Monday, March 30, 2015

March exile: the Passover exodus from Massachusetts

This article is excerpted from the biography,
Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother
© 2018, by Christy K Robinson
Editornado Publishing

nne Hutchinson, at her second trial before the Massachusetts Bay Colony theocratic government, was excommunicated from the Puritan First Church of Boston on 22 March 1638. She left her six-month house arrest, heresy conviction, and excommunication behind as she and some of her followers stalked out of Boston with the Passover.
Available in print and Kindle versions,
though you can more easily flip back and forth in
paperback for bibliography and illustrations.

The trial ran three weeks, and for everyone from magistrates to defendant to the general community, it was a foregone conclusion that Anne Hutchinson would be convicted of heresy. 

 On March 15, Anne was summoned again to trial on Lecture Day, the midweek church service in their community where attendance was required, and the day when criminals were put in stocks, whipped, or executed by hanging. (Mary Dyer was hanged on a Lecture Day.) Anne had a high enough status, as a wealthy and educated woman whose husband had been a magistrate, that she was in no danger of corporal or capital punishment.  
On March 22, the day Anne was convicted, according to John Winthrop’s Journal, he
“sent a warrant to Mrs. Hutchinson to depart this jurisdiction before the last of this month, according to the order of the court, and for that end set her at liberty from her former constraint [house arrest at Roxbury], so as she was not to go forth of her own house till her departure; and upon the 28th she went by water to farm at the Mount [Wollaston, where the Hutchinsons owned a farm], where she was to take water [a ship], with Mr. Wheelwright’s wife and family, to go to Pascataquack [Dover, New Hampshire, where Rev. Wheelwright had gone into exile]; but she changed her mind, and went by land to Providence, and so to the island in the Narragansett Bay, which her husband and the rest of that sect had purchased of the Indians, and prepared with all speed to remove unto. For the court had ordered, that, except they were gone with their families by such a time, they should be summoned to the general court, etc.”

Anne and her family and followers left Boston at Passover, the end of March. Rather than sailing around Cape Cod to Narragansett Bay, the Massachusetts exiles walked in the freezing, hostile wilderness. They left Boston, Charlestown, Cambridge, and Roxbury like the ancient Israelites left the bondage of Egypt, shaking off their shackles and slavery to the law. This exodus from Boston was made as a strong statement to John Winthrop and the rest of the theocratic magistrates. 
The Exodus from Egypt, from the film "The Ten Commandments," 1956. I suspect
the exile and exodus of the Hutchinson party may have lacked only the majestic
musical soundtrack for comparable drama!

If the Hutchinsonians left on March 29, the Passover with the full moon, it was also Lecture Day, when hundreds more people were in town to witness it! It would have been plain in Winthrop’s eyes, surely, but the fact never made it into his books. (Winthrop himself likened Massachusetts’ crop failures, insect invasions, and severe weather to the plagues of Egypt. A month after Anne’s departure, Winthrop fell deathly ill, perhaps from the severe stress of the Hutchinson trial and losing scores of the colony’s leading businessmen to exile.)

When Anne and her followers walked all the way from Massachusetts Bay to Providence (45-60 miles), they left during what we call Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. (Easter was on April 4 that year.) When the Hutchinsonians, including Mary Dyer and her husband William and 27-month-old son Samuel, struck out through the forest and hills, it was still a frozen wilderness. The snow lay three feet deep in some places, and they were on foot because horses were expensive and rare. They may have had an ox to pull a sled, but it’s unlikely. They would have spent at least two nights and possibly six on the rough trail before they reached the small village of Providence, and then moved on to the north end of Aquidneck Island, where they founded the town that would be renamed Portsmouth, Rhode Island.


Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

and of these sites:  
Discovering Love (inspiration)
Rooting for Ancestors (history and genealogy)  
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)



  1. I have wondered for a long time if they took the Bay Road via Taunton to Providence or the Old Post Road, the latter, the beginning of the route that the Connecticut pilgrims from New Towne had taken in 1635 and 1636. Living closer to Bay Road, I have preferred to think of them going that way, but now find it more likely that they went the Post Road route, passing Wainman's Ordinary, on the current Sharon-Foxborough border, a shelter of unknown dimensions built by the earlier group.

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      There's no proof, of course, but after studying old maps of England and New England, it looks like they capitalized on existing trails and roads when they enlarged them for new use. The English used Roman roads and ancient trackways, and their modern motorways follow the same paths.

      Here in America, there were Native American paths that were enlarged for wagons. As land was apportioned, it was along the existing roads, and in that way the roads were (sort of) enclosed, or forced to keep the same configuration. There were boundary disputes, as we see by court cases, but the early colonials were required to give several days a year to working on public roads, and the roads were necessary for the movement of domestic animals, goods, messengers, and militia. As for the route between Boston and Providence, my best guess is the Old Post Road and the general track of modern US 1 because it's the most direct.

      For more info on this road, see the article in this blog,

    2. Reply from Jo Ann Butler:

      Great analysis, Christy! I tried 3 times to respond to the comments which about path the Hutchinson party took, but Blogger wouldn't publish.
      My research for "The Reputed Wife" indicates that the Taunton River path would have been rough to travel. Plymouth's Indians were hard hit by disease, leaving their untended woods choked by brush. They were known as the Ragged Lands because they tore traveler's clothes to shreds. The Pequot Path/Post Road was the main route south, and its hard-packed snow would have been easier to cross.

  2. Comments from Facebook:

    Janine Edmée Hakim –Thank you Christy K Robinson for sharing this very moving, fascinating, compelling "read" on American history and what the impact of theocracy on those who lived under it here.

    Charlotte Knight Watkins –Excellent!! Very interesting. I must share!!

    Nate Eaton –Excellent! Wonderful piece, Christy. Quite a few of my ancestors escaped Puritan extremism by moving to Connecticut, Rhode Island or New Jersey.

    Margaret Ellen Michaels –Excellent article

    Ken Horn –Excellent account, as usual, with fresh material (also as usual). Appreciate all you write on the subject.

    Sandi DeVore –This is an excellent article. Thanks for all the research you do Christy K. Robinson. I'm beginning to feel like I actually knew my great great grandparents, Anne Hutchinson, William & Mary Dyer, and Samuel Dyer. You've brought them to life for me.


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