Saturday, December 18, 2010

ranting quakers

The middle of the seventeenth century was a period of religious turmoil in England and America. There's much written about the theological battles which accompanied the English Civil War and its aftermath.[1] Conflicts among sects in the American colonies have drawn less attention, mainly, it appears, because these conflicts could be resolved by the stronger party banishing the weaker one to the wilderness outside settled areas.[2] Surprisingly, in the vicinity of Newtown (where my great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller, built a house), the faithful of differing beliefs generally managed to coexist with little friction. There, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and the Calvinists whom everyone called Independents tolerated one another well enough to keep any differences out of official records.[3] The conflicts that do show up in these documents concern smaller groups, in particular the Quakers. The first Quakers on western Long Island had gained the right to practice their faith through their own stubborn efforts and the steadfast support of their neighbors.[4] They convinced quite a few others to join them (including many of my ancestors) and the Society of Friends established itself solidly and permanently in Flushing and, later, also in Newtown.[5]

The Quakers' success was not complete however. They suffered both from the persistence an early tendency of Friends to excessive enthusiasm and from an outbreak of excessive enthusiasm within the local community at large.[6] The problem of over-enthusiastic Friends was a manifestation of Quakerism in what one writer calls as "a tremendous flame, burning across the countryside."[7] Early Quakers could be and often were ecstatic in expressing their beliefs.[8] The tendency to extreme behavior within the community at large was mostly a wild outpouring which contemporaries called ranting.

Ranters was a collective term used against any group that flouted the social and religious norms held by the majority of the population.[9] Ranters were disorganized and anarchic. Part of an upsurge of "secular and theological individualism," they seem to have emerged when traditional authority structures of church and state lost their grip during the English Civil War.[10]

Quakers were greatly troubled by ranters. It was bad enough that Ranters disrupted Quaker meetings; worse that, to contemporaries, the distinction between ranter and Quaker was not easily made.[11] Quakers were mortified to find ranters identified as "Young Quakers," "New Quakers," "Singing Quakers," or "Half Quakers." In 1687, a colonial governor of New York complained of "an abundance of Quaker Preachers; men and women; especially Singing Quakers, Ranting Quakers."[12] And, indeed, those ranters were often former Friends and many called themselves Friends. According to one Quaker historian, "Among the groups of Anabaptists, Seekers, and so-called 'Antinomians,' wherever they appeared, there formed a radical wing composed of those who were less stable mentally, less organized morally, and less under the social direction of the groups to which they belonged. The Friends, with their lack of ecclesiastical authority, and with their doctrine of the Light within, were almost certain to suffer from the Ranter propagandism, and the movement did pick off some of the members who were ill-balanced and easy subjects of fanaticism. The Quaker leaders had powerfully proclaimed the possibility of complete salvation from sin, and it was only to be expected that some emotional Quakers, especially such as had a strain of hysteria, would make extravagant claims."[13]

Quakers in Newtown suffered from the antics of ranters. Writing in 1852, a writer for the Friends Intelligencer says, "The early history of Friends in Newtown and Maspeth Kills is marred by the irregularities of the Ranters, who claimed to be Friends, and intruded on their meetings. Such was Thomas Case, who (1674) was forbidden by the Court to entertain the wife of William Smith. His wife, Mary Case, was fined £5 for interrupting Rev. William Leveridge, while preaching, by saying to him: 'Come down, thou whited wall that feedest thyself and starvest the people.' Samuel Scudder sent a long, scandalous letter to Mr. Leveridge. The Court put Case and Scudder under bonds not 'to seduce and disturb the people.'"[14]

None of these people were itinerant troublemakers. All of them — Thomas Case and his wife Mary, Mrs. Smith, William Leverich, and Samuel Scudder — were all Newtown residents. Case, Smith, and Scudder were freeholders, men of property, heads of families that had settled the area when it was still Dutch New Netherland. It's apparent that they believed deeply in the radical cause they espoused and did not scruple to offend their neighbors in their efforts to convert the right path they felt themselves to be following.

We know of their actions from court records. The offense committed by Mary Case was both brief and sensational. She entered the Anglican church in Newtown on Sunday afternoon, September 5, 1675, and berated Rev. Leverich in the pulpit and, at length, the constable being called, she went quietly with him. Here's the text of the accusation given at the October assizes:
A Presentm't brought by the Constable of New Towne against Mary Case, for disturbance of the Minister of New Towne, in time of Service.

Capt. Coe declares That bee was then there, and heard say to the Minister, Come down thou whited Wall, thou art one that feedest thy selfe and starvest thy flock, and as bee thinks Seducer.

A warrant to bee sent for her, to bee here on Tuesday morne.
Called to account, she said simply she "went in obedience to the Lord, to declare against Mr. Leverich's doctrines." The court convicted her of causing a disturbance and gave this sentence: "Mary Case for disturbing Mr Leverich and the Congregaton, the Judgment of the Court is, that shee shall Pay immediately the Some of five Pounds to the King, and to Continue in Prison till it be paid, after w'ch to bee of the good Behavior."

Documents do not tell us what it was Samuel Scudder wrote to Rev. Leverich that was so scandalous. Regarding William Smith's complaint against Thomas Case I have found no details, but about his other transgressions they have much to say. Witnesses told the court that he preached and in other ways behaved like an ordained minister although not ordained and he made blasphemous claims of sainthood and worse. Here are extracts from court documents on his actions:[15]
Mr Cornell Sworne: Saith that yesterday was three weekes, hee Saw Tho: Case [i.e., Thomas Case] at flushing at John Bouno's [i.e., Bowne's, about whom I've previously written] or before his Doore and did see him make a great disturbance there.

Mr Wandall Sworne, Saith, That hee hath knowne Tho: Case Seu'rall times since his being Bound to the Good Behavior, Preaching and denouncing Judgm't against ye People; And having severall people from Oyster Bay and other Places, at his House Some Singing, and others in other Postures wth seurall Tones; In Particular of Sam'l Scudders strange Actings, and others in Cases House, lying like Doggs, Hoggs and Cowes.

John Woolstoncraft, Saith, That Tho: Case told him at a particular time there was a great smell of Brimstone, hee replied, bee was afraid Case was going that way.

Another time, that David Jennings fell downe, as if dead, and Case undertooke to bring him to life.

Mr Cornell Saith, hee hath w'th drawne several from their ffamilyes, particularly one Edward Banbury of Mad-Nans Neck who neglected his ffamily, so that hee and his ffamily, were ready to Starve.

Thomas Wandall Saith, that there was a meeting at his House, for 14 dayes together, and Keepes many poore People from their ffamilyes and businesse.

James Way, Saith, that about a yeare & halfe agoe Tho: Case told him hee was God, But afterwards hee said hee was of God, and so must hee bee, or bee of the Devill.

William Wyat, Saith, that going once to heare Tho: Case preach, hee heard him say, that when hee should dye, hee should rise againe the third day.[16]
We know that Thomas and Mary Case continued to reside in Newtown after serving their sentences. Two wills of a few years later (1679) name Mary as a legatee.[17] We also know that Thomas Case, along with John Bowne, was considered to be a prominent member of the first Friends Meeting in Newtown in 1659.[18]

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This photo of the old Leverich homestead gives an idea of what Thomas Cases's and Samuel Scudder's houses looked like.

{The Leverich Family Homestead - south side of Trains Meadow Road -Newtown, Queens County, Long Island, New York - before 1909. Built by 2-Caleb Leverich about 1670. Caleb's grandson 4-John Leverich built an addition to the homestead in 1732. This eastern view is now 35th Road from 70th Street Image and descriptive caption from the collection of Catherine Gregory of Woodside, N.Y. Used with permission. Mrs. Gregory is the author of Woodside, Queens County, New York: A Historical Perspective 1652-1994. found on http://www.leverichgenealogy.org/}

This land transfer to Thomas Case in 1680 mentions his property as a boundary:

{source: Extracts from the Records of Newtown in Newtown Register, July 17, 1884}

Oddly, a record survives of a court case in which Thomas Case is required to give security that he will not spend money or dispose of property that belongs to his wife Mary Case as a beneficiary of her late husband's will:

{Colonial Records, General Entries, V. 1, 1664-65, Transcribed from Manuscripts in the State Library: State Library Bulletin, History, No. 2, May 1898, in Annual report of the New York State Library}

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Some sources:

The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus M. Jones (London, Macmillan, 1911)

Walter Bowne (1770-1846)

Daybooks and Notebooks, Volume 2: Daybooks: December 1881-1891, by Walt Whitman (NYU Press, 2007)

Family of Joseph Thorne and Mary Johana Bowne

Joseph Thorne b. 1667 m. Martha Johanna Bowne, b. 1673, was a sister of Mary Bowne, who married Joseph Thorne's uncle Joseph Thorn

DESCENDANTS OF ANTHONY BOWNE - 3. Mary born 6 Jan 1660/1; died 1728 Woodbridge Somerset Co. NJ; married 1680 Joseph Thorne born about 1642 Flushing NY; died 3 May 1727 Flushing NY; son of William Thorne and Susannah Boothe. 8. Martha Johanah born 17 Aug 1673; died 1 Aug 1750 Flushing NY; married 9 Nov 1695 Joseph Thorne born 9 Nov 1668 Flushing NY; died July 1753 Flushing NY; son of John Thorne and Mary Parsell.

The neighborhoods of Queens, Bowne timeline

Bowne House - Queens NY The History Of Religious Freedom In America

Scriptural Notes of Rev. William Leverich (Newtown Town Records: Municipal Archives of the City of New York)

A History of Flushing Meeting

William Bowne, of Yorkshire, England and his descendants

LEVERICH (LEVERIDGE) FAMILY HISTORY AND GENEALOGY

Woodside: a tour through the past, present, and culture of a historic urban community

JOHN BOWNE OF FLUSHING, 1627-1095. WITH A SHORT ACCOUNT OF THE BI-CENTENN1AL ANNIVERSARY OF THE NEW YORK YEARLY MEETING OF FRIENDS, 1695-1895, AS OBSERVED AT FLUSHING, LONG ISLAND. IN FIFTH MONTH, 1895. [Excerpts from pamphlet report of proceedings, published at expense of both yearly meetings, by Friends Book & Tract Committee, 45 East Tenth street, New York.] found in Annals of our colonial ancestors and their descendants: or, Our Quaker forefathers and their posterity by Ambrose Milton Shotwell (Printed for the author by R. Smith & co., 1895)

The annals of Newtown, in Queens county, New-York by James Riker (D. Fanshaw, 1852)

Annual report of the State Historian of New York, Vol. 3 (Wynkoop, Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers, 1898)

Annual report of the New York State Library

The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 by John L. Brooke (Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Quakers, Ranters, and the present by Simon St.Laurent, July 25, 2006

Abstracts of wills on file in the Surrogate's office: city of New York, Surrogate's Court (New York County), Prerogative Court, in Collections of the New-York Historical Society, Volume 25, 1892 (Printed for the Society, 1893)

The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus Matthew Jones, Amelia (Mott) Gummere, Isaac Sharpless, Isaac (London, Macmillan, 1911)

History of Long island: containing an account of the discovery and settlement; with other important and interesting matters to the present time by Benjamin Franklin Thompson (E. French, 1839)

Militant Seedbeds Of Early Quakerism by David Boulton

George Fox and Friends, in THE QUAKERS, Money and Morals, by y James Walvin

Friends' intelligencer, Wm W. Moore, Vol. 35, 1879

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Notes:

[1] Regarding turmoil in Great Britain, see, for example, George Fox and Friends, in THE QUAKERS, Money and Morals, by y James Walvin, who says: "In the 1640s... the entire nation was racked by personal and social agitations that had been whipped up by a bloody and vengeful civil war. That decade, and the Interregnum years of the 1650s, formed what Christopher Hill has described as 'the greatest upheaval in English history'. Old assumptions and beliefs -- old certainties -- were shattered by the convulsion of religious and political freedoms which had scarred most people in some way or other. The traditional acceptance that all English people belonged to the national Church and must worship as a matter of obligation was destroyed for ever. As the world turned upside-down, religious and political groupings of the most varied (and sometimes most bizarre) kind sprang up across the nation. Unleashed by the collapse of draconian censorship laws, books and tracts flew off the presses in unprecedented numbers, speaking for each and every sect and radical splinter group. The printed word was eagerly devoured by a curious readership that had been previously kept in check."

[2] See for example the article on Massachusetts in Encyclopedia of American religion and politics edited by Paul A. Djupe and Laura R. Olson (Infobase Publishing, 2003)

[3] In all of the colony of New York, wrote its governor in 1678, "There are here Religions of all sorts, one church of England, several Presbiterians and Independents, Quakers and Anabaptists of several sects, some Jews, but Presbiterians and Independents most numerous and substantial." -- Governor Andros on the religious condition of the Province of New York in 1678, quoted in The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus Matthew Jones, Amelia (Mott) Gummere, Isaac Sharpless, Isaac (London, Macmillan, 1911). John Bowne, as I've said, convinced directors of the Dutch West India Company to countermand an attack on Quakers by the governor of New Netherland. The result was a guarantee of free religious expression and, to large extent, accompanying freedom from religious strife.

[4] I've written about the struggle between locals and the Dutch government of New Netherland on previous occasions. See Bownes, Newtown families, and love, peace and liberty condemn hatred, war and bondage. In convincing the directors of the West India Company to end persecution, John Bowne — the "blameless John Bowne" — did more than any other to end Stuyvesant's legal assault on Quakers. This comes from Quaker historian Rufus Jones:
Soon after his return as a free man, John Bowne was walking the street of Flushing and met the Governor. The chief magistrate "seemed much abashed for what he had done," but showed his manliness by saying, "I am glad to see you safe home again." The straightforward Quaker acknowledged his greeting and added, "I hope thou wilt never harm any more Friends." And he never did. Bowne's victory had, as moral victories generally do have, far-reaching consequences. He not only won his personal freedom, but he called forth from the Directors of the Colony a proclamation of the principle of complete religious toleration, "The consciences of men ought to remain free and unshackled." But that was not all. When the next year the Colony was conquered by the English, an article establishing "liberty of conscience in divine worship and church discipline" for all Dutch subjects was put in the articles of agreement surrendering the territory. In 1664, the year the Colony passed into English control, the "Duke s law" provided that "no person shall be molested, fined, or imprisoned for differing in judgment in matters of religion," and from that time on the principle was recognised throughout the Colony as a fundamental right, though in practice it was still occasion ally violated. -- The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus M. Jones (London, Macmillan, 1911).
[5] Flushing: "Built in 1694 by John Bowne and other early Quakers, the Old Quaker Meeting House is, by all known accounts, the oldest house of worship in New York State and the second oldest Quaker meeting house in the nation." -- Flushing Quaker Meeting House. Newtown: "The Friends, or Quakers, who hitherto had held connection with the society at Flushing, having increased to a goodly number, resolved to erect a house of worship in the village of Newtown. On Feb. 25th, 1720, Robert Field, a leading member of that persuasion, bought of Benjamin Moore about half an acre of ground, on the corner now occupied by the residence of Robert Mack, which he conveyed, July 5th, 1722, to Joseph Rodman, Richard Betts, and Richard Hallett, " in trust for and in behalf of the people of God called Quakers," and a meeting-house was immediately erected thereon, where the Friends long continued to hold their convocations." The annals of Newtown, in Queens county, New-York containing its history from its first settlement, together with many interesting facts concerning the adjacent towns; also, a particular account of numerous Long island families now spread over this and various other states of the union by James Riker (D. Fanshaw, 1852)

[6] One writer of our time says that "Quakerism in 1652 is a tremendous flame, burning across the countryside. 1659 is probably the peak of political radicalism for Quakerism as a movement. By 1690, those flames are cooling to embers, embers which have sustained Quakerism to the present, through a long list of additional shifts." Using here the old sense of the word enthusiasm: "Possession by a god, supernatural inspiration, prophetic or poetic frenzy; an occasion or manifestation of these." -- OED.

[7] Quoted from Quakers, Ranters, and the present by Simon St.Laurent.

[8] Contemporaries were shocked by "quaking fits" of some Quakers. Others complained about their public denunciations of priests and ministers (an example of this rhetoric: "the plagues of god shall fall upon the and the seven vials shall be poured out upon thee and the millstone shall fall upon thee and crush thee as dust beneath the Lord's fee how can thou escape the damnation of hell."). Still others offended by their eccentricities, such as going unclothed in public places. See The Quakers in America by Thomas D. Hamm

[9] Ranters in the ExLibris pages on English dissenters

[10] George Fox and Friends, in THE QUAKERS, Money and Morals, by y James Walvin

[11] "Friends were much troubled in their meetings with several who had gone from Truth and turned Ranters. They would come, both men and women, into Friends meetings, singing and dancing in a rude manner which was a great exercise [annoyance] to Friends. We staid sometime and had large and precious meetings, at several places. Many of the Ranters came to the meetings and the Lord s power was over them and chained them down. Some of them were reached and brought back to the Truth." -- Journal of William Edmundson quoted in The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus M. Jones (London, Macmillan, 1911).

[12] Report on the Province of New York in 1687 by Governor Donegan, quoted in The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus Matthew Jones, Amelia (Mott) Gummere, Isaac Sharpless, Isaac (London, Macmillan, 1911)

[13] Here is the paragraph: "There was, at least in all the northern Colonies, in the seventeenth century a large and dangerous sprinkling of Ranters. They did not originate from the Quakers, as they ante-dated the latter by some years. They were a part of a widespread, though some what chaotic movement in England, and there was an out-cropping of the same tendency in America. Among the groups of Anabaptists, Seekers, and so-called " Antinomians," wherever they appeared, there formed a radical wing composed of those who were less stable mentally, less organized morally, and less under the social direction of the groups to which they belonged. The Friends, with their lack of ecclesiastical authority, and with their doctrine of the Light within, were almost certain to suffer from the Ranter propagandism, and the move ment did pick off some of the members who were ill-balanced and easy subjects of fanaticism. The Quaker leaders had powerfully proclaimed the possibility of complete salvation from sin, and it was only to be expected that some emotional Quakers, especially such as had a strain of hysteria, would make extravagant claims. One illustration of this Ranter tendency will suffice, taken from the Annals of Newtown, Long Island." -- The Quakers in the American colonies by Rufus M. Jones (London, Macmillan, 1911)
Walter Bowne (1770-1846)

[14] Friends' intelligencer, Wm W. Moore, Vol. 35, 1879

[15] My main source for these court records is Annual report of the State Historian of New York, Vol. 3 (Wynkoop, Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers, 1898)

[16] The whole text:
Mr Cornell Sworne: Saith that yesterday was three weekes, hee Saw Tho: Case [i.e., Thomas Case] at flushing at John Bouno's [i.e., Bowne's, about whom I've previously written] or before his Doore and did see him make a great disturbance there; And bade him go away, and not make such a disturbance, to the w'ch hee Answered, hee would not goe, till hee saw his owne Time.

Mr Wandall Sworne, Saith, That hee hath knowne Tho: Case Seu'rall times since his being Bound to the Good Behavior, Preaching and denouncing Judgm't against ye People; And having severall people from Oyster Bay and other Places, at his House Some Singing, and others in other Postures wth seurall Tones; In Particular of Sam'U Scudders strange Actings, and others in Cases House, lying like Doggs, Hoggs and Cowes: Thoin: Wandall Acts some, It was done before Case. -- David Jennings & John Woolstoncraft Sworne --
Woolstoncraft, Saith, That Tho: Case told him at a particular time there was a great smell of Brimstone, hee replied, bee was afraid Case was going that way.

Another time, that David Jennings fell downe, as if dead, and Case undertooke to bring him to life tho: Wandall was also pr'sent the same time.

Jennings formerly one of the Congregacon relates that hee was as it were, smitten dead at the time Spoken of by ye Lord, as hee thinks.

Hee Saith, when hee was one of them, hee did at first, Shake of his owne accord, but afterwards it tooke him, at unaware, when others did the like.

Hee Confesses that Case hath Preached to him seurall times.

Mr Cornell Saith, hee hath w'th drawne several from their ffamilyes, particularly one Edward Banbury of Mad-Nans Neck who neglected his ffamily, so that hee and his ffamily, were ready to Starve.

That one of Cases Crew pr'tended to have the gift of Languages at times.

Thomas Wandall Saith, that there was a meeting at his House, for 14 dayes together, and Keepes many poore People from their ffamilyes and businesse.

In particular Cleares wife and Applebyes wife (the woman Committed on Saturday).

-- James Way & Tho: Morrell, 1/2 Quakers Declares upon Oath --

James Way, Saith, that about a yeare & halfe agoe Tho: Case told him hee was God, But afterwards hee said hee was of God, and so must hee bee, or bee of the Devill.

Morrell, Relates Cases Catechising of a woman beginning, who made thee &c,

He saith the same as James Way about God.

William Wyat, Saith, that going once to heare Tho: Case preach, hee heard him say, that when hee should dye, hee should rise againe the third day.

Tho: Case being asked the truth of this, saith, It was reveled to him, that hee should rise againe, Wyat Saith That Case pronounced Judgm't against him.

-- Annual report of the State Historian of New York, Vol. 3 (Wynkoop, Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers, 1898)
[17] Thomas continued to reside in Newtown as is evidenced by a Last Will and Testament of April 25, 1694 (See Dr. John Stewart Timeline. Here is the text of the bequests to Mary Case:
Abstracts of Wills Vol I 1665-1707, page 53: Page 211.--JOHN GRAVES, Newtown. "I, John Graves, of Newtown, alias Middleborough, upon Long Island, being sicke and weake." Leaves to his father, Wm. Graves, all houses and land, and makes him executor. "If my sister Hannah or her children survive my father, then the same to go to her or her children." Legacies to Mary, wife of Thomas Case, Mary, wife of John Scudder, and Elizabeth, wife of John Alburtus of said town. Dated July 11, 1679. Witnesses, David Vickree, Mary Scudder.

Abstracts of Wills Vol I 1665-1707, page 53: Page 212.--WM. GRAVES, Newtown. Leaves legacies to Abigail, Mary, Hannah and Rebecca, the daughters of Joseph Phillips, of said town, all under age. Also to Joan Madock, widow to David Vickree, "now in the house with me." To Nicholas Elder, Mary Case, wife of Thomas Case, Mary Scudder, wife of John Scudder. Leaves to his daughter, Hannah Graves, six acres of upland next to the old house in Newtown. Also a cove of meadow near my creeke, and to extend from a certain white oak tree down the said creek to Captain John Coe's creek. Leaves all rest of land and goods to "the little children of my daughter Hannah Graves," and to "my grandchild, Abigail Dibble, now living in Connecticutt." Makes daughter Hannah executor, and Mr. Robert Field, Sr., and Lieut. Gershom Moore executors in trust. Leaves to Mr. Robert Field "my best suit of clothes, and to Lieut. Gershom Moore my beaver hatt, my pipe and my boots which were my son John's, and to George Wood, Sr., my cloak." Dated July 13, 1679. Witnesses, Thomas Eshrington, Nicholas Eades.

-- Abstracts of wills on file in the Surrogate's office: city of New York, Surrogate's Court (New York County), Prerogative Court, in Collections of the New-York Historical Society, Volume 25, 1892 (Printed for the Society, 1893)
[18] This is stated in an article entitled "Quakers on Long Island" which celebrated the 200th anniversary of Matinecock Friends Meeting, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 20, 1923.

1 comment:

inner_child said...

Thank you so much for your informative posting. Thomas Case is believed to be in my family, an uncle many times removed. His brothers William and John Case were noted Puritans of Simsbury, which I have speculated may have bought him some tolerance from the authorities in Maspeth / Newtown.
Paula