Abraham Pierson, the elder

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Abraham Pierson, the elder (died 1678) was an English churchman, known as a minister in New England.

Early life[edit]

Born in Yorkshire, Pierson graduated B.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1632. That year he was found to be an unlicensed curate at All Saints, Pavement, in York.[1] He was ordained deacon at York in September 1632.[2]

On 19 March 1640 Pierson was summoned to the Court of High Commission, described as of Ardsley. He did not attend, and was fined. He went to New England in the early part of 1640, and became a member of the church at Boston.[1][3]

Pastor in New England[edit]

In 1640 Pierson and a party of emigrants from Lynn, Massachusetts formed a new township on Long Island, which they named Southampton. There Pierson remained as minister of the congregational church for four years. In 1644 this church became divided. A number of the inhabitants left, and, uniting with a further body from the township of Wethersfield, formed under Pierson a fresh church at a settlement at Branford, within the jurisdiction of New Haven Colony.[3][4]

Later life[edit]

In 1666 Pierson moved again. The background was the new charter was granted to Connecticut Colony, incorporating New Haven with the colony, several of the townships of New Haven resisted. Newhaven, rigidly ecclesiastical from the outset, had, like Massachusetts, made church membership a needful condition for the enjoyment of civic rights. No such restriction was imposed in Connecticut.[3] Pierson disapproved of the Half-Way Covenant, and moved to pursue his vision of theocracy.[5][6]

The men of Branford, were therefore supported by Pierson, when they opposed the union with Connecticut. When their opposition proved fruitless, they left their homes, leaving Branford almost unpeopled. Taking their civil and ecclesiastical records with them, they established a fresh church and township at Newark. There Pierson died on 9 August 1678.[3]


In 1659 Pierson published a pamphlet entitled Some Helps for the Indians, showing them how to improve their natural reason, to know the true God and the true Christian Religion. It is a short statement of the fundamental principles of monotheism, with a linear translation into the Quiripi language that Pierson made with Thomas Stanton.[7] Verses in Latin by Pierson on the death of Theophilus Eaton have been published.[3][8]


Pierson married Abigail Wheelright, daughter of the merchant John Wheelwright of Exeter.[7] Their son the younger Abraham Pierson was the first head of Yale College, Connecticut;[3] and their daughter Abigail married John, son of John Davenport (died 1670).[9] At least six other children are mentioned.[10]


  1. ^ a b Susan Hardman Moore (2010). Pilgrims: New World Settlers and the Call of Home. Yale. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-300-16405-3. 
  2. ^ "Pierson, Abraham (PR629A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Pierson, Abraham". Dictionary of National Biography 45. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  4. ^ Frederick Lewis Weis (1978). The Colonial Clergy of the Middle Colonies: New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, 1628-1776. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-8063-0799-2. 
  5. ^ Jean-Rae Turner; Richard T. Koles (2001). Newark, New Jersey. Arcadia Publishing. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-7385-2352-1. 
  6. ^ Murray N. Rothbard (1975). Conceived in Liberty. Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-61016-486-3. 
  7. ^ a b Wright, Stephen. "Pierson, Abraham". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22238.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ Leo M. Kaiser (1 January 1984). Early American Latin verse, 1625-1825: an anthology. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-86516-030-9. 
  9. ^ Francis J. Bremer (27 November 2012). Building a New Jerusalem. Yale University Press. p. 329. ISBN 978-0-300-18885-1. 
  10. ^ Yale Literary Magazine. 1845. p. 172 note. 


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainLee, Sidney, ed. (1896). "Pierson, Abraham". Dictionary of National Biography 45. London: Smith, Elder & Co.