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Brainerd, David (20 April 1718–09 October 1747), Puritan missionary to the Indians, was born in Haddam, Connecticut, the son of Hezekiah Brainerd, a prosperous and prominent social and political figure, and Dorothy Hobart Mason, the daughter of a Congregationalist minister and the widow of Daniel Mason. To a large degree, the life of Brainerd as it is generally known was invented by Brainerd in the last months before his death in collaboration with ...

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Brewster, William (1567–10 April 1644), a leader of the Pilgrims and of the Plymouth Colony, was born in England, the son of William Brewster and Prudence (maiden name unknown). His specific place of birth has not been determined. The first mention of a William Brewster is in the Scrooby parish records for 1571. At about that time his parents had moved to the Nottinghamshire village, where in 1575 William’s father became bailiff and receiver of Scrooby Manor, a property held by the archbishop of York. Archbishop Edmund Grindal appointed the elder Brewster to the posts, and Archbishop Edwin Sandys continued him in office. In 1588 the elder Brewster also assumed the position of postmaster when the town was made a postal stop on the London to York road and, as required, operated a tavern for use of the post riders and other travelers. These positions made him one of the more affluent members of the small community and gave him the opportunity to provide a quality education for his son....

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Bulkeley, Peter (31 January 1583–09 March 1659), Puritan clergyman, was born in Odell, Bedfordshire, England, the son of Edward Bulkeley, the rector of Odell, and Olyff Irby, of Lincolnshire. At about age sixteen he entered the Puritan-inclined St. John’s College, Cambridge, becoming fellow in 1605 and receiving his M.A. in 1608. In the same year he was ordained at Ely and in 1610 became university preacher. On the death of his father in 1620 he succeeded to the rectory of Odell and to his father’s sizable estate. A Nonconformist like his father, he was overlooked by John Williams, the bishop of Lincoln, until after the accession of Archbishop Laud (1633). His first wife, Jane Allen (marriage date unknown), of Goldington, Bedfordshire, with whom he had eleven children, died in 1626. In 1634 he married Grace Chetwode, of Odell, who had four children. Complained against in 1635 for his nonconformity, he was silenced by Laud’s vicar-general, Nathaniel Brent....

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Chauncy, Charles (1592–19 February 1672), Puritan minister and president of Harvard College, was born in Yardley-Bury, Hertfordshire, England, the son of George Chauncy, a member of the lesser gentry, and Agnes Welch Humberstone. In 1605 Chauncy was sent to the Westminster School, which narrowly escaped the notorious Gunpowder Plot of that year. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1610, received the B.A. in 1614, a master’s degree in 1617, and in 1624 was awarded a second bachelor’s degree in divinity. After taking his first degree, Chauncy became a fellow of the college and eventually served as lecturer in Hebrew and Greek....

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John Cotton. Drawing by Howard E. Smith, 1930. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-5132).

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Cotton, John (04 December 1584–23 December 1652), clergyman, was born in Derby, Derbyshire, England, the son of Roland Cotton, a lawyer, and Mary Hurlbert. A serious and talented student, he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, at the age of thirteen. He received his B.A. in 1603 and his M.A. in 1606, the year he became a fellow at Emmanuel College. He remained there until 1612, serving as lecturer, catechist, dean, and tutor while acquiring a reputation as both an able disputant and a remarkable preacher. At first his preaching was in the learned and ornate style, but after being spiritually affected in 1609 by the preaching of Richard Sibbes, he adopted the plain Puritan style. Although this change was received with dismay by many of his admirers in Cambridge, it was responsible for the conversion of John Preston, later master of Emmanuel and an eminent Puritan divine. Cotton was ordained in 1610, and in 1613 he received the B.D. His first call was as vicar of St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire, where he served from 1612 until shortly before his departure for New England in 1633. In 1613 Cotton married Elizabeth Horrocks, sister of a Lancashire minister. During his Lincolnshire ministry, Cotton ran an informal seminary for recent Cambridge graduates. Young Dutch and German exiles from the war on the Continent also lived with the Cottons, so that, as his contemporary ...

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Davenport, John ( April 1597–15 March 1670), Congregational Puritan clergyman, was born in Coventry, Warwickshire, England, the son of Henry Davenport, a merchant in that town, and Winifred Barneby. He matriculated at Merton College, Oxford, in 1613, having shortly before that time experienced a religious conversion. After two years he transferred to Magdalen, Oxford, but left the university before obtaining his degree in order to accept a chaplaincy at Hilton Castle, Durham. In 1619 he became curate at St. Lawrence Jewry in the city of London, where he became acquainted with the tenets of Puritanism. He earned a reputation as an inspiring preacher and was elected vicar of the London parish of St. Stephen’s, Coleman Street, in 1624. The influence of prominent Puritan nobility was needed to persuade the bishop of London to approve the choice of Davenport, which was obtained because at this point he conformed to the liturgical practices of the church, believing that differences over such matters must be subordinated to the need for a united Calvinist front against Catholicism and Arminianism. In 1625 he was awarded both the B.D. and M.A. degrees by Magdalen, Oxford. In that same year he garnered favorable notice for his efforts to minister to his congregation during a severe outbreak of the plague....

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Edwards, Sarah Pierpont (09 January 1710–02 October 1758), devout Puritan and wife of Jonathan Edwards, the theologian and religious revivalist, devout Puritan and wife of Jonathan Edwards, the theologian and religious revivalist, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the daughter of James Pierpont, a minister, and Mary Hooker. Her father died when she was four. Her family relations are noteworthy. Her mother, Mary Hooker, was the granddaughter of ...

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Eliot, John (1604–21 May 1690), Puritan clergyman and missionary to the Indians, was the son of Bennett Eliot, a prosperous yeoman, and Lettice Aggar. He was baptized at Widford, Hertfordshire, England, on 5 August 1604, but the main residence of his father was at Nazeing, Essex. Eliot’s father owned considerable property, mostly in Essex. Eliot was scholarly—he particularly enjoyed the classics and Hebrew. He matriculated at Jesus College, Cambridge University, in 1619 and received the degree of B.A. in 1622. He was ordained in the Church of England but very soon began to be uncomfortable with its rules. Rather than look for a parish, after his graduation he taught at the grammar school at Little Baddow in Essex, where ...

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Hale, John (03 June 1636–15 May 1700), Congregational minister, author, and participant in the Salem witch trials, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to Robert Hale and Joanna Cutter. Robert Hale emigrated from England and became a selectman and a deacon in the church at Charlestown. Little is known of John Hale’s early life. He attended Harvard, graduating in 1657. Hale was called to the ministry in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1667, having served as a teacher in the church there for a few years before the town formally separated from Salem in 1668. As minister, Hale received a house, land, firewood, and a salary of seventy pounds per year....

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Harvard, John ( November 1607–14 September 1638), Puritan minister and benefactor of Harvard College, was born in St. Saviour’s Parish, Southwark, England, the son of Robert Harvard, a butcher, and Katherine Rogers, the daughter of a cattle dealer and alderman in Stratford-upon-Avon. Few details of John Harvard’s early life are known. His father and four of his siblings died in the plague of 1625, leaving John the eldest surviving son. His mother remarried, but her second husband, a prosperous cooper named John Elletson, died within five months, and his estate further enhanced the family’s resources....

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Hiacoomes (?–1690), member of the Pokanauket band of the Narragansetts, who became a Calvinist minister, lived near Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Little is known about his early life, but he had one son who also became a minister.

In 1641 Thomas Mayhew, Sr....

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Higginson, Francis (1586–06 August 1630), Puritan writer and clergyman, was born in Claybrooke, Leicestershire, England, the son of Rev. John Higginson and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Baptized on 6 August 1586, he earned a B.A. from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1610 and his M.A. in 1613. He was ordained a deacon on 26 September 1614 and then a priest of the Church of England on 8 December by the archbishop of York. Conferred the rector of Barton-in-Fabis, Nottinghamshire, he was instituted 20 April 1615 but apparently never formally inducted. Instead, he settled in Claybrooke, probably as curate to his father. He married Anna Herbert at St. Peter’s, Nottingham, on 8 January 1616. The couple had nine children, all of whom survived infancy....

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Higginson, John (06 August 1616–09 December 1708), clergyman, was born at Claybrooke, Leicestershire, England, the son of the Reverend Francis Higginson and Anna Herbert. He emigrated to Massachusetts with his parents in 1629. His father, the teacher of the church at Salem (a post akin to assistant pastor), died the next year. Although Higginson was apprenticed to a surgeon, Governor ...

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Hoar, Leonard (1630?–28 November 1675), Puritan minister and president of Harvard College, was born in Gloucestershire, England, the son of Charles Hoare, a brewer, and Joanna Hinksman. Charles Hoare was wealthy enough to provide in his will for Leonard to be sent to Oxford University, but after his father’s death in 1638, Leonard’s mother moved the family across the Atlantic to New England, where they settled in Braintree, Massachusetts. Instead of Oxford, Leonard Hoar enrolled at Harvard College, where he received an A.B. in 1650 and an A.M. in 1653....

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Hooker, Thomas (07 July 1586–07 July 1647), Puritan minister, an architect of the New England Way, and a founder of Hartford, Connecticut, was born in Marfield, a village in Leicestershire, England, the son of Thomas Hooker, a steward for the Digby family, and his wife, whose name is unknown. He probably attended the grammar school that had been endowed by Sir Wolstan Dixie in nearby Market Bosworth, since at Cambridge he held a Dixie Fellowship, restricted to relatives of Sir Wolstan or graduates of his school. Before going to Cambridge, he may have taught school briefly in Birstall, Leicestershire. He matriculated at Queens College, Cambridge, in 1604, although he soon transferred to Emmanuel College, which had already acquired a reputation for the Puritan sympathies of its members. He received his B.A. in 1608 and his M.A. in 1611. He subsequently served as lecturer and catechist at Emmanuel College until 1618. As a fellow at Emmanuel he experienced a spiritual rebirth that validated his career as a Puritan minister and provided the substance for many of his popular sermons that were collected and published during his lifetime. He apparently preached at Emmanuel a series of sermons on the nature of the conversion experience....

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Hubbard, William (1621–14 September 1704), Puritan minister, was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, the son of William Hubbard, a husbandman, and Judith Knapp. Hubbard came to New England with his family in 1635 and settled the same year in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard, studied medicine in addition to the standard curriculum, and graduated in 1642 with the first graduating class. He married Margaret Rogers in 1646; they had three children. Hubbard became a full church member and freeman in 1653. In 1656 he joined Rev. Thomas Cobbett as a ministerial colleague in the Ipswich church and was ordained in 1658....

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Leverett, John ( July 1616–16 March 1679), Puritan leader and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England, the son of Thomas Leverett and Anne Fisher. Thomas Leverett was a landowner and a protector in England of the great Puritan minister John Cotton...

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Lothropp, John (1584–08 November 1653), Independent clergyman and colonizer in New Plymouth, was born in Yorkshire, England, and baptized in Etton, Yorkshire, the son of Thomas Lothropp or Lowthroppe, a landed gentleman, and Mary (maiden name unknown). His name is sometimes spelled Lathrop. His father had twenty-two children, and John was one of two sons who were sent to college. Nothing is known of John’s youth, but in 1601 he matriculated at Queen’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1605 and receiving an M.A. in 1609. In 1610 he married Hannah House; they had six children. Ordained in the Anglican church by 1611, he was curate of a parish in Egerton, Kent, during the 1610s....

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Cotton Mather. Engraving, nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92308).