Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dorchester and the 'Eagle Wing' association

In February 1634 our Eagle Wing minister Rev. John Livingstone and his former schoolteacher William Wallace travelled to Dorchester on the south coast of England to meet with Rev John White (1575–1648). White was an enthusiastic supporter of emigration to America and organised a number of voyages. Around 1623, just two years after the famous 'Thanksgiving' arrival tradition, White became actively involved with the 'Dorchester Adventurers'.

He secured a patent from King Charles I for a tract of land about 40 miles long, stretching from the Charles River at Boston up to and just beyond the Merrimack River at Newburyport, which is where later documents show Eagle Wing was bound for. In 1629 the Massachusetts Bay Company was formed, its shareholders including John Winthrop who would become the first Governor of the colony and whose son came to Ulster at least twice during 1635 to help with the planning of Eagle Wing, meeting with Livingstone & co at Sir John Clotworthy's castle in Antrim in October of that year.

The first ship White's company was associated with, the George Bonaventura, sailed in May 1629. A fleet of 11 ships was soon assembled. By 1640 about 10,000 people emigrated. So, rather than a one-off ‘solo run’ episode (which is how I have heard it described) Eagle Wing was in fact very carefully planned to be part of a large organised and successful wave of emigration from Britain to America.

White was one of those at the Westminster Assembly of 1643 and a firm advocate of the Solemn League and Covenant, a role which would have renewed his acquaintance with the Ulster ministers and Eagle Wing would-be emigrants.

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester is near White's rectory, his church - Holy Trinity and St Peter's - is still in the town, and the doorway of his birthplace at Manor Farm in Oxford has his name inscribed above the doorway.

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