Category Archives: Historic Events

Stout Brothers Rescue a Pirate

Mob Storms Court House

On March 25, 1701, Court convened in Middletown, New Jersey. Governor Andrew Hamilton, Lewis Morris, head of the Assembly, and other dignitaries took their seats. The prosecutor had a slam-dunk case. Moses Butterworth, accused pirate, had admitted sailing on the ship of Captain Kidd.

This picture, a popular image of pirate Captain Kidd, comes from the website, That website does not specify the origin of the picture.

However, as the trial got underway, a man named Samuel Willet appeared and shouted that the court had no authority. Mr. Willet had enlisted a drummer to come along to make noise so that the court could not proceed. Thirty or forty local men, including two Stout brothers, all armed with clubs and arms followed Willet.

The drum banged away as two men tried to release the prisoner. The sheriff fought them off and managed to subdue the trouble makers. The drum kept beating and the crowd kept pouring up the stairs to the courtroom.

Judges and attorneys drew swords and tried to re-arrest the prisoner. Imagine a period so unruly that judges and attorneys had to carry swords into court! The drum kept beating as the crowd assaulted the court officials and tore up court documents.

The drum kept beating, the crowd kept coming. The Rebels dragged off the King’s Attorney General and Justices, along with the sheriff and Clerk of Court and even Governor Hamilton. They threw them into cells and kept them under guard from March 25 to March 29.

Richard Stout’s sons, 36-year-old Jonathan and 43-year-old James joined in the rebels’ merriment. I give their ages to point out that this was not simply the work of young men feeling their oats. These were mature land owners. And based on other town records, we can surmise that pater familias Richard was cheering them on.

After this incident, Butterworth, the former pirate, took to farming, married a local girl and became an important citizen of the community.

Defending a Pirate

Why would these good citizens of Middletown take the side of a pirate? I believe there are two answers to that question.

Pirates Can Be Useful

The first answer became clear when I read a surprising article called “Well Behaved Pirates Seldom Make History,” by Mark G. Hanna. (See reference below). Hanna points out that although some of the captains of pirate ships fit the dramatic image we have of them, pirate crew members were ordinary folk.

The owners/captains of the pirate ship, recruited sailors or even farm boys along the eastern American coasts. The promise of enormous riches from their share of loot, lured these poor young men. For most of them, this was a one-time adventure. They would make their stake to invest in land to keep them the rest of their lives. And if they survived the pirate adventures, they returned to their communities and became respectable citizens.

Besides that, with shipping an uncertain business and transit slow, the pirate ships provided a useful service. They brought goods for merchants and ordinary folks that were unavailable elsewhere. The colonists turned a blind eye to where the goods came from in order to enjoy the bounty. They were no different than people today who buy merchandise that “fell off the truck,” or people who thronged to speakeasys during prohibition. Pirates were an important part of the colonial economy.

The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend

As I said in my article about David Stout and the mob in Middleton, this breach of the Butterworth trial was not the first such attack on officials. In the case of Butterworth, his trial became a handy focal point for resistance. If the British were against him, the colonists would support him.

Whose Land Is It Anyway and The Provincial Revolt

It takes a little history to understand why these upstanding citizens suddenly became criminals. I learned the history of the Provincial Revolt from the History of Monmouth County and from Historical and Genealogical Miscellany (see below for references).

The sovereigns of European countries felt free to dole out the lands of the New World, regardless of the fact that those lands were already occupied by the natives. So King Charles of England gave to his brother, the Duke of York (future King James) a large swath of land that included the property later known as the Monmouth Patent. After holding the land briefly, in June 1664, the Duke of York gave the land to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret –“the Proprietors.”

However before that, in January, 1664, Richard Stout was part of the group from Gravesend in Long Island who had purchased land from the local tribes. And in April 1665, the purchase was made legal when British Governor Nicolls issued The Monmouth Patent.

What Governor Nicolls and the Gravesend group did not know was that Nicolls was no longer the representative of the King when he signed the Monmouth Patent. The Duke of York had passed the land on to the Proprietors almost a year earlier and they had appointed a new Governor. News traveled slowly.

This set up a situation where for a time there were two governors, Nicolls acting, he thought, in the name of the Duke of York; and Philip Carteret, acting for the New Jersey Proprietors. The two sides continued to contest who owned the land for many years, with Carteret saying that any deeds executed by Nicolls were null and void. That meant the ownership of Richard Stout’s land and that of all his sons, were in question.

Who Had the Right to Govern?

Throughout what became known as The Provincial Revolt, the colonials tried hard to respect the King and the British law. The followers of Nicolls continued to hold a court and an Assembly that decided local matters, while also sending representatives to the court of Carteret. However Governor Carteret’s officials frequently turned away the representatives from Monmouth County. The people in the two towns of Middletown and Shrewsbury refused to swear allegiance to the proprietors and pay rent on land that they believed they owned.

They asserted in 1667 that they would follow the orders of Carteret, but only when they were just, and they would refuse to assist in the arrest of their own citizens unless the town agreed. In 1668 they reaffirmed their loyalty to the King, but “as the proprietors are something new and are issuing orders directly rather than for the King, we are not bound to obey.” Throughout, the towns refused to sign oaths that they believed would violate their patent. The Monmouth patent guaranteed them the right of self-governance, and free rent for seven years.

In February 1669, six men including Richard Stout were appointed by the town to “give answer to the Governor’s men in the town’s behalf.” The answer, of course, was “No!” At the same meeting, they called upon the people of the towns to gather and resist any effort to take property (i.e. collect rent.)

In other words, their local government was calling for armed resistance to the Proprietor’s government.

Family Involvement

In November 10,1671, Richard Stout was chosen to attend adjournment of the general assembly to substitute for another man. But on November 18, he was discharged. The record states, “for several causes and considerations best known to the town.” The town chose John Throckmorton to take his place. I imagine these “causes” were Richard’s known resistance to the very legislature he was originally chosen to attend.

Also, note that John Throckmorton would have been either the young husband of Richard Stout’s daughter Alice, or more likely her husband’s aged father John I. This is just one example of how the colonial revolt involved alliances and enmities within families.

The Fight Escalates

The Assembly of the Proprietor’s Governor Carteret kept twisting the knot on the recalcitrant English settlements If they did not obey, they would not be allowed to vote, hold office or even become Freemen. It called the people of Middletown “Mutineers against authority and of the government and disturbers of the peace.”

In response, the local town meeting passed what became known as “The Monmouth Declaration of Independence.” (Note this is 100 years before the American Declaration of Independence.)

Their declaration brought even harsher rules from the proprietors, with incendiary language like this: “For such as pretend to right of property to land and government within our province by virtue of patent from Governor Col. Richard Nicolls, as they ignorantly assert, we utterly disown any such things….” and an even more explicit “No Way!” response from the rebels. I would love to give you the entire documents, but they are too lengthy to reprint here. If you are interested in the history of this early insurrection against the British, you can read the books referenced below.

Slumping Toward Settlement

Things got so heated that Governor Phillip Carteret had to flee back to England for two years. When he returned he offered some concessions to the settlers. At first the colonists resisted, but probably realizing that their 7 years of free rent was coming to an end, they finally settled. Until the Proprietors entirely gave up their claims of ownership, the settlers continued to resist.

Two factions developed, one led by Andrew Hamilton, a Scottish man supported by the proprietors and Jeremiah Ross Basse, supported by the settlers. Between 1675-1702 the battle raged between the pro- and anti-Scottish.

Taking It Out on the Courts

One of the things that Basse did that apparently pleased the settlers was to protect the pirates who hung around Sandy Hook and the mouths of the Raritan and Delaware Rivers recruiting local men.

When Basse was put in jail, a group of settlers broke into the court. Their leader cried “By what right do you keep court?” He was fined and put in jail. The settlers, using a beam from a nearby house, beat the jail to pieces and freed Basse.

During the summer of 1700, courts were periodically broken into, quite literally. Then in July, Hamilton marched on Middletown, and in August the mob with David, James and Benjamin Stout fought back.

In September, the Court of the County of Essex was interrupted and the crowd abused the clerk and pulled off his wig. 60 horsemen took the prison keys and released the prisoners.

Then on March 25, 1701 came the trial of Moses Butterworth, and the mob that included Jonathan and James Stout.

Finally, a year later, April 1702, the Proprietors surrendered their rights to Queen Anne.

Anarchy or Democracy?

A British official reported to the Queen a few months later that New Jersey “is a state without government.” From the colonials point of view, they had all the government they needed. It wasn’t being imposed by crooked officials claiming to represent the crown.

Lewis Morris, the official writing the report, proved somewhat prescient when he wrote,

“I dare not determine that the present ill circumstances of New York, Jersies, Pennsylvania and the Carolinas and Lucay Islands are derived from New England; but the transcripts were so Exact in most or all circumstances, that I fear they were too much Influenced by the worst example.”

Note: Lucay Islands refers to the Bahamas, inhabited by the Lucayan people. It is possible this letter was also referring to those islands we now know as the Virgin Islands.

While some British officials were beginning to worry about the bad example of New Englanders with their outrageous resistance to taxation without representation, our hardy farmers in New Jersey must have relished their few years of peace before the “real” revolution began.

Notes on Sources

Ellis, Franklin, History of Monmouth County, 1885, Philadelphia: R. T. Peck & Co. Chapter III covers “The Dutch, English and Proprietory Rule in New Jersey.” Coverage of the Provincial Revolt starts on page 85 and the Butterworth Trial on page 85. Accessed at in June and July 2021

Hanna, MG. (2015). “Well-Behaved Pirates Seldom Make History: A Reevaluation of the Golden Age of English Piracy.” In Governing the Sea in the Early Modern Era Essays in Honor of Robert C. RitchieUC San Diego. Report #: 5. Retrieved from in June and July 2021.

Stillwell, John, M.D., Historic and Genealogical Miscellany : Data Relating to the Settlement and Settlers of New York and New Jersey, Vol. IV , New York, NY: Self-published, 1903. This entire text is available at The book contains family trees as well as legal documents from New Jersey covering a multitude of information.

David Stout Attacks Court Officers

David Stout, 1667 (?) – 1732

As I have written about the descendants of Richard Stout, I have indicated what generation they belong to, and just published an index of my Stout family articles. I am now doubling back to look at my final direct ancestor, David Stout, from Generation Two.

At first glance, my seven x great-grandfather seems to have lived a pretty ordinary farmer’s life in New Jersey. His farm stood near brothers and sisters on land deeded to them by their father. However, David Stout and other relatives lived through what was known as the Provincial Revolt. That period of unrest reached its peak between 1667 and 1700. We know that frustration drew David into at least one incident that pushed him to unlawful acts.

Once again, thanks to studying the lives of ancestors, I learned about an obscure piece of American history. But first, the everyday life of David Stout.

David Stout, 5th Son of Richard

Listed next to last on Richard’s will and other legal papers, it seems probable that David Stout was the next to last child of Richard and Penelope Stout. Like his older brother Jonathan and younger brother Benjamin, David was born after the family had settled in Middletown New Jersey. The first seven brothers and sisters had been born in Long Island.

We know that these three younger children were born after the distribution of land of the Monmouth Patent in 1665, as they are not mentioned in that document.

Marries and Starts a Family

According to the early genealogy of the Stout Family by Nathan Stout, David married Rebecca Ashton in 1688 when he was 21 and she was 16. (Their birth dates exist in the U.S. and International Marriage Records Index found at

Rebecca and David, with several other Stout family members, were active in the Middletown Baptist Church. Rebecca’s father served as the first minister in that church largely founded by members of the Stout family.

On Rebecca’s mother’s side, she descended from a distinguished lineage that traces back to the Plantagenent Age in England. Although I have few details about Rebecca’s own life, I will be writing about her grandparents, John and Rebecca Ferrand Throckmorton, my 9th great-grandparents. Their family life parallels David Stout’s family life in a surprising way.

Like his father, Richard Sr., David amassed farmland in New Jersey. Unlike his father, he did not seem to hold many public offices. However, he did, we shall learn, take part in civic activities.

The birth pattern of Rebecca and David’s seven children follows a familiar pattern to other Colonial families we have looked at. Babies came along every two years at first. The exception–a 4 year gap between James and Joseph and a six year gap before the youngest, Benjamin, was born.

  • Sarah 1689- ?
  • Rebecca 1691-1772
  • *Freegift 1693-1768
  • James Sr. 1694-1730
  • David Jr. 1695-1778
  • Joseph 1698-1770
  • Deliverance 1701- ?
  • Benjamin 1707-1789

*My 6 x great grandfather.

David moved from Middletown to farmland near Amwell in Hunterdon County either “after both his daughter Rebecca and son James had married” (about 1714), or “about 1725.” The notation in Historical and Genealogical Miscellany contains contradictory statements. However, he spent the rest of his life on that farm, and was buried there in 1732.

Riotous Assembly

At any rate, David Stout was presumably still living in Middletown in the summer of 1700, when he got into a spot of trouble. The story that follows illustrates that life was not all peaceful and bucolic in the “English” part of New Jersey, known at that time as East Jersey. David and his brothers and several sisters and their husbands lived around Middletown and Shrewsbury in East Jersey.

Court Records from Monmouth County dated 27 August 1700, show that the Grand Jury called forth Richard Salter, John Bray, James Stout, David Stout, Benjamin Stout [my emphasis], Cornelius Compton, William Boune (Bowne), Thomas Taylor, Thomas Hankison, Jacob Vindorne, Ariam Bennett, Thomas Sharp, Benjamin Cook, Robert Innes, Thomas Estel and Samuel, a servant to Salter.

The charge: “Riotously assembly on the 17th day of July and assaulting John Stewart, high Sherriff and Henry Leonard on the path near the house of Alexander Adam, beat and grievously wounded the said persons, took their swords from them, carry’d them away and Kept them to the value of five pounds money of this province.”

The Causes

What on earth could possess these pious, hard-working farmers to become a mob? Why did they attack court officials by torchlight on the dirt side streets of Middletown? Why would David, already a father of five children, ranging from two to eleven years, old risk his life? I can hear Rebecca’s pleas to him to not put their family at risk this way.

I will lay the groundwork by explaining more about the Provincial Revolt in my next post. It touches on the ownership of land in the colony, on governance by those purporting to be the King’s representatives. It joins a long string of actions and counter-actions between two factions. The people of Middletown and Shrewsbury, the Monmouth Patent area, refused to swear allegiance to English lords who now claimed the right to collect rent from the colonists.

The Governor’s Council sent officers of the court to force the residents of the two towns to swear allegiance and pay rent. David Stout and two brothers who lived nearby, James and Benjamin, plus his nephew William Bowne, joined ringleaders Richard Salter and John Bray and others to run the rent collectors out of town. Then they beat them, took their swords and ransomed them for five pounds.

Prejudice against Scots, and particular hatred of the present Governor , Col. Andrew Hamilton (a Scot ) no doubt helped rouse the townfolk. Their town had voted not to cooperate. The situation had become so serious that the Governor himself led a troop into Middletown two days after the attack on the officers of the court. The townspeople saw that group of armed men under Col. Hamilton as a mob endangering the safety of the locals. They gathered with sticks, swords and guns. The governor gave up and withdrew.

The Struggle for Independence

The author of The History of Monmouth County draws an interesting conclusion. The people of Middletown and Shrewsbury actually gained independence more than fifty years before the American Revolution. The King’s men gave up trying to get them to comply with imposed rents on their property. They were technically free of obligation to the King’s officers.

I read the account of the trial of the Middletown Sixteen (my own coinage), but I never did learn the outcome. As you will see in my next post, this was neither the first nor the last incidence of violence during the Provincial Revolt. The rebellion against authority went so far as to defend a pirate.

I can see now that David and Rebecca had more to worry about than the effect of the weather on their farm. Perhaps David withdrew from active protests after this incident, because although his brothers show up in other court papers, he does not.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, who is the daughter of
  • William Cochran (Doc) Stout, who is the son of
  • Isaiah Stout (1822), who is the son of
  • Isaac Stout (1800), who is the son of
  • Isaiah Stout (1773) who is the son of
  • Isaac Stout (1740) who is the son of
  • Freegift Stout , who is the son of
  • David Stout.

Notes on Research

History of Monmouth County, Franklin Ellis, Philadelphia PA: R T Peck and Company, 1885. Entire text is available at This book contains detailed court records including the story above.

Historic and Genealogical Miscellany : Data Relating to the Settlement and Settlers of New York and New Jersey, Vol. IV , John Stillwell, M.D. New York, NY: Self-published, 1903. This entire text is available at The book contains family trees as well as legal documents from New Jersey covering a multitude of information.

The History of the Stout Family; First Settling in Middleton, Monmouth, New Jersey, by Nathan Stout, self published 1823. Accessed at Family

Stout and Allied Families, Herald Stout. San Diego, CA: Self Published, 1968. Filmed by

U. S. Find a Grave, David Stout, 1667-1732

Benjamin Merrill and the Battle You Never Heard Of.

Benjamin Merrill


When I first heard the Battle of Alamance, I thought of France and WWI.  Alamance Creek actually runs through North Carolina. In the book, Captain Merrill and the Merrill Family of North Carolina , I learned about an important  Revolutionary War battle that preceded the battle of Concord and Lexington (April, 1775) by four years. Boston, site of the Boston Massacre in 1771, is thought to be the fuse that lit the fire under colonists to finally break from the British. But the same sort of harassment occurred in North Carolina around the same time, and concluded with an actual battle that later dropped from history books.

Why have we forgotten the Battle of Alamance the site of the first American blood spilled in the War of Independence? In the aftermath of the American Revolution, people numbered that battle among the important events in winning freedom. After the Civil War, Northerners tended to erase the South from history books, and their participation in the Civil War ( with a few exceptions like the Battle of New Orleans) disappeared. Not only did the winners write the history of the Civil War—they went farther back and rewrote the history of the Revolution as well. Today, the story is told differently, and I will meld the two versions as I tell the story.


Benjamin Merrill was born in New Jersey. We share common 8 times great-grandparents—Richard and Penelope Stout. His mother, Penelope Stout (Jr.),  married into the French Huguenot Merrill family. According to a book called A Merrill Memorial, Penelope’s son Benjamin moved to North Carolina to an area called “Jersey Settlement” because a group of people from New Jersey, including his brother William, moved there. The move would have occurred about 1750, because his second son Andrew’s birth is recorded in North Carolina.

Benjamin was a farmer and a gun maker. He became the deacon of the Jersey Settlement Baptist Church, and a Captain in the militia.

Living in western North Carolina meant he was a frontiersman and fought battles with indigenous people still populating the area. The Jersey Settlement had more in common with neighboring Tennessee than with Eastern North Carolina with its elite plantation owners and businessmen. The local government operated on wild west principles—Sheriffs and Judges representing the English Crown, running rough-shod over the rights of the farmers.

According to a DAR application, Benjamin had a son named John born in 1750 in New Jersey. According to some sources, he married in 1753, which would have been after he moved to North Carolina, but I have not researched further to try to locate documentation. (John later lived in Georgia and in Monroe County, Mississippi.) According to most other sources, Benjamin had a total of 7 sons, including: John, Andrew (b. 1757 in North Carolina and continued to live there), Charles (b. 1761, later lived in S. Carolina), Elijah/Eli (b. circa 1763), William, (b. circa 1763), Jonathan (b. 1765), Samuel/Azariah (b. ?) and two daughters: Penelope (b. 1759), Nancy/Anna (b. 1760) .Some accounts list Samuel as the oldest son. In fact the information about his children is sketchy, and I have not rigorously  researched them. A tax record in 1757 also lists a Negro girl, Phyllis.

Apparently, Benjamin Merrill, tended toward independent thought early on. In 1756, he defied an order for “going out against a man who committed misdemeanors.” However, in 1759, he was among militia sent out on an alarm to aid a man attacked by Indians.


Farmers in North Carolina, frustrated by corruption and excessive taxes and fees, formed an organization called The Regulators. This was in April 1767. They objected to local enforcement of English law rather than to the King’s rule. The same ambivalence shows up in documents about colonists in the north during this period. They wanted to be good British citizens. But they wanted fair treatment. They shied away from the idea of breaking with England.

An example of the abuse they suffered: By law a marriage license cost $1, but local officials charged $15. (Note, accounts I read said dollars, but I assume it was actually English pounds.) At first the Regulators tried by peaceful petition and argument to get more equitable treatment.


However, making no headway, the Regulators turned to refusal to pay taxes, disruption of court proceedings, threats against officials, and vandalism. The ranking King’s officer, Governor Tryon, finally called together the militia to march against the Regulators after giving warning to the dissidents. Their reply–”Fire and be damned.”

JMay 14, 1771, Tryon’s 1000 militiamen were heading toward the Alamance Creek, about five miles away, where a ragtag, ill-armed and poorly-organized group of about 2000 dissidents assembled. A man representing the Regulators approached Tryon to talk, but as he turned away, the Governor shot him in the back.

Apparently some of the militia were sympathetic with the Regulators, because when the Governor ordered them to fire, some hesitated. He commanded the troops, “Fire on them, or fire on me.”

Tryon’s militia easily won the May 16 Battle of Alamance (also called the Battle of the Regulators). The King’s militia lost nine soldiers and had 61 wounded. The losses on the Regulator’s side is unknown.

The victorious Governor issued a proclamation that those who would swear allegiance and pay their taxes would be forgiven, except Captain Merrill and five others. The Governor declared them outlaws who would be hanged, drawn and quartered. Tryon took 15 prisoners, including Benjamin Merrill, who was not actually present on May 16. All but 6 escaped execution.


About May 12, Captain Merrill was heading toward Alamance with his company of 300-400 men, when he encountered General H. Waddell, who commanded a component of the King’s forces. Merrill took the General’s men prisoner and General Waddell fled to Salisbury.

Merrill and his men proceeded toward Alamance, but when they were within a day’s march, they heard the battle and a scout informed them of the Governor’s victory. Merrill released his troops and returned to his home in Ronan County. The Governor’s men arrested Merrill in short order, and took him to Tryon’s camp on June 6, 1771. The captors put Merrill in chains and dragged him through the countryside to Hillsborough where on June 19, 1771, a judge proclaimed the official sentence.

(Warning: The following contains explicit language that can be quite unsettling.)

The Judge’s sentence concluded:

“I must now close my afflicting Duty, by pronouncing upon you the awful sentence of the law; which is that you, Benjamin Merrill, be carried to the place whence you came, you be drawn from thence to the place of execution, where you are to be hanged by the neck; that you be cut down while yet alive, that your bowels be taken out and burnt before your face, that your head be cut off, your Body divided in Four Quarters and this be it his Majesty’s Disposal and the Lord have mercy on your soul.”

When allowed final remarks on the gallows, Merrill asked for mercy for his widow and ten children and that they be allowed to keep some of his property. The Governor later signed an order fulfilling that wish. Then Merrill, professing some doubts about having rebelled against the King, and professing his own faith in God, went to his death singing a Psalm.


It is interesting to note that Merrill’s final statement refers to ten children, but the Governor’s order refers to eight children, and a later document refers to nine children.

As for the Regulators, one account I read speculated that had Merrill reached Alamance in time, the result could have been much different. That writer believed that Merrill was a better military leader than any of the men involved at Alamance. He certainly seemed to have no trouble subduing the branch of the King’s militia led by Waddell.

Although the Battle of Alamance did not prove to be the beginning of the Revolution, coming five years before the Revolution started in earnest in Massachusetts, it certainly illustrates the long simmering resentment of English government in the colonies. The Regulators were using the same arguments later used in Philadelphia by the crafters of the Declaration of Independence. And their struggle had tangible results in North Carolina. Of the 47 sections of the state constitution that was adopted in 1776, ¼ of them—thirteen sections— were reforms sought by the Regulators.

While I have written extensively about my New England ancestors in the American Revolution, this July 4th, I want to turn my attention to the North Carolinians who were the first to fight the British in actual battle, and to my relative, Benjamin Merrill, who became a martyr for the cause five years before the Declaration of Independence.