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Margaret Webb[1, 2]

Female 1622 - 1693  (70 years)


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  • Name Margaret Webb 
    • Carol F. Karlsen's _The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in
      Colonial New England_ (W. W. Norton, 1987), p. 80, discusses the
      greater "deniability" available to married women accused of witchcraft
      in seventeenth-century New England:

      "Without a husband to act on behalf of the accused, wealth alone
      rarely provided women with protection against prosecution. Boston's
      Ann Hibbens, New Haven's Elizabeth Godman, and Wethersfield's
      Katherine Harrison, all women alone, were tried as witches despite
      sizeable estates. In contrast, the accusations against women like
      Hannah Griswold of Saybrook, Connecticut, Elizabeth Blackleach of
      Hartford, and Margaret Gifford of Salem [_sic_; _recte_ Lynn], all
      wives of prosperous men when they were accused, were simply not taken
      seriously by the courts. The most notable exception to this pattern
      is the obliviousness of the Salem judges to repeated accusations
      against Margaret Thatcher, widow of the one of richest merchants in
      Boston and principal heir to her father's considerable fortune. Her
      unusual wealth and social status may have kept her out of jail in
      1692, but more likely it was her position as mother-in-law to Jonathan
      Corwin, one of the Salem magistrates, that accounts for her particular
      immunity."

      The widow Margaret Thatcher was Margaret (Webb) (Sheafe) Thacher,
      widow of Jacob Sheafe and Rev. Thomas Thacher, and daughter of Mr.
      John Gifford's arch-enemy, the wealthy Mr. Henry Webb of Boston (d.
      1660). See the biographical sketch of Henry Webb in Savage's
      _Genealogical Dictionary_ ...

      http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/newengland/savage/bk4/way-webster.htm

      Mary Beth Norton has noted that "Mistress Thacher was ... accused of
      witchcraft in 1692, for reasons no historian has ever been able to
      explain" (_In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692_
      [Knopf, 2002], 177). The accusations against Margaret Thacher may
      have had something to do with her (perhaps) notorious legal wrangling
      with Mr. John Gifford.

      Mrs. Thacher's father, Henry Webb, had written a letter (circa 1653)
      to the London Undertakers of the Ironworks, blasting Gifford's
      character and stating that Gifford's shenanigans in Massachusetts Bay
      had cost him almost L1,000. Gifford subsequently got a judgement in
      the New England courts against Mr. Webb in the amount of L500.
      Gifford also confiscated, with the aid of an attachment out of one of
      the Sheriff's Courts of London, a hogshead of beaverskins worth L300
      belonging to Webb (see my posting of 11 Feb. 2003). Gifford had also
      pursued Webb's daughter, then Mrs. Sheafe, in the English courts; she
      had gotten a counter-judgement against him in the Massachusetts
      courts.

      In the late 1670s, Mr. Gifford initiated legal proceedings in the New
      England courts against the Corwins of Salem, one of whose members had
      just married Margaret Webb's daughter Elizabeth, the widow of Robert
      Gibbs of Boston.

      The various gives-and-takes of the legal actions between the parties
      over a protracted period of time (from the early 1650s to the late
      1670s, at least) would have made the rivalry a well-known _cause
      celebre_ in the Massachusetts Bay. The fact that it involved two
      wealthy women called Margaret, not a name in wide use in Puritan New
      England at the time, may have made it more memorable.

      Mistress Margaret Gifford was accused of witchcraft by Dr. Philip
      Reade in 1680; she wisely ignored her court summons, and the matter
      was dropped (see my postings of 18 Nov. 2001 and 25 July 2002). (Mr.
      Gifford later sued Dr. Reade for slandering his wife.)

      When the 1692 accusers were casting about for women to blame, they may
      have remembered the 1680 accusation involving one of the two Margarets
      in the Gifford-Webb controversy, and perhaps settled upon the wrong
      Margaret.

      In any case, neither of the ladies can have been regarded by the
      authorities as a likely witch. Karlsen has noted "the obliviousness
      of the Salem judges to repeated accusations against Margaret
      Thatcher"; and G.E. McCracken pointed out the unusual situation which
      resulted when "Dr. Reade also accused Gifford's wife, Margaret, of
      witchcraft and she was summoned to appear before the Essex Court, but
      she did not appear, and was then not sent for or tried!" (NEHGR,
      112:124).
    • Margaret Webb was the only known child of Henry Webb and an unknown first wife of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England and Boston, Mass. She was baptized at St. Edmund in Salisbury Sept. 25, 1625 and died Feb. 4, 1693/4 at Boston, Mass., Æ 69.

      Margaret m. (1) by special license dated 7 Sep 1643, Jacob Sheafe with whom she had eight known children, but only two of the children apparently survived, and were named in the April 1660 will of her father, Henry Webb of Boston. Margaret's husband died intestate Mar. 22, 1658/9 at Boston and in November 1659 the value of his estate was rendered at an astounding £8,528.08s.03d. Jacob Sheafe is characterized in the literature as "opulent" Jacob. He is interred here with a table top tomb:

      • Here lyeth interred ye body of Jacob Sheafe, of Boston, who for some time lived at Cranbrook, in Kent, in Ould Ingland. Hee deceased 22d of March 1658 [1658/9], aged 42 years.

      Less than one year later Margaret's step-mother, Dowsabel (Smith) Webb, died in February 1660/1 at Boston followed by her father seven months thereafter. Thus, at age 35 the widow Margaret (Webb) Sheafe was not only the heir to her husband's large estate, but principal executrix of her father's estate at Boston, inventoried at the almost equally astounding sum of £7,819.05s.2d. In her father's extensive will she was given a lump sum of £500 as her immediate legacy plus numerous properties throughout Boston to hold, occupy, use and/or rent during her lifetime. Upon her death the property was to be divided between her two living daughters, Elizabeth and Mehitable, or their respective heirs. If by a second marriage she had further children, the first born child of such marriage was to receive a legacy from the maternal grandfather of £400.

      Margaret m. (2) after June 1664 Rev. Thomas Thacher as his 2nd wife. In her father's will dated April 1660, Henry Webb left numerous pastors, pastoral teachers, deacons and elders of churches small tokens, including to "Mr. Thomas Thacher, Pastor of ye Church of Christ in Weimouth, my Antient friend, as a token of my love, £4." In 1660 Rev. Thacher was 40 years old and hardly ancient in age, suggesting that Henry Webb had likely known Rev. Thacher for a long time, perhaps prior to his arrival in New England in 1635.

      Until shortly after his first wife's death, Rev. Thacher had been the pastor of the Weymouth, Mass. church. He then relocated to Boston where he practiced medicine for several years mixed with occasional preaching before associating on Aug. 4, 1667 with the Boston First Church. The First Church is where the widow Margaret Sheafe was a member and where all of her children had been baptized. No written record of Margaret's marriage to Rev. Thacher exists, but it likely occurred after Rev. Thacher relocated to Boston. It is certain that they were husband and wife by 1669 when Rev. Thacher and wife Margaret gave a power of attorney for collecting a debt owed to the Webb estate by persons then residing in Maryland. There are no known children by Margaret's second marriage.

      Margaret was interred at King's Chapel Burying Ground at Boston with the following inscription:

      • Here lyeth interred ye body of Mrs. Margaret Thacher, formerly wife of Mr. Jacob Sheafe, and lately wife of the Rev. Thomas Thatcher, Æ 68, obit 23d February 1693 [i 1693/4.]

      Repeated independent attempts to find any portion of the foregoing inscription at King's Chapel have failed.

      These are the children of Margaret, all with her first husband, Jacob Sheafe:

      * Elizabeth, b. 1 Oct 1644, d. 29 Aug 1718, m. (1) 7 Sep 1660 Robert GIBBS; m. (2) 20 March 1675 Jonathan CORWIN

      * Samuel, b. 4 April, bapt. 9 April 1648

      * Mary, bapt. 19 May 1650

      * Sarah, b. 14 Sep, bapt. 23 Sep 1652

      * Ebenezer, b. 4 Feb, bapt. 5 Feb 1653/4

      * Marcy, b. 25 July, bapt. 29 July 1655

      * Mehitable, b. 28 May, bapt. 30 May 1658, m. c. 1676 Sampson SHEAFE, b. St. Faith's Parish 26 Dec 1646, d. 1726, son of Edmund Sheafe (of Rev. Thomas Sheafe and Mary Wilson) and Elizabeth Juxon of St. Michael Pater Noster in the Royal, London. By 1671 Sampson had moved to Boston from London. He held some offices in Boston, but after 1693 had moved to Newcastle, NH. Sampson was still living on 6 Dec 1725 "when Judge Sewall found him sick abed at three in the afternoon." Mehitable and Sampson had five children born from 1677 to 1684/5.:

      * Jacob, b. 23 July, bapt. 24 July 1659; d. 4 Aug 1659
    Born 7 Apr 1622  Milton Clevedon, Somerset, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Parents
      Henry Webb
      1600–1660
    Christened 25 Sep 1625  Salisbury, Wiltshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Died 23 Feb 1693  Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Tomb of Jacob Sheaffe  King's Chapel burying ground, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I104452  tree1
    Last Modified 3 Feb 2019 

    Family 1 Jacob Shaefe,   d. 1658 
    Children 
     1. Mehitable Shaefe
     2. Elizabeth Shaefe
    Last Modified 2 Sep 2018 
    Family ID F427  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Thomas Thacher,   b. 1 May 1620, Milton Clevedon, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Oct 1678, Boston, Sufflok County, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 58 years) 
    Married 2 Apr 1669  Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Last Modified 3 Feb 2019 
    Family ID F2886  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Sources 
    1. [S182] Descendants of Thomas and Anthony Thacher, Allen, D. W., (Independent Printing House, Vineland NJ, 1872), 8.

    2. [S192] Thacher-Thatcher Genealogy Yarmouth Branch, Totten, John R., (New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, New York, 1910), p. 33.