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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story

 Boston and The Founding of Massachusetts 

Barry Cotton

The pivotal role that Boston, Lincolnshire, played in the founding of Boston, Massachusetts, has yet to be fully recognized on either side of the Atlantic. During years of the Puritan Great Migration approximately 20,000 immigrants sailed from England to The New World. Included in this number were 166 people from the Boston, Lincolnshire area. Four of these Richard Bellingham, Simon Bradstreet, Thomas Dudley and John Leverett, became governor or deputy governor for all but four years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first fifty-eight years of existence.

Commemorative Plaque, in St Botolph’s Church for the five Boston men who become govenors of Boston Massachusetts

Plaque in St Botolph’s Church commemorating the five men from Boston, Lincolnshire who became govenors of Boston, Massachusetts.

Blaxton Memorial

Blaxton Memorial.

In April 1630 a fleet of 11 ships, commonly called the Winthrop Fleet after its leader John Winthrop, arrived at Salem. America. This settlement had been established several years earlier. Among the first colonists were Edmund Ingalls, his wife and their five children from Skirbeck. The Rev Samuel Skelton with his wife and their three children, from Tattershall arrived in a later migration. Rev Skelton had served as chaplain to the Earl of Lincoln, a known supporter of the new colonists. In 1629 the New England Company which had its America base in Salem was restructured and the Massachusetts Bay Company was formed. It obtained a new Royal Charter and, at a shareholders meeting later that year, it was proposed to move the new company from London to the New World. John Winthrop was elected governor.

Many began investing in the company, including ten men from Boston. They sent Thomas Coney, Boston’s town clerk, to submit their request to purchase £25 stock each. They included Atherton Hough, Boston’s mayor, Richard Bellingham, Boston’s MP, Simon Bradstreet, Thomas Dudley, Thomas Leverett, William Coddington, Charles Fiennes (brother to the Earl of Lincoln), Herbert Pelham, Abraham Mellows and Isaac Johnson.

Boston Massachusetts Skyline

Boston, MA (David Mark on Pixabay).

Although each eventually sailed to New England, only six actually accompanied Winthrop to Salem in 1630. Among them were Isaac Johnson, the chief financier of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and his wife, Lady Arabella, sister to the Earl of Lincoln. The flagship of the Winthrop Fleet was named The Arbella in her honour. Sadly not long after arriving in Salem, Lady Arabella died of scurvy.

While Salem was their initial destination they soon realized a more plentiful supply of fresh water would be needed for the growing numbers. Isaac Johnson’s friend and former college roommate, William Blaxton from Horncastle, who had sailed to New England with Robert Gorges in 1623, had settled on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1625. Knowing that the peninsula could provide plenty of water, Blaxton invited Isaac Johnson and the newly arrived colonists to settle Shawmut. Trimountaine, as the area was originally known, was renamed Boston on 7 September 1630, after the Lincolnshire town many of them had left. Ironically, Isaac Johnson died twenty-three days later, but the colony he helped create did not look back. It grew rapidly and by 1720 was the largest city in the colony, with a population of 12,000. New York’s population at that time was about 7,000.

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Boston Civil War

A large force of Royalists from Newark marched on Boston in 1643.

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St Botolph's Church

Rising above the Fens, St. Botolph's is an impressive historic landmark for Boston.

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History of Massachusetts

Colonised by English settlers in the early 1600s, Massechussets was originally inhabited by a number of Native American tribes. After colonisation, it was a well established port with ships travelling to the West Indies and Europe.

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Massachusetts Bay Colony

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement, formed on the east bay of North America from 1630 to 1691.

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Reverend John Cotton (1585-1652)

Reverend John Cotton is perhaps one of the best-known personalities to have lived in Boston, Lincolnshire. He served as the town’s vicar from 1612 until 1633. Cotton then became a mentor and a guide to America’s Founding Fathers after fleeing arrest in England for being Puritan. He helped in founding Boston, Massachusetts, established the first public school in North America when he created the Boston Latin School in 1635 and played a pivotal role in the founding of Harvard, America’s first university.

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