted this school but could she survive here. What kind of ridicule will she have to put up with from the true women of quality that attended this school? The evening passed slowly for her as her mind filled with every kind of self doubt.
As evening came and darkness descended, Herodias did not light any candles. Instead she undressed and slipped on her loose fitting night gown. She brushed her hair with one hundred strokes and put it up in a ball on her head and covered it with her night cap. She had done what her mother insisted had to be done each evening before retiring. The sheets in the bed were course but the bed was soft and comfortable. She soon dropped off to sleep.
Early in the morning, long before sunrise, Herodias was shaken awake by an unknown woman who said, “Young lady, you must dress, pack your things, and meet Mr. Hicks downstairs immediately.”
Herodias tried to ask questions but was shushed and told there was no time. The woman had left one lit candle which was sufficient for Herodias to do as she had been instructed. Before going downstairs she visited the water closet. There were a few lit candles along the hall and on her way back to her room to get her bag Herodias saw two women leave a room carrying large bags and rush down the stairs. It was then
that she realized there were sounds of a commotion coming from the lower floor. She grabbed her small bag and rushed down the grand staircase. The large entry was dimly lit by a few candles. There seemed to be women moving in every direction. She heard Mr. Hicks call to her, “Herodias come here, we must go.”
Admits the hustle she and Mr. Hicks got in a small carriage pulled by a single horse which he drove. Herodias was frightened as they went quickly through the dark streets of London. She could not resist asking him what was happening.
“My dear, I will explain when we get to safety.”
Now she was truly frightened. By his words he implied they were not safe. Safety was something her mother wanted for her and now she was not safe. She worried at what kind of monsters or monstrous men were perusing them. She could tell by the smell that they were passing along the River Themes. Soon there was a glimmer of morning light from across the river. She could tell they were traveling south. South was Sussex. She had no idea what that meant but she had learned that the south side of London City was in Sussex.
Mr. Hicks slowed the horse and by doing so Herodias was calmed because there was no more reason to hurry. They went on for what seemed an inordinate length of time. Herodias never imagined there was so much of London that one could travel this long and still be in the city. She had lived her whole life on the northern edge of London, knowing that London was large but now she realized how big it truly was.
The sun was beginning to rise when they drove into a small courtyard. Mr. Hicks quickly exited the carriage and tied the horse to a hitching ring. He then assisted Herodias to exit the carriage; he grasped her bag and led her into the house. Once inside the darkened house, Herodias was unable to see anything. She stood motionless for fear of bumping into something. Mr. Hicks called in a loud voice, “Caroline, damn it woman where are you.”
Sounds came from the dark reaches of the house. A voice called out something that Herodias could not interpret. Mr. Hicks shouted, “John, damn it Caroline who else would be here at this time in the morning.”
“Well I sure didn't expect you,” Caroline said from behind a candle coming down a short hallway. “What the hell brings you out.”
“Damned investigators shut me down. Everyone had to scatter. Looks like they will confiscate my property. Had to find a safe place for this young lady.”
Caroline held the candle near Herodias and said, “Mm pretty.” She then held the candle before Mr. Hicks and said, “And a safe place for you.”
“If you are offering,” Mr. Hicks said.
“My bed is empty.” Caroline held the candle to Herodias again and said, “Girl follow me.” She followed her along the hall and into a small room. “You will stay here. What is your name?”
“Herodias,” she replied.
“Sounds like a man's name,” Caroline said as she lit a candle with the one she was carrying. “Now don't go lighting any more candles. One at a time is enough.”
“I'm not a ma'am. Call me either Caroline or mom.”
“Yes m…mom,” Herodias said.
“And I'll call you Herodia. Sounds more like a girl,” Caroline said as she left, leaving the girl behind.
She looked around in the small room. It was far different from the room she had been in during the night. There was an unpleasant odor that indicated to her that the place had been occupied by someone who needed to bathe. She hung her clothes in the small wardrobe, placed her brush and comb on the tiny dressing table, and laid her nightgown out on the small low bed. It was then that she realized she had left her night cap behind. What would she do without her night cap.
There was no chair in the room. She sat on the edge of the bed and looked into the small mirror on the dressing table. Her hair was a mess. She brushed her long hair and wondered what was happening. Mr. Hicks was a nice man but someone was after him. Could she ask him what was happening? Did Caroline know what was happening? Would she tell her?
Herodias was startled when Caroline asked, “Girl, do you know your way around a kitchen?”
“No mom I surly don't,” Herodias responded.
“Come give me a hand anyway,” Caroline commanded. As Herodias followed her, the woman mumbled, “Shame a girl your age don't know her way around a kitchen.”
The only thing that Caroline could find that Herodias was able to do was filling glasses with bitters from a pitcher.
During breakfast Mr. Hicks tried to explain to Herodias that the inspectors were falsely accusing him of operating an illegal business. To protect her he was going to marry her and that would keep her from being taken into custody if they were caught. She did not understand but she agreed to go along with his plan. He said that he and Caroline were going out for a while and she was not to let anyone in. “If anyone knocks at the door stay out of sight and they will go away thinking no one is here.”
Mr. Hicks and Caroline were gone most of the morning. When they returned Caroline helped Herodias get dressed in a new dress that she had brought for her. The dress was a pale blue and quite plane but Herodias felt beautiful in it. Caroline emphasized, “He's only marrying you to protect you but we have to keep up appearances.”
“I understand,” she said even though she did not see how getting married would protect her.
The three of them rode in the small carriage to St. Paul's Church. Mr. Hicks presented a paper to a clerk in the church office. The clerk who was wearing church robes showed them into the sanctuary where they stood praying for ten minutes before the priest arrived. He looked at the paper that Mr. Hicks had given the clerk. He leaned down and whispered to Herodias asking, “How old are thee?”
“I am twelve, sir,” she whispered.
He raised his voice and asked, “Did you say twelve?”
“Yes sir,” she said meekly.
Looking again at the paper before addressing Mr. Hick, “Sir I see that this young lady's mother has given her consent for her to marry you but I believe the statement that she is of age in incorrect. Nowhere in this church nor in all of England is a twelve-year-old of age to marry. You will Mr. Hicks return this innocent girl to her mother or I will have you arrested.” He handed the paper to Mr. Hicks who quickly ushered Herodias out of the church.
In the carriage, Caroline asked what he would do now? “We will go to Hope Church and Herodias, if someone asks you how old you are say fifteen.”
“You want me to lie Mr. Hicks?” Herodias asked.
“Just this once,” he told her.
At Hope Church the old priest was probable too blind to even see Herodias was too young. She felt thankful that she was not asked and in that way she was not required to lie. The ceremony was over quickly and the three of them returned to Caroline's house in the carriage.
Before bedtime Herodias asked Caroline if she had a night cap she could use. Caroline gave her one and she could put her hair up in a ball and cover it with a night cap like she always had since she could remember. Herodias had half thought that she and Mr. Hicks would sleep together. Maybe he did marry her to protect her; from what she did not know.
Mr. Hicks left after breakfast saying he would probably not be back for two or three days. Herodias asked where he was going and he said that it was best she not know. He returned after two days and the following morning she was awakened early, told to pack her bag, and prepare for a long journey. The three of them rode in the carriage as short distance to the dock on the river where several large ships were moored.
On board ship there was no privacy. Everyone huddled together with their families and their baggage. Mr. Hicks had brought two large bags and had handed Herodias a small bag that she could carry along with her own. He had managed to push his way to a corner space and so they had walls on two sides of them. In one of his bags he had brought two heavy wool blankets. This was their bedding for the long trip.
She had asked him several times where they were going but he had ignored her question but now that they had arranged their little corner of the ship she asked again.
“To Americas my dear, we are going to Massachusetts Bay to start a new life,” he announced. He whispered to her, “I have my fortune in my belt, there is nothing left for me in London City.” She knew that when he whispered that what he said was meant only for her. He let on to others on the ship that they were near destitute and when asked about their relationship, she was his ward…a niece who had been orphaned. “I will find for her a respectable husband when she comes of age.” It seemed to Herodias that he could too easily lie. However, all of his lies seemed intended to protect her.
There were several children near her age and Mr. Hicks encouraged her to play with them. They were often yelled at by the crew when they were in places where they should not be.
To Herodias the most bothersome part of the trip was the privy. She had always believed that a privy was private. Not aboard this ship. Every one used the same room. Six holes opened to the sea. You stuck your ass through the hole and did you business and that was it. She tried to use the pooper, as the crew called it, when no one was there but invariably as soon as she got in position someone else would in.
They were told that the voyage would take anywhere from 30 to 100 days. A young crewman who had taken a liking to Herodias informed her that they had had an easy crossing. He told her that he had been on crossing of 90 or 100 days when they spent half of their time on stormy seas with waves washing over the gunnels and everyone had to bail for dear life. They sighted land off Massachusetts in 45 days. On the 47th day they docked in Boston Harbor.
Mr. Hicks told Herodias to keep her shawl over her head and remain behind him as they departed the ship and passed the customs officer. He showed papers to the customs officer who seemed only interested that every person was accounted for.
After some consultation with various merchants Mr. Hicks purchased a small wagon and a horse, filled it with supplies and the head off to a new settlement at Waterford. They did not start their trip the first day they were in Boston. They slept in their wagon that night on a side street. Like on shipboard she slept in her dress in his arms. She had become quite comfortable being held by him. It reminded her of her father holding her.
The trip to Waterford took less than a day. At Waterford he had to swear allegiance to the church and he was granted the use of two acres of land. They stayed in the wagon while he had a one room house built. He became more and more unhappy with her because she no idea about how anything was cooked. Aboard ship he had paid to have others cook for them but now that they had their own home he expected her to cook.
One evening after eating a meal that he had made he forced himself on her and as he said, he took her to the marital bed. It was his right after all they had been married for nearly two months. After that first night there was rarely a night that he did not lay her on the bed and pound it to her. Nine months after their arrival in Waterford she delivered a baby boy which she named John after her husband.
After the birth of young John she refused to attend church and he had to pay a fine of six pence for her non attendance. He was told that he should beat her until she obeyed him. He began to beat her with a stick on a regular basis since she often refused to even try to follow his directions. He began to have disagreements with his neighbors and soon he quit going to church.
A delegation from the church came to his home and he refused to allow them in his house. They told him that if he and his wife did not attend church and pay the fines for not attending they would be expelled from their property and driven out of the community. He had heard of those who had gone to Rhode Island and Connecticut to escape from the autocratic authority. Before the next Sunday they were on the road to these “free” colonies.
Along the way they met a young man named George Gardener and invited him to travel with them. He had been expelled from Plymouth Colony for being a Quaker. He told them about the Quaker beliefs. Herodias thought the Quaker beliefs made more sense that any other that she had heard. John Hicks rejected the Quaker beliefs as a bunch of free thinking. He just wanted to be left alone when it came to religion.
When they arrived in Connecticut they were given neighboring land. In the next three years Herodias bore two more boys. One named for her
father Harold and one named for John's father Robert. She was now 17 and had three children ages 4, 2, and new born. She still did not cook and cleaning house was too much work. She spent all of her time caring for and playing with her children.
John Hicks had given up trying to get her to do anything but one night after drinking too much as the local inn he came home and beat her unconscious before passing out. The next day Herodias went to her neighbor George Gardener to show him how she had been beaten. Gardener took her to the authorities who brought Hick up on charges for abusing his wife. As was explained to him a beating did not leave injuries but what he had done did. He was fined one pound and placed in the pillory for four hours.
While he was in the pillory Herodias asked the authorities to free her from her marriage to John Hicks. They refused to grant her wish. She decided to refuse to him from now on since she did not want any more children by him. Her refusal would give him grounds to divorce her and she would have what she wanted.
After beating her unconscious on a second occasion he was fined two pounds and pilloried over night. After he was released he pack his things together and went over to the Dutch Colony on Long Island leaving Herodias and the boys behind.
Many of the women in the community express their concern that there was an unattached, attractive, young woman in the community. Some even said she should be packed up and sent over to her husband. The one day papers arrived by currier that granted by the Dutch a devoice to John from Herodias.
Herodias was not able to take care of her farm and she went to the authorities asking for help in doing so. George Gardener, being the only single man was asked to care for her property along with his and he was told he could keep a share of the production of her land. Soon she turned up pregnant and George and Herodias traveled to a neighbor community where several Quakers lived. They stood up in meeting according Quaker practice and declared their devotion to each other and were thus married.
Seven children in fourteen years followed. Herodias still did no cooking or housekeeping but George Gardener solved that problem by buying a Negro slave woman. George's fortune had grown but he had worked hard to get where he was. He had supported Herodias' ten children and the three oldest he had adopted as his own. They now worked alongside him and talked of finding women of their own to marry.
Much of the land that he was able to purchase was over a day's walk away so George built a second house. He and the oldest three boys often stayed weeks at a time in this second house.
A wealthy older man named John Porter began visiting Herodias when George Gardener was away. Eventually he persuaded her that Gardener was neglecting her and that she should come live with him at his new farm in Pisquatach, Massachusetts Bay Colony. She moved her seven Gardener children to the Porter farm.
George Gardener searched for and found Herodias and his children in Pisquatach. He was unable to persuade her to return to his home in Connecticut Colony but he did take four of his children.
Herodias who now lived in Massachusetts Bay Colony went with her youngest child at breast and her black slave to the General Assembly in Weymouth requesting protection from George Gardener and to get her children returned to her. In the preliminary hearing the presiding officer determined this was an important case so he called for Governor Endicott to sit in judgment. Endicott took over 20 hours of testimony, questioning Herodias about her childhood and the circumstances that caused her to come to America with John Hicks, how he had left her with three children and no support, how she was taken in by George Gardener, how she had born seven children to Gardener, and how he had neglected her. Endicott appeared to have no interest in knowing what her relationship was with John Porter.
The next day after the conclusion of Herodias' testimony, Governor Endicott passed judgment. He pronounced that the marriage to John Hicks was not valid since it had been entered into under false pretence, therefore the Hicks boys would bear the name Long, (Note: Massachusetts Bay Colony did not recognize the existence of Connecticut Colony so to them the adoption of the boys by Gardener was not valid.) Since no valid marriage existed between Herodias and Gardener, their seven children were also bastards and now would bear the name Long.
In addition Endicott determined that Herodias and Gardener, being guilty of living in sin for 14 year should be punished. They should each receive 14 lashes of the whip and 14 days in a jail cell. If Gardener ever came to Massachusetts he would have to be punished. Herodias on the other hand could choose to share her punishment with her slave. She chose to do that and therefore she and her nigger slave received seven lashes and seven days in jail. Endicott could think of no way to get her children back.
Two more cases appeared before Endicott that day. An elderly woman named Margaret Porter was suing one John Porter for support since after a 25 year marriage he had deserted her with no means of support.
Endicott had looked ahead to the next case in which one John Porter was petitioning the court to lift a stay of sale that had been place on his property in Boston because a magistrate had been persuaded he was attempting to leave his wife Margaret Porter with no means of support. (Note: Endicott was the purchaser of the property and should have excused himself because of conflict of interest.)
Instead Endicott combined the two cases, allowing the sale of the property, requiring a substantial amount be set aside for the support of Margaret Porter and, granted a divorce to the Porters.
Eight days later 74-year-old John Porter married 32-year-old Herodias Long. Porter also petitioned for the adoption of all of Herodias children thus removing them from bastard status and under Massachusetts law made them able to own property.
In the following years Herodias bore two more children. John Porter was able to persuade all of her children to come to Pisquatach by offering them large tracts of farmland. However, son Samuel refused to change his name to Porter to take title to the land that had been offered him and he returned to Connecticut empty handed. (Note: One of Samuel's granddaughters married Levi Luther who was a great great grand nephew of Martin Luther.)
Upon the death of John Porter he passed on to Herodias the largest estate in terms of acres ever inherited in the area of Massachusetts.
(Note: Although I have filled in a few gaps in the story, you can check out the substantiated facts by Googleing Herodias Long.)