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

The History of Augusta
North, James W.
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Page 179

Joseph North

    In 1774-5 Joseph North represented the plantation of Gardinerstown in the Provincial Congress. "He was the leading man of the plantation and an ardent, uncompromising whig, and the people generally joined him."1 He was commissioned February 14, 1776, colonel of the second regiment of the militia in Lincoln county. In 1780 he removed to the fort settlement in Hallowell, and settled on lot number eight, west side, which he acquired in right of his wife. This lot extended in width from Market square to store number four Bridge's block, north of Bridge street. He erected his house at what is now the corner of Oak and Water street, where the Granite Bank building stands, making a clearing in the woods for that purpose before any road was laid out. He was frequently in town office in Hallowell, and was its first representative in General Court under the State constitution. He was appointed, in 1788, one of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for Lincoln county, succeeding Judge James Howard, which office he held until the organization of Kennebec county in 1799, when he was appointed a Judge of the Common Pleas for that county, with Dummer, Cony and Robbins. He continued in that office until a new organization of the Judiciary by the establishment of the Circuit Court of Common Pleas in 1811, remaining on the bench in Lincoln and Kennebec for twenty-two years. Judge North had a remarkable floral taste. He introduced into his garden, which extended on Water street from Oak street to the Franklin House--burned in 1865,--"almost every flower which would bloom in our climate." This taste continued undiminished in extreme old age, when he exhibited on a larger scale rich beds of the rare and variegated flowers which had been a source of much gratification to him in his younger days. He died April 17, 1825, at the advanced age of eighty-five years.

   Hannah North, the judge's wife, was a remarkable woman. One who is competent to speak of her from a long and intimate acquaintance, says: " Madam North was a Boston lady of the old school. She had a good person, a cultivated mind, dignified and graceful manners, and being remarkable for her powers of conversation was the delight of the social circle. Her sprightly and spirited remarks, in tones which were music to the ear, were peculiarly pleasant and animating. Under her direction their house was the seat of

1History of Gardiner, p. 119.