06 Mar

This weeks #52ancestors prompt is Bachelor Uncle

The most famous,  or shall I say infamous,  bachelor uncle in my family tree is, 

  William Stoughton 30 Sept 1631-7 Jul 1701

He the third child of Israel Stoughton, a prominent figure in the New England colonies, and his wife Elizabeth Knight.

He is my 1st cousin 12x removed via this pathway

  William Stoughton (1631 - 1701)

1st cousin 12x removed

Israel Stoughton (1602 - 1644)

 Father of William Stoughton

Thomas Stoughton (1557 - 1622)

Father of Israel Stoughton

Judith Stoughton (1599 - 1639)

Daughter of Thomas Stoughton

William Smead (1630 - 1703)

Son of Judith Stoughton

Mehitable Smead (1668 - 1704)

Daughter of William Smead

Abigail Elizabeth Nims (1700 - 1747)

Daughter of Mehitable Smead

Marie Ann Raizenne (1719 - 1787)

Daughter of Abigail Elizabeth Nims

Elisabeth Seguin (1745 - 1808)

Daughter of Marie Ann Raizenne

Josephete Quesnel (1766 - 1855)

Daughter of Elisabeth Seguin

Josephte Lalonde (1794 - )

Daughter of Josephete Quesnel

Jean Baptiste Besner (1824 - 1904)

Son of Josephte Lalonde

Moses Besner (1855 - 1949)

Son of Jean Baptiste Besner

John Besner (1899 - 1928)

Son of Moses Besner

Grace Helen Besner (1922 - 2007)

Daughter of John Besner

Richard Dennis McConnell (1947 - )

Son of Grace Helen Besner

Carrie Ann McConnell

daughter of Richard Dennis McConnell

He was the second son, but when William was 17, his older brother Israel died unexpectedly. William was Harvard educated, and further his studies at Oxford. He studied the ministry but found success his politics aspirations. He and his business partner Joseph Dudley acquired massive amounts of land in New England. He was the agent for the Massachusetts Bay colony at the court of Charles II in England. He raised militias, which fought the French and Indians in the colonies. He was chief justice and was Lieutenant Gov of Massachusetts. He was acting Governor several times. He lived a very full and accomplished life. Stoughton Hall at Harvard was commisioned by and named for William. 

William however was infamous for being the Chief Justice in the Salem witch trials.  

He was both chief judge and prosecutor. It was William who allowed spectral evidence. Spectral evidence is invisible evidence based on dreams and visions. Many people were convicted solely on spectral evidence. He was harsh and calculating during the trials. Many accused felt they had no choice but to confess, just to save their lives. 

In the aftermath of the trials, many of the judges repented their part in it, not William. He refused to apologize and continued to believe that he was fulfilling a mission from god, ridding the new colony of the evil that befell it. 

Despite being a main character in this ugly scene from history, William's success continued throughout his life 

William Stoughton died 7 Jul 1701 at the age of 70. William Tailor, the son of William's sister Rebecca, was his heir.  William Tailor followed in his uncle footsteps also becoming Lt. Governor. 

William never married, which was very odd for puritan New England.  He was also extremely private.  For such a public life, they're very few contemporaneous records written by William.   

I never thought much of it, until I learned of his epitaph. 

William rests in a large tomb in Dorchester Cemetery in Boston. His epitaph is carved in latin on the tomb and was written by Cotton Mather, the famous puritan minister. 

It translates from latin to the following:

Here lies WIlliam Stoughton, Esquire, Lieutenaunt, afterwards, Governor of the providence of Massachuchetes in New England, also, Chief Judge of the superior court of the same providence,  a man of wedlock unknown, devout in Religion, renowned for virtue, famous for erudition, acute in judgement, Equally illustrious by kindred and Spirit, a lover of equity, a defender of laws, Founder of Stoughton Hall, and most distinguished patron of letters and literary men, a most strenous opponent of Impiety and Vice, Rhetoricans delight in him as eloquent writers are aquanited with him as elegant, philosphers seeks him as wise, doctors honor him as a theologian, the devout revere him as grave, all admire him, unknown by all, yet known to all. 

What need of more traveller, Whom have we lost? Stoughton alas, I have said sufficient, tears press, i keep silence, he lived seventy years, on the seventh of July in the year of 1701 he died

 Alas alas what grief.

Several things strike me., in particular 

Unknown by all, yet known to all &  i keep silence...

For all that is known about William, so much more is not known. As a genealogist, we are driven by facts, and facts must be present. That doesn't mean we don't have hunches. Sometimes these hunches are never be able to be proven. When I learned about William, I kept getting a nagging feeling that he maybe gay. I am very certain, I will never find any facts to substantiate this. That being said, if we allow ourselves to consider what conflict would have been inside a gay Puritan minister and judge, we might wonder what action would come from that conflict. I would imagine, in that time and place, the conflict would be tremendous.  Tremendous enough for one to unapologetically attack and lash out at devil and witches in league with the devil? Hard to know. 

I will end by saying, my opinion on William is the same without relevancy to his sexual orientation. He was a man, in space and time, handed a set of circumstances. He, like all of us, had to navigate those circumstances the way he saw fit. I hope and pray that in the end he found peace with himself.  

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