John Endicott

John Endicott

(1589-1665)

Historians use adjectives such as bigoted, zealous, courageous, honest and hightempered to describe John Endicott. A colonial governor of Massachusetts and strong Puritan leader, Endicott has also been singled-out as being responsible for instigating the Pequot War.

Endicott was born in Devonshire, England to wealthy parents; his parents disowned their son when he became associated with the Reverends John White and Samuel Skelton and joined the Puritan movement.

In 1628, along with his wife, Endicott led a small group of emigrants from England to Naumkeag, modernday Salem, Massachusetts. Endicott served as acting-governor for two years until John Winthrop arrived in 1630. Endicott remained in Salem while Winthrop went on to establish the town of Boston.

A strict Puritan, Endicott organized his own church on the model of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, and ran his colony sternly. He hated Quakers and treated them very harshly. He forced women to wear veils at public assemblies, was opposed to long hair, and did not allow the cultivation of tobacco.

In 1636, the Standing Council responsible for military matters, sent Endicott to lead an expedition to punish the Block Island and Pequot Indians; the Block Island Indians were held responsible for the death of a trader, John Oldham. Governor Henry Vane gave Endicott instructions to take possession of the island, kill all the men, and take the women and children as slaves.

Upon landing, Endicott’s forces were unable to find most of the Island’s inhabitants and decided to burn and pillage the empty villages.Endicott was also instructed to sail to Pequot territory and demand payment from them as well as the warriors responsible for the murder of a Virginian named John Stone, who had been killed three years earlier.

After meeting with a Pequot ambassador, Endicott could not be appeased and ordered his men to attack. As with the assault on Block Island , Endicott’s forces could not find warriors to engage in battle and resorted to destroying Pequot villages.Endicott then returned to Massachusetts Bay, without meeting either of his objectives.

However, his attack had outraged the Pequots. They responded with a guerrilla campaign against English settlers in Connecticut that erupted into the Pequot War. The war lasted a year, and when it ended the Puritans had established themselves as a major force in New England and ended the dominance of the Pequot tribe.

Endicott served on-and-off as deputy governor and governor of the Massachusetts colony from 1641 to 1665. He died in Boston on March 15, 1665.