Winsome Wednesday: Welcome to the Bay. Go home now. Don’t disembark.

Ann Vassal 1637
Ann Vassal 1637


“Go back to England. You would be better off with the King and his wife than here.” “Go to another Colony; Plymouth, New Hampshire or Connecticut. Do not stay here.” “I know that is not the welcome you expected.” “My name is Ann Vassal, I arrived in the colony on the Arbella in 1630 as part of the Winthrop Fleet. My husband and our family left on the Lyon almost immediately after arriving in the Massachusetts Bay Colony returning to England. The Lyon then brought us to the Plymouth Colony in 1634. We live in Scituate the year of our Lord 1637. If you came here for religious freedom, you will not find it here. A man had his ears cut off because he did not worship as the magistrate and minister of the Bay wanted. Others have been banished to Connecticut for their beliefs. I could go on listed many other examples, but I will stop now.”


This paraphrasing was how “Dissent Among the Puritans” began. This program was sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities; held at Merrimack Public Library. It was described as:



Dissent Among the Puritans

The year is 1637. Ann Vassall, wife of William Vassall of Essex, England, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Company, welcomes you to your new home in the Bay. Her words of advice and narration of events going on in town might make you wish you had stayed in England or looked toward New Hampshire or Connecticut as a place of settlement. Living historian Linda Palmer follows up her portrayal of Ann Vassall with a colorful slide presentation which shatters some of our commonly-held stereotypes about the Puritans and chronicles the dissent of her husband, who was despised by minister and magistrate alike for his liberal ideas about civil liberty and religion. This program is suitable for adults and teens. Registration is strongly advised. This event is presented with a grant from the NH Humanities Council.


Linda Palmer portrayed Ann Vassal with grace and intelligence. She provided us with a look at our founding fathers that was not sugar coated like our history books. I have read John Winthrop diaries, Ann Hutchinson’s writings and several other journals from the 17th Century. Like anything there are different points of view. Winthrop wanted to keep strong hold on the dissidents that come to the Bay to do the Lords work. He did not want to separate from the Church of England but to create changes from within. Others felt that Winthrop way was more restrictive than England’s. You could not vote if you were not a member of the church. John did not want the Quakers, Congregational or Unitarians in the Bay because they would cause confusion and unrest. Roger Williams, John Cotton and others felt that all should have the right to practice the freedom of religion.


The photograph of Ann Vassal/ Linda Palmer displayed her summer attire of linen and lace. We could appreciate that the clothes were cumbersome and uncomfortable in the summer heat. The night provided us with ninety degree weather and no air conditioning. We sat in the audience in our sleeveless summer outfits perspiring while she remained fully coverage as Ann Vassal. She did remove her hat at one point.


A night to remember of an entertaining and accurate account of history that shall remain in my thoughts to ponder and decide who in my family could survive if we travel to 1630’s America. What will I find when I continue researching those who came before us? Where did they go? Did they stay in the Bay? Go to New Hampshire? Maine? Connecticut?


Linda provides walking tours of 17th Century Boston as Ann Vassal.  “Where Did the Puritans Go?” I plan on taking that tour to hear more about the colony through Ann’s eyes.


My ancestors, Isaac Stearns and his family, are reported as having arrived on the Arbella in 1630. The same ship that Ann and William Vassal family most likely arrived on in the same year. They didn’t stay in Nameskeag (Salem, Massachusetts.) Instead they travel four miles up the Charles River establishing Watertowne. They followed Reverend Phillips, who stood alone in his beliefs of the Congregational way of practicing their faith until the Cotton Brothers arrived. This distancing them selves from John Winthrop, who settled in Boston, provided them with a semblance of freedom while maintaining the laws of the colony. Watertowne and the BostonChurch were the first two churches established July 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Check out other presentations by Linda Palmer


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