Featured Article and Did You Know That?.....

January 2001 

“Til Death Us Do Part”

Robert Holt immigrated to Maryland in 1646 with his wife and four children.  The family lived in St. Mary’s County, quietly, as far as we know until about 1650.  Edward Hudson also immigrated in 1646.  We don’t know if Robert Holt and Edward Hudson knew each other prior to their arrival in Maryland, but they were living in the same house as the following entry shows.

On February 24, 1650, as the result of a judgment obtained against them, Richard Ware, Robert Holt, and Edward Hudson, planters, promised to pay Henry Ponntenell 1,500 lbs. tobacco at the “now dwelling house of the said Robert Holt and Edward Hudson” by November 10, 1650.

During the early years of the establishment of Maryland there was a surplus of men and a corresponding lack of women.  It was probably bad judgment on his part for Robert Holt to have allowed Edward Hudson to live in his house, because this is apparently when trouble began.

On the complaint of Robert Holt, depositions were taken by Mr. John Sturman and Lt. Nicholas Guyther, by virtue of a special commission granted to them for that purpose,  took the following depositions between November 3 and November 7, 1651: 

Robert Holt stated that his wife Dorothy and Edward Hudson had threatened on numerous occasions to kill him and that he was in fear of his life every day.

Andrew Watson testified that about July or August, 1650 he stayed at the home of Edward Hudson for a fortnight or so.  While there, he saw Edward Hudson and Dorothy Holt go to bed together as if they were man and wife.  He said that they told him that Dorothy’s husband was dead and he thought that was true until some of the neighbors told him differently.

Rose Smith, aged 42 or thereabouts, testified that in about September, 1650 she went to the home of Robert Holt and his wife Dorothy Holt told her that she was going to kill her husband.  When Rose responded by saying that surely she  wouldn’t, Dorothy said that she would just as well kill him as to live as she was.  Rose then reminded her that if she did kill him, she would be hanged.  Dorothy’s response was that would be the end of both of them then.

Rose also stated that Dorothy Holt came to her house after she and Robert Holt had separated and that Rose had encouraged her to return to her husband, reminding her of her wedding vows.  Dorothy told her that her heart was so hardened against him that she would never darken his door again.

George Dolte, aged 24 or thereabouts, stated that one night he went to the house where Edward Hudson and Robert Holt’s wife were living together and he saw them in bed together before the fire.

Humphrey Howell stated that in June, 1650 he was going to the well for water and he called at Edward Hudson’s house.  He said that Edward Hudson came to door in his shirt and when he went inside, he saw the place where Edward had lain in the same bed where Dorothy, wife of Robert Holt, lay at that time.

John Medcalf, Gentleman deposed that he heard Dorothy Holt curse her husband to
God many times.  He said that he heard her say that she hoped he might “rot from limb to limb” and she prayed every day that something would happen to him.  Further, she said that she hoped her son Richard Holt would end his days on the gallows.

Henry Cox said that he lived in the house with Robert Holt and Edward Hudson from about the beginning of August last until about the middle of October following and that he never knew there was a problem between them during that time, nor did he ever see Edward Hudson and Dorothy Holt in bed together.

On November 6, 1651, Edward Hudson and Dorothy, the wife of Robert Holt were apprehended by the Sheriff and brought to court for trial based on the suit of Robert Holt brought the day before.  They were charged with lewd, incontinent, and scandalous actions and practices based on the depositions that had been taken.  The court found them guilty. 

Edward Hudson was sentenced to receive 30 lashes and was given until January 1 to move at least 20 miles from St. Mary’s County.  If he was found within that limit after that time, he was to receive another 30 lashes and pay a fine of 300 lbs. tobacco.

Dorothy Holt was sentenced to receive 50 lashes.  She was given one week (under penalty of another 30 lashes) to move at least five miles from Robert Holt’s plantation in St. Michael’s Hundred where she could live for “one quarter of a year next ensuing if she thinks fit in regard of her young children”.  Afterwards, she was not to live any place within St. Mary’s County, under penalty of 30 lashes for each offense.  Further, if she attempted any injury or violence to Robert Holt, she was to receive 30 lashes for each offense unless the offense required a greater punishment.

All was apparently quiet until early September, 1658 when an indictment was issued against Robert Holt and Rev. William Wilkinson.  The indictment stated that Robert Holt, cooper, of “Green’s Point”, St. George’s Hundred, on January 28th last at the house of William Wilkinson, Clerk of St. George’s Hundred “not having the fear of God before his eyes and against the peace of his being married to Dorothy Holt, did feloniously marry Christina Bonnefield, the said Dorothy his lawful wife being then living.”  Rev. Wilkinson was charged as being an accessory to the said felony, in continuing and counseling the said marriage, after he had divorced the said Robert Holt and Dorothy, his wife.

At this time, Robert Holt, who had been in the local jail, had escaped.  An inquest was held before the Coroner of St. Mary’s County regarding the escape of Robert Holt, a felon, who escaped on September 11, 1658.  The evidence taken indicated that he had fled for fear of coming to trial.  The record is unclear as to whether he was captured or returned on his own, but he was back by the time he gave a deposition on the case on September 17.

The following depositions were taken between September and October, to wit:

Rev. William Wilkinson stated that he had joined Robert Holt and Christina Bonnefield in marriage, but denied that he did anything by way of divorce between Robert Holt and his former wife, Dorothy.  He did admit that he had written and witnessed a paper that Robert Holt had offered into evidence dated in December that contained a release of all claims of marriage between Robert and Dorothy Holt.  He said that he drew up the paper at the request of Robert and Dorothy after Dorothy stated that she had two bastards by Edward Hudson and that she refused to be reconciled to Robert Holt.

William Haynes stated that he was present when Rev. Wilkinson joined Robert Holt and Christina Bonnefield in marriage some time in January last.  Mr. Haynes was required to post bond to ensure his appearance at Provincial Court to be held at St. Leonard’s on October 5 to give evidence against Robert Holt, Christina Bonnefield, and William Wilkinson.

James Hall made oath that he was present when William Wilkinson joined Robert Holt and Christina Bonnefield in marriage.  He was also ordered to post bond to ensure his appearance at Provincial Court.

Robert Holt stated that he had been married to Christina Bonnefield sometime the previous January by William Wilkinson who told him that he was free to marry anybody by reason of mutual discharges from the bonds of matrimony (as they conceived) given between him and Dorothy, his former wife, dated December 4, 1654.  He said that William Haynes, James Hall and his wife, and Benjamin Hammond and his wife were present at the time he married Christina.

Christina Bonnefield testified that she remembered that she was married to Robert Holt the Thursday before Candlemas day last by Rev. William Wilkinson.  She stated that she would never have married Robert Holt if Rev. Wilkinson had not assured her that Holt could lawfully marry.  She said she had asked Rev. Wilkinson’s opinion on a number of occasions, telling him of her former husband and Robert Holt’s former wife.

The case was heard on October 5, 1658 and the jury brought in a verdict endorsed on a writ bill a vera for the whole.  Not being an attorney, I’m not sure that what that means, but from the record below, it would appear they were found guilty.

The Provincial Court proceedings of 1661 show that  Robert Holt of “Green’s Point”, St. George’s Hundred, was hauled back into court again.  The record states that “Robert Holt, who being formerly presented for marrying one Christian Holt et al Bonnefield (his own lawful wife Dorothy being still living) and being graciously pardoned for that offense at that time, yet the said Robert Holt continues to live with Christina Bonnefield.”

At the same time, Christina Holt demanded a subpoena to be issued for William Wilkinson, Elizabeth Hatton, and James Hall.

Apparently, Robert Holt died before this case came to trial, as there is no record of one being held. 

Early in 1662, David Holt, son of Robert and Dorothy Holt, demanded a writ be issued  to arrest Christina Bonnefield for assault and battery.

Christina Holt, alias Bonnefield, then petitioned Charles Calvert, Lt. General of Maryland stating that she it had been well known that she brought considerable estate with her when she came to Maryland and that she had lived in a full and plentiful manner until her “unfortunate” marriage to Robert Holt, now deceased.  She stated that Robert Holt had given all of his worldy goods, which were much less than what she already owned, to her prior to his death.  At this time she stated that although she had a deed of gift in her possession from Robert Holt dated March 1661, and that she was being molested and threatened to be turned out of doors into the woods by David Holt, the son of Robert Holt.

Christina’s petition was granted, but she was ordered to give the Secretary of the Province sufficient security to ensure that none of the estate be embezzled before the Court had determined to whom the estate belonged.

It was ordered that whatever Christina could prove was hers before the “pretended” marriage with Robert Holt and whatever was purchased after that time with her own resources, was to be restored to her, with the exception of the land.  She was to continue to live in the house until further order of the court.  David Holt was to have letters of administration granted to him on the estate of Robert Holt.

In early 1662, David Holt and Christina Bonnefield, the reputed wife of Robert Holt, agreed that David was to have the land that belonged to Robert Holt.  All other goods, chattels, and movables were to be equally divided between them except the carpenter tools and cooper tools; one new bed ticking and hammock; and a maidservant named Jane, which were to be David’s.  Christina was to have her half of the estate as indicated, all of her clothes and jewelry, and she was to live in the house until April 10.  They were to each pay half of the court costs.

This is the end of the legal troubles involving the Holt family, at least those reported in the Archives of Maryland. 

Robert Holt and Dorothy, his wife, had four children:  Richard, who died 1693 in Essex Co., VA; David who married Elizabeth____and died in St. Mary’s County by August 28, 1679; Dorothy; and Elizabeth.

No further record was found for Christina Bonnifield.

Edward Hudson and Dorothy Holt moved to Virginia by 1661/1662 and were married after the death of Robert Holt.

Other people mentioned in the documents:

George Dolte immigrated to Maryland prior to 1653.

Humphrey Howell immigrated to Maryland in 1647.  He married Blanche___ between 1647-1648, the widow of first, John Harrison and then of Roger Oliver.

John Medcalf immigrated prior to 1635.  He was Sheriff in St. Mary’s County in 1653.

Henry Cox moved to Calvert County and was living there by 1672.

William Haynes moved to Kent Co. where he was living in 1710.

Nicholas Guyther immigrated to Maryland in 1639 as an indentured servant to Thomas Cornwallis.  He served as Sheriff of St. Mary’s County and later as Sheriff of Charles County.  He died in St. Mary’s County in 1665.

The Sturman family originally settled in St. Mary’s County.  Thomas Sturman immigrated in 1640 and brought with him his wife, daughters Ann and Elizabeth, his son, John, and two servants.  Mrs. John Sturman was transported by Thomas Sturman in 1648.

John Sturman lived here until about 1653 when he and his father were ordered to pay damages to Lord Cornwallis who accused them of being leaders in Ingle’s Rebellion.  They left Maryland and resettled in Westmoreland Co., Virginia where John Sturman was living as late as 1698.

Richard Ware immigrated to Maryland in 1645.

Rose Smith.  Her maiden name is not known.  She was married first to Richard Gilbert who was transported to Maryland by Leonard Calvert in 1633.  Richard Gilbert died by 1638.  Rose married second, Robert Smith on November 23, 1638.  Robert Smith and John Langford were the first tenants of Trinity Manor.

Rev. William Wilkinson, 1612-1663, was the first Protestant minister in Maryland.  He came here in 1650 and settled in St. George’s Hundred.  By his first wife, said to be Naomi Shercliffe, he was the father of Rebecca Wilkinson who married first, Thomas Dent and secondly, John Addison.  He was also the father of Elizabeth Wilkinson who married William Hatton by 1662.

James Hall married Mary Edwin, the daughter of William Edwin who was a passenger on “The Ark”, and his wife, Mary Whitehead.  The marriage of William Edwin to Mary Whitehead is said to be the first marriage performed in Maryland.

Benjamin Hammond was transported as a servant in 1650.

Andrew Watson immigrated in 1650.


Archives of Maryland

Flowering of the Maryland Palentine by Harry Wright Newman

History of St. Mary’s County by Regina Combs Hammett

Early Settlers of Maryland by Gust Skordas

Chronicles of Colonial Maryland by James Thomas

Maryland Probate Records

Did you know that...

Frank Brown, the father of Helen Hayes, owned property in St. Mary’s County, and that he was one of the last persons buried at St. Nicholas RCC just prior to the Navy taking over the property now known as the Patuxent Naval Air Station.  Helen Hayes sold the property in 1942.

Charles Somerset Smith, son of Charles Somerset Smith (of Charles Co.) and Ann Sothoron (of St. Mary’s Co.) was killed at the Alamo.  There is a street named for him in San Antonio, Texas.

Dolph Briscoe, Jr., a descendant of Philip Briscoe and Susanna Swann of Charles Co. was the Governor of Texas from 1973 to 1979 and that “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” is based partly on his life?


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