The Official Story
Chapter 10

Rebecca Foster accuses Judge North and two others of rape

The indictment includes the barest hint of what might have happened. Rebecca Foster charged Joseph North with the "intent to ravish" her on August 9. Other court records reveal that she also accused Elijah Davis with attempting to ravish her on August 3, and Joshua Burgess on August 6.

How did Martha hear about Rebecca's charges?

Note the wording of the indictment. It charges North with the " ravish and carnally know" Rebecca Foster. Since by law the punishment for rape was death, justices and grand juries frequently reduced the charge from rape to attempted rape in order to get a conviction.

Only ten men were tried for rape in Massachusetts (Maine was then a district of Massachusetts) in the entire eighteenth century, and none after 1780. Between 1780 and 1797, in all of Massachusetts (including Maine) there were only sixteen indictments and ten convictions for attempted rape.

We don't know much about Elijah Davis and Joshua Burgess, but the official records tell us quite a bit about Joseph North. The official town history, written in the 19th century, includes a summary of his life culled from various records in the archives. We learn about his military career in the American Revolution, his marriage to the cultivated daughter of a Boston man who owned extensive property in Maine, his "remarkable floral taste" (he introduced "almost every flower which would bloom in our climate" into his garden), and his appointment to the Court of Common Pleas in 1788.

What happened to Foster's wife while he was away?
In 1789, Rebecca Foster was accusing this same man, Judge North, of a capital crime.

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