Nielsen Hayden genealogy

Rev. Henry Whitfield

Male Abt 1590 - 1658  (~ 67 years)


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  • Name Rev. Henry Whitfield  [1, 2, 3, 4
    Born Abt 1590  Mortlake, Surrey, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Gender Male 
    Alternate birth 1597  [6
    Died Between 17 Sep 1657 and 29 Jan 1658  Winchester, Hampshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [6
    Buried Winchester Cathedral, Winchester, Hampshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Person ID I15617  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others
    Last Modified 23 Sep 2018 

    Father Thomas Whitfield,   b. Abt 1545, Wadhurst, Sussex, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1 May 1629  (Age ~ 84 years) 
    Mother Mildred Fortune Manning,   b. Between 1560 and 1561,   d. 1 Sep 1627  (Age ~ 67 years) 
    Married 10 Jan 1585  Church of St. Magnus the Martyr, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Family ID F9560  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Dorothy Sheafe,   d. 1669, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Aft 20 Sep 1617  [5
    Children 
     1. Sarah Whitfield,   b. Bef 1 Nov 1620, Ockley, Surrey, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 Jul 1675, Salem, Essex, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age > 54 years)
    Last Modified 4 Jul 2018 
    Family ID F9552  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • His house in Guilford, Connecticut dates from 1639, just before the town was settled; it is said to be the oldest house in Connecticut and the oldest stone house in New England. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

      "Whitfield attended New College, Oxford, where he befriended the future founder of the Saybrook colony in Connecticut, George Fenwick. He initially studied law after graduation, but found it undesirable and promptly changed his focus to ministry studies. Whitfield was ordained a minister of the Church of England in 1618 and soon took up the post of vicar of St. Margaret's Church in Ockley, Surrey, where he remained for the next 18 years. During this time he married Dorothy Shaeffe (also of Kent) and fathered nine children, living off the estate of his father. However, under the rule of King Charles I, the Church of England began to persecute Separatists and Puritans who opposed the new firm rule of the church and called for reform. Whitfield's sympathies soon shifted to the Puritan movement following the persecution led by Archbishop William Laud. Shortly after being censured as a dissident by the High Commission Court in 1638, Whitfield resigned from his post in Ockley and recruited twenty-five families, mostly farmers of Surrey and Kent, to travel to the New Haven colony. Upon arrival in June 1639, Whitfield consulted Fenwick and Rev. John Davenport, founder of the New Haven Colony, and decided to purchase land from the Menunkatuck Indians halfway between the New Haven and Saybrook colonies. Whitfield and his party moved into the new Guilford colony in September of that year and immediately began construction of his house, though it was not finished until the following spring due to the winter weather conditions. In the early years of the Guilford colony, Whitfield served as both the minister and community leader, delivering sermons and conducting marriage ceremonies as well as settling civil disputes. However, in 1650 Henry Whitfield returned to England [...] It has been speculated that he returned due to the changed political and religious atmosphere for Puritans under the reign of Oliver Cromwell. Whitfield was reinstated in the Church but died in 1657, soon after his return, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral on September 17." [Wikipedia]

      From Abandoning America [citation details below]:

      Whitfield played a pivotal role in discussions about emigration to New England: the ministers John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, Philip Nye and John Davenport met at his home, c. December 1633, in what is sometimes called 'the Ockley conference'. Whitfield had already come to the attention of Archbishop Laud and the Court of High Commission, for not reading Book of Sports and for not performing certain ceremonies. Although Whitfield did not emigrate as early as Cotton and Hooker, by late 1638 or early 1639 he accepted the need for, in Cotton Mather's words, a 'moderate secession'. When he was cited again to appear in the archbishop's court, he relinquished his post and left for New England. [...]

      In 1639, Whitfield led a company of family and friends across the Atlantic [...] Whitfield's plan was to settle within the limits of the Saybrook patent (held by puritan nobles like Lord Saye and Sele and Lord Brooke), between Saybrook and the New Haven Colony but independent of both. On the way over, Whitfield's company made a shipboard covenant, which included the promise 'not to desert or leave each other or the plantation, but with the consent of the rest, or the greater part of the company'. [...]

      After a decade in New England, Henry Whitfield decided to return home: 'At a general Court held the 20th of February 1649[/ 50]. Mr Whitfield's reasons, tendered to the church here for his removall were read in publique.' The document that was read out does not survive. The historian William Hubbard, writing later, attributed Whitfield's decision to a mixture of factors, in New England and old:
      the sharpness of the air, he having a weake body...the toughness of those imployments wherin his livelhood was sought, he having been tenderly and delicately brought up...[his] estate very much wasted...and many other things concurring, especially the strong inducements held out for his return from England by those who sought his help and counsel in the mother country...
      [...] According to Cotton Mather, 'at the time of parting, the whole town accompanied him unto the water-side, with a spring-tide of tears, because "they should see his face no more"'.

      Contrary winds forced the ship to put into Martha's Vineyard, where Whitfield spent ten days with Thomas Mayhew observing his work with the Indians. Mayhew gave Whitfield a written narrative about his work, dated 7 September 1650, to carry to England. Whitfield and Mayhew rode together to Boston. On the way, they visited John Eliot at Roxbury. Whitfield heard Eliot preach to Indians, and helped him to catechise Indian children. Whitfield himself preached to the Indians through an interpreter. Eliot, like Mayhew, gave Whitfield documentary evidence to carry to England with him, in the form of a letter addressed to Edward Winslow, dated 21 October 1650. Whitfield sailed to England that autumn. Immediately after he arrived, he published in London -- as 'late pastor to the church of Guilford', 'late come from thence' -- The light appearing more and more towards the perfect day. Or, a farther discovery of the recent state of the Indians in New England, concerning the progresse of the Gospel amongst them. Manifested by letters from such as preacht to them there. John Eliot was not pleased with the result: Whitfield had failed to add his own testimony about what he had seen. Eliot wrote to Edward Winslow, 20 October 1651, 'you mention... Mr Whitfi[e]ld silence, in not saying what he saw among our Indians[.] I cannot but observe it, and have so much of man in me as to think, that his saying he was with them, and giving no reason of his silence, is to say lesse then nothing.' Whitfield joined William Gouge and other prominent ministers in lending support to a fresh set of testimonials printed by the New England Company, Strength out of weakness (1652).

  • Sources 
    1. [S101] The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Volumes 1-3 and The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England,1634-1635, Volumes 1-7, by Robert Charles Anderson. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1996-2011.

    2. [S2122] Descendants of the Reverend Francis Higginson by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. 1910.

    3. [S2216] Mary Lovering Holman, "The Sheafe Line." The American Genealogist 22:85, Oct 1945.

    4. [S2306] The Winthrop Fleet: Massachusetts Bay Company Immigrants to New England 1629-1630 by Robert Charles Anderson. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012.

    5. [S2123] The Ancestry of Reverend Henry Whitfield (1590-1657) and His Wife Dorothy Sheafe (159?-1669) of Guilford, Connecticut by John Brooks Threlfall. Madison, Wisconsin: 1989.

    6. [S1617] Abandoning America: Life-Stories from Early New England, by Susan Hardman Moore. Woodbridge, Sussex: The Boydell Press, 2013.