Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Worst Kind of Murderer

Alice Martin Clark Bishop
Hanged October 4, 1648

I suppose Saturday is as good a day as any to air HANG my dirty laundry, err..."grungy genes" I should I bring forth from the darkest corner of the closet my 8th great grandmother Alice Martin Bishop b. circa 1620. Alice Martin married George Clark on 22 Jan. 1628/29 in Plymouth Co., Massachusetts. They had two daughters, Abigail Clark b. 1642 and Martha Clark b. 1644. I do not know what became of George but on 5 Dec. 1644, in Scituate, New Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, Alice married her second husband, my ancestor Richard Bishop b. 1612. In 1646 Alice gave birth to my 7th great grandmother Damaris Bishop [who married William Sutton in 1666]. I suppose we can't know what happened in Alice's life to trigger the following event. Why does any mother kill her own child? 

"In July 1648 a coroners jury reported that "coming into the house of the said Richard Bishope, we saw at the foot of a ladder which leadeth into an upper chamber, much blood; and going up all of us into the chamber, wee found a woman child, of about foure yeares of age, lying in her shifte uppon her left cheeke, with her throut cut with divers gashed crose wayes, the wind pipe cut and stuke into the throat downward, and a bloody knife lying by the side of the child, with which knife all of us judge, and the said Allis hath confessed to five of us at one time, that shee murdered the child with the said knife" Rachel Ramsden testified that when she went to Richard Bishops's house on an errand, "the wife of the said Richard Bishope requested her to goe fetch her some buttermilke at Goodwife Winslows, and gave her a ketle for that purpose, and shee went and did it; and before shee went, shee saw the child lyinge abed asleepe ..., but when shee came shee found [Alice Bishop] sad and dumpish; shee asked her what blood was that shee saw at the ladders foot; shee pointed unto the chamber, and bid her looke, but shee perseived shee had killed her child, and being afraid, shee refused, and ran and tould her father and mother. Moreover, shee saith the reason that moved her to think shee had killed her child was that when shee saw the blood shee looked on the bedd, and the child was not there". The child was Alice (Martin) Clarke Bishop's daughter, Martha Clark, by Alice's first husband, George Clark. On 1 August, 1648, Alice Bishop confessed she had murdered her daughter and said she was sorry for it. And on 4 October 1648 she was sentenced to be hanged, which accordingly was executed".

Stratton, Eugene Aubrey. Plymouth Colony, Its History & People, 1620-1691. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Pub., 1986. Print. pp. 159/60.



  1. Awful! But amazing that you are able to know and tell the story all of these years later. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Wow, that is intense and so so sad. Thanks for sharing it. Were there any children born after 1646 and before this child was murdered in 1648??

  3. Not so far as I know Carol, just my 7th great grandmother and her half sister were left. Some researchers speculated that maybe Alice had postpartum depression after the birth of her last child but if that last child was born nearly 2 years earlier I can't imagine that had anything to do with it. Pretty horrible...she must have totally wigged out to do such a thing.

  4. Oh My Gosh! How terribly sad. We'll never know the torments of people that led them to such actions. Thanks for sharing this story, Lisa!

  5. I think this must be the kind of information every family historian hopes s/he won't find! How very, very sad. Is it possible that Alice had a baby not long before she killed her daughter? That could explain post-partum depression.

  6. Wouldn't we love to know Nancy! It is certainly possible but I have no information on another child at this time.

  7. Alice Martin Clark Bishop was my 9th great grandmother. I think she suffered from postpartum depression. So much happened to her in a short amount of time. Within 2 years she lost her husband, remarried and had another child.

  8. Hi distant cousin Susanna!

    If you make it back here let me suggest another blog...

    ..that is, if you haven't already stumbled upon it by now.

    The author has done much research on Alice and I think you will find it helpful and very interesting.

    Postpartum depression has, without a doubt, been considered by many. We will probably never know for certain unless someone finds a new piece of evidence. Wouldn't that be nice?

    Good luck with your research and thanks for your comment!

  9. Hi I too am related to Alice Martin Clarke. I have done my fathers family history back to 1079 through the Sutton Family Alices daughter Dameris married into the Sutton Family.I may be mistaken but i am sure Alice was my 10th great grandmother.

  10. Hello to all my far-flung cousins. I too am a descendent of the unfortunate Alice, through her daughter Damaris. That's a good point about this taking place a few years after Damaris' birth. I did some research into post-partum depression and read that it can last years, and sometimes doesn't even onset until up to a year after birth. It certainly sounds like Damaris did this is a profound state of despair or dissociation. I'm sure it was a difficult life and in addition to losing her first husband and having little choice but to remarry, our Bishop ancestor got into trouble either shortly before or shortly after for petty thievery, and was charged and found guilty.

  11. I, too, am a descendent of Alice, thru Damaris. I have been wondering what happened to Abigail. It shows that she was to receive funds from the liquidation of George Clark's land, her father, following the death of Martha and the hanging of Alice.

    1. I have never looked into what happened to Abigail. I hope if you find out anything you will stop back by and let me know. I am curious also. Thanks!