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The Facts Behind The Scarlet Letter

By Mrs. Paul H. Walker

Hawthornes's story of The Scarlet Letter, brought again to our attention by the recent Hollywood version, does have a valid situation behind it which is known to the descendents of the real minister on which it is based--The Reverand Steven Bachelder/Bachilor.

The Reverand B. was an unusual man, to say the least. He was somewhat of a misfit in religous circles, being a left-over Puritan in a changing Jacobean world.

having buried three wives by 1648, the Reverand, at the age of eighty-seven married a wodow named Mary Beedle. Once the glow wore off marrying an older man for the security it gave, Mary's eyes began to wander to the younger, more romantic men in Hampton, New Hampshire. She found her new love, one George Rodgers, and nature took it's course. The inevitable result was a child, obviously not the very elderly Reverand B's.

The young man was sentenced to be given forty strokes and driven out of town. Mary was given forty-one and was to wear the letter "A" of good size, and contrasting colors upon her clothes.

One version of the story is that Bachelder refused to give Mary a divorce so that she could marry George, and that he returned to England leaving her and her baby as burdens upon the town of Hampton, unable to marry a man willing to care for them.

[from the spring 1996 issue of THE DESCEND-O-GRAM, newsletter of the First Settlers of Newbury.]

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