The Official Story

Indictment for an Assault

In July of 1790, we find in the records of the Supreme Judicial Court that Joseph North plead "not guilty" when charged with the "intent to ravish and carnally know" Rebecca Foster. She was the wife of the Reverend Mr. Isaac Foster, minister of Hallowell's Congregational Church. And North was the local judge.

The case was heard at the imposing, three-story Pownalboro Courthouse, located south of Hallowell on the Kennebec River. All that remains in the court record is the verdict, the formal indictment, the witness list, and the expense reports detailing the costs of transportation, sherriff's fees, and serving writs. None of the testimony survives.

How did it come to pass that Judge North was tried for the rape of the minister's wife? To figure this out, you can explore the official town, court, and church records to piece together the story of the Reverend Mr. Isaac Foster's move to Hallowell, his relation to the townspeople, and Judge North's role in Reverend Foster's feud with the town's clerk, Henry Sewall.

What did Martha have to say about this?

It all began with the hiring of Mr. Foster, four years before the trial of Judge North...

Table of Contents

Foster v. North
Supreme Judicial Court
July 1790
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The Indictment


Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Lincoln ss.

At the Supreme Judicial Court began and held at Pawnalborough within and for the County of Lincoln on the second Tuesday next following the fourth Tuesday in June in the year of our Lord one thousand Seven hundred and ninety.

The Jurors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts upon their oath present that Col. Joseph North of Hollowell in the said County of Lincoln Esquire on the ninth day of august in the year of our Lord one thousand Seven hundred and eighty nine with force and arms at Hallowell aforesaid in the County aforesaid in and upon Rebecca the wife of one Isaac Foster, in the name of God and the Commonwealth aforesaid then and there being an assault did make and her the said Rebecca Foster then and there did beat unkind and ill treat with an intent her the said Rebecca Foster against her will then and there feloniously to ravish and carnally know and other wrongs to the said Rebecca then and there did to the great damage of the said Rebecca and against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth aforesaid

Ja Sullivan Attorney
for the Commonwealth
A True Bill --
Samuel Goodwin Foureman

Lincoln ss. at the Supreme Judicial Court at Pawnalboro July 1790 and none the said Joseph North is led to the Bar & has the Indictment read to him he says that he is not Guilty and thereof for trial puts on

    AW. Chao: Cushing Clerk