{Judge} Samuel Sewall
(1652 - 1729/30)

Click to return to the Sewall / Sewell Page

Judge Samuel Sewall    Samuel Sewall's Diary is the best record we have of life in colonial Massachusetts. The best version of the diary that I have come across is the 1973 edition. This is the complete diary with nothing omitted; and the footnotes are where they should be, at the bottom of each page:

Samuel Sewall, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, M. Halsey Thomas, ed., Farrar, Straus and Girous, Inc., New York, 1973.

    The 1885 edition of the diary can be found in various formats by clicking on Internet Archive; and there are at least two abridged editions of the diary as well, one edited by Mel Yazewa and one by Harvey Wish. Try searching at your local library or at an online bookseller.

    Thanks to Judge Samuel's great X6 grandson, Professor Theodore P. Wright, Jr., for news of a recent book about Samuel Sewall and the times in which he lived:

Richard Francis, Judge Sewall's Apology, Harper Collins, New York, 2005.

    This "apology" brings us to a dark corner of the history of Massachusetts: The Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Samuel Sewall was one of the judges of the Court of Oyer and Terminer; and he presided over the Witch Trials. Samuel was a good man who became caught up  in a dark part of our history; and he apologised (not that it helped those who had been executed) for his part in this tragedy. For more on the Salem Witch Trials, try the following links: 
Famous American Trials
An Account of Events in Salem
Salem Witch Trials
Documantary Archive
Salem Witchcraft Hysteria
Take a "virtual trial" at Salem.

The Historic Salem Witch Trials - A Timeline

Thanks to Mary and her teacher Mrs. Lowe for sharing this link.
Witches, Warlocks, and the Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trial Resource Guide

Thanks to Sara and Ava Barnes for sharing the above links.
{Judge} Samuel Sewall wrote the first anti-slavery tract in what was to become the United States, thereby laying the foundation for later social reform.
Click on The Selling of Joseph.

For more links, please click on Samuel Sewall

    {Judge} Samuel Sewall's autobiographical letter provides the basis for our early Sewall / Sewell family genealogy, and it is copied next:

Samuel Sewall’s Autobiographical Letter
To his son Samuel Junior

Boston, April 21, 1720
Dear Son,

    You have often desired that I would give you some Account of the family of which you are. And although I am much less able to doe any thing of this nature now when I have been left of my dear Parents very near Twenty years; yet considering the longer I stay, the more unfit I shall be, take what I have to say as follows:

    Mr. Henry Sewall, my great Grandfather, was a Linen Draper in the City of Coventry in Great Britain. He acquired a great Estate, was a prudent Man, and was more than once chosen Mayor of the City.
Mr. Henry Sewall, my Grandfather, was his eldest Son, who out of dislike to the English Hierarchy sent over his only Son, my Father, Mr. Henry Sewall, to New England in the year 1634, with Net(1)Cattel and Provisions sutable for a new Plantation. Mr. Cotton would have had my Father settle at Boston; but in regard of his Cattel he chose to goe to Newbury, whither my Grandfather soon followed him. Where also my Grandfather Mr. Stephen Dummer, and Alice his wife likewise dwelled under the Ministry of the Reverend Mr. Thomas Parker and Mr. James Noyes.

    On the 25th March, 1646, Richard Saltonstall, Esq. Grandfather of Gurdon Saltonstall, Esq. now Governour of Connecticut, joined together in Marriage my father Mr. Henry Sewall and my Mother Mrs. Jane Dummer, eldest Child of Mr. Stephen Dummer aforesaid and Alice his wife. My Father being then about 32, and my Mother about 19 years of Age.

    But the Climat being not agreeable to my Grandfather and Grandmother Dummer, (whose Maiden name was Archer) they returned to England the Winter following, and my Father and Mother with them, and dwelt awhile at Warwick, and afterwards removed to Hampshire. My Sister Hannah Tappan, their eldest Child, was born at Tunworth May 10th, 1649. Baptised by Mr. Haskins.

    I was born at Bishop Stoke, March 28, 1652; so that the Light of the Lord’s Day was the first light that my Eyes saw, being born a little before Day-break. I was baptised by Mr. Rashly, (sometime Member of the Old Church in Boston) in Stoke Church May 4th 1652. Mr. Rashly first preached a Sermon, and then baptised me. After which an entertainment was made for him and many more.

    Some months after, Mv Father removed to Badesly, where my Brother John Sewall was born Octobr 10. 1654, and was baptised in my Father’s House Novembr 22 by Mr. Henry Cox , Minister of Bishop Stoke.

    My Brother Stephen Sewall was born at Badesly Augt 19th, 1657, Baptised in my Father’s house Scptembr 24, by the said Mr. Cox.

    My Father had made one Voyage to New-England to visit my Grandfather Mr. Henry Sewall. And in the year 1659 he went thither again; his rents at Newbury coming to very little when Remitted to England. In my Father’s absence, Octobr 25, 1659, my Sister Jane Gerrish was born at Badesly and was baptised by Mr. Cox at Bishop Stoke in the house of Mr. Boys.

    At this Badesly, by the merciful goodness of GOD, I was taught to read English. And afterwards was educated in the Grammar School at Rumsey of which Mr. Figes was Master.

    My Father sent for my Mother to come to him to New-England. I remember being at Bishop Stoke and Badesly, April 23, 1661, the day of the Coronation of K. Charles the 2d, the Thunder and Lightening of it. Quickly after my Mother went to Winchester with small Children, Hannah, Samuel, John, Stephen and Jane; and John Nash and Mary Hobs her Servants; there to be in a readiness for the Pool Waggons. At this place her near Relations, especially my very worthy and pious Uncle Mr. Stephen Dummer took Leave with Tears. Capt. Dummer of Swathling treated us with Raisins and Almonds. My Mother lodged in Pump-yard, London, waiting for the going of the Ship, the Prudent Mary, Capt. Isaac Woodgreen, Commander, went by water to Graves-End where the Ship lay. Took in Sheep at Dover. Passengers in the Ship at the same time were Major Brown, a young brisk Merchant and a considerable Freighter; Mr. Gilbert and his wife, He was Minister at Topsfield; Madam Bradstreet (then Gardener); Mrs. Martha, Mr. Pitkins Sister, who died lately at Windsor, and many others. We were about Eight Weeks at Sea, where we had nothing to see but Water and the Sky; so that I began to fear I should never get to Shoar again; only I thought the Capt. and Mariners would not have ventured themselves if they had not hopes of getting to Land again. Capt. Woodgreen arrived here on Satterday. I was overjoyed to see Land again, especially being so near it as in the Narrows. ‘Twas so late by that time we got to the Castle, that our men held a discourse with them whether they should Fire or no, and reckoned ‘t was agreed not to doe it. But presently after the Castle Fired; which much displeased the Ship’s Company; and then they Fired. On the Lord’s day my Mother kept aboard; but I went ashoar, the Boat grounded, and I was carried out in arms July 6, 1661. My Mother lodg’d at Mr. Richard Collucott’s. This Week there was a publick Thanksgiving. My Father hastened to Boston and carried his Family to Newbury by Water in Mr. Lewis(2). Brother Tappan has told me our arrival there was upon Lecture-day which was Wednesday. Mr. Ordway carryed me ashore in his Canoe. We sojourned at Mr. Titcomb’s. My Father presently sent me to school to the Reverend and Excellent Mr. Thomas Parker, with whom I continued six years till my entrance into the College; being admitted by the very learned and pious Mr. Charles Chauncey.

    Septr 3, 1662, Mother was brought to bed of Sister Anne, Mr. Joshua Moodey the Minister’s Mother being her Midwife. Baptised by Mr. Parker.

    May, 8, 1665, Sister Mehetabel was born: Baptised by Mr. Parker. She became wife to the midwife’s Grandson, Mr. William Moodey. Dorothy Sewall (now Northend) was born October 29, 1668. Baptised by Mr. Parker.

    At this time the Commencement was in August. In the year 1667 my father brought me to be admitted, by which means I heard Mr. Richard Mather of Dorchester preach Mr. Wilson’s Funeral Sermon. Your Fathers where are they? I was admitted by the very Learned and pious Mr. Charles Chauncey, who gave me my first Degree in the year 1671. There were no Masters that year. These Bachelours were the last Mr. Chauncey gave a degree to. For he died the February following.

    In July 1672, Dr. Hoar came over with his Lady and sojourned with your Grandfather Hull. (He was my Aunt Quincey’s Brother) and preached, as an Assistant, to the Rev. Mr. Thomas Thacher at the South Church. The College quickly called him to be President. He was installed in the College Flail in Decembr 1672. Gov. Bellingham lay dead in his House, and Dep. Gov. Leverett was the Chief Civil Magistrat present at that Solemnity. The March following Mrs. Bridget Hoar, now Cotton, was born in Cambridge. In 1674 I took my 2d Degree and Mrs. Hannah Hull, my dear Wife, your honoured Mother, was invited by the Dr. and his Lady to be with them a while at Cambridge. She saw me when I took my Degree and set her Affection on me, though I knew nothing of it till after our Marriage, which was February 28th. 1675/6. Govr Bradstreet married us in that we now call the Old Hall; ‘t was then all in one, a very large Room. As I remember, Madam Thacher and Madam Paige with whom Gov. Bradstreet boarded visited us the next day.

    On the 2d of April, 1677, it pleased GOD to favour us with the birth of your Brother John Sewall, our First-born. In June 1678 you were born. Your brother lived till the September following, and then died. So that by the undeserved Goodness of GOD your Mother and I never were without a child after the 2d of April 1677.

    In the FaIl 1678, I was seized with the Small Pocks and brought very near to death; so near that I was reported to be dead. But it pleased GOD of his Mercy to Recover me. Multitudes died, two of my special Friends viz. Mr. John Noyes, and Ensign Benjamin Thirston, who both died while I lay sick: and Mr. William Dummer, Son of Jeremiah Dummer Esq. aged about 19 years. Presently after my Recovery, in December, Col. Townsend, Mr. Stoddard, and I were Bearers to Mr. Joseph Tappin one of the most noted Shop keepers in Boston.

    And now what shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits? The good Lord help me to walk humbly and Thankfully with Him all my days; and profit by Mercies and by Afflictions; that through Faith and Patience I may also in due time fully inherit the Promises. Let us incessantly pray for each other, that it may be so!

Samuel Sewall
Augt. 26. 1720.

(1)    No, the cattle were not restrained in nets. Samuel means “neat” as in ox, cow or bull as distinct from sheep and other flocks and herds.

(2)    Samuel was sometimes frugal with words. He means “in Mr. Lewis’s boat”.

Click to return to the Sewall / Sewell Page