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Documents Give Glimpse into History

by Janine L. Weisman

Thomas B. Almy (1407-2512-21) sent me the following article from The Newport (R.I.) Daily News of December 9, 2002.

NEWPORT - A Florida woman has donated to the Newport Historical Society 25 letters and documents that involve William Almy - who lived from about 1601 to 1677 in Portsmouth and in Massachusetts - and his descendants.

Spanning more than 150 years, the collection includes land and probate records from the estates of William Almy and his wife Audry (Barlow) Almy and many legal papers of Job Almy, the couple's grandson or great-grandson. Job was a justice of the peace in Bristol County, Mass., and a justice of the Indian Councils of Tiverton, Little Compton and Dartmouth, Mass. Several of the documents cover the lives and parentage of American Indians in Bristol County in the 1720s and 1730s.

The earliest document is an October 1656 agreement between Phillip Shearman and William Almy to put up a fence between their properties in Portsmouth. The latest deals with the sale of a vessel in the early 1800s in New Bedford, Mass.

"It's small in number, but great in importance," said Daniel Snydacker, executive director, "Material from the 17th century is so rare."

The documents reveal important details about the position of women in colonial Newport and Bristol counties. One of Job Almy's court memorandums is a claim filed August 14, 1736, by Sarah Pope accusing David Amon of being the father of her daughter born out of wedlock on June 27, 1735. Amon was ordered to pay Pope 40 shillings, according to an annotation dated 1737, but Pope was fined 30 shillings for the offense of fornication.

Another document is a record of William Almy's estate dated June 26, 1681, which accounts for the property and distributes it to his sons who were responsible for supporting their mother. Audry Almy could not sign her own name and left a mark instead where her name had been written.

The donor has not given the historical society permission to release her name, said its librarian, Bertram Lippincott III. But he said she chose to make the gift to the organization because it is the largest repository for Newport County historical materials.

The documents are being catalogued and filed in the historical society's special collection archives and will be available for examination by the public, by appointment. Almy descendants and those interested in colonial law would find the documents useful, Lippincott said.

To make an appointment to view the documents, call the historical society at 846-0813.

Note by Merwin Almy: The statement above that Audry could not sign her name does not necessarily mean that she couldn't write.

Back in the days of quill pens, and even the steel pens used with ink wells, a persons' pen was shaped for that persons angle of writing and if another person used your pen it would be ruined. Therefore, if you did not have your personal pen with you, you left a mark which was then credited to you.

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