Legal Records About Our Ancestors

Legal records provide more vivid portrayals of some of our ancestors, both notorious and innocent.


Laurens "Grootschoe" (Big Shoe) Duyts (1610-1666/7)

indentured laborer and wife-seller

Laurens Duyts came to New Netherland from Denmark as a farm laborer in 1639.

Before me, Cornelis van Tienhoven, Secretary in New Netherland and the undersigned witnesses, appeared Sr. Jonas Bronck [as in the Bronx], of the one part and Pieter Andriessen and Laurens Duyts of the other part, who amicably agreed and contracted as follows:
First: Sr. Bronck shall show to the said parties a certain piece of land, belonging to him, situate on the mainland opposite to the fiats of the Manhates; on which said piece of land they shall have permission to plant tobacco and maize, on the condition, that they shall be obliged to break new land every two years for the planting of tobacco and maize and changing the place, the land, upon which they have planted to remain at the disposal of said Sr. Bronck. They shall also be bound to surrender the land, every time they change, made ready for planting corn and ploughing...
Pieter Andriessen and Laurens Duyts further pledge their persons and property, movable and immovable, present and future, nothing excepted, for the payment of what Sr. Bronck has advanced to them for board on ship 'de Brant van Trogen', amounting to 121 fl. 16 st., of which Pieter Andriessen is to pay fl. 81.4 and Laurens Duyts fl. 40.12. They promise to pay the aforesaid sums by the first ready means, either in tobacco or otherwise and in acknowledgment and token of truth they have signed this respectively.
This is the mark of Laurens Duyts.
Ancestry Incorporated. Immigration Library. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1996.

The records further record several incidents where he did not make payments required by rental agreements. He even sold land he did not own. But the most serious infraction is the following.

Duyts's moral life does not deserve mention. But in order to show how Laurens "Big Shoe" trampled upon the laws of decency and how such a lawbreaker was punished, we relate that Laurens of Holstein received a most severe sentence from Stuyvesant on November 25, 1658. For selling his wife, Ytie Jansen, and forcing her to live in adultery with another man and for living himself also in adultery, he was to have a "rope tied around his neck, and then to be severely flogged, to have his right ear cut off, and to be banished for fifty years."
Danish Immigrants in NY 1630-1674, p.194

He died 7 years later in Bergen, New Jersey.

Norman Clark (1743-1842)

accused of treason

Capt. Norman Clark, a true patriot, served in the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution. He was a minuteman from Princeton called to the Battle of Lexington in 1774 (although his company, commanded by Capt. Moore, arrived after the Battle had occurred 19 Apr 1774). He was a member of the Mass. Militia and volunteered to serve in a company sent to protect New York City from Princeton in 1776, of which he was made Lieutenant. This service led to his injury at the Battle of Harlem when he took a musket ball through his thigh. After his recovery, he served further in 1777. He commanded a company under Gen Starks, stationed to cut off any attempted retreat by Gen. Burgoine near Saratoga, "until the surrender of his army of which he was a witness" (17 Oct 1777).

The American Revolution ended in 1783, but the young republic had many economic problems. Nowhere was this more evident than to the farmers of Western Massachusetts. A severe economic depression forced people unable to pay their debts first into court, then into jail. These troubles were viewed as arising from the greed of the mercantile powers of Eastern Massachusetts, especially Boston, who demanded hard currency to pay foreign creditors. The farmers, after years of frustration, reacted with an armed uprising known as Shays Rebellion that lasted for six months at the end of 1786 and start of 1787.

Norman Clark was "charged with the crime of treason" for his participation in Shays Rebellion. In The New-Hampshire Mercury and the General Advertiser of March 7, 1787 (V. III, iss. CXVII, pg.[1]) is printed a proclamation of the "President" of New-Hampshire, His Excellency John Sullivan, Esq., concerning men charged "with having been principals in, and supporters of a wicked and unnatural rebellion" against Massachusetts who have "secreted themselves in this state." All New Hampshire officials and citizens are enjoined and encouraged to help apprehend any of the 27 men listed so they could be turned over to the Massachusetts authorities. Norman Clark of Princeton is fifth on the list.

I have not found a record of the disposition of these charges, but accounts of the rebellion say that Shays' followers were granted amnesty, although banned from voting, elected office and service on juries for three years.

John Clark Haynes (1763-1854)


John Haynes was born in Grafton Co., New Hampshire. His father, Joseph Haynes, jr., held land in Concord, NH as early as 1797. The earliest newspaper reports for John Haynes refer to him as an innkeeper in Concord in 1802. Further newspaper references show he served as a state senator in 1804, and was on the ballot in 1807.

On 22 Oct. 1808 we find a report in the Portsmouth Oracle that "At the late session of the Superior Court of Judicature in the county of Grafton, John Haynes, Esq. late a member of the New Hampshire Legislature, was convicted of dealing in counterfeit money, and sentenced to pay three hundred dollars fine, and suffer one year's imprisonment." He was 45. Five years later he is reported as arriving in the newly settled Pittsburg, NH from Lisbon.

Another John Haynes appears in records of the period, but he lived continuously in Haverhill, MA and died in 1822 at age 49. This makes it improbable that there is any confusion with John Clark Haynes later found in Lisbon and then in Pittsburg.

John Haynes's name appears as "Haynes" until his appearance in the records of Coos Co., at which time the name starts appearing as "Haines." His grandson, Moody Bedell, reverted to the "Haynes" spelling.

© 2007 Footie Lund