Ancestral Anecdotes: Rev. Stephen Bachiler





Small Ship
"Among many remarkable lives lived by early New Englanders, Bachiler's is the most remarkable."
--The Great Migration Begins

Much has been written about Rev. Stephen Bachiler.  Facts and figures can be found all over the internet, some biographical information too.  Any Hussey, Wing, or Sanborn who has gotten this far knows all about him. "The Great Migration" is a very good source for a reliable synopsis of his life if you haven't got one, and here is our version:

He came to the colonies in 1632, allegedly on the 'William and Francis', a ship originally part of the Winthrop fleet, although this is not confirmed. He was accompanied by some of his children and grandchildren, including Deborah Wing and her sons. He is recognized as the founder of Hampton, New Hampshire. His controversial career is a subject of debate among historians and descendants to this day.

Many of his descendants spell the name "Batchelder","Bachelor", or with some other variation, but "Bachiler" is how Rev. Stephen himself spelled his name, according to the Bachiler family society. He was probably born in 1560 or 61. He graduated from St. John's College, Oxford, England in 1586, and was made Vicar of the church of Holy Cross-and-St. Peter, at Wherwell, Hampshire, England in 1587, upon the death of his predecessor, Rev. Edward Parrett. All six of his children were born during his 18-year tenure at this position. It is likely that all of his six children were by his first wife, and she was possibly Ann Bate, sister of Rev. John Bate, who succeeded Rev. Stephen as Vicar of Wherwell on August 9, 1605, a vacancy that existed because of "the ejection of Stephen Bachiler."

He was a reformer, and the cause of his ejection from the vicarage at Wherwell was his excommunication. Not all Puritans wanted to break with the established church-many just wanted to reform it, and almost all of them wanted to see a separation of church and state. His views caused him to 'suffer much at the hands of the bishops' in England. Since he was excommunicated, no church records exist to cover the time between his excommunication and his arrival in Lynn, MA in 1632; but there are a few: In 1610 the Bachiler family states that he was still a clergyman in Southampton. On the 11th of June 1621, Winthrop's diary says that he had "Mr. Bachelour, the preacher" to dine with him at Groton in Suffolk. Also from the Winthrop journal:

"Some of the parishioners of Barton Stacey, in Hampshire, a few miles east of Wherwell, listened to his sermons at some time before 1632, for we find that Sir Robert Paine petitioned the Council, stating that he was sheriff of Hants in that year, and was also chosen churchwarden of Barton Stacey, and that some of the parishioners, petitioner's tenants, having been formerly misled by Stephen Bachelor, a notorious nonconformist, had demolished a consecrated chapel at Newton Stacey, neglected the repair of their parish church, maliciously opposed petitioner's intent (to repair the church at his own charge), and executed many things in contempt of the cannons and the bishop."

His ability to earn a living in England thus compromised, he applied for, and received permission to go to Holland (Flushing) in 1631, to visit his children.

Rev. Stephen and his family are assumed to have sailed from London on 9 MAR 1632 on the William and Francis, arriving in Boston on 5 JUN 1632. He went to Lynn, where Christopher Hussey was already living. No official passenger lists have surfaced for the 1632 arrival. The Winthrop journal itself does mention Rev. Stephen's passage on The William and Francis, which lasted 88 days. Among his other fellow travelers were Gov. Edward Winslow of Plymouth. Boat

The atmosphere of religious intolerance experienced in England was also a reality in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The ministers and magistrates formed a religious aristocracy, bigoted and domineering. Rev. Stephen was possibly too independent, and very soon he was rebelling against the magistrates of the colony of Massachusetts. Although he remained pastor of the church at Lynn until 1635, and the church had slowly grown, conflict and controversy had developed between Rev. Stephen and some of his congregation. He agreed to resign his post. Records indicate that Rev. Stephen allowed the authorities and townspeople to believe he would be moving on to another location. But after resigning his post, he and a few of his followers started up a rival church in the same town. That got him into trouble, and he eventually complied when he was asked to move on.

He first went to Ipswich, but was not successful. Then he tried Yarmouth, and records mention that the 70-plus-year-old man had walked the entire distance from Ipswich to Yarmouth (about 100 miles). The party he had taken up with did not have the resources needed to sustain the new settlement, and the expedition again failed. Henry Kittredge mentions this expedition, and says the following:


"Such was the man who at the age of seventy-five set out on foot for Yarmouth at the beginning of the winter of 1637-38. With him went a few of his unregenerate flock. Such an enterprise was foredoomed to failure. Yarmouth was a wilderness, relieved only by a few Indian clearings. The flats and forests were the only possible sources of food. A wise man would have waited for spring, but wise men are never guilty of dramatic rebellion. Bachiler and his friends would certainly have starved or frozen that winter but for the Indians."

"As it was, their sufferings were such that they departed in the spring—just when they might have begun to be comfortable; and this admirable madman spent the last years of his life in continual religious hot water in various parts of New England. His frantic effort to settle at Yarmouth has no bearing on the town’s history, but as an heroic gesture it deserves mention." [Rev. Stephen Bachiler--Page 2]