John Eliot (missionary)

Infobox Person
name = John Eliot

caption = Puritan missionary to Native Americans
birth_date = 1604
birth_place = Widford, Hertfordshire, England
death_date = May 21, 1690
death_place =

John Eliot (c. 1604 - 21 May 1690) was a Puritan missionary born in Widford, Hertfordshire, England.

English education and Massachusetts ministry

John Eliot attended Jesus College, Cambridge. He arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on November 3, 1631, on the ship "Lyon", and became minister and "teaching elder" at the First Church in Roxbury, also studying under the charge of Thomas Hooker. In that town he founded the Roxbury Latin School in 1645. From 1649 to 1674, he was assisted in the Roxbury ministry by Samuel Danforth. [cite book|last=Moore|first= Martin|authorlink=|title="The Life and Character of Rev. John Eliot, Apostle of the N.A. Indians"|publisher=T. Bedlington|location=Boston|date=1822|url=]

Highlights of his career

John Eliot and fellow ministers Thomas Weld (also of Roxbury) and Richard Mather of Dorchester, are credited with being the editors of the Bay Psalm Book, which was the first book published in the British North American colonies. He participated in the examination, excommunication and exile of Anne Hutchinson, whose opinions he deplored. He was instrumental in the conversion of Massachusett Indians. To help achieve this, Eliot translated the Bible into the Natick language and published it in 1663 ["A Short History of Boston" by Robert J. Allison, p.14 ] . In 1666, his grammar of Massachusett, called "The Indian Grammar Begun", was published as well. As a cross-cultural missionary Eliot was best known for attempting to preserve the culture of the Native Americans by putting them in planned towns where they could continue by their own rule as a Christian society. At one point in time, there were 14 of these towns of so-called "Praying Indians", the best documented being at Natick, Massachusetts. These towns were mostly destroyed by furious English colonists during King Philip's War (1675). Although restoration was attempted, it ultimately failed. The praying Indian towns included: Littleton(Nashoba), Lowell (Wamesit, initially incorporated as part of Chelmsford), Grafton (Hassanamessit), Marlborough (Okommakamesit), Hopkinton (Makunkokoag), Canton (Punkapoag), Mendon-Uxbridge (Wacentug), and Natick.

Eliot was also the author of "The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ", considered the first book on politics written by an American and also the first book to be banned by an American government. Written in the late 1640s, and published in England in 1659, it proposed a new model of civil government based on the system Eliot instituted among the converted Indians, which was based in turn on Exodus 18, the government instituted among the Israelites by Moses in the wilderness. Eliot asserted that "Christ is the only right Heir of the Crown of England," and called for the institution of an elected theocracy in England and throughout the world. The accession to the throne of Charles II of England made the book an embarrassment to the Massachusetts colony, and in 1661 the General Court banned the book and ordered all copies destroyed. Eliot was forced to issue a public retraction and apology.


John Eliot's wife was the former Ann Mumford. Their son, John Eliot, Jr., was the first pastor of First Church in Newton [ [ 1st Settlers Monument - Middlesex County, Massachusetts ] ] , while their son, Joseph Eliot, was a pastor in Guilford, Connecticut, and was himself father of Jared Eliot, a noted agriculture writer and pastor.

Eliot School

In 1689 John Eliot donated 75 acres of land in Jamaica Plain to support the Eliot School, founded in 1676. Under the donation, the school was required to accept both Negros and Indians without prejudice, a great exception for the time [ Jamaica Plain Historical Society] . The school survives near its original location to this day as "The Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts".


He died in 1690, aged 85, his last words being "welcome joy!" A monument to John Eliot is on the grounds of the Bacon Free Library in Natick.


* [ The Christian Commonwealth: or, The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ]
* [ Brief Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, in the Year 1670.]

ee also

*East Parish Burying Ground
*Roxbury Latin School
*Praying Indian



*Francis, "John Eliot, the Apostle to the Indians", in "Library of American Biography," volume v (Boston, 1836)
*Winsor, "Memorial History of Boston", volume i (Boston, 1880-81)
*Walker, "Ten New England Leaders" (New York, 1901)
*"The Eliot Tracts: with letters from John Eliot to Thomas Thorowgood and Richard Baxter" (London, 2003)

External links

* [ Color oil portrait of Rev. John Eliot, by unidentified artist, 1659, from the Natick Historical Society site]
* [ Cambridge University - John Eliot Biography]
* [ Cambridge University - John Eliot Exhibition]

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