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In 1670, after a miserable and painful childhood, nineteen-year-old Mary Ball found herself pregnant by her beloved master, Woburn householder Michael Bacon, who sent her away to Rhode Island. Mary’s father John Ball complained to the court. Arrested, Bacon broke jail and was recaptured in a classic hue-and-cry operation.

Having received a heartbreaking letter from Mary, begging for clemency for herself and Bacon, the court forced Bacon to promise to raise the child. Meanwhile, Mary’s home town, Watertown, sent two Selectmen to warn her “to depart the Town forthwith.” Neighbors, kinsfolk and friends who had harbored Mary during pregnancy and delivery started submitting bills to the Court. As her precarious support network crumbled around her, Mary wrote a second letter, this time to Bacon, urging him to act like a man.

Which, on the evidence, he made no effort to do. In concert with the sanctimonious society of Puritan Massachusetts, Michael Bacon and his cronies seem to have taken every opportunity to leave Mary twisting in the proverbial wind. It remained to neighbors William and Martha Munroe to breast the current of public opinion, official and otherwise, and to offer Mary her first secure home. For which I honor their memory and invite you, dear reader, to join me.

The next year, Martha Munroe died, leaving William with four small children (kinfolk, incidentally, of the Lexington Militia who would later earn our reverence by facing the Redcoats on the 19th of April, 1775). Grandpa William did not languish in his widowhood: within the year, Mary Ball, half his age, had become the second Mrs William Munroe. Over the next twenty years, she presented William with a child every other year, dying at age 41, apparently in or near childbirth with Susanna, the last little Munroe. William married once more and lived to 92, serving as a Selectman of Cambridge and otherwise transcending his humble beginnings and exemplifying solid citizenship. He had no children with Elizabeth: maybe 14 (with 13 reaching maturity) was a large enough family to suit him.

That’s a triumphant-enough ending, but I suppose I should mention that Michael Bacon entered the picture yet again, before the year was out, in a pathetic story of barratry and bad-neighborliness. Seems he knocked on the Munroes’ door one snowy evening to complain that they had a pig of his. Having indeed a stray in their sty, they helped him separate his from theirs and saw him on his way. Soon, however, the stray returned, followed by a furious Bacon accusing them of stealing her. Bacon then led a mixed grill of his and theirs through three miles of snow to his house, losing a pregnant sow of theirs along the way. The consequent legal contention led to two hearings and a jury trial, each ending in a verdict in the Munroes’ favor.
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