Petition of Elizabeth Luther to the Massachusetts General Court


To the Right Worshipful the Governor,[1] the Deputy Governor,[2] with the Rest of the Honoured Magistrates together with the Deputies of the Freemen of the Country Now Assembled and Sitting in the General Court


The humble petition of Elizabeth Luther,[3] a poor distressed widow, humbly sheweth that whereas your poor petitioner hath lately lost her dear husband[4] at the Delaware Bay where he was most barbarously and cruelly slain in his pinnace by the Indians while he was employed in service and trading for some merchants of this country by whom he as sent thither and that by this means she is now left helpless and desolate with a company of poor fatherless children[5] upon her hand which she is unable to maintain and provide for, yet unto this her great affliction and loss, there is another added withal, that such wages as was due unto her said husband for the time of his service afore his death (being twenty and four pound) is detained and withholden from her by the merchants or some of them who ought in justice as your petitioner conceiveth to pay the same according to  there engagement to her said husband, wherein her grief is the more and her condition the more distressed in that being forced to sue at the law for the recovering and obtaining of her husband's wages aforementioned which (especially in such a land as this is) should have been paid to a poor widow without suit. And having obtained from the justice of the Court a judgment and verdict one her behalf and an execution upon that judgment yet the goods so awarded to her for her satisfaction were taken away again upon a review for that she could have no relief nor benefit by the judgment and Just sentence of that court and when the matter upon that review was brought unto a hearing a second time at another court and so upon that second hearing had obtained a second verdict which passed one her side like as the former had done yet for all this by one means or other justice is now so stopped or delayed that she can get no execution upon the judgment and two verdicts aforementioned nor any relief at all in her distressed condition but notwithstanding the judgments of the court and the aforementioned verdicts, she is like (besides the loss of her husband) to have the wages so duly deserved to be utterly detained and kept from her, (and this by them that ought and are able ensue to pay it, she a poor afflicted and desolate widow, being unable to bear the want of it) unless the Lord in mercy shall move the hearts of this Honored Court to take some effectual course for her speedy succor and relief.  May it, therefore, please this Honored Court to take her distressed condition into your wise and merciful consideration and to take some course such as to your wisdom shall seem meet that justice and the execution thereof may be no longer stopped and delayed as hitherto it hath been but that the wages due to your petitioner's husband afore his decease may be duly satisfied and paid to your petitioner according to the judgment already passed and the verdict forementioned.  And also some recompense unto her and others which have traveled in and about the same for the recovery of it.


And for your poor petitioner and her fatherless children shall be for ever bound to pray for your health and happiness and that a merciful and plentiful reward may be given unto your bosoms from the God of Heaven who hath been ever wont to take that which is done to the widows and fatherless as if it were done unto himself .


Your Worship's poor petitioner,


Elizabeth Luther[6]







[1] William Bradford

[2] Thomas Prence

[3] Born Elizabeth Turner. 

[4] Captain John Luther died by an Indian attack in March of 1645.

[5] John and Elizabeth had at least two children, Samuel (b. 1636 in Taunton, Massachusetts) and Hezekiah (born in 1639).  When Samuel was eight years old, he accompanied his father on the fateful trip to Delaware Bay.  Taken by his father's killers, Samuel was later ransomed and brought back to his family home.  Fred Mikkelsen, "Historical column: A little Luther background (Root Stock),"

[6] Elizabeth died around the time her petition was being heard.   The General Court held that the merchants should have the amount they paid for the redemption of Samuel, but Elizabeth should have what was left of her husband's unpaid wages.  Shurtleff, Records of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, 160.