Saturday, August 20, 2016

Life sketch of Rev. Hugh Peter

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.

Hugh Peter, a Puritan minister who did good things for New England, was one of the accusers of Anne Hutchinson at her 1637 and 1638 trials and pushed for her banishment. He would have been aware of Mary Dyer and her “monstrous” miscarriage.

His grandfather carried the name of a manor in Norfolk, England, called Dyckwoode, and it seems that for a time in the 16th century, the family lived in the Netherlands but moved to England for reasons of religious freedom. Hugh Peter (the surname his father changed from Dyckwoode) was born in Cornwall in 1598. He earned his MA at Cambridge University, which was favored by Puritans, and indeed, preaching became his career.

In 1625, he married a widow, Elizabeth Cooke Reade, who was 30 years older than Hugh and had adult children, one of whom married John Winthrop Jr. Elizabeth died in England in 1637.
Rev. Hugh Peter, portrait by
Gustavus Ellinthorpe Sintzenich

Hugh criticized Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic wife of Charles I, lost his preaching license, went back to the Netherlands for a few years and was a military chaplain, then (when he was trying to slide past the English military that were looking for him) was persuaded by friends to go to New England. It’s interesting that he mentions The Book of Sports, written by King James I and reissued by Charles I. Sports required the Puritans to play and enjoy themselves on Sunday afternoons, rather than sit in hours-long church services for the entire day. In other words, they had to break the sacredness of their Sabbath to do secular activities. Hugh said of his decision to emigrate, “And truly my reason for myself and others to go, was merely, not to offend Authority [King Charles I] in the difference of Judgment; and had not the Book for Encouragement of Sports on the Sabbath come forth, many [would have] staid [in England].”  (If you click the Book of Sports link, you'll see why 35,000 people moved to New England in the 1630s.)

So in 1635, Hugh emigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony and was appointed minister of the church in Salem, which was a more religiously fundamental town than Boston or most other towns. He was admitted as a freeman at the same time as Henry Vane and William Dyer. He excommunicated Roger Williams and banished him—during the vicious winter—so that Williams had to flee to the Narragansett Indians, where he founded Providence Plantation (Rhode Island). As the stepfather of John Winthrop, Jr.'s wife, he helped to make Connecticut a colony through his connections with the Winthrops and Rev. Thomas Hooker, whom he'd known in England.Winthrop Junior was the Connecticut governor or deputy governor for many years.

While in the Bay Colony, he was placed on a commission to develop the fishing industry from a gaggle of independent fisherman sending cargoes of fish to Europe or the Caribbean at great expense, into a confederation of fishermen, with coordinated cargoes, canneries for preserving, coastal stations for resupplying the fishing fleet with tackle and rigging, and regulations for what to do with fish: valuable cod, bass, and halibut were not to be spread as “manure” on crops, but preserved for sale abroad. Gov. Winthrop mentioned Hugh Peter’s work as being helpful in the lean winters and springs before the crops came in: they had salt fish to keep them alive, and that Hugh organized funding to build a 150-ton ship to send Massachusetts goods to foreign markets.

In 1636, preaching at Boston, Rev. Peter urged several things of the church. Among them was that they would "take order for employment of people, (especially women and children, in winter time;) for he feared that idleness would be the ruin both of church and commonwealth." Winthrop's Journal, May 1636. (Remember this when in the 1640s he is involved in child trafficking from English slums.)
Mr. Peter was harshly critical of Anne Hutchinson's religious teaching and as one of her inquisitors, persuaded the General Court to banish her; he and other ministers visited Hutchinson while she was incarcerated at Joseph Weld's home and preached to her, tried to get her to recant, and took her answers as evidences against her in her excommunication trial. He was also one of the founding board members of Harvard College in 1638.

Two years after his much-older wife died in 1637, he married Deliverance Sheffield--unwillingly--because it seems that members of the Boston and Salem churches didn't like having a single man as their minister, and they considered the marriage arranged! Hugh wrote to Governor Winthrop, "If you shall amongst you advise mee to write to her, I shall forthwith, our towne lookes upon mee contracted, and soe I have sayd my selfe." Mrs. Deliverance Peter gave birth to Hugh's only daughter between 1639 and 1641, but it became evident that she was mentally ill. (With hindsight, one could see her scattered thoughts in her letters written before they married.) He left her in the colony when he moved back to England, and wrote from the old country, "Bee sure you never let my wife come away from thence without my leave [if] you love mee." 

In 1641, three men were needed to return to England to be agents for the colony: Rev. Thomas Weld (who soon after wrote the vicious introduction to Winthrop’s book about Hutchinson and Dyer), magistrate William Hibbins (whose wife would someday be hanged as a witch), and Rev. Hugh Peter. John Endecott stirred up the Salem church to deny permission for the hugely popular Hugh Peter to return to England, saying that he might never return. Charles Spencer, in Killers of the King, wrote that Rev. Peter had "extraordinarily infectious words, which could rouse men to fight with a courage reserved for those utterly confident in God's blessing."  However, he did go as an agent for the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and they were right: he never returned.

The three men were able to get Parliament to grant that the colony not pay customs or taxes on their natural resources like fish, timber, furs, or lumber. Sweet! That nifty patent stayed in effect for decades. And when another king, 140 years later, demanded customs and taxes, remember what happened? The Boston Tea Party.

Meanwhile, Rev. Weld was having less success with his efforts, so he created a Narragansett patent and took it around the Council of State and other leaders for signatures. The patent said Massachusetts Bay Colony owned the northwesterly parts of Rhode Island. His fraud was discovered, and he was recalled to Massachusetts for disciplinary action, but he never returned, having conveniently found an English parish church to preach in up north. In the 1650s, he wrote tracts refuting the Quakers' radical theology.

Weld and Peter had another lucrative business in England: they took children and teens, orphans or the fatherless, from parish poor rolls and kept them in a camp until a ship could be made ready to transport them as “servants” (or slaves) to America. An epidemic killed a large number of the camp inmates. When the children were put on ships, it was without minders or nurses—just the rough ship’s crew were in charge for eight to twelve weeks. The human trafficking enlarged as the English Civil Wars raged in the 1640s and people were separated from families by death or displacement. Peter went with the Cromwell army to Ireland, too, so it’s possible that he took part in or suggested the deportation of Irish slaves to America and the Caribbean.

Hugh Peter was the chaplain for Oliver Cromwell and the General Fairfax's army during the Civil Wars, and  he counseled the Parliamentary politicians to try and execute King Charles. Several diarists of the day wrote that Peter was theatrical, melodramatic, and absurd in the pulpit, with facial expressions and shruggings of shoulders.

Rev. Peter was critical of the Anglo-Dutch war (in which William Dyer sought and was given the commission of Commander-in-Chief-Upon-the-Seas), saying to the Council of State that the two Protestant powers should work together, and not blow one another apart on the seas.

He led the procession of the king from Windsor to London for his trial. When the execution came to pass in early 1649 (meanwhile, back in Boston, Winthrop was in his final illness), rumor had it that Hugh Peter was the other man, besides the headsman and the unfortunate king, there on the platform at Charing Cross. They said they recognized his voice, though his face was obscured like the headsman’s.

At the Restoration (of Charles II to the throne) in 1660, those who took part in Charles I's execution or the conspiracy to execute were called regicides. Most of them were caught and tried. At his trial, one of his colleagues said that Rev. Peter had boasted of another reason beside colony business, that he was sent to England in 1641, and that was that the colonial agents were to stir up war against the King of England. If that was true and not just a scurrilous accusation, Hugh Peter and his colleagues were successful. After his trial, Hugh Peter was given the traitor’s death: hanged but taken down, emasculated, his organs drawn out while he was alive, and then dismembered, with his head set on a pike and his limbs sent around the country.

Hugh Peter was the butt of satirical songs and articles accusing him of drunkenness, adultery against his mad wife back in Massachusetts (a capital offense in the colony), embezzlement, and inappropriate jocularity against the king. He denied them; historian C.H. Firth, at the end of the 19th century, said that Hugh Peter didn’t do those things, and that on the contrary, Hugh was honest and upright. In light of the many reports we can assemble in the 21st century, I'm of the opinion that Firth was a tad optimistic about Hugh's character.
1647: Another side of Rev. Hugh Peter. 
 In the Dictionary of National Biography, the historian Burnet characterized him as "an enthusiastical buffoon preacher, though a very vicious man, who had been of great use to Cromwell, and had been very outrageous in pressing the king's death with the cruelty and rudeness of an inquisitor."
It looks like Hugh is peering through a keyhole, but one writer suggested that Hugh had a reputation for womanizing, and that in this satirical cartoon from 1647, he was reaching under the door for a key when his fingers were caught in a mousetrap. When the husband startles awake, the duplicitous wife assures him that what he heard was the mousetrap. “The Rat is catch’t,” she says. Hugh Peter mourns, “Oh, my fingers.”
The cartoon is 370 years old, and I can’t stop laughing at it.


Christy K Robinson is the author of three books on William and Mary Barrett Dyer and their culture, friends, and enemies, all meticulously researched over years. Find them here:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The titans of early Boston

© 2016 Christy K Robinson 

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article. 

On my first day in Boston in years, I visited the graves of Gov. John Winthrop and his family, Rev. John Cotton, Rev. John Wilson, Rev. John Davenport, Isaac Johnson, and others who I learned to know very well as I researched and wrote my books on the Dyers.*
Click to enlarge the map

They were buried in what is now known as the King's Chapel Burying Ground. Boston was founded in 1630 to be a Puritan version of the New Jerusalem, where its people would be able to live good lives and prove their election (predestination) to eternal life. It was never the heavenly City Upon a Hill that they hoped it would be, but their rebellious spirit did create a beacon of culture, education, commerce, and patriotism that still shines brightly today.

In the 1680s, that rebellious nature, and their refusal to produce their royal charter from 1629 after repeated recalls by kings and Parliaments, came to (virtual) blows with the appointment of a royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros. During his short term, he declared there was no other land available in Boston (because the Calvinist Puritans wouldn't sell any for a Church of England meetinghouse), and an Anglican church must be built right there on the cemetery. So in 1686, the graves of Boston's founders were disturbed, moved, or otherwise covered by construction of what came to be known as King's Chapel. (Imagine how the fur would fly in Boston parlors!)

And so it was that the first founders of Boston, who had left the English church at great expense to their lives and estates, were disturbed by that very church not long after their deaths.

I walked down Beacon Street in the steamy heat to visit the graves of the men who I didn't necessarily like as I researched my books on Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson, but who I greatly respected for the commitment of their very lives and families and fortunes to the Christian utopia they hoped to build. These were never cartoon villains as I read their letters, journals, and testimony, but human beings who were well-respected and loved by many. They were leaders who inspired their followers. They were titans.

(Click photos to enlarge.)

Burial vault for Gov. John Winthrop's family. Once down
the steps, the vault extends under the fence and sidewalk. I
couldn't detect any inscription on the tomb cover.
Though his grave appears neglected, John Winthrop
is remembered at Boston First Church in the Back Bay
neighborhood of Boston, far from its original place near the harbor.
He was a founder of the church in 1630, but it is no longer
Puritan/Congregational. It's Unitarian Universalist.
The building is a 21st-century ultra-modern construction.
Winthrop and other First Church founders
are remembered with calligraphic pictures
at the back of the main sanctuary.

*Christy K Robinson is the author of five books, three of them revolving around the titans of New England. Click their titles to read the five-star reviews and purchase the paperback or Kindle editions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Where the Rhode Island Assembly met in Newport

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article. 

The Rhode Island General Assembly met in homes and inns for decades before a Colony House was purpose-built for the assembly's business meetings.

White Horse Tavern, a Newport establishment dating to the 1650s,
first as the home of Francis Brinley,
“the massively framed building
and quarter acre of land fenced with Pailes at the corner of
Farewell and Marlborough Streets”

then in 1673, it was converted to a tavern by William Mayes, Sr.
During my July 2016 visit to Newport, I was treated to dinner at the White Horse Tavern by my new friends, Newport residents Paul and Valerie Debrule. The White Horse Tavern was one of the places that the Rhode Island colonial government met in the 17th and 18th centuries, and I was determined to visit the tavern because of its long-ago tie to William Dyer.

We had the latest reservations for dinner that night because I'd been speaking at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers earlier in the evening. The restaurant was packed with people when we arrived at 8:15. Except for one or two people in the bar, we were the last to leave, and the manager kindly showed me around the building. To access the upstairs dining room and bar, we climbed a very narrow circular staircase. The ladies' room, with its three tiny stalls, was smaller than you'd find in some private homes. The levels changed on the hardwood floors between the older and newer parts of the house: there was a noticeable slant down from the entry lobby to the dining room. (The newer part of the house faces the street corner in the photo here.) Because it was summer, and we were in a heat wave, there were no fires in the working fireplaces.

Though the Rhode Island Assembly, of which William Dyer was a member for many years, didn't meet at this house until some years after he died in 1677 at age 68, it's a sure thing that William would have enjoyed meals or drinks with his colleagues and friends in this building in 1673 and afterward. So would his sons and grandsons. And, as it turns out, his 9th great-granddaughter. I will testify to the mushroom appetizer and the steak frites, and conversation with friends.

From an 1897 book published by the state of Rhode Island:
The first General Assembly was held in May, 1647, at Portsmouth. On this occasion "it was voted and found that the major part of the colony were present at this assembly, whereby was full power to transact." The charter was adopted and a government formed under it. In 1648 the General Assembly met at Providence; in 1649 at Warwick; in 1650 at Newport.
The sessions of the assembly were usually limited in these early times to three or four days. The adjournments from day to day were commonly until 6 o'clock the next morning, or until half an hour or an hour after sunrise. At the meeting held in Portsmouth in June, 1655, the adjournment on the 29th of the month was "till morninge sunn an houre high and he that stays longer shall pay twelve pence." On June 29th the sun rises at 4:25 A.M., which brought the meeting of the assembly at about 5:30 in the morning.
               No suitable buildings being in existence, the assembly met in public inns or at the houses of prominent persons. In May, 1676, the assembly met in Newport at the house of Capt. Morris. This was undoubtedly Capt. Richard Morris, who was often the bearer of important letters between the assembly of Connecticut and of Rhode Island. In 1676 it was voted that the assembly "sett in time of election in the kitchen of Henry Palmer's house at Newport."
At different times during the latter part of the seventeenth century, the assembly met at the house of William Mayes, innkeeper of Newport [this would be the White Horse Tavern]; of John Davis, Newport; of Col. John Low, Warwick; of John Whipple, Providence. In 1734-5 the meeting place was at the house of the Widow Drake in East Greenwich; in 1738-41 at the house of Thomas Potter in Newport. In the "last year Thomas Potter was allowed £100 for the use of his house for holding the general elections and for the meetings of the assembly and the court.”
The first Colony House was erected at Newport about 1690. It was built of wood, and occupied the site of the present State House in Newport. It was used by the General Assembly and also by the town council of Newport. In 1694-5 the Rev. Nathaniel Clapp of Dorchester occupied the Colony House for religious meetings. It caused considerable dissatisfaction and resulted in the passage of a resolution by the General Assembly on July 2. 1695, "whereas several and most of the inhabitants, freemen of this colony, are dissatisfied that the Colony House is [approved] to other uses than what it was built for; therefore upon consideration thereof, by this assembly and to settle the House for the use it was built, do hereby order and declare, that the said Colony House in Newport, shall not be [approved] for any other use than judicial and military affairs: and not for any ecclesiastical use or uses of that nature." A portion of the first Colony House about 1738 or 1739 was moved to Prison Street in Newport, where it still stands occupied as a tenement house. Another portion was removed to Broad Street, now Broadway, iu Newport, and has since been entirely demolished.
Annual Report of the State Board of Pharmacy Made to the General Assembly. E.L. Freeman and Sons, Printers to the State: Providence, Rhode Island, 1897
The first paragraph says that the government meetings must "adjourn" (close) by an hour past sunrise. Because of the penalty for staying overtime, I take that to mean that they worked at their own business during the day and met for government business by night. Or perhaps the writer of the above report misused the word "adjourn" and meant "convene." Usually, the assembly met at least quarterly for several days, and sometimes more often.

Did you notice the final paragraph of that selection? It's another instance of Rhode Islanders believing heartily in the separation of church and state. They were upset that a minister held church services in the Colony House, and they resolved that the government building should be used only for judicial and military business. Rev. Clapp was a Congregational (Puritan) minister from Dorchester, Massachusetts who preached in Newport for 50 years. It's worth noting that even though the Puritans had cast out the original founders of Rhode Island, there were Puritan congregations meeting in peace right alongside the Episcopalians, Baptists, Quakers, Catholics, Jews, and others. As long as there was no mixture of religion and government, all was well.

Learn more about the White Horse Tavern at their website.

One of the dining rooms in the "new" part of the tavern,
added after the Revolutionary War.

When we arrived for our dinner reservation, the tavern
was packed, but as we were the last to leave, it was set up
for the next meal.

Tables and fireplace in the upstairs bar in the 1652 part
of the building. Imagine William Dyer eating a roast
chicken or seafood, and drinking with friends.

The bar upstairs, in the oldest part of the building. There
was another bar in another room, which had a Victorian-era
wooden "cage" around it that could be raised and lowered, probably
to keep the liquor from being stolen when the bar wasn't manned.

My Newport hosts, Paul and Valerie Debrule

For more photos of the White Horse Tavern, click this link:

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Visiting Newport Historical Society

© 2016 Christy K Robinson 
This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article. 

William Dyer's name is to the left
of the center tile.
Newport Historical Society
Museum and Shop.
Click to enlarge.

On my recent visit to Newport, Rhode Island, on a mission to do research, and get a Dyer monument project rolling, I visited the Newport Historical Society. Their museum and shop is located at the nearby Brickmarket. Outside the shop is a brick mosaic with the Newport co-founders' names on it.

At Newport Historical Society:
Christy Robinson, author, with Molly Bruce Patterson,
archivist and manager of digital initiatives. The documents
on the table were written by William Dyer, and there were
other documents written by William's descendant, about
90 years later.

I made an appointment to visit the Newport Historical Society to view documents in William Dyer's handwriting. They had several papers there from the 1640s, that I was able to breathe upon at least, though they're very fragile and touching 400-year-old documents is not a best practice for preservation. They photographed the documents (for a price) and sent me the links to download my purchases.

Seventh-day Baptists in Newport
While I was in the NHS headquarters building waiting for my appointment, my friend Valerie and I wandered around the main floor, and into a chapel. The NHS membership man, Mathew J. DeLaire, left his desk to show us around the chapel, which was actually an 18th-century Seventh-day Baptist meetinghouse. I asked if I could take photos of the room, but was told no. Click that link above to see the photos on their website.

The Sabbatarians (Saturday) and first-day (Sunday) Baptists shared the same minister, as I knew they did in Shiloh, New Jersey, where I had numerous SDB ancestors for many generations. In fact, there was a strong connection between Newport Baptists and the Shiloh Baptists: Obadiah Holmes, the Newport Baptist pastor when Dr. Jeremiah Clarke was acting as the Rhode Island agent in England, had a son by the same name. Obadiah Sr. was whipped to a bloody pulp by Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritans in 1651 when he celebrated Communion with a Baptist man in Salem. The son, Obadiah Holmes Jr., practiced his Baptist ministry in New Jersey and was a well-known colleague of Rev. Nathaniel Jenkins. Jenkins was a Baptist minister who also was a New Jersey assemblyman in the early 1700s. He stood up against a bill that would punish people for believing in a unitarian Deity rather than a trinitarian Deity, and the bill was quashed. Rev. Jenkins was only two or at most three "degrees of Kevin Bacon" from Mary Dyer! Read my article about Jenkins and religious liberty at

Charles Dyer's headstone in Newport's Common Burying Ground
I met Bert Lippincott, NHS librarian and genealogist, who marked a map of Common Burying Ground so I could visit the grave of Charles Dyer, 1650-1709. Charles may have been buried first on the Dyer home farm, where he lived after his father and brothers died. His remains were moved to the large cemetery later.
Common Burying Ground
click to enlarge

Dyre Avenue in the CBG cemetery

Christy K Robinson is the author of this Dyer website and three five-star-reviewed books on the Dyers, available by clicking these links. 
Christy K Robinson is author of the books:
·          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 Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)