Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Treason and Trial of Edward Gove

Sometimes in the course of researching family history a story arises that should be put down in our family collection of stories, and this is one.

Londoner John Gove, a brazier (brass worker), sailed to Charlestown (now Boston) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 with three children, John, Edward, and young Mary, and there bought a house. He died in 1647, leaving 50 shillings each to 16 year old John and 18 year old Edward. Mary was given to a family friend, Ralph Mousall, a turner (in pottery he turns the dried clay ware to the required outline before firing). John appears to have apprenticed himself to Mr. Mousall as he also becomes a turner, leading a somewhat traditional life in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and outliving three wives.

This story is about Edward. Readers, beware, this is a long story but read through to the end.

Edward moved up the coast of Massachusetts to Salisbury by age 27, farmed, and began buying and selling land by the time he was thirty. He married a girl from Salisbury moved his family to Hampton, in New Hampshire but bordering Massachusetts, when he was 35. Keep in mind there was a fair amount of dickering about territory in those days beyond the scope of this story.

He was described as a “strenuous man, frank even to bluntness” and “quickly sought to avenge himself”, resulting in being brought before the court for verbal and personal assaults on several occasions. By age 50, he was a lieutenant in the militia and represented Hampton in the first assembly of the royal province of New Hampshire. We could say he seemed to have some leadership abilities and didn’t lack in assertiveness.

Edward is credited with leading the “first American Revolution” against the English appointed governor, Edward Cranfield, in 1682-83, not unlike the Boston Tea Party some eighty five years later. In short, the issue involved issues of jurisdiction, land ownership, taxation, and kickbacks to the king and probably the greedy Governor Cranfield.

He (Governor Cranfield) demanded all the Antient records & Deeds of the Inhabitants lands, which were granted him by his Majesty's Predecessors to their Fathers & by them purchased of the natives & enjoyed about 50 years. And because the said Edward Gove seem'd to oppose those (as he believed) unwarrantable proceedings, he questioned Edw. Gove before the Councill & Assembly and threatened to punish him at Comon Pleas & indite him at White hall, & then dissolved the Assembly

After the dissolution of the Assembly he imposed Custom upon merchant's ships these by his own Authority which was unknown before. Hereupon the said Edw. Gove was much troubled in mind and these and other the violent proceedings of Mr. Cranfield had such an influence upon him that it hindered his ordinary Rest, neither had he above 2 hours Sleep in 18 days, whereby he became almost distracted, & during this time 'tis probable that Edw" Gove might say that Mr Cranfield was a Traytor for denying & acting contrary to the Kings Commission, he scarce knowing at that time what he either did or said.


Edward was determined to bring about “reform or revolution”, even if singlehandedly. “Sword drawn, he would not lay it down till he knew who should hold the government”. Governor Cranfield complained to the Lords of Trade and Plantations that Edward was “making it his business to stir up the people in several towns to rebellion”.

Finally, on the night of January 27, 1683, Edward and his rebels rode into the town of Hampton, “armed with swords, pistols and guns, a trumpet sounding, and with his sword drawn riding at their head”.

Edward and his rebels were arrested and a trial held five days later in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The prisoners being indited according to ye presentment of ye Grand Jury, they severally pleaded not guilty, & being demanded how they would be tryed, they said, by God & Country.

The witnesses were sworne one by one thus. The evidence that you shall give on y behalf of our Sover. Lord and King against prisoners at the Barr shall be ye truth, ye whole truth & Nothing but the Truth. So help you God.

Richard Martin of Portsm. Esq being sworne, saith That upon Thursday night last past about Eight of the Clock, Edward Gove & Jonathan Thing came to the Deponents House & asked if Mr Moody were there. I told him no, I thought he was at home, he told me he was not at home. I told him then I thought he was at Mrs Cutts. he then asked me how things looked here. I told him as they used to doe. I asked him whether he went home tomorrow. He told me no, he was upon a designe, & said, we have swords by our sides as well as others & would see things mended before we will lay them downe. I told him he spake great words, & wished him to be moderate & serious in his words & actions about such matters, he told me he was going to Dover, & we should hear further from him in three or four days & then went away from my house, & I have not seen him since.

Jonathan Thing, yeoman, being sworne, deposed the same as Richard Martin did.

Reuben Hull of Portsmouth mere', being sworne, saith That being at Dover on Friday the 26 of January 1682 as I was going in my Cannoe to come home I mett with Edward Gove having his sword & boots on. how now, Gove, said I, where are you bound? Whats ye matter with you? matter ! says he, matter enough. We at Hampton have had a Towne meeting & we are resolved as one man that things shall not be carried on end as it is like to be, & we have all our Guns ready, to stand upon our guard. And I have been at Exeter, & they are resolved to doe ye same, said he. I have my sword by my side, & brought my Carabine also with me which I have left some where, said he, Jonathan Thing came with me. I have left him at Portsm. to treat with John Pickering & some others & I am going to Major Waldern's to see what he will say to it. he said the Governor had stretched his Commission, & said I to him, Gove, what are you mad, do you know what you are going to doe? said he, if you will be of the other side, wee shall know you. And if they should take me & put me to Gaol I have them that will bring me out. he asked me to goe to Joseph Beard with him : but I told him I would not, & so did part with him.

Nathaniel Weare, one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace in ye Towne of Hampton being sworne saith. That on the 27 of Jan., as I take it ye Constable William Marston, ye Marshall, & Samuel Sherborn came to my house in ye night, & called me up, delivered me a Warrant from the Hon Governor. I did accordingly. Soon after our return from Edward Goves house, I heard a Trumpett sound, & being exceedingly troubled & desirous to know the cause, while I considered the matter ye Marshall, ye Constable & Samuel Sherborn came again to my house. I told ye Constable he knew what he had to do by ye warrant he had in relation to Gove & I required him to seize ye person that did sound the Trumpett. Soon after Edward Gove came to my yard, near ye door, some person called. I went out & desired them to come in, but Edward Gove & one with him that I did take to be Nathaniel Lad, they said they would not come in to be taken in a house, they went away, & I saw them no more till they were taken at ye Towne.

Henry Green of Hampton one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace, being sworn, saith, That upon the 27 of Jan. 1682 I saw Edward Gove come into Towne with a Trumpett with him and several men with him in two files several of them having arms, they were taken & secured by a Guard. Soon after I being informed ye Prisoners were broke out, I made haste to Cornett Sherborns, I being at Mr Cotton's, & when I came, Edward Gove & his company were out, & Gove presented a Gun at me.

Henry Roby of Hampton yeoman being sworn deposed ye same as Henry Green did. And further saith That Edward Gove presented his gun with ye company, when they broke prison.

William Marston of Hampton Constable being sworn saith, That immediately upon receipt of ye warrant to apprehend Edward Gove, I went in pursuance of ye same with others to his house, making diligent search, but could not find him, then coming homeward in ye night, when I could not well see, I heard ye Trumpett sound & quickly mett with said Gove with Trumpeter going towards Gove's house, but being well mounted they got past us, & said Gove said he would not speak with me there, but at his house, but when I came to his house, the string of the latch was in, but said Gove bid ye door to be opened, but ye said Gove stood upon his defence with his sword (or cutlash) drawn in his hand to- wards me, saying hand off, I know your business as well as yourself, saying I will not be taken in my house, upon which words Nathaniel Lad, ye Trumpeter stepped to him to assist him with his sword or cutlash drawne towards my breast, upon which I was constrained to goe to raise more Aid. But in ye mean while when I came again, they were quickly mounted & rid away four in company, ye said Gove & Lad, John Gove and William Hely, and I saw them no more till ye next morning when they came towards Mr Sherborns in two files, with their arms mounted, Edward Gove in ye front & ye Trumpeter sounded. Upon ye Leiutenants speaking to them, they made no resistance, but delivered their arms & dismounted, & I seized Edward Gove, & by order of ye Justices I seized the rest of his company, & commanded them up ye chamber, & sett a guard by order of our Justices.

The prisoners made their answer in defence Edward Gove did acknowledge that what was sworn against him was true, & withal railed at ye Governor, & said he was a Traitor & acted by a pretended Commission, & that he should have those that would fetch him out of prison, and demeaned himself with great insolence & impudence.

John Gove owned he was in ye Company at ye time of ye break of prison at Hampton with ye prisoners at ye barr, and that he went along with Edward Gove his father by his command.

William Hely confessed That his rising in arms was for liberty, & that he did say so, because he heard Edward Gove say the same words, & that he was in company at ye break of prison, & stood upon his defence.

Joseph Hadley owned he was in Goves company with others when he was apprehended & broke prison. Robert Wadley confessed the same.
Thomas Rawlins confessed the same Mark Baker confessed the same & that Edward Gove putt a pistoll in his hand.
John Sleper confessed ye same, but that having made his escape, he did withal in one hour surrender himself.
John Wadley confessed he was in company of Edward Gove when apprehended, but that he did not break prison

The Jury being withdrawne for six hours or more brought in their Verdict as followeth —

Edward Gove, guilty according to the inditement.


The judge, with tears in his eyes, sentenced Edward to death:

You Edward Gove shall be drawn on a Hedge to the place of Execution, & there you shall be hanged by ye neck, And when yet living be cut down & cast on ye ground, & your bowels shall be taken out of your belly, & your privy members cut off & burnt while you are yet alive, your head shall be cutt off, & your body divided in four parts, & your head & quarters shall be placed where our Soveraigne Lord ye King pleaseth to appoint. And ye Lord have mercy on your Soul.

His son, John Gove, was pardoned. Edward’s estate was seized and forfeited to the Crown and his family left destitute. Fearing to execute Edward locally, the Governor sent Edward to England where he spent three years in the Tower of London before being pardoned by the King.

The people were outraged at Edward’s sentence and continued resistance against Governor Cranfield’s taxation, throwing scalding water on tax collectors when they arrived at the door, roughly handling officials trying to enforce the Governor’s laws, until finally Cranfield was removed by the King. After receiving word of his removal, a self appointed committee escorted him to a nearby town with a rope around his neck and legs tied until the belly of the horse.

Edward returned home to Hampton after the pardon and his estate was restored. He died there in 1691, contending a slow poison had been administered to him in the Tower.

A commemorative stone is placed in Newbury, Massachusetts:



In honor of Edward Gove, patriot, assemblyman, convicted of high treason for attempting to incite a rebellion in 1683 against King Charles II of England. Sentenced to be hanged and later pardoned by King James II.


Edward is our 8th great grand uncle. His brother, John, is our direct ancestor, our 8th great grandfather. The different paths of their lives may well be explained by what we would call a mental disorder these days. More evidence on that in the next post.

* Material derived from The Gove Book, History and Genealogy of The American Family of Gove and Notes of European Goves, by William Henry Gove, 1922.

3 comments:

jenjigirl said...

Fascinating story, Mom. Looking forward to the second installment.

Pat said...

So I'm thinking that this malcontentism must be hereditary...

Katharine said...

Well, there is another name for it. Stay tuned for sequel.