My husband's 9th great grandmother's unexpected marriage contract.
In colonial British America (here, New England), the force of the father’s will, the public need to have children brought up, and the mother’s own desires for her children, as well as her own property. And, generally, English Common Law would apply.
Sarah Riddlesdale Heard, upon her remarriage would need to secure her property (here, she owns land in England, she believes).
But if she did not do so, by law at that time, her property would be possessed (or disposed of) by her new husband.
Therefore making a marriage contract at the time was a very smart thing for a woman to do.
About the family: Sarah Riddlesdale’s 1st husband was Luke Heard, a linen weaver, who died in Ipswich MA in 1647, and his short will (not shown here) stipulated the first couple of items in the contract regarding the sons’ inheritance. Sarah, after marrying Joseph Bixby, had my husband's 8th gr grandfather, Daniel Bixby, by him.
Her sons by her late husband were John and Edmund Heard. A grandfather is mentioned in her contract, "Wyatt"-apparently he was a John Wyatt and was Sarah Riddlesdale’s stepfather, whose name presumptively she took as a girl. [This, I read elsewhere, and presume accurate (though it could be Luke Heard’s mother’s father?)].
Her contract provides for
1) the raising of the sons in apprenticeships, and their schooling,
2) for dividing of money to them, and
3) for Sarah’s land in England--to remain hers.
The contract gave her enormous leverage in case her new husband Joseph Bixby, did not live up to the terms of the contract. Well done!
Here is my transcribed version of the marriage contract between Sarah Heard (Riddlesdale) and Joseph Bixby:
"The condition of this obligation is such, yt ye above bounden Joseph Bigsby and Sarah Hearde, (in case they proceed together in marriage intended,) if they or either of them shall doe or cause to bee done these things following:
1. That the two children of the said widow, wch were left unto her by her late husband, Luke Hearde, of Ipswich, Linnen weaver, be well brought up and due meanes be used to teach them to read and write well as soone as they are capable.
2. That at the age of thirteen years at the furthest, they be put forth to be apprentices in such trades as Mr. Nathaniel Rogers, their Grandfather Wyat, and Ensigne Howlet, in writing under their hand, or any two of them in like manner shall advise unto, and the children like of.
3. That unto the said children be paid, at the age of one and twenty years, fifteen pounds given them by will of their father, vis: ten pound to the older, at his time of one and twenty yeares, and five pounds to the younger when he shall bee at the like age: also that the bookes bequeathed them by their father be given them by equall division, according to his will.
4. That five pounds more be paid to the children of the said Sarah,(if living,) or either of them at her will and discretion, as she shall see cause to divide it in even or unequall portions to them, or to give the whole to the younger in case the elder be better provided for.
5. That the said Joseph and Sarah shall doe, or admit to bee done, any such further order as the Court of Ipswich shall see meet to require upon the motion of the said advisors, for the securing of the forementioned dues to the children, as well as for the freeing of the said Joseph and Sarah from any entanglements on the children's part, by reason of her exequetrixship, or otherwise from hence arising beside the direct and true meaning and intent of these conditions.
6. That whereas, there is a portion of land in Asington, in Suffolke, in England, wch shall bee the right of the said Sarah after the decease of her mother (the tenor whereof is not certainly known to us,) if the said lands bee not entailed, then the said Joseph shall not claim any title hereunto by virtue of marriage with the said Sarah, but the said Sarah shall have the whole and sole power to dispose of it, both the use and the gift of it, when and to whom she shall thinke meet. That this obligation shall bee void and of none effect, otherwise to stand and bee of force."
Signed Joseph Bigsby, the mark | of Sarah Heard Witnesses-Margaret Rogers, John Rogers
(This document is found in Essex County Court files at Salem, MA)