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Please begin with an informative title:

"Four guys named Bob" is my own mental shorthand for my 10th, 9th, 8th, and 7th great-grandfathers, all named Robert Moulton, who lived in 17th Century Salem. The more I research their personal stories, the more fascinated I become with history of the area...which is much more diverse than the "history" I was taught in grade school. This will be the first in a series of diaries focusing on the theme of dissenting dissenters and standing up for principles.

Genealogy & Family History Community


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Visit our favorite LINKS, but leave the
blood feuds at home

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When I first began looking into the Moulton family, I was fortunate to find several old genealogies which gave me the names/dates/places, but I wanted to look at the paper trails myself. (Verify! verify! verify!) Once I discovered what believed was the right line, I looked at my go-to reference, A Genealogical Register of the First Settlers of New England to see if there were other people with the same name in New England at the relevant period. Here is the entry for Moulton:

So far, so good; the information agreed with what I'd found in the old genealogies. Next, I went to the source material cited here--"Felt" and "Annals" refer to the Annals of Salem, by Joseph Felt, an 1827 published account of the records and proceedings of old Salem. In addition, Felt had examined and summarized the records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's organizational documents, and how the company began setting up an infrastructure to be in place before the main body of settlers arrived. Perhaps learning from the experience of the Plymouth Colony, it was recognized that skilled shipwrights would be an essential part of that infrastructure:
And so the first Robert Moulton arrived in Salem in about 1628 to take "cheife charge" of the shallop-building operations. I don't yet know much about his early life in England, or how old he was, but evidence points to his being from Surrey. His son and namesake was married in 1640, so I think it likely that the first Robert was around 40 or so at the time he arrived in Salem. I have found a reference that unlike many similarly positioned skilled "mechanics" of the period, Robert wrote his reports back to the colony bigwigs under his own name...apparently a collection of his letters are on file somewhere in the English archives (which someday I hope to search out). At any rate, he held some additional responsible offices in the early years of the colony--including serving on the general court and acting as administrator on several estates.

And life went on for the next few years -- all with the struggles to establish a community in a howling wilderness, dealing with life and death and petty squabbles amongst the settlers on a daily basis. In addition, events leading up to and including the Pequot War caused the colony to order that its citizens take steps to form a militia for protection:

But with all the precautions for safety and stamping out of evil cards and dice, nothing prepared the colony for the havoc brought on by the arrival of a dissenting dissenter named Anne Hutchinson ! A woman ! who challenged the ideas of men ! In Felt's description:
As an agnostic, the theological technicalities of the antinomian controversy are obscure to me, but I definitely am fascinated that just about everyone in the colony had some sort of opinion on it, and that what is commonly referred to on dKos as a pie fight ensued. Hardcore Hutchinson supporters were banned excommunicated, others were given various levels of timeouts sanctions, which were lifted after a due period of contrition. My 10 g-grandfather was among those who, while not exactly agreeing with the Hutchinson crowd, publicly defended their right to have differing opinions. The linked wikipedia article has charts showing who suffered what degree of sanction. Robert Moulton had signed a petition on behalf of some of the antinomian crowd, and as a result was disarmed. Here is what Felt had to say:
As time went on, many of those who were sanctioned but remained in Salem were pressured to admit the error of their ways, at which time their full privileges were restored. Robert Moulton stayed true to his original stance, and so never held public office in Salem again. However, his skilled profession made him an important member of the community who deserved respect, and did not diminish the prospects of his son (see my next diary for more). After a while, even the powers that be cried uncle; this from 1639
So stubborness perseverance in an idea eventually paid off for the first guy named Bob. Still, it had to have taken a lot of courage on his part to go about his day in the face of huge pressures to be a garden variety dissenter instead of a supporter of dissenting dissenters. I'll continue the family saga later, but will set the stage with the text of Bob No. 1's will from 1654:
Salem, dated 20th Febr., 1654-5.
By theise presents be it knowne, that I, Robert Moulton Senior; being by God's hand one my sicke bed of perfect memory, Doe ordaine and Appoint my sonne Robert Moulton, whole Executor of this my Last will & Testament.
I Give my Daughter Dorothy Edwards twenty markes.
Allso Two pillowbers marked with D RM
Item My farme I leave with my sonne, till my Grand-sonne Robert Moulton be twenty one yeares old, & then he to enjoy the one half with the Apple trees & After his father and mother's death to enjoy the farme wholly & in Case my Grandsonne Robert dye first that it fall in like manner to his next Elder brother successively if he That enjoyes it have no issue.
To Goodwife Buffum I give twenty shillings.
To Joshua Buffum ten shillings.
The rest of my Goods and Cattell I leave with my sonne Robert & he to pay my debts.
Robt. Moulton Senr.

Witnesses: George Gardner : Henry Phelps : Nich. Phelpess
George Gardner & Hen. Phelpes tooke oath to this will that to their best Knowledge it is ye Last will.
L. Elias Stileman, Cleric.
Robert Moulton Senr his will brought into ye court ye 26, 4, 1655.

NB: The apple tree reference will be important later. Stay tuned!
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