Stephen Woodward, a poor man with little means of support. His origins is questionable and his death date and place continue to remain a mystery.
Stephen Woodward and his wife Hannah, and infant son, Eliphalet, were warned out of Plaistow, New Hampshire, on 17 April 175 and told to return to Haverhill in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from which they had come. When I first saw the warning out at the New Hampshire State Archives, my first thought was, “My gosh, what knowledge or rumors of skullduggery had preceded Stephen and his small family to Plaistow (originally part of Haverhill).”
It is important that family historians take time to learn some of the law that will relate to their family. In this instance I needed to learn about “Warnings Out of Town.” During the early European settlement of this county, it was the town or Parish that looked after the poor. New England towns were no exception and it is reasonable that the town inhabitants were not keen about looking after poor folks who came into town with no visible means of support. So, you see, the only “crime” committed by Stephen and his small family was that of being poor.
Stephen Woodward married Hannah Clement about 1757, perhaps in Essex County in the province of Massachusetts. Hannah was born 24 March 1732, daughter of Jonathan Clement and Sarah Watts (married 2 March 1729/30), in Haverhill, Massachusetts
Evidence in the Plaistow town records indicates that the family remained in Plaistow until at least 1779 when their 9th child, Tamar, was born.
All known children of Stephen and Hannah were registered with the town of Plaistow.
Eliphlet, born 28 May 1758, Haverhill
Stephen, born 11 May 1760, Plaistow
Edna, born 2 September 1762, Plaistow
James, born 26 June 1765, Plaistow
Hannah, born 26 July 1767, Plaistow
Bettey, born 4 September 1769, Plaistow
Sarah, born 25 February 1772, Plaistow
Jesse, born 24 June 1774, Plaistow
Tamar, born 19 September 1779, Plaistow
The Town Records of Plaistow provide information about some of the events of Stephen’s life there.
- In 1762, Stephen Woodward a laborer of Plaistow was sued for a debt owed to Samuel White (Stephen had signed the note so we know though poor, he was literate).
- “An order given to Stephen Woodard on Constable Cheney for ten Shilings and Eleven pence it being a batment of his years rates he being not of age.”
- An order given to Stephen Woodward on Constable Eaton for one pound tens Shillings L.M. it being for his making a coffing and diging a grave for Potter.”
- “An order given to Stephen Woodard on Constable Eaton for seven pound fourteen Shilling L.M. it being for a ballance Due to him for his son? going to new york.”
It is apparent that Stephen Woodward did not (or could not) honor his agreements.
Samuel White sued Stephen Woodward in March 1762 for failure to honor an agreement. The case: Samuel White (Plaintiff), adversus Stephen Woodward (Defendant), March 1762. The case involved a note dated in Haverhill, April 16, 1761:
I Stephen Woodward of Plastow
Labourer promise to pay Samuel White
on order five pounds Six Shill
ings and Eight pence Lawfull mony
mony by the twenty first day of aprill
kostant[?] with Interest for Delay for value
Recieved as witness my hand
5:6:8 [Signed] Stephen Woodward
On the 13th February 1762, the court ordered the Sheriff of the Province of New-Hampshire
“to attach the Goods or Estate of Stephen Woodward of Plastow, Labourer within our Province of New Hampshire, to the Value of fifty Pounds, and for want thereof to take the Body of the said Stephen Woodward (if he may be found in your Precinct) and him safely keep so that you have him before our Justices of our Inferiour Court of Common Pleas, next to be holden at Portsmouth, within and for our said Province of New Hampshire, on the first Tuesday in March next, then and there in our said Court to Answer unto Samuel White of Havehill in the County of Essex & province of the Massachusetts Bay Esqr in an action of the Case for that whereas the Defendant at a place called Haverhill in plastow aforesaid on the 16th Day of Aprill A:D: 1761 by his note of hand of that Date by him Signed promised the plantiff to pay him on order five pound six Shillings & Eight pence Lawfull mony by the Twenty first day of the same aprill with Interest for Delay for value Received yet the Defendant though requested hath not paid the same to this day but detanes it Said sum being to the value of Twenty six pounds fourteen Shillings New tenor bills of the province of New hampshire aforesaid with interest as aforesaid yet the defendant tho: Requested, hath not paid the same nor the value there of to this Day but injustly Detaines it.”
It was ordered that “forty” pounds damages be paid to Samuel White.
Harold Edward Woodward would have us believe that, Stephen4 Woodward (Ezekiel3, Ezekiel2, Nathaniel1) was born at Gloucester, Massachusetts, 9 March 1771. Stephen married Hannah Clement and they had children: Eliphalet, born 28 May 1758; and Stephen, born May 1761.
Unfortunately, Harold Woodward’s book on the descendants of Nathaniel Woodward is not well documented, and has been used as a reference by many others who have written about Woodward families of New England.
According to the vital records of Gloucester, Massachusetts, a Stephen was born 9 March 1716, to Ezekiel and Hannah Perkins
We know that Stephen Woodward did marry Hannah Clement about 1757 as evidenced in the Plaistow Town Records. However, Harold Woodward lists only two of the couples nine children, the oldest, Eliphalet, was born 28 May 1758. I have a problem with this scenario by Harold Woodward. If Stephen was the son of Ezekiel and Hannah Woodward born 9 March 1716/17 married Hannah Clement, then he would have been about forty-one or forty-two years old when his son Eliphalet was born—obviously not impossible, but I think that is unlikely that this is the Stephen that married Hannah Clement. I’ve found no evidence of a prior marriage for Hannah’s husband. I suspect that there may be a missing generation and research continues.
 Province of New Hampshire, Loose Records of the Inferior Court at Portsmouth, file #06332, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, New Hampshire.
 Vital Records of Haverhill, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 volumes (Topsfield, Massachusetts: Topsfield Historical Society, 1911), II: 67; hereinafter cited as Vital Records of Haverhill.
 Vital Records of Haverhill, I: 67.
 State of New Hampshire, Plaistow Town Records, Volume 1: 1736–1801, page 401; Family History Library, microfilm 15,281, item 1.
 Province of New Hampshire, Loose Records of the Inferior Court at Portsmouth, file #06332, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, New Hampshire; and Plaistow Town Records, Volume 2: 16.
 Plaistow Town Records, Volume 2: 109.
 Plaistow Town Records, Volume 2: 115.
 Plaistow Town Records, Volume 2: 116,
 Province of New-Hampshire Inferiour Court at Portsmouth, Docket No. 6332, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, New Hampshire.
 Vital Records of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 volumes (Topsfield, Massachusetts: Topsfield Historical Society, 1917–1924), I: 792.