Ceremonies of Possession

Document 2: Winthrop, The History of New England

Source: John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649, vol. 1 (Boston: Phelps and Farhan, 1825), 286-290.


The wind at N. E., there was so great a tempest of wind and snow all the night and the next day, as had not been since our time. Five men and youths perished between Mattapan and Dorchester, and a man and a woman between Boston and Roxbury. Anthony Dick, in a bark of thirty tons, cast away upon the head of Cape Cod. Three were starved to death with the cold; the other two got some fire and so lived there, by such food as they saved, seven weeks, till an Indian found them &c. Two vessels bound for Quinipiack were cast away at Aquiday, but the people saved. Much other harm was done in staving of boats &c. and by the great tides, which exceeded all before. This happened the day after a general fast, which occasioned some of our ministers to stir us up to seek the Lord better, because he seemed to discountenance the means of reconciliation. Whereupon the next genera! court, by advice of the elders, agreed to keep another day, and to seek further into the causes of such displeasure &c; which accordingly was performed.

The earthquake, which had continued at times since the 1st of the 4th, was more generally felt, and the same noise heard in many places.

A church was gathered at Weymouth with approbation of the magistrates and elders. It is observable, this church, having been gathered before, and so that of Lynn, could not hold together, nor could have any elders join or hold with them. The reason appeared to be, because they did not begin according to the rule of the gospel, which when Lynn had found and humbled themselves for it, and began again upon a new foundation, they went on with a blessing.

The people of this town of Weymouth had invited one Mr. Lenthall to come to them, with intention to call him to be their minister. This man, though of good report in England, coming hither, was found to have drank in some of Mrs. Hutchinson’s opinions, as of justification before faith, &c. and opposed the gathering of our churches in such a way of mutual stipulation as was practised among us. From the former he was soon taken off upon conference with Mr. Cotton; but he stuck close to the other, that only baptism was the door of entrance into the church, &c. so as the common sort of people did eagerly embrace his opinions, and some laboured to get such a church on foot as all baptized ones might communicate in without any further trial of them, &c. For this end they procured many hands in Weymouth to a blank, intending to have Mr. Lenthall’s advice to the frame of their call; and he likewise was very forward to become a minister to them in such a way, and did openly maintain the cause. But the magistrates, hearing of this disturbance and combination, thought it needful to stop it betimes, and ergo they called Mr. Lenthall, and some of the chief of the faction, to the next general court in the 1 month, where Mr. Lenthall, having before conferred with some of the magistrates and of the elders, and being convinced both of his errour [sic.] in judgment, and of his sin in practice to the disturbance of our peace, &c. did openly and freely retract, with expression of much grief of heart for his offence, and did deliver his retractation in writing, under his hand, in the open court; whereupon he was enjoined to appear at the next court, and in the mean time to make and deliver the like recantation in some publick assembly at Weymouth. So the
court stopped for any further censure by fine, or, &c. though, it was much urged by some.

At the same court one Smith was convicted and fined £20 for being a chief stirrer in the business; and one Silvester was disfranchised; and one Britton, who had spoken reproachfully of the answer, which was sent to Mr. Barnard his book against our church covenant, and of some of our elders, and
had sided with Mr. Lenthall, &c. was openly whipped, because he had no estate to answer, c.

A printing house was begun at Cambridge by one Daye, at the charge of Mr. Glover, who died on sea hitherward. The first thing which was printed was the freemen’s oath; the next was an almanack made for New England by Mr. William Peirce, mariner; the next was the Psalms newly turned into metre.

A plantation was begun by Sandwich, and was called Yarmouth, in Plimouth jurisdiction.

Another plantation was begun upon the north side of Merrimack, called Salisbury, now Colchester; another at Winicovvett, called Hampton, which gave occasion of some difference between us and some of Pascataquack, which grew thus: Mr. Wheelwright, being banished from us, gathered a company and sat down by the falls of Pascataquack, and called their town Exeter; and for their enlargement they
dealt with an Indian there, and bought of him Winicowett, &c. and then wrote to us what they had done, and that they intended to lot out all these lands in farms, except we could show a better title. They wrote also to those whom we had sent to plant Winicowett to have them desist, &c. These letters coming to the general court, they returned answer, that they looked at this their dealing as against good neighbourhood, religion and common honesty; that, knowing we claimed Winicowett as within our patent, or as vacuum domicilium, and had taken possession thereof by building an house there above two years since, they should now go and purchase an unknown title, and then come to inquire of our right. It was in the same letter also manifestly proved, that the Indians having only
a natural right to so much land as they had or could improve, so as the rest of the country lay open to any that could and would improve it, as by the said letter more at large doth appear.

In this year one James Everell, a sober, discreet man, and two others, saw a great light in the night at Muddy River. When it stood still, it flamed up, and was about three yards square; when it ran, it was contracted into the figure of a swine: it ran as swift as an arrow towards Charlton, and so up and down about two or three hours. They were come down in their lighter about a mile, and, when it was over, they found themselves carried quite back against the tide to the place they came from. Divers other credible persons saw the same light, after, about the same place.