The Pynchon Court Record

(from Massachusetts in 1639-1640)



February the 14th 1638 [1639].


[Creating the Court]


We the Inhabitants of Agaam upon Quinnettecot taking into consideration the manifold inconveniences that may fall upon us for want of some fit magistracy among us. Being now by Godís providence fallen into the line of the Massachusetts Jurisdiction, and it being far off to repair [meaning: go to] there in such cases of justice as may often fall out among us do therefore think it meet [meaning: wise] by a general consent and vote to ordain (till we receive further directions from the general court in the Massachusetts Bay) Mr. William Pynchon to execute the office of a magistrate in this our plantation of Agaam viz . [meaning: as follows]:


  • to give oaths to Constables or military officers
  • to direct warrants, both process executions and attachments,
  • to hear and examine misdemeanors,
  • to depose witnesses and upon proof of misdemeanor to inflict corporal punishment, [such] as whipping, [placing in the stocks], binding to the peace, or good behavior, and in some cases to require sureties.
  • and, if the offence requires, to commit to prison and in default of a common prison to commit delinquents to the charge of some fit person or persons till justice may be satisfied.


Also in the trial of actions for debt or trespass to give oaths, direct juries, depose witnesses, take verdicts and keep Records of verdicts, judgments, executions, and whatever else may tend to the Kingís peace, and the manifestation of our fidelity to the [Massachusetts] Bay Jurisdiction and the restraining of any that shall molest Godís laws, or, lastly, whatsoever else may fall within the power of an Assistant in Massachusetts Bay.


It is also agreed upon by a mutual consent that in case any action of debt or trespass to be tried, [since] a Jury of 12 fit [meaning: suitable] persons cannot be had at present among us, that six persons shall be esteemed and held a sufficient Jury to try any action under the sum of Ten pounds till we shall see cause to the contrary and by common consent shall alter this number of Jurors or shall be otherwise directed from the General Court in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


John Cable is chosen and sworn to execute the office of a Constable in this place for a year or till another shall be chosen in his [place].


December 12 1639.


John Woodcock being summoned by warrant to answer Mr. George Moxon in an action of slander for reporting that he took a false oath against him: The said John [Woodcock] desired that this difference might be tried by a private hearing below in the River. Mr. Moxon referred himself to the Judgment of the plantation present whether it were [better] to be heard by a private reference below in the River, or tried here publicly by a Jury.


The general vote of the plantation is that seeing the matter is public it should be publicly heard and tried here by a Jury. Liberty [meaning: The authority] is granted to John Woodcock to produce his witnesses against this [charge on] the 26 of December.


Also at the said time John Woodcook is warned to answer for his laughing in Sermon time: this day at the Lecture. Also he is then to answer his misdemeanor [of] idleness.


December 26, 1639.


The meeting on the 26 of December is deferred till the 2d of January 1639 [1640].


January 2, 1640.


George Moxon [complains] against John Woodcook in an action of slander. [He says] that John Woodcook [did] report that he took a false oath against him at Hartford and he demands of John Woodcoke for the said [slander] 9 pounds [meaning: an English unit of money] 19 shillings [meaning: another English unit of money].


The Jury: Henry Smyth, Jahue Burr, Robert Ashly, Thomas Merik, John Searle, Samuel Hubbard.


Mr. Moxon produces these witnesses Thomas Horton, John Cable, Robert Ashly, Henry Smyth, Samuel Hubbard.


The Jury find for the Plaintiff damages [in the amount of] 6 pounds 13 shillings. [Page torn.]


When Mr. Moxon gave the Constable the warrant to distrain for the said damage the said John Woodcook, [Woodcock] answered that he owed Mr. Moxon no money nor none he would pay him. Also John Woodcook said that he had showed Mr. Moxon more respect and reverence than ever he would again. Witnesses: Henry Smyth, Samuel Hubbard and Thomas Horton


February 13 1639 [1640].


The Jury: Henry Smyth, Jahue Burr, Robert Ashly, John Leonard, Samuel Hubbard, Samuel Wright.


[Case number] 1: Thomas Horton complains against Thomas Merick in an action of the case for not doing a sufficient dayís work for the wages of a day.


[Case number] 2. The said Thomas Horton Complains against Thomas Merick in an action of the case for taking away certain planks or boards


[Case number] 3. The said Thomas Horton complains against Thomas Merick in an action of the case for felling of two trees in the lot of Thomas Horton.


[Case number] 4. [Thomas Horton complains against Thomas Merick] for the changing of 4 bushels of corn after [they were] delivered.


[Case number 5]. Thomas Merick complains against John Woodcook in an action of debt for 2 shillings 6 pence [meaning: an English unit of money].


Case number ]: Thomas Merick complains against John Woodcook in another action of the case for two bushels of corn that were delivered into his possession, and about two bushels more that he is to be accountable for.



From: Joseph H. Smith, ed., Colonial Justice in Western Massachusetts (1639-1702): The Pynchon Court Record,

An Original Judges' Diary of the Administration of Justice in the Springfield Courts in the Massachusetts

Bay Colony (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), pp. 5-12.Language modernized for clarity.