By 1656, Ralph had become a widower and married Mary Haines. Ralph had “set up” his youngest son Robert in East Hampton before leaving for Southampton where he would live near his son Samuel. Two November 13, 1657 depositions by Thomas Baker and Joshua Garlick reveal additional information we find interesting.
In his deposition, Baker testified that his father-in-law Ralph had left his colt in Baker’s care for weaning. The colt had received Ralph’s earmark and was placed on Baker’s home lot. Later the colt was discovered in the common pound with both ears cropped and someone else’s earmark. Thomas said he had seen the colt again when a Goodman Foster rode him into town.
In his deposition, Garlick testified it was the same colt he had seen in Goodman Dayton’s yard and later “with Goodman Daiton’s man” (the exact meaning of the phrase is unknown).
These depositions fit with circumstances of a jury trial and verdict just a couple of weeks later on December 1, 1657, although we cannot be absolutely certain they are connected. Volume One of the Records of the Town of East Hampton, Long Island, Suffolk Co., N.Y states:
an action of tresspass vpon the case entered by Ralf Dayton plaintiff against John Cooper defendant… At a particular court december 1, 1657 A jury impanelled to try the case depending betweene Ralph Dayton and John Cooper Junr… The Iury findeth for the plaintif ye horse and 2s 6d damage with increase of Court charges, Iudgment is given by the magistrates acording to the verdict of the jury.
We would like to understand why someone thought they could be so brazen, as if nobody would notice the colt was missing. The theft is roughly equivalent to a car theft today—except there would be little profit to strip and “part out” a horse. The earmark was not unlike a vehicle ID number that would require alteration or obliteration.
The reference to Ralph’s earmark may be one of the earliest references to earmarks in New York.