Cassandra Burnell Southwick

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Cassandra Burnell Southwick (c. 1600-1660) was an early immigrant to the American colonies and a devout Quaker (member of the Religious Society of Friends), who was persecuted for her beliefs.

Cassandra Burnell was the daughter of Humphrey and Margaret Burnell. She was born in Kingswinford, Staffordshire, England. She married Lawrence Southwick on 25 January 1623/4 in Kingswinford. They migrated to America around 1637-1639 with four of their six children. They settled in Salem, Massachusetts. They were continually persecuted by the Puritans and eventually escaped to Shelter Island, New York.

In 1657 the Southwicks were put in jail for hosting two visiting Quaker preachers, John Copeland and Christopher Holder. Lawrence Southwick was found to be a member of the First Church of Salem and was released to be dealt with by the leaders of that church. Cassandra remained in jail for seven weeks and was fined forty shillings for possessing a paper written by their two visitors. The paper was considered heretical by Governor John Endicott and others.

In 1658 the Southwicks and their son Josiah were put in jail for twenty weeks for being Quakers.

In 1659, two of the Southwick children, a daughter named Provided and a son named Daniel, were sentenced to be sold as slaves in the Barbadoes for unpaid fines - fines related to their being Quakers. The sentence was not carried out, however. The entire family went to Shelter Island, New York together.

The story of the Southwick children is told dramatically - though not completely accurately - in a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier entitled "Cassandra Southwick." He used the mother's name in place of the daughter's and did not mention the son at all. Nevertheless, his poem preserves for posterity a bit of the history of persecution by the Puritans in Massachusetts.

In 1660 Lawrence and his wife Cassandra died within three days of each other on Shelter Island.

They have thousands of living descendants in the United States today. Among their descendants were Winston Churchill and Richard Nixon.

Sources[edit]

  • The American Genealogist, 71:193, 1996.
  • Savage, James, Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, vol. IV, p. 91.
  • Southwick, Neal S., The English Ancestry and American Posterity of Joseph Southwick 1703-1980.

External links[edit]

Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick:

"Cassandra Southwick" the poem: