Wednesday, March 9, 2011

John Lothropp

  • Name: John Lothropp
  • Born: 1584 Etton, Yorkshire, England
  • Died: 1653 Barnstable, Massachusetts
  • Related through: Dan's grandfather Lynn Crookston

Taken from the Wikipedia article about Rev. John Lothropp. Ancestor George White Pitkin’s mother, Abigail Lothropp, was a direct descendant of John Lothropp.

John Lothropp was an English Anglican clergyman, who became a Congregationalist minister and emigrant to New England. He was the founder of Barnstable, Massachusetts.

He was baptized December 20, 1584. He attended Queens' College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1601, graduated with a BA in 1605, and with an MA in 1609.

He was ordained in the Church of England and appointed curate of a local parish in Egerton, Kent. In 1623 he renounced his orders and joined the cause of the Independents. Lothropp gained prominence in 1624, when he was called to replace Reverend Henry Jacob as the pastor of the First Independent Church in London, a congregation of sixty members which met at Southwark. Church historians sometimes call this church the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey Church, named for its first three pastors, Henry Jacob, John Lothropp and Henry Jessey.

His decision to leave the Church of England, at this time was considered a dangerous crime. The punishment for this crime was death; most often the method was burning at the stake or being drawn and quartered. John's position became even more perilous when he accepted an appointment to be a minister of an illegal independent church.

Members of his church were forced to meet in private to avoid the scrutiny of Bishop of London William Laud. Following the group's discovery on April 22, 1632 by officers of the king, forty two of Lothropp's Independents were arrested. Only eighteen escaped capture. They were prosecuted for failure to take the oath of loyalty to the established church. Many were jailed in The Clink prison. All were released on bail by the spring of 1634 except Lothropp, who was deemed too dangerous to be set at liberty. A plaque in the Lothrop Hill Cemetery in Barnstable, Massachusetts, the town which John Lothropp settled and where he died, states he was incarcerated in Newgate Prison, 1632-1634. While he was in prison, his wife Hannah House became ill and died. His six surviving children were according to tradition left to fend for themselves begging for bread on the streets of London. Friends being unable to care for his children brought them to the Bishop who had charge of Lothropp. The bishop ultimately released him on bond in May of 1634 with the understanding that he would immediately move to the New World.

Lothropp was told that he would be pardoned upon acceptance of terms to leave England permanently with his family along with as many of his congregation members as he could take who would not accept the authority of the Church of England.

The State Papers in the new Record Office, Fetter Lane, London, have preserved some of the Star Chamber records of John Lothropp's imprisoned days. The last record probably was the order of the court which opened the way for his escape to America. The record found on page 71 of Governor Winthrop's Journal, quotes John Lothropp, a freeman, rejoicing in finding a "church without a bishop," . . . "and a state without a king."

At that time the King, Charles I, was in a conflict with Parliament. Puritans, Presbyterians and Independents, all dissenters from the Church of England supported Parliament. This conflict led to an English Civil War. King Charles I was later beheaded in 1649 by forces led by Lord Cromwell.

Lathrop accepted the terms of the offer and left for Plymouth, Massachusetts. With his group, he sailed on the Griffin and arrived in Boston on September 18, 1634. He married Anna Hammond shortly after his arrival. Aboard ship, he was the only one who had a Bible. While he was reading the Bible, hot tallow from a dripping candle burned holes through several pages. He obtained paper and pasted it on the partially burned pages. He then printed from memory the passages of scripture which had been destroyed. This bible is now in a display case in his house that is now the city library.

Lothropp did not stay in Boston long. Within days, he and his group relocated to Scituate where they "joined in covenant together" along with nine others who preceded them to form the "church of Christ collected at Scituate.” The Congregation at Scituate was not a success. Dissent on the issue of baptism as well as other unspecified grievances and the lack of good grazing land and fodder for their cattle caused the church in Scituate to split in 1638.

Lothropp petitioned Governor Thomas Prence in Plymouth for a "place for the transplanting of us, to the end that God might have more glory and we more comfort.” Thus as Otis says "Mr. Lothropp and a large company arrived in Barnstable, October 11, 1639 O.S., bringing with them the crops which they had raised in Scituate.” There, within three years they had built homes for all the families and then Lothropp began construction on a larger sturdier meeting house by Coggin's (or Cooper's) Pond, which was completed in 1644. This building, now part of the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, Massachusetts is one of John Lothrop's original homes and meeting houses, and is now also the oldest building housing a public library in America.

"He was a man of humble and broken heart spirit, lively in dispensation of the Word of God, studious of peace, furnished with godly contentment, willing to spend and be spent for the cause of the church of Christ."

While Lathrop's fame may not have lasted much beyond his life, famous descendants continue to influence the world through this day. His direct descendants in America number more than 80,000, including Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, six U.S. presidents, and dozens of other influential citizens – politicians, writers, singers and actors etc. There is quite a long list on the Wikipedia page, read that here. I also found at least one book about him. I haven't read it but it looks interesting. Find that here.

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