The English Home of Mr. Timothy Dalton, B. A. : Last Days In England

It was on November 26, 1635, that the judgment of the High Commission1 in Samuel Ward's case was pronounced. During the same year (1635) there were a thousand other complaints pending in the same court but it was not until 1636 -- indeed, not until 1937 -- that the troubles of the English Puritans reached high-water mark.

The number of vacant churches and deserted homesteads was then increasing.2 Peter Heylin wrote: "It was no hard matter for these Ministers and Lecturers to persuade [their congregations] to remove their dwellings and transport their trades. 'The Sun of Heaven,' say they, 'doth shine as comfortably in other places; the Sun of righteousness much brighter! Better to go and dwell in Goshen, find it where we can, than tarry in the midst of such an Egyptian darkness as is known falling on this land.' "3 The great Puritan exodus began and ended with the Parliamentary interval (1629-40), during which King Charles, declining the aid of the legislature, governed "by the use of these means which God had put into his hands." More than twenty thousand souls were then added to the population of the New country, which was thereafter well able to take care of itself, "while Puritan England found employment at home for all its surplus energies and enthusiasm." After 1640 many of the earlier emigrants returned to their native land, either tired of "the New England way", or wishing to take part in the actual hand-to-hand conflict between King and Commons. It has been calculated, that for the last sixty years of the century the two opposing currents of travel-westward and eastward- were very nearly balanced.

We believe that previous to his suspension Timothy Dalton had had no purpose of leaving England. With Samuel Ward he had worked for the success of the colonial experiment, and, like Ward, he was himself willing to wait for the change in affairs which, to the keen eyes of the Puritan managers, was near at hand. When before the High Commission, Ward had "commended such as stayed in their native country and mother church, which he thought and said to be the most flourishing national kingdom and church in the world; not knowing what God would incline and enable himself to do, in case of trial, if any should happen."4 We have none of Dalton's utterances upon the subject; but it is signigicant that, before he was suspended, he had built the little cottage that was afterward a resting-place for his family until they started for the colony.

Beyond the simple fact that this use of the "smale houses," nothing whatever is known of Mr. Dalton's "Last Days in England." We cannot decide when he went away, nor where. We have the date -March 29, 1636-of his last marriage at Woolverstone. He was certainly silenced during the AApril visitation of the diocese. On the 10th of May the Episcopal memorandum of his desertion was made. All that should be said is that he disappeared be tween March 29th and May 10th. Did he then become "a Rotterdam Rogue"? Perhaps he "Lurk'd in Corners" of his own shire.5 Or is it possible that he was hidden in some one of the many stately Puritan homes, in some remote quarter of the kingdom. As we suggested on a previous page, the authorities found a way of communicating with him, so as to obain his written resignation. After that we do not hear from him again until the midsummer of 1637, when he was made a freeman of Dedham in the wilderness.

Everything points to the spring of that year as the time of his westward voyage. The ministerial tide was then setting strongly in that direction. We identify Masters John Allin, Edmund Brown, Thomas Cobbett, John Davenport, Samuel Eaton, John Fiske, John Harvard, Herorge Moxon, Oeter Prudden, and William Thompson among the Boston arrivals of the season. Several of them landed in June. All were notable men, of the very best who came to New England. The mystery in Dalton;s case was probably owing to an order of the Privy Council, "to suffer no Clergyman to transport himself [to the Plantations] without a testimonial from the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London."6

It could not have been east to obtain such a certificate for Mr. Dalton. The Archbishop had been warned against him by Commissary Dade as early as February, 1633-34, and Bishop Wren had reported the subsequent desertion of his cure. The commissioners in the various seaports were specially instructed to be vigilant.7 Hence we must conjecture that Mr. Dalton escaped under a disguise, as so many other clergymen had already done.

When he had crossed the ocean he "burned his ships." Here was nothing left to connect him with his former life, except three tiny graves in the Woolverstone churchyard. With the younger Winthrop, he was ready to say: "I shall call that my country where I may most glorify God, and enjoy the presence of my dearest friends."

  1. Burn's Notices of the Court of High Commission, 41.
  2. It is said that eleven ministers, including Dalton, arrived in Boston in 1637. (N. E. Hist. and Gen. Reg., I, 289.) On March 17, 1638m Sir William Maynard wrote to Laud that he "hears daily of incredible numbers of persons, of very good abilities, who have sold their lands, and are upon their departure [into New England]. Danger of divers parishes being impoverished. So much corn carried over there that there will hardly be enough left in this great scarcity to last until harvest." --Calendar of State Papers, Colonial series, 1574-1060, p. 266.
  3. Heylin's Cyprianus Anglicanus, 366.
  4. John Ward Dean's Memoir of Nathaniel Ward, 144. The punning legend on Samuel Ward's tombstone in the church pf St. Mary-le-Tower, and which was put there before his death, seems appropriate for such a condition of mind: "Watch, Warde, yet a little while, and he that shall come will come."
  5. So recently as 1801 a secret chamber, or "priest's room, was discovered in the "Ancient House" of Ipswich. (Wodderspoon's Historic Sites of Suffolk, 96.) The tradition that Charles II was secreted there after the battle of Worcester is without foundation.-Allan Fea's Flight of the King, 104.
  6. We do not know the date of this order, but suspect that it was in the winter of 1636-37. See Gregory's Puritanism in the Old World and in the New, 303.
  7. In the margin of the examination at Yarmouth, on May 11, 1637, of :John Yonges, minister of St. Margretts (Ipswich], Suff., " it is written: "This man was forbyden passage by the commissionrs and went no from yramouth." -Houlton's Original Lists, 294.