Tuesday, April 1, 2014

#10- Herodias Long’s (Sad) Precedents in Rhode Island

Herodias Long - A Category of Her Own
Herodias Long (m. John Hicks), my 10th great grandmother, is a strange duck, indeed. She is a category of her own.

Herodias Long b 1623 in England

~ Married 1st John Hicks,  Mar 1637 in London England (*my 10th great grandfather)
~ Arrived in Massachusetts in  1638
~ 2 children (incl Thomas Hicks, my 9th great grandfather)
~ Divorced from John Hicks in Rhode Island 1644  (John Hicks moves to Long Island)

~ Married (or co-habited with) 2nd, abt 1644 George Gardiner in Rhode Island
~ They have 6 (or 7?) children
~ Separated 1665 in Rhode Island 

~ Married (or not?) 3rd John Porter in 1688 in Rhode Island

~ Died - Not sure, possibly 1722


Herodias’ name is spelled variously Herodious, Herodius, Harwood, Hardwood, Hoorad, Harood, Hardwood Longh. I’ll stick with Herodias Long for consistency.  

I began writing this story with the thought they both were quite young to be married and then off to the new world, but had the hope that John Hicks could have tried harder to keep the marriage together somehow. 

However as I read her life after John Hicks, I began to really wonder what kind of person she was. Though Herodias is lauded as a forward thinking woman, I’m not quite as enthusiastic.  

It began in London: the bubonic plague had hit England and was still raging in 1637 when John Hicks married Herodias Long in London.

She was between 13 and 14 years old when they were wed at the church of St. Faith-Under-Paul’s, London. It’s unclear if it was an approved wedding (whether there was family in attendance). 


Shortly after they wed, they migrated to New England and stayed for 2 ½ years in Weymouth, MA. There John Hicks was probably granted small parcel of land.

But, neither John nor Herodias Hicks were admitted to Weymouth's Puritan church. This was not a good sign. Massachusetts Bay Colony required strict obedience to their own laws--and admittance to the church was not a trivial thing.

Apparently, John and Herodias found life in Massachusetts Bay Colony too confining. They moved to Rhode Island one year after Anne Hutchison was banished there.

Sometime after March 1639, the Hickses are in Newport, RI. By now they are just three years wed and have a daughter Hannah. 

By Sept 1640 John Hicks was made a freeman in Newport (freeman could vote and own land): he now had a title: “Goodman Hicks” rather than “Hicks” or “John.” 1640 was also the year of their son Thomas’ birth--he was my 9th great grandfather.

But a bit later, by 1643, when the children are 5 and 3 years old, their marriage was in shambles. Herodias is just 20 ½ and John is 31 years old.

This portion of a longer transcription of Herodias to local officials shows: (I updated the spelling)

"This witnesseth that in the year 1643, decemb. the 3d/ Harrwood Hicks, wife to John Hicks, made her Complaint to us of Many grievances, & Extreme violence, that her Husband used towards her & etc.” 
[1939 in the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, Volume 70, pg. 116.Transcribed by Josephine C. Frost for her article, "John and Harwood Hicks,"]
As a result, a few months later, in early March 1644, John Hicks came before the Rhode Island General Court to answer his wife’s December abuse complaint.

Hicks paid for this allegation--he was kept in bond--as he was waiting for Herodias to stand before the court to elaborate on her charge at the next hearing: 

“Memo John Hicks of Nuport was bound to ye pease by ye Govr & Mr Easton in a bond of £10 for beating his wife Harwood Hicks and presented [at this] court was ordered to continue in his bond till ye next C[ourt] upon which his wife to come & give evidence concerning ye case.” 
- Rhode Island colonial records


Nothing. In what becomes her pattern, Herodias chose not to appear before the court to testify against John. **Insert song “Love on the Rocks”**
Thus they were separated. They have the dubious distinction of being the first marriage separation in Rhode Island’s history. Rhode Island didn’t yet have divorce laws, but the Governor thought it wiser to separate the couple.

Since the court could make no decision on the matter, so John was free to go--and he did. He left for Long Island.
So, how did John feel about their estrangement?

While in the process of petitioning for a divorce from Herodias (who was in Rl), John when he sent a letter from Flushing, New Netherlands to the Rhode Island magistrate John Coggeshall.
John wrote to Coggeshall on 12 December 1644, [I updated spelling & punctuation below]

“Now for parting what way there is seeing she have carried the matter so subtly as she have I know not, but if there be any way to be used to untie that Knott, which was at the first by man tied that so the world may be satisfied I am willing there unto, for the Knot of affection on her part have been untied long since, and her whoredom have freed my conscience on the other part, so I Leave myself to your advice being free to condescend to your advice if there may be such a way used for the final parting of us."
Translation: “My wife’s sleeping around. We can’t stand each other. Is there any way for me to get a divorce from her?” Strong language.

~ But, to be fair to Herodias, I’d add what is intolerable as abuse today was more common-although frowned on-at that time. Women were to “obey” their husbands and to keep house. 

~ If I had married at her young age to the first eligible man I had a crush on, I could imagine feeling that I’d made a horrible mistake. At 19, I may have been looking for a more prosperous and stable husband myself.

George Gardner (also spelled Gardiner) and Herodias got married--or so they say--and then they take that back. 
According to them, sometime between 1644-46, they simply “appeared before their friends”-  “who declared one night at his house both of them did say before him and his wife that they did take one the other as man and wife.”  
(If it was close to 1644, then it was very close to the time John Hicks and Herodias were battling one another)

Shortly after the alleged marriage-or co-habitation-(1645-46) their first child (of six) was born.

By the time Herodias’ husband John Hicks was granted a divorce from her in New Netherlands in June 1655, she  and George had five children.
Then in 1657-58 - Rebecca, their 6th [some accounts say 7th] and final child was born: her last child is born and her eldest daughter (John’s daughter), Hannah Hicks, turns 20 years old.

~ I try to understand her behavior in light of her times. Without means of support and a job, as a woman today might have sought, she kind of had to stick with George. She needed a livelihood, and it was through her “husband.” 

 ~ Wedding “before friends” was a common for the religious sects such as Quakers (who still exercise it, though more formally). When later on when she disavowed this “wedding” (read on), the colony had come under more formal terms--and I believe that she was seeking a legitimate way to separate from George but keep what little property she had bought while living with him.

Mary Dyer was a friend of Herodias from Newport, RI,  who had gone back to England on a visit and returned to the colonies as a fervent Quaker. When her friend Mary chose to proselytize to the Puritans in Massachusetts, Herodias’ anti-Puritan sentiments were stirred up. In May 1658 Herodias sets out for a trip to Weymouth to protest the anti-Quaker laws in general (bringing with her help to care for their youngest child). 

She was 

“hurried her away the day following, before John Endicott, Governor of Boston, who after abusing her with unsavory language, and much threatening, committed her and the nursemaid unto the Gaoler [jailer] where they received 10 stripes apiece with the threefold cord of their covenant. “
Though many writers dub her as a loyal Quaker (probably because of this), she seemed to adopt the customs and ideals she preferred. 
I haven’t yet found records of her being a member of a meeting in good standing in Rhode Island. Until I do, I agree that she was an enthusiastic defender of Quakers but not a true Quaker.

George Gardiner, her 2nd husband (?) was weighed in the balances and (like John Hicks) he was found wanting.  

Since around 1664-65, King Charles II was on the throne, and the colony was under Royal oversight, and so the officials in Rhode Island had the power to administer divorces, and etc.

Herodias took advantage of this and petitioned officials for a formal separation from George in which she requested support and property (which at the time was owned by the husband). She also requested he not interfere (“molest”) in her life.  

Not so unusual now--but I do wonder why she calls the child “my” child (I updated the punctuation & spelling):

Herodias pleads:

“I was drawn by Georg Gardener to consent to him so far as I did for maintenance yet with much oppression of spirit.  Judging him not to be my husband never being married to him according to the Law of the place. Also, I told him my oppression, and desired [asked] him, [since] seeing that he had that little that I had, and all my Labor, that he would allow me some maintenance, [to] either to live apart from him, or else not to meddle with me; but he have always refused. 

Therefore my humble petition to your honours is that, of that Estate and Labor [the joint wealth and land] he has had of mine he may allow it me, and that house upon my Land I may Enjoy without molestation. And that he may allow me my Child to bring up with maintenance for her, and that he may be restrained from Ever meddling with me or troubling me more.So shall your poor petitioner ever pray for your honors peace and prosperity-- horod Long”

The Court hears her case but focuses first on whether or not they were married.   The people who previously had defended the legitimacy of their marriage by saying they had attended their "marriage before friends" now testify to court (and agree with Herodias) that they were never married (I'm not sure how the question was framed).  

Herodias isn't seeking a marital divorce--she's seeking court-mandated support from George.  
Why she did she-years earlier-adamantly insist that they were wed, and now she says was not but only sought his help?   

The outcome is that the court is convinced that they were not married--but the consequence of this ruling is bitter and unwelcome: Both George and Herodias are fined 20 pounds each (a stiff fine) for co-habiting (and having children).

As a result of this hearing and its outcome on the day of the hearing, officials passed a law to ban cohabitation.  In addition, if you wed without delay would not only be fined, and their children would be declared legitimate. The penalty for breaking the law was steep.
But there is more to this drama!

On the same day of their hearing (Jun. 5, 1665), the wife of a man named John Porter petitioned the court for relief for herself and her children, claiming that her husband had abandoned her.
The court was sympathetic, and deemed that John Porter’s “personal and real estate” be “secured” as if “seized” and “deposited for the relief of his …wife to her Full satisfaction.”

What makes this dramatic? 

The husband John Porter is the same John Porter who had fallen under  the spell of Herodias. He completely abandoned his wife and children to cohabit with her (under the pretext of being his house servant, according to some accounts).

It's not a stretch to say“spell” after all, she can’t be as fetching as she was when she and John Hicks separated 20+ years prior. The facts tell me that Herodias has now had 8 (or 9) children, and is about 42 years old--she’s not a young lady.

Porter was compliant with the court’s demands regarding his wife's support, and within a couple weeks satisfied what the court demanded he do for her.

So, Herodias and Gardiner part ways because, according to Herodias--Gardner had “neglected her” and “would not supply for her pressing needs.”

Porter was a good deal wealthier than Gardner--and a great deal more wealthy than John Hicks. It seems to me that once Herodias had John Porter in her pocket, she no longer needed George as an alleged husband.

Perhaps I'm being harsh: and it was true that Gardiner was a neglectful slouch. 

One researcher  said: “It could be that ‘her pressing needs’ or it may have been the superior attractions of John Porter, with his great lands and his promises to provide support that awakened questions about the legality of her marriage to Gardiner.” Easy to say from our vantage.

~I try to imagine why: some 20 years on and Herodias had added 6 or 7 children to support, and had no wealth of her own. 

Now that the colony has more formal system of governance and oversight, she’s smart to think of her long-term well-being. To endeavor to extract from George’s holdings what she helped him gain (as his common law wife).

~ At the same time, she has possibly realized that she needs to make the most of her quickly fading “capital” (face, figure, charm). 

Her disavowal of George once she's found prosperous and promising John Porter, is its in a base way (that is, insensitive and crude) understandable.  After all, she still has some children at home.

In Oct 1666  both Herodias Long and John Porter are sent separate summons to appear in court for co-habitation.  Neither of them appeared, though Porter sent in his health as an excuse.

In May of the following year, he (1667) once again begged off a court appearance for the same thing due to his bad health.

Again in October 1667 an indictment was made "against Mr. John Porter of Narragansett in the King's Province and Harrud [Herodias] Long, alias Gardiner, for that they are suspected to cohabit and so to live in way of incontinency."  

Finally, in May of the following year [1668], Porter appeared in court and was acquitted, and by October Herodias was similarly charged, and acquitted, as well.

Court records of course don’t provide any details. 

I do wonder if perhaps John Porter had any influence over the outcomes: his business partner William Brenton was also Rhode Island's governor. Though acquitted, Porter and Long were not yet clear: Porter had a wife Margaret.

I'm not certain if John Porter got a divorce from his wife Margaret, but records show that  Herodias began using “Porter” for her last name for legal documents. We don’t know if they were ever married. 

Porter had promised Herodias that he would give large tracts of land to her children--a promise he kept.  Though Porter kept his promise, and her children by Gardner/Gardiner inherited his valuable lands. 

But for some reason (perhaps because they were grown), neither of the children by John Hicks were included in this inheritance. Herodias was pretty selective as to where she would go: I’m fairly certain the Hicks children never saw their mother in Long Island.  

1 Herodias’ date of death (some have said she died at 100, but that’s not clear). 
2 Whether she was legally married to Porter, or Gardiner/Gardner
3 Unknowable: how badly both George Gardiner/Gardner and John Hicks treated her.

[A recent book on Herodias Long, “Rebel Puritan, A Scandalous Life” by Jo Ann Butler; published by Neverest Press, 2013]


  1. Very interesting! I am also a descendant of Herodias. I was related through George. Cool!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Wow! What a load of judgement for Herodias (my 8th great grandmother(. If Herodias was indeed 13 years old when as she said, after the death of her father and brother since her mother didn't know how to provide for her, she was given to John Hicks a man in his 30s, (child abuse) who married her and took her away from everyone she knew and then physically abused her repeatedly. What recourse did she have? When the courts finally recognized that her life and limb were endangered, they gave her the seperation. So what does John do? He takes her inheritance and her children and flees to "the Dutch" today's New York. Now he applies for divorce claiming she is sleeping around, your words. He didn't appear to use that excuse while he was beating her. Now she is without her children, her possesions (he took her inheritence she had from her mother) and no means to support herself. George Gardner(my 8th great grandfather) provides her that support but it will cost her. She went from one user to another, but at least this one evidently didn't beat her nearly to death. Maybe she was just tired of being used and abused. Then enters John Porter. His wife "an ancient woman" is seperated from him and appeals to the courts for his support which he gives. Maybe he was just a kind old man who saw in Herodias a woman in need and he needed someone to take care of him as well. He was about 70 years old so I can't imagine a lot of cavorting in bed. How dare she live in the same house with him. That was the sin of cohabiting and they were exonerated multiple times probably because he was an old man taking care of a woman in need and she was taking care of him. Why does it have to be that he paid off the courts with his influence. I appreciate John Porter for his care of not only Herodias but providing for her children as well. Their own father didn't. I will champion Herodias always and be greatful I did not live in that day when so little help was available for someone in her situation.

    1. I appreciate your point of view. You perhaps misread that I am sympathetic for I have "a dog in this fight" - I am descended from Herodias Long, as well! I feel it was an ill-advised marriage (her youth was not that unusual for the time). The laws of NE at the time, and for centuries afterward, favored the men: under English Common law which the colonies had in place, ALL POSSESSIONS held in common were the man's. I've read books (historical fiction) which favor Herodias. In the end we all have a judgment, my judgment is that I felt sorry for her--for both her circumstances and the outcomes. It was a horrible era for women, and sometimes worse for married women. I've been married for decades, and know that a happy marriage is an exception, not the norm.

  4. Herodias and John are my 12th great grandparents. Their son Thomas is my 11th great grandfather.

    1. Great! We have common ancestors--my great-great grandmother was a direct descendant of the Hicks. Marianna Hicks married a Hawxhurst, and thusly, the Hicks name came to an end on my side.

  5. I just found this page! Herodias was my 9th great grandmother, thank you for sharing her story.

    1. I'd say you're welcome, but I stand on the shoulders of those who preceded me in research. :) I'm glad you found the page. -

  6. John Hicks and Herodias Long are tenth great grandparents and I found both going up through a line of birthright Quakers in my maternal grandmother's tree. Thomas is a ninth great grandfather. I am currently reading JoAnn Butler's historical fiction based on Herodias. Without work of her own, without reliable birth control and laws which viewed her as her husband's property and in a culture which exercised extreme control over women, and which she was smart enough to realize, Herodias became opportunistic in attempting to better her life. She also took risks in expressing her opinions apparently. She is an interesting character.

    1. Yes, she was, as we all are in some aspects, prisoners of our own time and culture. I haven't written it from her viewpoint. English Common Law gave her no property--but she had a lot of courage, apparently. - Blogger's not allowing me to sign but this is the author, Charity

  7. Hi...cousin? I believe myself to also be descended from Herodias and John Hicks, through Thomas. The line goes through the Hicks Men (John-Thomas-Judge Isaac - James - William - James) to Charles C. Hicks. He and his wife Mary are, I believe, the parents of my great-grandmother Addie 9there's some shenanigans that I can't wait to figure out (fingers crossed) where Charles C Hicks turns up in Montana as Charles Buckman(n). My great-grandmother is usually found under the name Addie Buchman, later Addie Bachman, but on at least one of her daughter's birth certificates she is names Addie Hicks. (She also had enough marriages and perhaps other entanglements to make Herodias blush). I'm amazed to see how well Herodias' family tree is documented...and excited to confirm whether I am part of this very large extended family!

    1. Very interesting! I'll have to pursue this line at some point! My great grandmother finally married out of Long Island in 1900 to a Pennsylvanian Quaker. But I know Hicks who were born and raised on Long Island...of this lineage. -Sorry, Blogger's blocking my account, but I'm the author, Charity J


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