John Eliot (missionary)
Puritan missionary to Native Americans
Widford, Hertfordshire, England
|Died||May 21, 1690|
English education and Massachusetts ministry
John Eliot was born in Widford, Hertfordshire, England and lived at Nazeing as a boy. He attended Jesus College, Cambridge. After college, he became assistant to Thomas Hooker at a private school at Little Baddow, Essex. After Hooker was forced to flee to Holland, Eliot emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, arriving on November 3, 1631. He was asked to serve as chaplain on the ship Lyon sailing to Boston. There, he became minister and "teaching elder" at the First Church in Roxbury. From 1637 to 1638 he took part in both the civil trial and church trial of Anne Hutchinson during the Antinomian Controversy, being one of the two ministers representing Roxbury. In that town he founded the Roxbury Latin School in 1645. From 1649 to 1674, he was assisted in the Roxbury ministry by Samuel Danforth.
Highlights of his career
John Eliot and fellow ministers Thomas Weld (also of Roxbury) and Richard Mather of Dorchester, are credited with being the editors of the Bay Psalm Book, which was the first book published in the British North American colonies. He participated in the examination, excommunication and exile of Anne Hutchinson, whose opinions he deplored. He was instrumental in the conversion of Massachusett Indians. To help achieve this, Eliot translated the Bible into the Massachusett language and published it in 1663. In 1666, his grammar of Massachusett, called "The Indian Grammar Begun", was published as well. As a cross-cultural missionary Eliot was best known for putting Native Americans in planned towns in hopes of encouraging them to recreate a Christian society. At one point in time, there were 14 of these towns of so-called "Praying Indians", the best documented being at Natick, Massachusetts. These towns suffered disruption during King Philip's War (1675) and for the most part lost their special status as Indian self-governing communities in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. The praying Indian towns included: Littleton (Nashoba), Lowell (Wamesit, initially incorporated as part of Chelmsford), Grafton (Hassanamessit), Marlborough (Okommakamesit), a portion of Hopkinton that is now in the Town of Ashland (Makunkokoag), Canton (Punkapoag), Mendon-Uxbridge (Wacentug), and Natick. Eliot was a witness to the signing of the deed for Mendon with Nipmuck Indians for "Squinshepauk Plantation" in 1662. Eliot's intentions can be seen in his involvement in the case of the Town of Dedham v. The Indians of Natick. The neighboring town of Dedham contested the boundary with Natick. Eliot interceded on behalf of the Natick "Praying Indians". Besides answering the case of Dedham point by point, Eliot reminded the jurors that the purpose of the colony was to benefit the native people.
Eliot was also the author of The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ, considered the first book on politics written by an American and also the first book to be banned by an American government. Written in the late 1640s, and published in England in 1659, it proposed a new model of civil government based on the system Eliot instituted among the converted Indians, which was based in turn on Exodus 18, the government instituted among the Israelites by Moses in the wilderness. Eliot asserted that "Christ is the only right Heir of the Crown of England," and called for the institution of an elected theocracy in England and throughout the world. The accession to the throne of Charles II of England made the book an embarrassment to the Massachusetts colony, and in 1661 the General Court banned the book and ordered all copies destroyed. Eliot was forced to issue a public retraction and apology.
John Eliot's wife was the former Hanna Mumford. They had six children, five girls and one boy. Their daughter Hannah Eliot married Habbakuk Glover ("Habbacuke Glover was married to Hannah Eliott daughter of John Eliott teacher of the Church of Christ at Roxbury 4th -- 3rd month by Thomas Dudley Dept. Govr." - Massachusetts Town Vital Records, NEHGS) Their son, John Eliot, Jr., was the first pastor of the First Church of Christ in Newton, while his son, Joseph Eliot, was a pastor in Guilford, Connecticut, and was himself father of Jared Eliot, a noted agricultural writer and pastor.
In 1689 John Eliot donated 75 acres (300,000 m2) of land in Roxbury to support the Eliot School in the Jamaica Plain district of that town, founded in 1676. Under the donation, the school was required to accept both Negros and Indians without prejudice, a great exception for the time. The school survives near its original location to this day as [http://www.eliotschool.org The Eliot School of Fine and Appli
He died in 1690, aged 85, his last words being "welcome joy!" A monument to John Eliot is on the grounds of the Bacon Free Library in Natick.
John Eliot's missionary career was admired by Puritan "remembrancer" Cotton Mather as the epitome of the ideals of New England Puritanism. His reputation, along with that of David Brainerd (1718–47) and the Apostle Paul himself, became the "canonized heroes" and "enkindlers" of William Carey (1761-1834) widely held to be the "father of modern missions." In his groundbreaking An Enquiry Into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen (1792) he mentions Eliot as a model. Hence, if William Carey is the "father of modern missions" then John Eliot is its grandfather.
The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ]
The Harmony of the Gospels in the holy History of the Humiliation and Sufferings of Jesus Christ, from his Incarnation to his Death and Burial.
- Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Elliott, John". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Hooker, Thomas". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Battis, Emery (1962). Saints and Sectaries: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 189–246.
- Moore, Martin (1822). The Life and Character of Rev. John Eliot, Apostle of the N.A. Indians. Boston: T. Bedlington.
- A Short History of Boston by Robert J. Allison, p.14
- Goddard, Ives and Kathleen J. Bragdon (eds.) (1989) Native Writings in Massachusett. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. P.2-15.
- Carpenter, John B. (2002) "New England Puritans: The Grandparents of Modern Protestant Missions." Fides et Historia. 30, 4, 526.
- 1st Settlers Monument - Middlesex County, Massachusetts
- http://www.jphs.org/colonial/eliot-school-in-session-here-since-1676.html Jamaica Plain Historical Society
- Carpenter, John, (2002) "New England Puritans: The Grandparents of Modern Protestant Missions," Fides et Historia 30,4, 529.
- Carpenter, John. "New England Puritans: The Grandparents of Modern Protestant Missions." Fides et Historia 30,4, October 2002.
- Francis, John Eliot, the Apostle to the Indians, in "Library of American Biography," volume v (Boston, 1836)
- Winsor, Memorial History of Boston, volume i (Boston, 1880–81)
- Walker, Ten New England Leaders (New York, 1901)
- The Eliot Tracts: with letters from John Eliot to Thomas Thorowgood and Richard Baxter (London, 2003)
- "Massachusetts Town Vitals Collection 1620-1988" record for Habbacuke Glover
- Color oil portrait of Rev. John Eliot, by unidentified artist, 1659, from the Natick Historical Society site
- Cambridge University - John Eliot Biography
- Cambridge University - John Eliot Exhibition
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Eliot, John". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Ellsworth Eliot (1900). "Eliot, John". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography.