Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy anniversary to us!

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

Today is the fourth anniversary of going live with this William and Mary Barrett Dyer research blog in 2011. I’d been writing articles for a year before that, so I’d have material with which to make a splash. My desire is to share with you not only the extraordinary people the Dyers and their friends and enemies were, but give you a new take on what their motivations might have been in light of 21st-century research.

A snapshot today shows that this blog has passed 167,000 page views, and visitors are clicking in from 148 countries, including United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil, Netherlands, India, Ireland, and Italy.

Of the 131 posts published, the top stories are:
Page views from 2011 to 2015
Surprise! There’s still a large file of ideas to develop, to bring you many more posts about the Dyers and their culture.

I’ve found numerous articles copied and pasted into other people’s ancestry blogs and in newsletters as diverse as an astronomy site in southern England. Though I’m a little bit flattered that readers liked them, this is not cool. Flattery does not pay my bills. It’s a violation of my copyright. I did the research and the writing and polishing, and I haven’t been paid by anyone or any publisher. If I advertise my books and letter reproductions in the blogs, it’s a small way of recouping my expenditures. But my products are not being copied along with the purloined articles. If you borrow or steal my copy instead of linking to MY web pages, you’re doing me no favors. Some articles were graciously written by guest authors, and I’ve noted that in every copyright byline and the author tag at the end of the post, along with links to their sites or products. Please respect our rights and ask permission. Simply asking to use the articles will probably result in pleasant chat and a “yes.”
Sparking juice, wine, or
whatever you like--

A hearty thank-you to everyone who has shared these posts in social media, commented, or “followed” this blog. You've become friends, and we've discovered distant cousin relationships between this blog and Facebook pages. That's a fantastic side effect I never anticipated.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Dyers’ 1635 voyage from England to New England

and the Great August Hurricane

© 2015 by Christy K Robinson
A ship of the time, in 1638: William Rainsborough’s
warship, Sovereign of the Sea, was used in the wars
of the Barbary Coast. Rainsborough, a contemporary
of Gov. John Winthrop, was the father of Winthrop’s
fourth wife, Martha, and of Judith, who married
Stephen Winthrop.
Autumn 1635—Three hundred eighty years ago, William and Mary Dyer boarded an English ship with their Westminster neighbor, Henry Vane the Younger, and perhaps 100 others, and sailed to new Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony. No one knows the name of the ship or the exact date they arrived, but it probably arrived in October before one of the terrible winters of the Little Ice Age. Ship passages took an average of eight weeks if the winds were favorable, and up to twelve weeks if not.

The strongest hurricane ever to come ashore in New England made landfall in mid-August 1635, between Connecticut and Cape Cod, with massive 20-foot storm surges and winds that knocked down thousands of trees. Modern meteorologists estimate sustained winds of 135mph, from the descriptions of damages. Depending on which calendar historians used, Julian (old style) or Gregorian (new style, which we use now), the date for the hurricane is as early as August 13 or as late as August 26. Either way, the damage to shorelines and forest was still visible for many years.

Some historians have said that the eye of the storm passed between Boston and Plymouth. Native Americans in Narragansett Bay climbed high into trees to keep from being swept away by the waves. Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony wrote, “Diverce vessels were lost at sea, and many more were in extreme danger… It caused ye sea to swell about 20 foote, right up & downe, and made many of the Indeans to clime into trees for their safetie.”

The 400-ton Great Hope, a ship full of passengers and their possessions, was just sailing into Massachusetts Bay when the gale struck them. They were driven aground near Charlestown, but when the wind shifted, they were blown back out on the Bay, and with the storm surge, pushed back aground at Charlestown. Those people survived, but a small pinnace broke up at Marblehead, and two families were washed away. On the pinnace, only Mr. and Mrs. Thacher survived, injured, but they lost all their children and goods.

Imagine leaving your home country, and being in sight of the shore of the Promised Land--and losing your entire family.  

An English passenger ship, James, full of new immigrants (including my ancestors Hannah and John Ayers), nearly foundered as they came south along the New England coast, making for Boston.
Rev. Increase Mather wrote, "At this moment,... their lives were given up for lost; but then, in an instant of time, God turned the wind about, which carried them from the rocks of death before their eyes. ...her sails rent in sunder, and split in pieces, as if they had been rotten ragges..."

Wikipedia: They tried to stand down during the storm just outside the Isles of Shoals, but lost all three anchors, as no canvas or rope would hold, but on Aug 13, 1635, torn to pieces, and not one death, all one hundred plus passengers of the James managed to make it to Boston Harbor.

There would have been search and rescue parties looking for survivors up and down the coast and small islands. I haven't found records of salvage operations, but the colonists were fully aware of their rights to salvage wreckage and possessions lost in shipwrecks.

August 1635 was about the time when the ship carrying the Dyers and Henry Vane would have left England to arrive by October, so it’s unlikely that they’d have been affected by that particular hurricane, unless the storm rode the Gulf Stream and they caught it in the North Atlantic. Even if they weren't caught in a tropical storm or hurricane themselves, they probably experienced high waves and winds from distant storms. There was always a high risk of violent storms.

Some of my research indicated that Puritans leaving England at that time had to swear loyalty to the King (the Dyers were royalists, so no problem there) and pay a large tax (or bribe) to be permitted to leave the country, so there’s speculation that some emigrants sneaked out on trading ships by way of Barbados and the Caribbean, and then up to Boston, which might be why not every emigrant shows up in passenger lists.

Ships rarely traveled alone. For armed protection from pirates, and to share resources (like physician or midwife), or if another ship needed repairs, they traveled in convoy. The ships carried not only the colonists and their many children, but their servants, the materials and tools the colonists needed to build homes, some livestock, seeds, furnishings, enough food for 18 months, clothing, guns and powder, and goods they couldn’t get or make in the wilderness of the New World. Privacy might have consisted of sheets hung from ropes. I’ve not seen a description of hygiene, but imagine that some passengers were seasick, others had diarrhea, there was animal waste, and children in nappies. Probably pregnant women and gassy men whose diet consisted of legumes and salted fish or meat. Although they could wash themselves with basins and towels, there weren't tubs or showers.

For John Winthrop's account of his fleet's 1630 arrival in New England, see

The Memoir of Captain Roger Clapp said that on board the ships, there were two sermons every day of the 70 days they were upon the deep. From the other paragraphs of his memoir, Capt. Clapp (my uncle about 14 generations back), describes this intensely religious sequestering as joyful and grace-filled, nothing like we’d consider with dread. He wrote of the frights and starvation of landing in Dorchester and trying to survive the polar vortexes of the Massachusetts winter, but Capt. Clapp was a silver-linings man of deep faith.
“For was it not a wondrous work of God, to put it into the hearts of so many worthies to agree together, when times were so bad in England that they could not worship God after the due manner prescribed in his most holy word, but they must be imprisoned, excommunicated, etc., I say that so many should agree to make unto our sovereign lord the King to grant them and such as they should approve of, a Patent of a tract of land in this remote wilderness, a place not inhabited but by the barbarous nations? And was it not a wondrous good hand of God to incline the heart of our King freely to grant it, with all the privileges which the Patent [Massachusetts Bay Colony charter] expresseth? And what a wondrous work of God was it, to stir up such worthies to undertake such a difficult work, as to remove themselves and their wives and children from their native country, and to leave their gallant situations there, to come into this wilderness to set up the pure worship of God here — men fit for government in the magistracy and in families, and sound, learned, godly men for the ministry, and others that were very precious men and women, who came in the year 1630.”

Mary Dyer either gave birth during the 1635 voyage, or shortly after their arrival in Boston, because their second son, Samuel, was baptized in December 1635 at Boston First Church of Christ by Rev. John Wilson. Imagine being heavily pregnant or giving birth in a 300-400-ton ship rolling around in the Atlantic Ocean in hurricane season.  

But if the Dyers and other early colonists were anything like Capt. Clapp, they took their difficult experiences as a challenge and necessary discipline as God’s chosen people, building the New Jerusalem society.

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Aug. 9-16: Chance to win a Dyer book at Unusual Historicals

Yes, you'll have to click another link, but there, you'll be able to read two articles on the Unusual Historicals website:
1. an excerpt from Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, and
2. an author Q&A with Christy K Robinson. (Click the highlighted words to go there.) Clicking will open new tabs, so you won't have to leave this site.

On either of the posts, you can leave a comment (or question), with your email, to be entered in the drawing. The Unusual Historicals team will choose the lucky winner. The prize is an autographed paperback to US postal addresses, or a Kindle edition to US or international readers. After the drawing is made, the two articles will remain on their website.

Thinking about reading the Dyer books? You should, if you enjoy escaping to a different time and culture, and being entertained while you learn. And if you're a descendant of any of the following notable people, you could learn a lot about what your ancestors were doing and how they affected history.
William and Mary Barrett Dyer
William and Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Edward Hutchinson
Katherine Marbury Scott
Roger Williams
Sir Henry Vane
Nicholas Easton
Rev. John Cotton
Gov. John Winthrop Sr.
Capt. John Underhill
Gov. William Coddington
Nathaniel Sylvester of Shelter Island
Rev. John Davenport
Rev. John Wilson
Gov. John Endecott
Rev. Obadiah Holmes
Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick
The first Quaker missionaries

I recommend the paperback editions because they have character lists, maps, and extensive end notes. They're easier to refer to than the Kindle versions, though the Kindle contains exactly the same material.  Where to find the books?

If you've read the books and would like to discuss them, why not hold a discussion group about them in your home, book club, or church hall? The author can speak with your small group by phone or Skype.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The 17th century woman barbecues

© 2015 Christy K Robinson
Meat turns on spits at a cookhouse or tavern.

Gervase Markham’s book, The English Housewife, was published in 1615, when Mary Barrett (Dyer) was a small child, just the age to have to watch carefully around the large kitchen hearth with its multiple hot spots for roasting, baking, and boiling. She would have been raised to a familiarity with cooking for a household of adults, children, and servants.

We don’t know if she merely had an introduction to hearth cooking in order to supervise servants, or if she performed the work herself. But when the Dyers moved from London to new Boston in late 1635, and set up their home, they might have been short-handed until they were more firmly established. The chores for the colonial settlers were endless: candle-making, soap-making, beer brewing, food and herb gardening, domestic animal feeding, milking, and slaughter, cleaning, sewing and weaving, preparing summer food for winter storage, and a multitude of other tasks.

A look at Markham's barbecue lessons reveals that not much has changed in 400 years. Who doesn’t take primal satisfaction in food cooked over a fire, from steaks to S’mores to mystery-meat hot dogs? Vegetarians and vegans like a slight char on their vegetable skewer. People still love a barbecue meal, whether it’s a holiday party on the patio, or a sit-down in the restaurant. 

What we'd call barbecued or grilled, Markham called meat that’s cooked over flames “carbonado.” That’s not far off what we call burned food: carbonized. 

From The English Housewife, by Gervase Markham, 1615. 

"The Cook" by Bernardo.
On Carbonadoes
Charbonadoes, or carbonadoes, which is meat broyled upon the coals (and the invention thereof was first brought out of France as appears by the name) are of divers kinds according to mens pleasures; for there is no meat either boyled or roasted whatsoever, but may afterwards be broyled if the master thereof be disposed, yet the general dishes which for the most part are to be carbonadoed, are a breast of Mutton half boyled; a shoulder of Mutton half roasted, the legs, wings, and carkasses of Capon, Turkey, Goose or any other fowl whatsoever, especially Land fowl.  

What is to be carbonadoed
And lastly, the uttermost thick skin which covereth the ribbs of beef, and is called (being boyled,) the Inns of Court Goose, and is indeed a dish used most for wantonness, sometimes to please the appetite, to which may also be added the broyling of Pigs heads, or the brains of any fowl whatsoever after it is rosted and drest.

The manner of Carbonadoing

This scored meat was called "skotched."
Now for the manner of Carbonadoing, it is in this sort; you shall first take the meat you must Carbonado, and scotch [score or cut deeply] it both above and below; then sprinkle good store of salt upon it, and baste it all over with sweet butter melted; which done, take your Broyling-iron, I do not mean a Grid-iron (though it be much used for those purpose) because of the smoak of the coals, occasioned by the dropping of the meat, will ascend about it, and make it stink: but a Plate iron made with hooks and pricks, on which you may hang the meat; and set it close before the fire, and so the Plate heating the meat behind, as the fire doth before, it will both the sooner and with more neatness be ready: then, having turned it, and basted it till it be very brown, dredge it, and serve it up with Vinegar and Butter.

"The Vegetable Stall" by Quiringh van Brekelenkam

Of the toasting of Mutton
Touching the toasting of Mutton, Venison, or any joynt of Meat, which is the most excellentest of all Carbanadoes, you shall take the fattest and the largest that can possibly be got (for lean meat is less of flavour, and little meat not worth your time:) and having scotcht it and cast Salt upon it, you shall set it on a strong fork, with a dripping pan underneath it, before the face of a quick fire, yet so far off that it may be no means scorch, but toast at leasure; then with that which falls from it, and wiht no other basting, see that you baste it continually, turning it ever and anon many times and so oft that it may soak and brown at great leasure, and as oft as you baste it, to oft sprinkle Salt upon it, and as you see it toast, scotch it deeper and deeper, epecially in the thickest and most fleshy parts where the blood most resteth, and when you see that no more blood droppeth from it, but the gravy is clear and white, then you shall serve it up either with Venison sauce, with Vinegar, Pepper, and Sugar Cinnamon, and the juyce of an Orange mixt together, and warmed with some of the gravy. 

Christy K Robinson is the author of The Dyers trilogy of books and Kindle ebooks. They chronicle the greatest people of the Great Migration: Mary and William Dyer, John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, Edward Hutchinson, Katherine Scott, Henry Vane, and many others. For links to these five-star-reviewed books, click HERE

Saturday, June 20, 2015

William Dyer’s boyhood

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

There’s no biography or journal that can describe the boyhood of William Dyer, 1609-1677, but we can learn some details by looking at his background and what he studied as a boy and youth in Kirkby LaThorpe, Lincolnshire, a village and parish about 15 miles west of Boston.
1615, boy with golf club,
unknown artist,
from the blog of
Barbara Wells Sarudy,

William Dyer’s father (also William) and grandparents probably came from the southern county of Somerset. The father was a yeoman farmer in Kirkby LaThorpe, which means he owned his farm, in contrast to others who rented, and that was a sign of the rising middle class. It may be that even though he wasn’t the firstborn, William senior's parents set him up with a substantial inheritance. Or maybe the money came from a financially advantageous marriage. Why he moved so far is a mystery, unless the land came to him by marriage or distant relationship (see below).

Our William was born and baptized in September 1609. He had an older brother, a younger sister, and perhaps more siblings who were miscarried or died as infants. In 1624, he was apprenticed in London, in a prestigious guild that produced councilmen and mayors for the city of London, and this was no mean accomplishment. So he must have been a worthy student as a boy. Where was he educated? Where did he learn that elegant penmanship that distinguishes his writing from the undecipherable scratchings of his Massachusetts and Rhode Island contemporaries?

The current location of Carre's Grammar School may not be the exact
location where William Dyer attended school, but it's probably close.

Screenshot from Google Maps, click to enlarge.
Not quite three miles west of Kirkby LaThorpe, where William was born, is the larger town of Sleaford. It was a market and mill town lying near the Great Northern Road built by the Romans, and the Boston Road to the river port that led to the North Sea. After the Norman Conquest, when King William took over the Saxon and Danish holdings, Sleaford and surrounding lands were owned first by appointed barons, and then by the Catholic Church, until the Dissolution under Henry VIII. The church properties (farms, manors, houses) were appropriated by Henry's treasury, and sold off as favors to aristocrats and gentry. The area between Sleaford and Boston was purchased and controlled by the Carre family. And they may have sold a parcel of farmland to William Dyer the elder.

In 1581, during the reign of Elizabeth I, Robert Carre was High Sheriff of Lincolnshire. He’d been treasurer of the army when the Catholics of Northumberland and Durham rebelled against Protestant Queen Elizabeth. Sir Robert was married twice, but had no children. (Robert’s youngest brother, Edward Carre, married for the second time to an Anne Dyer and had three children with her before he died in 1618. There may be a distant relationship between Anne Dyer Carre and our William Dyer, and the Carre family came from Somerset, too, but there’s no proof of a relationship. Dyer was a common name all over England. (If you’re doing genealogy, you need proof. This is circumstantial and does not constitute proof.)

In 1604, in one of many acts of benevolence, Sir Robert Carre founded a school for boys of all the nearby villages, called the Free Grammar School of Sleaford. A hundred-acre estate he’d inherited from his second wife endowed the school, and any excess funds were distributed as alms to the poor. Sir Robert died in 1606. The school has gone through a few tough times in 400 years, but lives today as a boys' school for ages 11-18, Carre’s Grammar School. It's coed in the sixth form (years 12-13). The school's earliest location and building(s) from the 17th century are unknown.

Young William Dyer would have begun his formal education at the Free Grammar School, but at that time, a boy had to be able to read and write before he entered the school, so there would have been home-schooling first. His father was a churchwarden, who recorded births, marriages, and deaths, and the history of the church: he was literate. Teaching little children to write their letters and numbers involved the child tracing large letters with a dry pen or chalk, then writing the figures repeatedly until they’d mastered one letter after the other.

William Dyer's handwriting in the 1640s.
The curricula for the early 17th-century grammar school consisted of religion, grammar (Latin and its translation, literature reading, rhetoric/composition), sciences, history, geography, mathematics, and music.

In the sciences, Botany, Zoology, Physiology and Anatomy were differentiated and developed by classifications which marked the scientific movement away from the old Aristotelian authority in the advance towards the modern treatment. Magnetism, Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Chemistry and Geology began to claim treatment separately... 

Up to the end of the Commonwealth [1659], the Grammar Schools of England may be regarded as apparently exclusively classical instruction, with the exception — a most important exception — as we shall see, that under medieval Catholicism, and afterwards under 16th and 17th century Puritanism, they were, in intention and largely in practice, permeated with moral, religious, and pietistic instruction. The English grammar schools to 1660: their curriculum and practice 
Writing was sometimes an extracurricular course. (See end of this article for a how-to on teaching writing.) Grammar schools from Halifax to Southwark, Guildford to Durham, required that students speak Latin at school, not English. Schoolmasters appointed observers to enforce the practice.

The headmasters of Carre’s Free Grammar School were required to be alumni of Cambridge or Oxford University. Before 1624, when William Dyer left for his apprenticeship, the headmasters were William Etherington of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from 1615 to 1619, when he was ordained a priest in the Church of England; and John Kitchen of Christ’s College, Cambridge, from 1619 to 1622. Kitchen was an ordained deacon, and the headmaster who followed him was ordained a priest, so religion would have been a large portion of the boys’ studies.

Outside of school terms, the young William Dyer would have done chores on the family farm, and learned to fish and hunt fowl in the fens. He would be adept at rowing and sailing shallops (shallow-draft boats). He'd play ball games, and skate on the frozen fens in winter. If his father took hay, grain, rapeseed, vegetables, or wool to market at Lincoln, Sleaford, or Boston, he’d have learned the skills of bargaining and salesmanship, and the math required for weights, measures, and monetary transactions.

William Dyer was a lifelong learner. After his nine-year London apprenticeship and his marriage to Mary Barrett, he took the huge step of emigrating to the new Boston and was appointed as clerk to a building commission, and was a member of a trading mission to buy food from the Native Americans. Between 1639 and 1650, he was on a road-surveying and land-apportionment commission, he studied law “on the job,” and was appointed Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, Recorder, and the first Attorney General in North America. Also during that time, he was promoted to militia captain, ran his own farm, and traded or invested in the triangle of trade between England and Europe, the Caribbean, and New England. He would have learned how to navigate and sail a ship. In 1652, he was commissioned by the English Council of State as commander-in-chief-upon-the-sea and he was one of the judges of New England's first admiralty court. He was also appointed Solicitor General for Rhode Island. He was instrumental in framing the Rhode Island charter of liberties that became a model for this country’s First Amendment.

William didn’t just fall into those jobs through good looks or inherited wealth and titles. He applied himself to his studies and his work, and earned the results.

Doesn’t that make you want to put down the TV remote?

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


How to teach writing, 17th-century style.  From the 1891 book by Henry Sage, "The English grammar schools to 1660: their curriculum and practice"

1. The Scholar should be set to write, when he enters into his accidence so every day to spend an hour in writing, or very near.

'2. There must be special care, that every one who is to write, have all necessaries belonging thereunto ; as pen, ink, paper, ruler, plummet, ruling-pen, pen-knife, etc.

'3. The like care must be, that their ink be thin, black, clear; which will not run abroad nor blot; their paper good; that is, such as is white, smooth, and which will bear ink, and also that it be made in a book. Their writing books would be kept fair, straight ruled, and each to have a blotting paper to keep their books from soiling, or marring under their hands.

'4. Cause every one of them to make his own pen, other-wise the making and mending of pens will be a very great hindrance, both to the masters and to the scholars. Besides that, when they are away from their masters (if they have not a good pen made before) they will write naught, because they know not how to make their pens themselves.

'The best manner of making the pen is thus:

'1. Choose the quill of the best and strongest of the wing, which is somewhat harder, and will cleave.

'2. Make it clean with the back of the pen-knife.

'3. Cleave it straight up the back ; first with a cleft made with your pen-knife, after with another quill put into it, rive it further by little and little, till you see the cleft to be very clean; so you may make your pen of the best of the quill, and where you see the cleft to be the cleanest and without teeth. If it do not cleave without teeth, cleave it with your pen-knife in another place, still nearer the back ; for if it be not straight up the back it will very seldom run right. After, make the neb and cleft both about one length, somewhat above a barley-corn breadth, and small, so as it may let down the ink, and write clean. Cut the neb first slant downwards to make it thin, and after straight overthwart. Make both sides of equal bigness, unless you be cunning to cut that side, which lieth upon the long finger, thinner and shorter; yet so little, as the difference can hardly be discerned. But both of equal length is accounted the surest.

'The speediest and surest way to learn to make the pen is this: When your scholar shall have a good pen fit for his hand, and well-fashioned ; then to view and mark that well, and to try to make one in all things like unto it. It were good for the learner to procure such a pen made, and to keep it for a pattern, to make others by, until he be very perfect in it. A child may soon learn to make his pen; yet, few of age do know how to make their own pens well, although they have written long and very much, neither can any attain to write fair without that skill.'

The pen is to be held close to the nib, the thumb and two forefingers almost closed together round the nib 'like unto a cat's foot, as some of the scriveners call it.' The pen must be carried lightly so as to glide on the paper. To save 'that endless toil of setting copies,' a little copy-book is to be fastened to the top of the boy's writing-book with a strong thread, a span long, so that when he writes, the copy-book may lie close before him, and the side of the copy may be placed almost to touch the line he is writing so that his eye may be upon the copy and his letter together. The copies thus will not get lost nor the scholar write without them. The writing-book should be quarto size. The copy-book should not be more than two inches in breadth, and is to contain four or six copies in a book, half Secretary, half Roman. One line of the copy should contain small letters, and under that ‘great' letters; and under both, a line or two of 'joining' hand containing all the letters in them.

For Secretary, the copy may be: ‘Exercise thyself much in God's book, with zealous and fervent prayers and requests.'

Friday, June 12, 2015

How Sabbath and ‘The Book of Sports’ drove 35,000 Puritans to America

© 2015 Christy K Robinson
(Click highlighted words to open a new tab with related article.)

 When we think of "Sabbath" today, we think of taking a break or a sabbatical. When our ancestors "remembered the Sabbath day to keep it holy," they took their lives in their hands.
The English Parliament of 1584-1585, on behalf of the growing Puritan movement, passed a bill requiring strict observance of the Sabbath (Sunday, the first day of the week), which forbade markets and fairs, and recreation such as bear-baiting, hunting, hawking, and rowing barges—during church services (either the afternoon wasn’t as much of an issue, or they intended to take up the matter of the entire day at a later time). It was discussed for eight days over two weeks before passing and being sent to the Queen.
That this Bill concerning the Sabbath, as hath been before observed, was long in passing the two Houses, and much debated betwixt them, being committed, and Amendments upon Amendments added unto it, which as appeareth in this place was the cause of some Disputation between the Lords and the said Commons.  

Queen Elizabeth I vetoed the bill, in line with her policy of religious tolerance in her realm. (Though Catholics were still on the Naughty List for decades to come.)
And yet at last when it was agreed on by both the said Houses, it was dashed by her Majesty at the last day of this Parliament, upon that prejudicated and ill followed Principle (as may be conjectured) that she would suffer nothing to be altered in matter of Religion or Ecclesiastical Government.

(That sounds like the parliamentary recorder/secretary disagreed with the Queen's decision!) 

Puritan Nicholas Bownde wrote a scholarly book in 1595, True Doctrine of the Sabbath, urging Christians to sanctify the Sabbath as a day of meditation and spiritual exercises (morning and afternoon preaching services). These Sabbaths were meant to follow the Old Testament verses about keeping the Sabbath holy by not working or “doing your own pleasure” on that special day, as it was a moral imperative. They were to be solemn and sober, with no secular speech or acts. Queen Elizabeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury decreed that copies of the book be collected and burned in 1600 and 1601.

In 1601, the House of Commons passed a bill that only restricted markets and fairs on Sundays, but the House of Lords killed it. Queen Elizabeth died two years later, and King James I came to the throne. His authority was threatened by Puritans and other Calvinist dissenters (like the group who became the Pilgrims), whose influence was growing ever stronger and whose sermons and pronouncements conflicted with the King’s authority. One of his first acts was to commission a new version of the Bible which stressed the sovereignty of God and the hierarchy of worldly kings and princes, and the Authorized Version (or as many of us know it, the King James Version—KJV) was published in 1611.

However, those dissenters continued to agitate all over England. In 1617-18, the King went on a progress through the country, holding courts and meeting his subjects. One of the complaints he heard was that the usual work week being Monday through Saturday, from dawn to dusk, people needed time for recreation, markets, fun fairs, visiting family, and the like. People were required to attend services on Sunday morning, but needed the afternoon break. And the Puritans were stopping that by holding two long services on Sunday.

As answer to the problem of overwork and an unbalanced life—and that should he need soldiers for war, they’d be puny and weak—King James wrote The Book of Sports. In modern terms, it uses three pages of 12-point, single-space type, so it wasn’t large, but it was mighty! The book directed his subjects to go to church on Sunday morning and religious holidays as required, but to spend the afternoon enjoying life. He commanded that “no lawful recreation shall be barred to our good people,” and listed appropriate activities for those days:
such as dancing, either men or women; archery for men, leaping, vaulting, or any other such harmless recreation, nor from having of May-games, Whitsun-ales, and Morris-dances; and the setting up of May-poles and other sports therewith used: so as the same be had in due and convenient time, without impediment or neglect of divine service: and that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the church for the decorating of it, according to their old custom; but withal we do here account still as prohibited all unlawful games to be used upon Sundays only, as bear and bull-baitings, interludes and at all times in the meaner sort of people by law prohibited, bowling.

Really? Bowling? That could be because one objective was to win the most points by knocking down the kingpin (was that seen as sedition?), or because of this:
The Character of a Bowling-Alley and Bowling-Green A Bowling-Green, or Bowling-Ally is a place where three things are thrown away besides the Bowls, viz. Time, Money, and Curses, at the last ten for one.  

Catholics and non-conformists were barred from Sunday recreation because they didn’t attend approved Church of England services. Further, the King commanded that The Book of Sports be read in every church, and held the bishops, ministers, and churchwardens accountable that it should be done “by the book.”

King James died in 1625, and the book was reissued several times by his son, Charles I. Charles and the Parliament were at odds over authority and taxation, and the Scots and English churches were in conflict with their respective archbishops, Spottiswoode and Laud. In an attempt to control the Puritan (and other non-conformists) uprising, King Charles decreed that The Book of Sports be read again in all churches, and churches must conform to CofE’s Book of Common Prayer—which was also a hated book. If Puritan ministers would not conform, they were “silenced” (removed from the pulpit and not licensed to preach) and some were put in prison. And prison could be a death sentence.
…the Bishop, and all other inferior churchmen and churchwardens, shall for their parts be careful and diligent, both to instruct the ignorant, and convince and reform them that are misled in religion, presenting them that will not conform themselves, but obstinately stand out, to our Judges and Justices: whom we likewise command to put the law in due execution against them.

However, there was a clause in Sports that many Puritan ministers latched onto.
...either constraining them to conform themselves or to leave the county.

Leave the country.

The thing is, the King didn't want them to leave the country because he would lose out on all that lovely tax base. If they sneaked out, they couldn’t go to Catholic France or Spain, and Lutheran (pretty close to Catholic!) Germany and Austria were at war with France, Italy, and Spain. Some, like the Pilgrims of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, went to the Netherlands for ten years before they sailed to Plymouth. One of their leaders, their pastor John Robinson, is my ancestor 12 generations back. His treatise on the Sabbath, A Just and Necessary Apology, was published in 1625, the year he died.

For the vast majority of Puritans, though, there was no place to go but America, still under English rule, but a safe 3,000 miles by ocean journey away from the King and archbishops.

Some ministers escaped the long arm of the law by hiding with the help of sympathizers like the Earl of Lincoln—until the Earl was imprisoned. The senior pastor of the Boston St. Botolph’s, Rev. John Cotton, was one of the many ministers who had to hide before escaping to New England. Ten percent of the citizens of Boston, Lincolnshire, emigrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony with or shortly after John Cotton went there. (Cotton had been asked to come to Massachusetts several times, but declined until he was pushed out of England by fear of prison.)

William and Anne Marbury Hutchinson followed Rev. Cotton to Boston. William and Mary Dyer were married in the Anglican church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, but in 1635 were admitted to the Puritan membership in Boston’s First Church (and they were exiled from it in 1638). 

Entire towns in Essex and many other counties emptied and sailed to the new Boston between 1630 and 1640. It’s estimated that about 35,000 people moved to New England during that decade. When the English Civil Wars began, with Puritans in ascendancy, thousands of the emigrants moved back to England. In May 1643, The Book of Sports was burned by angry Puritans. 

Puritans now controlled the government, and they burned the hated
"Book of Sports" in May 1643.

People who had had such a threat of persecution and death were deeply convicted of the truth of their beliefs. They followed the Ten Commandments and other Old Testament laws to the letter, to prove to God that they were worthy of salvation. The fourth commandment, to keep the Sabbath holy, was one of the factors that caused their persecution in the first place. Obedience to God was worth moving across the world, or dying for.

Both on the ships, and in New England, they followed their stringent regulations about Sabbath-keeping. The English church holidays like Christmas and Easter were prohibited, and people were expected to work as usual. Church services with required attendance were held morning and afternoon on Sundays. During the Sabbath there was no alcohol consumption, no unseemly walking, no court or corporal punishment, no work that could be done another day (like laundry or beer brewing), no swimming, no buying or selling, no games or dances, no unnecessary travel, no hunting or fishing. The music or literature was sacred, never secular. Sabbath began at sundown on Saturday evening and ended during the night before Monday.

I had ancestors in the Salem, Massachusetts, area who emigrated there as Puritans, fleeing The Book of Sports style of Christianity. But at some point they converted to Baptist beliefs and risked beatings, fines, and imprisonment. They moved to New Jersey and formed a town and congregation there. They became Sabbatarians (seventh-day/Saturday was their holy day) in the 1710s and shared their Baptist minister with a first-day congregation. That branch stayed Seventh-day Baptist from then until the 20th century.

Some people who are from, or still in, Sabbatarian denominations (Seventh-day Adventist, Seventh-day Baptist, Church of God, etc.) have experienced that list of prohibitions, and it doesn’t seem foreign at all. Some see that 17th-century culture and marvel at the legalism of the Puritans and their spiritual descendants. But perhaps we can look at that strength of character, that integrity, that obey-God-rather-than-men resolve, and admire them. We can remember that we carry the DNA of those godly pioneers in our bodies and that moral fiber in our culture.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV.

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mary Dyer's execution, 1 June 1660--book excerpt

Mary Dyer was not hanged "for the crime of being a Quaker," despite what Quaker writers have promoted for more than a century. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Quakers in Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colonies, who were Quakers. They were persecuted, but not executed, for not attending Puritan/Congregational churches, and for not taking oaths (which meant they couldn't be sworn onto juries). According to Massachusetts court records, Mary and the three male Quakers were hanged because they intentionally broke their banishment law, that was contrary to English law.

Mary never claimed that, either. She committed civil disobedience believing that God had commanded her to go back to Massachusetts to ask them to "repeal your unrighteous laws of banishment on pain of death."

It was no accident that Mary Dyer returned to Massachusetts against her death-penalty banishment--she didn't sneak back, she arrived on a specific date for the purpose of civil disobedience. She forced the theocratic government to execute her, a high-status, well-known woman innocent of anything but carrying out Jesus' commission in Matthew 25, in the hope that her death would be so shocking that the people would cry out to the government to cease their bloody persecution and allow liberty of conscience (what we call religious freedom and separation of church and state).

My extensive research, just for this short section, included books by Quaker historians, and the records of Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court, as well as the backgrounds of all the people involved, from Gov. Endecott to the militia (their formation and purpose), and the hangman.

Excerpt from Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This
copyright 2014, by Christy K Robinson.

All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

June 1, 1660
Boston, Massachusetts
As she had been last October, Mary was surrounded by a troop of more than a hundred musketeers and pikemen who were there to protect the officials of the court from the angry mob. Captain Oliver was the officer in charge of the guard today.
Word had spread quickly overnight, and this day thousands of men, women, and children were spread out along the streets as if for a parade. Others waited at the gallows for the spectacle to come to them. Should she attempt to speak, before and behind her, military men beat the slow execution drum call to drown out the sound of her voice.
Brrr-tap-tap-rest. Brrr-tap-tap-rest. Brrr-tap-tap-rest. Brrr-tap-tap-rest.
The monotonous, repetitive beat set the pace for the walk along Tremont Road, part of the Common, and finally, to the fortification and gate of the city of Boston. Then they were out on the isthmus, or Boston Neck, where the road led to Roxbury. Hundreds more people surged up from the towns of Roxbury and Weymouth.
Mary remembered that the last execution here had been a chilly autumn day, appropriate, perhaps, for the murder of the two dear young men. Today, though, was a day at the height of spring, with daisies on the Common turning their faces toward the sun, and dandelion seed puffs drifting on the breeze from the bay.
It was just such a day, exactly twenty-two years ago, that the great earthquake had rumbled across New England, and the little group of people praying with Anne Hutchinson had felt the Pentecostal filling of the Holy Spirit.
And thirty years ago this day, Mary remembered seeing the noon-day comet that marked the birth of the future King Charles the Second, and presaged war, famine, and plague. What was it that John Donne had preached at St. Paul’s? That
“all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.”

Like all memories, these flashed through Mary’s mind in still pictures, like landscape paintings. One could view the scene all at once, or stop and decipher the symbolism. She had lived them and learned from them, but were they connected with today?
She and the guard and drummers, and all of Boston behind them, arrived at the gallows. Michaelson ceremoniously handed the end of her tether to Edward Wanton, the man at the foot of the gallows.
Mary climbed the ladder, the drumbeat ended, and she stood ready.
The crowds of men and women, packed shoulder to shoulder on the slim neck of land, jostled one another and a few on the edges of the marsh actually trod in the mud.
“Mistress Dyer,” a man shouted over the din of the people, “if you’d only leave this colony, you might come down and save your life!”
As beautiful as this world is, and as much as I love my life with family, friends, health, and prosperity, what does it avail? How does it compare to the Paradise I’ve already glimpsed? If my momentary death can shine Light on the human right to worship and obey God, then let it be. I shall be with the Lord.  
She answered, projecting her voice while she motioned for silence, “No, I cannot, for in obedience to the will of the Lord I came, and in his will I abide faithful—to the death.”
The man in charge of her execution was Captain John Evered-Webb. She recognized him from 1635, when he and his shipmates had been caught in the great hurricane as they approached Massachusetts, but miraculously avoided shipwreck and limped in with broken masts and mere rags of sails. He and his sister and her husband had settled near Salem, and that made Webb one of Endecott’s men.
He stood on the platform and shouted to be heard. “The condemned woman has been here before, here on this very gallows. She had the sentence of banishment on pain of death, but she has come again now and broken the law. Therefore she is guilty of her own blood. The executioner shall not ask her forgiveness as would be customary.”
The masked hangman bowed as if he were an actor.
At this insult, some in the crowd grumbled at Webb’s lack of godly grace. The angry murmur spread through the crowd like a wave as the nearest told their neighbors behind them what they’d heard.
Mary answered, looking pointedly at Reverend Wilson, Major-General Humphrey Atherton (an assistant to the governor), and others of her accusers, “No, I came to keep blood guiltiness from you, desiring you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law of banishment upon pain of death, made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Therefore my blood will be required at your hands, who willfully do it; but for those that do it in the simplicity of their hearts, I desire the Lord to forgive them.”
She raised her voice to a victorious shout. “I came to do the will of my Father, and in obedience to his will, I stand even to death!”
“’Tis wrong to murder this innocent woman! Take her down! Let her go home!” came the shouts from every direction.
Edward Wanton tied Mary’s legs together with the rope over her skirts for modesty when she’d be dropped.
John Wilson, the man who had examined Mary and William for church membership, and baptized her baby Samuel nearly a quarter-century before, put on a dramatic act for the audience, far larger than any Sunday congregation he’d ever preached to. He added a sob to his voice: “Mary Dyer, O repent! O repent! And be not so deluded, and carried away by the deceit of the devil.”
It was difficult to control her facial expression at this hypocritical display of concern for her soul, but Mary answered, “No, man, I am not now to repent.”
One of the ministers asked if she would have the elders pray for her soul, if she would not pray for herself. They meant an appointed elder of the First Church of Christ in Boston.
She said, “I do not know of a single elder here.” She meant she didn’t recognize their elders as having authority over her. As Anne Hutchinson had rejected the authority of that body over her.
“Would you have any of the people to pray for you?”
“I desire the prayers of all the people of God.” As she looked over the crowd, she recognized Friends, including Robert and Deborah Harper of Sandwich. She knew they kept her in prayer continually, and being encouraged, she felt warmth and strength fill her.
A scoffer from the church cried out, “It may be she thinks there is none here!”
Mary replied softly, “I know that there are only a few here.”
The Light became brighter now, Mary thought. She was closer to heaven than she’d ever been.
Another from the crowd below her urged, “Woman, you’re about to die, and a heretic at that. Don’t throw away your soul. Ask for an elder to pray, that his effectual, fervent prayer will be heard by God.”
Mary answered, “No, first a child, then a young man, then a strong man, before an ‘elder’ in your Church of Christ.”
“What?” called the critic. “You said ‘an elder in Christ Jesus?’ You don’t want a Christian man to pray for you? If not an elder in Christ Jesus, you prefer to go, then, with your master the Devil?”
She said, “It is false, it is false; I never spoke those words. I said an elder in the church.”
“Are you not afraid to die, knowing that you are a cursed Quaker? A heretic?” said the minister Norton.
“The Lord has said to me, as to all who come to him in repentance and humility, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.’”
“You and the dead Quakers said last time that you have been in Paradise.”
“Yes, I have been in Paradise several days,” she said with a blissful smile.
John Wilson, who had a look of fear on his face now, produced a handkerchief from his coat, and young Wanton draped it over Mary’s face and tucked it under the rope before than hangman made it snug.
She remembered what Sir Harry Vane had said, “Death does not bring us into darkness, but takes darkness out of us, us out of darkness, and puts us into marvelous light.”
As she spoke further of the eternal happiness into which she was now to enter, Mary felt that familiar buoyancy of light and love, as if she were being borne away by angels.
“Yes, Lord?”

Read everything that led up to this moment, and what transpired afterward, in Mary Dyer Illuminated and Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, both by Christy K Robinson.

As I wrote in the foreword to both volumes on Mary Dyer and her husband William, they weren't written to be religious books for a religious market. But I did want to show that though religion in that generation was everything to them (they'd staked their lives, families and possessions on a New Jerusalem in the New World), the colony of Rhode Island, of which William Dyer was an important government member, incorporated itself as a secular democracy, with religion distinctly separate from government matters. Their founding documents influenced and inspired generations to come, and formed a template for the Constitution's Bill of Rights.

Related articles:

The anniversary of our civil rights  (published in Providence Journal)
Mary Dyer’s last 44 miles Mary Dyer’s last journey, toward her death
The great New England quake of June 1, 1638 Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson
The 1630 comet of doom Charles II of England was born at the time of the comet, and crowned in 1660 as Mary waited in prison for her execution