Rebecca Cornell

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Rebecca Cornell (Briggs)

Birthdate:
Birthplace: London, Middlesex, England
Death: February 08, 1673 (68-77)
Portsmouth, Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (Accidental fire or murder victim?)
Place of Burial: Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Father of Rebecca Unknown (Not Briggs) and Mother Of Rebecca Unknown
Wife of Thomas Cornell and Thomas Cornell
Mother of Ann Cornell; Sarah Lawrence; Richard Cornell; William Cornell; Thomas Cornell, II and 21 others

Managed by: Daniel Robert May
Last Updated:

About Rebecca Cornell

There has been no proof that Rebecca was a Briggs. If Rebecca Cornell was a Briggs, she was not the one baptized in Clerkenwell, London. That Rebecca Briggs died the same day she was born. Please see attached documents:

  1. "Who Was Rebecca Cornell?"
  2. "Who Was Rebecca Cornell?_2"
  3. "Who Was Rebecca Cornell?_3"
  4. "Thomas Corn(w)ell of Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island"

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Records of the General Court of Trials 1671-1704; Newport Court Book A; October 1673 Transcribed verbatim by Jane Fletcher Fiske, 1998

________________________________________

Trial of Thomas Cornell for the murder of his mother, Rebeca Cornell

________________________________________

[Bold Numbers in brackets refer the page numbers in the original book.] At the Generall Court of Tryalls Held for the Collony at Newport the: 12th of May 1673

 
  • Mr Nicholas Easton Governor
  • Mr William Coddington Dept Goverr
  • Mr Walter Clarke — Asistant
  • Mr Daniell Gould — Asistant
  • Mr John Easton — Asistant
  • Mr William Harris Asistant
  • Mr Thomas Harris Asistant
  • Mr Thomas ffeild Asistant
  • Mr Joshua Coggeshall Asistant
  • Mr John Tripp Asistant
  • Mr Walter Todd — Asistant
  • Mr Job Almy — Asistant
  • John Sanford Recorder
  • James Rogers Genl Serant
  • Mr Peter Easton Genrl Treasurer
  • Mr John Easton Genrl Aturney Gran Jurriors Engaged
  • Lt Joseph Torrey foreman
  • Mr Robert Stanton
  • Mr William Case
  • Mr Thomas Clifton
  • Mr Thomas Burge
  • Mr Gidion Freeborne
  • Mr John Clarke
  • Lt ffrancis Brayton
  • Mr Phillip Eades
  • Mr William Hiscox
  • Mr John Odlin
  • Mr Henry Lilly

Upon Indictment by the Generall Aturny Mr John Easton in the behalfe of our Soverreigne Lord the King against Thomas Cornell now prissoner ffor that on the Eveninge of the Eight day of ffebruary last in the 25th yeare of his Majties Reigne Anno 1672 the said Thomas did murther his mother Rebecca Cornell or was aydeinge or abettinge thereto. The said Thomas Cornell beinge cald for and brought forth into Court, and his charge Read, and demanded of whether Guilty or Not Guilty — pleads Not Guilty, and Referrs himselfe for Tryall to God and the Cuntry. After all Lawful Liberty granted by the Court as to Exceptions The Jurriors were sollemnly Engaged on the case and sent forth.

Jurriors on the case [listed in margin]

  • Mr Henry Palmer foreman Daniell Greenell
  • James Man
  • William Allin
  • John Read
  • John Spencer
  • Richard Dunn
  • John Rogers
  • Serjt Clement Weaver
  • John Bliss
  • John Strainge
  • John Crandell junr

The Jurry Returne their Verdict publickly to him declared. Guilty. Thereupon theCourt doe pass this followinge centance to the Prissoner.

[11] Whereas you Thomas Cornell have been in this Court Indicted and charged for murthering your mother Mrs Rebecca Cornell Widow. and you beinge by your peers the Jurry found Guilty. Know and to that end prepare your selfe, that you are by this Court Centanced to be Carried from hence to the Com[m]on Goale, and from thence on fryday next which will be the twenty thre day of this instant month May about one of the clock to be carried from the said Goale to the place the Gallowes — and there to be Hanged by the neck untill you are dead dead.

The Centance beinge pronounced and to him openly declared The said Thomas Cornell is Remitted to the Generall Serjants Custody safely to be kept till the day of Exicution.

A warrant ordered and granted to seize the Estate of Thomas Cornell and make Returne thereof to this Court.

Ordered that a strict Watch be kept in and about the prisson untill the day of the Execution of Thomas Cornell, and that the said Thomas Cornell shall be manacled and surely fastned to the great chaine — And ordered that James Clarke and James Browne cunstables in Newport are Authorized and desired to Asist the Generall Serjant in settinge and orderinge the watch for secureinge the said prissoner, which watch are to be Eight in the Night time and four in the day time.

Those following are Testimonys Concerning Thomas Cornell Murdering of [12] his Mother Rebeca Cornell: which was ordered to be Recorded.

Thomas Cornell the son of Rebeca Cornell, being inquired of us the Coroners Inquest, doe declare yt in the eveninge before twas darke, came into the roome and satt downe & discoursed with his Mother Rebeca for ye space of about one houre and a halfe; and then went forth into the next Roome, where he stayd about Threequarters of an houre, then his Wife sent his son Edward into the roome to his Grandmothr to know whether shee would have some milke boyled for her supper; the Child coming in to the roome saw some fire in the roome upon the floore, and the Child came back unto us, and fetcht the candle to see what fire it was, Henry Straite went Presently into the roome, my selfe and the rest followed in A Huddle, Henry Straite coming in saw some fire, and stooped, and with his Hands raked fire upon the floore, supposing it to be and Indian that was Drunke, and Burnt, soe he layd hold of the Arme, my selfe Immediately following, by the light perceived it was my Mother, and Cryed out, Oh Lord it is my Mother.

Taken upon oath this Present 9th Day of February 1672/3

Before me William Baulston Assist. & Coroner.

Henry Straite being Examined upon Oath before the Coroner, Testifies, that he knows nothing how Rebeca Cornell came to Her untimely Death, onely sayth that Edward Cornell being sent in unto his Grand mother to Know what shee would have for Her supper, and comeing into the roome, saw fire in the floore, and came out unto us, and tooke the Candle to see what fire twas, he the sayd Henry rann, the Boy with the Candle followed, and Thomas Cornell, he the sayd Henry comeing into the roome, saw fire upon the floore, he stooped down; and with his hand raked fire that was upon the floore, and tooke hold of an Arme, and spake Indian, supposeing it was an Indian, Drunke and Burnt; Thomas Cornell following, and by the Light deserned & called out, and sayd, Oh Lord it is my Mother.

Taken upon oath the yeare and Day above written.

Before me William Baulston Assist. & Corroner.

Wee the Coroners Inquest for his Majestie being Impanelled, and Engaged this Present 9th Day of ffebry 1672/3 by Mr William Baulston Assistt and Coroner for his Matie in the Towne of Portsmouth in Rhod-Island in the Colony of Rhod-Island and Providence Plantations in New-England, have and by these presents doe declare; That being brought to the place where the Dead Body of Rebeca Cornell was Presented, and Inquiry by us made before the Coroner & Mr Joshua Coggeshall one of the Assistants of the sd Towne, and alsoe Coroner. The Body of the sayd Rebeca we found dead upon the floore, her Clothes very much Burnt by fire, and Her Body very much scorched and burnt by fire, And after dilligent Inquirie and Examination of Wittnesses, wee the sayd Coroners Inquest caused the sayd Body of Rebeca Cornell Widdow to Mr Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth to be stripped of the Residue of Clothes upon it (unburnt) turned and Handled, and searched to the best of our Judgments and understandings, doe finde and declare, That upon the Evening after the Eight Day of Febvruary 1672/3 the sayd Rebeca being in or about the age of 73 yeares, was brought to her untimely death by an Unhappie Accident of fire as Shee satt in her Rome, the time afore specified.

That this is our Verdict as the Coroners Inquest, wee give under our hands this Present 9th Day of February 1672/3.

  • William Dyer fforeman
  • Edward Lay
  • John Sanford
  • Thomas Brook
  • Georg Lawton
  • Hugh Parsons
  • John Albro
  • Peter Talman
  • John Anthony senr
  • ffrancis Brayton
  • Thomas Wood
  • William Wilbore

[13] John Brigs of the Towne of Portsmouth Aged sixty foure yeares or thereabouts, being According to Law Sworne and In[g]aged befor the Councell, Testifieth That on the Twelfth Day of this Instant month ffebruary in the night as this Depont lay in his Bedd, he being in A Dreame of Mrs Rebeca Cornell Deseased, and being betweene Sleepeing and Wakeing, as he thought he felt something heave up the Bedclothes twice, and thought some body had beene coming to bed to hime, where upon he Awaked, and turned himeselfe about in his Bed, and being Turned, he perceived A Light in the roome, like to the Dawning of ye Day, and plainely saw the shape and Apearance of A Woman standing by his Bed side where at he was much Afrighted, and Cryed out, in the name of God what art thou, the Aperition Answered, I am your sister Cornell, and Twice sayd, see how I was Burnt with ffire, and shee plainely Apeered unto hime to be very much burnt about the shoulders, fface, and Head.

Taken before the Deputy Govr and Councell mett the 20th day of ffebruary 1672/3 As Atest John Sanford Secretary.

Mr John Russill of the Towne of Dartmouth in the Colony of New-Plymouth Aged 65 yeares or thereabouts, being According to Law sworne and Engaged before the Councell, Testifieth, that this Deponant, lately haveing some speech with Georg Soule Cunstable of the sayd Towne of Dartmoth. The sayd Soul sayd to this Depont, you being my Anchant ffrind, I have someting to tell you wch I would desire you to be Secret in, and the sayd Soul sayd, he once comeing to Mrs Rebeca Cornells House in Portsmouth, the sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornell sayd to the sayd Soul, that Shee intended in the spring of the yeare, to goe and Dwell with her son Samuell, but shee feared Shee should be made away before that time. And this Relation of the sayd Georg Souls to this Deponant was since the sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornells Decease.

Taken before the Deputy Govr and Councell mett the 20th day of ffebruary 1672/3. As Atest John Sanford Secretary.

We whose names are under subscribed being on the second inquiry after the untimely death, or decease of Mrs Rebeca Cornell of the Towne of Portsmouth, desired to make Dilligent search whether any wound might be found on Her. Doe thus Affirme that wee found A Suspitious wound on her in the upper-most part of the Stomake, Wittness our hands ye 20th day of ffebruary 1672/3. Henry Greenland Chyrn Simon Cooper Chyrn

I doe Atest to ye above Written and declare it to be my Judgment, Wittness my hand the Day & yeare above written John Cranston Depty Govr

The above Premised Henry Greenland & Simon Cooper did both upon their Oaths affirme to the above Premised, Evidence or written, to be truth before John Cranston Depty Govr & Practioner in Phisick & Chyrurgery

We whose names are hereunto subscribed being by the Depty Govr & major part of the Councell of this his Majesties Colony of Rhod-Island and Providence Plantations, appointed and Empanneled A Coroners Inquest on the Body of Mrs Rebeca Cornell (Widdow to ye deceased Mr Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth) who came to an untimely, and uncertaine Death, in the night ffollowing the Eight day of this Instant month ffebruary, who this Instant Day, for A Second Inquire, was taken out of Her Grave, upon severall Suspitious reasons Rendered to the Govr, Depty Govr, and sayd Councell. And the Corps of the sayd Rebeca, being Dilligently searched by Chyriurgions in our view, and in their search, as under their hands appeares, they findeing A Suspitious wound in the Body of the sayd Rebeca Cornell in the uppermost part of her Stomake. And wee alsoe finding that the Body was much Burnt and Scorched by fire wee doe declare, and returne our Verdict to be, That wee Conceive and Judg, to the best of our understandings, that by the aforesayd Suspitious wound, and fire, shee the sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornell came bye her Death. In witness whereof wee have sett or hands ye 20th day of ffebry 1672/3.

 
  • John Sanford foremn
  • Georg Lawton
  • John Albro
  • Thomas Wood
  • Edward Lay
  • Thomas Brooke
  • Hugh Persons
  • Francis Brayton senr
  • William Wilbore
  • James Barker
  • Peter Easton
  • Joseph Torrey
  • Weston Clarke
  • Samuell Hubbard
  • Stephen Mumford
  • Edward Greenman
  • Phillip Edes
  • Caleb Carr
  • Daniell Gould
  • Henry Bull
  • Lawrance Turner
  • Thomas Nicolls
  • Thomas Dungin
  • Thomas Burg

[14] Thomas Cornell senr of Portsmouth being Examined concerneing the untimely and uncertaine death of his Mother Rebeca Cornell, wch happened on the 8th of ffebruary 1672/3 in the Evening of the same Day: sayth, he coming in to the House from his Occations: a little after sunsett went to visett his Mother, his son Thomas being then with Her, and satt and discoursed with Her in her roome where shee keept, about one houre and halfe, and then Left her and went to Supper, haveing salt-mackrill for Supper, which his Mother cared not for because shee used to say it made her Dry, and haveing supt, his Wife sent his son Edward to his Mother, to know whether shee would have milke boiled for her supper, or what else shee desired, which might be about Three quarters of one houre, from the time he left her, he being the Last that was with Her; the sayd Edward called, Grandmother, Grandmother, and noebody Answering, and perceaving fire in the roome; came out, and sayd lett me have the Candle to see what fire that is in the other roome, whereupon wee all rann in, in hast, and Henry Straite ran in ffirst, and Rakeing the fire with his Hands, tooke hold of his Mothers Arme, thinkeing it had been A Drunken Indian, and spake Indian to her; at last sayd here is A Drunken Indian Burnt to Death; But the sayd Thomas Cornell, coming in last, perceaved by Her shoose which he saw by the light of the Candle, that it was his Mother, and sayd, Oh Lord, it is my Mother, and tooke up her head in his Armes to see if any life were in Her; findeing her burnt, lyeing along upon the floore with her head towards the fire, her Cloths burnt of on her below and some above, and the Valins of the Bed burnt, and the upper part of the Curtaines where he Judged Shee stood when Shee was on fire; before Shee fell, her Apron & one of her Petty-coats being Cotton and Wooll, and Judged that her Clothes tooke fire from A Cole that might fall from Her Pipe as shee satt Smoaking in Her Chaire, and haveing seene her in that Condition, as above related, sent out and called in some of the Neighbours liveing neare; which is all that he knows of the Death of his Mother abovementioned; not Judging any one were Instrumentall in any Measure to procure her Death.

 

Taken before us the 21th of ffebruary 1672/3

  • Nich Easton Govr
  • Jon Cranston Depty Govr
  • ffrancis Brinley Assistt
  • John Easton Assistant
  • Joshua Coggeshall Assistant

April ye 10th 1673

Sarah Cornell the Wife of Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth, being Examined Concerning the Death of her Mother in Law Rebeca Cornell, sayth, yt ye evening her sayd Mothr was found dead in ye House, about one houre or more, or such a quantity of time; before shee was soe found, her Husband Thomas Cornell was with her to see how shee did, hereing that shee was not well, & tooke A Quill of yarne in his hand to winde, after he came out, he winded halfe a Quill of yarne, & then went to Supper, & one of ye Boies was sent to her sayd Mothr, to know what Shee would have for Supper, upon opening of the dore, ye Great Dogg being in her roome, Leaped out over ye Boy, & ye Boy came out in hast, & desired A Candle to see wt fire yt was in ye roome, whereupon most in the House ran in & found her sayd Mother Rebeca Cornell lyeing dead in the floore, being Burnt, but how it came shee knows not, nor can Imagine, but Lookes at it as A wonderfull thing, & the more in regard, part of her Clothes being Cotton and wooll, ye wooll was burnt & ye Cotton Remained whole, which John Gould, John Spencer, & Job Hawkins afterwards saw, comeing to ye House for yt Purpose: ffurther sayth, wn Georg Lawton & John Albro, being sent for, went into the roome, they smelt ye scent of the Burning of the Clothes, & none before, & when Henry Straite went in first he thought it had beene an Indian yt lay there Dead.

Taken before us.

  • Nich~ Easton Govr
  • ffrancis Brinley Assistant

At a meeting of ye Dept Govr Mr ffrancis Brinley, Mr John Easton & Mr Joshua Coggeshall Assistants, Held at Mr Joshua Coggeshalls House in Portsmo ye 22th of Feby 1672/3.

Henry Straite being brought before ye Dept Govr & the sd Assistts & Examined wt he could say and relate concerning the late Deceased Rebeca Cornells death. Answered yt ye night that ye sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell lost her life, he was some part of ye night, at Mr Georg Lawtons & came not to Mr Thomas Cornells (where he Diated & Lodged) untill supper time, & wn he came in, some part of ye supper was upon ye Table, & they were gooing to Supper, & sitting downe to Supper. Mrs Rebeca Cornell, who usialy used to be at Supper with us, not being there, this Examinate saith he inquired where ye sd Mrs Cornell was, & why shee was not at supper wth them, Mr Thos Cornell Answered, we haveing nothing but mackrill to supper, my Mothr will not eate any, for shee saith it makes her dry in the night. The Examinate further saith, yt as soone as they had supped, Tho[m] Cornells wife sd to one of ye boys, by name Edward, goe to yor Grandmother, & ask her whether shee will have any milke for supper; the Ladd going, Emediately returned, and askt for A Candle to see what fire yt was, yt was in his Grandmothrs roome, whereupon they all ran, & this Examinate came [15] first to the dore, & into ye roome, & espieing fire on ye floore, he clapt his Hands upon it, and raked away ye fire wth his hands, and then thought it had beene an Indian, & tooke hold on ye Arme, and shakt her, speakeing Indian; whereupon Mr Tho[m] Cornell clapt his hands & cryed out, Oh Lord, it is my Mother. And this Examinate also saith, yt there was noe fire in the Curtaines, nor about ye Bedsted when he came in, yett ye Curtins & Valliants at ye foote of the Bedsted was burnt. And alsoe saith yt ye Body lay wth the head towards ye Southmost Dore, & ye feete towards ye other Dore, in wch roome we were & ye Back lay towards ye Bedsteadd ye face towards ye Westmost Window, & lay on ye left side; Also the said Examinate saith yt at other times when they have had Mackrill for Supper, ye sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell used to be called, & did use to come & supp with ye rest in Mr Thomas Cornells roome.

Taken upon Oath.

James Moills, being Examined wt he can relate concerneing ye Death of Mrs Rebeca Cornell. Answered that ye night yt ye said Mrs Cornell lost her Life: The Examinate & Hen~ Straite were at Mr Georg Lawtons, in ye evening & came not to Mr Tho[m] Cornells till about seven A Clocke, when they came in, part of ye Supper was upon ye Table, & after Supper, Tho[m] Cornells Wife bidd one of ye Boys, by name Edward, goe to his Grandmothr, and ask her wt shee would have for supper; ye ladd goeing in, came Imediately out & askt for A Candle, saying there was fire in his Granmothers roome, upon which every one there Hastened to see what it was. This Examinate, wn he came into ye Entry, was goeing out of dores to see if there were not fire on ye outside of ye House, but before he gott out, hereing Hen~ Straite say here is A Drunken Indian burnt to Death, he returned & went into ye roome, & there he saw, the sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell lyeing on ye floore, wth fire about Her, from Her Lower parts neare to ye Armepits and saith, he knew it to be her by her Shoes, & saith, yt ye Curtins & Valants at ye foote of ye Bedd were burnt, yett ye fire about ye Bedstead was out. And alsoe this Examinate saith, yt he haveing being A Servant, as now he is, to ye sd Mr Tho[m] Cornell, hath observed, yt ye sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornell (except not well) did usually be at Meales wth Her son Thomas &c. and wt the Reason was, yt shee was not yt night at Supper wth them, he knows not. This Examinate also saith, yt at other times in ye Evening it was Usiall, & sildome otherwise, yt one or more of ye Children, were in ye roome wth their gran-mother, but knows not ye Reason they, nor any of them were not wth her then. This Examinate also saith, yt he was in ye roome wth Mrs Cornell yt Morneing before her death, and then shee said shee was not well, & at noone goeing in to see her, shee said shee was something better. This Examinate also saith, yt wn he went into ye roome the night ye sd Mrs Cornell deceased, he saw A peece of her Garment, being Cotton and woollen lyeing upon A Brand on the fire. He alsoe saith shee lay on Her Left side.

Taken upon Oath.

Thomas Cornell (the son of Mr Tho[m] Cornell) Aged 18 yeares or there abouts, being Examined what he can relate Concerneing ye_ Death of his Gran-Mothr Mrs Rebeca Cornell. Answered and sayth, yt ye Evening his Gran-mother dyed, he was in ye roome wth her, & stayd but A Litle while, but went out againe,and did Leave his ffather in the roome wth her, who stayd wth her about an houre, or an houre & an halfs time, & then in A litle time after his comeing out, went to Supper, & after Mother was not at Supper wth them, though at other times shee usially used, neither was Shee sent for as at other times, ye Reason was, there being Mackrill to Supper, was A dyet Shee did not like because it used, as Shee sayd, to make her very dry. The Examinate also saith, yt it was formerly usiall for some of them to be in the roome wth their Gran-Mother in the night times, but was not yt night. He alsoe saith, yt wn they went into ye roome, Shee lay on her Left side, wth her Head towards ye fire. And further saith, yt part of ye Curtin & Valants about ye Bedstead was Burnt, but wn they went in, ye fire about the Bedsted was quite out.

Taken upon Oath.

Stephen, Edward, & John Cornell, ye Sons of Mr Tho~ Cornell, being Examined wt they know Concerneing ye Death of their Gran-Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell. They all being severally Examined, sayd they know not how shee came to Her death, & alsoe said, their ffather was ye Last Person they know of, yt was wth their Gran-Mothr. They further said, that none of them were yt night wth their Gran-Mother, as at other times they use to be.]

 

Taken before

  • John Cranston Dept Govr
  • ffrancis Brinley Assistt
  • John Easton Assistt
  • Joshua Coggeshall Assistt

Mary Cornell wife to John Cornell of Plymouth Colony in New-England, Aged 28 yeares or thereabouts, Apeared before mee ye 3d Day March 1672-73 & upon Her sollemn Engagmt, declareth as followeth. That about 3 or 4 yeares past, shee this Depont, being at her Mothr in Laws House Mrs Rebeca Cornell of Portsmth on Rhod-Island, Widdow, & now dead, or Deceast. This Depont saith that her Mother in Law Mrs Rebeca Cornell, haveing beene in Her Orchard, returneing into ye House, tould this Depont, yt shee had beene run[n]ing after Piggs, & said shee being weake, & had noe help, & shee being disregarded, shee thought to have stabd A Pen-knife in her Heart, yt shee had in her hand, & then shee should be ridd of Her Trouble. But it came in her minde, Resist ye Devill who will [illegible] shee sd shee was well satisfied, & further saith not. Taken upon Oath ye [illegible] March 1672/73 before [illegible].

[16] George Soule Aged 34 yeares or thereabouts being Engaged, saith yt he being at Mr Tho~ Cornells House on Rhod-Island ye same day Mathew Allins House was Burned in the Winter, last, and this Deponant speaking wth Mrs Rebeca Cornell, shee said shee would goe live wth her son Samuell ye next spring. This Depont urging her yt shee was better where shee was; shee said yt A differance was arisen between her & her son Thomas, about rent. This depont sayd shee spoke unadvisedly to say shee would remove. Shee Replyed: wt doth this tend too. Shee said he would have the Hundred Pound bond out of her hand. And this Deponant saith, shee said shee would goe live wth her son in the spring, if shee was not otherwise disposed of, or made away. and further this depont saith not.

Taken this first day of March 1672/3.

This Depont further saith he Judged Mrs Rebeca Cornell to Be in a Passion.

  • Nich Easton Govr
  • Richd Smith Assistant

Mary ye wife of Mr John Almy of ye Towne of Portsmouth Aged Thirty three yeares or thereabouts, being According to Law Engaged & Sworne, Deposeth & Testifieth yt shee hath severall times observed an Undutyfull-ness in Tho~ Cornell towards his Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell, & saith yt shee hath severall times spoke of it to others. And further saith, yt ye sayd Mrs Rebeca Cornell told this Depont yt shee was much neglected, & yt shee was forced in ye Winter season, in ye cold wether to goe to her Bed unmade, & unwarmed, & was therefore forced to procure some woollin Cloth to wrapp her selfe in, before shee went to her could bedd. And alsoe ye sd Mrs Rebeca Cornell, told this depont, yt if shee could not Eate as all ye foalkes of ye House could, & at their times of Eateing, shee must fast, for there was nothing brought in for Her to Eate; ffurther this Depont testifieth, yt Anthony Shaws wife of Portsmouth (since ye aforesayd Tho Cornell was Imprisened) told this Depont, yt Tho Cornells Wife coming to ye prison to her Husband, they Desired some time of Privacy, & soe went together into A Private roome, & whilst they were together, ye sd Tho~ Cornell and his Wife had those Expretions each to other, yt if you will keepe my Councell I will keepe yors, & soe they spake each together, & then ye Dore of ye roome in which they were was opened.

Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of ye Genll Councell. ye 11th of Aprill. 1673.

John Sanford, Secretary.

Elizabeth ye wife of Hugh Persons of ye Towne of Portsmouth, Aged sixty yeares or thereabouts being According to ye Law Engaged, & sworne, Deposeth, & Testifieth yt shee being wth Goodwife Earle, desired to lay forth ye Body of the Deceased Mrs Rebeca Cornell, they on ye Sabath Day towards night, Accordingly layd forth the Body of the sd Deceased, & saith yt then there was noe Apeareance of Blood about ye Corps, but comeing thether on ye Munday there had beene in the roome where ye Corps lay, Thomas Cornell wth Wm. Hall to measure ye Corps for ye makeing A Coffin to interr Her in, & some saying ye corps did purge, this depont went to see whether ye corps did purge or not, & found yt ye corps did not purge, onely saw yt shee had bled fresh Blood at ye Nose; and ffurther saith not.

Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of ye Genrll Councell, the 11th day of Aprill 1673.

John Sanford Secretary

Hugh Persons of ye Towne of Portsmouth Aged 60 yeares, or thereabouts, being According to Law Engaged & sworne: Deposeth & Testifieth that yt night Mrs Rebeca Cornell lost Her Life, this Depont comeing to ye House: went in to ye Roome where shee lay, & Mr Coggeshall goeing in before this Depont, Emediately Mr Coggeshall went to ye outward Doore opening to ye Southward, to see whether it were fast bolted. And this depont heard Mr Coggeshall say yt Doore was fast Bolted. And further this Depont saith, yt upon ye hearth there was burnt sinders lay in A traine, & almost covered ye floare in such A manner as if shee had beene drawne thether.

Taken before ye Dept Govr and part of ye Genll Councell the 11th Day of April 1673.

John Sanford Secretary

Joane Coggeshall ye wife of Joshua Coggeshall aged about 38 yeares being Engaged According to Law, affirmeth yt being at the Widdow Cornells House about A yeare & halfe since; as neere as shee can Remember; shee ye sd Cornell Complained to Her, yt Her son Tho Cornell, carryed himselfe very unkindely to Her, detaineing Her Rent from Her, and would pay Her none, & was soe High & soe Crose, yt shee durst hardly speake to hime; & yt shee intended to gett men to speake to hime aboute it, & did nominate Wm Baulston, John Easton & Walter Clarke; & further sayd, yt her son Tho~ Cornell told her, Her name did stinke about ye Island, or Country, And shee ye sd Widdow Cornell, desired Her yt shee would not speake of wt shee told Her, for shee should live A sadd life, wth Her sd son, if he should heare of it.

Taken this 14th of Aprill 1673, before us.

  • John Cranston Dept Govr
  • Richd Smith, Assist
  • Francis Brinley Assist.~
  • John Easton Assist.~

Patience Coggeshall ye Wife of John Coggeshall, aged about 33 years, being Engaged According to Law, afirmeth, yt shee and Her Sister Wait Gould, & her Sister Joan Coggeshall, being with ye Widdow Rebeca Cornell about 2 1/2 yeares since, in Her orchard under a Damzen Tree; shee related to ym ye sad Condition of Life shee lived wth her son Tho~ Cornell, wch shee declared wth much weepeing, & sayd, yt he would not keepe her A mayd, though he was Engaged to it, as to find her Diett, & yt her son Thomas & his wife, yt now is, were very cross to her; & this depont asked Her how ye children carryed ymselves towards her, shee replied; how could they carry it kindly to Her wn their ffather was soe cross; & yt shee was afrayd there would be mischiefe don, Her Daughter in Law was of such a Desperate Spirit, for not long since, sayd shee, shee ran after one of ye Children of his ffirst Wife, wth an Axe, into Her House; but shee prevented Her strikeing ye child; & yt shee did not live wth any of her other children, because shee had made over her Estate to Her Son Thomas; & yt if shee had thought her son Thomas first Wife would have dyed before Her, shee would not have made it over to hime.

Waite Gould being Engaged According to Law, affirmeth to ye truth of ye Premises.

Taken this 14th of Aprill 1673, before us.

  • John Cranston Dept Govr
  • Richd Smith, Assist ffrancis Brinley Assistt.
  • John Easton Assistt.
Nicholas Wild of Newpt aged 73 yeares or there abouts, being According to Law Engaged, & Deposed, Testifieth yt about a yeare agoe Mrs Rebeca Cornell came to this Deponts House, & there Complained of Her son Thomas Cornell; yt he was [torn] Agreemt to pay her yearely (as neere as this Depont Remembers Shee sayd) Six pound a yeare, & Diet for A maide Servant, wch shee sayd he refused to pay, & did wth hold it; & further shee sayd, yt he tould Her, if shee would release hime of yt Hundred Pound he was Engaged to pay her, yn he would pay ye six pound A yeare, & A Maide should have her Diet, as was Promised. ffurther ye sd Mrs Cornell told this Depont, yt her son Told her he must Build, & required ye Hundred pound toward it, but shee sayd shee could not, unless she should wrong her other Children, for shee thought he had Enough; shee alsoe told this depont, yt her son told her shee must pay ye Rates; Shee alsoe sayd, yt shee hath been forced to goe out in ye snow for Wood, & hath falne wth ye Wood under Her, when they have beene in ye House & saw it all, wch shee sayd was such A griefe & Trouble to her, yt shee hath beene afraide of being Provoaked, & hath prayed to ye Lord agat it; & ffurther shee sayd yt Her son Thomas told Her, yt if shee would forgive ye Hundred pound he would yn pay ye Rent, alow Diet for A Maide for Her, & pay ye rates, & this shee Declared, wth great griefe & Trouble of Spirit, wth weepeing Teares. 

Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of ye Genll Councell ye 14th of Aprill 1673.

  • John Sanford Secretary.

Sarah ye wife of Nicholas Wilde Aged 61 yeares or thereabouts, being According to Law Engaged & deposed, testifieth to ye Truth of all yt is above Testified by Her Husband. And further testifieth, yt Mrs Rebeca Cornell told this depont yt Her Son Thomas, one time being Angry wth her, lookt very firce upon Her, & nasht, or sett his Teeth at her, & sayd shee had beene A Cruell Mother to hime. She told hime shee had not beene cruell, but A [torn] & sayd his Carrige & Expressions therein was A great Trouble, or Terror to Her. This depont askt Mrs Cornell how shee was able to beare such Afflictions. Shee answered yt shee should not be Able to beare it, but yt [17] God did support her, & in Her griefe shee had Scriptures come into Her mind yt did much quiet her.

Taken before ye Dept Govr & part of the Genll Councell ye 14th of Aprill 1673.

  • John Sanford Secretary

The Deposition of Rebeca Woollsey is yt wn shee was last at Rhod-Island with Her Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell falling in discourse one with Another, the Deponts Mother tould her Daughtour Woollsey that shee looked very poorly and the Depont told her Mother shee had cause soe to doe; her mother did Aske her why; the Depont told her Mother, yt shee had, had the smal pox, and yt shee was very much Afflicted and Troubled in mind, and yt shee was sometimes Perswaded to Drowne her selfe, and sometimes to stabb her selfe. Soe the Deponts Mother told her Daughter that shee must pray to God, and he would helpe Her. The Depont told Her Mother, shee did often call upon God, and he did here her, soe wn the Depont had done with this Discorce, the Deponants Mother told her Daughter that shee had beene divers yeares possest with an evill spirit, and that shee was divers times Perswaded to make away with Her selfe, and yett the Lord was pleased from time to time to preserve her. The Depont told her Mother, that shee would tell her Brother Thomas of it, and her Mother charged her not to tell hime, soe shee did not tell hime: And further sayes not. ffloshin 10 Aprill 1673 — This Testimony taken before me

  • Robert Coe Justice of Peace

John Pearce of the Towne of Portsmouth Aged 41 yeares or there abouts being According to Law Engaged, Testifieth, that since the Decease of Mrs Rebeca Cornell, this Deponent being at the house of [torn - Wm ?] Wood, there was Thomas Cornell, and his Wife, and Thomas Cornell sayd, that his Mother in her life time had A desire to have A good fire, and further sayd, that he thought God had answered her ends, for now shee had it.

Taken the 7th of May 1673 (in the morneing) before me.

  • Joshua Coggeshall Assistant.

Liftt Joseph Torrey of Newport being According to Law Engaged, Testifieth, That on ye Day the Corroners Inquest satt upon the Corps of Mrs Rebeca Cornell deceased (on the second inquiry) comeing to the House of Thomas Cornell, and Inquireing whether the outmost dore were shutt, of the sayd Mrs Cornells Roome that night shee Dyed, Mr Thomas Cornell made Answer, that the dore was not Lockt, neither was there ever any Lock upon the Dore, but sayd he, the Dore was fastned with A Barr upon the Latch, and showed this depont in what man[n]er it was.

Taken the 16th of May 1673 in Court As Attests John Sanford Recordr

Mr. Phillip Eds of Newport being According to Law Engaged, Testifieth to the truth of what is above Testified by Liftt Joseph Torrey.

Taken in Court, ye 16th of May 1673. As Attests John Sanford Recordr

Present and Indict Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth now Prisoner in his Majties Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Senr. That against the feare of God, the Honour of our Soveraigne Lord the Kinge, and the Law and peace of this Colony, on the Evening of the 8th Day of Febry in the 25th yeare of the Reigne of his Majtie Charles the Second Annoque Domin. 1672. The sayd Thomas Cornell did violently Kill his Mother, Rebeca Cornell, Widdow, or was ayding or Abetting thereto, in the Dwelling House of his sayd Mother in the foresayd towne of Portsmouth, which act of his is Murder, and is against the Honole Crowne and Dignety of his Majesty the Laws and peace of this Colony.

Dated at A Genll Court of Tryalls held ye 12th May 1673

  • John Easton Genll Aturney.

Passed by leave of ye Court to ye Grand Jury As Attests John Sanford Recor. Grand Jury returne [blotted] Bill. Petty Jurys returne. Guilty.

Whereas you Thomas Cornell have beene in this Court, Indicted, and Charged for Murdering your Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell Widdow, and you being by your Peers the Jurry found Guilty, Know, and to that end, prepare your selfe, that you are by this Court sentenced to be carryed from hence to the Common Goale, and from thence on ffryday next which will be the 23th Day of this instant month May, about one of the Clocke, to be carryed from the sayd Goale to the place of Execution, the Gallows, and there to be Hanged by ye neck untill you are Dead Dead.—


Rebecca's son Thomas was convicted and hung for her murder. She apparently fell asleep one night, smokig a pipe. A coal rolled out and the house burned down. She subsequently appeared in a vision to her brother John Briggs, saying "See how I am burned." A legal historian states that there was no basis for the arriest and conviction of her son Thomas.


Rebecca (?Briggs?), Wife of Thomas Cornell, Pro and Con

Many Cornells believe that Rebecca, wife of their ancestor Thomas Cornell (1594-1655/6), was a Briggs. Arguments in favor come from the trial of their son, Thomas (Jr.), who was hanged in 1673 for murdering his mother, then living in his home. The primary evidence which convicted Thomas (Jr.) was from John Briggs who testified of a vision he had in which Rebecca came to him and said, "I am your sister Cornell..." and told him how she died.

The safest position, presented by noted researcher Dr. George McCracken in his article, "Who was Rebecca Cornell?" which appeared in "The American Genealogist," (TAG) Vol. 36, p. 16-18, is that not enough information or proof exists to conclude Rebecca was a Briggs. His main argument is that "sister" has several possible meanings as well as a religious one. Even in some churches today, adult members who are not blood related call one another "sister" and "brother."

Those who feel Rebecca was a Briggs believe her to have been the daughter of Henry (Henrie) Briggs of London and was baptized 25 Oct. 1600 at St. James Church, Clerkenwell. This date seems very satisfactory for Rebecca Cornell. A John Briggs, son of Henry, was also baptized there. A major missing ingredient to this story, however, involves the considerable distance between London and northwest Co. Essex where Thomas Cornell is said to have lived. The roughly 40 miles between the two places would be quite an impediment to a young man courting a future bride in the 1600s.

The solution to this would seem to be provided by "The Ancient Family of Palmer of Plymouth Colony" by Carlton A. Palmer (Jr.), which provides an account of the Briggs family, unfortunately without sources. According to Mr. Palmer, Henry Briggs had a country home in Co. Essex. It's also implied that the Briggs family came originally from Essex.

Given this possibility, it's logical Henry and his family would spend some of the year in this home and thereby become acquainted with locals. Having two separated homes implies the Briggs family may have had some wealth. Considering the likely class consciousness of the English at this time, it is reasonable to conclude there are implications for the status of the Cornell family if these Cornell-Briggs marriages did occur.

The large Briggs genealogy, "History and Genealogy of the Briggs Family, 1254-1937," by L. Vernon Briggs, Goodspeed & Co., Boston, 1938, 3 vols., does not mention John or Henry.

John Briggs, but not Henry, is the ancestor described in "The Briggs Genealogy Including The Ancestors and Descendants of Ichabod White Briggs 1609-1953. Also Other line descendants of his immigrant ancestor John Briggs b. 1609, York England, and Some The Descendants of Ichabod White" by Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge, Victor, NY, 1953. It indicates John came to Boston in 1635 or 1636 "following his sister Rebecca, who married Thomas Cornell ..." but does not provide any supporting sources or evidence. Also as noted by Dr. McCracken, it does not help its credibility by its title which indicates John Briggs was born in York and then stating later he was born in Co. Kent. Both places are somewhat removed from London where he was supposedly baptized and from one another.

A pertinent comment applicable to the above and provided by my Cousin Lynne: "Genealogy without proof is mythology" by anonymous.

Some questions:

  • 1. Is there evidence Thomas Cornell had a sister Sarah (who could have married John Briggs)?
  • 2. Are there sources supporting the Palmer account of the Briggs family having a country home in Co. Essex and perhaps being wealthy?

Your comments on the above are welcome. I'll be happy to add them to this discussion so other may benefit. -Tom Cornell

Followup comments:

A couple of comments on the Briggs discussion....

One is that the term "sister" might refer to either a sister or sister-in-law, if the intention were to refer to a familial relationship.

A second comment is that I have read somewhere that Henry Briggs's son John was at least 10 years different in age from the John Briggs in RI (older, I believe) and that he died in England. I may have the reference around some where in my files. (Mfernest)

The McCracken article cited above (TAG36, p. 16-18) lists several Briggs burials, baptisms and weddings from the registers of St. James Church, Clerkenwell, London. Among them are:

  • 25 Oct. 1600, Rebecca, daughter of Henry Briggs
  • 8 Apr. 1618, John & Joyce, children of Henry Briggs

In his discussion which follows, Dr. McCracken comments, "the John Briggs baptized there in 1618 is about ten years too young to have been the Portsmouth settler, since his age was given when he testified in 1673, showing that he was born in 1608 or 1609."

Dr. McCracken also described a Briggs genealogy purported to state that Rebecca was a Briggs and that her brother John married a sister of Thomas Cornell. He named it as follows: "New York Descendants of John Briggs of R. I. and County Essex, England, with 16 Allied Families," by Pearl Leona Heck of Washington, D. C. (1933).

Patti Metsch was able to obtain this book and reported to me, "Not a source noted anywhere!!! Or even an indication of where the information might have been obtained! What a waste of time -" (Tom Cornell)

A correspondent has mentioned books by Jane Fletcher Fiske, one of which contains the transcript of the Thomas Cornell (Jr.) trial. These are titled "Rhode Island General Court of Trials, 1671-1704 and Gleanings from Newport Court of Files, 1659-1783." Be forewarned that the language and archaic spellings are retained which make reading quite difficult. See link below for on-line version.

Useful Links:

A page at RootsWeb.com contains a partial transcript of the Cornell trial by Jane Fletcher Fiske in 1998. Fiske Transcript

A link to Bradley Bone's page and comments on Rebecca. Bradley Bone's page

Send E-mail to Tom Cornell

---

  1. Name: *Rebecca BRIGGS
  2. Sex: F
  3. Birth: BEF 25 OCT 1600 in London, Middlesex, England
  4. Death: 8 FEB 1673 in Portsmouth, Newport, RI
  5. Religion: Christening: 25 Oct 1600 St. James, Clerkenwell, London, England
  6. Change Date: 3 MAR 2005
  7. Will: 2 SEP 1664
  8. Probate: 1673 1
  9. Note:

Will dated 2 Sept 1664, proved 1673.

Thomas Cornell and his wife, Rebecca Briggs, were the grandparents of Ezra Cornell, founder of Cornell University. Ezra Cornell's son, Alonzo Cornell, was the twenty-fifth Governor of New York.

The Cornell family came to Boston, America, from the County of Essex, England, 1638.

They moved to Portsmouth, R. I. in 1640. The old home is still in the family. It is now owned by Rev. John Cornell, Minister of the P. E. Church Diocese of Rhode Island.

  • Father: Henrie BRIGGS b: 1574 in St. James, Clerkenwell, Essex, England
  • Mother: Mary HINCKES b: ABT 1577 in Darrington, West Riding, Yorkshire, England

Marriage 1 Thomas CORNELL b: 24 MAR 1592 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England

  • Married: 9 JUN 1620 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England

Children

  • 1. Has No Children Sarah CORNELL b: 30 MAR 1623 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 2. Has No Children Richard CORNELL b: 8 JUL 1624 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 3. Has No Children William CORNELL b: 4 APR 1625 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 4. Has No Children Thomas CORNELL b: 21 OCT 1627 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 5. Has No Children Rebecca CORNELL b: 13 JAN 1629 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 6. Has No Children Kelame CORNELL b: 1631 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 7. Has No Children Elizabeth CORNELL b: 1 MAY 1631 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 8. William CORNELL b: 1 DEC 1632 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 9. John CORNELL b: 6 JUN 1634 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 10. Anne CORNELL b: 2 AUG 1635 in Saffron, Walden, Essex, England
  • 11. *Elizabeth CORNELL b: 15 JAN 1637 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England
  • 12. Joshua CORNELL b: 1642
  • 13 Ken CORNELL b: 1643 in Dartmouth, Bristol Co, MA
  • 14. Samuel CORNELL b: 1644 in Dartmouth, Bristol Co, MA
  • 15. Mary CORNELL b: 1644 in Dartmouth, Bristol Co, MA

Sources:

1. Title: R.I. Genealogical Register, Text: Volume 2 No. 3, Abstracts Portsmouth Wills, Page 163

2. http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&d... Alternate; Henrie BRIGGS was born about 1574 in St. James, Clerkenwell Parish, Essex, ENG. He died 1625 in St. James, Clerkenwell Prsh, Essex, ENG. Records at Clerkenwell Parish (St. James Church), London, England

BIRTH: Also said to be born in 1589.

Alternative: Henrie Briggs (b. 1580, Essex, ENG) married ? Hinkes (b. abt 1578); said to be parents of Rebecca Briggs who married Thomas Cornell but probably father of John Briggs of Sandwich, MA. This Henrie's father was Thomas Brigges (b. abt 1554).

Henrie married (1) Elizabeth SPENCER before 1600 in St James, Clerkenwell Prsh, Essex, ENG. Elizabeth was born about 1578.

two possible wives: Elizabeth Spencer or Mary Hinckes.

Henrie and Elizabeth had the following children: +34Fi.Rebecca BRIGGS was born 25 Oct 1600 and died 8 Feb 1673. +35Mii.John BRIGGS was born 1609 and died Nov 1690.


  1. ID: I28019
  2. Name: Rebecca Briggs
  3. Sex: F
  4. Birth: 25 OCT 1600 in St. James Parish - Clerkenwell, London, England
  5. Death: 8 FEB 1672/73 in Portsmouth, Newport Co., Rhode Island

Marriage 1 Thomas Cornell b: ABT 1594 in Hertford, Hertfordshire Co., England

Children

  • 1. Sarah Cornell b: 30 MAR 1623 in England
  • 2. Ann Cornell b: ABT 1624 in England
  • 3. William Cornell b: 4 APR 1625 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 4. Thomas Cornell , Jr. b: 21 OCT 1627 in Hertford, Hertfordshire Co., England
  • 5. Richard Cornell b: ABT SEP 1628 in Headcorn, Kent Co., England
  • 6. Rebecca Cornell b: 31 JAN 1629/30 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 7. Elizabeth Cornell b: 1 MAY 1631 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 8. Kelame Cornell b: BEF 19 OCT 1632 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 9. William Cornell b: 9 DEC 1632 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 10. John Cornell b: 6 JUN 1634 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 11. Elizabeth Cornell b: 15 JAN 1636/37 in Saffron Walden, Essex Co., England
  • 12. Samuel Cornell b: ABT 1639
  • 13. Joshua Cornell b: ABT 1642
  • 14. Mary Cornell b: ABT 1643 in New England

Notes for Rebecca Briggs:

Notes on murder and strange circumstances around her death in previous notes, taken from Rhode Island Genealogies, p. 55; see my previous printout. (Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island, by John Osborne Austin, 1969). Also notes her estate.

More About Rebecca Briggs:

Baptism: October 25, 1600, St. James Parish, Clerkenwell, London

Children of Thomas Cornell and Rebecca Briggs are:

  • i. Rebecca Cornell, born January 31, 1628/29 in Saffron Waldon, Essex, England; died February 05, 1712/13 in (Queens) NY; married (1) Charles Bridges; married (2) Thomas Willett; married (3) Joris

Woolsey December 19, 1647 in Brooklyn (Kings), NY.

  • ii. Thomas Cornell II, born October 21, 1627 in ENG; died May 23, 1673 in Portsmouth (Newport) RI; married (1) Sarah Earle; died Aft. 1690; married (2) Elizabeth. Notes for Thomas Cornell II: Accused & convicted of matricide.
  • iii. Sarah Cornell, born March 30, 1623; married (1) John Lawrence; married (2) Thomas Willett September 01, 1643; married (3) Charles Bridges November 03, 1647.
  • iv. Ann Cornell, born August 02, 1635; married Thomas Kent.
  • v. Richard Cornell, born July 1628; died August 11, 1694 in Flushing (Queens) NY; married Elizabeth Jessup; died Aft. 1694.
  • vi. John Cornell, born June 06, 1634; married Mary Russell; born 1645.
  • vii. Joshua Cornell, born 1641; died Aft. 1664 in of Dartmouth, MA.
  • viii. Elizabeth Cornell, born January 15, 1636/37; died Aft. 1708; married Christopher Almy; born 1632; died January 30, 1712/13.
  • ix. Samuel Cornell, born 1639 in Boston, MA; died 1715 in of Dartmouth, MA; married (1) Deborah; married (2) Grissell Strange; born 1641.
  • x. Kelame Cornell, born October 1630; died October 1632.
  • xi. George Cornell, born 1620; married Deliverance Clark.
  • xii. William Cornell
  • xiii. William Cornell, born December 09, 1632.
  • xiv. Elizabeth Cornell, born May 01, 1631.
  • xv. Mary Cornell, born 1643.

Rebecca (Briggs?)

Vital Record of Rhode Island 1636-1850, Hartfordshire Essex Co. England

"Moreover if Rebecca Cornell was, indeed, the Rebecca Briggs baptized in 1600 at S. James, then the John Briggs baptized there in 1618, is about 10 years too young to have been the Portsmouth settler, since his age was given when he testified in 1673, showing that he was born in 1608 or 1609. I conclude that if Rebecca Cornell was really a Briggs, then she was not the one baptized in Clerkenwell." By George E. Mc Cracken Ph.D.F.A.S.G.VD. Drake University Des Moines, Iowa. American Genealogist Vol 36 pp16-18

Rebecca Cornell's will, dated 2 Sep 1664, proved 1673, from the RI Town.

Records Scrapbook 1639, as widow to the late Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth, mentions sons Thomas eldest, Richard second, William third, John fourth, Samuell fifth, and Joshua sixth; daughters Sarah eldest, Ann second whose husband is Thomas, Rebecca third, Elizabeth fourth, and Mary fifth. No surnames for spouses of children.


"Thomas Cornell, born about 1595 in Co Essex, England*, (*He was from Essex as his daughter Sarah is so described in her marriage record.) married Rebecca Briggs (sister of John Briggs); died about 1655; she was born 1600; February 8, 1673 died aged about 73 years. Children:

  • 1. Thomas, died May 23, 1673; married (1) ---; (2) Sarah Earle.
  • 2. Sarah, married (1) 1 Sep 1643, Thomas Willett; (2) 5 Nov 1647 Charles Bridges; (3) John Lawrence, Jr., Marriage license 20 Nov 1682.
  • 3. Rebecca, buried February 5, 1713; aged 91 (Onderdonck say aged 93); married 9 Dec 1647, George Woolsey.
  • 4. Ann married Thomas Kent.
  • 5. Richard, died 1694; married Elizabeth.
  • 6. John, died 1704; married Mary Russell; lived at Cow Neck, Long Island.
  • 7. Joshua. His mother conveyed to him, 21 Oct 1664, land in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which he conveyed, 21 Nov 1664 to Samuel Cornell. No further account of him.
  • 8. Elizabeth, married Christopher Almy of Newport, Rhode Island.
  • 9. Samuel, died 1715 (will proved).

1673 Feb 8 Friends Records state Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely at Portsmouth in her own dwelling house, was twice viewed by the Coroner's Inquest and buried again by her husband's grave in their own land'. May 25, her son Thomas ws charged with murder, and after a trial that now reads like a farce, was convicted and executed. Among the witnesses of this rial were John Briggs (brother of Rebecca), Mary, wife of John Cornell (her son), Thomas Stephen, Edward and John, sons of Thomas2, Rebecca Woolsey (her daughter), etc.

It appears that the old lady, having been sitting by the fire smoking a pipe, a coal had fallen from the fire on her pipe, and that she was burned to death. But on the strength of a vision which her brother John Briggs had, in which she appeared to him after her death, she said See how I was burned with fire.' It was inferred she was set fire to, and that her son who was last with her did it; and principally on this evidence Thomas Cornell was tried, convicted and hung for her murder. Durfee in his Legal Tracts of Rhode Island comments on the strangeness of this trial and the injustice of the execution.

The writer of this remarked to a leading lawyer of Newport (who knows much of the history of Rhode Island) that there seemed very little evidence to convict this Thomas Cornell, the lawyer's answer was simply There was no evidence.'"

AN UNSOLVED MURDER

Who killed Rebecca Cornell on the afternoon of Feb. 8, 1673, as she sat alone in her room in her home in Portsmouth? To this day no one knows for certain, yet one man, her son, Thomas, was convicted (on evidence that now seems wholey spurious) and executed for the crime. In those days when a defendant could have no counsel to argue his case, not a few innocent men went to their death, the victims of trumped up charges. Nowdays, a court would insist upon a minute autopsy upon the body and a rigorous investigation of all evidence before deciding the case and declaring a verdict. But let us examine the case in hand.

To begin with, the Cornell's as a family were well known in Portsmouth. Thomas Cornell, the father, had been admitted as a freeman in 1640, he received a grant for 100 acres within the settlement. To this estate his son Thomas succeeded.

Thomas the 2nd, like his father, was a man of honor and consequence in the colony. He was several times a deputy from Portsmouth to the General Assembly in Newport, and was placed in many positions of public trust. In February 1673, we find him living quietly on his Portsmouth farm with his family, made up then of himself, his wife, two sons, his mother (a widow of 73), and two hired men. His mother occupied a first floor room, which contained a fireplace and had both an inside and outside door. Thomas had been married twice, having four sons by his first wife. It was two of these sons who were left at home at the time of the murder, but the wife mentioned was Sarah, the second wife.

To proceed on Feb. 8, 1673, Rebecca, the mother, was found dead on the floor of her room, her cloths burned and her body severely scorched by fire. Taking the first testimony of Thomas Cornell and one of his hired men, Henry Strait, a coroner's jury returned a verdict that she had come "To her untimely death by an unhappy accident of fire, as she sat in her room." However, a further examination of the body disclosed a wound on the upper part of her stomach, and the jury gave out as a revised verdict that she came to her death because of both fire and the injury, but incriminated no one. As the case stood, it was a mystery until rumors began to circulate concerning trouble in the past between Thomas and his mother. Magistrates took up the inquiry and prosecuted Cornell on the strength of it. He was arrested and bound over to the superior court. Indicted on March 12, tried and convicted on the same day, sentenced to be hanged on May 23, pending the execution of the sentence. He was kept chained, manacled and guarded by four men by day and eight men by night. In the addition, a warrant was issued for the seizure of his estate. There was no chance for him to escape, and he died on the gallows on the appointed day.

Thomas Cornell did not confess anything, but strangely enough, before his execution, his friends presented a petition in his behalf to the General Assembly requesting that he be buried next to his mother. Would a murderer naturally desire to be buried next to his victim? The Petition complicated the mystery. The General Assembly did not grant it, but gave his friends permission to bury him on his own farm, provided they made his grave within 10 feet of the common road where the colony would be at liberty to set up a monument on his grave. Otherwise he would have to be buried near the gallows. As a further mark of leniency the Assembly, released his estate after his death, naming the town council of Portsmouth as executor. Another odd aspect of the case was the vote of the General Assembly after the execution to record all the proceedings and testimonies involved in the case in the "Book of Trials". This was not testimony given at the actual trail, but such information and affidavits as were procured at the inquest or later by magistrates. Some of this testimony was peculiar, as we will go through it briefly.

On Feb. 8, the afternoon of the murder, Thomas Cornell spent two and half-hours with his mother in her room. Engaging her in conversation after which he came out into the adjoining room and began to wind a quill of yarn. Before this was half wound he was summoned to supper with his family and two hired men. After supper he sent his son Edward to ask his grandmother if she would have her milk boiled for supper. The boy went, discovered the fire in the room on the floor, and came running back to get a candle and give the alarm. Henry Strait ran into the room followed by the boy with the candle and then by Thomas Cornell and his wife. The hired man saw the fire and raked it out with his hands, and then in the faint light shed by the candle saw a human body on the floor. Supposing it to be an Indian, drunk and burned, (a rather odd supposition) he shook the body and spoke to it in an Indian language. At that moment Thomas Cornell saw the body and exclaimed, "Oh, Lord! It is my mother!"

The body was lying on its left side, with its back to the bed and face towards the window. Its cloths were part woolen and part cotton but only the woolen part was burned. There was no evidence of fire about the bed, except that the curtains and valance were partially burned. Lastly the outer door was fastened.

Thomas Cornell maintained that his mother's cloths had caught fire from hot coal falling upon them from her pipe as she smoked in her chair, but no pipe or pieces appear to have been found on the floor. If that happened, she should have been able to extinguish the fire herself or at least call for help. That hypothesis does not consider the evidence of the fire about the curtains and valances. Who extinguished those, things so highly inflammable? Thomas Cornell would hardy have left the room with the fire going unwatched, thus imperiling his own house!

Now for the testimony of the hired men: One said that usually both the children were with the grandmother in the evening but that they had not gone to her room on the evening of the murder. Futher, the grandmother, when well, usually ate with the family, being sent for. Henry Strait testified that he had even asked Thomas Cornell why his mother was not at the table that evening and that the latter replied it was because they were having salt mackerel, which she could not eat. "But," said Strait; "She used to be called at other times when they had mackerel."

Further testimony was to the effect that Rebecca Cornell had had a claim against her son for overdue rent. Some said sharp words had passed between them and others that she had been threatened by her son and forced to do menial services. At one time she had hinted at suicide and at another declared that in the spring she was going to live with her other son, Samuel, but feared that she might be made away with before then. Finally, one witness who accompanied by Sarah Cornell, had visited Thomas Cornell while he was in jail asserted that the wife and husband had conversed apart and that he had heard one say to the other "If you will keep my secret, I will keep yours."

Such is the main bulk of the testimony. There is one more episode in the case, however and it might well be mentioned. Four days after the murder the brother of Rebecca Cornell testified that the ghost of his sister had appeared at his bedside and spoken to him twice, calling attention to her burns and wound and implying that she had been murdered. Strange as it seems, according to the Cornell Family Genealogical records, this bit of flimsy testimony had the most to do with the indictment and sentencing of Thomas Cornell.

The case caused a great deal of feelings among the people of the colony, as well it might and its true solution remained a mystery. Two years later it was revived briefly in the indictment of Sarah Cornell, the widow of Thomas Cornell for either perpetrating the crime or "for being abetting or consenting thereto" it may not be wrong to assume that her acquittal was in a large measure due to public sentiment. There had been time to do a whole lot of sane thinking since the hanging of Thomas Cornell. The people had reasoned to question the high handed proceedings, which rushed his execution. Whether Thomas Cornell was actually guilty or not we cannot say. The "Friends Records" say that "Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely at Portsmouth in her own dwelling house". But they name no murder. Even we, who are not lawyers, would question much of the evidence. While one prominent lawyer, once asked about the case, simply said, "there was no evidence".

Sarah Cornell, wife of Thomas Cornell, Jr., probably thought the same, for she named a daughter, born after her husband's death, "Innocent". Undoubtedly as a living protest against her husband's unjust execution, which was rather typical of the time. - Source of Information: John T. Pierce, Sr., 52 Cedar Ave., Portsmouth, R.I., 02871 (As of June 1987) and Steven Alsip, Corbin, KY

--------------------------------

So far there has been no proof offered to support the belief that Rebecca was born a Briggs. In the trial of Thomas Cornell where he was found guilty and executed for the alleged murder of his mother, Rebecca, John Briggs testified that he had an apparition and that she had asserted to him, "I am your sister Cornell." This is enough evidence to say that they had a brother-sister relationship, but it is no proof that they were children of the same parents. The terminology of the seventeenth century was such that this relationship could have been established in at least three ways:

  • (a) Thomas Cornell could have married John Briggs' sister;
  • (b) John Briggs could have married Thomas Cornell's sister; and
  • (c) The sister of Rebecca could have married John Briggs.

Since John Briggs married a Sarah Cornell, I believe her to be the sister of Thomas Cornell. This would make Rebecca the sister-in-law-"sister Cornell" to John's wife, Sarah Cornell. This also sheds some light on which Sarah Cornell John Briggs married because it is not the Sarah Cornell, daughter of Thomas Cornell, that I have seen him linked to.

Since Mr. Sprague has now found evidence that Thomas and Rebecca had a son buried in England on 19 October 1632 with the name, as shown in the register, of Kelame, it would be well to investigate the possibility that this child bore the maiden name of Rebecca.


This information comes from the article WHO WAS REBECCA CORNELL?, by George E. McCrackan, Ph. D., F. A. S. G. Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, which was published in "The American Genealogist" Vol. 36.


http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~marshall/esmd296.htm

Known children of Thomas1 Cornell and Rebecca Briggs were as follows:

  • 2. i. Sarah Cornell, m. Thomas Willett; m. Charles Bridges; m. John Lawrence Jr.
  • ii. Thomas Cornell; m. Sarah Earle; d. 23 May 1673; executed for the alleged murder of his mother.
  • iii. Rebecca Cornell; b. circa 1622; m. George Woolsey 9 Dec 1647; bur. 5 Feb 1713.
  • iv. Ann Cornell; m. Thomas Kent.
  • v. Richard Cornell; m. Elizabeth; d. 1694.
  • vi. John Cornell; b. 1637; m. Mary Russell; d. 1704.He resided at Cow Neck, Long Island, NY.
  • vii. Joshua Cornell.
  • viii. Elizabeth Cornell; m. Christopher Almy, son of William Almy and Andry, 9 Jul 1661; d. 1708.
  • ix. Samuel Cornell; d. circa 1715.

Rebecca Briggs (b. 25 Oct 1600, d. 8 Feb 1672/73)

Rebecca Briggs (daughter of Henrie Briggs and Mrs. Henrie Briggs) was born 25 Oct 1600 in London, Middlesex, England, and died 8 Feb 1672/73 in Portsmouth, Newport, RI. She married Thomas Cornell on Bef. 1620 in Portsmouth, Newport, RI, son of Richard Cornell and Mary.

More About Rebecca Briggs:

  • Burial: Unknown, Buried: Cornell Homestead, Portsmouth, Newport, RI.
  • Christened: 25 Oct 1600, Christened: St. James, Clerkenwell, London, England.

More About Rebecca Briggs and Thomas Cornell:

  • Marriage: Bef. 1620, Portsmouth, Newport, RI.

Children of Rebecca Briggs and Thomas Cornell are:

  • 1. +Rebecca Cornell, b. 31 Jan 1628/29, Saffron Walden, Essex, England, d. 5 Feb 1712/13, Jamaica, Queens, NY.

Rebecca (?Briggs?), Wife of Thomas Cornell, Pro and Con

Many Cornells believe that Rebecca, wife of their ancestor Thomas Cornell (1594-1655/6), was a Briggs. Arguments in favor come from the trial of their son, Thomas (Jr.), who was hanged in 1673 for murdering his mother, then living in his home. The primary evidence which convicted Thomas (Jr.) was from John Briggs who testified of a vision he had in which Rebecca came to him and said, "I am your sister Cornell..." and told him how she died.

The safest position, presented by noted researcher Dr. George McCracken in his article, "Who was Rebecca Cornell?" which appeared in "The American Genealogist," (TAG) Vol. 36, p. 16-18, is that not enough information or proof exists to conclude Rebecca was a Briggs. His main argument is that "sister" has several possible meanings as well as a religious one. Even in some churches today, adult members who are not blood related call one another "sister" and "brother."

Those who feel Rebecca was a Briggs believe her to have been the daughter of Henry (Henrie) Briggs of London and was baptized 25 Oct. 1600 at St. James Church, Clerkenwell. This date seems very satisfactory for Rebecca Cornell. A John Briggs, son of Henry, was also baptized there. A major missing ingredient to this story, however, involves the considerable distance between London and northwest Co. Essex where Thomas Cornell is said to have lived. The roughly 40 miles between the two places would be quite an impediment to a young man courting a future bride in the 1600s.

The solution to this would seem to be provided by "The Ancient Family of Palmer of Plymouth Colony" by Carlton A. Palmer (Jr.), which provides an account of the Briggs family, unfortunately without sources. According to Mr. Palmer, Henry Briggs had a country home in Co. Essex. It's also implied that the Briggs family came originally from Essex.

Given this possibility, it's logical Henry and his family would spend some of the year in this home and thereby become acquainted with locals. Having two separated homes implies the Briggs family may have had some wealth. Considering the likely class consciousness of the English at this time, it is reasonable to conclude there are implications for the status of the Cornell family if these Cornell-Briggs marriages did occur.

The large Briggs genealogy, "History and Genealogy of the Briggs Family, 1254-1937," by L. Vernon Briggs, Goodspeed & Co., Boston, 1938, 3 vols., does not mention John or Henry.

John Briggs, but not Henry, is the ancestor described in "The Briggs Genealogy Including The Ancestors and Descendants of Ichabod White Briggs 1609-1953. Also Other line descendants of his immigrant ancestor John Briggs b. 1609, York England, and Some The Descendants of Ichabod White" by Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge, Victor, NY, 1953. It indicates John came to Boston in 1635 or 1636 "following his sister Rebecca, who married Thomas Cornell ..." but does not provide any supporting sources or evidence. Also as noted by Dr. McCracken, it does not help its credibility by its title which indicates John Briggs was born in York and then stating later he was born in Co. Kent. Both places are somewhat removed from London where he was supposedly baptized and from one another.

A pertinent comment applicable to the above and provided by my Cousin Lynne: "Genealogy without proof is mythology" by anonymous.


From http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bobwolfe/gen/mn/m5037x5040.htm :

1673 Thomas' wife "Rebecca, lived eighteen years longer, and the story of her death is one of the marvellous records of the credulity of her time. 'Feb. 8, 1673. Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely at Portsmouth, in her own dwelling house; was twice viewed by the Coroner's inquest, digged up and buried again by her husband's grave in their own land' (Newport Friends Records). It seems that the old lady was sitting by the fire smoking a pipe, half asleep probably, and a coal fell from the fire and she was burned to death. After her death, her brother, John Briggs, ... had a vision in which his sister appeared at his bedside, 'whereat he was much affrighted and cryed out, 'in the name of God, what art thou?' The apparition answered 'I am your sister Cornell' and twice said 'See how I was burnt with fire!'" It was inferred from this that she had been set fire to, and as her eldest son, Thomas Cornell, had unquestionably had the opportunity of setting her on fire he was arrested, tried on the charge of murder, condemned and executed. There was practically no evidence of his guilt except the vision." [18]

Rebecca Cornell's will, dated 2 Sep 1664, proved 1673, from the Rhode Island Town Records Scrapbook 1639-, as widow to the late Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth, mentions sons Thomas eldest, Richard second, William third, John fourth, Samuel fifth, and Joshua sixth; daughters Sarah eldest, Ann second whose husband is Thomas, Rebecca third, Elizabeth fourth, and Mary fifth. No surnames for spouses of children [19]

Will of Rebecca Cornell, widow of Thomas, dated 2 September 1664, proved 1673. Gave her Portsmouth lands to son Thomas and his eldest son Thomas and his wife Elizabeth. To son Richard, land at Acushnet Accoxet in Dartmouth (now New Bedford and Westport, Mass.). Bequest to son William. To sons John, Samuel, and Joshua, lands at Accoxet. To daughter Sarah, lands in the Bronx (New York). To daughter Anne and her husband Thomas (i.e. Thomas Kent), ten acres in Portsmouth. To daughter Rebecca, land in the Bronx. Bequests to daughters Elizabeth and Mary. The will disposes of a considerable amount of plate. (Original will among the unrecorded papers at the Portsmouth Town House.) [20]

Footnotes:

  • [18] Henry Howland Crapo, Certain Comeoverers, 2 vol. (New Bedford, Mass., 1912), 1:235-241
  • [19] Nellie M. C. Beaman, "Abstracts of various RI towns," Rhode Island Genealogical Register, various volumes 2-8, (1980-1985).
  • [20] G. Andrews Moriarty, "Additions and Corrections to Austin's Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island," The American Genealogist 19 (1942):132.
  • [21] Prentiss Glazier, "The English Origins of the Cornwell/Cornell Family," The American Genealogist 51 (1975):115
  • [22] G. Andrews Moriarty, "Additions and Corrections to Austin's Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island," The American Genealogist 39 (1962):2

Rebecca is my eleventh generation grandmother. There was a television show about Rebecca on A&E that showed she died February 08, 1673. Rebecca liked to smoke a corncob pipe. Her son Thomas was put to death for her murder."John Briggs [Rebecca's brother] testified as to an apparation of a woman that appeared at his bedside in a dream, and he cried out 'in the name of God what art thou,' and the apparition answered, 'I am your sister Cornell' and thrice said 'see how I was burnt with fire.'Rebecca's body was exhumed once, after John Briggs' dream, and they found a hole in her torso, and decided it was probably from a sewing needle and put her son Thomas to death for her murder. She is also the sixth generation grandparent to Elizabeth Borden. The truth of what happened to you Rebecca may never be known, but may you Rest in Peace. You are not forgotten. - Craft


Thomas Cornell was one of the earliest settlers of Rhode Island and the Bronx and a contemporary of Roger Williams and the family of Anne Hutchinson. He is the ancestor of a number of Americans prominent in business, politics, and education.

Thomas Cornell born about 1595 in Essex, England and died in Portsmouth, RI in 1655. He married Rebecca Briggs, born in 1600, in about 1620. Their eldest son also named Thomas Cornell (Jr.) was born October, 1627 in Saffron Walden, Essex, England. Thomas Cornell and his family immigrated from England to Boston in 1638 when their eldest son Thomas Cornell (Jr.) would have been age 11.

_____________________ Birth: 1600 Saffron Walden, Essex, England, United Kingdom Ω Death: 8 February 1673 Cedar Avenue, Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States ¶ Father: Henry Briggs (1574-1625) Mother: Mary Hinckes (1581-1597) Spouse: Thomas Cornell (1594-1655)

___________________ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=44275086&ref=wvr

_____________________

AN UNSOLVED MURDER

Who killed Rebecca Cornell on the afternoon of Feb. 8, 1673, as she sat alone in her room in her home in Portsmouth (Cedar Avenue)? To this day no one knows for certain, yet one man, her son, Thomas, was convicted (on evidence that now seems wholly spurious) and executed for the crime. In those days when a defendant could have no counsel to argue his case, not a few innocent men went to their death, the victims of trumped-up charges. Nowdays, a court would insist upon a minute autopsy upon the body and a rigorous investigation of all evidence before deciding the case and declaring a verdict. But let us examine the case in hand.

To begin with, the Cornells as a family were well known in Portsmouth. Thomas Cornell, the father, had been admitted as a freeman in 1640, he received a grant for 100 acres within the settlement. To this estate his son Thomas succeeded.

Thomas the 2nd, like his father, was a man of honor and consequence in the colony. He was several times a deputy from Portsmouth to the General Assembly in Newport, and was placed in many positions of public trust. In February 1673, we find him living quietly on his Portsmouth farm with his family, made up then of himself, his wife, two sons, his mother (a widow of 73), and two hired men. His mother occupied a first floor room, which contained a fireplace and had both an inside and outside door. Thomas had been married twice, having four sons by his first wife. It was two of these sons who were left at home at the time of the murder, but the wife mentioned was Sarah, the second wife.

To proceed: On Feb. 8, 1673, Rebecca, the mother, was found dead on the floor of her room, her clothes burned and her body severely scorched by fire. Taking the first testimony of Thomas Cornell and one of his hired men, Henry Strait, a coroner's jury returned a verdict that she had come "To her untimely death by an unhappy accident of fire, as she sat in her room." However, a further examination of the body disclosed a wound on the upper part of her stomach, and the jury gave out as a revised verdict that she came to her death because of both fire and the injury, but incriminated no one. As the case stood, it was a mystery until rumors began to circulate concerning trouble in the past between Thomas and his mother. Magistrates took up the inquiry and prosecuted Cornell on the strength of it. He was arrested and bound over to the superior court. Indicted on March 12, tried and convicted on the same day, sentenced to be hanged on May 23, pending the execution of the sentence. He was kept chained, manacled and guarded by four men by day and eight men by night. In the addition, a warrant was issued for the seizure of his estate. There was no chance for him to escape, and he died on the gallows on the appointed day.

Thomas Cornell did not confess anything, but strangely enough, before his execution, his friends presented a petition in his behalf to the General Assembly requesting that he be buried next to his mother. Would a murderer naturally desire to be buried next to his victim? The Petition complicated the mystery. The General Assembly did not grant it, but gave his friends permission to bury him on his own farm, provided they made his grave within 10 feet of the common road where the colony would be at liberty to set up a monument on his grave. Otherwise he would have to be buried near the gallows. As a further mark of leniency, the Assembly released his estate after his death, naming the town council of Portsmouth as executor. Another odd aspect of the case was the vote of the General Assembly after the execution to record all the proceedings and testimonies involved in the case in the "Book of Trials". This was not testimony given at the actual trail, but such information and affidavits as were procured at the inquest or later by magistrates. Some of this testimony was peculiar, as we will go through it briefly.

On Feb. 8, the afternoon of the murder, Thomas Cornell spent two and half-hours with his mother in her room. Engaging her in conversation after which he came out into the adjoining room and began to wind a quill of yarn. Before this was half wound he was summoned to supper with his family and two hired men. After supper he sent his son Edward to ask his grandmother if she would have her milk boiled for supper. The boy went, discovered the fire in the room on the floor, and came running back to get a candle and give the alarm. Henry Strait ran into the room followed by the boy with the candle and then by Thomas Cornell and his wife. The hired man saw the fire and raked it out with his hands, and then in the faint light shed by the candle saw a human body on the floor. Supposing it to be an Indian, drunk and burned, (a rather odd supposition) he shook the body and spoke to it in an Indian language. At that moment Thomas Cornell saw the body and exclaimed, "Oh, Lord! It is my mother!"

The body was lying on its left side, with its back to the bed and face towards the window. Its cloths were part woolen and part cotton but only the woolen part was burned. There was no evidence of fire about the bed, except that the curtains and valance were partially burned. Lastly the outer door was fastened.

Thomas Cornell maintained that his mother's clothes had caught fire from hot coal falling upon them from her pipe as she smoked in her chair, but no pipe or pieces appear to have been found on the floor. If that happened, she should have been able to extinguish the fire herself or at least call for help. That hypothesis does not consider the evidence of the fire about the curtains and valances. Who extinguished those, things so highly inflammable? Thomas Cornell would hardy have left the room with the fire going unwatched, thus imperiling his own house!

Now for the testimony of the hired men: One said that usually both the children were with the grandmother in the evening but that they had not gone to her room on the evening of the murder. Futher, the grandmother, when well, usually ate with the family, being sent for. Henry Strait testified that he had even asked Thomas Cornell why his mother was not at the table that evening and that the latter replied it was because they were having salt mackerel, which she could not eat. "But," said Strait; "She used to be called at other times when they had mackerel."

Further testimony was to the effect that Rebecca Cornell had had a claim against her son for overdue rent. Some said sharp words had passed between them and others that she had been threatened by her son and forced to do menial services. At one time she had hinted at suicide and at another declared that in the spring she was going to live with her other son, Samuel, but feared that she might be made away with before then. Finally, one witness who accompanied by Sarah Cornell, had visited Thomas Cornell while he was in jail asserted that the wife and husband had conversed apart and that he had heard one say to the other "If you will keep my secret, I will keep yours."

Such is the main bulk of the testimony. There is one more episode in the case, however and it might well be mentioned. Four days after the murder the brother of Rebecca Cornell testified that the ghost of his sister had appeared at his bedside and spoken to him twice, calling attention to her burns and wound and implying that she had been murdered. Strange as it seems, according to the Cornell Family Genealogical records, this bit of flimsy testimony had the most to do with the indictment and sentencing of Thomas Cornell.

The case caused a great deal of feelings among the people of the colony, as well it might and its true solution remained a mystery. Two years later it was revived briefly in the indictment of Sarah Cornell, the widow of Thomas Cornell for either perpetrating the crime or "for being abetting or consenting thereto" it may not be wrong to assume that her acquittal was in a large measure due to public sentiment. There had been time to do a whole lot of sane thinking since the hanging of Thomas Cornell. The people had reasoned to question the high handed proceedings, which rushed his execution. Whether Thomas Cornell was actually guilty or not we cannot say. The "Friends Records" say that "Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely at Portsmouth in her own dwelling house". But they name no murder. Even we, who are not lawyers, would question much of the evidence. While one prominent lawyer, once asked about the case, simply said, "there was no evidence".

Sarah Cornell, wife of Thomas Cornell, Jr., probably thought the same, for she named a daughter, born after her husband's death, "Innocent". Undoubtedly as a living protest against her husband's unjust execution, which was rather typical of the time. - Source of Information: John T. Pierce, Sr., 52 Cedar Ave., Portsmouth, R.I., 02871 (As of June 1987) and Steven Alsip, Corbin, KY Rebecca Cornell Woolsey's Depositon

Provied by Wilford Whitaker

(Deposition as to her mother's state of mind, which reveals a great deal of the state of mind of Rebecca Cornell Woolsey) We find so very little regarding women's innermost thoughts in the 1600's that it is with great wonder and renewed appreciation that I found this deposition of Rebecca Cornell Woolsey [wife of our Immigrant Ancestor, George Woolsey]. As she was attempting to give the state of mind of her mother [Rebecca Briggs Cornell] prior to the time that Rebecca Briggs Cornell was "murdered", Rebecca Cornell Woolsey actually gives us a deep insight into her own state of mind. Although this deposition is rather dark and foreboding, and disturbing as to her own state of mind, she faces the issue honestly and gives us her frank opinion. As we read it, we must remember the circumstances: her mother had recently been attacked and her body burned. Her brother Thomas Cornell had been charged with the crime. Thomas Cornell's second wife had been charged as an accessory. It was not a happy time in their lives, and Rebecca Cornell Woolseys statements reflect that period of turmoil and trouble.

HIST: Records of the General Court of Trials, Newport Court Book A, May 1673. Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island. Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber. Rhode Island General Court of Trials 1671 - 1704. Boxford, Massachusetts. 1998. p. 31. [This deposition was taken 10 Apr 1673 at Flushing by Robert Coe, Justice of Peace.] The Deposition of Rebeca Woollsey is yt wn shee was last at Rhod-Island with Her Mother Mrs Rebeca Cornell falling in discourse one with Another, the Deponts Mother tould her Daughtour Woollsey that shee looked very poorly and the Depont told her Mother shee had cause soe to doe; her mother did Aske her why; the Depont told her Mother, yt shee had, had the smal pox, and yt shee was very much Afflicted and Troubled in mind, and yt shee was sometimes Perswaded to Drowne her selfe, and sometimes to stabb her selfe. Soe the Deponts Mother told her Daughter that shee must pray to God, and he would helpe Her. The Depont told Her Mother, shee did often call upon God, and he did here her, so wn the Depont had done with this Discorce, the Deponants Mother told her Daughter that shee had beene divers yeares possest with an evill spirit, and that shee was divers times Perswaded to make away with Her selfe, and yett the Lord was pleased from time to time to preserve her. The Depont told her Mother, that shee would tell her Brother Thomas of it, and her Mother charged her not to tell hime, soe shee did not tell hime: And further sayes not. ffloshin [Flushing] 10 Aprill 1673 - This Testimony taken before me Robert Coe Justice of Peace

As one reads this remember the following:

Rebecca Cornell Woolsey was 43 years old when she made this deposition. She would live for another 40 years after making this statement. She was also four months pregnant. She had just lost one daughter, Mary, (for whom the daughter she was now pregnant with would be named) and it is possible that her youngest son William had died before 1673, although we don't know his exact death date.

Her mother's advice to her was to ". . . pray to God, and he would helpe Her." Rebecca, having just lived through a small pox epidemic [that killed one of every three that came down with it, including several of her neighbors], replied that ". . . shee did often call upon God, and he did here [hear] her, . . ." Even though ". . . shee was very much Afflicted and Troubled in mind, . . ." Rebecca Cornell Woolsey relied on a great faith in God to overcome her adversities. Siblings

Offspring of Henry Briggs and Mary Hinckes (1581-1597) Name Birth Death Joined with Rebecca Briggs (1600-1673) 1600 Saffron Walden, Essex, England, United Kingdom 8 February 1673 Cedar Avenue, Portsmouth, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States Thomas Cornell (1594-1655)

Children Offspring of Thomas Cornell and Rebecca Briggs (1600-1673) Name Birth Death Joined with Sarah Cornell (1623-1703) Richard Cornell (1624-1694) William Cornell (1627-1673) Thomas Cornell (1627-1673) 1627 1673 Rebecca Cornell (1629-1713) 31 January 1629 Saffron Waldon, Essex, England, United Kingdom 5 February 1713 Jamaica, Queens County, New York, United States George Woolsey (1610-1698)

Kelame Cornell (c1631-1632) William Cornell (1632-) John Cornell (1634-1704) Ann Cornell (c1635-) Elizabeth Cornell (1637-1714) Joshua Cornell (c1642-) Kent Cornell (c1643-) Samuel Cornell (1644-1715) Mary Cornell (c1645-)

__________________________ http://www.mindspring.com/~tvcornel/rebecca.html

Rebecca (?Briggs?), Wife of Thomas Cornell, Pro and Con

Many Cornells believe that Rebecca, wife of their ancestor Thomas Cornell (1594-1655/6), was a Briggs. Arguments in favor come from the trial of their son, Thomas (Jr.), who was hanged in 1673 for murdering his mother, then living in his home. The primary evidence which convicted Thomas (Jr.) was from John Briggs who testified of a vision he had in which Rebecca came to him and said, "I am your sister Cornell..." and told him how she died.

The safest position, presented by noted researcher Dr. George McCracken in his article, "Who was Rebecca Cornell?" which appeared in "The American Genealogist," (TAG) Vol. 36, p. 16-18, is that not enough information or proof exists to conclude Rebecca was a Briggs. His main argument is that "sister" has several possible meanings as well as a religious one. Even in some churches today, adult members who are not blood related call one another "sister" and "brother."

Those who feel Rebecca was a Briggs believe her to have been the daughter of Henry (Henrie) Briggs of London and baptized 25 Oct. 1600 at St. James Church, Clerkenwell. This date seems very satisfactory for Rebecca Cornell. A John Briggs, son of Henry, was also baptized there. A major missing ingredient to this story, however, involves the considerable distance between London and northwest Co. Essex where Thomas Cornell is said to have lived. The roughly 40 miles between the two places would be quite an impediment to a young man courting a future bride in the 1600s.

The solution to this would seem to be provided by "The Ancient Family of Palmer of Plymouth Colony" by Carlton A. Palmer (Jr.), which provides an account of the Briggs family, unfortunately without sources. According to Mr. Palmer, Henry Briggs had a country home in Co. Essex. It's also implied that the Briggs family came originally from Essex.

Given this possibility, Henry and his family would logically spend some of the year in this home and thereby become acquainted with locals. Having two separated homes implies the Briggs family had some wealth. Considering the likely class consciousness of the English at this time, it is reasonable to conclude there are implications for the status of the Cornell family if these Cornell-Briggs marriages did occur.

The large Briggs genealogy, "History and Genealogy of the Briggs Family, 1254-1937," by L. Vernon Briggs, Goodspeed & Co., Boston, 1938, 3 vols., does not mention John or Henry.

John Briggs, but not Henry, is the ancestor described in "The Briggs Genealogy Including The Ancestors and Descendants of Ichabod White Briggs 1609-1953. Also Other line descendants of his immigrant ancestor John Briggs b. 1609, York England, and Some The Descendants of Ichabod White" by Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge, Victor, NY, 1953. It indicates John came to Boston in 1635 or 1636 "following his sister Rebecca, who married Thomas Cornell ..." but does not provide any supporting sources or evidence. Also as noted by Dr. McCracken, it does not help its credibility by its title which indicates John Briggs was born in Yorkshire and then stating later he was born in Co. Kent. Both places are somewhat removed from London where he was supposedly baptized and also from one another. In addition, there are serious questions about the discrepancy in birthdates between the English John Briggs and the man who testified against Thomas Cornell, Jr.

Rebecca BRIGGS (b. October 25, 1600, d. February 5, 1672/73) Rebecca BRIGGS (daughter of Henri BRIGGS and Mary HINCKES)96, 97 was born October 25, 1600 in Clerkenwell, Essex, Eng97, and died February 5, 1672/73 in Portsmouth, Newport, RI97. She married Thomas CORNELL on Abt. 1622 in Fairstead, Essex, Eng97, son of Richard CORNELL and Mary (CORNELL).

Includes NotesNotes for Rebecca BRIGGS:

Rebecca BRIGGS was born on 25 Oct 1600 in England.(50) She died on 8 Feb 1673 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. (50) Parents: Henri BRIGGS. She was married to Thomas CORNELL. (50) Children were: Rebecca CORNELL.

REBECCA BRIGGS 1600 - 1673

Rebecca was born in London, England and died in Portsmouth, Newport, Rhode Island. She married Thomas Cornell. She is my 11th great grandmother.

Her story is a sad one.

1673, February 8 Friends Records state Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely at Portsmouth in her own dwelling house, was twice viewed by the Coroner's Inquest and buried again by her husband's grave in their own land'.

May 25, her son Thomas was charged with murder, and after a trial that now reads like a farce, was convicted and executed. Among the witnesses of this trial were John Briggs (brother of Rebecca), Mary, wife of John Cornell (her son), Thomas Stephen, Edward and John, sons of Thomas (2), Rebecca Woolsey (her daughter), etc.

It appears that the old lady, having been sitting by the fire smoking a pipe, a coal had fallen from the fire on her pipe, and that she was burned to death. But on the strength of a vision which her brother John Briggs had, in which she appeared to him after her death, she said See how I was burned with fire.' It was inferred she was set fire to, and that her son who was last with her did it; and principally on this evidence Thomas Cornell was tried, convicted and hung for her murder. Durfee in his Legal Tracts of Rhode Island comments on the strangeness of this trial and the injustice of the execution. The writer of this remarked to a leading lawyer of Newport (who knows much of the history of Rhode Island) that there seemed very little evidence to convict this Thomas Cornell, the lawyer's answer was simply There was no evidence.'" ----------------------------- Vital Record of Rhode Island 1636-1850, Hartfordshire Essex Co England

820. Rebecca Briggs. Born ca 1600 at London, England. Baptized on 25 Oct 1600 in St James, Clerkenwell, London.66 Rebecca died at Portsmouth, RI, on 8 Feb 1673.138

On 8 Feb 1673 Friend's Records state 'Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely at Portsmouth in her own dwelling house, and twice viewed by the Coroner's Inquest, digged up and buried again by her husband's grave in their own land.' On May 23 her son Thomas was charged with murder. John Cornell, in his Genealogy of the Cornell Family, wrote that the trial "reads like a farce. It appears that the old lady having been sitting by the fire smoking a pipe, a coal had fallen from the fire or her pipe, and that she was burned to death. But on the strength of a vision which her brother John Briggs had, in which she appeared to him after her death and said: 'See how I was burned with fire.' It was inferred that she was set fire to, and that her son who was last with her did it, and principally on this evidence Thomas Cornell was tried, convicted and hung for her murder. Durfee in his Legal Tracts of Rhode Island, comments on the strangeness of this trial and the injustice of the execution. The writer of this remarked to a leading lawyer of Newport (who knows much of the history of Rhode Island), that there seemed very little evidence to convict this Thomas Cornell, the lawyer's answer was simply: 'There was no evidence.'"138

Rebecca Cornell's will, dated 2 Sep 1664, proved 1673, from the RI Town Records Scrapbook 1639-, as widow to the late Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth, mentions sons Thomas eldest, Richard second, William third, John fourth, Samuel fifth, and Joshua sixth; daughters Sarah eldest, Ann second whose husband is Thomas, Rebecca third, Elizabeth fourth, and Mary fifth. No surnames for spouses of children.139

Ca 1620 Rebecca married Thomas Cornell (1059) , son of [----] Cornell (394), at Essex, England. Thomas died at Portsmouth, RI, ca 1655.138

"Thomas Cornell came to America about 1638, with his wife and most, if not all, of his children. He is first found in Boston, where by a vote of the Town Meeeting, Aug. 20, 1638, he is permitted to buy 'William Baulstone's house, yard, and garden, backside of Mr. Coddington, and to become an inhabitant,' This property was situated in Washington Street, between Summer and Milk Streets. He sold it in 1643 to Edward Tyng, who had a warehouse, and brew house, and constrcuted a dial there. Sept. 6, 1638, 'Thomas Cornhill was licensed upon tryal to keepe an inn in the room of Will Baulstone till the next General Court.' June 4, 1639, he 'was fined Ð30 for several offences selling wine without license and beare at 2d. a quart.' Two days later he was abated Ð10 of his fine, and allowed a month'to sell off his ware which is upon his hand, and then to cease from keeping intertainment, and the town to furnish another.'"138

Thomas resided at Boston, MA, then in Portsmouth, RI, then in Cornell's Neck, New Amsterdam (now Westchester Co., NY), then Portsmouth again.

[Check out TAG 35 (1959): 107 for baptisms and burials of children in Safron Walden, Essex, Eng.]

Various possibilities are given for Thomas Cornell's ancestry: I. Thomas, bp. 24 Mar 1595 at Terling, Essex, son of George & Susan (Casse) Cornwell (who m. 25 Sep 1574 at Terling). II. bp. 24 Mar 1593 at Fairsted Manor, Essex, son of Richard & Mary Cornell.

Children: 3103 i. Sarah (ca1623-ca1690) 3104 ii. Richard (ca1625-1694) 3105 iii. Ann (ca1625-) 3106 iv. William (Died young) (ca1625-1628) 3107 v. Thomas (ca1627-1673) 3108 vi. Rebecca (ca1629-1713) 3109 vii. Joshua (Died young) (ca1630-<1641) 3110 viii. Kelame (Died soon) (ca1630-1632) 3111 ix. Elizabeth (Died young) (ca1631-<1637) 3112 x. William (Died young) (ca1632-<1636) 3113 xi. John (ca1634-1704) 3114 xii. William (ca1636-) 3115 xiii. Elizabeth (ca1637->1708) 3116 xiv. Joshua (ca1641-) 3117 xv. Kent (ca1643-) 3118 xvi. Samuel (ca1644-ca1715) 3119 xvii. Mary (ca1645-)

More About Rebecca BRIGGS: Record Change: May 6, 2004

More About Rebecca BRIGGS and Thomas CORNELL: Marriage: Abt. 1622, Fairstead, Essex, Eng.97

Children of Rebecca BRIGGS and Thomas CORNELL are:

   +Rebecca CORNELL, b. January 13, 1627/28, Near Saffron-Waldon, Co. Essex, England98, d. February 15, 1711/12, Jamaica, Queens, NY98.

http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/e/m/a/Kathy-Emanuel/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0100.html


http://www.mindspring.com/~tvcornel/rebecca.html
https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/LBKX-PTR

Noted from the above site: Do NOT add her surname as BRIGGS unless you have source citation evidence. Read the first five "Sources".

The "Discussions" entry below says, "The Rebecca Briggs christened on the 25th day of October 1600 in Ilington, St. James, Clerkenwell, Middlesex, England; daughter of Henry Briggs "expired" the 25th day of October 1600 as recorded in the same church records. Therefore the Rebecca Cornell who married Thomas Cornell was NOT his daughter.

There is no reason to assume that Rebecca's maiden name was Briggs. She (or John Briggs for that matter) would not refer to her as "sister Cornell" if they were blood related. This was a term generally used for identifying a sister-in-law or even a step-sister in legal documents."

NOTE: Ancestry.com is a website. It is NOT a source.

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Briggs-237

Sources http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/gen/report/rr02/rr02_494.html#P11119 http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=29477232 Website: Rebecca Briggs Footnotes ↑ George E. McCracken, "Who was Rebecca Cornell?" in The American Genealogist, volume 35 (1960?):16) ↑ Rev. John Cornell, Genealogy of the Cornell Family, beng an account of the Descendants of Thomas Cornell of Portsmouth, RI, New York 1902; p 17 ↑ Bertha Bortle Beal, The Briggs Genealogy, including the ancestors and descendants of Ichabod White Briggs 1609..., Victor, NY 1953, p 11) ↑ https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1624/31280_199128-00334?pid=603068608https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1624/31280_199128-00935?pid=3070468https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1624/31280_199134-00068?pid=2157029 ↑ photocopied article at the Rhode Island Historical Society Library in E. Providence, RI: ↑ Edward H. West, HISTORY OF PORTSMOUTH 1638-1936: The Government: 17, 18 ↑ Newport Court of Trials 1671-1741, Film # 945811 ↑ TAG vol 19(1942-43):132

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Rebecca Cornell's Timeline

1600
October 25, 1600
St. James, Clerkenwell, London, England
October 25, 1600
St. James, Clerkenwell, London, England
October 25, 1600
St. James, Clerkenwell, London, Middlesex, England
October 25, 1600
Parrish St. Jame,Clerkenwell,London,England
October 25, 1600
St. James, Clerkenwell, London, England
1600
London, Middlesex, England
1600
St James, Clerenwell, London, Middlesex, England
1620
1620
1622
1622