Ancestors: The Famous and the Infamous
We never know who we will find when we begin a search for ancestry. Many ordinary people fill our charts, but sometimes we find a famous or even an infamous figure from history appearing in our past.
I have several early Rhode Island settlers as ancestors. Fiercely independent and founded on separation of church and state, that colony was the first to guarantee all citizens freedom of worship. It was comprised of four settlements joined together with permission from England to form the Providence Plantations.
Roger Williams, a theologian and independent preacher was banished to England by the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his beliefs in separation of church and state and freedom of religion. He fled instead to the area now Rhode Island where he founded Providence in 1636.
Anne Hutchinson's strong religious convictions antagonized the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area, as did her popularity and charisma that attracted numerous followers. She aggravated her neighbor, Governor Winthrop, who had her tried in court and banished from the Massachusetts Bay colony. She also fled to Rhode Island and founded Portsmouth in 1638.
Samuel Gorton was first banished from Plymouth Colony and sent back to England for his strong religious beliefs contrary to the established Puritan church. He returned and was also driven out of both Providence and Portsmouth before settling Warwick in 1642.
William Coddington, originally a controversial follower of Hutchinson, left Portsmouth with several others and established the town of Newport in 1639 at the south end of the island. He became governor over the entire colony but was so dogged by controversy that Britain revoked his commission.
Williams, Hutchinson and Gorton are all among my ancestors. Of the three, Anne Hutchinson is my favorite. Born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England, she was the daughter of Francis Marbury, an Anglican minister and school teacher who educated her far beyond most other girls of her time.
Anne was a midwife, popular with women in her community. She gave Bible studies for women in her home which soon led to her teaching men also. The local ministers began complaining about her teaching which led to her trial, conviction, and banishment from the Bay colony in 1637.
After her husband's death around 1641, as Massachusetts Bay was threatening to take over Rhode Island, Hutchinson felt compelled to move farther outside the reach of Boston. She and her younger children settled in Dutch New Amsterdam, in what is now The Bronx part of New York City. The native Indians resented the settlers and attacked in August 1643. Anne and her entire family were massacred except for her nine-year old daughter, Susanna, who was taken captive. The Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant paid ransom to retrieve Susanna, my 9th great grandmother, back from the Indians.
A huge split rock at the southeast corner of the intersection of the New England Thruway (I-95) and the Hutchinson River Parkway in Westchester County, New York bears a plaque marking the site of the massacre of Anne and her family. A bronze statue honoring Anne Hutchinson and her young daughter Susanna dedicated in 1922 still stands today in front of the State House in Boston. Historian Eva LaPlante, also a Hutchinson descendant has written American Jezebel, an excellent book about Anne's life.
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25 November 2013