Searching the family tree for more cow stories, I began to notice cows in wills and other legal records. Obviously, a cow was important to a colonial era family, and so cows were lovingly given to family members, and often called by their pet name in legal documents.
A typical document can be summarized like this:
Isaac Allen is on the 1799-1800 tax list in Essex, Massachusetts assessed for 1 poll, $60 in buildings, 1 cow-right of $40, 1 cow $10, 1 swine $3.33, and $37.50 for stock in trade. (A cow right is like having a piece of stock in a common pasture, for the privileges of grazing)
Or the story of Henry Haggett , who lived in Salem and Wenham. The historian John Brooks Threfall writes in "Fifty Great Migration Colonists to New England and their Origins" (1990) that Henry Haggett, servant to John Ludwell, left Southampton, England, in late April, 1638, aboard the 200-ton ship Confidence and was next reported in 1642 at Wenham where he was the town cowkeeper.
Or this very typical sort of mention about cows in the will of Thomas Emerson of Ipswich, who died on 1 May 1666 (with the original spelling and lack of punctuation):
“Item/ my will is that Elisabeth Emerson my wife shall Injoye the yearely rent of the farme with six head of cattell wintering at the sayd farme and if they doe not winter soe many to make it up as is agreed as alsoe the house wherein I dwell with the upland and meddow and marsh bought of my sonne Joseph Joseph with all aptenances belonging thereunto and alsoe all my household goods and all my cattell I shall leave both oxen and cowes and all other young cattell whasoeuer to injoy them freely without let or disturbance of any person whatsoeuer dureing the tyme that she doth continue my widdow provided allways and it is my will and meaneing that if the sayd Elisabeth my wife doth marry that then she shall have only the yearley Rent of the aforesayd farme dureing the tyme of hir naturall life and the wintering of the aforesayd six head of cattell alsoe to have the little featherbed and one boulster and two payre of sheets and two cowes The rest of the cattell and household stufe to be disposed of as in this my will exprsst”
My favorite cow record is from the Pilgrim Steven Hopkins, of the Mayflower. He wrote this will in June 1644:
“…by this will to my sonn Giles Hokins my great Bull wch is now in the hands of Mris Warren. Also I do give to Stephen Hopkins by sonn Giles his sonne twenty shillings in Mris Warrens hands for the hire of the said Bull… also I give unto my daughter Deborah Hopkins the brodhorned black cowe and her calf and half the Cowe called Motley Also I give and bequeath unto my daughter Damaris Hopkins the Cowe called Darmaris heifer and the white faced calf and half the cowe called Mottley Also I give to my daughter Ruth the Cowe called Red Cole and her calfe and a Bull at Yarmouth wch is in the keeping of Giles Hopkins wch is an yeare and advantage old and half the curld Cowe Also I give to my daughter Elizabeth the Cowe called Smykins and her calf and thither half of the Curld Cowe wth Ruth and an yearelinge heifer wth out a tayle in the keeping of Gyles Hopkins at Yarmouth…”
I hope they sorted all the right cows to the correct heirs!