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The Great Corwin Burglary
Updated 8:05 PM ET Nov 30, 2002

Salem, Massachusetts (March 6, 1683/1684) -- According to the "History of Salem", Vol. III (1671-1716), on pages 184-188, distant Gatchell relatives took part in the March 6, 1683/1684 "great Corwin burglary", in which the wealthy Captain George Corwin was robbed of a sizable sum of money.

In all, a total equal to 500 of English, New England and Spanish money was stolen during the night from the house of Captain George Corwin. The "History of Salem" claims that the 24-year-old Elizabeth (Lord) Godsoe conceived the plan to enter Captain Corwin's house and steal his money. Mrs. Godsoe had worked as a servant for Captain Corwin, and consequently she knew where he kep his money. She then convinced her husband William Godsoe and his associates to sneak into the house at night and escape with the money. Godsoe, the 28-year-old John Collier, Nathaniel Pickman and David, "a negro belonging to John Pilgrim" joined together in the attempt.

On the night of March 6th, the group went to Captain Corwin's house with a ladder. John Collier entered through a closet window and found a parcel of New England money and five bags, which he handed to his partners through the casement window, and then they escaped back to Godsoe's house. The "History of Salem" does not mention any of the Gatchell family as participating in the actual theft, but does mention a "Gatchell" as carrying away English and Spanish money "to Stage Point".

At any rate, the Gatchell family involvement must have been significant. When the perpetrators were caught and brought before the Salem court later in June, John Gatchell1, his wife Wibera and his son Thomas were among the group of people charged in connection with the burglary. A Bethiah Gatchell was also charged, and she could have been the wife of John's son Samuel. A Joseph Gatchell was named during the subsequent trial's questioning of the accused, and this Joseph was likely another of John's sons. Others charged in the crime included Nathaniel Pickman, John Collier, William Lord, Sr., Reuben Guppy, Jane Lord, Abigail Guppy, Deborah Winter, Richard Harris, Thomas Russell, William Godsoe and David ("Mr. Pilgrim's negro").

The History of Salem account, which was written by Sidney Perley in the 1920s, indicates that many of these individuals were convicted for their part in this crime. The stiffest punishment was meted out to William Godsoe and his wife Elizabeth, who originally conceived the crime. They were each branded with the letter 'B' on their forehead, whipped 39 lashes and fined 10. Among the others, both John Gatchell and his son Thomas Gatchell were convicted for their part as accessories to the burglary. They were each ordered to pay treble damages, be whipped severely 39 lashes or pay 10.


1John Gatchell was the brother of Stanley Getchell's 7th great-grandfather Samuel Gatchell, Sr.. Both John and Samuel, Sr., came together from England to America and settled in Massachusetts, John in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and Samuel in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

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