John Lothrop was my ninth great grandfather. He was born to Thomas Lowthrope and Mary Howell in 1584 in Etton, North Riding, Yorkshire, England and died November 8, 1653 in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
His wife Hannah House (1595-1634) gave him nine children. His wife Ann Hammond (1616-1687) gave him nine children, including their first born, my eight great grandfather, Barnabas (1636-1715).
According to “The Genealogical History of Edgar Hanks Evans” (research by Donald Lines Jacobus),
John Lothrop or Lowthroppe (Thomas, Robert, John) was baptised in Etton, 20 Dec. 1584 and came to New England. He entered first Christ Church, College, Oxford for according to Foster’s “Alumni Oxonienses” John Lothroppe of Yorkshire aged sixteen years, was admitted a pleb of Christ Church 15 Oct. 1602. Thence he went to Cambridge, where according to Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses, John Loothrop, Lathrop or Lothrop, who was baptised at Etton, Yorkshire, 20 Dec. 1584, son of Thomas of Etton, was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts from Queen’s College in 1606, and to that of Master of Arts in 1609; a brief biographical notice of him is given by Venn.
Rev. John Lothrop soon located in Egerton, 48 miles southeast from London, in the Lower Half hundred of Calehill, Lathe of Scray, county Kent, as curate of the parish there. To this living he was appointed about 1611 by the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul. It was probably his first and only parish charge as a minister of the English Church. Here Mr. Lothrop labored faithfully as long as his judgement could approve the ritual and government of the Church. But when he could no longer do this, we find him conscientiously renouncing his orders and asserting the right of still fulfilling a ministry to which his heart and his conscience had called him.
Accordingly in 1623 his decision was made and he espoused the cause of the Independents. The date of his leaving Egerton was 1623 and next year he was called to the First Independent Church in London, then situated on Union St., Southwark, London now utterly gone.
For being independent in thought he was arrested 22 Apr. 1632 and put in jail, along with a group of 24 others. In the old Clink prison, in Newgate, and in the Gatehouse, there men lingered for months. In the Spring of 1634, all but Mr. Lothrop were released on bail; he, their leader, the chief offender, was deemed too dangerous to be set at liberty.
During the time he was in prison, a fatal illness was preying on his wife and bringing her fast to her end. Her name was Hannah House.
“In New England’s Memorials” by Nathaniel Morton, published in 1669, he says — “His wife fell sick, of which sickness she died. He procured liberty of the bishop to visit his wife before her death, and commended her to God by prayer, who soon gave up the ghost. At his return to prison, his poor children, being many, repaired to the bishop at Lambeth and made known unto him their miserable condition by reason of their good father’s being continued in close durance, who commiserated their condition so far as to grant him liberty, who soon after came over unto New England”.
In the Journal, kept by Governor Winthrop, under date of 18 Sept. 1634, appears, “The Griffin and another ship now arriving with about 200 passengers. Mr. Lothrop and Mr. Sims, two godly ministers coming in the same ship.” On the next page of the journal it says – “Mr. Lothrop had been a pastor of a private congregation in London, and for the same, kept long in prison, upon refusal of the oath, ex-officio, being in Boston upon a sacrament day, after the sermon, desired leave of the congregation to be present at the administration, but said that he durst not desire to partake in it, because he was not then in order, being dismissed from his former congregation, and he thought it not fit to be suddenly admitted into any other for example sake, and because of the deceitfulness of man’s heart”.
On reaching Boston with that portion of his London flock who had accompanied him, he found already the preparations begun to welcome him to a new home in Scituate.
Before 14 June 1635 he had taken a second wife. She was Anne Hammond, daughter of William Hammond, of Lavenham, England and Watertown, Mass.; she was baptised in Lavenham 14 July 1616, and her sister, Penina married Robert Linnell of Scituate and Barnstable; In the Scituate church records Rev. John Lothrop calls Linnell “my brother”.
When the Lothrop genealogy was published, little was known of Anne Hammond, but later information regarding her and the family in England appears in the New England Historical Genealogical Registers, 56; 184, 67;46, 261 and 84;437.
When Rev. John Lothrop settled in Scituate he was granted a farm. While there differences arose between him and the people on the question of baptism and he removed to Barnstable, where he had a house lot granted him. He died in Barnstable 8 Nov. 1653; he left a will which had not been signed; and on 7 Mar. 1653/4 administration was granted on his estate to Mrs. Laythorpe”. The will mentioned his wife; oldest son Thomas to have a house in Barnstable; son John in England and son Benjamin in Barnstable each to have a cow and 5 pounds; daughters Jane and Barbara had had their portions; to the rest of the children “both mine and my wife’s” each a cow; to each of them one book; the rest of his library to be sold and the proceeds divided.
Rev. John Lothrop is an accepted ancestor for the Society of Colonial Dames – “Lothrop, Rev. John (1584-1653) Scituate and Barnstable, Mass. Queen’s College, Cambridge, A.B. 1606, A.M. 1609. Minister at Scituate 1634-1639; and at Barnstable 1639-1653.”
More information can be found on various genealogies posts on the Internet. For example there is an interesting report about the imprisonment of John Lothrop and the fate of his family. On April 29, 1632, Reverend Lothropp’s congregation was discovered by the Bishop’s pursuant at the house of Mr. Humphrey Barnet and 42 members were apprehended there, but only 18 escaped. After two years in various prisons they were all released on bail except for Reverend Lothropp, for whom no favor could be obtained. He petitioned King Charles I for liberty to depart from the kingdom, but his petition was rejected.
Apparently while John was in prison, his wife, Hannah fell sick, and he was permitted to visit her. Shortly after this she died either in April or May of 1634 and John’s children were placed in the care of some friends, who could scarcely support them. As a result, John’s children were often forced to live on the streets and beg for food. Some friends sent the children to petition the Bishop of Lambeth for their father’s freedom, who upon realizing their pathetic state, ordered that Reverend John be released from prison in May or June of 1634.
See also the Lothrop Genealogy, pp. 23, 34, 41, 50, etc… and Barnstable Families, Part 2, p. 162, etc… with items from the Genealogical Register. Information on John Lothrop/Lowthroppe can also be found in the Register of the Massachusetts Society of Colonial Dames, 1927, page 425.
Another biography of him states the following:
My 11th great-grandfather is Reverend John Lathrop. He was born in England in 1584, 250 years before the gospel was restored and almost 40 years before the Mayflower sailed to the New World. But I am confident that men like him prepared the way for the Restoration. Though he may not be a pioneer in the way we typically discuss when celebrating the trek west, I think you’ll see that he fits the definition of pioneer in every other sense of the word.
John Lathrop has been identified as one of the four most prominent colonial ministers in America. His spiritual strength was emulated by the lives of thousands of his descendants. They include presidents of the United States, a prime minister of Canada, authors, financiers, politicians, and last but certainly not least, and key leaders among religious groups, including your humble bishop.
We know very little about John’s early years, but his matriculation was at Queens College, Cambridge, in 1601. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1605 and in 1607, on his twenty-third birthday, he was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Lincoln and began service for the Church of England. He received a masters degree in 1609 and became responsible for his own parish in Egerton. The church was a beautiful structure standing on the summit of a rounded hill and visible from a great distance. He was married the following year to Hannah Howse, the daughter of the rector of a neighboring church.
During the decades preceding John Lothropp’s ordination, important developments occurred within the Church of England. James I followed Elizabeth in attempting to reduce the influence of Puritanism upon the Anglican Church, both preferring the more ornate and ceremonious high church.
Richard Bancroft, known for his anti-Puritan zeal was advanced to the position of Archbishop of Canterbury in 1604. He drew up a list of articles which had to be assented to by all ministers in and about London. Among these articles were:
“That everyone that is baptized is regenerated.”
“That the minister’s power in forgiving sins is not merely declarative.”
“That the voice of the people is not required in the choice of the minister.”
“That the Church of Rome is a true church, and truly so-called.”
Following this declaration, 300 Puritan clergymen withdrew from the Church of England. John Lathrop would eventually become one of them, choosing to follow his own convictions rather than those imposed by the King.
At Egerton, John labored faithfully as long as he could approve of the ritual and government of the Anglican Church. But when he could bear it no longer, he renounced his orders to fulfill the ministry to which his conscience and his heart had called him. In 1623, at the age of 39, with five children to support, John left the Church of England and subscribed to the teachings of the Independent Church, often called the Separatist or Congregational Church. This nonconformist denomination was founded secretly in Surrey in 1616.
In 1624, Lathrop was called to succeed the first minister of the Independent Church who had resigned his position of eight years in London to leave for Virginia. The congregation was often violently assailed by the Anglicans, and its meetings were interrupted, but the congregation remained steadfast. Any persons who separated themselves from the Church “and [took] unto themselves the names of another church not established by law” could be accused of heresy. Repeated offenses could lead to charges of high treason, punishable by death, usually by burning at the stake.
King Charles and Archbishop of London prosecuted scores of Puritans on charges, real and imagined, before the king’s courts. Cruel punishments, long unused, were revived, including branding, nose splitting, amputation of ears, enormous fines, and long imprisonments.
The Archbishop sent out a mandate ordering constables and other authorities to seek out groups who might be having religious meetings not under Anglican jurisdiction. When they found such private and illegal church gatherings, they were to seize, apprehend, and attack all persons involved, and to keep them in safe custody until they could be dealt with by the established clergy. A special watch was kept on eleven congregations in London. One of the 11 was John Lathrop’s congregation.
Unable to locate Lathrop himself, the Archbishop sent agents to ferret him out in the secret nooks where a group of “rebels” might meet. On April 22nd, 1632, Reverend Lathrop’s group met for worship as usual, in the house of Humphrey Barnet, a brewer’s clerk in Black Friars, London. Suddenly, the room was invaded by a ruffian band led by the Archbishop’s warrant-officer. They overpowered the Christian group’s resistance and seized 42 men. Only 18 escaped. Handed over in fetters, they lingered for months in Newgate prison, which had been constructed for felons.
Two years later, all but Lathrop were released from prison on bail. As their leader and the chief offender, he was deemed too dangerous to be set free. It was said of Lathrop that “his genius will still haunt all the pulpits in ye country, when any of his scolers may be admitted to preach.” During his stay in prison, John Lathrop became convinced that the superstitious usages of the Church of England were wrong and he rejected their ceremonies as relics of idolatry. With a desire to reform the Sacrament of bread and wine, and to abandon the use of gowns worn by the clergy, the sign of the cross in baptism, and other outward ceremonies and forms, Lathrop joined hands with the Puritans, even though he did not agree wholeheartedly with their religious views.
Just after voicing his beliefs, which virtually guaranteed to keep him behind bars, a fatal sickness weakened his wife, Hannah, and left her near death. I quote from a 1699 account of this touching incident and the events which followed:
His wife fell sick, of which sickness she died. He procured liberty of the bishop to visit his wife before her death, and commended her to God by prayer, who soon gave up the ghost. At his return to prison, his poor children, being many, repaired to the Bishop at Lambeth, and made known unto him their miserable condition by reason of their father’s being continued in close durance, who commiserated their condition so far as to grant him liberty, who soon after came over into New England.
At Hannah’s death, the seven surviving Lathrop children ranged in age from 5 to 18. One source indicates that Lothropp’s followers dressed the children in their best and presented them to the Archbishop, demanding to know who was to care for them. John petitioned for liberty to go into foreign exile, and his petition was granted on April 24, 1634. He was required to give a bond and his word that he would not “be present at any private gatherings.” Before leaving English soil, however, he did delay his departure long enough to reorganize the meetings of his congregation. As a result, he was summoned to appear before the High Court on June 13, 1634 or be held in contempt. By the time a warrant was issued, Lathrop and his children were in Boston, along with 32 members of his congregation.
This band of Puritans arrived in New England filled with confidence that they could create a new world. They believed that God would bless their efforts with prosperity. They intended to apply their doctrine, that each person is responsible for his or her own salvation, directly to their experience in the new land. They defined social good in terms of the free individual: individual effort, plus public service, equals private profit.
New England offered a rare opportunity to show that Zion could be built by a group of people who shared a common belief. As the governor of Massachusetts declared: “Wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertake and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and by-word through the world.”
The trip across the Atlantic was uneventful. Lathrop apparently owned the only Bible aboard ship. While reading it one evening, he fell asleep and hot tallow from the candle dripped onto several pages, burning a hole through them. He later obtained paper and pasted it over the partially burned pages, then hand-printed from memory the lines of scripture which had been destroyed. This 1606 Bible is on display in the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, Massachusetts, in a room of John Lothropp’s original house, now restored and made part of the library.
In September of 1634, John established a new congregation in Scituate, Massachusetts. They believed that morality could be legislated — the length of hair, the observance of the Sabbath Day, and the making of money –spiritual and material well-being. They defined status in terms of material accomplishments and upward mobility rather than position inherited by birth.
Concerns about the uses of authority came naturally to these settlers. They insisted upon church membership as the principal qualification for leadership; they feared unconverted leaders. Because they believed that church members were fit to rule themselves and that conversion gave them equality before God, they insisted upon choosing their own leaders, including ministers, court judges, and town councilmen.
The Puritans recognized the need for limits on power and in 1641 drafted the “Massachusetts Body of Liberties.” This document limited political power and defined the legal system in terms of specific liberties which should be available to every voting (propertied) male. The settlers were eventually forced to leave their successful colony and relocate on Cape Cod, now the town of Barnstable. According to tradition, one of their first acts on arrival was the celebration of the Sacrament of Communion at what is still known as Sacrament Rock. There the ancient pewter vessels that the church had brought from England were used in the distribution of the elements of Communion. They celebrated Thanksgiving a month later.
He for 14 years in Barnstable before his death in 1653. It was his confidence and his firm yet gentle-hand that made it possible for the church to survive the confusion and turmoil. After his death, it was written of him in the church record: “he was endowed with a competent measure of gifts and earnestly endowed with a great measure of brokenness of heart and humility of spirit.”
One of the remarkable things about John Lothropp, and the highest tribute to his character as a minister, was the way in which his congregation followed him throughout his wanderings. Many members of his original Kent and London gathering were with him in Scituate and accompanied him to Barnstable. History shows few more perfect examples of the shepherd and his flock.
Lothropp was a firm believer in free will. He tolerated difference of opinion, an attitude not common in his time. He even admitted to Christian fellowship the persecuted Anabaptists. He took no stock in creeds or particularized confessions of faith, for they seemed to him narrow. He substituted the whole Bible for them and gladly admitted to membership in his church anyone who confessed faith in God and who promised to do his best in keeping the Ten Commandments. No applicant was compelled to sign a creed or confession of faith.
During his 14 years as minister in Barnstable, no civil authority was needed to restrain crime. The church served as both the civil and ecclesiastical authority. In short, he was loved by his people and had a profound influence on his flock.
In his will, Lothropp left one precious book from his library to each child in the town.
“This Bible was brought to America aboard the ‘Griffin’ in 1634 by the Reverend John Lothrop who became one of Barnstable’s first ministers and a famous preacher. During the voyage, while at evening devotions, the Reverend Lothrop spilled hot candlewax on the open book which burned through several pages, causing holes about the size of a shilling. Before landing, he carefully repaired the damage and filled in the missing text from memory. The bible was passed to the Reverend Lothrop’s son Samuel, who took it to Norwich, Connecticut about 1664. After a series of owners, all of whom were Lothrop descendants, the Bible became the property of Mrs. Theodore Luling (Grace Lothrop) of Rochampton, England, who presented it to the sturgis Library in September 1957. It is fitting that the bible has come to rest in the very room in which the Reverend Lothrop conducted his religious meetings and in the house which was built for him circa 1644.”