The beginning of a Nation: The Stearns View
Have you ever wandered what happened in the year of your birth? I have, so I started thinking about what was the world like when our ancestors were born. Today’s blog is about those years from Isaac’s arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the fourth generation of the Stearns Family. Isaac and his sons were part of what history calls “colony building.”
In 1630, Isaac had left his home in England because of his religious beliefs and maybe financial gain. He proudly sailed with Governor Winthrop and 900 colonists to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was even mentioned in John Winthrop’s writing of the History of New England. He was a member of the church of Watertown, became a freeman and was allowed to vote on town decisions. Those who were not a church member were not allowed to vote or to have a say in the community decisions regardless of what the Colony Charter stated. By 1635 the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter was evoked, although it was ignored by the colonist.
Discussions about taxation without representation were being talked about as early as the 1630’s. On 6 January1632, inWatertown,Massachusetts, Isaac’s first child to be born in the colonies arrived to greet the world. He was named Isaac. By 1633 the first town government was organized inDorchester. Roger Williams was banished from the colony in 1635 for promoting the idea of separation of church and state.
By Isaac’s third birthday the Township Act was passed by theMassachusetts Baygeneral court giving towns the ability to govern themselves to a certain extend. Warfare with the Pequot Indians had begun after the death of aNew Englandtrader. HarvardUniversitywas founded. By his fourth birthday the Pequot Indians were virtually eliminated by forces fromConnecticut, Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonist.
The New Hampshire Colony signs the Exeter Compact in 1639 and the Massachusetts Bay Colony takes over jurisdiction of New Hampshirein 1641. New Hampshire,C onnecticut, Massachusetts, and Plymouth formed the New England Confederation, aka, the United Colonies of New England in 1643. Two years later they signed a peace treaty with the Narragansett Indians. Religious freedom is still on the fore front as Massachusetts becomes increasingly intolerant of heresy and passed a law making it punishable by death. Two years later in 1649,Mainepasses a law allowing religious freedom.
With England’s embargo on any non English ships delivering goods from the colonies, causing supply shortages for the colonist, lead to a two year war. During this time Maine becomes part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Massachusetts Bay Colony defies Englandand declares itself independent of England. Massachusetts continues its independent streak by not supporting the New England Confederation declaration of war against the Dutch colonist.
A war breaks out between the Catholic and Puritan factions after the Toleration Act was revoked in 1654. This was declared a Puritan victory. The colonies are not welcoming to the Quakers arrival, treating them horribly and banishing them from the colony. Connecticut and Massachusetts even pass a law making the banishment legal. By 1658 Massachusetts passes a law making it illegal to hold Quaker meetings or for any religious freedom. A year later two Quakers were hung for returning toMassachusetts Bay. The English crown, orders the release of the Quakers and allow them to return to England.
Isaac son, Isaac leaves the family farm, having met his duty to his father, and starts a family of his own. He marries Sarah Beers and settles in Cambridge Farm, a part ofLexington. The saying goes as the family grows so does the colonies. The tradition of the time was that each male child would receive a portion of land upon marriage.
In 1661 the first bible to be printed in the colonies was published in the Algonquin language.
Finally, in 1662,England accepts the Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter, as long as they allow all landowners to vote and freedom of worship for Anglicans.
Conflicts continued betweenMassachusettsandEngland. Two Navigation Acts and an overseer being sent to the colonies did not bring favor.Massachusettsrefused to comply with sending a representation toEnglandas requested by the King. They did not want to allow religious freedom or swear allegiance to the King.
Massachusetts annex Maine in 1668 and Charles town is established in 1670. In 1671 Isaac dies inWatertownon 19 June, after 75 years of struggles and building a new world for his family. In 1672 the first copyright law is passed.
When Isaac’s sixth child and third son was born, in 1675, it would be a year later that Isaac joined his father, Isaac in death. He had also struggled and helped form a new world for his children to continue building.
In January 1675, the year of John’s birth, brought the death of an English educated Native American, in the Christian way, by a brutal killing. This event started a year long war between the English-Americans and the Native American Algonquians inNew England. His alleged murders were executed inPlymouth. This did not stop the sighting of armed Wampanoags throughout New England. In June of 1675 attempts were made at negotiating with King Philip (Metacomet), the leader of the Native American Wampanoags tribe. Later that month the start of King Philips War began. Many attempts at peace were unsuccessful with the year of 1675 ending with untied colonial troops attacking the Narragansetts at the Great Swamp Fight.
Within his lifetime another ancestor’s family would be attacked; 27 captured and two women and a boy would escape. That ancestor would be Hannah Emerson Dustin. Read more about her in a later blog.
We know that John believed in some degree in slavery. That he willed his daughter all rights in his mailto girl. I have not found much more on John’s life other than he was a businessman and landowner.
Two generations of the Stearns family helped build this nation. Only the direct line to Nelson Stearns have been mentioned, this does not diminished the strength, struggles and building of a nation that any others have provided. This is meant to show respect to men that made a difficult decision, stood by that decision and continued to build a new world while trying to hold onto some of their past. They may have been intolerant to others, but at some point they must have known when to bend so that a nation could grow.
I started this blog wandering what life was for our ancestors, it was not that much different in views. We continue to struggle for religious freedom, continue to strengthen a nation and mark out new territory. The territory may not be land but technology. Sterne stuff we are made off, like the name implies. I hope we have learned more tolerance of others beliefs, but accept that we continue to learn and struggle each day.
Our ancestors came to a harsh new world and survived. Can there be any greater achievement than that of survival?