Blaxton the Real Founder of Boston

Church of England Services Held Here Years Before the Puritans Came

Rev William Blaxton, who, in 1630, claimed ownership of all Boston by right of having lived here alone for the five or six preceding years, and who later sold the future metropolis for $150 in cash and moved away to avoid living among Puritans, was "actual founder of Boston and not nonconformist, as sometimes represented, but a Church of England clergyman who wore his garb of office here and had planned with others to make his own faith the established religion of New England."

That is the conviction of Charles K. Bolton, expressed in his latest work on local history, "The Real Founders of New England," recently published by the F. W. Faxon Company, Boston.

Mr Bolton maintains that Blaxton's associates during the 10 years he lived here were ardent Church-of-England men and that he was undoubtedly pledged to help carry out their plan of "a new government for all New England allied to the Church of England."

Influenced by Capt John Smith

Mr Bolton shows that ritualistic services were held at various times in or about Massachusetts Bay or at Maine coast settlements during 10 years or more before the arrival here of the Puritans, and that there were discontented ritualists even in Plymouth.

He accounts for New England's failure to become a Church of England colony on the ground that several of the leaders in the movement, lay and clerical, growing discouraged over the economic outlook, returned to England just in time to allow their struggling settlements here to fall into the possession of the more aggressive non-conformist followers of John Endicott and John Winthrop, who arrived soon afterward.

Mr Bolton cites presumptive evidence that young Blaxton's emigration to Massachusetts Bay soon after his ordination was influenced by Capt John Smith, of Pocahontas fame, who had declared Boston Harbor to be "the garden spot of New England."

Mr Bolton thinks it likely that Blaxton as a child had heard Smith's American explorations discussed by his father and mother, who, living close by Smith's native place, would have been familiar with his life story, either by means of his autobiography or perhaps through Smith's personal recital.

Maverick Hospitality

Among Blaxton's nearest neighbors hereabouts while he was living alone on Beacon Hill, each of whom Mr Bolton includes in the Gorges group, aiming to get control of New England politically and ecclesiastically, were Samuel Maverick, living like a baron within a stockade defended by cannon from the Indians in Winnisimmet, now Chelsea; Thomas Walford, blacksmith, living near the foot of Bunker Hill, Charlestown, and David Thompson, trader, on the island of that name, with his wife, who, when widowed later, became Mrs Maverick.

Blaxton is pictured conducting Sunday Church of England services in Maverick's rude but spacious domicile, where a congregation was reasonably assured at any time, owing to Maverick's hospitality, which for years spared many strangers the necessity of patronizing a tavern.

An amusing episode is told of Rev Francis Bright, another ritualist, who, preaching one Sunday at Maverick's on the sins of covetousness and of trading on the Sabbath, observed with interest an Indian in his congregation clad in an attractive beaver robe.

On the conclusion of his service he unobtrusively drew the Indian aside for a private conference, at the end of which the beaver garment had become the clergyman's, in exchange for something more highly prized by the redskin.

Weather Records Lost

The four congenial spirits, Maverick, Blaxton, Thompson and Walford, are agreeably presented by Mr Bolton, on the strength of data from contemporary sources, some times with the company of a visiting mariner or two, brimful of news from London, or traders from Maine, Virginia or the West Indies, and possibly a friendly Indian whose trade was worth cultivating, gathered on Winter evenings about the convivial board at Maverick's, illumined by the glow of the great fireplace.

And the sometime solitude-loving Blaxton is pictured in Spring, amid the blossoming fruit trees of his Beacon Hill orchard, still to be seen at the period of the Revolution, and in Summer picking his way reflectively through a tangle of wild rose, blueberry and blackberry bushes such as grew on the hill even within the memory of the late Wendell Phillips.

Mr Bolton recalls an interesting hint in John Winthrop's diary that he had seen data from a daily weather record kept by Mr Blaxton during the seven years before the arrival of the Puritans.

How eagerly would many Bostonians now scan that wilderness weather record, which unfortunately was undoubtedly burned by Indians in 1676, with Blackstone's home and library in Rhode Island, during King Philip's War.

Of course, the Blaxton episode is only one of numerous chapters of Mr Bolton's book, but the coming Boston tercentenary seems to invest it with a special interest for the purpose of a review.

There are accounts of the beginnings of a score or more of fishing or trading settlements between 1602 and 1628, and of their "real founders," Church of England people, sometimes accompanied by a ritualist clergyman.

In one instance there was a Roman Catholic priest. Many of these settlements about Massachusetts Bay or the Maine coast were destined to be finally developed by Puritans.

Character sketches of long-forgotten pioneers, based on narratives contemporary with them, revived by Mr Bolton, are illuminating or amusing, as in the case of the ritualist Rev John Rogers, for awhile at Weymouth, ambitious to become a sportsman, yet incapable of so guiding a canoe as to pick up geese brought down by his tutor in marksmanship among the islands of Boston Harbor.

It is natural that Mr Bolton, being librarian of the Boston Athaeneum, should add to his book two valuable features, a list of nearly 200 colonists or sojourners in New England, exclusive of Mayflower passenger, who came before the Puritan advent of 1628, and a list of settlements and their "real founders" before that year.

There are numerous illustrations, admirable pen and ink sketches by Mrs Charles K. Bolton, several of them from rare antique originals.

Daily Boston Globe, Oct 27, 1929, p. A47

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