In the seventeenth century, Essex and Suffolk was a hotbed of Puritans, a consequence of poor economic conditions, social stresses, and religious and political turmoil, that were plaguing England at the time. These problems motivated almost 400,000 people to leave British shores for the colonies in America.
Many people know that Christopher Martin Road is a road in Basildon, but probably less know that he was from Great Burstead. He was one of the earliest migrants, sailing on the ship ‘Mayflower’ to America in 1620, landing in the area of Cape Cod and establishing a colony, naming it Plymouth.
Then ten year later in 1630, following the dissolving of parliament by King Charles I, and with the worsening economic condition, many Puritan leaders decided to establish a godly colony in the “New World.” This colony would provide the economic and social security the Puritans craved, but could not attain in England.
Over the next ten years, over 20,000 English men, women and children sailed to the new Massachusetts Bay Colony, in what became known as the “Great Migration.” Many of the Puritans were men of authority and of considerable wealth, yet they did not intend to sever their connection with the existing Church of England, but to reform the existing church by modelling communities in New England.
One of this latter group of migrants was fifteen-year-old Hannah Lake, who, with her mother Margaret (nee Reade), her sister Martha, her brother Thomas, her aunt Elizabeth Winthrop (nee Reade) and uncle, John Winthrop Jr., sailed in the ship “Abigail” to Massachusetts, arriving on 6 October 1635. Hannah’s father did not travel with them, he stayed in England.
Just a bit of background to Hannah’s early-life family. Hannah’s grandfather on her mother’s side, was Colonel Edmund Reade, who had been baptised in Wickford on 23 May 1563 and married Elizabeth (nee Cooke) at Pebmarsh, Essex in 1594, following the death of his first wife, Thomasin Wallenger, who had died in Wickford in 1592. Edmund held a considerable amount of land in the Wickford and surrounding area, and his ancestry can be traced in the area as far back as the 1400s. Although of minor gentry he was obviously a fairly wealthy man, as borne out by his will, giving twenty shillings to the poor of Wickford, five pounds to his servant John Weald and two shillings to his other servants. Most of his land etc went to his eldest son William but he made sure that the rest of his children, including Hannah’s mother Margaret, were well catered for. He died on 1 December 1623 aged 60 and is buried in Wickford.
The Lake family, from which Hannah’s father came, were yeoman farmers and had been for generations. Hannah’s father, John Lake Jr., owned lands in Nevendon and Basildon, through his mother Elizabeth Sandel. He later acquired additional lands in Wickford and Rawreth, within the dowry of his wife Margaret Reade, whom he married when she was eighteen and he twenty-six. Records show that Hannah was baptised at North Benfleet’s All Saints’ church on 3 July 1621.
John Lake Jr. inherited Fanton Hall from his father, and that is where Hannah would have spent much of her childhood.
So, going back to the migration. It is not really known why Margaret left England. The Lakes as landowners were reasonably wealthy so it was very brave of Margaret to leave a comfortable life in England with her daughters and son, to travel to somewhere very much unknown. Fortunately, they had the protection of her brother-in-law, John Winthrop Jr. who was later to become Governor of Connecticut.
Did Margaret want to pursue her Puritan beliefs?
Had there been a family rift?
Whatever the reason, she still tried to keep in touch with her husband, John Lake Jr.. There were other communications between London and John Winthrop Jr. For example, in 1654, “John Lake is alive and lusty” and again in 1657 saying “John Lake lives still”. Sadly, John Lake died four years later, in 1661.
The land these settlers occupied in New England was the tribal homeland of native Indians, and where Hannah and her family landed was the homeland of the Wampanoag Indians. By 1637 the Massachusetts Bay Colony had conquered the various tribes, in particular the Pequot Indians. John Winthrop Jr. was given substantial lands, and when he later visited his lands, Margaret Lake joined him, assumingly with her daughters, believed to be the first English women to set foot in the area that later became known as New England.
Hannah, her mother and sister were to live with the Winthrop’s until Hannah and Martha married. Hannah was twenty-two when she married John Gallop in 1643, the wedding being in John Winthrop’s Jr. house in Boston. By marrying John Gallop, she became part of a famous frontier family whose contribution to the early colonisation of Boston was very significant.
Hannah’s father-in-law, John Gallop Sr. had arrived in the New World from England, on the ship ‘Mary & John’ in 1630, and he soon became the owner of a house and a wharf, which later became known as Gallop’s Point, Boston.
Hannah’s husband, John Gallop, fought in many of the frontier wars, and his reputation as a brave man prevails even today amongst the citizens of the New England States. Following their marriage they moved from Boston to Taunton, part of the Plymouth colony, where the first of their ten children was born.
In 1651, following his father’s death, John Gallop inherited land granted by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to veterans of the Pequot Wars. Then in 1654, they moved with three of their children and settled on 300 acres of land given to them on the east bank of the Mystic River, preferring to make it their main dwelling place, as it offered John a protected anchorage for his seafaring activities as well as good land for farming. Life was far from idyllic.
In fact, frontier life was hard; Hannah would have had to be physically strong to survive childbearing, and mentally strong to cope with isolation and uncertainty. When the menfolk were away it was up to the wives to manage the homestead, and at times defend it. Hannah would have been left alone for long periods while her husband was away fighting wars and leading supply wagons on trading expeditions. Also, we must remember that wolves were a constant source of danger.
However, they prospered and were awarded several more land grants. Hannah went on to produce seven more children. At the age of sixty John Jr. fought in the King Philip’s War of 1675-76 which raged through the towns and villages of New England. He had taken command of the First Company of Connecticut regiment and during the Great Swamp Fight on 19 December 1676, he lost his life when storming Narragansett Fortress. He was buried at nearby Wickford, in a mass grave near the battlefield.
Two of Hannah’s sons, John and William, also fought in the Kings Philip’s War, continuing a tradition that would see her grandsons, great-grandsons and great-great grandsons fight in the War of Independence and the American Civil War. Hannah’s daughters too inherited their mother’s fortitude, helping to carve out the beginnings of the American nation as it is today.
Hannah died in 1674 and is buried in White Hall Graveyard, Mystic, on Rhode Island. She died a respected and wealthy woman, whose descendants include: George Gallop, inventor of the Gallup Poll, Calvin Coolidge, 30th U.S. President, Robert Frost, poet and playwright, Lucretia (Rudolph) Garfield, First Lady of President James Garfield, Jane (Appleton) Pierce, First Lady of President Franklin Pierce, Emily Dickinson, American poet, Carole Lombard, movie actress, and ex-Presidents George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
Hannah, sister Martha, mother Margaret and aunt Elizabeth are just four of the women who courageously sought a new life in the new world of America, and they originated in Wickford, Essex.