10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans

Jennifer Johnson - December 17, 2017

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
Passengers on the Mayflower, todayifoundout.com

First Convicted Killer

John Billington was a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620. Billington was about 40 years old and like everyone else had signed the Mayflower Compact. This compact was created to keep the peace between the colonies of the New World. It is believed that Billington was one of the “grumblers” of the Mayflower. Those who signed the document, but didn’t like it, so they signed it under Puritan rule. For Billington, the grumbling did not stop with signing the document. He was one of the least well-liked passengers onboard the Mayflower. He was known for being foul-mouthed and rude.

However, his rude speaking was the least of worries for several passengers. Religiously, Billington was a Catholic, which was not part of the Puritan’s style. Furthermore, Billington became involved in a rebellion against authorities. While uncertain what exactly Billington tried, we do know he challenged the Captain’s authority through a series of speeches. This rebellion was unsuccessful and made Billington even less popular during the 66-day voyage. But the troubles caused by Billington did not end at sea.

Once on land, Billington was punished for the speeches he gave aboard the Mayflower. However, this did not stop Mr. Billington. He further acted out against the Puritan Church through an uprising. But once the uprising was discovered, Billington stated he was innocent and was considered to be. Before this, Billington had wondered off and was taken by the Nauset, Native Americans from Cape Cod. In response, the Puritans had to send out a party in order to get him back.

After all the disturbing behavior that John Billington was causing the colony the Governor, William Bradford, spoke up. Bradford did not like Billington or his family, stating that the whole family was one of the most disrespectful families of the colony. The Governor also wrote a letter to Robert Cushman. In this letter, Bradford told Cushman that Billington still rails against Cushman. The Governor further wrote that this would not change, stating that Billington would live and die that way.

Eventually, an end would come to John Billington’s reign of terror upon the Puritans. A decade after landing in North America, Billington got into an argument with John Newcomer. While the details of this argument are not certain, we know that Newcomer was Billington’s neighbor. It is also stated that these two were enemies and arguments occurred often. We also know that it was in 1630 that Billington shot Newcomer and killed him. After the murder, Billington received a trial. After being found guilty, Billington was sentenced to hang in September of 1630.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
Jemmy and the Stono Rebellion, knowledgeisking.ning.com

A Forgotten Rebellion

Throughout the days of slavery in North America, there were dozens of slave rebellions. While most of these rebellions occurred after the American Revolution, one rebellion happened before the founding of the United States. This rebellion, known as the Stono Rebellion, happened in 1739 and has practically been taken out of America’s history books. The Stono Rebellion is thought to be the largest slave rebellion in Colonial America. Before this rebellion, slave rebellions were practically unknown in the British Colonies. Because of this, the whole colony of South Carolina was shaken to its core.

The exact date of this rebellion is Sunday, September 9, 1739. The rebellion started in the early hours of that day. It consisted of about 20 enslaved Africans, all of who came over on a slave ship about five years prior. They gathered near a bridge by Stono River near the city of Charles Town, which is now known as Charleston. They picked that location because they had been working on building a public road there. While the slaves were usually heavily guarded, this morning there were no guards.

Whether the group of 20 had planned this rebellion knowing they would be unguarded is not known. However, it is believed that on Sundays slaves were allowed to work by themselves, without a white overseer. This has led historians to wonder if Jemmy was left in charge, which would make a revolt much easier. Whatever the case, Jemmy is the only name written down in the reports that speak of this deadly revolt. To start the revolt, the group of 20 went from the Stono River to Hutchinson’s store.

Once they reached the store, the Africans murdered the two men who were running the store. They also took any guns and gunpowder. As they were leaving, they took the severed heads of the white men and placed them on the front steps. No one exactly knows why they did this but it is speculated that it deals with the beheading of runaway slaves. From the store, the crew went to the house of Godfrey. Here they killed Godfrey, his children, took whatever supplies they needed, and then burned the house down. They then headed south to continue their revolt.

When they reached Wallace’s Tavern, they left the innkeeper alone. Historians believe this is because he was kind to slaves. But they killed Wallace’s neighbor and about 20 other individuals and continued to take whatever supplies they needed. Furthermore, they gained more people to join their revolt as they went through the city. It wasn’t until that afternoon when a large group of whites were able to take action against the rebellion. In the end, about 25 whites and 20 blacks were killed. The slaves who escaped during the rebellion were later captured and either sold off or executed.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
Drawing of Timothy Dexter and his dog, priceonomics.com

A Millionaire who Made Nothing

You might feel this man is best left forgotten in history once you hear his story. Timothy Dexter was born in Malden, Massachusetts on January 22, 1747. Born into a poor family, Timothy had little schooling and began working as a farm laborer at the age of 8. As a teen, Timothy started his apprenticeship as a leather-dresser. Fortunately, for Timothy, his life as a poor man did not last long. In 1769, he moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts, settling into a mansion with his rich wife, who had been a widow.

Within society, Timothy was thought to be unintelligent. Before the end of the American Revolutionary War, he took control of all the continental currency he could, which was worth nothing. However, in 1790, when the Constitution was ratified, Congress decided that the continental currency could be traded in for treasury bonds. Because Timothy had collected all the continental dollars he could, he became instantly wealthy. After gaining all this wealth, Dexter felt his peers would respect him more. However, this was not the case. It seemed to be no matter what he tried, his crude behavior would stand in his way of the respect he felt he deserved.

Over time, Timothy Dexter decided he wanted to become Lord Timothy Dexter. Dexter was not a lord by any means, but he felt with his new-found wealth, it was a requirement. He also made several eccentric purchases with his new money. Dexter had a horse carriage specifically made for him, which included his initials. He also purchased several cream-colored horses and a fleet of shipping vessels. However, his most interesting purchase was hiring an artist to carve a series of 40 giant statues on his property. Historians believe this purchase was made in order to create public attention, which he did.

Dexter’s lavish and interesting purchases are not even what he is best known for in American history. Shortly before he died, Dexter decided to fake his death in order to see how people would react. It is reported that the only people who knew about his staged funeral were his family, who he had to bribe to go along with it. While he seemed somewhat happy with the number of people who showed up to his funeral, about 3,000, he was unimpressed by his wife’s reaction. After the funeral, he went home and beat his wife, stating that she did not grieve enough.

Sometimes time changes people, and when it comes to Dexter, this saying is true. Before Dexter officially died on October 26, 1806, he tried to change his ways. One of the ways Timothy did this was by changing his will, where he divided his estate up equally among his family and friends. Furthermore, he left money to be divided up among the poor. Today, your opinions of Dexter are either one side or the other, people either like him or they do not. There seems to be no in-between.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
Dickdook Leshon Gnebreet. : A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue. Boston, N.E.: Jonas Green, 1735. New-York Historical Society, blog.nyhistory.org

Judah Monis’ Conversion

Judah Monis was born on February 4, 1683, in Italy. His family was Portuguese conversos, which meant the family was Jewish in private but Catholic in public. Judah received his education in Jewish academies. He came to New York in the early 1700s and started reading to Jewish congregations. In 1715, Judah opened a small store in the city of New York where he started teaching Hebrew to Jews, Christians, and really anyone who wanted to learn. It was at this moment that Judah realized he loved teaching.

Judah also felt education was very important and wanted to continue. Therefore, he moved to Massachusetts and obtained his Master’s degree at Harvard in 1720. However, in American history, this degree means more than just Judah continuing his education. Once Judah received his Master’s, he became the first Jew in American history to do so. As part of his graduation requirement, Judah needed to write and submit an essay. This is when he submitted his A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue and gave a copy to Harvard.

Judah loved teaching and now, with his new degree, he could become a professor. And as luck had it, Harvard was looking for a Hebrew Professor. However, there was one problem for Judah. Harvard required that all professors be practicing Christians. While Judah grew up practicing Christianity in public, he was technically Jewish. Judah had a very little problem converting to Christianity, however, not everyone agreed with Judah’s decision. In fact, Judah received criticism from both Jews and Christians for different reasons.

Christians did not fully believe that Judah was 100 percent into Christianity. On the other side of the debate, the Jewish community felt betrayed. The controversy became so bad for Judah that he ended up writing about three books in order to defend his conversion. Even with his books, Judah still dealt with the controversy and passive aggressiveness from the church and Harvard. Both entities would often cite Judah as the “converted Jew” or the “Christianized Jew.” Judah did receive the job as a professor at Harvard, but his struggles still continued.

The book Judah wrote would require students to copy it word for word, which often took about a month. Furthermore, while Harvard felt he did a good job as a professor, Judah had trouble convincing Harvard to purchase a copy of the Hebrew Grammar book from London. Furthermore, throughout his time at Harvard, his responsibilities slowly diminished. They diminished so much that by 1760, Judah was only teaching one class per week. This lack of work, his declining health, and his wife’s death all contributed to his retirement that same year. Judah would live four years in retirement, dying in April of 1764.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
King Philip’s War, history.com

King Philip’s War, 1675-1676

King Philip’s War of 1675-1676 is one of the wars of Colonial American that has gone to the back of the history books. Also known as Metacom’s Rebellion, this was a last-ditch effort by Southern New England’s Native Americans to drive out English settlers. In American history, the Civil War remains the deadliest war. However, King Philip’s War can take the title of the deadliest in terms of per capita losses. Pokunoket chief Metacom, or King Philip by the settlers, was the leader of this Native American uprising that lasted around fourteen months.

While unsure of all the events that caused the war, we do know one reason. The rapid growth of settlers in the 1670s started to force Native Americans out of their lands. Once this happened, the relationship between the settlers and Native Americans became extremely rocky. In trying to keep as much peace as possible, some settlers met with King Philip and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. King Philip agreed and all went well until one day when a Christian Native American, who was the informer for the settlers was murdered. In response, the settlers tried and executed three Native Americans.

The action taken to this response was to attach the settlers. On June 24, 1675, the tribe attacked through a series of raids of English settlements. An unknown number of colonists were murdered during this time. In response, the colonists destroyed Native American villages. Within months, all the colonies and several Native American tribes were at war. The war raged on with an unknown amount of casualties. Eventually, King Philip’s wife and son were captured. Not too long after that, in August of 1676, King Philip’s secret hiding place was discovered. A Native American, who was on the English side, captured the King and assassinated him. His head was then publicly displayed on a stake in Plymouth.

The war did several things for the colonists and Native Americans. First, the settlers and Native Americans’ relationship was never the same. Many Native American tribes moved out of the New England area. The war was extremely costly for the settlers and over one-tenth of New England’s military-age population died during the war. On the plus side, the war united the settlers of New England unlike any event before. This was because England refused to send troops or help with the war. Therefore, the settlers had to work together. This action was one of the first acts which laid the groundwork for American identity.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
Anne Hutchinson Preaching at her House, museyon.com

Freedom or Puritan Rule

Anne Hutchinson was born in England during the year 1591. In 1634, she followed John Cotton to the New World and became a Puritan settler. During Anne’s time in the colonies, North American soil was not known as the land of the free and Puritans had strict religious rules to follow. After settling into her new home, Anne began to hold weekly meetings. In these meetings, she would rave about Cotton’s preaching and tell people that her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, and herself were true Christians. She would also demand religious freedom and talk about scripture that the Puritan Church did not agree with.

After a few years, Anne Hutchinson’s weekly meetings grew to include about 80 men and women. At this point, the city officers knew they could not let, what they called foolishness, go on any longer. Anne was brought to trial with John Winthrop as leading judge. While John Cotton was not convicted of heresy, Anne did not fare so well. The General Court of Massachusetts convicted her of heresy, banned from the colony, and all ties with the Puritan church were broken.

After being banned from the Colony of Massachusetts, Anne walked to Rhode Island. It was here that Anne, with the help of family, established a colony with others who had been banned. While the colony continued to grow, Anne could no longer stay there once her husband passed away. After his death, Anne and her six children moved to Dutch, New York. It was here that Anne finally felt they could live without being under English control. Unfortunately, this freedom did not last long. In August of 1643, Anne and all but possibly one of her children were killed in a Native American Raid.

The story goes that while Anne was nice to the Native Americans, her settlement was destroyed through a series of events now called the Kieft’s War. When the Native Americans came to Anne’s settlement, they drug her and five of her children out, killed them, and burned the house down. The story continued to say that Anne’s one daughter, who was out picking berries, might have lived through the raid because of her hair. Anne’s daughter had red hair which was something unusual for the Native American tribe, therefore, she might have been captured and went to go live with them.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
William Beadle killed his family and then himself, ranker.com

First Documented Murder-Suicide

William Beadle was born in England about 1730. While historians are unsure when Beadle and his wife came to the New World, it is known that they moved to Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1773. It is also believed that before William and his wife moved, they had two children. A boy who was born around 1771 and a girl, who would have been born the following year. It is also recorded that two more daughters were born after the family moved to Wethersfield.

The William Beadle story is one of those, it is not always what it seems stories. Once the family settled in Wethersfield, William opened a mercantile and became a highly successful merchant. In fact, it is believed that he was one of the most successful in his colony. Other Colonists believed that the family lived an ideal life. However, once the American Revolutionary War started, the worth of the continental dollar began decreasing. But this did not stop patriotic William Beadle from continuing to accept the money. Unfortunately, this also led to Beadle’s downfall. The more the continental money depreciated, the less money Beadle’s mercantile made.

With the loss income of his store, Beadle fell far from being one of the wealthiest merchants around. Eventually, this loss bothered him so much he nearly stopped talking to his wife and their four children. It is also noted that during the last year of his life, he always brought an ax to bed with him. Furthermore, he started caring his carving knife and sleeping next to the knife. Eventually, his eating and sleeping patterns decreased.

Near the end of his life, Beadle wrote a letter asking if it was his time to die. However, no one could have predicted what William Beadle would do that fateful morning. One morning in December of 1783, William Beadle killed his wife and their four children. After he murdered his entire family, Beadle slit his own throat, taking his own life. The William Beadle murder and suicide is the first document case of such in the history of the United States of America.

10 Forgotten Stories About Colonial Americans
Ethan Allen, Biography.com

The Real Ethan Allen

Today when you think of the name Ethan Allen you probably think of the furniture store. However, while the store is named after this Ethan Allen, he had nothing to do with furniture. In fact, Ethan Allen was a revolutionary hero. On top of that, Ethan Allen was also the founder of Vermont, a politician, land speculator, and wore many other hats. Ethan Allen was born during the year 1738 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Throughout his life, Ethan was known as a rebel-rouser, or someone who liked to stir up large groups of people for his own entertainment.

With being known as a rebel-rouser his whole life, it is no surprise that Ethan would fight in every war during his life. He first joined the military during the French and Indian war. After this war, Ethan settled in what is now known as Vermont. However, during Ethan’s time, New York and New Hampshire were claiming the land as their own. In 1770, New York ruled that New Hampshire Grants were invalid and therefore the land did not belong to them. In response, a group known as the Green Mountain Boys came together to stop New York from taking their land. The leader of this group was Ethan.

Once the American Revolution started in 1775, the Green Mountain Boys turned to supporting the American Colonies. Ethan Allen, along with Benedict Arnold, led the group in capturing Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Believing they could do more, the group tried to capture Montreal but failed. This failure led to the capture of Ethan and being sent off to spend two years in the Cornwall, England prison. After his release, Ethan returned to Vermont, which was not part of the United States or British America. In response, Ethan tried to negotiate with Canada, however, this only made him untrustworthy to everyone else. Ethan died in his Vermont home in 1789, two years before Vermont joined the United States.