Friday, March 18, 2011

Gaskill, Part 2-Witchy Woman

Yesterday I took the Gaskills from Pennsylvania back in time to New York.  Today we head to New England.  Richmond, New Hampshire specifically.  Or what almost became Richmond, Vermont.  Curious?  When we look back at the American Revolution, it can be easy to think of it as a point in time, a single event with the unvarying support of aggrieved colonists and resulting in the simple straight-forward creation and acceptance of The Constitution. History lovers know there is always more to the story. In this case, before states’ rights became a prominent issue, there was the issue of towns’ rights.

The History of the Town of Richmond, Cheshire County, New Hampshire by William Bassett, published in 1884, provided me with some genealogical information on Silas and Wilder Gaskill, as well as providing a snapshot of the times.  In 1781, just eight years before my Gaskills move to New York, there was a considerable amount of turmoil as the new nation began to face the practicalities of governing.  There were a variety of proposals concerning state boundaries affecting the town of Richmond, along with some other New Hampshire towns.  One option was the creation of a state called New Connecticut, but this was not supported by the bordering states or Congress.  On March 19, 1781, responding to an invitation from Vermont, the Town of Richmond voted to secede from New Hampshire and join Vermont.  My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Silas Gaskill, was one of the chosen representatives to meet with the Vermont General Assembly.   However, New Hampshire had not given up its jurisdiction and, although there was some violence and lingering animosities between towns and the state, the seceding towns were eventually excluded from Vermont.  There continued to be political disputes until 1783 when Richmond finally voted to accept the state constitution.  Then in 1788, a convention was held for ratification of the Federal constitution.  Jonathan Gaskill, Silas’ brother was Richmond’s representative and one of those who voted against ratification.  Well, New Hampshire did ratify the Constitution and within a year, Silas and some family members had departed for New York.  And in 1790, Jonathan committed suicide.  Whether this was politically, financially (or otherwise) driven is unknown, but Jonathan did die insolvent.

But, what of Silas before New Hampshire?  It is likely he arrived and helped settled Richmond around 1765, having departed Cumberland, Rhode Island with his new wife Sarah Jillson.  I’ll fast-reverse now to Silas’ father, Jonathan, who moved from Salem or Mendon, MA to Cumberland.  Jonathan was born in Salem, MA in 1704 to Samuel Gaskill and Bethiah Woodin.  You can probably guess where this is headed.  Samuel’s father, who was also named Samuel, was born in 1663, and his mother was Provided Southwick, born in 1641.  That brings us to the next story.  Samuel senior had become a Quaker and, with the Puritans persecution of Quakers, became intimately involved in the Salem Witch Trials.  Abigail Soames (Somes) was living in his home, as house guest or housekeeper isn’t clear to me, but what is clear is that she was arrested and indicted for witchcraft:

To Constable peter Osgood  
     You are in theire Majest's names hereby required to apprehen and forthwith bring before us Abigaile Soames Single Woman, now Liveing at the house of Sam'l Gaskill in Salem; who stand accused of Sundry acts of #[Sundry] Witchcraft, (or high suspition there of) donne or Committed by her Lately. on the Body of Mary Warren & faile not
Dated Salem, May the 13'th 1692 P us *John Hathorne Assis't
*Jonathan. Corwin Assis't

Abigaile Soames

I heave Aprehended the person of 
Abigall Soams Acordinge to warrante exprest on the other side and heave broughte hir to the how of mr Thomas Beadles pr me *Peter Osgood Constable in Selem

May the 13; 1692

(Essex County Archives, Salem -- Witchcraft Vol. 2 Page 50 

Of all the things I’ve come across in my family research, I am most proud of this-- Samuel and his wife Provided signed a petition in defense of John Proctor and his wife, both accused of witchcraft:

We whose names are under witten havinge several yeares knowne John Procter and his wife do testefy that we never heard or understood that they were ever suspected to be guilty of the crime now charged apon them and several of us being their neare neighbours do testefy that to our aprehension they lived christian life in their famely and were ever ready to helpe such as stood in need of their helpe
      Nathaniel Felton sen: and mary his wife
      Samuel Marsh and Prescilla his wife
      James Houlton and Ruth his wife
      John Felton
      Nathaniel Felton jun
      Samuell Frayll and an his wife
      Zachriah Marsh and mary his wife
      Samuel Endecott and hanah his wife
      Samuell Stone
      George Locker
      Samuel Gaskil & provided his wife
      George Smith
      Ed Edward: Gaskile
 Essex County Archives, Salem -- Witchcraft Vol. 1 Page 28 

from:  Charles W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft, With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Spirits (1867)

As always, I find I have a lot of gaps to fill in, but Samuel’s father, Edward (Gaskill/Gascoine), born in 1603 in Stafford, England, died 1690 in Salem (probably not the Edward on the list above) leaves me at my initial goal for the finding the first Gaskill of my line to immigrate to America.

P.S.  Edward Gaskill married Sarah Parker [9/18/2011: Additional research indicates there is no confirming source for the Parker name for Sarah].  I can't help but recall the first episode of WDYTYA when Sarah Jessica Parker finds ancestors involved in the Salem Witch Trials.  Just sayin'.


  1. Great blog post. I just found your blog and was perusing the posts. John Proctor is my 9x great grandfather, and Provided Southwick was the brother to John Southwick, my 8x great grandfather. Now I definitely have to read more of your posts tonight to see if we are cousins!

  2. Thanks, cuz!

    I'm fairly new to blogging so I don't have too many family lines posted yet. But, who knows, maybe there are more New England connections--I've got Ballous and Gillsons/Jillsons. My mom was always told there was a Mayflower ancestor, but I haven't looked into that yet.

  3. My great-great-grandmother was Harriet Gaskill. Her niece Gussie Gaskill (never married) graduated from the University of Kansas with a BA in 1918 and an MA in 1919. She went to Cornell to do doctoral work, was employed there until 1963, and died at Ithaca NY in 1985. She compiled this history of the Gaskills (which I assume you already have):

    1. Yes, her research was very helpful to me as I tracked down sources and leads. Thanks.

  4. Hi, I just found your blog as I was getting ready to do a blog on Samuel Gaskill and Provided Southwick. My children, through their father, are related to the Gaskills. This was definitely interesting to read.

    1. Thanks. Theirs is an engaging part of US history.

    2. Linda: Samuel and Provided Gaskill are my 9th great grandparents. If you are doing a blog on them I would very much enjoy reading it. -Michael Giallella

  5. I am a descendant of Patience Topliff, sister to Abigail Somes. Abigail was indeed a servant of the Gaskill household at the time she was accused of witchcraft.