Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Scarlet Letter

In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter, a work of historical fiction that has since been acclaimed as a classic and has been taught in many American schools.  The story is set in 1642 in Massachusetts and focuses on the character of Hester Prynne, who has a child as a result of an adulterous affair and is sentenced to wear a scarlet-colored letter "A", to publicly denote her sin and her shame.

The character of Hester Prynne and many of the elements of the book are said to be based (loosely) on the life of Mrs. Mary Batchelder, who was the fourth wife of Rev. Stephen Batchelder, my direct ancestor.  Stephen moved to New England in 1632 and was a prominent pioneer and minister in what is new Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.  (I descend in 6 different ways - all on the Wadleigh side - from Stephen Batchelder, see below.)  Stephen married his fourth wife, a widow named Mary Beedle, in 1650, when he was very old (probably in his 80's) and she much younger (perhaps in her 20's or 30's).  In 1651, she was discovered to have had an affair with a man named George Rogers and to have become pregnant by him.  In October 1651 in York, Maine, both were tried and convicted of adultery.  Mary was sentenced to have 40 lashes and to be literally branded (probably on her forehead) with the letter "A".  Her sentence was carried out about 6 weeks later, after she had given birth to her child. 

At the time of the trial, both Stephen and Mary tried to obtain a divorce, but were denied one and were told to live together as husband and wife.  Instead, Stephen fled to England and never returned.  In 1656, Mary was finally granted a divorce by claiming that Stephen had taken another wife while in England.  (Ironically, Stephen died a week or two later in England.) Mary later remarried and apparently led a respectable, married life.

Interestingly, in 1641 (long before his marriage to Mary and the subsequent adultery and trial) in Hampton, New Hampshire, Stephen ran into his own scandalous  trouble.  At that time, he was married to wife #3 (Helena) who was described as a "lusty, comely woman".  Stephen apparently was not interested in his wife and instead solicited his neighbor's wife for sex.  She refused and told her husband.  Stephen then complained to the town magistrates that the woman and the husband were slandering him, but when the church got involved, he confessed.  Stephen received no punishment, except to be excommunicated by the church.  He was reinstated into the church a few years later.

Source:
http://www.hampton.lib.nh.us/hampton/biog/bachilerscarletletter.htm

I descend from Stephen Batchelder in 6 different ways, all through his first wife Ann.  All 6 lines of descent from Stephen are on my father's side of the family, the Wadleighs.  Specifically, my great-great-grandfather Oscar Wadleigh is the descendant of all 6 of these lines.

My lines of descent from Stephen to me:
#1
Stephen Batchelder
 Ann Batchelder
   William Sanborn
     William Sanborn
       John Sanborn
         Anna Sanborn
           Mary Dearborn
             James Wadleigh
               James Wadleigh
                 John Wadleigh
                   John B. Wadleigh
                     Oscar S. Wadleigh
                       Odin F. Wadleigh
                         Paul C. Wadleigh
                           Randy Wadleigh
                             Ryan Wadleigh
#2
Stephen Batchelder
 Ann Batchelder
   William Sanborn
     Mehitabel Sanborn
       Samuel Tilton
         Josiah Tilton
           Josiah Tilton
             Josiah Tilton
               Jeremiah D. Tilton
                 Abigail R. Tilton
                   Oscar S. Wadleigh
                   (see #1)
#3
Stephen Batchelder
  Theodate Batchelder
    Mary Hussey
      Mary Page
         Bathsheba Robie
            Joshua Lane
              Sarah Lane
                Ruth Stearns
                  Abigail S. Freese
                    Abigail R. Tilton
                    (see #2)
#4
Stephen Batchelder
  Nathaniel Batchelder
    Nathaniel Batchelder
      Samuel Batchelder
        Mary Batchelder
          Jeremiah Dearborn
            Sarah Dearborn
              Jeremiah D. Tilton
              (see #2)
#5
Stephen Batchelder
  Nathaniel Batchelder
    Nathaniel Batchelder
      Mercy Batchelder
        Nathaniel Dearborn
           Jeremiah Dearborn
           (see #4)
#6
Stephen Batchelder
  Nathaniel Batchelder
    Nathaniel Batchelder
      Nathaniel Batchelder
        John Batchelder
          Ruth Batchelder
            Sarah Lane
            (see #3)

1 comment:

  1. very interestingly cool! Thanks for posting!

    ReplyDelete