Somerset County MDGenWeb

Christopher Nutter as Robin Hood

This is an article written by David G. NUTTER and donated to the Somerset County MD USGenWeb Project. This piece gives an illustration of European - Native American relations in early Somerset County through the experiences of Christopher Nutter and the Nanticokes.

In 1672, Christopher and Mary [Dorman] Nutter lived at "Nutter's Purchase", a pleasant and beautiful site on the edge of Manokin Creek (then River) in the heart of today's Princess Anne, Maryland. In that same year, the Somerset County Grand Jury (with Matthew Dorman, Mary's brother, among its members) had designated their house as a "preaching station" for use one Sunday each month in the as-yet churchless colony. All of which is to say, Christopher was generally behaving like a respectable citizen. One may perhaps be forgiven for suspecting that Mary's influence played a not insignificant role in this.

So the following is interesting. The man does seem to have had the quality of a free spirit. In this case Christopher is once again hauled into court (just as he was as in the case of the attempted abduction of Mary Dorman from the Custis Plantation in Northampton County, Virginia a decade earlier). This time, he appears to have been trying to protect two runaway indentured servants, by refusing to give them - or the arms they carried - over to their rightful masters.

The record refers to the "hue and cry". That was an English tradition reaching way back into the Middle Ages. In the "hue and cry", if you were passing along a public way in a crowd of people, and someone saw a thief pick a woman's purse, it was the duty of the witness to "raise the hue and cry" by shouting "thief, thief !" and it was further the duty of the crowd to "take up the hue and cry" by shouting, in one voice, "thief, thief !" until the culprit was brought to bay. As it is used here, and as it evolved in the Common Law of England, it became much more sophisticated than that, but these are its roots, and the basic idea is the same. It was punishable as a crime for a citizen not to participate in a hue and cry.

So here he is then, Christopher in his role as, well, a bit of a non-conformist and Liberator of the Oppressed. Robin Hood, so to speak, on the edge of the American wilderness. Not that he would let it go too far. As always, I have to add, that at least is my interpretation.

"The Cort ordrd A nonsute.

p. 156 14 August Court

The same Day Commrs as afore onely mr Henry Smith riseth from the board, And Complaineth in the behalfe of the Lord Proprietary against Christopher Nutter in writing which is read vizt.

Sommersett Ss

Several Articles of misdemeanors and contempt Committed by Christopher Nutter of Manoakin planter in the month of July last past Annoq Domini 1672 Impre ffirst the said Christopher Nutter did in Despite of the Laws of England and the Lawes enacted in this Province for the apprehending of Run awayes Contemptuously and Clandestonately kept the hue and Cry sent by Henry Smith gent one of the Commrs of the Quaram? For the said County not suffering it to pass and ffurther
(In margin: John Tizer & Rich Brittaine)

And the said Christopher Nutter in Contempt of The Government and the Authority of the said Commissionrs warrt refused to deliver up Two Runaways mentioned in the said hue and Cry and warrant sent for that purpose after he had detayned them in his Custody above the Lymitacon of the Act of Assembly .......

And ffurther the said Christopher was Demanded to Deliver up the severall Armes and other goods belonging to the said Runawayes masteres that they might the better be secured for the right owners; Did in Contempt of Authority peremptorily deny the same whereby it plainely appeared he intended to make A Prize of them Contrary to all Lawes and Acts of Assembly.

And Lastly the said Christopher Nutter comeing to the said Commrs house did publiquely declare unto himselfe & others that the said two Runawayes Shoulld not be brought nor yett their Armes and notwithstanding the hue and cry and Two warrants to the contrary but Declared that he would keep them and Imploy them in Despite of Authority and their Armes adding severall opprobrrant words Although the said Commrs had the often them in Custody being of the Company often wch being secured untill the Constable was sent for And made A willfull escape and Privately run Away.

Christopher Nutter appearaed before the board and being asked what he Coulld obidd? against the Complaints of mr Smith Owned his error and is hartily sorry flor it desiring their favour for his error and shall never presume to Doe Soe any more.

The Cort bindeth the said Christopher Nutter to his good behaviour for three months. Thomas Poole and John Mallot appeared before the board and binded themselves in the summe of ten pounds Sterl. a pc to be paid to the Rt honble the Lord Proprietary upon Demand for the good behaviour of the said Christopher Nutter for three months which security was Accepted of by the Cort."

John Mallot, it should be noted, happened to be Christopher's assistant in his role as Government Indian Interpreter.

Dave Nutter

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Monday, 21-Aug-2023 21:56:23 EDT