Judge Nathaniel Byfield

Inducted: 2007
Born: 1653 - Died:

Nathaniel Byfield was born in Long Ditton, Surrey, Englanfd in 1653. He arrived in Boston in 1674. Following the King Phillips War, he invested in Rhode Island lands, and made his home in Bristol, living part-time at Pappoosquaws Point. Byfield devoted himself to civic affairs, joining the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1679, and becoming a member of the General Court in 1696 and 1697. He also served as speaker in 1698, commissioner for forming the excise, and judge of probate for Bristol County. Additionally, he served as judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in Bristol and Suffolk, and was the first judge of the Court of Vice-Admiralty from June 9, 1699, to May 20, 1700, 1703-1715, and 1728 to 1733. Judge Byfield exerted a great influence over Governor Dudley, especially after marrying Dudley’s daughter. Dudley denited the claims.

Judge Byfield was said to be dictatorial, overbearing, ambitious and revengeful,yet, he had many positive traits as well. Once he made a decision, he stuck to it so firmly that none of his decisions were ever reversed by a higher court. He opposed the “witchcraft delusion,” printed and gave away thousands of copies of the Shorter Catechism, and gave hundreds of pounds to charity,.

He died in the early morning hours of June 6, 1733, in Boston, and was buried at the Granary Burying Ground.

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