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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Juicy Past: Samuel Bonnell Fined for Cohabiting With Another Man's Wife

The latest from John Bunnell on Samuel Bonnell:

I apologize for being off the grid for many months is a busy world out there.  In any case, here are the first set of documents I promised in the fall.  They are a collection of excerpts from a 1715-1716 court case against Samuel Bonnell (1) in the combined Middlesex and Somerset County Court found in the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton.  Samuel (1) [CB280017] was the son of Nathaniel Bonnell of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, who was, in turn, the son of William, the original immigrant.

There are five related references.  

  • The first two are just calls for his appearance before the case went in front of the Grand Jury.  
  • The third excerpt is the Grand Jury ruling sending the case to trail.  
  • The fourth reference is his conviction with an appeal by his lawyer.  
  • The last reference is the failure of the appeal and the resulting fine.  

The charges in the case were fornication and cohabitating with another man's wife.

Overall, the case supports William Austin's speculation (described in his book) that Samuel (1) split from his first wife (Abigail) some years before. Samuel then apparently took up with another woman, perhaps the Susannah Randolph we see mentioned in 1728.  Before we criticize Samuel (1) too quickly, I think Samuel's "not guilty" plea and effort to argue his "reasons" on appeal indicate that it may not have been a simple situation. Whoever the woman was, she appears to have been the mother of Samuel Bonnell (2) who was the father of William Bonnell of Mercer County, Kentucky.

If nothing else, these documents prove that Samuel (1) was still alive and kicking in 1716.  He did not die in 1715 as listed in Austin's book.  As you remember, we have already discounted that as confusion with the death of a Samuel Bonnell child of another New Jersey line.

Also, there are some tantalizing clues to explore.  First, the witnesses against Samuel appear to have been Hugh and Agness Reid.  I searched through New Jersey documents and did find the elderly widow Agness Read as the Plaintiff in a 1741 court case in Middlesex County.  I read the one document regarding this later case, but there was nothing I could find that would connect back to the Bonnells.  What I have yet to investigate, however, are Mr. Vernon who was Samuel Bonnell's lawyer in the case, and William Ilshe (can use help confirming the last name) who appears to have been his surety for bail after the Grand Jury indictment.  Perhaps these individuals will point to where Samuel (1) may have been living at the time.

Finally, the fact that the first reference is "bound over" indicates that there must be a prior, initial reference to this case in the order books.  I looked carefully while I was in the archives and did not catch it.  Either I missed it (entirely possible since the records from this time are so difficult to read), or it occurred in one of the gaps in the fragmentary
order record.

George Farris added:

Thanks, John.  I don't find anything to add regarding the people involved in this case other than that several were from Woodbridge.  And we had earlier found a reference to the fine in the Woodbridge records in 1715 - so Samuel  was still living in Woodbridge at the time of these court actions. One little dichotomy is that Susannah was listed as his wife in the 1707 birth record for Samuel, Jr. and in 1815 he was charged for living with someone else's wife.  I don't think there are enough surviving records to sort this out completely.  There were other Reids/Reads in Woodbridge but I haven't seen any other reference to Hugh and Agness Reid.

Regarding the surety for Samuel Bonnell referenced in one of these records, there were several members of a family in Woodbridge at that time as referenced in Joseph W. Dally's book whose names are variously spelled Illsley, Inslee, Ilsly, Ileslee, and Ilslie.  It appears that William Ilslie was the one who was the surety for Samuel.  He was married in Woodbridge in 1700 and was one of the surveyors for the several additions to Woodbridge over the years.

17 May 1715 (p. 297-298):
Dom Rex }
   v } bound over by Recognizance being call’d Appeared & continued on his 
Samuell Bonnell } Recognizance till next Court 
Hugh Reid & Agness his wife sworne & sent to the Grand Jury – then the Court
Ajourned till two a Clock In the Afternoone

16 August 1715 (p. 303-304):
Dom Rex }
   v } bound over by Recognizance being call’d Appeared
Samuell Bonnell }

17 August 1715 (p. 305):
The Court mett According to Ajournment.  Then the Grand Jury came Into Court were call’d over & brought In ye following – Indictment (viz) one Against John Moore for forcibly carry away Rails belonging to David Donham to which sd Moore pleaded guilty & submitted to ye bench who fined him six Schillings & pd.  one Against Samuell Bonnell for fornication who pleaded not guilty & In open Court Acknowledged himselfe to be Indebted to our Sovereigne Lord ye King In ye sum of twenty pounds & William Ilshe did Also Acknowledge himself In ye Sum of twenty pounds on condition that ye sd Samuell Bonnell Appear & answer at ye next court/  And an other Indictment Against Thomas Litten and Hannah Litten for fornication & one Against George Davison for fornication Against whom the Court orders prosecution/ then ye Grand Jury having no further business to do were discharged--

15 November 1715 (p. 308)
Dom Rex }
   v } upon an Indictment for fornication to which he pleaded not guilty & on ye tryall
Samuel Bonnell } ye Jury found him guilty Mr Vernon on behalf of ye defendant moved for a 
rreetal Judgement ye reason whereof ye Court will consider of.

21 February 1716 (p. 311)

Dom Rex }
   v } as an Indictment of Cohabitating with another man’s wife & it was argued 
Samuel Bonnell } before the Bench    M Gordon pro for ye Planiff 
M Vernon pro for ye Defndt.  
the Court overruled the Defndts Reasons and fined him the D Samuell Bunell 
in the sum of fifteen pounds and the Costs to be in the Sheriffs Custody till

payment be made

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