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Saturday, April 18, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #17: Rev Stephen Bachiler, Puritan Minister and nonconformist

     Rev. Stephen Bachiler lived a long and rather cantankerous life, I just found him while looking for an ancestor to answer "live long" in the challenge.  Born on 23 Jun 1561 in Wherwell, Hampshire, England to Philip Bachiler and Anne Flanders, he graduated from St. John's College at Oxford University in February 1586.  He was given a position as Vicar in Wherwell by Lord De La Ware (the father of the one for whom the state of Delaware was named).  He was there until 1605 when he was ejected for his Non Conformist beliefs.  In 1593 a law had been passed against the Puritans making the practice of their religion illegal.  There are mentions of Stephen still preaching in various places and in one he is called "a notorious non conformist".

     Stephen was for the separation of Church and State and was considered "a liberal Puritan, zealous of human rights." He joined a group of dissenters who formed the "Plough Company" which obtained a  grant for a piece of land in Maine. On 9 Mar 1632, he set out for America aboard the ship "William and Francis".  He took his third wife, Helen, his daughter, Deborah and her children, and three sons of his daughter Ann with him. It was a rough crossing which took 88 days.  At this time Stephen was 71 years old! One of the things he brought with him was his personal oak chair.  This chair can be seen today in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

     Once arrived Stephen began preaching at a church in Saugus (now Lynn).Massachusetts.  Before he had been preaching for four months he came under "suspicion" of having "independent ideas" which he was not willing to yield to the dictates of others. For awhile he was not allowed to preach to anyone that he had not brought with him. This was removed and he preached at a number of towns in Massachusetts.  In 1638 he received a grant of land and started a settlement at what is now Hampton, New Hampshire. He founded a Church there which is now the oldest Congregational Society in New Hampshire and the second oldest continuous church fellowship in the U.S.

     At one point during his stay in Hampton, his house burned down.  The biggest loss was his library--worth 200 pounds! He had other problems there, though.  He had differences with his parishioners and in 1644 he was excommunicated! In 1647 he moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where at the age of 80 he "solicited the chastity of his neighbor's wife" according to Governor John Winthrop.  His wife had died and at the age of 86 he married a young widow, 60 years his junior.  She then had an affair with their neighbor, George Rogers, with whom she had a child.  They were both sentenced to be flogged and she to be branded with the letter "A".  It has been speculated that Hawthorne based the character of Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter" after her.  The court refused to allow Stephen and Mary to get a divorce insisting they live together as man and wife. At this pint Stephen had had enough and went back to England where he died and was buried in London on 31 Oct 1656.

     Stephen was a man of rare physical and intellectual vigor. John Winthrop classed him among "honest men." Rev Cotton wrote of him, "I find he was a gentleman of learning and ingenuity." Joseph Dow in The History of Hampton, N.H." describes him as "...obstinate and tenacious of his opinions to a marked degree, a powerful preacher drawing largely from scripture, impress the hearers with the uncommon power and sanctity of his sermons, strong in his friendships and in his hates." He incurred the hate of the Massachusetts Ministers by casting the only dissenting vote to the expulsion of Roger Williams (a noted exponent of religious toleration and for fair dealings with the Native Americans).  His descendants include James Dean, Winston Churchill, Daniel Webster, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. Daniel Webster considered that his abilities were inherited from Stephen Bachiler.  In The Great Migration Begins, Robert Charles Anderson says, "Among the many remarkable lives lived by early New Englanders, Bachiler's is the most remarkable."




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