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Capt. John Underhill in Winthrop's Journal

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

Gov. John Winthrop
Gov. John Winthrop

John Winthrop (1587-1649), was a prominent figure in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was born in Edwardstone, Suffolk, England, on January 12, 1587/8, a son of Adam Winthrop and Anne Browne. He led a fleet of 11 ships ("The Winthrop Fleet") to America in 1630 and became the third governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, holding the position on and off from the time he arrived until he died. He died on March 26, 1649, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, at the age of 61.

In his journal, Winthrop recorded the happenings of the colony since the time of his arrival, a valuable resource for historians and descendants of the colonists, giving us a glimpse into their private lives. Such is the case with my 10th great-grandfather (on the Decker branch), Capt. John Underhill. His long list of services and accomplishments are well documented, and during his life he acquired great fame, but he allegedly also suffered great shame, of which Winthrop's harsh judgement is clear in his journal entries.

Note: During my research, I discovered that John Winthrop was great-uncle to Underhill's (2nd) wife, Elizabeth Feake. Elizabeth was my 10th great-grandmother, therefore, Gov. Winthrop's parents, Adam Winthrop and Anne (Browne) Winthrop, were my 13th great-grandparents. John Winthrop's sister, Anne (Winthrop) Fones, was Elizabeth (Feake) Underhill's maternal grandmother. Underhill married Winthrop's great-niece in 1658, long after the events in this journal took place.

Excerpts from Winthrop's Journal (1630-1649)

According to John Underhill's biography on Wikipedia, "In June 1641 Underhill's banishment was repealed. In September of that year he was acquitted of a charge of adultery. Still finding no gainful employment in Boston, following the baptism of his son John III in April 1642, he leased a tobacco plantation in Flatlands, Long Island, in New Netherland. He never occupied that land. [Elizabeth Wells Bardwell, Crossing to Freedom, 2002].


John Winthrop [Wikipedia]

John Underhill [Wikipedia]

Winthrop's Journal in "Original Narratives of Early American History", by James K. Hosmer, 1908. [Link]


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