According to Elizabeth Reynard, in The Narrow Land, Robert Marshall was the Scottish manservant, protector, and sometimes apothecary for Dr. Mathew Fuller, the first full time physician in
. Reynard does not give a whole lot of historical information about Robert’s background; in fact very little background information on Robert seems to exist. She simply describes him as very large (also hairy) and extremely loyal to his master. He also seemed to have been marked as somewhat of an outsider in 17th century Barnstable County . According to Reynard he was: Barnstable
What made Robert’s position even more tenuous, other than his bagpipes and highland garb, was the relationship his master had with Thomas Hinckley, the Governor of Plymouth Colony.
“A man who mocked the Lord by wearing a folded petticoat, and shattered the mind by music drawn from an instrument resembling a giant snail bloated by rigor mortis.”
Unlike Robert, Mathew Fuller’s life is fairly well documented. Dr. Fuller is credited with being the first full time physician in
Mathew did not accompany his family on the Mayflower. It is guessed that he remained in
Matthew Fuller seemed to very quickly make a name for himself in Plymouth Colony, in both positive and negative ways. He was appointed sergeant in the military company under the command of Myles Standish. Although, he moved to
Dr. Fuller owned land in many towns in the developing New England area, but eventually he settled in the area of
Although Dr. Fuller seems to have led a praiseworthy life, he was also well known for being an outspoken Quaker. Often, his willingness to say what was on his mind got him reprimanded by Governor Hinckley. In one specific event, he was even fined fifty shillings for speaking out against a mandatory tax created to support colonial clergy. Obviously, separation of church and state was not an important concept in the Plymouth Colony.
However, he and Robert really stepped wrong with
However, the real Yankee mystery begins after the death of Dr. Fuller in 1678. At the time of the illness which would eventually claim his life, Dr. Fuller’s estate was inventoried so he could prepare his last will and testament. In Plymouth Colony Wills and Inventories Vol. III, his estate is recorded to have contained a box of precious stones, pearls, and diamonds. These items would have been very rare and valuable in seventeenth century
According to Mathew’s last will and testament, he did not necessarily leave these particular items to anyone in his family. However, many resources state that after Fuller’s death, his box of precious stones was found to be missing.
Governor Hinckley summoned Robert Marshall to court and accused him of the theft.
Hinckley pointed out that Robert alone had sole access to Dr. Fuller’s belongings. Robert, who had not slept since the death of his master, could not explain what had happened to the missing jewels. Although Hinckley had no proof with which to convict Robert, the accusation and suspicion stuck.
As the story goes, Robert became inconsolable after the death of Fuller and the accusation of
Hinckley. Apparently, his grief caused him to stop eating. He began to visibly waste away the winter after his master’s death. Very quickly Robert seemed to lose both his health and his mind. People reported seeing him searching feverishly for his master’s lost jewels, sometimes in strange, remote, places. Eventually, Robert simply died alone in the middle of a cold New England night.
His body was found lying in the snow on Scorton Hill, near his master’s land. As Robert was quite heavy and the snow was very deep, it was almost impossible to carry his remains to the cemetery for burial. It was decided that he would be buried near where he had died, on the northeastern slope of Scorton Hill.
Some sources even give very specific directions to his grave. For instance, according to a letter written by Mary Wing, which was reprinted Cape Cod Library of Local History Genealogy:
“The grave may be found by ascending Scorton Hill on the east side about two-thirds of its height, when you come to a stone wall that runs northeasterly in the direction of Francis Jones’ barn. Southeasterly from that wall 67 feet and northeast by north 133 feet from the wall by the county road is poor Robert’s grave.”These directions read like a treasure map. Unfortunately, this land has changed a lot since 1863, when Mary’s letter was originally written. By ascending Scorton Hill on its east side, I would be walking through many back yards and private property. Thus, I was unfortunately unable to locate Robert’s grave.
However, I believe his grave is most likely still there, probably sitting unnoticed in someone’s backyard. In fact, all sources indicate that the spot of Robert’s burial was well known for nearly two hundred years after his death. Sometime in the late 19th century, a
Not only was the spot of Robert’s grave known and marked, it was even avoided by
As far as I know, Dr. Fuller’s precious stones were never found. I don’t know if Robert stole them, but I do wonder. When Fuller died, he mentioned his Scottish servant in his will. When leaving his property and his wealth to his family, he bequeathed to faithful Robert “a peece of Cloth Intended to make mee a suite.” Not only does this seem like a little motive, but the unlikable Governor Hinckley was correct in stating that Robert had sole access to his master’s body and full knowledge of the whereabouts of his master’s jewels. I don’t want to accuse poor Robert all over again, but it does make me curious.
I was rather frustrated at being unable to find the grave of poor Robert the Scot. In order to find it, I believe it would take access to 19th century property records and permission to tramp around private property. Sadly, I don’t have either. Or, since Robert seems to be a noisy spirit, maybe I should just follow the sound of bagpipes and sobbing to the right spot. I would absolutely love to find this spot in the future if at all possible. Until that time, I have learned my own lesson well, sometimes history is hard.