Martha Ballard's Story
The case is heard in Vassalboro
It was because Martha was asked to testify in Vassalboro in December of 1789, that she finally wrote down what Rebecca Foster told her months earlier, in August of 1789. She had just spent the day in court, and she knew she would be called on again when the case moved to a higher court. This entry (from which we saw excerpts in Ch. 9) is the longest entry in the entire diary.
Martha tells us that during the trial at Vassalboro, "mrs Foster apeard very Calm, Sedate & unmovd, not with Standing the Strong atempts there were made to throw aspercions on her Carrecter."
Did Rebecca Foster really live through a week of rape and terror?
Rebecca's cryptic comments to Martha about people throwing stones and striving to get in and lodge with her are transformed by the specific, concrete accusations in the indictment. If she was telling the truth, she was raped three times in one week, each time by a different man.
Toward the end of this diary entry, Martha writes that Judge North told her that he "believd mrs Foster was treated as Shee Complains" but that he was innocent. What did Judge North mean? Was he claiming her accusation against him "which he Should Deny" was a case of mistaken identity? Was he claiming that other men had raped Rebecca, but that he had only stolen a kiss or two? Or was he claiming that Rebecca had consented to his advances?
And what did Rebecca Foster stand to gain by bringing this case to court? What chance did she stand when the jury weighed the word of a prominent judge against hers -- the word of a discredited minister's wife? Why had she spoken up?
Table of Contents
| Dec 23, 1789
December 23, 1789 (Wednesday)
||A Cloudy day. mr Ballard and I went to Varsalboro
as Evidences in the Cause between this Common wealth & Joseph North
Esqr. the Charg was said North on ye night of
augst 10 th Broke into the house of Isaac Foster in the
night time & Ravisht the wife of Said Foster. on trial
mrs Foster apeard very Calm, Sedate & unmovd, not with Standing the
Strong atempts there were made to throw aspercions on her Carrecter.
Shee on oath affirmd that Said North Broke open the Door of her house
& perpetrated the Crime of
|Rape ravishment, not
with standing her Exerting her Selfe as much as her Strength would
|I was at Varsalboro. a little
Snow this Evng.
|told her Shee would Expose & perhaps
ruen her Self if Shee Did. I told her I Supposed it was an Enemy of
his who was her informer & that the informer might have miss receivd
a Story relative to Fack. Shee replyd no it is his Father, I mean
he is guilty.
|admit admit of.
My testemony was that mrs Foster on the 19 of august Complaind
to me that Shee had Shee had [sic] receivd great abuses from people
unknown to her, Such as throwing Stones at her house, Striveing to
to y e
& lodg with her. after relating those abuses Said that was not the
worst Shee had met with Since mr Fosters absence, but Shee hoped they
would not quite kill her, that they Could do nothing wors than they
had unless they killd her. Shee also Said that Said North had abused
her wors than any other person in the world had, but Shee believd
it was best for her to keep her troubles to her Selfe as mutch as
Shee Could till her Husband returnd which Shee hopt wd
be soon. Shee also Complaind on the 25 (if I remember the day aright)
of said Norths treating her wors than any other person had & Said
he did go after an other woman besids his own wife, & that his wife
was jellous of him relating to the Chargs She now Lais. Shee Seemd
Exceedingly troubled when Shee related her tryals, but not being aust
any question for information did not descend to particulars at that
time, which was the last time I Converst with her while her Husband
was absent. |the 28 inst I Calld to mind mrs
Foster Saying Colo North had positively had unlawfull Concourse
|another woman besides which
was not his wife and Begd her never to mention it to any other person,
| I also testified that Said N Said to me Last
weak (which I find by this diarey to be on ye 18th
inst), that he really believd mrs Foster was treated as Shee Complains
but he Should Deny the Charg Exhibeted against him. he also Said he
never had the least reason to Suspect her virtue or modesty