Testimony about the York County Conspiracy (1661)

William and Mary QuarterlyWilliam and Mary QuarterlyWilliam and Mary Quarterly

In these depositions, taken in January 1661, several indentured servants, captured in an attempt to rebel in York County, explain what their plan was and how it should have been executed. The servants’ overseer, John Parkes, also testified. Some spelling has been updated and contractions expanded.


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William and Mary Quarterly

A Mutiny of the Servants

January the 24th, 1661.

Whereas uppon the Examinacon of severall persons by Major Thomas Beale, Esquire, hee directed his warrant to the High Sherr of Yorke County to take into Custody & deteyn William Clutton till he entred into Bond with good security for his appearance at this Court, who accordingly this day appearing, together with the severall examinants. It evidently appearing that ye said Clutton hath at several times & places uttered & spoken mutinous & seditious words tending to ye tumultuous and dangerous behaviour of severall servants in Yorke parish, as by severall oathes taken in Court appears. It is ordered that the said Sherr againe take the body of the said William Clutton into his safe Custody, & deteyne him till hee give Bond with very good security for his good behaviour, & it is also ordered that John Parkes take speciall care, & have a strict, dilligent eye uppon Isaack friend his servant, who appeares of a turbulent & unquiett spiritt, & the severall magistrates & masters of familyes are also desyred to prevent the like dangerous discourses in yose parts, & lawfully to looke into the practice & behaviour of yeir severall servants, & yat ye severall Oathes & other papers concerning the promises be recorded. William Clutton to pay Court Charges, als Execucon.

The examinacon of Thomas Collins taken before Major Thomas Beale, 6th January, 1661, saiy That being at ye house of Major James Goodwin amongst the servants, they were there talking of their hard usage, & that they had nothing but corne & water, & were not kept according to the Law of the Countrey as one Isaack, now called captaine gen, said for yey ought to have meat 3 times a weeke, & had not, & yerefore it was fit that yhey should Joyne in a petition to send for England to ye king to

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William and Mary Quarterly

have it redressed. To which William Cheshyre Answeared that yey should not find a trusty friend to deliver unlesse it was such an one as old George, for hee had been a servant in the country, and knew the countrey. Then the said Isaack said yat yey would get a matter of fforty of them togeyer, & get Armes & he would be ye first & have them cry as yey went along, ‘who would be for Liberty, and free from bondage,’ & yat yere would enough come to yem & they would goe through the Countrey and kill yose that made any opposition, & that they would either be free or dye for it, to which Will Cheshyre Answered hee would be one, & that hee believed all ye rest of their house would doe ye like; & also one of Mr Hughes servants (which of them he rememberey not being yere) said yat hee would be one with all his heart, when yey would goe about it. And hee furyer saith that he hay heard ye said Isaac speak to this effect severall times, and yat on Satterday last hee being sent unto Jno Parkes of an Errand, & yen yis Examinant going into Major Goodwin’s Quarter, & asking ye servants if John Clarke was not within when yese words was related, the said Isaac said these words, I did say soe & doe say soe still (meaning as is above related), & what then, yey can doe noying at mee for it.

The mark of

Thomas T. Collins

Taken this 6th of Jany, 1661, before me Tho Beale, Jurat in Cur. 24 January, 1661.

The Examinacon of Isaac friend, taken as aforesaid, Saith That hee doy acknowledge that yese words affirmed by Thomas Collins above written to be by him this Examinant spoken hee saiy that it is probably that hee might speake such words when yey were all togeyer, & that if ye said Thomas Collins doe sweare it, it is in vaine for him to deny it, but hee doy not remember yat hee did say soe, & if hee did say soe hee never did goe about it, nor intended to goe about it, & furyer saith that hee were present when William Clutton being in Major Goodwins Qrter told Major Beale amongst ye rest of Major Goodwins servants that servants ought to have pone & hominy & meat twice a weeke.

Isaac Friend.

Taken before mee this 6th of January, 1661, The Beale. Sworne 25th, 1661.

The Exam of William Barton taken before Major Thomas Beale the

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William and Mary Quarterly

sixy day of January, 1661. Saith that hee hay heard William Clutton oft say that when hee ye said William Clutton was a servant hee would have meat three times a week, or else he used to keepe a clash, & that hee comonly had it soe & if that when hee was at work in ye woods if yey sent him bread & cheese if hee yought it too little hee would send it back again, & that ye last yeare of his service was harder then any of ye other. And furyer saith that hee heard yat ye sd Clutton should say that ye reason yat hee would not be Major Beale’s overseer was because hee could not have meat for yem 3 times a weeke & as many cowes for milke as hee himselfe yought good, & that wheresoever hee lived ye servants should have meat 3 times a weeke.

Mark of

Will N. Barton.

The Exam. of George White, taken as aforesaid, Saith that hee hay heard William Clutton say that it was ye Custom of ye Country for servants to have meat 3 times a week, & that ye reason whey hee broake with Major Beale was because hee could not have meat for ye servants there 3 times a weeke.

The Exam of John Parke taken ye 6th day of January, 1661, before Major Thomas Beale saith that Major Beale being at ye house of Major Goodwin where ye said Examinant is overseer, & the sd examinant acquainting the said Major Beale with the refractorines of the said servants, the sd Major Beale going to ye Quarter & demanding of ye servants yere of ye reason of such their refractorines, & telling yem yat ye said John Parkes had ye comand of yem & was as year Master, & that yey ought & must obey him, at which ye said servants being very well sattisfyed till William Clutton came & told Major Beale uppon some discourse betwixt yem that servants ought by ye custome of ye countrey to have meat 3 times a weeke, which hee, speaking in ye hearing of ye said servants, was an occasion of setting them to furyer discontent & murmuring amongst yem till Major Beale pacified yem.

The mark of John J. Parkes.

Warrant of Major Thomas Beale directed to the Constable of ye Lower precinct of Yorke on ye High Sherr his depty or deptys to arrest William Clutton for seditious words & speeches for personal appearance at the next county court.

January 24, 1661
The testimonies of several indentured servants and one overseer are entered into the record of the York County Court. They reveal a plot in which the servants, angry about the lack of meat in their diet, planned to rebel.
APA Citation:
York County Court. Testimony about the York County Conspiracy (1661). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
York County Court. "Testimony about the York County Conspiracy (1661)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 19 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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