Petition of John Robinson to the Massachusetts General Court

To His Honour Spencer Phips, Esq. , Lieutenant Governour and Commander in Chief, in and over His Majesties Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, and the Honorable His Majesty's Council of said Province


The petition of John Robinson of Dorchester in the County of Suffolk and Province aforesaid, Gentleman, humbly sheweth that an Indian woman called Mercy Amerquit, I think born somewhere about Cape Cod, but had no settled dwelling place anywhere but strolled about from one town and place to another, and sometimes wrought for persons that wanted her work,[1] came to my house in Dorchester aforesaid, sometime in the month of October 1751 and brought with her a young child of about two months old in her arms, and desired liberty to tarry a little while, and your petitioner condescended expecting that she would go to some other place in a little time (as their manner is) and what work she did for your petitioner, she was paid for as she earned it.  But about the middle of January following, she was taken sick of a tedious sickness and very delirious, that after about twenty days sickness, she died, leaving her young child upon your petitioner's hands.  That your petitioner was obliged out of mere humanity, as she was in his house and so extreme bad, to send for a physician for her and to provide things for her that were necessary for her in her sickness, and to nurse her, and also after she died, to bury her.  That your petitioner expended upon her the sum of three pounds, fifteen shillings, and ten pence, as appears by the following account, viz.,


To cash paid Dr. William Holden as per account

 £1 .03 .2

Paid John Maxfield for digging a grave, etc.

   0 .06 .8

Paid James Crossman for a coffin for her

   0 .10 .0

To subsisting the said Indian woman in her sickness and providing everything needful, procuring a nurse and subsisting her, and a physician and other attendants, and paying for carrying her to the grave

   1 .16 .0

 £3 .15 .10


Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that Your Honours would be pleased to reimburse your petitioner the said charges he has been at in providing for and burying the said Indian woman out of the Province Treasury and also would grant him such a sum of money as Your Honours shall judge fit to recompense him for keeping the said child the said Indian left upon his hands from the time of her death until it shall be able to do something for its own support.


And you petitioner (as in duty bound) shall ever pray, etc.


John Robinson



We, the subscribers, Selectman of the town of Dorchester, do hereby certify that there was an Indian woman that lay sick and died at the house of the said Mr. John Robinson at the time mentioned in the above petition, and that the said Mr. Robinson was at the sole charge of providing for her and of burying her, and that he has ever since supported the young child she left when she died. As witness our hands, Robert Spurr, Noah Clap, Richard Hall, Samuel How, Edward Breck, Selectmen, Dorchester, January 25, 1753

Legislative Action:

In Council, September 11, 1753.  Read and ordered that this petition be dismissed, Thomas Clarke, Deputy Secretary


375, 376 / 339 / [ illegible ]


[1] For a discussion on Native women’s mobility and an itinerant economy, see Jean O'Brien, "Divorced from the Land: Accommodation Strategies of Indian Women in 18th Century New England," in Mary Jo Maynes, Ann Waltner, Birgitte Soland, and Ulrike Strasser, eds., Gender, Kinship, Power: A Comparative and Interdisciplinary History (New York, NY: Routledge, 1996).