I have just returned from a research trip to Boston and Cape Cod with my friends Laura and Val. Our goal was to flush out the lives of our Mayflower and Great Migration ancestors beyond their birth, death and migration dates. We all had quite a bit of success at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society and then our visit to Plymouth, Barnstable and Sandwich “rounded” out the trip by seeing the actual places the early settlers made their new home.
My family patriarchs from this early period are George Soule (Mayflower passenger and servant to Winslow 1620), Rev. Joseph Hull (Migration 1635), George Allen (Migration 1635), Joseph Holway (Migration 1637-1640), Michael Turner (Migration by 1637/38), Thomas Hunt (Migration by 1637) and Edward Jessup (Migration by 1647). While all of them have compelling stories to tell, Rev. Joseph Hull is by far the most controversial of all of them and the focus of my blogs for the coming weeks.
My ancestor Rev. Joseph Hull (1596-1665) was born in Crewkerne, Somerset and was educated as a minister at St. Mary’s Hall at Oxford. He appears to have had a successful rectorship at Northleigh, Devonshire for 11 years, but he resigns in 1632. He moves to Broadway in Somersetshire and is Rector here in 1633-1634. Some researches have speculated that he may have wanted to be near Rev. Richard Barnard, an Anglican minister with non-conformist inclinations and who had spent time with Separatists William Brewster and John Robinson. (Interesting note – Rev. Barnard’s daughter Mary marries Roger Williams in 1629. We will hear more about him later.) It was here that Rev. Hull gathers his own group of immigrants and leaves for New England in 1635.
These were turbulent times in England under Charles I. Most of these early immigrants were looking for religious freedom to practice Puritanism and for economic opportunity. Charles I did not look favorably on the Puritans and Separatists who challenged the Anglican Church and ultimately his authority as head of the church. They could be arrested and persecuted for simply holding a church service in their home with their own “elected” minister. I point this out because the very thing that had occurred to them in England is exactly what they did to others who did not share their point of view in New England. Rev. Hull is listed as a minister in the ship’s manifest, which implies that he was not hiding his profession and did not fear the authorities preventing him from leaving. He was still a “practicing” Anglican, even if he had Puritan beliefs.
On his arrival in Boston, he is made a freeman in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and given leave to settle with his group in the new town of Weymouth. He only stays here for a year and it is attributed to the fact that he is one of 3 ministers living there. One of his “rival” ministers was a strong Puritan, the Rev. Thomas Jenner. Rev. Hull decides to move to Hingham, but only resides here until 1639.
Rev. Hull, Richard Collicutt and Thomas Dimmock receive a grant from Governor Bradford of Plymouth Colony (which was a little more “liberal” than Massachusetts Bay Colony). Hull and Dimmock move to Barnstable to build a new town and he is elected Deputy. Unfortunately, this is a disaster almost from the beginning too. Wouldn’t you know another Puritan minister Rev. Lathrop moves in right away and proves to be more popular. Rev. Hull isn’t reelected Deputy and he has lost his “Mr.” title in the records by 1641. Seeing a theme? Poor Rev. Hull is in the wrong place and the wrong time and it appears as if there isn’t a place to live at this point in history for a minister who is more “middle of the road”. It gets worse….