By Mark Hurwitz
Peter Mash was born in Germany in 1783, immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 19th century, and moved to Boston where he worshipped at Old North and owned Pew #39. Peter married Mehitable Wattles in 1834 and lived with her until 1838. One day that year he informed her he was going to run an errand and would be back later. He did not return…
After several years, Mehitable believed her husband to be dead and married William Barrett in April of 1842. The very next month her first husband, Peter Mash, returned home. Unfortunately for Mehitable, Massachusetts law at the time stated that married women whose husbands went missing had to file a missing person’s report and wait a minimum of seven years before they could have their first husbands declared dead by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mehitable had only waited five years and never filed a missing person’s report, so the Commonwealth charged her with polygamy in 1844. She was indicted for marrying a second husband while her first husband was still alive.
The jury found Mehitable guilty of polygamy. She appealed the decision claiming that she was ignorant of the law; her defense attorney argued that there was no criminal intent because she personally believed her missing husband was dead. The court did not pass sentence on her, but took a recognizance for her appearance in court at a future day. In July of 1844, she received a full pardon from Governor Briggs, which she brought into court and pleaded the same in bar of sentence, whereupon the court ordered her to be discharged.
It is not known how active Peter or Mehitable were while attending Old North or whether Mehitable continued worshipping at Old North with her second husband William.