Scam, Scandal, Murder and Mayhem in Colonial Boston

MON, OCT 31, 2005 (43:07)

In this lecture, writer D. Brenton Simons discusses his book Witches, Rakes, And Rogues: True Stories of Scam, Scandal, Murder, And Mayhem in Boston, 1630-1775 , in which he paints a darker picture of Colonial Boston than was previously imagined. In Boston’s early years, before electricity, police departments, telephones and other modern conveniences, Boston was a scary place. Exposing this puritan underbelly is author D. Brenton Simons, COO of New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. When most people think of Boston between its founding in 1630 and the height of the American Revolution, they imagine a procession of Puritan ministers in black followed by revolutionaries like Paul Revere on horseback. By scouring family records and public archives, Simons demonstrates convincingly that the narrow, twisting streets of colonial Boston were also crawling with murderers, con men, identity thieves, and other blackguards. Bostonians may have been prayerful, but they were also prurient and violent. Added to his extraordinary rogues gallery are several misunderstood women who were tried and executed as witches. Simons even uncovers the truth about the first documented serial murder in Boston history.

+ BIO: D. Brenton Simons

D. Brenton Simons has served as President and CEO (formerly Executive Director) of the New England Historic Genealogical Society since December 2005. Previously he served as Chief Operating Officer of the Society and, over more than a decade, held several other management positions at NEHGS. During his career he developed some of the Society’s most popular services, including its website,, its member magazine, New England Ancestors, and its special publications imprint, the Newbury Street Press. He is most recently author of Witches, Rakes, and Rogues: True Stories of Scam, Scandal, Murder, and Mayhem in Boston, 1630-1775, recipient of the 2006 Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History. He is also the author of The Langhornes of Langhorne Park (1997) and co-editor and originator of The Art of Family: Genealogical Artifacts in New England (2001). His articles have appeared in several historical and genealogical journals. His book, Boston Beheld: Antique Town and Country Views, will be published by the University Press of New England in 2008. A graduate of Boston University, Mr. Simons is a Council member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, a Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a member of The Society of the Cincinnati and The Society of Mayflower Descendants.

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