Rev. Stephen Bachiler

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By Victor Channing Sanborn

from Batchelder, Batcheller genealogy by Frederick Clifton Pierce, 1898

Victor Channing Sanborn
Victor Channing Sanborn

Concerning the life of Stephen Bachiler less is known than of most of the founders of New England; yet few of the early Puritans were more widely known in their day, and none had a more checkered career. Bachiler, as is said of a descendant of his, "had a real genius for opposing the majority," and in consequence his character has been much maligned. The truth is, he was a reformer, with the strength and weakness of his kind. He was among the first to refuse conformity to the English church, and "suffered much at the hands of the Bishops." He came to America in his old age, hoping to find here that liberty which was denied at home; he rebelled at the union of church and state, which the strong Puritan covenant enforced, and in consequence found himself opposed to the party in power. the Massachusetts authorities. After twenty years of conflict, in his old age he returned to England, preferring to pass his last days among the Puritans there, rather than in New England. His life measures the Puritan epoch; he was among the first clergymen to be ejected, and he died with the English Republic.

Stephen Bachiler was born in 1560. His parentage and birthplace are as yet unknown -- Southern England was at that time full of Bachilers; Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and Kent had distinct lines, while the Channel Islands were the home of a Bachiler family of French extraction. Probably this French family, migrating to Southampton and forming an important part of the French Protestant church there, was the ancestral line of Stephen Bachiler. Certain it is that his lifelong connection was with Hampshire, and he was allied to the Le Mercier and Priaulx families of Jersey and Southampton.

The first record of Stephen Bachiler is in 1581, when, at 20, he was matriculated at the then newly established college of St. John, Oxford, on Nov. 17, 1581. Here he took his B. A. in 1586. St. John's was founded in 1555 by Sir Thomas White, and is now one of the most interesting college in Oxford, possessing the most beautiful gardens there. The scholars of St. John's were of various opinions; the list includes Archbishops Laud and Juxon, and the celebrated nonconformist, Calamy.

From Oxford, Bachiler entered the church, and on July 15, 1587, was instituted as Vicar of Sherwell, Hants, being presented to that living by William, Lord de la Warr, the ancestor of the nobleman from whom Delaware derives its name. Wherwell ("Horrell") is a beautiful village on the Test, and was in its most perfect beauty when I saw it in June, 1895. The church lies a short distance from Wherwell Priory, the home of Mr. Iremonger, and a most ideal English county seat. The present church, though located on the original site, is not the building of Bachiler's time, and the registers before 1624 are missing, so that I found nothing there concerning him. The Bishop's Transcripts at Winchester are not accessible. In 1605, Bachiler was "deprayved" of his living -- the cause is not stated, but it was presumably by the order of the commission appointed by James I, of which commission Lord e la Warr, a son of the nobleman who presented Bachiler to Wherwell, was a member. August 9, 1605, John Bate was appointed Vi car at Wherwell, a vacancy existing because of "the ejection of Stephen Bachiler."

From 1605 the record of Bachiler's English life is very fragmentary. In 1610, his son, Stephen was matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, "the son of a clergyman of Hampshire." In 1621, Adam Winthrop's diary relates that he had "Mr. Bachiler, the preacher," to dine with him. Tradition says that Bachiler fled to Holland; Winthrop's History states that he "suffered much at the hands of the Bishops;" but no record of his life in Holland is extant. Perhaps this suffering and flight were between 1605 and 1622, for in the latter year, we find him established in Newton Stacy, a retired hamlet, a mile and a half east of Wherwell. Here Bachiler bought land in 1622 and 1629, and accumulated quite a property; he still preached the Puritan doctrines, for we find Sir Robert Payne in 1632, being then sheriff of Hants, complaining that his tenants, "having been formerly misled by one Stephen Bachiler, a notorious inconformist, did demolish a consecrated chapel in Newton Stacy."

In 1630, "The Plough Company of Husbandmen" was formed, and obtained a patent to land near the mouth of the Sagadahoc river, in Maine. They chose Bachiler as their pastor, and he also adventured a considerable sum in the enterprise, selling his Hampshire property to enable him to do this. Through fraud or some underhand dealing, the Plough Company failed, in 1631-2, after Bachiler had made preparations to come to New England and settle in Cambridge (Newton). Before sailing for America, Bachiler and his wife, accompanied by his widowed daughter, Ann Samborne, then "living in ye Strand," obtained permission to go to Holland for two months, "to visit his sons and daughters there." One of these sons was probably that Samuel Bachiler, chaplain to Sir Charles Morgan's regiment in Holland, who, in 1625, published his "Miles Charitianus," probably the treatise which Bachiler sent as a gift to Margaret Winthrop in 1640. At this period, too, is that grant of arms to Stephen Bachiler, described by Sylvanus Morgan in his "Sphere of Gentry" -- Vert, a plow in fess; in base the sun rising, or. This coat Morgan states was granted to "Stephen Bachiler, the first pastor of the church of Lygonia in New England, the plough to signify his ploughing up the fallow ground of their hearts, and the sun in allusion to his motto: 'Sol Justitiæ Exoritur.'"

Bachiler married twice in England; all of his children of whom we have record were by his first wife.

Bachiler's second wife, Helen, accompanied him to New England, dying in 1642.

On March 9, 1632, Bachiler sailed for New England in the "William and Francis," landing at Boston, June 5, 1632. Winthrop, in relating the fact, states that on the ship were "Mr Bachiler and Mr. Welde, with their families, and many other honest men." Just what family Bachiler brought with him is not known -- presumably his second wife and his four grandsons, Nathaniel Bachiler and John, William and Stephen Samborne. Apparently none of Bachiler's own children came. The failure of the "Plough Company" compelled him to give up his plan of settling in Cambridge, and he accepted a call from the church at Sagus (Lynn), where his son-in-law, Christopher Hussey, then resided. On June 8, 1632, Bachiler commenced his ministrations, baptizing four children; it is said that when Thomas Newhall, the first white child born in Lynn, was presented for baptism, Bachiler put him aside, saying, "I will baptise mine own child first," meaning Stephen Hussey, his grandson and namesake.

Shortly after his arrival, Bachiler came into conflict with the authorities, for on Oct. 3, 1632, the general court ordered "that Mr. Bachiler forbear exercising his guifts as a pastor or teacher publiquely in or pattent, unless it be to those he brought with him, for contempt of authority, and until some scandles be removed." By "scandles" is merely meant some report of his utterances against the authorities. After five months this order was recalled. He was at the conference of ministers Sept. 17, 1633, and again Dec. 19, 1634. Early in 1635 a general convention of elders was held in Lynn to discuss the quarrel between Bachiler and an opposing faction in his church, who held that he had no true communion. The council agreed that though not a first installed in due order, yet Bachiler had a true church there -- after a time, peace was restored. On May 5, 1635, he became a freeman. In January, 1636, he was summoned before the magistrates, because, "coming out of England with 6 or 7 persons, and having since received in many more at Sagus; and contention coming between him and the greatest part of his church, he desired dismission for himself and his first members, which being granted, he, with the said six or seven persons, presently renewed their old covenant, intending to raise another church in Sagus; whereat the most and cheefe of the town being offended, for that it would cross their intention of summoning Mr. Peter or some other minister, they complained to the magistrates, who forbade him to proceed in any church way until the cause were considered by the other ministers. But he refused to desist. Upon his appearance and submission, and promise to remove out of the town within 3 months, he was discharged."

In February, 1636, Bachiler moved to Ipswich, the home of John Winthrop, where he received 50 acres of land, but, apparently discouraged by his troubles at Sagus, gave up the active work of the ministry. This latter fact was mentioned in a letter of the period from a Puritan minister in England, as a result of the reign and bigoted spirit in New England, which deterred many from coming to this country.

Early in 1638, in the winter time, Bachiler tried to form a settlement near Yarmouth on Cape Cod, where his Wing grandchildren lived; and walked there from Ipswich. But, says Winthrop, "He and his company being poor men, gave it over, and others undertook it." In the spring of 1638, he removed to Newbury, where his son-in-law, Hussey, and his connection, Mr. Richard Dummer, were living. The latter had come into conflict with the "powers that be," having been one of those disarmed a year before because of his adherence to the forbidden opinions of Anne Hutchinson.

Few men, at 79 years of age, would undertake to start a new settlement in the wilderness, especially after 33 years of conflict, but such was the determined nature of Stephen Bachiler. No better spot could have been chosen than the site of Hampton, N. H., comprising, as it did, both fertile farm lands and wide stretches of salt and fresh meadows. Bachiler had visited it before September, 1638, and in that month had petitioned the General Court for leave to begin a plantation there. On October 9, 1638, writing to Governor Winthrop, and asking him and Mr. Bradstreet to accompany the little band of settlers, he says, "We were there and viewed it cursorily and we found a reasonable meet place, which we shall shew you." Bachiler's fellow petitioners and settlers were mostly from the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire, among them one or two of his old parishioners in England, but there were also some from Norfolk and Suffolk.

June 7, 1639, Winnicunnet was made a town, and in the fall the name was changed to Hampton, at the request of Bachiler, and in honor of the city of Southampton, then commonly called Hampton, with which the Bachiler family was associated. Stephen Bachiler was thus the founder and father of Hampton, the third settlement in New Hampshire, and for years the principal town in that colony. He received a grant of 300 acres from the town, gave a bell for their church, and bound up his fortunes with the new settlement. In 1639, Ipswich promised him a large grant if he would settle with them, but he refused. About this time, Hampton received a considerable influx of new settlers, many of them from Norfolk and Suffolk -- and a Suffolk clergyman, Timothy Dalton, was associated with Bachiler in the ministry, as teacher and curate. From this time dated a long period of strife in the Hampton church. Dalton was 30 years younger than Bachiler, educated, a vicar at St. John's Cambridge, and had brought with him many of his old parishioners. He was polite, active, and an earnest adherent of the plans of Massachusetts.

But little definite record is left us of the conflict between pastor and teacher; the town records are mute, and the church records are missing. Winthrop's History contains little of value concerning it, and is mainly responsible for preserving the slander which it is now thought Dalton and his party manufactured out of the whole cloth. Judge Batchelder, in refuting this falsehood, calls attention to the fact that no definite charge was ever brought, and that no investigation was made, although Bachiler earnestly and publicly entreated it. In Bachiler's letter to Winthrop, he charges Dalton with "having don all and ben the cause of all the dishonor that hath accrewed to God, shame to myself, and greefe to all God's people by his irregular proceeding and abuse of the power of the church in his hand, the main part cleaving to him being his countrymen and acquaintaince in old England. The Teachers excommunicating of me would prove the foulest matter, both for the cause alleged and the impulsive cause (even wrath and revenge)." Winthrop's account censures Dalton, "who indeed had not carried himself in this cause so well as became him and acknowledged it." In 1643, the magistrates, to whom the case was referred, removed the excommunication, but did not restore Bachiler to his pastoral office. To show the general belief in Bachiler's innocence, while the evil report was still rife, two neighboring towns, Casco on the north and Exeter on the west, called him to be their minister; he at once set their calls before the magistrates, saying that he wished to accept neither until he had a full hearing in his case against Dalton. The magistrates, in reply merely advised him to leave Hampton, and he accepted the call to Exeter; but, as this was within the jurisdiction claimed by the Massachusetts authorities, they were unwilling to have so troublesome an opponent within their bonds, and, in 1644, the court ordered the Exeter people, on account of their divisions and contentions, to defer gathering a church. Winthrop adds that "Mr. Bachiler had been in three places before, and through his means, as was supposed, the churches fell into such divisions that no peace could be till he was removed." Bachiler, who had declined the call to Casco and prepared to settle in Exeter, remained in Hampton, the troubles growing more bitter. Hampton had paid him no salary, and he petitioned the General Court for some allowance, but they refused to step in, leaving him to sue through the District Court. July 15, 1644, Winthrop says, "The contentions in Hampton were grown to a great height, the whole town was divided into two factions, one with Mr. Bachiler, their late pastor, and the other with Mr. dAlton, their teacher, both men very passionate and wanting discretion and moderation."

Just before this time, Bachiler's troubles increased; his wife died, and his house and library, "to the valley of £200," were burned. Disheartened, he sold his land in Hampton and moved to Portsmouth, where he became a private resident, though still preaching occasionally. He hired a "good neighbour" as his housekeeper, and, in 1648, at 88 years of age, he married her. The match proved most disastrous; in 1650, she was convicted of adultery with one Rogers, and sentenced to be publicly whipped and branded with the letter "A." Bachiler sued for divorce, but was met with the atrocious order that he "and his wife shall live together as man and wife, as in this Corte they have professed to do; and if either desert the other the marshall shall apprehend both and bring them to Boston, to be kept until the next Corte." The only explanation for this order is the determination to make impossible Bachiler's remaining in the Massachusetts Colony; the attempt was successful. About 1654, accompanied by his grandchild and godson, Stephen Samborne, Bachiler left the New World, from which he had hoped so much, to end his days quietly in England, where Cromwell and the Puritans held sway. His last act was to convey his American estate to his son-in-law, Hussey. "April 8, 1673. Edward Colcord, of Hampton, aged 56, and Wm. Fifield, of Hampton, testify that when Mr. Stephen Bacheller, of Hampton, was upon is voyage to England, they did hear Mr. Bachiller say unto his son-in-law, Mr. Chr. Hussey that in consn the said Hussey had little or nothing from him with his daughter which was then married to the said Hussey, also in consn that this said son Hussey & his wife had been helpful unto him both formerly & in fitting him for his voyage, & for other considerations, he did give to the said Hussey all his estate consisting in cattell, household goods & debts, for which his aforesaid give he also gave a deed in writing & delivered a copy thereof to the said Hussey."

In 1654, Bachiler's children and grandchildren were well established in England, and tradition says he spent his last days in peace and comfort near London. His worthless wife, in 1656, spread a baseless report that he "took to himself another wife," but as this is the only source from which the story comes, we may well believe it false.

The last record of this long and stormy career is contained in the following: "The ancient Stephen Bachiler of Hampton died at Hackney, a village and parish in Middlesex 2 miles from London, in 1660 in the 100th year of his age." [Editor's note: This is not true, he didn't die in Hackney in 1660.]

Perhaps the best proof of the striking character of Stephen Bachiler is the belief of many of his descendants that their abilities are derived from him. Daniel Webster so believed, and also William Batchelder Greene.

[Mr. Sanborn is the author of the Sanborn Genealogy, which was published a short time ago, and upon which he is now at work revising and received additional data for an enlarged work. He has visited England and made quite an extensive investigation in relation to the subject of this sketch. -- F.C.P.]

Postscript: Thomas I. Bachelder, of Little Boars Head, N. H., writes to the author of this work as follows: "As to the old furniture, I have a bureau of solid white oak; a chair white oak also. It is framed together and pined with wooden pins, and there is not a nail in it. Then I have a small trunk, about two feet by four inches wide, with the date on the top, '1694,' put on with brass headed nails. As to the contribution box, it is of oak and is twelve inches long and four in. wide, and was carved very handsome. Also the chair is carved also. There is also A Town book at Hampton, where Stephen Bachiler did town business."
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