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The Last Days of John Huett

Written by David G. NUTTER and donated to the Somerset County MD USGenWeb Project, this fascinating article is about Rev. Dr. John HUETT, the father of Rev. John HUETT of Somerset County, Maryland. Thanks, David, for this riveting glimpse at history!




In researching the history of the Nutters who are the descendants of Christopher (about 1637-1702/3) and Mary [Dorman] Nutter (1651- before 1703) of Somerset County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, it becomes necessary to research the history of the Huett (spelled in a whole variety of ways) family also. This is because the surname Huett has been used as a given name in several branches of the Nutter family for as long as two hundred years. For instance, in my branch of the Nutter family, my father was named George Huitt Nutter; my great-grandfather Huitt Harshall Nutter; my three-times great grandfather Hewit Nutter. As it turns out, we are not descendants of the Huetts described below, but rather the name came through the Matthew Nutter branch of the family, and subsequently passed into other branches because as a gesture of respect, gratitude etc. It is almost certain that in later generations the name was passed on simply as a family tradition, not with any knowledge of the history given below.

I thought that whatever the circumstances surrounding the passing on of this name, it must have had powerful roots to have lasted so long. The following bears that out.

If you are just about anyone interested in the linkages between early American and 17th century English history, you will probably be interested in the story of the Dr. John Huett the Elder and his dramatic death in the waning days of the English Commonwealth of Oliver Cromwell. If you are a descendant of Matthew, the third son of Christopher and Mary [Dorman] Nutter of colonial Maryland, and his wife, Ann [Huett] Nutter, later Leckie, you will probably be even more interested, because you are a descendant of this Dr. John Huett, whose life, and more specifically, whose death, is described below.

By 1657, this Rev. Dr. John Huett, the father of the Rev. John Huett of Somerset County, Maryland, had become a leading Anglican minister in London. He was 43 years old. His son John was 17 years old. Dr. Huett was now the Dean of St. Gregory's-by-St. Paul's, a church which would burn to the ground eight years later in the Great Fire of London. Dr. Huett was indisputably a leader of the Church of England. He and his second wife, Dame Mary Huett, herself of a noble family, traveled in high social circles. But London, and all of England, was in a strange ferment. The Church of England was on the defensive. It was not viewed as within the definition of the "true reformed Protestant Christian Religion" as adopted by the Puritan-led Roundheads. But the 16 year-old experiment in democracy without a monarch, founded on the English Civil War and the later execution of King Charles I, was crumbling. The "Protectorate", as the government of the Commonwealth was now called, was nervous, and with good reason. Charles Stuart, son of King Charles I, who would become Charles II, King of England, Scotland and Ireland, was quite alive and healthy and in exile in France, planning if possible his return. The Royalistside, long quiescent in its defeat, was beginning to find new courage to defy the increasingly dictatorial regime which had replaced the kingship.

In what follows I have used "Huett" for the spelling of this elusive name wherever the name is mentioned outside of quoted material. According to Clayton Torrence in "Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore", this is the spelling used by John Huett the younger himself in signing a Maryland will in 1686. The various sources I have used, listed below, all use different spellings and, inside of quoted material, I used the spelling given by the author. There appears to be no limit on different ways to spell this name. It simply defies spelling. Nonetheless, these are the same persons and the same family.

Our old friend Clayton Torrence gives us his usual excellent genealogical sketch of the two John Huetts, from the point of view of the John the younger, on pages 520 and 521 of "Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore". Torrence says:

The Reverend John Huett of Somerset County, in turn, had a daughter, the Anne Huett mentioned above, who married Matthew Nutter in Stepney Parish, Somerset County, Maryland. Anne Huett was the grandaughter of John Huett the Elder of London. She and Matthew Nutter had several children, including John Huett Nutter, who with his son Huett Nutter would return to London in the 1740's. It may well be that this sojourn in England may be connected to John Huett Nutter's inheritance of lands in South Wales formerly owned by his great-grandfather, John Huett the Elder, and passed down to his mother Ann [Huett] Nutter Leckie, and then to him.

In 1657 the people of England were beginning to feel the need for a monarch again. The Roundheads had beheaded King Charles I in the bitter cold of January, 1649. They say he met his end with dignity, the only concession to the severity of the weather being his wearing of two shirts. The great English poet Andrew Marvell, who like John Milton was a Roundhead, and who may have been there that day, later paid tribute to the King's courage in a poem intended to celebrate the greatness of Oliver Cromwell:

"Nor call'd the Gods with vulgar spite
To vindicate his helpless Right
But bow'd his comely Head
Down as upon a Bed"

"I go from a corruptible crown to an incorruptible crown", Charles told his chaplain on the scaffold, "where no disturbance can be . . . " and, said, as his last word, "Remember". Moments after he stepped to the block the black-hooded executioner held up the bloody, severed head and cried out what they always cried out at such executions for treason: "Behold the head of a traitor!" It was said that instead of the customary cheer, "a fearful groan" came up from the crowd.

In December of the year 1657, in an event which shows as dramatically as anything ever could that the days of the English "Rebellion" (as English history has since characterized it) were numbered, Antonia Fraser tells us in "Cromwell: The Lord Protector" that "the known Anglican Dr. Hewett" officiated at the wedding of Cromwell's daughter Mary to Lord Fauconberg, and that he used the Book of Common Prayer in a classic Anglican service, exactly the kind of service that had been rejected by the Cromwellians since 1642. Things were indeed confused. Personal and official levels were colliding in strange ways. It appears that Cromwell was trying to compromise but he had refused the kingship when it had been offered, and the English people wanted a king.

Then, in May of 1658, some forty alleged Royalist conspirators were arrested by the Protectorate. Dr. Hewett was among the most prominent two or three members of this group. They were to be tried by the Protectorate's new High Court for Justice, designed to root out emerging Royalist, restorationist sentiment. Fraser says that "Hewett, 'born a gentleman and bred a scholar', had been attracting great crowds preaching since the (English Civil) war at the church of St. Gregory". Others say that the Reverend asked his parishioners to pray with him for an "absent friend". Fraser says that the "conspiracy" does not appear to have been a serious threat to the Protectorate, judging at least by the ease with which the 40 were arrested. One of the most famous of these 40 was Sir Henry Slingsby, a solid Royalist and the kind of man who abhorred compromise. He stuck to his principles, clearly saying that he wished for the restoration. Both Hewett and Slingsby protested against the illegalities of the new High Court, under which they had no right to counsel and no jury. They used the same protest that Charles I had used ten years before. But John Lisle, the President of the Court, one of Oliver Cromwell's most trusted associates, told them: ". . . this is the Grand Jury, the Petty Jury, and your Judge". Alderman William Ireton, who like Lisle had been one of the "Regicides" who had signed the order of execution for Charles I, also was present on the Court. Huett and Slingsby, the two accused, were sentenced to death and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Clarendon in his classic "History of the Rebellion", described John Huett and his situation as follows:

First, he describes Dr. Huett as " . . . an eminent preacher in London, and very orthodox, to whose church those of the king's party frequently resorted, and few but those." His ". . . greatest crime was collecting and sending money to the king, besides having given money to some officers." "Dr. Hewett was born a gentleman, and bred a scholar, and was a divine before the beginning of the troubles. He lved in Oxford, and in the army, till the end of the war, and continued afterwards to preach with great applause in a little church in London; where, by the affection of the parish, he was admitted, since he was enough known to be notoriously under the brand of malignity. When the lord Falconbridge married Cromwell's daughter (who had used secretly to frequent his church) after the ceremony of the time, he was made choice to marry them according to the order of the church; which engaged both that lord And lady to use their utmost credit with the protector to preserve his life; but he was inexorable, and desirous that the churchmen, upon whom he looked as his mortal enemies, should see what they were to trust to, if they stood in need of his mercy. It was believed that, if he had pleaded, he might have been quitted, since in truth he never had been with the king at Cologne or Burges; with which he was charged in his impeachment; and they had blood enough in their power to pour out; for, besides two other (described by Clarendon previously), to whom they granted the favour to be beheaded, there were three others, colomel Ashton, Stacy and Betteley, condemned by the same court; who were treated with more severity; and were hanged, drawn and quartered, and with the utmost rigour, in several great streets in the city, to make the deeper impression upon the people, the two last being citizens. But all men appeared so nauseated with blood, and so tired with the adominable spectacles, that Cromwell though it best to pardon the rest who were condemned, or rather to reprieve them."

In that year, the famous "weather" of England was playing its tricks. On June 2, 1658, John Evelyn, a Royalist whose Diary is an English literature classic and who was a member of the same circle as Dr. Hewitt and his friend Dr. Wilde, of Oxford, wrote:

"June 2, 1658. An extraordinary storm of hail and rain, the season as cold as winter, the wind northerly near six months."

It would be cold in the Tower of London and even colder on Tower Hill.

And then on Wednesday, June 3rd, a thing occurred which went down in all the histories as an omen, an ominous event to the people of the time, a portent for the nation, whatever it might mean. John Evelyn writes:

"June 3, 1658. A large whale was taken betwitxt my land abutting on the Thames and Greenwich, which drew an infinite concourse to see it, by water, horse, coach, and on foot, from London, and all parts. It appeared first below Greenwich at low water, for at high water it would have destroyed all the boats, but lying now in shallow water encompassed with boats, after a long conflict, it was killed with a harping iron, struck in the head, out of which spouted blood and water by two tunnels; and, after a horrid groan, it ran quite on shore, and died. Its length was fifty-eight feet, height sixteen; black-skinned, like coach-leather; very small eyes, great tail, only two small fins, a peaked snout, and a mouth so wide, that divers men might have stood upright in it; no teeth, but sucked the slime only as through a grate of that bone which we call whale-bone; the throat yet so narrow, as would not have admitted the least of fishes. The extremes of the cetaceous bones hang downwards from the upper jaw, and are hairy towards the ends and bottom within side: all of it prodigious; but in nothing more wonderful than that an animal of so great a bulk should be nourished only by the slime through those grates."

People argued about what the strange incident of the doomed "Leviathan" meant. The Protector's fall? Dissolution of the State? Some great turning of events? A twist of nature?

Meanwhile, John Huett was in the Tower awaiting his execution. We have two extraordinary documents which he wrote in the 24 hours before his death. We know that the famous Oxford theologian and Church of England official Dr. Wilde visited him in the prison, the same Dr. Wilde to whom John Huett gave a gold ring inscribed with the words: "Herod necuit Johannem", "Herod killed John". During the early morning hours of June 7 the condemned man then wrote the following letter to his good friend Dr. Wilde, who had visited him:

"Dr. Hewit's

LETTER

To Dr. Wilde on Monday, June 7, 1658. Being the day before he suffered Death, and read by Dr. Wilde at his FUNERALL.

Dearest Brother,

I Have no cause to think that you have not at any time taken me along with you in the daily walk upon your knees to Heaven, but I beseech you and all my Brethren to be(now especially) very mindfull to call upon God for me. The more company I go withal, the more welcm I shall be made. I should be loath either to leave out of my Creed, or to be left out of the benefit of the Communion of saints. Two are better than one. Two or three have the advantage of a Promise; but to go with a multitude to the House of God, where all commers are welcome, is to be assured before-hand of good entertainment. Admission will hardly be denyed to any, for whom there is good importunity of many: If the gate be shut, much knocking will open it; or if that would not doe it, united Forces would offer an Holy violence. Many will prevail, where one alone can do but little good. Woe unto him that is alone.

Therefore dear Brother, sith(?) it is the infirmity of our nature, that we live not without the occasions of giving and taking of offence. And 'tis the corruption of our nature that the offences we give, we write in the dust; Those we take, we engrave in Marble. If you know, or shall heare of any one either of my Brethren, or other persons whom by any act of scandall I have tempted, or provoked, or lessened or disturbed, to exclude me the beneftis of their charitable prayers or witness I beseech you beg of them from me, fo me, their pardon. And let not any private wild-fire or passion put out the holy flames of a fiffusive charity: And as for my selfe, I doe here protest before God that I doe heartily desire to forget the injuries of whosoever has trespassed against me, either by word or deed. And if god should have been pleased to have granted a longer life, I would not refuse, (yea I am stedfastly resolved to sollicite terms of reconciliation with them that have done me the wrong) And if my owne heart doe not deceive me, I would give my life to save the soule of any of my Christian Brethren, and would be content to want some degrees of glory in Heaven, so that my very greatest Enemies might be happy as to have some. The God of Mercy shed forth his Bowels for them that shed my blood, and the blood of Christ save, & the Spirit of Christ sanctifie, and support him who desires to live no longer then to honour the Father, Son, and holy Ghost, and both living and dying craves yours, and the prayers of the whole Church for her unworthy Child, and

Dearest Brother

Your most affectionate Friend,

Brother and Servant

John Hewit

Tower, June 7. 1658 Morning 7 a Clock."

Then, sometime between that morning and the time of his execution on the following day, Tuesday, June 8, 1658, he penned the following poem, writing from his heart:

"Certain

CONSIDERATIONS
Against the Vanities of this World, and The terrors of Death

Written by Doctor John Hewit, and delivered to a Friend, a little before his death on Tower Hill, June the 8, 1658


Go Pale-fac'd Paper, tell the World that I,
Do die in Peace and perfect Charity.
Why should Man fear to die alas, when he
That lives on earth is ne're from trouble free?
Here's perfect rest, and where else can we rest,
Is not a mans own house, to sleep in bed;
If this be all our House, they are to blame,
That boast of the great houses whence they came,
And ever more their speech thus interlace,
I, and my Fathers house, alas! Alas!
What is my Fathers House, and what am I?
My Father's House is earth, where I must lie:
And I a worm, I crawle into my Tomb;
This is my dwelling, this is my truest home,
A House of Clay, best fits a Guest of Lome:
Nay t'is my House, for I perceive I have
In all my life ne're dwelt out of my grave;
The womb was first my grave, whence since I rose
My Body (Grave-like) doth my soul incase:
The Body, like a Corps with sheets ore spred,
Dying each night, lies buried in our bed,
And when my days vain toyl, my soul hather waeried,
I, in my Body, Bed, and House, lie buried,
Then have I little cause to fear my Tomb,
When this, wherein I live, my Graves become,
Here I can sleep secure, here let the Tempest rore,
The worlds proud waves can dash on me no more,
I am at home, and safe, what ever comes,
Let them fight on, I cannot hear their Drums,
Let those I always lov'd, me love, or hate,
It cannot grieve me, though they prove ingrate,
Yea, let them praise, or rail, I lie aloof
Out of their reach, my sleep is Cannon-proof,
And we but sleep, for as we close our eyes,
Each night we go to bed, in hope to rise:
So do we die, for when the Trump doth blow,
We shall as be ??? awake we know:
And as we after sleep, our bodies find
More fresh in strength, and cheerfully inclin'd,
So after death, our flesh (here dead and dry'd)
Shall rise Immortal. new, and purifi'd:
If this be true, my Friends, pray make more hast,
Tis time to sleep, day fails, night draws on fast:
I must go home; for, as the evening Sun
Looking me in the face, when day is done,
Makes me cast long my shadow: So when death
Stares in my face, threatens, and claims my breath,
I cast his shadow long off from my sight,
Yet truly know thereby, 'tis almost night,
And when night comes, in dark, and frowning skies,
What man will not go home, if he be wise:
Here let him come, this house's of such fashion,
The Tenant nere shall pay for Reparation.
Here can the rain not wet me, cold not harm me,
Here no Sun, no weather over-warm me.
From hence He finds (when 'tother he is gone)
A private walk to heaven, to God alone.
This is my Port, this is thus perfect cure,
Till my Grave covers me, I am nere sure:
Then farewell World, thou Author of anoys,
And welcom heav'n, the sum of all my Joys,
What though too soon, a forced death I die,
'Twill force me live with God eternally?
My Faith, I hope, by most is understood
To gain redemption by my Saviours blood,
Which in my soul, I do so highly prize,
I pray, it Ransom all my enemies,
Which freely (for my death) I have forgiven,
As I do hope this day to be in heav'n.
Lay not my blood unto their charge, but bless
This Land with Peace and lasting Happiness.

Welcome keen AXE thou dost no Coward try,
But cut'st my way unto Eternity.

So let thy Servant depart in Peace, for mine
eyes have seen thy salvation.

FINIS



So with much Constancy, and Resolution, he being Guarded to the Scaffold on Tower-Hill: After a short Exhortation, Prayers, and some other Speeches to his Friends, he willingly yielded himself to the stroke of the Executioner, who at one blow, severed his Head from his Body.

LONDON, Printed by Edward Crowch dwelling Snow hill, in the year of our Lord, 1658. (Mark)"

(Source: Photostats received from the Beinecke Rare Books Library, Yale University)

When he writes in the poem "Tis time to sleep, day fails, night draws on fast", it suggests that he was absorbed in writing this poem, losing track of time and laboring on into the hours of darkness.

In his Diary entry for the day of the execution, John Evelyn wrote:

"June 8, 1658. That excellent preacher and holy man, Dr. Hewer, was martyred for having intelligence with his Majesty (Charles II), through the Lord Marquis of Ormond."

Still, that is not quite the end of the story.

Again, from John Evelyn's Diary:

"September 3, 1658. Died that arch-rebel, Oliver Cromwell, called Protector."

And on September 22nd, Evelyn reported on his experience upon attending the Lord Protector's "superb funeral", with "Oliver lying in effigy, in royal robes, and crowned with a crown, sceptre, and globe, like a king . . . but it was the joyfullest funeral I ever saw; for there were none that cried but dogs, which the soldiers hooted away with a barbarous noise, drinking and taking tobacco in the streets as they went."

And on Christmas day of that year:

"A wonderful and sudden change in the face of the public; the new Protector, Richard (Cromwell, Oliver's son), slighted; several pretenders and parties strive for the government: all anarchy and confusion; lord have mercy on us!"

And on May 29th, 1659:

"The nation was now in extreme confusion and unsettled, between the Armies and the Sectaries (note: "Sectaries" are, basically, the Puritans, members of "non-conformist" sects), the poor Church of England breathing as it were her last; so sad a face of things had overspread us."

11th October 1659 "The Army now turned out the Parliament. We had now no government in the nation; all in confusion; no magistrate either owned or pretended, but the soldiers, and they not agreed. God Almighty have mercy on, and settle us!"

7th November 1659. "Was published my bold 'Apology for the King' in this time of danger, when it was capital (punishment) to speak or write in favour of him. It was twice printed; so universally it took."

And then, that great Roundhead army leader, General Monk, Oliver Cromwell's military right hand, returned to London, as though to prove that in times of civil chaos, all armies do the same thing. And this great general of the dead Cromwell, reacting to the chaos, used his troops to break down the gates of London, restore the old Rump (pre-Cromwellian) Parliament, and begin the restoration of the monarchy. In May of

1660, the General led his troops out again through the gates of London to the quay at Dover, where he bowed before his monarch, King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland, and escorted his royal entourage back to the capitol.

In 1660, Dame Mary Huett, John's widow, submitted to Parliament the following Petition:

"To the Honourable the Knights, Citizens and Burgesses of the Commons House now assembled in
PARLIAMENT
The humble Petition of Dame Mary Hewytt widow, late wife of John Hewytt, Doctor in Divinity Humbly Sheweth,

That Oliver late pretended Protector thirsting after Innocent Blood, did, in May 1658: by the Advice of his Council, contrary to the known fundamental Lawes of the Land (whereto every free-born English-man hath an inherent Birth-right, and according to which Laws the said Bloody Tyrannical pretended Protector at his Installment swore to Governe the three Kingdomes) erect a High Court of Justice (or rather Injustice) to try several persons for supposed Crimes against the said pretended Protector, whereof he appointed John Lisle Esq; President.

That your Petitioners late husband, Doctor John Hewytt, being in jurre (?) next following convened before the said Court, was by the said John Lisle and divers others that sate with him accused of Treason without Presentment or Indictment, and contrary to the Tenor of the Commission (granted them) authorizing them to proceed according to justice, which hath always been interpreted according to the known Laws.

That your Petitioners said husband protesting his Innocency to the death, humbly desiring to be tryed by God and his Countrey, offered to plead to any such Indictment as the Judges of the Land (who were also Commisioners in the said Commission, but refused to act) should declare to be Legall, or according to any Act of Parliament

And therefore appealed to their Judgement, who he, being an English-man, was otherwise bound plead, there being no Act at that time in being, to constitute any High Court of Justice to try any man otherwise than by the ancient known Laws.

That all the judges refusing to sit and joyn in any such proceeding; The said John Lisle did, notwithstanding, without Jury or Witness produced, sentence your Petitioners said husband to death, and caused him to be Executed as a Traytor upon Tower-Hill, To the unspeakable grief, and irreparable losse of your desolate Petitioner and her fatherlesse children, and in the consequence of it, to the subversion of all Law, Justice and Liberty.

Your Petitioner therefore humbly prayeth your Honours (out of an inflamed zeal to public Justice, Law, and the people's Liberties) and for the future to deterre others from the like horrid, bloody, arbitrary and detestable proceedings, as the effusion of innocent Christian Blood, which cries aloud for vengeance to order that the said John Lisle may be speedily brought to exemplary Justice, and that he may be (as a Murtherer) excepted from pardon in the Act of Oblivion; and that the other Commissioners who sate and acted with him, (to wit) Alderman Tickbone, Alderman Ireton, Alderman Park, Sergeant Crook, John Barkstead and John Phelpes, and the rest may be ordered to give her such due reparations for her damage sustained by the Execution of her said husband as your Honours shall conceive fir. And your Petitioner shall ever Pray."

In response to this, the new government awarded the Dame and her fatherless children an annual stipend of 100 pounds, part of which provided the Rev. John Huett the Younger with a head start in America some three years later. Torrence tells us that the young John Huett ". . . was transported to Virginia in 1663 by Captain Adam Thorogood, afterwards returning to England, (where he) studied for 'holy orders', was ordained deacon, came to Somerset County in Maryland, and returning to England again, was ordained priest by the Bishop of London in 1682, coming again to Somerset, where he remained during the rest of his life". In 1665 London experienced first the Plague, and then a Great Fire which consumed St. Gregory's Church and half of the developed City.

Thus ended the life of Dr. John Huett the Elder and, in a remarkably close if countervailing fit with it, the entire English Revolution.


Sources:

Note: The two photostats of the letter and poem written by Dr. Huett in the Tower of London and the photostat of the 1660 Petition to Parliament by Dame Mary Huett were transcribed by me and may possibly contain minor errors.

David G. Nutter, 240 Allens Creek Road, Rochester, NY 14618


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