From Imprudent to Incorrigible
In 1752 farmer John Marston of Hampton posted an ad in the Boston Post-boy warning readers that his wife Prudence “behaves imprudently and spends my money without my knowledge, and runs me into debt: This is therefore to warn all persons not to trust said Prudence on my account, for I will not pay any debts by her so contracted.”
Marston, Pru’s second husband, died in 1763. She then married William Branscombe, the pilot of the mast ship St. George which ran aground—some say on purpose—on Hampton Beach in 1764. The ensuing scramble for the ship’s marooned cargo caused a riot in Hampton.
In 1772, William advertised in the New Hampshire Gazette that “Whereas Prudence, the Wife of me the Subscriber, hath absented herself without any Occasion from my Bed and Board for a Fortnight, and with the Help of others, as abandon’d as herself, hath Robbed my House and carried away all the most valuable furniture in my Absence; And fearing she may run me in Debt, with an Intention to ruin me, I do hereby forbid all and every Person from Trusting, Harbouring, Entertaining or Concealing her, for I hereby declare I will pay no Debts of her Contracting from this Time. I am sorry to say that this is not the first Time my Wife has behaved imprudently; as her former Husband, John Marston was under the same disagreeable Necessity with myself of publickly Advertising her.”
Amazingly, Prudence was 66 years old at the time of this second escapade. We don’t know if she ever went back home to her husband. Probably she did, once the money ran out. She was known around town as “Old Pru,” and died childless in 1796.
-An excerpt from A Meet and Suitable Person: Tavernkeeping in Old Hampton, New Hampshire, 1638-1783 by Cheryl Lassiter.