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Court records show that Reuben had an unstable personality. He appears to have been somewhat functional, but he apparently didn't rise above a subsistance living, and couldn't provide for his children. The first record found of Reuben is in a letter from Thomas Gorges, Governor of the Province of Maine, and John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony:1

To the Right Worshipfull John Winthrope Esqr. these present speed in Boston Aggamenticus 1 March 1640/41

Most honoured Sir,

one Reuben Guppy of late comminge into our plantation and pretendinge much Religeon and a great zeal for the Ordinances of God was entertained by a planter, but since ther have come diuers reports vnto vs of his misdeameanors with you, and that fear of punishment drove him away, and likewise this day I have receaved a letter from Captain Underhill which expresseth the desier of Mr. Endicott to have him returned which letter I have sent you heerinclosd. the desier we haue to satisfy his request, and to ridd such fellows out of our Province, which have brought such a scandall on it have caused us to omitt noe opportunity of sendinge him, therfore by Sampson Salter, Master of the Makeshift you shall receave him. resolved we are that this Province shall be noe refuge for Runnaways, for none comminge from another Plantation shall be entertained heer without a Certificate of his good demeanour, or uppon the knowledge of some of the Inhabitants. thus with our services tendered to you: commendinge you to the protection of the Almighty we Rest Yours in all due respects

Tho: Gorges


     Although it isn't said from where in Massachusetts Reuben came, it was very likely Salem. He was there later in 1641, and surely no other town would have taken him as a new inhabitant. The idea that he was in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1641 is a misreading of the Ipswich town records. John Kent and John Hutchins of Ipswich brought Reuben, of Salem, to court over a debt, recorded on 28 (probably December) 1641.2 The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and Reuben was to pay forty five shillings and court costs of four shillings, six pence. He is mentioned in several court records from January 1642. There are two with Reuben as the plaintiff, but no details are given.3 A third is eye-opening:4

Ruben Guppi to be severely whipped for running away to the Estward from his wyfe great wth Childe; for stealing & Blasfemie Lying & swearing etc., on complaint of Wm. Vincent. Robt. Pease complained that Guppi had stolen his axe...Sargeant Dixie and others had seen a hen in Guppi's breeches. Samuell Fuller and Robt Fuller testified that they went to Guppi's house, and Guppi said that he did not go to meeting and that the parings of his nails and a chip were as acceptable to God as the day of thanksgiving. He also Swore.

     The two oldest Guppy children were "placed out according to order" at a town meeting on 12 May 1647.5 The girl went to "(Philip Veren) John Porter" until she ws 18 and the boy to "(Sergt. Porter) Robert Lemmon" until he was 21. It isn't apparent what the paired names mean, but at the Essex County Quarterly Court held on 27 June 1648, Reuben agreed to bind his daughter Marcy as an "apprentice" to John Porter in 5 weeks.6 The Guppy boy isn't mentioned and he may have died between 12 May and 27 June, or the court order for his indenture was cancelled. The only known sons of Reuben were born after this. The reason for the children's indentures isn't given, but may simply have meant that they had to be put out to be properly supported.

Many of the "small suits" in which Reuben was involved infer at least a litiginous and reckless nature:

RG vs Mr. Scott for goods at Mr. Scott's stage 25 Jan 1641/2 (Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1911), 30); vs Richard Hollingworth same session (1:32)
John Kent and John Hutchins vs. RG (28 Dec 1641, 1:38)
RG vs Willliam Pester (12 July 1642, 1:42)
RG vs Mr. William Payne, trespass (Dec 1642, 1:45)
Robert Goodell vs RG for rent and burning a fence, charged 30 sh. (11 July 1645, 1:68)
RG was brought to court for saying, as stated in the court minutes, "that if his wife had been ruled by him, Michaell Sallows should have come to his house to his wife, and he would have hid himslef in some secret place, and come in and taken Sallows there, and gotten his share of corn." same session (1:82)
third mention at this session, RG charged with "carrying away fence of Mr. Gervas Garford." (1:82)
RG presented for "defaming Danyell Ray, fined or to sit in stocks." Feb 1648/9 (1:157)
RG "admonished for taking away Thomas Trusler's fencing stuff, the wood being of small value." Feb 1650/1 (1:209)
RG bound to good behaviur until the next court, and his wife ordered to appear with him June 1651 (1:230)
RG "admonished for stealing wood and absenting himself from meeting " (Nov 1655, 1:414)
RG brought to court for accusing Richard Pitfold of beastiality and ordered to be whipped twenty stripes. (Nov 1657, 2:60)
RG convicted at the June 1682 session for selling liquor without a license, fined 5 shillings, he only paid 30 pence. (vol. 1679-1692, p. 28)

     Reuben did function normally enough to serve the town as a hogwarden. He was appointed as such on 14 March 1669/70. He would have been involved in making sure the pigs were "properly ringed" (in the nose) when they were in the town common land before 19 March and yoked (to prevent them from rooting in the ground) by 1 June. He would get the twelve pence fines, if any.7 He was appointed again on 6 March 1670/71, but refused.8 He apparently did agree to this position on 20 March 1673/74, 9 15 March 1674/75, 10 15 April 167611 and 5 April 1680.12 Also on that date, Salem ended the practice of letting pigs have free run of the streets. Anyone was allowed to take them if found and either keep or kill them. Half of either proceeds were to go to them and the other to the town's poor. Reuben was among them men to oversee this.
     On 20 April 1676 the town ordered that boys were to sit on the three pairs of stairs in the meeting house on Sunday. William Lord was to oversee the pulpit stairs and Reuben the others. Reuben was also appointed to keep dogs out and was abated his taxes in payment.13
     Reuben was given a small piece of land at the end of Obadiah Rich's house on 24 March 1673/74 not to exceed three or four poles (fifty to sixty-six feet).14 He sold this on 24 December 1679 to William Godsoe, four poles or rods between William Lord and the waterside.15 The Guppy family's land was mentioned in 1675 when the foot company was divided by location. The lower company was to "begin at John Price and from Reuben Guppy to John Guppy down to Mordecai's Neck."16 Sidney Perley, in his "Salem in 1700" work,17 places Reuben more or less at the corner of what is now Washington and Front Streets and John to the north on Washington. At that time, Front Street ran along the waterline. A court case in 1683 refers to Reuben's neighbor William Godsoe transporting goods into "Ruben Guppey's cove" not only on Sunday, but during the church service.



From "Salem in 1700:" red asterisk, approximate site of Reuben's house; blue asterisk, site of John's house. The inlet at the far left of the map must have been Guppy's Cove, now under Washington St. ("Way") north of Front St. ("Highway")


Reuben's taxes were abated by the town a number of times. The later entries may be payment for his hogwarden services:

12 May 1647, £1, 8 shillings. (Town Records of Salem, Massachusetts, vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1868), 152)
19 November 1669, 10 shillings. (2:105)
7 January 1669/70, 3 shillings, 4 pence (2:108)
20 February 1670/71, 3 shilling, 4 pence. (2:121}
26 Feb 1682/83, 7 shillings, 6 pence. (3:86)

     An Essex County Quarterly Court record for the session of 22 Aug 1665 includes a deposition in which he is said to have been about 60.18 Another recorded at the 31 March 1685 session says he was 86.19 This the last record we have of Reuben. These court deposition ages are somewhat of a mystery. Some can be verified as accurate, others are verifiably incorrect by significant amounts. Some court cases include several depositions by the same person for whom two different ages are given. For this reason, a birth year of 1605 can only considered an estimate. His first deposition says that he was employed mowing salt marsh thatch, which was then, as the accusation went, taken away by someone else illegally. The second was about the ownership history of a lot on which he was hired to mow the grass.
     On 29 July 1684 Reuben, his son John and John's wife Abigail were involved in a case about a group who broke into and stole money from George Corwin in Salem the previous March.20 The record is vague, but Corwin appears to implicate the Guppys in the some aspect of the crime. Some of the primary players, as well as Corwin himself, were the Guppy's neighbors. Reuben testified, again being referred to as about 86, but relayed information from his son John, who in turn knew only heresay about the crime. No testimony implicated their participation and there was no action against them.
     On 8 June 1715 John Guppy, tailor, sold the cottage and cottage right where his he and his father, deceased, lived.21 Cottage rights allowed people to live in a small house on town land. Reuben and John sold their lots mentioned above. Where they were after this hasn't been located.
     A "Ruben Guppie," son of Henry, can be found in Dwelly's transcript of some of the Thorne Coffin, Somersetshire, parish registers baptized on 20 Feb 1609/10. In many personal online genealogical databases, the assumption has been made that this was Reuben of Salem. They may be the same person, but no evidence has yet been found to prove it. His wife Ellen/Eleanor's origins have also not been found.

children of Reuben and Ellen or Eleanor Guppy:22

* son, old enough to have been "put out" to another family on 12 May 1647
* Marcy, same
* Mary, maybe Marcy, maybe b. Spring 1642
* other children, b. abt. 1644 and 1646, since the son and daughter put out in 1647 were the two "oldest" children. These may have been daughters or sons who died young, since John and Reuben, Jr., were the only sons who appear in records.
* John, b. 12 October 1648
* Reuben, b. 6 January 1650/51





1. "Winthop Family Papers," Massachusetts Historical Society, online database, https://www.masshist.org/publications/winthrop/index.php/view/PWF04p324.
2. The Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich, vol. 1 (Ipswich, MA: 1899), 20.
3. The Essex Antiquarian, vol. 3 (1899), p. 191, from Salem Quarterly Court Records, date written "30: 1: 1641."
4. 30 March 1640/41, 1:25.
5.Town Records of Salem, vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1868), 151.
6. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts, vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1911), 143.
7. Town Records of Salem, Massachusetts, 2:110.
8. STR, 2:124-5.
9. STR, 2:187.
10. STR, 2:201.
11. STR, 2:208.
12. STR, 3:3-4.
13. STR, 2:210.
14. STR, 2:188.
15. STR, 5:54 or 249.
16. STR, 2:199.
17. The Essex Antiquarian vol. 11 (Salem, MA: 1907), 115-6.
18. Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts, vol. 3 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1913), 276.
19. Records and Files, vol. 9 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1975), 344, 438.
20. Records and Files, 9:273, 281.
21. Essex Co., MA, deed 29:104.
22. John and Reuben's births are from the Essex County Quarterly Court annual vital records returns and are included in Vital Records of Salem, Massachusetts, to the year 1849, vol. 1 (Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1916), 394.

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