Prior to 1600, less than 15% of the people in England could read and write, enabling the State Church at that time to maintain power due to the reading and interpretation of the Bible being limited to the clergy. With the invention of the printing press and with the Bible becoming available in English translations, people could read and interpret the Bible on their own.
Eventually separate gatherings began to occur, which led to the establishment of what became known as the Congregationalist movement, through Dissenters and Non-Conformists. The English Civil War and the Great Migration were rooted in the Crown’s suppression of these dissenting Protestant groups.
John Lothrop had been baptized in 1584 in Yorkshire, and graduated in 1609 with a Master’s Degree from Cambridge University - a hotbed of protest at that time. He married Hannah Howes, daughter of
Rev. John Howes, of Eastwell, Kent, England. His congregation had been started, as a covenant congregation, by Rev. Henry Jacob in 1616. Lothrop became its Minister in 1625.
Lothrop was arrested in London in 1632 for having meetings, known as “conventicles”, which were secret gatherings for the purpose of hearing "unlicensed" preaching. He was brought before the Court of the High Commission, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Lauden, who zealously sought to supress any sect not in conformity with the Church of England.
Together with his congregation of 42 members, Lothrop refused to sign the Ex-Officio oath in court - which would compel them to answer all questions put to them, effectively requiring them to testify against themselves. For this refusal they were imprisoned without further trial until they were eventually released in 1634. One member of that congregation was Pininah Howes, Dan McConnell's eighth-great-grandmother, part of whose testimony before the Court Dan shared with the audience.
Upon his release Lothrop had to either give up his beliefs and stop preaching, or flee the country. To return would mean execution.
Lothrop went to Boston in 1634, and soon afterward to Scituate, Mass, in Plymouth Colony, with 30 of his congregants. More joined during the period of 1634-38. He then moved most of the congregation to Barnstable in 1639. The surviving congregation, which is now the West Barnstable Congregational Church, justifiably holds claim to being the oldest continuous Congregational church in the world. Lothrop died in 1653, and is buried along with others of the founding families of Barnstable in the Lothrop Hill Cemetery in Barnstable Village.
Among the materials Dan brought for his presentation were copies of the Geneva Bible and Foxe's Book of Martyrs, books brought by many from England at the time of John Lothrop.
Each Cape Cod town had originally one church, which was separate and independent from all other churches. A Freeman in the New World was a person who owned land and was a member of a church; a person moving from one town to another needed to be recommended by the church from which he had been a member.
Dan concluded with a list of the surnames of the original members of Lothrop’s congregation, and founding families of Barnstable, that included, among others, Allen, Bacon, Bachelor, Bassett, Chipman, Cobb, Goodspeed, Hinckley, Linnell, Lombard, Marston, Sturgis - names familiar to and useful for those researching Cape Cod ancestries. These individuals comprise the ancestries of no fewer than 10 U.S. Presidents up to the present time.
Based on notes by David Martin.
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