Thursday, August 16, 2018

Heretics, seducers, and nudists, oh my!

© 2018 Christy K Robinson

While researching my books on William and Mary Dyer, and my 2018 book on Anne Hutchinson, I found many books, images, and ballads from their time period, the early- and mid-17th century. 

This broadsheet, basically a paper periodical of the day, was written by an unknown author and published in 1647, during the English Civil Wars. The ECW had begun over royal authority (the divine rights of kings) and religious upheaval and reformation that had been fomenting for a hundred years, with the Puritan faction coming into the majority.

The author commends the worthy and pious Parliament, which was a different strain of Puritan than the zealous ministers and their flocks who emigrated to New England and formed a theocracy.

Anne Hutchinson and her followers, including William and Mary Dyer, were called by their Puritan contemporaries libertines, familists, and antinomians.

A catalogue of the severall sects and opinions in England and other nations
With a briefe rehearsall of their false and dangerous tenents.
[London]: Printed by R.A., 1647.

By hellish wiles the States to ruine bring,
My Tenents are to murder Prince or King:
If I obtaine my projects, or seduce,
Then from my Treasons I will let them loose:
And since the Roman Papall State doth totter,
I'le frame my sly-conceits to worke the better.
By cunning art my way's more nearly spun,
Although destructive to profession;
Obscuring truths, although substantiall,
To puzle Christians or to make them fall:
That precious time may not be well improv'd,
Ile multiply strange notions for the lewd.
Would any comfortlesse both live and die?
Let him learne free wills great uncertaintie:
Salvation that doth unmov'd remaine,
Arminian Logick would most maintaine,
And faith that's founded on a firme decree,
Is plac't by them to cause uncertaintie.
What they dare to deny, Christians know,
Christ God and Man, from whom their comforts flow,
'Tis sad, that Christians dive by speculation,
Whereby they loose more sweeter contemplation:
Where Christian practice acts the life of grace,
There's sweet content to run in such a race.
Hath Adams sin procur'd his naked shame,
With leaves at first that thought to hide his staine?
Then let not Adamites in secret dare
Aparent sinfull acts to spread; but feare,
Since Adams sin hath so defil'd poore dust,
Cast from this Paradise by wicked lust.
A pish at sin and open violation,
By wilfull lust, deserves just condemnation:
Repentance, though a Riddle, this Ile say,
Thou must unfold the same or perish aye.
Then least this holy Law thou yet dost sleight,
Shall presse thee one day with a dreadfull weight.
By cursed words and actions to gainsay
All Scripture-truth, that ought to guide thy way,
Without all question, were it in thy power,
Thou would it all sacred Rules at once devoure:
Poor man, forbear, thou striv'st but all in vaine,
Since all mans might shall but confirme the same.
That soules are mortall, some have dar'd to say,
And by their lives, this folly some bewray;
Whilst (like the beast) they only live to eat,
In sinfull pleasures wast their time and state:
Meantime forgetting immortality,
To woe or joy for all eternity.
Poore men contrive strange fancies in the braine,
To cleanse that guilt which is a Leopard staine:
'Tis but a fain'd conceit, contended for,
Since water can but act its outward matter:
Regenerate, new-born; these babes indeed
of watry Elements have little need.
Were all things Gospell that H.N. bath said,
A strange confused worke were newly laid:
A perfect state, like Adams, is pretended,
Whilst out wardly each day God is offended:
No Sabboth, but alike all daies shall be,
If Familists may have their Liberty.
All Ordinances, Church and Ministry,
The Seeker that hath lost his beaten way,
Denies: for miracles he now doth waite,
Thus glorious truths reveal'd are out of date:
Is it not just such men should alwaies doubt
Of clearest truths, in Holy Writ held out.
To warrant this great Law of Separation,
And make one two, requires high aggravation:
Adultry onely cuts the Marriage-knot,
Without the which Gods Law allowes it not.
Then learn to seperate from sin that's common,
And man shall have more Comfort from a woman.
What Adams state had been with out a fall,
Is but presumption to contend withall:
But Adams state of deprivation
Profits by serious meditation;
Men it keep backe, Christ's all in all to all,
Then live by faith obedientiall.
Separatist or Independent.
The Saints Communion Christians do professe,
Most necessary to the life of grace,
But whilst some shrowd them by this bare notion,
Condemning all the rest for Antichristian,
Preferring much confused sad destraction:
They thus disturb a settlement in the Nation.
Under this name shrowds many desperate
Destroying Doctrines, unregenerate,
Expresse opposing grace in its true power,
And glories lustre some do much abhor;
Repentance and obedience are condemn'd,
And rarest Christian duties much contemned.
This curst opinion long hath been on foot,
A Christian Sabboth from our Isle to root:
When for base pleasures or curst recreation,
On Lords daies duties lost by prophanation,
Divine example hints sufficiently,
A first daies Sabboths full Authority.
That dare to search into the Trinity,
And in divine distinctions much to pry:
Christs humane nature they would dare to staine,
As ours by Adams guilt, but all in vaine:
Then let's beware, least diving thus too far,
We leese our love, and much increase sad jar.
That now expect a new revealed way,
Unknowne in Scripture, they have dar'd to say,
Beyond the way of usuall dispensation
Guifts infallible with Revelation,
And miracles againe with Ministry,
Thus men are lost, when they too far do pry.
The Jewish Sabboth these would have remaine,
As warrantable by command most plaine:
But since the Priest and sacrifice are ceast,
That Sabboth Judaicall is decreast:
The Lords daies ravishment divinely is
Confirm'd by Practice which unerring is.
That Englands Church is false do firmely hold,
What truths are therein taught deny thus bold
Without true ground, there's many yet that say
As much as these that erre and go astray:
Oh could we keep within a Christian bound,
That should such sad division not be found.
The Tatians
In what time that Eusebius lived, have
All Pauls Epistles dar'd reject and have
The Acts of the Apostles ser at nought,
Thus strange opinions have confusion brought:
Not far from those are some now in our daies,
That leave the Word and act contrary waies.
The Marchionites.
All Matthew, Marke, and Iohns divine
Most sacred Writ, these Gospels trine,
Tertullian doth report, rejected were,
By this strange Sect, thus heretofore:
As now we see, division greatly spread,
And from the bounds of practice get a head.

WE read how that in the last daies many false Prophets shall arise, and many shall say, Loe here is Christ, loe there is Christ, and shall deceive many, 2 Pet. 2.1. there were false Prophets also among the people, as there shall bee false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction, therefore we had need to be established in the truth, as in 1 Cor. 16.13. stand fast in the faith, 1 Pet. 5.9. whom resist stedfast in the faith, 1 Joh. 2.23. Let that therefore abide in you which yee have heard from the beginning, and yee shall continue in the Sonne and in the Father; Vers. 25. These things I have written unto you, concerning them that seduce you. Many, strange Sects and Opinions are held amongst us, so that it is to be feared, that what rule soever our wise and honourable Parliament shall establish it will not content the unquiet spirits of a lawlesse generation, which would have no rule; for set any Rule in the Church they will call it persecution, and they say they dislike some things commanded because they are Imposed. 
Some there are that looke for a Temporall Kingdome of Christ, that shall last a thousand years this opinion is most dangerous for all States, for they teach that all the ungodly must be killed, and that the wicked have no propriety in their estates. Others out of confidence that they are ruled by the spirit, despite all ordinary calling to the Ministry, all written prayers, all helps of study: Some make no conscience to heare and sing Psalms, but rather follow their own inventions, as he that would not believe the sun because it went not with his watch: Likewise this ordinary saying of theirs; Be in Christ and sin if thou canst; meaning, that regenerate men cannot sinne; this is the Doctrine of the Anabaptists: also that to receive the Communion with a prophane person, is to partake of his sinne; that the Lords Prayer was never taught to be said; that the Gospell was never purely taught since the Apostles times; that a liberty of Prophecying must be allowed; that all humane Lawes must be abolished; that Ministers of Gods Word should rule both the Spirituall and the Temporall; that distinction of Parishes is Antichristian. 
Should these absurd and grosse opinions take place, what division and confusion would they work amongst us? but such is the wisdome and care of our worthy and pious Parliament, to provide an Ordinance for preventing of the growing and spreading of heresie. 

Christy K Robinson is author of this website and these books. Click the book titles to find them in paperback and Kindle.
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Hutchinson, American Founding Mother (2018)

Monday, August 13, 2018

* * * * * Five Stars for Mary Dyer

Read more reviews and order the books at 
* * * * * 5 Stars for Mary Dyer Illuminated

MARY DYER ILLUMINATED is an example of historical fiction at its finest. A biographical work spanning the first forty years of Mary’s life, this novel paints beautiful descriptions of old England and old London. The history is amazingly well researched yet the story is smoothly, clearly drawn on the page. I felt as if Westminster and old Lincolnshire lived for me again.

Part of Christy K Robinson’s charm in writing this novel is her use of primary sources. Quotes from the Bible, from speeches of John Donne, from letters written between the characters pepper the novel with pieces of the living past, drawing the reader deeper into it.
The colonial past of New England is full of courage, but also full of desperation. The evils of slavery and the destruction of the native culture coincide with the darkness of some of the early Puritan fathers who torment even their own people in their bid to hold onto power in their budding theocracy. Throughout the storms of nature, culture clashes and failed crops, Mary manages to raise her family with the loving help of her husband, William.

As the book draws to a close, we begin to see how Mary Dyer will be called out of the private sphere of wife and mother into the world of politics and living theology, when she will be drawn to speak for the Light that dwells within her, and within us all. I am looking forward with pleasure to book two of this duet. MARY DYER ILLUMINATED is a beautiful novel.
--Christy English, historical romance author

For a limited time (as of this post in August 2018), Amazon has Vol. 2 for 25% off ($15); and Vol. 3 for $12 (15% off).

The first two books are a two-volume biographical novel, which follow the lives of the Dyers and Hutchinsons, Winthrop and Cotton and Vane, as closely as possible to known facts.

The third book is an entertaining and informative nonfiction topical book on the Dyers and their friends and foes.

All are available in paperback or Kindle with identical interiors, but because of the resources of maps, notes, and images, I recommend old-school paperback. Besides, they look great on your coffee table or history shelf.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

William Dyer's input on the Rhode Island charters


Rhode Island Charter of 1663, Providence, Rhode Island
© 2018 Christy K. Robinson 

The Rhode Island Charter of Liberties was granted July 15, 1663. As is still done today, 355 years later, a committee or group of community leaders spent weeks or months crafting the content and wording of the charter or constitution, and then presented the draft to a higher body for consideration and confirmation. In 1663, the monarch was King Charles II of England. The charter he granted was written by several Rhode Islanders in King Charles' voice, ratified by his Council of State, and sealed by the king.

The men most likely to have worked on drafting the charter were Dr. John Clarke (who always gets the credit!), Roger Williams, Nicholas Easton, and William Dyer, Mary Dyer's husband.

The men who wrought a bend in the time-space continuum included a theologian and sometime physician (Clarke), a Puritan-Baptist-nondenominational minister (Williams), a tanner-turned-antinomian speaker-governor (Easton), and a haberdasher-mariner-farmer-attorney (Dyer).

What historians have failed to recognize is William Dyer's significant input with the charters, mainly because they've forgotten William existed.

William Dyer was the attorney general of the colony when the 1652 charter was granted by the Council of State under Oliver Cromwell: he brought the copy home with him after his trip to England where he was appointed Commander-in-Chief-Upon-the-Sea in the Anglo Dutch War; and he had more input and authority than being a simple letter courier bringing it back from London. 

For the 1663 charter (see ), William Dyer returned to England, and he probably provided the list of two dozen Rhode Island founders, as pointed out in the end notes of the book, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This. His name is last on the list, as modesty dictates, and it's spelled the way William preferred, Dyre. This is the charter that Dr. John Clarke had labored and lobbied for as Rhode Island's agent in England, for more than ten years. William Dyer and others raised the money to send Clarke to England and support his efforts during the Cromwell Protectorate of the 1650s, and the return to monarchical rule in 1660.

Further, some of the points in the 1663 charter were pet issues of William Dyer and his colleagues in the colonial assembly, namely:
  • the right to travel freely in New England (because they were colonies under royal control, not independent kingdoms -- and this royal charter nullified banishment orders by the harsh theocracy of Massachusetts Bay colonial officials); 
  • setting forth the "lively experiment" of democracy;
  • many of the Rhode Islanders were merchants and import/export traders who had business in Massachusetts ports or needed to transport goods from ports to inland destinations; 
  • with Rhode Island being such a small colony and its borders disputed by its neighbors Connecticut, Plymouth, and Massachusetts, they needed to set boundaries both physical and social; 
  • the separation of church and state functions; and 
  • they wanted religious liberty to worship -- or not -- as they behaved civilly and didn't harm others.
King Charles wasn't as religiously tolerant as we might think in granting the freedoms: he wanted to hard-tweak the noses of the ultra-Puritan and anti-Church of England governments of New England by allowing Rhode Islanders the freedom to live without oppression. He may also have dinged them for harboring some of the Puritan regicides, the participants in the execution of his father in 1649. When a Quaker, Edward Burrough, rewrote Mary Dyer's 1659 letter from the night before her first execution date, King Charles stopped the bloody New England courts from capital cases, and commanded that they refer those cases to England. William Dyer's wife's case was known to the king in late 1660 or early 1661, certainly while the 1663 charter was in negotiations.

Did the men of Rhode Island seek to exploit the king's opinion of the New England Puritan governments? Politics don't change, and timing is everything!

Do you enjoy this site's articles and photos? If so, please support the author's continued research with the purchase of her books, or push the Donate button on this page. 


Christy K Robinson is author of this website and these books. Click the book titles to find them in paperback and Kindle.
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Hutchinson, American Founding Mother (2018)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Heraldic arms found for Hutchinson nephew

© 2018 Christy K. Robinson

By BardofL - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
 In the English town of Boston, Lincolnshire is the 700-year-old church of St. Botolph's, the country's largest parish church. In 1612, Rev. John Cotton, a scholar with multiple degrees in theology, was appointed vicar of the church. Though his preaching was controversial with the Church of England bishops, his charisma and ability to draw tithe-paying listeners from miles around were much-appreciated. Cotton held his position until 1632, when he and his first wife became gravely ill with malaria. She died, and he recovered over a period of about a year. But then, when King Charles II and Bishop Laud reissued the anti-Puritan The Book of Sports, Rev. Cotton was summoned to a hearing for his refusal of the command to have it read aloud. He went into hiding, remarried, and set out for the new Boston, in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633.

During his years of ministry at old Boston, Rev. Cotton's sermons caught the attention of Anne and William Hutchinson, newlyweds from Alford, Lincolnshire, about 20 miles to the north. Even in good weather, 20 miles would be a day's journey each way, so you know that they valued their pastor's teaching and friendship.

As many people know, Anne and William Hutchinson and many members of their large families emigrated to the new Boston in 1634. After trials for sedition and heresy, the Hutchinsons were exiled from Massachusetts in late winter 1638. They and their considerable number of supporters bought land from the Narragansett Indians and settled in Pocasset, later named Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Some of the Hutchinson relatives moved back to England; some never left England at all. One of William Hutchinson's brothers was John Hutchinson of Alford, who stayed in Lincolnshire. Among John's nine or ten children was Samuel, born 1643. Samuel was born in the same year that Anne and her children were massacred at their farm. He was her nephew-by-marriage, and first cousin to Anne's and William's children.

In 1668, Samuel married Catherine Bonner. In 1680, he was elected Mayor of Boston in that county, and he served as Mayor again in 1695. Both Samuel and Catherine died in 1696. This Samuel (out of many Samuels in numerous generations, so it gets very, very confusing to figure out which he was) had a memorial plaque placed in St. Botolph's church, perhaps by his son Stephen Hutchinson, Boston's mayor in 1699.

This plaque came to light in a Facebook group called "Partnership of the Historic Bostons." Alison Fairman posted a photo, writing:
"This was found recently in St Botolphs Church Boston. The College of Arms in London tell me that they are the Arms of a Hutchinson and his wife possibly Riddell. They are not the actual followers of John Cotton but the Arms perhaps of [Hutchinson] descendants." 

Then sister and brother, Ann Epton and Colin Epton, got into the action with these comments:

Ann Epton: any ideas?
Colin Epton: Already on it
Ann Epton: Good man
Colin Epton: According to Burke its definitely Hutchinson of Lincolnshire and Ridell of Gloucester and Oxford. Several of the Hutchinsons went to Massachusetts but I haven't found the Ridell connction yet.
Colin Epton: Got them. Burke has Ridell-alias-Bonner. Don't ask me why, possibly related by marriage and for some reason allowed the same arms. Samuel Hutchinson b. Alford 1644, m Catherine Bonner in 1668 at Lincoln, Lived in Boston and had several children there.
Samuel and Catherine both died in Boston in 1696.
(That's Boston Lincs )
Ann Epton: So that’s a really old one! Probably removed during one of the restorations.
Colin Epton: Probably. Do we know how and where it was found?
Ann Epton: No well I don’t I had no idea of it’s existence until now.
Colin Epton: Samuel was the son of Edward Hutchinson, Mercer, of Alford and grandson of John Hutchinson, Sheriff, Alderman and Mayor of Lincoln C. 1550.
Colin Epton: William Hutchinson, who went to Massachusetts colony in 1633 was Samuel's elder brother. William was married to Anne Hutchinson who was at the centre of a religious row in Massachusetts and was accused of heresy. Her family and followers were exiled from the colony and left to found the colony of Rhode Island. Apparently the family can be traced back to Bernard Hutchinson of Cowlan, Yorks, recorded in 1262. He's recorded as an Esquire, and as this would be the time when heraldry was becoming very popular among the gentry, he may well have been the first one to bear these arms.
Colin Epton: The arms are:
Per pale gules & azure. Semee of crosses crosslet or, a lion rampant argent, armed and langued of the third (Hutchinson of Co. Lincoln )
Paly of 6 or & gules. on a chief azure 3 lions rampant of the first. (Bonner / Ridell of Co. Oxford / Gloucester.)
The crest would be his -
A cockatrice azure. crested, jelloped, and armed gules issuing out of a ducal crown or.
Colin Epton: I might see If I can reconstruct this, complete with its crest.
Colin Epton: According to Pishey Thompson, Samuel Hutchinson was Mayor of Boston in 1695 and his son Stephen was Mayor in 1699.
Thompson doesn't mention this memorial in his book, but he only lists what he calls the "main" memorials in the church, so it may have been there in his day, or it might already have been lying broken in a cupboard.
Ann Epton: So another Mayor has his own memorial. Very interesting.

Then Colin did more research and photoshopping (which he calls a time machine), with this result:
Digital recreation of 1695 arms of Samuel and Catherine Bonner Hutchinson, by Colin Epton.

I've put Samuel Hutchinson into my Ancestry pedigree (though he is NOT my blood relative, my readers will get a kick out of this). Here's how I relate to Samuel Hutchinson the Mayor of Boston: First cousin 1x removed of wife of 9th great-uncle. In other words, he's the relative of the sister-in-law of my ancestor, Charles Dyer. 
Will of Samuel Hutchinson, Mayor of Boston.
  Many thanks to Alison Fairman for the original photo, and to Ann Epton and Colin Epton, amateur historian, genealogist, and time traveler, with a particular interest in Lincolnshire.

Do you enjoy this site's articles and photos? If so, please support the author's continued research with the purchase of her books, or push the Donate button on this page. 

Christy K Robinson is author of this website and these books. Click the book titles to find them in paperback and Kindle.
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Hutchinson, American Founding Mother (2018)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The weed our ancestors ate in tough times

© 2018 Christy K. Robinson 

Every late-spring or summer day that I'm out watering my potted vegetable plants to try to keep them alive in the harsh desert heat, I wonder how long I can keep them going before they inevitably wither from heat, lack of humidity, or hornworms (the voracious caterpillar of the sphinx moth). Meanwhile, nearby in the Arizona rocky gravel that passes for a desert "lawn," a plant grows and seems to flourish despite the climate and the miserly way I deprive it of water: that is the humble weed, purslane. Purslane is related to the pretty garden flowers, portulaca or moss rose. It's a fat succulent that can spread both by seeds from its flowers, and by surreptitiously sinking roots into the soil if you pull up or break off the plant and leave it there to wither.
Purslane growing in my yard, that I'll
never eat.

It's a survivor!

And that is what made it not a weed, but food for our ancestors in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and America.

I first heard of purslane when my friend, a writer for a health sciences university where we both worked, told me I shouldn't try to rid my yard of it, but to harvest it for salad. She'd covered a foraging field trip for the university magazine, where she'd learned of this weed. But when I offered that she could take the purslane off my hands while I enjoyed my blessedly bland salad, she was not a taker.

Purslane was a cultivated garden food in India and Persia for two millennia, and it was well known in France, but when it propagated in the American colonies, it was not a desirable food. It was cultivated in 1562 in Britain, and botanists have found fossilized purslane seeds in the Americas. 

When our ancestors were suffering famine and hunger in the 17th century (Jamestown, Virginia, and New England, for instance), they had little to eat but foraged nuts, berries, and greens. Purslane was a valuable weed, and it kept them alive. 

Some of the biggest factors in famines were that everyone was trying to grow tobacco as a cash crop, but they neglected their food crops (thinking they could just buy imported food); there were biblical-style plagues of grasshoppers and caterpillars that ate the crops down to the soil; the settlers didn't count on the Little Ice Age killing their seedlings every spring; and didn't know that tobacco depletes the soil nutrients, rendering it barren. They couldn't get food shipments from England because of the famines and plagues raging through their home country, alongside the ravages of the English Civil Wars in the 1640s and 1650s. 

Going back a few more years, the Endecott Party that settled Salem, Massachusetts in 1628 that was supposed to build a settlement for the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, had terrible setbacks in its agriculture, didn't have enough food brought with them from England, and lost many of its members to scurvy (a nutritional deficit disease) and starvation. Their physical condition had deteriorated so far that they were susceptible to other diseases and disorders.

In New England, purslane is known to grow in gardens, fields, and "waste areas and coastal beaches." It doesn't need much in the way of sustenance, as it grows easily in beach sand and even in California and Arizona desert gravel.

Yet if you must be hungry, and foraging for weeds is what's for dinner, purslane is surprisingly nutritious. Among the plant's attributes are:
  1. high in Omega-3 fatty acids for brain, heart, and depression
  2. potassium for blood pressure
  3. iron for blood oxygenation 
  4. anti-oxidants that slow aging
  5. magnesium and calcium for muscles, bones, teeth
  6. tryptophan and glutathione, more anti-depressants
  7. betalain, beneficial for cholesterol levels
  8. melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles
  9. beta-carotene, in levels about six times higher than a carrot
  10. its citrusy, peppery taste is said to be good in salads
  11. its pectin (the white powder that thickens fruit jams) is a soup thickener
For recipes that include purslane, try this web page:  One of the concoctions, Traveler's Joy, which requires several invasive weeds, seems only to be redeemed by chunks of avocado and cheese. I'm pretty sure avocado wasn't on the shopping list of hungry colonial foragers.  

Martha Washington's cookbook included pickled purslane. Another site shows a 17th-century recipe:
To pickle Purslayn.
Take Purslayn with their Stalkes, and boyl them tender in fair water, and lay them a drying or soaking, when done, put them in a Gally-pot [small earthenware pot used by apothecaries], and make a Brine with Salt and Elder-Vinegar to put to them, so as to cover them, and keep the Pot close stopt.
Early 17th century hay harvest.
Hey, wait. What's going on with those slackers in the background?

We don't know if the Dyers and others of Newport foraged for purslane and ate it, as it's not mentioned in contemporary writings, and it's only a summer weed that the Indians saw growing between their corn. In the winter of 1639-40, when Newport was only about a few months old, some families were running low on food rations, even after trading with the natives for venison and Indian corn. In January, the settlers took inventory of the grain of the 95 households in Newport, and scraped together only 137 bushels. They redistributed and rationed a bushel and a half-peck to each family, promising to reimburse those larger lenders who had given up their ample stores to the poorer households in this biblical-style social compact. The Narragansett natives taught them how to find clams, crabs, and lobsters, and to forage for foods like groundnuts that the English settlers didn't yet consider food. They wouldn't see results in their crops until midsummer, but they could get by with fishing if the weather allowed, and the foods they'd dried and preserved from the previous summer.

Knowing that your ancestors are connected to that purslane growing in your yard, will you be brave enough to add a weed to your salad? If you do, will you comment on this article and let the rest of us know what we're missing?

Christy K Robinson is author of this Dyer website and these books. Click the book titles to find them in paperback and Kindle.
·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Hutchinson, American Founding Mother (2018)

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1, 1660--Mary Dyer's victory, not victimhood

© 2018 Christy K Robinson

June 1, 1660 was the day Mary Dyer chose to die, and with her death, bring an end to religious oppression.

Statue of Mary Dyer at the
Massachusetts Statehouse, a mile from
the gallows where she was executed.
Photo by Christy K Robinson.
Mary Dyer intentionally left Shelter Island, a Quaker haven, and traveled first to Providence, Rhode Island, the colony where she was safe from persecution. She was the wife of Rhode Island co-founder, wealthy businessman, and colonial official William Dyer, so that was an additional privilege she could have claimed for personal security. She walked through wilderness and farms to Boston at the time of its greatest surge in population, the annual elections and court sessions. She timed her arrival in late May for the greatest number of watchers. Then she made an appearance, in defiance of earlier court sentences of banishment-on-pain-of-death, in the heart of the city. She was arrested and imprisoned. The governor and assistants urged her to leave and not force them to carry out her sentence. She refused to go unless they would stop the beatings, fines, and hanging of religious dissenters. They hanged Mary Dyer on the first of June, 1660, before a crowd that may have numbered 5,000.

It was Mary's civil disobedience that resulted in a royal decree to stop capital punishment for religion, and a major influence on freedom of conscience to worship--or not worship--without government interference or promotion. That's encoded in the US Constitution.

Many writers have said that Mary Dyer was hanged for being a Quaker. That makes her a victim of a theocratic regime. But she was no victim. They didn't kill her: she laid her life down. She had written in her letter to them, 
Whereas it is said by many of you that I am guilty of mine owne death by my
coming as you cal it voluntarily to boston: I therefore declare unto every one
that hath an eare to hear: that in the fear peace and love of god I came and in weldoing
did and stil doth commit my soul and body to him as unto a faithful creator
and for this very end hath preserved my life until now through many trialls and
temptations... to offer up my life freely for his truth and peoples sakes... 
to me to live is christ and to die is gaine [Philippians 1:21]
though I had not had your 48 houers warning
for the preparation of the cruel and in your esteme cursed death of mee marie dire. 

Mary Dyer was no victim of Boston's religious government. 
She was the victor. She won. 

One might question if Mary had a "religious liberty" motivation when she went to her death. It was a complex decision, surely. She didn't go to her death rashly, but rather in a considered, deliberate plan of action. As you see in the letter excerpts above, she had a purpose in forcing Governor John Endecott to stop persecuting Quakers.
  • Mary herself had been accused of heresy (the "proof" was her so-called monster pregnancy in 1637, seven months before Anne Hutchinson miscarried a molar pregnancy) which made the pair infamous on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. 
  • She knew the Antinomian men Gorton and Holden, who Boston authorities violently abducted from Shawomet, Rhode Island in 1643, and charged with sedition and heresy.
  • She knew that there was a virulent hatred and possible plot to imprison and execute Anne Hutchinson, an Antinomian, in 1643. 
  • She knew that Baptist minister Obadiah Holmes, Sr., had been severely beaten and Humphrey Norton, a Quaker, was tortured nearly to death over several months. 
  • She knew Roger Williams, the proponent of separation of church and state, who worked closely with William Dyer for several decades. 
  • Her Quaker friends Robinson and Stevenson had been severely whipped in Plymouth Colony and were hanged before her eyes in Boston in 1659. 
  • Other Quaker friends, Katherine Marbury Scott and Herodias Long Gardner, were stripped to the waist and whipped in Boston. Robert Harper and the Southwicks were whipped often and imprisoned.
  • The 1663 Rhode Island Charter of Liberties contained the very things Mary wrote in her letter, including liberty of conscience and the right to free passage through Massachusetts. 

Adding all those pieces together, Mary was motivated to advocate for religious liberty for all, which meant believing and acting one's conscience (the Holy Spirit speaking to one's mind) even if the majority disagrees with an individual or group. It's not freedom or justice for all if some are excluded for their belief or non-belief. It's not freedom for one branch of believers to have privileges from the government while others are denied based on their beliefs. 

Even today, our rights to freedom of religion and freedom from oppression are under sneak attack. As an admirer or descendant of Mary Dyer, I hope you will work to protect the rights of all Americans, as started by our *first* founders, Roger Williams, William and Anne Marbury Hutchinson, Richard and Katherine Marbury Scott, William and Mary Dyer, John Clarke, and many others. Because it's a never-ending struggle in every government agency, every state and territory, and every municipality, to allow freedom for all, and not just freedom for the powerful. Join me in support of liberty.

Related articles in this Dyer website:

The anniversary of our civil rights  (published in Providence Journal)
Mary Dyer’s last 44 miles Mary Dyer’s last journey, toward her death
The great New England quake of June 1, 1638 Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson
The 1630 comet of doom Charles II of England was born at the time of the comet, and crowned in 1660 as Mary waited in prison for her execution
Mary Dyer's execution -- Book excerpt

I wrote the first two volumes about Mary and her life as biographical fiction. To tell her story and show her motivations, I introduced readers to the titans of New England, Henry Vane, Gov. John Winthrop, Rev. John Cotton, Anne Marbury Hutchinson, Rev. Roger Williams, and many other real people (some of them your ancestors) in my books that came from years of research into lives, family and social connections, letters, land deeds and journals, in addition to academic history and sociological studies. However, this Dyer website exists to show research about the Dyers and their associates (friend and foe).

 Christy K Robinson is the author of this extensive Dyer website, and five published books (another on Anne Hutchinson is in the works), including three books on the Dyers and their associates. You can find the paperback and e-book editions at