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Saturday, November 14, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #46: John Humphrey, one of the Founders of New England

     John Humphrey was important to the history of our country because he was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He is important on our family tree because he married Elizabeth Pelham who was of royal descent. It is interesting to look at why someone makes such a big change as to leave England to be part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

     John Humphrey was born in approximately 1595 in Chaldon Herring. Dorset, England.  He was the son of Michael Humphrey, a steward at an estate in Dorset. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and studied law in 1615.  His family must have had some position and wealth as he married Elizabeth Pelham, the granddaughter of Lord Thomas De La Warre (her brother was the Thomas De La Warre for whom Delaware was named).  He was a member of John White's church in Dorchester and very much influenced by Rev. White.  He became involved in starting the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he personally invested in it and was its Treasurer. In 1629 when it received its charter he was elected Deputy Governor, second to John Winthrop.  However, he didn't sail with the company in 1630, eventually arriving in 1634.  He received land at Swampscott or Lynn, Massachusetts.  There is still a house there which is said to
have been built for him and called the Humphrey House.

     His wife, Elizabeth died in 1628 so he remarried Susan Fiennes, daughter of Thomas Clinton, the Earl of Lincoln. He had three children by his first wife and he brought them with he and his wife to America.  In the Massachusetts he was a magistrate and a leading member of the Colony.  He was also a founder of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.  However, he was unhappy with the strict religious views and rigid adherence to them in the colony.  He attempted to establish another colony in the Bahamas that would be a more tolerant society but that failed as the Spanish had arrived first. He eventually left New England and returned to England.  He died in 1661.

     He had many descendants and you can see in our family tree his stature as the first name Humphrey is common and was the name of our 5th Great Grandfather, Humphrey Avery. I find it interesting that at least two of our early New England Puritan ancestors left because they wanted a more liberal approach to religion and society. This has certainly been a family theme in more recent generations!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. The county of Dorset is right next to Hampshire, where I was on my year abroad in college. It does have lovely rolling hills. The climate of New England would have been a lot harsher than that of southern England, so I can imagine that if John Humphrey decided to try to found a colony elsewhere, he might well choose someplace warmer! (At least, I assume the Bahamas has a milder climate.)

    Yes, the history we learn in school and the stories we tell ourselves as U.S. citizens are all about coming to this country for a better life. But there were those who decided to return to Europe or go somewhere else. I guess it was the people who stayed who wrote the histories!