Bastard Bearing on the Eastern Shore - Notes from Gail Walczyk

Before the Revolutionary War, when Church and State were one and the same, women were brought into Court for "Bastard Bearing." These women were fined to keep the Parish "harmless," and given a prescribed number of lashes on the bare back, "well laid," by the Sheriff at the whipping post. Sometimes the father was acknowledged. Examples of such cases were:

Walczyk, Frank V., Northampton County Order Book & Wills 1678 - 1683 Book 11, (Coram NY: Peter's Row, p 133.)

At a court held in Northampton County the 31st day of October anno 1681.

Whereas Margarett Crane Servant woman to Capt. Hancock Lee was summoned to this court to answer her presentment for having a bastard child which she confessing and acknowledging in open court. It is therefore the judgement of the court and accordingly ordered that the Sheriff take her into his custody and see that she forthwith receive twenty lashes on her bare back well laid on for her said offence as also (according to act) serve her said Master or assignees two years after the expiration of her first time she came into the country for by indenture or custom and pay costs of suit (only that upon the suspisition of her being now with child (which she not denying) her said punishment is suspended.

Walczyk, Frank V., Northampton County VA Orders 1753-1758 Book 24 (Coram NY: Petersrow, 2002, p 108.)

At a court held for Northampton County by adjournment on Wednesday the 9th day of July 1755.

The Churchwardens of the Parish of Hungars this day informing the court, that Leah Maddox hath lately been delivered of a bastard child in their parish, the said Leah personally appearing acknowledged the information aforesaid against her to be true. Therefore, it is considered by the court, that she forfeit and pay fifty shillings or five hundred pounds of tobacco and cask to the Churchwardens aforesaid, for for the use of the said parish and there upon the said Leah refusing to pay the fine aforesaid, or to give sufficient security for payment, at laying the next Parish Levy it is ordered that she receive on her bareback twenty five lashes well laid on at the Common Whipping Post, and it is said to the Sheriff that he cause immediate execution of this order to be done.


Somerset Count Court had an interesting way of stating such cases. Some examples of the same type of cases there are:

Walczyk, Frank V., Somerset County Judicials 1707-1709, (Coram NY: Peter's Row 1999, p 155.)

At a court held by her Majestys Worshipfull Justices of the Peace for Somerset County at Dividing Creek the second day of March 1708.

Her Majesty

VS

Abigall Parker - Somerset - The jurors for our Sovereign Lady the Queen for the body of Somerset County that now is on their oaths do present Abigall Parker of Somerset County Spinster for that she the said Abigall the fear of God before her eyes not, having but moved by the instigation of the devil have committed fornication and on her body hath born a bastard child to the dishonor of God and the evil example of others contrary to the peace of our said Lady the Queen and the act of assembly in that case made and provided.

Dent Clk. of Indictments

On said bill was indorsed we of the Grand Jury do find this bill avera - Nicholas Evans foreman

To which indictment the said Abigall Parker pleads guilty and saith William Eddy is father Wherefore considered by the court here that the said Abigall be fined and to give security for her fine and fees at which day came David Hudson and did acknowledge himself to be indebted to our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the just sum of ten pounds sterling due to be levied on his goods and chattles lands and tenements for the use of Somerset County.

The condition of which recog. is such that if said David Hudson do well and truly pay the said Abigalls fine and all officers fees accrued by means of said Abigalls conviction without fraud or covin then this recog. to be null and void otherwise to be and remain in full power force and virtue in the law to which he says he the said David is content.

And the said Abigall Parker is adjudged to serve said David two full years after her first time of service be expired and not to keep her child longer then the time the said Abigall is adjudged to serve, fine to be paid in tobacco.

Note: Abagail Parker was not whipped because she acknowledged the father of the child and David Hutson (her brother-in-law) paid the fine.

Jane Welsh was not as lucky:

Walczyk, Frank V., Somerset County Judicials 1707-1709, (Coram NY: Peter's Row 1999, p 91.)

At a court held by her Majesties Worshipfull Justices of the Peace at Dividing Creek the 9th day of June A D 1708.

Her Majesty

VS

Jane Welsh --Somerset County -- The jurors of our Sovereign Lady the Queen that now is for the body of Somerset County on their oaths do present Jane Welsh servant to Sam'll Jones for that she the said Jane not having the fear of God before her eyes but moved by the instigation of the devil hath committee fornication and on her body born a bastard child to the dishonor of God the evil example of others and against the peace Etc.

Dent Clk of Indictments

The indictment being read pleads guilty and saith John Laws is father of her late born bastard child considered by the court here and ordered that the said Jane Welsh to be carried to the whipping post and to receive 25 lashes on her bare back well laid on. To the Sheriff of Somerset County to execute and to make return with the prisoner. The return executed per John Bozman Sheriff committee into custody for her appearance next court and for her fees.

© Copyright 2005-2014 by Gail M. Walczyk