Henry Reynolds: Accused of Murder in 1685 Philadelphia

Dateline: Philadelphia, 1685  What was the result of the trial?

Henry had married Prudence Clayton, who was the daughter of William and Prudence Clayton. .

In 1685, in Chester County, outside Philadelphia, Henry Reynolds was accused of murder. Sheriff Thomas Usher arrested him on the charge of one man, Eustace (Justa) Anderson. He supposedly had murdered his servant maid named Mary King.

Henry Reynolds v. Justa (Eustace) Anderson, in an action (trial) of scandal and defamation, on the seventh day of the second month, 1685 (April 7, 1685). (Remember, the Quakers did not go by the pagan names of the months, so they numbered them. And the first month of the year was March for Great Britain and the colonies, Quaker or not.)

This trial takes place in the Chester County Court.

Here is a summary of the testimony in the trial:

James Saunderlaine testifies that Justa Anderson was in his company at Chester and he said he saw Henry Reynolds beat his servant and the next night she died.

Thomas Persons testifies that he was at Henry Reynolds’ and saw him lift his tongs and threaten his maid with them for not eating the victuals provided for her.

William Hawkes testifies that he was at Reynolds’ house and heard Justa Anderson say Reynolds beat and struck his maid and then carried her into another room.

Wm Cornell testifies that Henry Reynolds beat his maid with a broom staff and afterwards kicked her as she was by the fire “and further saith not.”

Wooley Rosen [Rawson] testifies that as he was coming to Henry Reynold’s house Reynold’s maid asked him for some milk, and Reynolds struck her one blow with the broom staff and asked her if there was not enough victuals in the house.

Anneka Saunderlaine testifies that she did hear Justa Anderson ask Wooley Rosen whether he did not see Reynolds strike his maid and he said he did, and “further saith not.”

Prudence Clayton [Henry Reynolds’ mother-in-law) testifies that after Henry Reynolds’s maid was dead, she was sent for, to lay her out, but did not see any manner of hurts upon her body “and further saith not.”

William Hawkes, coming home from work in the evening, saw Reynolds’s maid by his fireside and afterward had her to bed and sat by her all night “and further saith not.”

Robert Moulder testifies that the night the maid died he saw her by the fireplace and some time afterwards she went to bed, after which a relation came to him and told him the maid had died.

James Browne [William Clayton’s son-in-law and our direct line] testifies that he and George Stroud met at Wooley Rosen’s house where Justa Anderson was and Stroud asked him why he had scandalized Henry Reynolds, who then replied that he saw Reynolds beat and kick his maid, and he saw her alive no more.

Verdict: for the defendant, with costs and charge of suit and six pence damage

However, Henry Reynolds was not finished. He petitions the Provincial Council in Philadelphia, the highest governing body in the province (not state, because we were not the United States in 1685).

On the 23rd day, 7th month, 1685 (September 23, 1685), the record reads (with updated spelling and mechanics):

The petition of Henry against Thomas Usher, justice of the peace for the county of Chester, complaining that the said Tho. Usher had imprisoned him by his warrant to the sheriff only upon the bare word of his accuser.

Ordered that the copy of the petition be sent to Thomas Usher and that he make speedy answer to it.

On the 24th day, 7th month, 1685, the next day, this entry was written in the Council’s journal:

Modernized transcription begins:

Henry Reynolds, being bound at the last Provincial Circular Court held at Chester, in four hundred pound penalty, to make his personal appearance before the next Provincial Circular Court held at Chester, if any be, or at next Provincial Court at Philadelphia to answer to an indictment to be exhibited against him by Wm. Rawson, for wounding, beating, and killing Mary King, his later servant maid, as appeared before the Council by a copy of the records from the aforesaid court; the aforesaid Henry Reynolds made his personal appearance before the President [Thomas Lloyd] and Council [William Clayton was no longer serving on it], in order to discharge his aforesaid obligation, where no person prosecuted, petition or brought any complaint against him.

Transcription ends.

So it looks like Reynolds was not charged at the Circular Court.

Apparently there was not enough evidence to convict him (or even charge him) for murder, and not enough evidence to win his defamation trial.

The Council minutes dated the 5th day of the 9th month, 1685 (November 5) say that Thomas Usher and Henry Reynolds were to have a hearing during the next sitting of the Council. It met the next day, but no mention is made of their hearing on that day or at later Council meetings. Perhaps they settled out of court.

Can we at least draw the conclusion that Reynolds had a violent temper, or is that going too far?

Most importantly, how did Mary King die?

We may never know.

But for sure not every day was paradise among the Quakers, in Philadelphia and its environs, at its earliest founding in the seventeenth century.

I still believe in redemption for the parties in the courtroom, even if they refuse it. Without it we’d all be doomed.


Minutes of the Provincial Council, vol. 1, 1683-1700, (Jo. Severns and Co. 1852), pp. 157-59

Record for the Courts of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Begun the 13th of September, 1681, Ending the 10th day of March 1696/7, pp. 53-54; 161

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