There’s more than one wild child in the family, I’m sure, but there’s one who really stands out: Elizabeth Fones. Elizabeth led quite a life—interesting enough for someone to write historical fiction based on it, The Winthrop Woman.
Elizabeth Fones, my 9x great-grandmother, was born January 21, 1610 in Groton Manor, England to Thomas Fones and Ann Winthrop. Ann was the sister of John Winthrop, a strict Puritan who became governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and who became Elizabeth's guardian after the deaths of both her parents.
Scandal number one: Elizabeth married her first cousin, John Winthrop’s son Henry. About a year after their marriage, Henry sailed to America, leaving Elizabeth behind because of her pregnancy--their daughter, Martha (my ancestor), was born while her father was at sea. The day after he arrived in Massachusetts in 1630, Henry drowned in the North River.
In 1631 Elizabeth followed her uncle, by then Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, sailing with her daughter, Martha, to America. A year later Elizabeth married her second husband, Robert Feake. Robert was already a large landowner and, subsequently, he and Elizabeth acquired additional land in Connecticut. She is considered one of the founders of Greenwich, including what is today called Old Greenwich. Scandal number two: A woman with property in her own name was not considered proper by the mores of the times. Sadly, in 1647, after experiencing persona crises, Feake went insane and abandoned his wife and five children.
Scandal number three: Elizabeth married William Hallett, without divorcing Feake. In a transcribed letter in the Winthrop Papers, from John Haynes to John Winthrop, Jr. (Elizabeth’s brother-in-law):
Ther is cognisaunce taken by our Court, of somme partyes resident with yow, that are of ill fame, as one that was the wife sometimes of Mr. Feake and who it seemes did confesse her selfe an Adulteresse, (which is vppon record at the Dutch) and now pretends marriadge with another man, how trew, or legall is not well knowen. I am therfor to acquainte yow, that she with somme others are sent for by warrant to apeare att the Court heere to answeare accordinge to the tenure therof.
Elizabeth and her new husband and family were forced to leave--to avoid a court hearing and possible death sentence--and moved to for the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, New York. In September 1655, they survived an attack by Indians, but their house and farm were burned down. Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallett died in New York in 1673.
Seems like Elizabeth faced a lot of challenges, but it also looks like she could hold her own. This is a Puritan I'll celebrate on Thanksgiving.