Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Is for Mothers: Cassandra Burnell (About 1600 - 1660) and her daughter Provided Southwick (1641 - 1728)

As far as I know, my maternal ninth great grandmother Cassandra (Burnell) Southwick is my only ancestor whose name has been used as the title of a poem. But when the Quaker poet and Abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier wrote his poem  in 1842/3 he was actually telling the story of her daughter Provided* who (with her brother Daniel) was sentenced in 1658 to be sold into slavery in either Barbadoes or Virginia when they could not pay the fines imposed on them for not attending services at the established Puritan church in Salem, Massachusetts.

Cassandra had married Lawrence Southwick on January 23, 1623, in Kingswinford, Staffordshire**, England and all their children except Provided, the youngest, were born there.

The family had moved to Salem, Massachusetts, by 1639 and were respected members of the First Church and the community there for many years. All this changed sometime after 1655 when the first Quaker missionaries arrived in the Colony and were swiftly met with official hostility and civil punishments because of their perceived threat to authority and public order. When these measures failed, more severe anti-Quaker laws were enacted, and several people were executed in Boston.

We don't know exactly when the Southwick family adopted the Quaker faith, but Cassandra was publicly admonished by the Salem Quarterly Court for habitual non-attendance at regular church services in 1657 and the next year Lawrence, Cassandra and their son Josiah were fined for staying away from church and testimony was given that a known Quaker had spent several hours at their house. The parents and two of their sons admitted that they were Quakers and were sent to the House of Correction while the younger children, including Provided, recanted and were released.

While imprisoned, the Southwicks and several others Quakers were harshly treated, being whipped, starved and forced to do hard labor. Their written response to the Quarterly Court at the July session was as follows***:

"This to Magistrates at the Court in Salem.
Friends:--Whereas it was your pleasure to commit us, whose names are under-written, to the house of correction in Boston, although the Lord, the righteous Judge of Heaven and Earth, is our witness that we have done nothing worthy of stripes or of bonds; and we being committed by your court to be dealt withal as the law provides for foreign Quakers, as ye please to term us; and having some of us suffered your law and pleasures, now that which we do expect is, That whereas we have suffered your law, so now to be set free by the same law, as your manner is with strangers, and not to put us on the account of one law, and execute another law upon us, of which according to your own manner we were never convicted, as the law expresses.
If you had sent us upon the account of your new law, we should have expected the jailer's order to have been on that account, which that it was not, appears by the warrant which we have, and the punishment which we bare, as four of us were whipped, among whom was one that had formerly been whipped; so now according to your former law, friends, let it not be a small thing in your eyes, the exposing as much as in you lies, our families to ruin. It is not unknown to you, the season and the time of year, for those that live of husbandry, and what their cattle and families may be exposed unto; and also such as live upon trade.
We know if the spirit of Christ did dwell and rule in you these things would take impression on your spirits. What our lives and conversations have been in that place is well known, and what we now suffer for, is much for false reports, and ungrounded jealousies of heresy and sedition. These things lie upon us to lay before you. As for our parts we have true peace and rest in the Lord in all our sufferings, and are made willing in the power and strength of God, freely to offer up our lives in this cause of God, for which we suffer: yea, and we do find (through grace) the enlargement of God in our imprisoned state, to whom alone we commit ourselves and our families, for the disposing of us according to his infinite wisdom and pleasure, in whose love is our rest and life.
Lawrance Suthick, Cassandra Suthick, Josiah Suthick, Samll Shattock, Joshua Buffum 
From the house of bondage in Boston wherein we are made captives by the wills of men, although made free by the Son, (John 8, 36). In which we quietly rest, this 16th of the 5th month, 1658."
Lawrence, Cassandra and Josiah Southwick and two other Quakers were ordered to leave the Colony and threatened with death if they didn't comply. Released after twenty weeks of imprisonment, they fled to Shelter Island on Long Island Sound in 1659. Cassandra died there in the Spring of 1660, just three days after the death of her husband.

[1706  Early Map (author unknown)  excerpted from a New England Map

While their parents and older brother were in jail, Provided and Daniel were again fined for not attending the established church and Provided was put in the stocks for calling the Court "persecutors." They were imprisoned for non-payment of their fines and would have been sold as slaves if any ship's master had been willing to buy them. None did, so they were let go while the Quarterly Court considered how to punish them. The worst of the anti-Quaker laws were changed before they did.

Provided remained in Salem and married a fellow Quaker, Samuel Gaskill, in October of 1662. The couple had seven children. Josiah, their youngest, is my seventh great grandfather. Provided died in 1728, having survived Samuel by eight years.

A fellow Southwick descendant, Janet Ireland Delorey, has written "A Study of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick" giving many details of the family, their background and trials which you can find here.

*From whom I descend.
**In the West Midlands.
***According to tradition, Cassandra was the author.

© 2015 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.


  1. My ancestress is Deborah Southwick 1656-1703 daughter of Josiah 1632-1693 of this story.

  2. I come from Provided's brother, John Southwick (1625 - 1672)