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records for Rice Edwards

Rice's first name was spelled variously in records, including Rice, Reesse, Ryse and Rise. This leaves no doubt that it was "Rhys," the Welsh name as standarly spelled. Edwards also has a Welsh derivation. There are claims in publications and now on the internet that he was "Rice Whitefield Edwards," attached to a background, both of which have no credible merit. He has also been confused and conflated with another man with that name who lived in Boston. Rice of Wenham is only known from records there and in neighboring towns. His wife's maiden name and his occupation are unknown.
     "Ryse" Edwards was given 10 acres of land by the town of Salem at a 12 February 1642/43 town meeting1 "near to Mr Blackleech his farme," This is the first time he appears in New England records. At the Essex County Quarterly Court session of 26 December 1643, "Rise" and his wife were "admonished for incontinency before marriage."2 This wasn't uncommon at the time, more commonly called "fornication" in contemporary records.
     Rice's wife evidently was named Eleanor. Rice, his son John and "Elnor Edwards" were witnesses in a court case in 1680.3 Approximate ages are given in all three. Rice was about 65, John was once referred to as about 37 and twice as about 30 and "Elnor" was about sixty. These ages in the Essex County court depositions are known to be, on occasion, incorrect and inconsistent. John is an example. It's been speculated that the court clerk or clerks estimated the ages since they evidently weren't given by the deponents themselves. Although they aren't reliable, they are a guide to placing people in generations at least. "65" and "60" may have been rounded-off guesses, but it isn't implausible to say Rice and Eleanor were born roughly in 1615 and 1620. In any case, they were the same generation and circumstances detailed in the court depositions leave little doubt she was Rice's wife. Rice had at least three grandchildren named Eleanor by John, Thomas and Sarah, which further supports this.4 Eleanor surely had died by 18 April 1681, when Rice entered into an agreement with his son Benjamin to take care of him in all ways in exchange for Rice's real estate and livestock.5 Not only is Eleanor not mentioned, she would have had dower rights to his estate, requiring her permission for the real estate to legally change owners.
     Town records in Wenham, Salem and Beverly infer that Rice had real estate in Wenham and Salem, in the part that became the town of Beverly in 1668. He was a close neighbor of Lt. John Dodge, at least some of whose property moved from Beverly to Wenham in 1679 when the town line was redrawn. More related to this is below. Unfortunately, the early Wenham records are either missing or were poorly kept, such as proprietors records. Deeds recorded at the county level don't show when he acquired land there.
     Rice is referred to as being of Wenham as early as 1 March 1646/47, "Rice (also Reesse)" and Henry Hagott or Haggett of Wenham were brought to court for fighting, "ther were no blows given, they only struggled together, and never having been beofre the court for a similar offence, were to pay only witness fees and costs."6 Their relationship didn't improve, since on 14 November 1648, the "wife of Henry Haggett fined for wishing the curse of God on Rice Edwards and that fire might come down from heaven and consume his house as it did Goodwife Ingersoll's barn."7
     More land was given by the town of Salem to Rice in 1651, this time 20 acres "lying neare adioyning to Richard Dodg his land in consideration of 20 acres of land he doth resigne to the towne lying below mackerill Cove towards the Cricke that he bought of mr Thornedick wch was formerlie granted to Richard Lambert."8 This was closer to his homestead, but still in what would become Beverly, not Wenham. He sold to John "Sallard" (Solart) a house and ten acres in "the Neck."9 I don't find any other deeds for Rice buying land, so I can't place this parcel. "The Neck" was the east/west block of land connecting the more irregularly shaped sections of Wenham bordering Manchester to the east and Danvers to the west. Where Grover Street meets Dodge's Row is in The Neck.
     A Beverly town meeting record describes a "driftway" between Rice's and John Dodge's properties that extended south to Bald Hill in Beverly.10 This must be, more or less, what is now Grover Street. Where it meets "Dodge's Row" in Wenham, it's very close to the town line. Grover Street meets Dodge's Row on the east side of that street. There are two 18th century houses on the west side of Dodge's Row or Dodge Street, depending on if you're in Wenham or Beverly. The one south of Grover Street is actually divided in half by the town line. A plaque says it was built for Benjamin Edwards in 1776.
      There's a town record from or near 4 January 1668/69 that puts "Rice Edwards sen." on a list of invoices approved by the town. His was for killing four wolves.11 His son John, with a company of others, wolf hunted and was paid by the town for doing so. The earliest record of this is in February 1668.12
     Rice was brought to court on 29 March 1670 for cutting down trees without permission on the Ipswich common lands. At least once witness saw Rice, his son John, John Dodge and Jonathan Bailey doing it. The Ipswich selectmen found out and the court minutes say that several men were at Edwards'ss house talking about it and Rice said they cut down six or seven and left them, waiting to see if Ipswich claimed them.13 On 28 June Rice and John Dodge appear to have countersued. After a lot of testimony about how the town line was previously drawn, the case was called a "nonsuit." It was determined that the trees they cut were about 300 to 600 feet into Ipswich from the Wenham town line.14 It's interesting to find that later the same year, Rice was on a committee to enforce a Beverly town decree saying "no man shall fall any trees smale or great to sell unto other townes from of the Commons but he shall pay for every tree 20£ unto the informer one halfe for himselfe and the other halfe for the Towne."15
     On 23 April 1672 a writ was served on John Leach, Jr., to pay a debt incurred by his wife Mary, daughter of Rice Edwards.16 John Emerson claimed she owed him 30 shillings for "English goods" (another witness said it was a "tammy coat") while she was a servant with him. She promised to pay him for it, or them, when she left to marry John Leach. John Leach appealed and said he didn't owe Emerson because "she was in her father Ryse Edwardses custody, to whom Mr. Emerson came with much importunity to get Mary to dwell with him one year, and he consented on condition that said Emerson should pay as much as she could get for her service in any other place; that they asked her to stay longer, and when her father heard it, he, having engaged her elsewhere, went for her and demanded a reckoning of her master, saying if there was anything due to said Emerson, he would satisfy him, but Emerson would come to no account and Edwards took her away." Leach put the responsibility on Rice, saying "thanks be to god your humble apelants wifes father yet liveth whos dewty and care to cloath his children liveth also." The court decided against the appeal, claiming that judging Rice to be liable was a "non sute, the which if now too late to pleade."17
     I don't know what precipitated the re-examination of the Wenham/Beverly town line, but at a Beverly town meeting on 4 March 1678/79, a survey of the border was presented.18John Dodge's land is referred to, with Rice as an abutter. John and others petitioned the General Court against the boundary change on 15 October 167919since it appears to have put his property, or some of it, in Wenham. A General Court case in May 1680 decided in favor of representatives of Wenham in the dispute.20 A neighbor testified in the July court session of that year that when he was at their house, Mrs. Dodge said that "if Wenham men came there for rates she would make the blood run about their ears. Deponent told her that if the constable commanded him to do it he would not be afraid to come, whereupon Goodwife Dodg caught him by the hair of his head and with her other hand struck him by the hair of his head and with her other hand struck him on the face in a furious manner."21 The following July, two of the selectmen and the constable of Wenham went to John Dodge's house when no one was home to collect taxes he had refused to pay. His son was in a nearby field cutting hay and saw one of them rap at the door with a black staff. He offered his hay sled for the taxes but they ignored him. They reportedly came into the house and took some pewter platters. They then went to Rice's house with the platters, wanting some fire to light their pipes, and he refused. Mrs. Dodge was passing by and realized what they had done and tried to take the platters back. "They all three pulled her down and dragged her upon the ground, Thomas Fiske, Sr., striking her a blow on the neck with his fist. Then Rise Edwards cried out, "Rescue the woman, what will you let hear be cilld," and John Edwards stepped in and held Fiske and Fairfelld by the shoulders." Afterward, when asked by another neighbor "what she would have done with the black staff if she could have gotten it...she replied that she would hve made it fly about some of their ears. She did not know whether Thomas Fisk struck her or not, but she struck him a blow on the hat or side of the head." Another witness said that "old Goodman Edwards stepped up with his hoe to the men who were abusing Goodwife Dodge." Other witnesses testified about bruises on her arm. The court minutes say Rice was "aged about sixty five years." His son John was about thirty seven and about thirty. Benjamin was about eighteen and "Elnor Edwards" was about sixty.
     On 18 April 1681, as mentioned above, Rice had a formal agreement with his son Benjamin to take care of him in complete retirement:

[I] doe surrender and yeild up all my upland meadow & stock of cattle sheep horses and swine except my rideing mre & also all my hhouseing onely excepting a free and quiet subsistence in my now dwelling house untill he build another for me, and further be itt knowne that ye one halfe of my pland & meadow I frankly & fully give to my son Benjamin presantly & to his heirs assignes for ever & all my above named stock & other halfe also att my decease upon ye condition following that is to say my son Benjamin is to clear me of all my debts that now I am engeged in & to pay them wthout any further trouble to me and also that my son does provide for me conveniently as a son for a father both in sickness & health both respect to food phisick & cloths washing Lodgeing & attendance as my age or weakness doth require & also twenty shillings a year in money to be paid to me if I require itt also to keep winter & summer in able condition a mare or horse for my rideing only as long as I shall see cause & not to expect any thing or labour further from me but to be at my owne pleasure, and further itt is ereby declaried that if itt doth rationally and plainly appear that my son Benjamin does not this provide for me according to ye conditions above mentioned that I have liberty to dispose one halfe of my lands to whome I see goods & in confermation of this our agreement wee do both sett to our hands

Rice his x mark Edwards
Benjamin Edwards

as wittnese

John Dodge, Senr
& John Edwards


"Leiutt John Dodge" acknowedged that he was witness to the agreement on 20 January 1700/01.

     20 January 17(00/)01 was when Rice's estate was formally settled, and all the documents were recorded at the same time as the above agreement (see note 5). Some can also be found in a packet of original documents (inventory, adminstrator's bond and account).22 I don't find an obvious reason why so long after he died or this time in particular. The estate had already been settled within the family. There was an inventory made on 15 June 1683 and the male heirs-at-law agreed on the same day as to how to divide the remaining assets. Benjamin was appointed executor in 1701 and brought the appraisal inventory and a copy of his agreement with his father and the agreement among the heirs to be recorded. The heirs agreement was odd in that usually they involved the daughters even if they were married. Both daughters and husbands were mentioned and co-signed. The Edwards daughters go completely unnamed here, even though it's described as involving his "sons" and "children." The gist of it was that there was no mention of "our said father's moeveabes, in ye house" in his arrangement with Benjamin, and Benjamin agreed to waive his share of them. They were to be divided among "ye brothers & sisters as they have [already] devided them." The witnesses to this were their neighbors Thomas Patch and John Dodge. The signers were, in order, John Edwards, Thomas Edwards (his mark), John Knowlton, John Leach, John Coy, William Cleaves, Richard Lee and Benja. Edwards. As was the norm in probate documents listing heirs, this list very likely shows the order of birth of the children, with husbands' names as proxies.

An inventory of ye estate of Rice Edwards late of Wenham deced

to a prcell of household stuff as itt was apprized ye 15 June 1683 by Lt. John Dodge & Thomas Patch amounting to in ye whole
[£]21, 10 [shillings], 0 [pence]

Benjamin Edwards

Before ye Honble Jonathan Corwin, Esqr., Judge of Probate of Wills 17th ffebr. 1700/1, Benja. Edwards made oath to ye truth of ye above inventory.

Benja. Edwards admr. on y estate of Rice Edwards late of Wnham deced. ye acctt of his administration on said estate exhibited to ye Honble Jonathan Corwin, Esqr., Judge of Probate etc. 17th ffebr. 1700/1

the sd. estate is cr. as pr inventory
[£]4-10 [shillings] -0 [pence]
yr honr. sd. accttant prays allowance for ye fflowing charges & disbursmt. by him made

the said estate is dr.

ffunerall charges of ye said deced. 0-4-0
bond & letter of administration & record. ye inventory & ye oath to ye same 0-7-6
allowed ye admr for his trouble 1-0-0
allowing ye acctt 5/ setting & deviding ye estate 5/ a quietus 4/ stateing & registring ye acct 0-15-0
----------------------
£6-2-6

Benjamin Edwards


The account was brought to court and accepted on 17 February 1700/01.

the ballance of ye above estate being 15-7-6 wch is to be devided according to agreement of ye sons concerned therein dated ye 15th June 1683 wch agreement is recorded next to this acctt viz

to John Edwards 2-3-11
to Thomas Edwards 2-3-11
to John Knowlton in right of his wife 2-3-11
to John Leach 2-3-11
to John Coy 2-3-11
to William Cleeves 2-3-11
to Richard Lee 2-3-11
-----------------
15-7-5

the birth order of Rice's children, and was there a Rice, Jr.?

     John was one of three men who rented land from the town of Wenham on 29 February 1664.23 The others were Abner Ordway, who was an adult, but somewhat unsettled, Richard Kimball, Jr., who was already well-established in town, and Thomas Searle, about whom I find very little, but he appears to have been John's generation. There's no plausible evidence that there were two John Edwardses in Wenham or abutting towns at this time, and I assume John would have been 21 to enter into this kind of a transaction. This puts his birth before 29 February 1643. If so, it's odd that accusations of fornication would have waited at least ten months to culminate in a court case. If he was born after that date, he was only 20 in early 1664. For now I favor his birth "by 29 February 1643" which would put Rice's marriage in later 1642. If the pregnancy were any longer, his birth might have been argued as premature. It's also possible that John was a son of a previous wife of Rice's and the pregnancy was for a younger sibling, maybe Rice, Jr. (see below).
     In the town invoice for killing wolves, Rice is called "sen." This infers there was a Rice, Jr. The suffix distinction would only be if both senior and junior were adults. If so, he may have been Rice and Eleanor's second child and died before establishing himself enough to appear in later records. My research in New England records suggests that if "sen" was the town clerk's mistake, it was a very rare one.
     In an account of meeting house seating on 10 March 1669/70, John Edwards acquired two rights. One was for himself and the other was "on the behlafe of his brother Thomas Edwards."24 Minors wouldn't have individual seat rights in the church, which means Thomas was born before 10 March 1649. In an heirs agreement, detailed below, Thomas was the second to sign. If Rice, Jr., existed and was still alive, he might have been a party to this church seat generosity in some way, providing a possible time bracket for his death: between 4 January 1668/9 and 10 March 1669/70.
     In the April 1673 court case involving his daughter Mary mentioned above, the court file says she was about 21.25

children of Rice Edwards and Eleanor:

John, b. prob. abt. early 1643
maybe Rice, b. 1644-1645, d. betw. 4 January 1668/69-10 March 1669/70
Thomas, b. abt. 1646-48 (dau. Eleanor not in vital records, named in Essex Co., MA, deed 61:261)
Bethiah, b. abt. 1646-48
Mary, b. abt. 1650-51
Elizabeth, b. abt. 1653
Martha, b. abt. 1655
Sarah, b. later 1650s
Benjamin, b. abt. 1660-1661





1. "near to Mr Blackleech his farme," 12th of the 12 month 1642, Town Records of Salem [hereafter TRS], vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1868), 116
2. Ibid, 56.
3. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts [hereafter ECQC], Vol. 8 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1921), 21-22, 23 July 1680.
4. Eleanor grandchildren
5. Essex Co., MA, probate records, 307:132-135.
6. ECQC, 1:135
7. Ibid, 1:152.
8. 16th of the 4th month 1651 (16 June 1651), TRS, , 168
9. 29 December 1652, Essex Co., MA, deeds, 1:22 or 52.
10. bev town meeting driftway.
11. 4th of the 11th month 1668, TRS, 98.
12. Ibid, 86.
13. ECQC, vol. 4 (1914), 224.
14. Ibid, 259.
15. 29 December 1670, BTR 1895, 399
16. ECQC, vol. 5 (1916), 23, 25 June 1672 session.
17. Ibid, 51.
18. BTR, 368.
19. ECQC, vol. 7 (1919), 18.
20. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, vol 5 (Boston:1853), 223-224, 28 May 1680 session.
21. see note 3.
22. Essex Co., MA, probate case 9999.
23. 29th of the 12th month 1663, Wenham Town Records, vol. 1 (Wenham Historical Society, 1927), 22-25.
24. 10th of the 11th month 1669, Ibid, 32.
25. see note 16.


all text and photographs © 1998-2023 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted