Robert Linnell was born in England, ca 1584, possibly in Kent. He came to live in Scituate in 1638 at about age 54 with his wife and children and about six years later settled at Barnstable, Mass. He is my 9th great-grandfather on my grandmother Milly (Booth) Rollins’ side of the family. Sometimes his name is seen as Linnett, Linell and a few other variations.
His first wife’s name is not known. He married, second, Peninah Howes, sometimes seen inacurately as Jemimah, between 1632-38, likely at London. She was baptized 11 April 1596, at Egerton, Kent, England, the daughter of Rev. John Howes (sometimes Howse and House) and likely his wife Alice.
He was called “Mr. Linnell” when he arrived at Scituate, which often indicated someone of a desirable social standing. He took the Oath of Allegiance to the King and of Fidelity to the Colony on 1 February 1638. He was admitted Freeman on the 3rd of December later that year. He settled among the men from Kent, whom he may have known before their removal to London and then to America. Some people say Scituate may have appealed to them because the cliffs there would have reminded them of the white cliffs of Dover.
The Kent connection is also supported circumstantially by the fact that Peninah Howes was the daughter of John Howes, the parish clerk of Eastwell, Kent. Peninah's sister, Hannah, was the wife of Rev. John Lothrop whose congregation in London had refused to accept the King as head of the Church. This conflict resulted in Lothrop’s two-year imprisonment. Upon his release, many members of the congregation moved with him to America so they could worship freely. That Peninah belonged to the congregation in London can be shown by the report of her being questioned by the Ecclesiastical Court along with others in the congregation in 1632. There she stated (as Peninah Howes) “I dare not swear this oath till I am better informed of it, for which I desire time…I will give an answer of my faith, if I be demanded, but not willingly forswear myself" and after refusing the oath “I refer myself to the Word of God whether I may take this oath or no.”
The courage of my Separatist ancestors never ceases to impress me. From what I have read, the court was more of an inquisition, where the accused were forced to testify against themselves, without counsel. They were often imprisoned during the time of their testimony and often longer. For the high crime of publishing tracts critical of the Bishops, many ministers had their ears cut off, their faces branded and were confined to prison for life, which meant death within a few months or a few years at most. In the 17th century a lengthy confinement in London prisons such as Newgate, Clink, Fleet or Bridewell was tantamount to a death sentence due to crowded, filthy, disease-ridden conditions.
It is probable that Robert Linnell had also been in London and a member of Lothrop's congregation. He must have been married to his first wife at this time. His first four children were probably born in England during the years 1627 (Otis's estimate of son David's birth date) to 1633/34. Why Robert did not leave London with the remainder of John Lothrop's congregation is not known. Perhaps the health of his first wife made the voyage impossible, but that’s conjecture on my part. Peninah married Robert before the passage to America.
Robert’s children are listed below. The first four would be the children of his first wife; mother of Shubael is uncertain, mother of Bethia is Peninah.
i.David born c. 1627
ii Hannah born c. 1629
iii Mary born c. 1631
iv Abigail born c. 1633
v Shubael (some researchers omit him as a son; but he is referenced in later events.
vi Bethia bap. 7 Feb. 1640/41
I descend through Bethia (called Bethya in her father’s will) and her first husband Henry Atkins. She married, second, Stephen Hopkins, grandson of Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower.
After the arduous voyage to America, it must have been a joyous occasion to be reunited with their family and friends. The sixtieth entry in John Lothrop's records of the church at Scituate states "My Brother Robert Linnell and his wife having a letter of dismission from the church in London joyned to us September 16, 1638."
Land was granted to this group first at Sippican (now Marion), but there seem to have been problems with this grant and a new grant was given for removal to what would become Barnstable. On "June 26, 1639, a fast for the presence of God in mercy to go with us to Mattacheese" was held with a Thanksgiving celebration when they had all arrived in that place now known as Barnstable. Note: This confuses me because I thought the Matacheese was the original name of Yarmouth.
The list of 45 townsmen and voters in 1640 Barnstable included Robert Linnet, and in 1643 those able to bear arms also included David Linnet, by this time 16 years old.
At the town meeting in 1641 "Mr. Thomas Lothrop and Bernard Lombard were appointed measurers of land," and authorized "to lay out all the lands that the several inhabitants are to have laid out, and to bound them with stakes." The land thus measured to Mr.Linnell ranked him one of those with large holdings. His house lot, Lot #9 of the original town plan, contained ten acres and was bounded northerly by the harbor, easterly by the lot of Thomas Lumbard, southerly by the highway, and westerly by the home lots of William and John Casely. He also owned three acres of planting land in the Common Field, three acres of meadow at Sandy Neck, nine at Scorton, a great lot containing sixty acres, and rights of commonage.
|Sandy Neck Beach, Barnstable|
These twenty-four years in Barnstable saw many changes in the Linnell family. From the records of the Rev. John Lothrop:
"Since our coming to Barnstable, Octob. 11, 1639:
(bap.) Bethia daughter of Robert Linnell Febru. 7, 1640
Marryed since my comeing to Barnstable
John Davis and Hannah Linnett marryed att Nocett by Mr.Prince March 15, 1648
Richard Childe and Mary Linnett marryed the 15th day of October 1649 y Mr.Collier at my Brother Linnett's house.
Joshua Lumber and Abigail Linnett marrd by Mr. Prince May 27, 1651.
David Lynnett and Hannah Shelley marryed by Mr. Prince March 9,1652"
Of this last record, David and Hannah had violated the old law, enacted by the Pilgrim fathers, "That if any shall make any motion of marriage to any man's daughter, or mayde servant, not haveing first obtayned leave and consent of the parents or master so to doe, shall be punished either by fine of corporal punishment or both at the discretions of the bench" (Otis, Gen.Notes Vol.2, p.154).
David and Hannah were summoned to appear at a meeting of the church on 30 May 1652. There in the presence of the whole congregation they confessed their fault. "They were both, by the sentence and joint consent of the church, pronounced to be cutt off from that relation which they hadd formerlye to the church by virtue of their parents covenaunt." The action of the church was an accepted proceedure; but the action of the civil court just three days later added anguish and shame.
In the list of presentments made in the civil court by the Grand Inquest dated 2 June 1652 neither David Linnell or Hannah Shelley were indicted, yet on the next day, the Court condemned "both of them to be publicly whipt at Barnstable, where they live," and the sentence was executed at Barnstable five days afterwards,that is on the 8th day of June, 1652.
The fact that the love of David and Hannah withstood this test and that they were married in March of the following year is cited by Otis as a story having as much romantic interest and poetic appeal as the story of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. David did not join the church again until in the final years of his life; Hannah never did.
Robert died 27 February 1662/63 in Barnstable, Mass. His will is dated 23 January 1662/63. Otis notes that he died a poor man, although he owned a significant amount of land. I would imagine starting a new life in his late 50s would have made it challenging to become financially successful.
Robert Linnell's will reads as follows:
"The last Will of Robert Linnell Deceased the 23 of January 1662 I give to my wife my house and home lott soe long as shee lives a widdow; alsoe...all my household stuffe and plow and Cart and two Cowes and a calfe for ever; I give my house and home lott to David and his heires after my wife either Dieth or marrieth alsoe my mersh att sandy necke I give to David and his heirs for ever and my lot by John Casleyes; I give my ground and mersh att the lower end of the pond att Mattakeessett to Abigail; I give to John Davis my two oxen to find my wife wood and to mow my marsh and plow my ground for her for two yeare if she Remaine a widdow so longe; if she marryeth before the two yeares bee out then to bee free; I give to Bethya one Cow to have it when my Will; It is my will that the swamp I bought of Thomas Lewis to goe with my house lott; Robert Linell"
"The tearme; and a Calfe in the third line in the originall was put in since the man Deceased.
Trustrum Hull "
The home lot, dwelling-house, and some articles of personal estate, were appraised by Thomas Lothrop and Thos. Lewis at 55 pounds 4 shillings, 6 pence. He owed Mr.Thomas Clark 1 pound 10 shillings, and some other small debts, and the Court ordered March 3, 1662/3, that Joseph Lothrop and Nathaniel Bacon "bee helpful to the Widdow Linnel in seeing the debts payed either out of the whole or pte of the estate."
Peninah’s death date isn’t known but it was after 1669. On 29 October1669 widow Peninah Linnell filed the following complaint to recover the house her husband had left her from the hands of her stepson David: "In reference to the complaint of Penninnah Linnitt, widdow, against David Linnit, that hee hath possessed himselfe of her house and land ginen her by the will of her deceased husband, Robert Linnitt, and giueth her noe satisfaction for the same, the Court haue ordered, that if hee doe not giue her satisfaction about the same betwixt this and the next March Court, that then the Court will take course that hee shalbe disposessed thereof. It’s annoying that a women who went through so much in her life because of her strong religious beliefs was treated this way by her step-son.
Robert’s home was located at what is now 2984 Main Street [Route 6A], Barnstable.
Many thanks to Marge Perry for sharing her Robert Linnell research with me.
Sources Not Listed Above:
Otis, Amos, Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, being a reprint of the Amos Otis Papers, originally published in the Barnstable Patriot, revised by CF Swift, Volume 1 and 2, 1888
John Austin, Mayflower Families through Five Generations, Stephen Hopkins, 1992
Frederick Freeman, History of Cape Cod, Vol.II,, 1862
Arthur Ellsworth Linnell, manuscript notes, Linnell Family , at New England Historic and Genealogical Society Library, Boston
Dan R. McConnell, The Howes, Lothrops, and Linnells of Kent and London, England, and Scituate and Barnstable, Massachusetts, pubished in the Cape Cod Genealogical Society Bulletin, Fall 2007