Monday, July 14, 2008

Rev. Stephen Bachiller: Ministry and Adultery at a Ripe Old Age

By most accounts, Rev. Stephen Bachiller (spelled various ways including Bachiller, Batchellor, Batchelder, Bachiler, etc.) was born somewhere in England around 1560. (He is my 10th great grandfather.) He is said to have graduated from Oxford in 1586. He was an Anglican minister who became involved in the Puritan movement. After a brief period in Holland, he came to America after the age of seventy in 1632. He became the minister at Saugus (later Lynn), Massachusetts that same year. He was dismissed as minister in 1636, his ministry there having been embroiled in controversy. In 1638 he and others settled Winnicunnet (which became Hampton in 1639) in New Hampshire. He was the first minister. Controversy again followed him. He was accused of adultery with his neighbor's wife. He was excommunicated at first, but then the excommunication was removed; however, he was no longer allowed to serve as pastor. This didn't stop him from occasionally preaching, even after moving to Portsmouth at the age of 88. He married again in 1650. His wife had a child by a man named George Rogers. Her sentence was to receive 39 stripes and to be branded with the letter "A." (Many people believe she is the inspiration for Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.) He returned to England, accompanied by a grandson, in 1654 (about age 94). I've seen dates of death ranging from 1656 to 1661 for him. The apparent date of death is 31 October 1656. We do know that Mary attempted to divorce him on grounds of abandonment in 1656 but was unsuccessful. Stephen is also said to have married a woman after returning to England which would have been yet another adulterous act.

It amazes me that he was as vigorous as he must have been at so late an age. It further amazes me that he was able to travel across the ocean in his 90s. It is interesting that a woman of child-bearing age would marry a 90-year-old man. He's one of those interesting characters that seems more like a legend that a historical person. While I haven't attempted to go back and document his life as I really have further work on generations between what I do have proven and him, he's one of those that I'm looking forward to researching just to try to see what is true and what is false about all the published reports of his life.

For more information on this fascinating ancestor, check out Lane Public Library's pages on him.

Update (7/20): I have had an email from the author of the book on Goody Wing that Miriam mentioned in her comments. Beverly has done more research on Bachiler than I have and says that some of the information that I've acquired I will find to be erroneous when I begin researching it with primary source documents. Let me just quickly say that much of the basis for my account above came from a book entitled The Eastern Frontier. I did acknowledge that I'd found a lot of variant information in just reading the accounts of Bachiler. Beverly says that Mary Beedle who is the wife who received that brand of "A" was the fourth wife of Bachiler instead of the third and that he did not remarry when he returned to England. I know that I'm going to have lots of "conflicting information" to resolve when I do begin my primary research on this fascinating ancestor.

Some have asked through which child of his I'm descended. It is through his daughter Ann who married John Sanborn.


Miriam Robbins said...

There's a great book written about Stephen's daughter, Deborah Bachiller Wing, by a descendant of his (I guess a distant cousin of yours).

That wily Reverend Bachiller!

Lori Thornton said...

Sounds interesting. I just ordered it from Amazon! Thanks for the tip!

Bill West said...

Hi Lori,
We may have a Batchilder/Batchelder
connection. One of my ancestors may have been John's daughter Mary who married John Sambourne/Sanborn.
Their granddaughter married Joseph
Dow and one of their descendants may
be the mother of my great great grandmother, Louisa Almata
Richardson although there are two
theories on the identity of Lydia Dow.

Lori Thornton said...

I suspect several of us have Bachiler connections, Bill!