Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Monday, June 6, 2016

My Family's Puritan Ministers, Part 3 of 3

This is the third of three posts about my recent discovery that my father's side of the family abounded not only in Puritans but in Puritan ministers.  The first post focuses on why Puritan ministers left England for what they hoped would be a "New" England.  The second post concerns those who came in the early 1600's to Masachusetts Bay Colony. 

Other Puritan ministers in my father's family went first to Massachusetts Bay and then on to what is now Connecticut.  Reverend Nicholas Street (1603-1674) was from Bridgewater, Somerset.  Atypically, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Pembroke College, Oxford, before changing to Emmanuel College at Cambridge, where he received his A.M. in 1636.  After coming over on the Susan & Ellen in 1635, he was ordained in Taunton in 1640/1.  Nearly twenty years later, in 1659, he removed to New Haven, the most strict of all the colonies.  So far, I haven't discovered why he moved.

Ephraim Hewitt (1604-1644) was from Wraxall, Warwickshire.  He attended St. John’s, Cambridge, and then became a curate at Knowle, Warwickshire.  He was silenced by John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester, in 1638; Laud reported that Hewett had “condemned the decent ceremonies commanded by the Church.”  Hewitt consequently arrived in Windsor, CT, the following year.  He was ordained in Windsor in December 1639.  He died five years later.

Reverend John Jones (1593-1665) followed the more typical route of coming to Massachusetts Bay first and later moving to Connecticut.  Born in Northamptonshire, he went to Queens’ College, Cambridge, receiving his A.M. in 1616.  He had become a deacon at Peterborough in 1613; he became rector at Abbot’s Ripton, Huntingdonshire, in 1619.  He served there until 1630, when he was deprived of his living "for refusing to adhere to rites and ceremonies in the book of public prayers."  I don’t yet know how he survived the years between 1630 and 1635, when he sailed on the Defence, together with Peter Shepard.  He lived in Concord from 1635 until 1644, becoming ordained in Cambridge in April 1637, with Peter Buckeley as teacher.  (His daughter Sarah married Bulkeley's son Thomas about 1640.)  In 1644, he moved to Fairfield to become the minister there for the next twenty-one years.  He presumably was present when Goody Knapp was hanged as a witch in 1653.  He died between January 17th and February 9th, 1665.

The most influential of these ministers in my family who came to Connecticut was Thomas Hooker (1586-1647).  As did so many Puritans, he attended Emmanuel College, Cambridge, earning an A.B. in 1608 and an A.M. in 1611.  He then became a Fellow there.  After serving first as a rector in Surrey and then as a lecturer at St. Mary, Chelmsford, in Essex in 1625-29, he was silenced for non-conformity.  Hooker then kept a private school at Little Baddow, Essex, for two years (his usher in the school was John Eliot, later to become famous for his work with the Indians).  Becoming persecuted again, Hooker left for Holland.  He preached at Delfthaven for two years and then hoped to accept a position in the English congregation at Rotterdam.  But because he became involved in a dispute with John Paget, he didn’t obtain that position.

In 1633, Hooker came over with John Cotton on the Griffon.  He became the minister at Newtown (Cambridge), where some 58 from his congregation in Essex, England, had already settled; 53 more were soon to follow, according to Bailyn.  Believing the Boston-Newtown-Watertown area was too crowded, Hooker applied to the General Court for permission to leave and settle in Connecticut.  Fearing that geographic dispersal would weaken the spiritual support afforded by these nearby congregations, the Court denied his petition.  

Undaunted, and never less than contentious, Hooker reapplied the next year, and this time he was successful.  In 1636, he led most of his congregation overland to the Connecticut River, where they founded Hartford.  Although Benjamin Trumbull declares in his romanticized Complete History of Connecticut (1818) that they had to travel “more than a hundred miles, through a hideous and trackless wilderness” with no guide but a compass, they actually could follow an existing Indian trail.  Even if they had more provisions on their way to Hartford than the milk of the 160 cattle Trumbull says they subsisted on, theirs was quite a journey.  Hooker’s wife, my 9th great-grandmother Susanna Garbrand, was so sick that she had to be carried on a litter the entire way.  (She recovered, however, and outlived him by nearly thirty years, marrying twice in succession during that period).  He was the minister for the Hartford church until he died in 1647.  He had at least twenty works published. His Survey of the Sum of Church Discipline (published in 1648) has been called one of the classic statements justifying congregational policy. Their son Samuel went to Harvard College, became a Fellow there in 1654, and was ordained at Farmington, Connecticut, in 1661.

While in Hartford, Hooker mentored Roger Newton (1620-1683).  Newton had matriculated at King’s College, Cambridge, in 1636 but left before graduating.  He arrived in New England in 1638 and in 1640 studied at Harvard College (which had been founded in 1636) but again left without graduating.  Not only did Newton study theology with Hooker, he wooed and married Hooker's daughter Mary in 1644.  How long Newton continued to study with his father-in-law is unclear.  Thomas Hooker died in 1647, but Newton did not follow him as the minister at Hartford.  In October 1652, Newton was ordained as the first minister of Farmington, being installed the first day the church was formed.  He left after three years, and it doesn’t seem to be known what he did in the interval before he was installed at Milford on August 22, 1660.  Newton remained at Milford until his death on June 7, 1683. 

Scholars disagree on how many Puritan ministers came over to New England.  Estimates range from somewhere in the 90’s up to perhaps 130.  The nine ministers in my family that I’ve written about here therefore make up less than 10% of the total.  But all of them had been tried by adversity and not found wanting.  Even after the Parliamentary forces gained control in England, these ministers remained in New England.  (Susan Hardman Moore has estimated that 25% of the ministers who had emigrated returned to England during the Interregnum.)  After their arrival, they devoted themselves to making the best they could of this "new" England, hoping that its renewal would become the saving revival of the older one.  

Even though I find nothing appealing in their Calvinist theology, the research I've done on these ministers has made me respect their integrity.  Part of Thomas Shepard’s journal has survived.  He dedicated it to his son Thomas, writing on the top of the second leaf Paul's admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:21:  “Try all things and hold fast that which is good.” Thomas Shepard the younger earned a bachelor’s and a master's at Harvard in 1653.  Like his father before him and his son Thomas (who also became a minister) after him, we can assume he did his best not only to move his congregation to practice what he preached, but to follow that way himself.  I have no sympathy for their Puritan theology, but I do respect their unyielding resolution, generation after generation, to do what they conceived to be good, no matter what trials they had to withstand.

Selected sources:

Ashely, Maurice.  England in the Seventeenth Century.  Penguin Books, 1965.

Bailyn, Bernard.  The Barbarous Years.  The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of  Civilizations, 1600-1675.  New York:  Vintage, 2012.

Bremer, Francis J.  Shaping New Englands:  Puritan Clergymen in Seventeenth-Century England and New England.  New York:  Twayne Publishers, 1994.

Delbanco, Andrew.  The Puritan Ordeal.  Cambridge, MA:  Harvard Univ. Press, 1989.

Fischer, David Hackett.  Albion’s Seed:  Four British Folkways in America.  Oxford Univ. Press, 1989.

Gura, Philip F.  A Glimpse of Sion’s Glory:  Puritan Radicalism in New England, 1620-1660.    Middletown, CT:  Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1984.

McGiffert,  Michael, ed..  God’s Plot:  Puritan Spirituality in Thomas Shepard’s Cambridge.  Rev. ed.  Amherst:  Univ. of Mass. Press, 1994.

Mather, Cotton.  Magnalia Christi Americana.  London, 1702.  Bk. III, Ch. xvi.

Moore, Susan Hardman.  Pilgrims:  New World Settlers & the Call of Home.  New Haven:  Yale Univ. Press, 2007.

Seller, W. C., and R. J. Yeatman.  1066 and All That.  New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1931.

Weis, Frederick Lewis.  The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England [1936].  Lancaster, MA, 1961.

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