Madness Monday: The Punishment of John Sales, 1633

John Sale and daughter Phebe 'bound over' for theft by John. Found in Pioneers of Massachusetts by Charles henry Pope, 1900. Public domain.
John Sale and daughter Phebe ‘bound over’ for theft by John. Found in Pioneers of Massachusetts by Charles Henry Pope, 1900. Public domain.

McMurray Family (Click for Family Tree)

Puritans felt compelled to make sure that others, even non-Puritans, followed the rules/laws of an orderly society. Hence, “Black Sheep” like John Sales were to be made an example, and his punishment was harsh. On the 1st of April 1633, he was “censured by the Court after this manner:”

all his estate was to be forfeited (though it likely was small)

… he had to pay double restitution to all those he had wronged

… he “shall be whipped”

…he will be “bound as servant with any that will retain him for 3 years”

The records continue:

“John Sayle is bound with Mr. Coxeshall for 3 yeares, for which hee is to give him £4 per ann[um]; his daughter is also bound with him for 14 yeares. Mr. Coxeshall is to haue [have] a sow [female pig] with her, & att the end of her time hee is to giue [give] vnto [unto] her a cowe calfe.”

So John’s little daughter, possibly just seven-years old (she was baptized 1 May 1626), was punished too. As her mother is not mentioned in any of the Colony records, we can assume that her father was her sole caregiver until this point. At least they kept the two together.

On 4 March 1633/34, John was whipped for running away from his master.

On 30 January 1634/35, John came back after running away again, and this time it was noted that he ran to the Indians. He was most likely whipped, again. It would be interesting to know his experience during the time he was gone, and whether or not his daughter accompanied him.

Two years later, on 7 April 1635, the court records that two of the colony leaders were to examine “the business” between John Sayles, his daughter, Mr. Coxeall, and a John Levens. There are no details of the problem or how it was solved, but by 6 June 1637, Phebe Seales, who had been ‘put apprentice’ to John Coggeshall (the same ‘Mr. Coxehall,’ Boston merchant), had caused enough problems that a court intervention was required. Unfortunately the girl “proved overburdensome to him… the Court…have thought it just to ease him of it…” Apparently Coggeshall had “put” Phebe (loaned her out) to John Levins, and that was not working out well either. So the court agreed upon two arbitrators, who were to “…end the difference between the said parties & to set down such order for the ease and discharge of the said John Coggeshall, &c disposing of the said Phebe, as they shall think equal.”

Sadly, we do not know how the issues were resolved, but we do know what happened to John Sales and his daughter Phebe Sales. We will finish the story in our next post, on Wednesday.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. Pioneers of Massachusetts by Charles Henry Pope, 1900, via
  2. John Sale is listed on page 2 of “Boston Church Records” The Records of the Churches of Boston. CD-ROM. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008 .)
  3. Entry for John Sales: The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010), (Originally Published as: New England Historic Genealogical Society. Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III, 3 vols., 1995). He is listed on p. 407-8 in a footnote in the profile of John Coggeshall, page 1616-1618 in his own profile as John Sales.
  4. “&c” means “and etc.”
  5. Double or dual dating is often used during this time period because of the change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar. See the article on dual dating at and



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