Robert Wheaton in Salem Part one

Why Context matters. When we look at records or individuals in isolation it is easy to be misled. The first record of Robert Wheaton in New England is in 1636 in the Salem town meetings records where it reads.

The 16th of the 11th month 1636 (i.e.16 January 1637 on modern calendar)

“Robt Wheato refused to be an Inhabitant”

First it is important to note that these records are recorded in a shorthand so that Wheato would be shorthand for Wheaton. In this case the recorder was Governor John Endecott, a Devon man who would have known how the name was generally spelled. Please note other abbreviatios below. It has been interpreted that the refusal was on the part of Robert. This is possible but other possibilities have come to light. In the years from 1634-1637 I have located several other men who “refused to be inhabitant” and all were subsequently received. Examples:

“Mathew Waller Received for an Inhabitant p a Certifficate from Mr Atherton haugh.”

“Tho: Trace Recd. for Inhabitant vpon a Certificate from Divers of watter Towne.”

“Jno Tompkins is promised to be Recd. for Inhabitant in case he peure [procure] free Dismission”

“Ricd. Graves Refused to be an Inhabitant.”

“Robt. Baker refused to be acknowledged inhabitant heare [here].”

“Geo; Roaps cannot yet be recd. because he hathe a yr. to serue [serve].”

“Joshua Tidd is admitted for an Inhabitant provided he bringeth a certificate from ye magistrates for his appbation [approbation] in ye Jurisdiction.”

In addition in 1634 an oath was required of Salem residents to be Inhabitants. More on the reasons for the Oath later.

“At A Court holden att Boston, April Ith, 1634

It was further ordered, that euy man of or above the age of twenty yeares, whoe hath bene or shall herefter be resident within this juridiccon by the space of six monethes, as an householder or soiorner, and not infranchised, shall take the oath herevnder written, before the Gounr, or Deputy Gounr, or some two of the nexte Assistants, whoe shall haue power to convent him for that purpose, and vpon his refuseall the second tyme, hee shalbe banished, except the Court shall see cause to giue him further respite.


I doe heare sweare, and call God to witnes, that, being nowe an inhabitant within the lymitts of this juridiccon of the Massachusetts, I doe acknowledge myselfe lawfully subject to the aucthoritie and gouermt there established, and doe accordingly submitt my pson, family, and estate, to be ptected, ordered, & gouerned by the lawes & constitucons thereof, and doe faithfully pmise to be from time to time obedient and comformeable therevnto, and to the aucthoritie of the Gounr, & all other the magistrates there, and their successrs, and to all such lawes, orders, sentences, decrees, as nowe are or hereafter shalbe lawfully made, decreed, published by them or their successrs. And I will alwayes indeavr (as in duty I am bound) to advance the peace & wellfaire of this body pollitique, and I will (to my best power & meanes) seeke to devert & prevent whatsoeyer may tende to the ruine or damage thereof, or ye Gounr, or Assistants, or any of them or their successrs, and will giue speedy notice to them, or some of them, of any sedicon, violence, treacherie, or othr hurte or euill wch I shall knowe, heare, or vehemently suspect to be plotted or intended against them or any of them, or against the said Comon-wealth or goumt established. Soe helpe mee God.”

So now we have many possibilities for Robert Wheaton’s “refused to be Inhabitant.”

  • Lacked Certification from former residence
  • Was not free of servitude
  • Had not reached age of twenty
  • Had not sworn the oath within 6 months of arrival in Salem

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