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Thomas Hooker

co-founder of what is now Hartford

Thomas Hooker was born into a Puritan family in Leicestershire County, England, about 1586. He graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1608, received his A.M. in 1611, and was a fellow at Emmanuel until 1618. From 1620 to 1626, Hooker served as rector at St. George's Church, Exeter, Surrey. He subsequently served as a lecturer (preacher) at the Church of St. Mary, Chelmsford, Essex, from 1626 to 1629.

Chelmsford had a reputation throughout England as a boisterous and drunken town prior to Hooker's arrival, but his preaching is said to have been so inspiring that it induced the town's citizens to "become respectable." His Puritan leanings conflicted with the official Congregational theology, however, and Hooker was eventually forced to flee to Holland to avoid persecution.

Unfortunately for Hooker, however, his preaching often conflicted with the established Congregational Church (the official church at that time) theology and he found himself in trouble with religious authorities. When that trouble threatened to become a legal issue, Hooker decided to flee to Holland, where he joined other Puritan dissenters. In 1633, he joined a group of Puritans bound for Massachusetts; he was subsequently ordained as pastor of Newtown (now Cambridge) and settled in a house where Harvard University now stands.

As they had in England, Hooker's sermons and preachings soon gained a loyal following in Massachusetts, but they also gained him trouble with government leaders. Although he believed in the conservativism of Puritan theology, he did not believe that conservatism should be reflected in the government. Massachusetts law did not allow anyone other than a land-owning Puritan male to vote, and forbade establishment of any church that did not adhere to Puritan theology, while Hooker believed that every colony member should have a say in government and that religion should not be mixed with government. Once again faced with persecution, he and several of his followers relocated to what is now Hartford, Connecticut, in 1636.Thomas Hooker arrives in Connecticut

In Connecticut, Hooker was finally able to preach what he believed without fear of persecution. In 1638, he helped in the drafting and adoption of the Fundamental Orders, which remained the basis of Connecticut law until it joined the Union in 1788. In 1639, he accompanied Connecticut Governor John Haynes to Boston and participated in negotiations aimed at establishing a confederation of New England colonies; such a confederation was never formed. He subsequently participated in the Cambridge synods of 1643 and 1645 that helped define and codify Congregational theology. His speeches during those synods ultimately led to the publication of Survey of the Summe of Church-Discipline, in 1648.

Thomas Hooker died in Hartford on July 7, 1647.


Massachusetts
Hartford, Connecticut

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This page was last updated on February 07, 2014.

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