1675: Samuel Guile, Puritan rapist

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 1675, in the then-Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony (now Essex County, Massachusetts), 27-year-old Samuel Guile was hanged for “violently and forcibly” raping Mary Ash on Christmas Day the previous year.

What little is known about the case comes from the Records of the Court of assistants of the colony of the Massachusetts bay, 1630-1692, which is available for free with Google Books.

Samuel Guile of Hauerill being Committed to Prison in order to his trial for Comitting a Rape was presented & Indicted by the Grand Jury, was brought from prison to the bar where holding up his hand was Indicted by the name of Samuel Guile for not hauving the feare of God before his eyes & being instigated by the divill did on or about the 25th day of December last in the woods violently and forcibly seize on & Comitt a rape on the body of Mary Ash the wife of John Ash of Amesbury Contrary to the peace of our Soueraigne Lord the King his Croune & dignity the lawes of God & of this jurisdiction — to which he pleaded not Guilty and put himself on God & country. After the Indictment and eudicenes were Read Comitted to the Jury & are on file with the Records of this Court the Jury brought in y’r verdict they found the prisoner at the barr Guilty & he accordingly had sentenc pronounct ag’ him yow Sam Guile are to Goe from hence to yo place from whence yo came & thence to yo place of execution & there be hang till yow be dead wch was accordingly donn 16 october 1675.

His estate paid six pounds, eighteen shillings in court costs and five pounds in damages to Mary.

Although rape was a capital crime, it was inconsistently punished in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1680, five years after Guile swung, William Nelson was convicted of raping a girl under ten and he was only whipped.

Nearly forty years earlier, in 1642, Daniel Fairfield, John Hudson and Jenkin Davis were found guilty of gross immorality for molesting and raping two sisters over a period of years, starting when they weren’t even seven years old. The men confessed to everything but penetration, but the girls’ statements and a physical examination contradicted the suspects’ statements.

Governor John Winthrop was horrified and wrote at length about the case, calling it “a very foul sin.” Fairfield was whipped twice and had his nostrils slit, Hudson and Davis were also whipped and Davis had to wear a halter for life (like a scarlet letter, it would remind everyone of his crime), and all three men were fined heavily … but they were not executed.

One wonders, then, why Samuel Guile was. Did he have a bad reputation? Were Mary and John Ash prominent people? Or did the colonial court just decide they’d better exercise the law to its full extent for once?

On this day..

5 thoughts on “1675: Samuel Guile, Puritan rapist

  1. Is it possible that Guile damaged someone else’s property? That is he raped a married woman, not like the others whose victims appear to all have been unmarried.

    An unpleasant thought I admit, but this was the 17th century.

  2. I would be very interested to find out as this is my 9th great uncle….

    • He was the first son of Samuel Guile the immigrant. Oddly enough when the elder Samuel died many years later he was in his will.

  3. What about the facts behind this are left covered? Were they obliterated because they didn’t support a pre-conceived verdict ) both the Court’s and the future’s)? It would be great to have Guile’s version. It would also be great to have the lady, and her husband’s, version of the facts. Was there a prior knowledge of, or relationship between, the two? Were they strangers, or lovers?

    This is 50 years before the Salem Witch Trails executions .It’s less than 50 afters X=Children conceived the night of the First Thanksgiving aren’t even 21. Massachusetts Bay Colony is *very* fragile. What would its total population have been? How many men were hanged that year? This is a murder mystery waiting to be filmed. What happened to any survivors, and how would you begin to fin out?

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