About Mary Sergeant
Dame Mary Sergeant was a daughter of Roger Spencer. She married first, John Hull of Boston, not the mint-master; 2nd, Sir William Phips, the first governor of Massachusetts; 3rd and lastly, Peter Sergent, whose house was afterwards purchased by the province and known as the Province House. He survived his wife.
She acted as provincial governor of Massachusetts for a time during her husband's absence in England.
September 1692; sympathetic to the accused witches, she wrote an order for their release from prison. She was called out upon by the accusers. Sir William then knew that the public sentiment was turning. (Salem Witchcraft by Charles Upham)
"Soon Sir William saw his lady accused and thrown into prison... by bribing the jailer (Mr. Arnold), she managed to send a letter to Queen Mary, representing herself as a namesake of hers, and a lady of rank, who was unjustly accused of witchcraft, and thrown into prison. Queen Mary being applied to in her husband's absence, took the responsibility to sign a discharge, which the jailer obeyed and for doing which he was severely reprimanded and removed from his post." (200 Years Ago, or, A Brief History of Cambridgeport and East Cambridge)
"Returning to Boston in 1692, with Increase Mather and a new Charter, the newly appointed Royal Governor [Sir William Phips] came upon the Salem witchcraft panic. Phips ordered a commission on witchcraft as the trials entered a frenzied phase. But in the course of finding his wife accused of being a Witch, Phips ended the commission and brought the hysteria to a close. Sir William died in London in 1694, having more than accomplished his Spes Majoram et Meliorum." (First Church of Boston History)
From Genealogical Gleanings in England. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1896. Nehgs, New-England Historic Heritage Books, Mar 1, 1998 - 612 pages. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 50, 1896 . New England Historic Genealogical Society. (1896) reprint, index, illus., 612 pp. Page 259.
"Dame Mary Sergeant, late Phips, relict of Sir William Phipps, late of Boston in New England, deceased. Reference to marriage contract with present husband, Peter Sergeant, Esq., bearing date 24 September 1701. My honored mother in law, Mrs Mary Howard, widow; her son Philip White. ... My sister Mrs Rebecca Bennett. ... My adopted son Spencer Phips alias Bennett to be my heir ....". Signed 19 Feb 1704 and proved 29 Jan 1706.
From Sir William Phips, b. February 2, 1650/1 last updated April 6, 2003
March 1690 "Yet when Phips was being considered in March 1690 for command of an expedition against Acadia, the diarists Samuel Sewall and Benjamin Bullivant both noted reports that Mary Spencer Phips was reluctant to give her consent and that Phips would not sail without it." (The New England Knight)
To what 'circumstances' involving the governor was Cotton Mather discreetly referring in his letter? Sir William Phips biographers point out that both the governor and his wife, Mary Spencer Phips, met some of the criteria that identified witches in 1692. Phips had consulted a fortune-teller, and had taken the resulting predictions very seriously; he was a successful treasure hunter, thus possibly implying access to occult knowledge; he and his wife both had extensive links to Maine and even to George Burroughs. One of their household servants (captured by Phips at Port Royal in 1690) was the daughter of Castine and the granddaughter of Madockawando.
Moreover, Lady Mary Phips was related through her sister to a woman accused of witchcraft in the late 1650s, in an incident suffieciently well known that John Hale included it in the book on witchcraft he wrote in 1697. Two critics of the trials claimed as much as a decade later, and a pamphlet published in England in 1694 disclosed the possible precipitating factor. While Sir William was away (that is, either during the month after the first week of August, or between September 16 and 29), his wife apparently signed an order for the release of one of the accused female witches, which the jailer then obeyed. The pampheteer wrote that he mistrusted the tale until he saw the 'Discharge under the Keepers hand attested a true Copy.' For this act, an anonymous writer revealed, the jailer lost his job,' as he himself told me.'
From Will of Sir William Phips Genealogical Gleanings in England, Volume 1 By Henry Fitz-Gilbert Waters. Page 46:
Sir William Phips, Knight, of Boston in the county of Suffolk, Province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, 18 December, 1693 sworn to by Dame Mary Phips 10 September, 1696 proved 29 January, 1696. To brother James Phips or his heirs, the sum of five shillings. To my dear and entirely beloved consort Mary Phips, and to her heirs forever, all my estate, real and personal, &C. &c., with power to alienate by deed of gift, will or codicil. If she should die without having, by will, disposed of my estate, &C., it shall all descend and fall to my adopted son. Spencer Phips ats Bennett and the heirs of his body. If he should die without issue surviving, what is left shall be equally divided and shared, one half thereof by my sisters Mary, Margaret and the heirs of my sister Anne deceased, or their heirs forever, and the other half in like manner, to the relations of my beloved consort, reserving only out of the whole estate one hundred pounds current money of New England, which my said relations and the relations of my said wife shall cause to be paid unto John Phipps, son to my brother John Phipps deceased, or to his heirs, if this clause be not repealed by my wife aforesaid. If my dear consort should die before my said son is come to age or is married, then I do nominate and appoint my friends Capt. John Foster, Esq., and Capt. Andrew Belcher of Boston, merchants, to be trustees of my estate and guardians to my said son, until he shall be of full age or married.
The witnesses were John Phillips, John White, John Hiskett, Josiah Stone and John Greenough. Pyne, 15.
Francis Phipps, the elder, of Reading, in the county of Berks, mentions (inter alios) son Constantine Phipps, in his will proved 1668. Hene, 69.
- Diary of Samuel Sewell. May, 26 . "Election-day. Three chosen in the room of Peter Sergeant esqr, deceased, (1) Major Wm Brown .... " (1) This reference to Peter Sergeant will serve as a pretext to correct an error in a note in Vol. II. p. 174. Mr. H. F. Waters informs us that Sergeant had four wives, as appears by the following item in his will: "I give and bequeath to my much Respected and Kind Brother and Sister-in-Law, Eliakim Hutchinson, esq! and Sarah his wife, and to their children, viz. Messrs. William Hutchinson and wife and Thomas Palmer and wife and Spencer Phipps and wife, £10 each, amounting in the whole to £80 to buy them mourning." "I give and bequeath to the aforesaid Mrs. Sarah Hutchinson and the two children of Mrs. Abigail Bourne of London dec*, sisters to Elizabeth my second wife"... £200. This wife was therefore Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Shrimpton, and this confirms our note (Vol. II. p. 203) in regard to Spencer Phips's wife. Mr. Waters adds that Sergeant's first wife was clearly a daughter of Capt. George Corwin (see New England Hist. Gen. Register, Vol. XXVIII. p. 200), as is shown by a letter of Corwin in the American Antiquarian Society Library, dated May, 1683. Mr. Waters suggests that she was named Elizabeth, and is probably mentioned by Sewall (Vol. II. Preface, p. 13*), as follows: 1681, Dec. 23, "two of the chief Gentlewomen in Town dyed, — viz. Mrs. Mary Davis and Mrs Eliza. Sargent." His third wife was Lady Mary Phips, and his fourth, Mrs. Mehitable Cooper. — Eds.
Mary Sergeant's Timeline
Saco, York , Maine
June 6, 1685
Rowley, Essex, Massachusetts
January 2, 1706
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts