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John and Mary (Forth) Winthrop Sr.

John Winthrop Sr.

John Winthrop Sr. was born January 12, 1587/1588 in Edwardston, Sussex, England, at the home of the father of his mother. He was one of nine children and the only boy. He was a cheerful child despite the severe discipline of the Puritan parents. He was probably schooled at Bury St. Edmunds or at Cambridge, where he was after 12 years of age. He showed no interest in the sea or in travel and adventure. He pursued the convention career of a young county gentleman. Sometime in his youth he underwent a shattering conversion which enlisted him in service to the will of God. Winthrop attended Trinity College from ages 14-17, leaving without graduation. Here he met and married a well-dowered bride. He studied law at Gray's Inn, learned to manage his properties, and by 1618 succeeded his father as Lord of Groton Manor. In the principle of common law, the solid foundation of free government he was thoroughly instructed and pursued the practice in London and on circuits for 15 years or more, holding chambers in the Temple, not giving up the profession until a few months before his resolution to settle in America. Upon becoming Lord of Gorton Manor he also became the patron of the church. Educated as he was in the moderate principles of the Puritans in church and state he naturally felt the sympathy for the settlement in America. At a meeting at Cambridge August 26, 1629, with Sir Richard Saltonstall, Dudley, Johnson, Pyncheon, Vassal, Hunfrey, Colbron, Nowell, and others bound together in the presence of God to embark the following spring "to pass the seas to the continent and inhabit in N.E. provided" that "the whole government together with the patient for the said Planta. Be first by an order of Court legally transfer and establish to remain with us and others which shall inhabit upon the said Planta." On October 20, 1629, Gov. Cradock and the other officers under the charter resigned and "upon serious deliberation" in the nomination of Winthrop, Saltonstall, Johnson, and Humfrey for Governor "The said Mr. Winthrop was, with a general vote and full consent of the County by erection of heads chosen to be Governor for the ensuing year to begin on this present day" and the response goes on to finish the sentence, "Where was pleasure to accept thereof, and thereupon took the oath to that place appertain."

He was married first on April 16 or 17, 1605 in Suffolk County, England to Mary Forth. His first wife died June 26, 1615 after 10 years of marriage.

To this union the known children are 1. John Jr. b. 2-12-1605/6 d. 4-5-1676 2. Henry 3. Forth 4. Mary 5. Ann bapt. 8-8-1614 d. same month 6. Ann bapt 6-26-1615 d. three day later.

Second he married Thomasine Clopton on December 6, 1615. She died in December 1616 only after one year of marriage. Thirdly he married in April 1618 in Suffolk County, England, Margaret Tyndal. They remained married for 30 years. To this union eight additional children were born. She died in 1647. Fourth, he married Martha Rainsborough Coytmore.

He was considered for a Parliament seat in 1626. He was appointed Justice of the Peace and in 1627 secured a minor government place as attorney at the Court of Wards.

By the summer of 1629, nearly forty, Winthrop's situation was unsatisfactory. He was in debt, Groton not flourishing, couldn't provide well enough to give to his sons who were almost of majority (I assume this means land and wealth to start their own families), and he was dismissed or quit his job at the Court of Wards. He was becoming deeply dissatisfied with Charles I's religious and political policy. He wrote in May 1629, "I am veryly perswaded God will bringe some heavye Affliction upon this lande, and that speedylye...the Lord seeth it will be good for us, he will provide a shelter and hidinge place for us and ours." He joined the Massachusestts Bay Company in 1629 and writes why he wanted to emigrate. "All other Churches of Europe are brought to desolation, and it cannot be, but the like Judgement is cominge upon us...This lande growes wearye of her Inhabitantes, so as man which is the most pretious of all creatures, is heere more vile and base. then the earth they treade upon...We are growne to that height of Imtemperance in all excesse of Ryot, as no mans estate all more will suffice to keep sayle with his equalls...The fountains of learninge and Religion are so corrupted...that most children even the best writes and of fayrest hopes, are perverted, corrupted and utterly overthrowne by the multitude of evill examples and the licentious government of those semimaryes."

In October 1629 he was elected governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and on Easter Monday 1630, the ship Arbella stood off the Isle of Wight ready to set said for America. On June 30, 1630, the ship arrived at Salem, Mass. He first established his colony at Charlestown. Lack of water there caused him to relocate on the nearly peninsula of Shawmut, later called Trimountaine, and eventually Boston. He thought the Lord had made New England His plantation. He describes his first impression of the new land, his attitude doubtless colored by the fact that the company had spent more than seventy days on board ship. "We had now fair sunshine weather and so pleasant a sweet air as did much refresh us, and there came a smell off the shore like the smell of a garden."

John left his Groton Suffolk England manor house derived directly form Henry VIII dissolution of the monasteries in 1630 to go to New England as governor of the Massachusetts Bay company. He was a man of the Puritan Revolution, a single-minded crusader who established a Bible commonwealth in Massachusetts and battled every sinner and wayward saint who tried to challenge his plan. He defied regulation of royal charter of 1629 by Charles I and achieved virtual independence from England. He left a good many formal tracts on religion and political subject, the work of a lawyer and amateur theologian, stilted, intricate, and crabbed.

Portraits show John Winthrop Sr. as an austerely formidable man, with a heavy jaw, wide forehead, long nose and masklike face stamped with bleakness and sobriety. Yet the full mouth and deep brooding gaze expressed his strong passion and sensuality.

John Winthrop, Sr. was Governor form 1630-1634. During this period he did his best work organizing the operating the colony. He lived first in Charlestown, but within a matter of a few months he decided to build his town house in Boston. His servants meanwhile staked out his 600 acre farm, called Ten Hills, on the Mystic River. In 1631 the Governor built a bark, The Blessing of the Bay, to promote coastal trading. Overall his financial fortune didn't improve.

He set about laying down main lines for a church-state system. The first question addressed: how shall the clergy be maintained? The Massachusetts colonists were divided into two classes: the church members and non-church members. He knew the colonists might not submit to him so he allowed 118 planters to be made freemen but they still weren't given privileges to be part of the government.

From 1634-1637 he was in eclipse as leader of the Bay colony. The freemen did not reject him though, he was elected as assistant for two years and deputy governor in 1636.

On May 17, 1637 John Sr. was chosen Governor again and continued till 1640. During this time he left his estate in the hands of a steward who put him in debt. so between 1639-1643 he had to sell property on both sides of the Atlantic - including Ten Hills and the house in Boston.

He was demoted from Governor to assistant for 1640-1642, but returned to the Governorship in 1642. One of his best contributions to the future growth of the nation was the founding in 1643 of the New England Confederation. He served as the first president of the confederation. Winthrop's 'Journal", which is also called 'The History of New England', is a valuable historical record of life in the American Colonies.

In the 1630's he had been content to banish sinners and rebel saints from Massachusetts, now he tried to pursue them beyond the Bay's jurisdiction.

He was demoted to deputy governor form 1644-1645, but returned as governor in 1646 and remained till his death in 1649.

He died March 26, 1649 in Boston Massachusetts, and was buried in King's Chapel Burying Grounds, Boston.

Hixson Trails Margaret Madara Free
Puritans and Yankees - Richard L. Dunn
Genealogy Dictionary of New England - Savage
Compton's Encyclopedia

John Winthrop Sr. Gravesite