Quakers in Sandwich Massachusetts – “First Seeds of Inner Light” Part 1

In October 1656, Captain Tristram Hull (son of Rev. Joseph Hull discussed in previous blogs) brought Nicholas Upsall, a “religious refuge” from Boston into Sandwich. I wonder, did Tristram know Nicholas was such a hot potato? Was Tristram just helping with transportation or did he have knowledge and sympathy for the man?

Plymouth Colony Map By Hoodinski

Up until a few months before, Nicholas Upsall was a respected and well to do 60 year old Puritan.  However, he had a spiritual transformation when he met two English Quaker women imprisoned in Boston.  He paid the guard to let him bring them food and during his visits there, he heard the controversial Quaker message that people could have a personal relationship with God.  They believed that ordained ministers and traditional worship were not necessary to that relationship.  They also believed that personal conscience took precedence over political authority.  Oh, those were fighting words for the Puritan theocrats!

To counteract the Quaker threat, the Massachusetts authorities passed a law outlawing any Quakers in the Colony and if they did come through, they would be whipped, imprisoned and expelled.  Anyone assisting and/or defending them would be fined 20 pounds and also expelled. When Nicholas Upsall spoke out against the new law, he was promptly penalized and removed from Boston. And that is how he found himself on the road to Sandwich and met up with this branch of my family tree (the Allen’s, Hull’s and Holloway’s).

Sandwich and First Quaker Meeting in America

When Upsall arrived in Sandwich, it wasn’t very long before he was holding meetings at William and Priscilla Allen’s house to tell the community about the Quaker message. These became some of the first Quaker meetings in the North America and were attended by many of my ancestors. Who knew?

Sandwich Quaker Meeting House by Kathleen Wooten

Unfortunately, the Plymouth government soon discovered the nature of the new threat to their colony and issued a warrant to send Upsall away from the area. It appears that Tristram took him to Newport, Rhode Island where Quakers were free to worship. But the seeds were sown in Sandwich and the town became a thorn in the side of both the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colonies for many years to come.

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One Response to Quakers in Sandwich Massachusetts – “First Seeds of Inner Light” Part 1

  1. Val says:

    Very interesting; To think the message of the Quakers was so controversial and frightening to the Puritans. I am glad you and I got to visit Sandwich this past year since both of our families have ties there. Keep telling the story!

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