April – The Massachusetts Act That Banished Baptists

My great, great… grandfather came to Massachusetts in 1635 as a Baptist seeking freedom and land and with a desire to reach the Indians for Jesus. With the colony struggling just to survive during those first years, religious differences were insignificant. A family history written in 1868 says of Thomas that “he held positions of honor and trust in the new settlement; he was a merchant, a planter, one of the select men of the town, a juryman, and withal a preacher.” However, when life grew less stressful, this all changed.

In 1644, Massachusetts passed an Act for the banishment of Baptists. You can read the text of the act on my web site as a Word document here. These Pilgrims were no longer so ready to accept those with different beliefs, even their Baptist cousins (as mentioned here two months ago). In 1651, Obadiah Holmes attended a prayer meeting in Lynn, Massachusetts, and was arrested for it. Refusing to pay the fine, he was whipped so harshly that, for weeks afterward, he could only sleep on his elbows and knees. As he was led from the whipping post, he is reported to have said that he was whipped “as with roses.” The movie of this event “As With Roses” can be purchased at Shiloh Films.

Suffering as a Baptist, my ancestor gave shelter to any in need, including Quakers, the only religious group that perhaps suffered more in that colony than Baptists. With his Puritan friends making life difficult for him and threatening fines, my ancestor left the mainland for Nantucket in 1659 and his own freedom to worship.