Rev. Francis Higginson

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Francis Higginson

Birthdate: (44)
Birthplace: Claybrooke, England
Death: August 6, 1630 (40-47)
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev John Higginson and Joane Higginson
Husband of Anne Higginson
Father of Theophilus Higgonson; Neophytus Higgonson; Samuel Higgonson; Timothy Higgonson; Rev. John Higginson and 4 others

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About Rev. Francis Higginson

Emigrated to New England in 1629, on the ship Talbot, with his brothers in Henry Whitfield's company, and settled at Guilford, Conn. He was the first minister at Salem. A few years later he went to New Haven, and then about 1650 went to East Hampton, Long Island.


Francis Higginson (1588 – 6 August 1630) was an early Puritan minister in Colonial New England, and the first minister of Salem, Massachusetts.


The son of a minister, Francis Higginson received his B.A. degree from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1610 and his M.A. in 1613. About 1615, he became minister at Claybrooke, one of the parishes of Leicester, and acquired great influence as a preacher. Through his acquaintance with Arthur Hildersham and Thomas Hooker, he became disenchanted with the church of England and began to associate himself with Puritan congregations. Religion in England was still going through a very discordant time, especially when King Charles I ascended the throne in 1623 and married a French Catholic Princess. Puritans in England were persecuted for their beliefs and practices with their ministers being forbidden to preach. Higginson left his parish, although he continued to preach occasionally in the pulpits of the church of England. He refused offers of many excellent well paying jobs on account of his opinions, and was supporting himself by preparing young men for the university, when, in 1628, he was invited by the Massachusetts Bay Company to join. Higginson joined the company, and in 1629 the Company obtained a Royal Charter from Charles I of England to form a "plantation" in New England. Higginson and his Puritan sympathizers were asked to lead the first expedition to New England's Massachusetts Bay Colony and establish preliminary settlements.

Higginson led a group of about 350 settlers (including many of his own congregation) on six ships from England to New England. Because of the ever present pirate threat as well as the undeclared war with Spain all ships carried armament. The Lyon's Whelp left from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight 11 February 1629 and arrived in Salem harbor 19 June 1629. The Higginson Fleet brought with them 115 head of cattle: horses and mares, cows and oxen plus 41 goats and some conies (rabbits), along with all the provisions needed for setting up households and surviving till they could get crops in. They would have to build their lodgings for the coming winter from scratch. These were some of the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the main body who would start coming in 1630 on the Winthrop Fleet. The Higginson Fleet set sail on the 1 May, 1629, arriving in Salem harbor on the 24 June 1629. The ships in the fleet were:

Talbot (carried 19 cannon)
George Bonaventure (carried 20 cannon)
Lyon's Whelp (carried 40 planters + crew + 8 cannon)
Four Sisters (carried 14 cannon)
'Mayflower (carried 14 guns and was a different ship than the Pilgrim (Plymouth Colony))'s Mayflower.
Pilgrim (small ship with 4 guns that carried supplies only)

Higginson's fleet was greeted in Salem, Massachusetts by a small group of settlers, led by John Endecott. In Salem there were five houses besides Endecott's. They had no trained minister, however, so Higginson and Samuel Skelton began conducting services immediately. Higginson drew up a confession of faith, which was assented to, on 6 August, by thirty persons. In the following winter, in the general sickness that ravaged the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he was attacked by a fever, which disabled him, and finally caused his death at the age of 43, leaving behind a widow and eight children.

He had married Anne Herbert (died in or before 1640) on 8 January 1616 at St Peter's, Nottingham. Their eldest son, John (1616–1708), also trained for the ministry. He succeeded his father-in-law Henry Whitfeld or Whitfield (1597-1687) as minister at Guilford, Connecticut, and served as pastor of Salem from 1659. Another son, Francis Higginson (1618–1673), returned to England and became vicar of Kirkby Stephen, Westmoreland, where he lived until his death.

A portion of his diary was published in 1630 under the title, New Englands Plantation, or a Short and True Description of the Commodities and Discommodities of that Country. He also wrote an account of his voyage, which is preserved in Hutchinson's collection of papers.

Puritan preacher. He graduated with an MA Jesus College Cambridge 1613, and joined his father as rector f Claybrooke from 1615. but later took work as a teacher due to his Puritan views. He arrived in Massachusetts in 1629 and led 350 settlers to Salem, but died of fever the following year. He son John (1615-1708) was also a prominent Puritan minister in Salem. He married (8 Jan 1616, Nottingham) Anne Herbert (d bef 1640). and had nine children: John (1615-1708), Francis (1617-1673), Timothy (c1620-1653), Theophilius (b c 1622), Samuel (c 1620-1664), Ann (b c 1622), Mary (1625-1629), Charles (1629-1677) and Neophytus (c1627-c1647).

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Rev. Francis Higginson's Timeline

August 6, 1586
Claybrooke, England
August 6, 1586
Claybrooke, Leicestershire, England
Age 16
Age 20
Age 20
Age 20
August 6, 1616
Age 30
Leicestershire, England
Age 30
January 28, 1624
Age 37