Regicide Jurists in Hadley, MA

In the days when overcoats on sale cost $12.95 and “Laxative Bromo Quinine” was sold 25 cents a box and cured “a cold in one day, grip in 2 days,” William E. Curtis, a special correspondent of the Chicago Record-Herald, wrote an article regarding the fate of two jurists who condemned King Charles I of England to die.

The two jurists in question–“General Wiliam Goffe, son-in-law of Oliver Cromwell, and General Edward Whalley, a cousin of the Protector”–had been members of the High Court of Justice, which sentenced King Charles I. After the Restoration, the two fled to the Colonies to escape “keen” royal vengeance. Originally, they settled in Cambridge, MA, then “New Haven, Hartford, and several other places” in efforts to “escape the hangman” who “searched for [them] in every corner of the world except the village of Old Hadley.” It was in this town where, in the winter of 1664, the two jurists “arrived secretly and in disguise.” Both Goff and Whalley stayed with a Reverend John Russell, who was the pastor of the Congregational Church in Hadley, until their deaths in 1679 and 1676, respectively.

According to journalist Curtis, the regicides had to live “in concealment in the parsonage and were not permitted to leave its shelter during the daytime for fear of spies.” The two had been pursued from England to the Colonies and actually journeyed on foot through the Holyoke Mountains “until their pursuers were thrown off the scent and returned to New Haven to try and pick it up again.” During their years in Hadley, Curtis imagined that the lives of the jurists were “lonesome and irksome, notwithstanding the cordial hospitality of Parson Russell and the neighbors who were in his confidence.” The two jurists stayed in a secret compartment in the parsonage attic, only accessible through a trap door. In case of an emergency, the ladder leading to the compartment could be “taken away and concealed,” leaving no evidence “to indicate the existence of a human being above.” A “closet in the cellar… fully stocked with provisions” was a fall-back “retreat for an indefinite time.”

The last incident of note in the history of the regicides in Hadley is best described in Curtis’ own words:

“In September 1675, while the citizens of Hadley were attending a long fast day service, the church was surrounded by a band of Indians. Before the savages could carry out their horrible intention of setting fire to the building, the congregation was warned by a stranger of venerable and commanding appearance wearing old-fashioned English garments and carrying a sword. He assumed command without question and conducted the defense in a military manner, as if he was familiar with warfare, and, under his leadership, the savages were repelled and many of them slaughtered. In the confusion of identifying the bodies of the dead at the close of the battle he suddenly disappeared and was never seen again. The inhabitants of Hadley could not explain the phenomenon except as divine interposition and called their rescuer an angel from God.”

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4 thoughts on “Regicide Jurists in Hadley, MA

  1. What a great find! Who knew some of the area’s first citizens concealed such checkered and fascinating pasts? I look forward to more articles!

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  2. A ferry was kept up between the south end of the wide street in Hadley and Northanpton by Joseph Kellogg and his descendants for nearly one hundred years, or from 1661 to 1758. He also maintained a tavern there to accommodate travelers. It must certainly have played an important part in supporting Hadley during King Philip’s war, in which he was in charge of the Hadley troops at the Turners’ Falls Fight on May 18, 1676. He also assisted in defending and concealing “the Regicides” of Charles I. Perhaps student workers would find materials elaborating these early events.

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