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Joseph Gatchell Punished for Heresy
Updated 10:05 PM ET Sept 29, 2000

Suffolk County, Massachusetts (July 1684) - Joseph Gatchell1 of Marblehead, Massachusetts, was tried and convicted of heresy in the times of puritan justice in early New England history, and his chief accuser was his sister-in-law.

Apparently, Joseph Gatchell was not Christian in his beliefs and spoke freely about it. As a result, he ended up in the public "pillory" and had his tongue pierced/branded with a hot iron, as evidenced by the narrative below. He was tried for heresy, and the main witness against him was his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, wife of his brother Jeremiah Gatchell.

In July 1879, Henry F. Waters wrote in the New England Historical and Genealogical Review: In the Suffolk County Court files, that in July 1684, Joseph Gatchell of Marblehead was presented "that he not hauing the feare of God before his eyes being instigated by the divill at the house of Jeremiah Gatchell in discourse abt generall Salvation (wch he sd was his beleife) & that all men should be saved, being answered that our Saviour had sent forth his disciples and gaue them comission to preach the Gospell and that whosoever Repents and beleives shall be saued; to which Joseph Gatchell answered if it be so he was an Imperfect saviour and a foole. And this was a yeare agoe and somewhat more, as p' the evidences of Elizabeth Gatchell and since in the moneth of March last past and at other times and places hath uttered seuirall blasphemous speeches saying ther was no God divill or hell as in and by their presences may appeare contrary to the peace of our Souiraigne Lord the King his croune and dignity the law of God & of this Jurisdiction." He was "sentenced to be returnd from this place to the pillory to haue his head and hand put in, have his toung drawne forth out of his mouth and peirct through wth a hott Iron then to be returnd to the prison there to Remayne until he sattisfye and pay all ye charges of his tryall and ffees of Court wch came seuen pounds."

Joseph was born about 1652. It appears, he was one of seven children. There are many researchers who believe that the Getchells who settled in Pennsylvania near the Maryland border were children of Joseph's brother Jeremiah Gatchell and his wife Elizabeth. Perhaps this court case is an indication as to why these Gatchells migrated out of the Northeast to Pennsylvania.

Joseph Gatchell was the son of the original immigrant, John Gatchell and his wife Wibera. From the 1909 "Family of Samuel Getchell" by Everett Lamont Getchell: John and Samuel Getchell came to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1636. John settled in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where he had numerous family, and where many descendants lived for several generations.

Joseph's father John Gatchell was born about 1611, probably in England. And the senior Gatchell also didn't see eye-to-eye with the New England authorities of the time.

In July 1879, Henry F. Waters also wrote in the New England Historical and Genealogical Review (spelling recorded as presented): " The Gatchell family were evidently not of puritan strain, as is shown ... by the following extract from the Salem Records: At 'a Towne meeting this 21th of the 6th month 1637' -- 'John Gatshell is fyend tenn shillings for building vpon the Towne ground wth out leaue, and in case he shall cutt of his lonng har of his head in to seuill frame in the mean time, shall haue abated fiue shillings, his fien to be paid in to the Towne meeting wth in too monthes from this time and haue leave to go on in his belding in the meane time.' "


1Joseph Gatchell was the first cousin of Stanley Getchell's 6th great-grandfather Samuel Gatchell, Jr. of Salisbury, Massachusetts. Joseph's father John Gatchell was the brother of Stanley's 7th great-grandfather Samuel Gatchell, Sr., who immigrated from England and settled in Salisbury, Massachusetts.

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