If you’ve ever seen the musical The Sound of Music, one particular tune begins with the lyric:
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
I suppose if I wanted to go CLEAR back to the beginning, that would mean Adam in the Garden. But since I’ve drawn an invisible line in the sand with my research that happens to coincide with where the Atlantic Ocean begins/ends, I look at the ancestor that I have thus far been able to trace the furthest back before hitting that wall of water.
Lawrence Southwick and Cassandra Burnell were both immigrants from England, both born within a few years of one another right around 1600. According to parish records, they were married on 25 Jan 1623 in St. Mary’s Church – Kingswinford, Staffordshire, England. Although there is a record of them arriving here on the Mayflower, don’t be too quick to mistake it for THE Mayflower. It was a similar time frame, yet they’re not listed on the passenger list for the original ship in 1620. The possibility and belief is that there was a 2nd Mayflower ship that arrived sometime later with Lawrence who came first and then returned for his bride bringing Cassandra and their children with him on a separate voyage.
Everytime I locate an ancestor who has made a move, especially one away from home to start a new life, I have to ask myself questions. Why would they leave? What would make them walk away from the life as they knew it? What were they looking for?
History lesson 101 boys and girls, it was all about (well, mostly about) religion.
The first permanent settlers here were Puritans – English Separatists who broke away from the Church of England and were committed to a life lived based on the Bible. They weren’t satisfied that the Reformation had gone as far as it should have, and they wanted to pull away from practices they felt were too similar to those in the Catholic Church.
In 1656, however, when the first Quaker missionaries arrived in the colonies, there were conversions to this new way of religious thinking and the Puritans began to persecute those who came here to convert as well as those who converted. Sadly among those persecuted were my 10th great-grandparents, Lawrence and Cassandra.
They, and their children, at some point chose to worship away and separate from the legalistic church that had been established by the colonists. Regularly. In fact, there are multiple records of the couple, as well as their son, Josiah, being fined for their absence from the regular services on Sundays. The Southwicks, being an aged couple, would remain imprisoned for weeks at a time, were released, and then upon their “usual absence” or being found to have met with or hosting other Quaker Friends in their home, they would once again be taken into custody, fined, and sometimes even whipped.
In the fall of 1658, the couple and their oldest son were imprisoned and Cassandra was whipped again. While they were detained, a son and daughter who were left at home, continued on with the religious practice of their parents. In doing so, these two – Daniel and Provided Southwick, were fined accordingly. However, the family had been reduced to poverty by the number of excessive fines and punishments and they had no way to pay, so it was decreed that the two children would be sold as bond-slaves. (Thankfully, this never came to pass.) Lawrence and Cassandra, meanwhile, after many attempts to convince and be reformed, were ordered to leave – to “depart out of this jurisdiction…or be banished under the pain of death.” The Governor believed they should have been hanged for being blasphemers and heretics. But upon their release, they returned instead to their family and their home rather than leaving as they were told to.
Six months passed and they appeared before the Governor again, being questioned for the disobedience to his order. Simply put, the “condemned” stated they had done nothing to warrant such treatment, fines, or the threat of banishment. The reply was that these people stood against the authority of the country in not submitting to its laws; and that “they and the church people are not able well to live together…” The sentence of banishment was then pronounced upon them, and only two weeks’ time was allowed in which to settle their affairs and bid “good-bye” forever to their families and their friends.
The fight was over. With no means to support the family after extravagant and excessive fines, their farm and livelihood forever ruined, Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick made their way to Shelter Island on Long Island to escape one and for all the persecution they had suffered as Quakers. There they found refuge with Nathan Sylvestor and his family – who although may or may not have been a Quaker himself, it is known that he detested the religious intolerance of that time and was happy to provide a place of relief.
It was on Shelter Island that Lawrence Southwick passed away on 10 May 1660 and Cassandra only 3 days later. There are no headstones marking their final resting place, but a memorial stands at Sylvestor Manor for all of those who sought asylum with the family there.
Southwick Memorial at Sylvester Manor Cemetery on Shelter Island, Long Island, New York (Image located at Findagrave.com)
Their son, Josiah, who had also been banished, made his way to Rhode Island, the only other known place where those persecuted as Quakers could find safety. He and his wife, Mary (Boyce), had a daughter. Deborah Southwick…my 8th great-grandmother.