Rev. John Eliot

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John Eliot, "The Indian Apostle"

Nicknames: "the Indian apostle"
Birthplace: Widford, Hertfordshire, England
Death: Died in Roxbury, Suffolk , Massachusetts
Place of Burial: John Eliot Burying Ground, Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Bennett Elliott and Letteye Elliot
Husband of Sarah Porter and Ann Eliot (Mumford)
Father of Hannah Glover; Rev. John Elliot, Jr.; Rev. Joseph Eliot; Samuel Eliot; Aaron Eliot and 1 other
Brother of Sarah Curtis; Deacon Philip Bennet Eliot; Jacob Eliot; Lydia Penneman; Deacon Francis Eliott and 1 other

Occupation: minister, Apostle to the Indians
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Eliot, "The Indian Apostle",_John

John Eliot (c. 1604 – 21 May 1690) was a Puritan missionary to the American Indians. His efforts earned him the designation “the Indian apostle.”

English education and Massachusetts ministry

John Eliot was born in Widford, Hertfordshire, England and lived at Nazeing as a boy. He 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.

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 Native language and published it in 1663. 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), a portion of Hopkinton that is now in the Town of Ashland (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 Hanna Mumford. They had six children, five girls and one boy, but only one of the children lived, the boy. Their son, John Eliot, Jr., was the first pastor of First Church in Newton, while his 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 (300,000 m2) 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.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.

Eliot is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on May 21.


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.

The Harmony of the Gospels in the holy History of the Humiliation and Sufferings of Jesus Christ, from his Incarnation to his Death and Burial.

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There is a strong American connection with Nazeing. In 1631 the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to New England in ‘Lyon’. Among them was John Eliot (1604-1690) "The Indian Apostle;" in Massachusetts, who lived in Nazeing as a boy. John Curtis, who also emigrated, was baptised in All Saints Church on 15th September 1577.

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Laurel Logan

August 5, 2008


Rev. John Eliot1

M, b. 5 August 1604, d. 21 May 1690

Rev. John Eliot b. 5 Aug 1604 d. 21 May 1690

     The "Apostle to the Indians." Rev. John Eliot was baptised on 5 August 1604 at Church of St. John the Baptist, Widford, Hertfordshire.1 He was the son of Bennett Eliot and Lettice Aggar.1 Rev. John Eliot married Ann Mountford on 4 September 1632 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, This date is more likely to be sometime in October otherwise it would pre-date the bride's arrival in New England.2 Rev. John Eliot died on 21 May 1690 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, at the age of 85.1,2 

He entered Jesus College, Cambridge, March 20, 1618. He spent a part of the time between 1622 and 1631 at Little Baddow, Essex, as a school-master with Rev. Thomas Hooker, founder of Hartford, Connecticut. He embarked about the middle of August, 1631, in the ship Lion for Boston, arriving November 2, and in the absence of the pastor, Rev. John Wilson, took charge of the church at Boston. In 1632 he became teacher of the church at Roxbury, where many of his old friends and neighbours had settled. He was wanted in the Boston church as colleague for Mr. Wilson, but he had promised in England that when his friends came he would join them. In 1640 the "Bay Psalm Book," of which he was one of the compilers was printed. He began to preach to the Indians, September 14, 1646, and during the rest of his life continued earnestly his efforts to educate and Christianise them. He published "A briefe topographical description of the Severall Townes in New England with the names of our Magistrates and Ministers."In 1650 he selected Natick, Massachusetts, asa place for an Indian town, and the foundations were made there the following year. In 1653 he had so far progressed in his knowledge of the Indian language that he had translated the Book of Psalms, and in 1654 he published a catechism in the Indian language. In 1655 his translation of Genesis was published and the Book of Matthew begun. "A Late and Further Manifestation of the Progress of the Gospel Amongst the Indians in New England" was published. In 1657 he preached to the Podunk Indians at Hartford in their own tongue. In December, 1658, he had completed the translation of the Bible into the Massachusetts dialect. His "Christian Commonwealth" is said to have been published in 1659. In 1660 he was first called the "Indian Apostle," a title by which he has since been distinguished. The publication of his translation of the Bible was completed in 1663 and he began the translation of Baxter's Call. In 1664 his translation of the Psalter was published and in 1666 the Indian Grammar. In 1686, after much revision and delay, a second edition of the Indian Bible was printed and distributed among the Indians. He continued to preach from time to time to the Indians, even after he was eighty years old. The Indian church at Natick languished after he died, and in 1698 there were but seven men and three women in membership. Biographies of Eliot were written by Cotton Mather, Martin Moore, Rev. John Wilson and Rev. Converse Francis, Memorial windows to Eliot are in the Memorial Hall of Harvard University and in the Church of St. John the Baptist, Hertfordshire, England, and a panel framed in Sienna marble, representing Eliot preaching to the Indians was placed in position in the State House, Boston, in 1903. Various other sermons and pamphlets were published by Eliot, besides those mentioned. Besides the memorials already mentioned there is a monument of freestone at South Natick, the parish monument at Roxbury, a granite watering trough at Canton, an Eliot Memorial Fund and Memorial Terrace at Newton, tablets in the Congregational House, Boston, and a Memorial at Tucson, Arizona.1

Children of Rev. John Eliot and Ann Mountford

Hannah Eliot b. 17 Sep 1633, d. 9 Feb 1708/92

Rev. John Eliot Jr.+ b. 31 Aug 1636, d. 13 Oct 16681

Rev. Joseph Eliot+ b. 20 Dec 1638, d. 24 May 16941

Samuel Eliot b. 22 Jun 16411

Aaron Eliot b. 19 Feb 1643/44, d. 19 Nov 16551

Benjamin Eliot b. 29 Jan 1646/47, d. 15 Oct 16871


William Richard Cutter, New England Families.

Robert Charles Anderson and George F. Sanborn Jr. & Melinde Lutz Sanborne, The Great Migration, John Eliot.

--Laurel Logan

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  • The New England historical and genealogical register (1848) Vol. II.
  • The following Obituary is copied from the Boston News Letter of April 14th, 1737.
    • Roxbury, April 8th , 1737.
  • On Monday 28th March last died, and on Saturday following was interred with great Respect, and many Tears, John Bowles, Esq. An inveterate Jaundice, with other Cronical Distempers brought him to the grave, just as he had attained the Age of Fifty-two years. [He was descended of worthy and pious Ancestors by the Father, and his Mother was Grand-daughter to the famous Mr. Eliot. His Father died when he was very Young, but happily committed him to the care of .... etc.
  • Major Bowles was twice married : First to the Daughter of Col. Checkley of Boston, by whom he hath left Five Children. His second Wife, who is his sorrowful Widow, was sister to Mr. White, Treasurer to the College at Cambridge, and Clerk of the House of Representatives ; and by her he has left issue, one son. His only Daughter is Married to Benj. Lynde, Jr., Esq., of Salem.
  • Mr. John Bowles, his grandfather, was an inhabitant of Roxbury before 1640.(*) The Apostle Eliot says that in "1649, Nov. 3, our sister, ["Mrs. Dorothy"] Bowles, the wife of John Bowles dyed."(f) .... etc.
  • .... And on the 7th of the same month he records the burial of "Elizabeth Bowles, daughter to Elder Heath." John Bowles, son of the preceding, was baptized by the Apostle Eliot, June 27, 1653, graduated at Harvard College in 1671, a classmate of Chief-Justice Samuel Sewall, and proceeded to the degree of Master of Arts. Nov. 16, 1681, he was married by the venerable Eliot to his grandchild, Sarah Eliot. His son, the Rev. John Eliot, Jr., married Sarah ___ . Their daughter Sarah was baptized "7 Moneth 21 Day 1662." Her mother "was admitted to full communion" 6th 5th mo. 1662. "24 July, 1664, a church was gathered in ye bounds of Cambridge & Mr. John Eliot, Jun. was ordained Pastor, and Mr. Thos . Wiswall Ruling Elder,"(*) and May 23, 1666, he married his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of the Honorable Daniel Gookin .... etc.
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  • Rev John "Apostle to the Indians" Eliot
  • Birth: Aug. 5, 1604 Essex, England
  • Death: May 20, 1690 Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Known as "Apostle to the Indians". Arrived in U.S. in 1631. Became Pastor of Roxbury MA, Church in 1641. Established Roxbury Latin School in 1645. He founded at Natick, MA, the first Indian Church in New England. Completed the Indian translation of the bible in Algonquin and it was the first BIBLE printed in America in 1663. In 1689, he gave his new John Eliot School, seventy-five acres of his own land, "for the teaching and instructing of the Children of that end of the Town (together such Negroes or Indians as may come to the said Schoole)", in Jamaica Plains, MA.
  • Family links:
  • Spouse:
  • Ann Mountford Eliot (____ - 1686)*
  • Children:
    • Hannah Eliot Glover (1633 - ____)*
    • John Eliot (1635 - 1668)*
    • John Eliot (1636 - ____)*
    • Joseph Eliot (1638 - ____)*
    • Samuel Eliot (1641 - ____)*
    • Aaron Eliot (1643 - 1655)*
    • Benjamin Eliot (1646 - ____)*
  • Inscription:
    • The
    • Ordained over the First Church Nov 1632
    • Died May 20, 1690, Aged LXXXVI.
  • Also of .... etc.
  • Burial: Eliot Burying Ground, Roxbury, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Plot: Unknown
  • From:
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view all 24

Rev. John Eliot's Timeline

February 6, 1602
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 6, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
February 18, 1603
Nazeing, Essex, England, United Kingdom
August 5, 1604
Widford, Hertfordshire, England