BLTC Press Titles

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Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Old Naumkeag

by Charles Henry Webber


"England, with all thy faults I love thee Btill,—
My Country."

In religious matters those who came to Salem differed somewhat from those who established themselves at Plymouth. The former were not true separatists from the Church of England; they were dissenters from its corruptions, its intolerance, and its formula only. In the words of the ministers at Salem, to John and Samuel Brown in 1629, they separated "not from the Church of England, but from its corruptions." "We came away," said they, "from the common prayer and ceremonies in our native land; in this place of liberty we cannot, we will not, use them." On the other hand, the people who settled at Plymouth were separatists.

A few years after the settlement at Plymouth a number of persons led by Rev. John Lyford, dissatisfied with the extreme separation of the Colony and Church from the English Church, removed to Nantasket, near the entrance to Boston harbor, where they made a temporary settlement, and the next year (1625) removed again, this time to Cape Ann. Here they attempted to plant a farming, fishing and trading colony, and being joined by Mr. Lyford, and Roger Conant, the former was made preacher and the latter " governor." When Conant arrived at Cape Ann, which must have been some time in the fall of 1625, he found the affairs in an unsatisfactory state. The fishing had turned out unprofitable and there was much insubordination. He was unable to revive the interest, and in the fall of 1626 the settlement broke up, a portion of the people returning to England. Conant, it appears, had sailed up along the shores of the Cape as far as the mouth of the Naumkeag river during the summer of that year, and marked it as one evidently suitable as a "receptacle for such as upon the account of religion would be willing to begin a foreign plantation in this part of the world." Conant was a man of vigor and courage, and he succeeded on his return in breathing enough of his own spirit into those of the settlers who had not already returned, to induce them to follow him to Naumkeag; there to lay the foundation of a colony destined to plant the spirit of Puritanism so deeply and so firmly that amid the changes of two hundred and fifty years it still bears its impress.

Rev. Mr. White of Dorchester, England, who had been largely instrumental in planting the Cape Ann colony, felt grieved to learn that it must be abandoned, and in response to Conant's suggestion that a settlement might be effected at Naumkeag, wrote him that if he, John Balch, John Woodbury and Peter Palfrey, would "stay at Naumkeag and give timely notice thereof, he would provide a patent for them and send them whatever they should write for, either men, provisions or goods to trade with the Indians." We are not to understand from this letter of White's that only three men accompanied Conant to Naumkeag from Cape Ann. He alluded to these, doubtless, because of their prominence in the colony, or, perhaps, because Conant had made particular mention of them in his letter to Mr. White. The number who came hence from Cape Ann was about twenty-five, or one-half of the settlement there. Aside from the women and children there were Roger Conant, Humphrey Woodbury, John Lyford, John Woodbury, John Balch, Peter Palfrey, Walter Knight, William Allen, Thomas Gray, John Tylly, Thomas Gardner, Richard Norman and Son, William Trask, and William Jeffry. They left Capo Ann in September or October, 1626, taking with them all of their household goods and effects, and implements of husbandry. Their large frame house which was located a little to the westward of the site of the present city of Gloucester, on what is now known as "Stage Fort," they left standing. It was subsequently taken down and removed to Salem. Conant and his followers are thought to have landed from the South River, not far from the foot of Elm or Central streets as now laid out.

The majority of the party are supposed to have settled along the line of the present Essex street, near the site of the present First Church, and extending towards Nowbury street. Hardly had the first settlement been effected at Naumkeag, and preparations made for permanently abiding there, when dissatisfaction was manifested by some of the settlers. They were dissatisfied with the location, and with the prospects for the future, and they also professed a dread of interference from the Indians.

The desire to remove was heightened by the proposal of Mr. Lyford that they follow him to Virginia, whither he was to go at once. Several announced a determination to accept the offer. Had Conant consented to go with them, every member of the little wilderness settlement would have readily departed. But he would not go himself, and strongly urged the others to remain, declaring, that "they might go if they wished, and though all of them should forsake him, he should wait the providence of God in that place, not doubting that if they departed he should have more company." Again the reasoning of Conant prevailed and Lyford was obliged to depart unaccompanied. He died shortly after arriving at the Virginia settlement.

The mother country began to give increased attention to the infant colony at Naumkeag, and the prospects for the future were indeed cheering. In order that a better understanding might exist between the settlers and the company in England, John Woodbury was dispatched thither in the latter part of 1627, "to explain their condition to those interested in their prosperity." He remained some six months, and his mission appears to have been successful. In the month of March, 1628, the council of Plymouth for New England, "disregarding a former grant of a large district on Charles River," conveyed to Sir Henry Roswell, Sir John Young, Thomas Southcoate, John Humphreys, John Endicott and Simon Whitcomb, "The soil then denominated Massachusetts Bay," which was described as lying " between three miles to the northward of Merrimack River, and three miles to the southward of Charles River, and in length within the described breadth, from the Atlantic Ocean to the South Sea."

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