Many of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's original settlers arrived from England in the 1630s through the ports of Lynn and Salem. In 1639 some citizens of Lynn petitioned the government of the colony for a "place for an inland plantation". They were initially granted six square miles, followed by an additional four. The first settlement in this grant was at first called "Lynn Village" and was located on the south shore of the "Great Pond", now known as Lake Quannapowitt. On June 10, 1644 the settlement was incorporated as the town of Reading, taking its name from the town of Reading in England. There were seven houses and seven families in 1644 when the town was incorporated.
It was a community of farmers, taking advantage of the enormous flocks of wild pigeons, wild turkeys "exceeding fat, sweet and in abundance, fish in the rivers and ponds, grapes, blackberries, blueberries in great quantities."
By 1667, the community, including what is now known as Reading and North Reading, boasted 59 houses. A garrison house was built against Indian attacks in 1671. In 1686, the settlers bought their land from the Saugus Indians.
The first church was organized soon after the settlement, and the first parish, later known as "South Reading", became the separate town of Wakefield in 1868. Deacon Thomas Parker was one of the founders of Reading. He also was a founder of the 12th Congregational Church (now the First Parish Congregational Church), and served as deacon there. He was a selectman of Reading and was appointed a judicial commissioner. There is evidence that Parker was "conspicuous in naming the town" and that he was related to the Parker family of Little Norton, England, who owned land by the name of Ryddinge.
Early families included: Parker, Poole, Marshall, Cowdrey, Brown, Hooper, Pearson, Damon, Eaton, Walker, Wiley, and Kendall. Somewhat later settlers were the Bancroft, Temple, Upton, Nichols, and Wakefield families.
South Reading the original first parish of old Reading where the first settlement was made was set off as an independent town in 1812. North Reading beyond the Ipswich, the original second parish, was incorporated as a town in 1853. The present Reading retains the ancient name and records. The early Reading therefore has become in our day three separate towns. The name of South Reading was changed to Wakefield in 1868 in honour of Cyrus Wakefield a leading citizen identified with the industrial development of the town and was not derived from Wakefield England.
In 1635, on the thirteenth day of July, the ship "James," sailing from the port of London, England, for the New England, brought among its passengers two young men, one William Hooper, age eighteen, the other Thomas Marshall, age twenty-two. This William Hooper was destined to become the father of the family of Hoopers in America. No one has ever searched the English records to see from whence came this William Hooper to New England ...
"The under written names, *Persons of Quality*, are to be transported to New England imbarqued in the James, Jno. May, Mr, for N. E. p. Cert: from the ministers of the conformitie in Religeon: and that they are no subsedy men: William Hooper age 18: Thomas Marshall age 22: porte of London, July 13, 1635."--*Original Lists: J. C. Hotten*, p. 107.
After this date (1635) there is no record of any one bearing the surname of Hooper in New England until 1642, when the name of William Hooper appears in the First Church records in the town of "Redding," Mass., as one of the "original members" in this church. This record has also the name of "Elizabeth Hooper." Whether this Elizabeth Hooper was the wife of William it will be difficult to prove; but it is probable that she was, from the fact that her name did not appear before 1642 in any other record, neither does it appear after this date. If so, she was a first wife, for in 1669 and in 1679 the wife of William Hooper was "Ruth Hooper." In this same church record are the names of Thomas Marshall and Elizabeth Marshall, his wife. Pope, in his "Pioneers of America," claims that William Hooper was a "weaver," and Thomas Marshall a "shoemaker."
There is no reasonable explanation why William Hooper together with Thomas Marshall, should leave England in 1635 unless the "trades" were disturbed to such extent that there was little manufacture. Added to this is the fact that between 1630 and 1640 religious persecution was at its height. During this period was the largest emigration of Englishmen to New England. Charles I. was ruling England without a Parliament, and was levying a direct tax on the people to support the government. As shown after, by the Long Parliament, this period, 1630-40, marked the decline in England's prosperity,--a decline she was long years in recovering from. The king's two advisers were Thomas Wentworth (Earl of Stafford) and William Laud. Bishop Laud was born in Reading, England, "the son of a weaver."
... If William Hooper was a "weaver,"--and he probably was, for he mentions "my Loombs and all my Tackling" in his will in 1678,--he came from some place of manufacture in England.
In 1635 the only town of considerable importance in manufacture that was *close* to the "port of London" was Reading, about thirty-five miles distant from London. The town at that time had a population of 35,000. Its situation was on the Thames at its confluence with the river Kennet. A beautiful town, as well as one of considerable note. It's is possible that here was the *birthplace* of William Hooper.
A little closer inspection of the records of "Redding," Mass., discloses the fact that among those "twelve first settlers in Redding" was one Dea. Thomas Parker. Mr. Parker was born in Reading, England, in 1605. He sailed from the port of London in the "Susan and Ellen," April 13, 1635. He sailed three months in advance of Hooper and Marshall; came from Reading in England, where "Loombs and Tackling" were in use, sailed from the same port as Hooper and Marshall did a little later, and is recorded in Lynn (Mass.) records (together with Thomas Marshall) as having settled in Lynn in 1635.
He was one of the "original settlers" in "Redding," Mass., together with Hooper and Marshall, in 1642. The historian of the town of Reading (Mass.) claims that these three men were related. Thomas Marshall is named as "my brother" in William Hooper's will, in 1678. This circumstantial evidence does not *prove* the birthplace of William Hooper; but, until some one disproves it, Reading in England is the possible early home of our William Hooper. It is further possible, that these three men have the honor of naming Reading, Mass., and in memory of their English home.
In 1639 settlers at "Lynn Commons" petition the Colony Court for the right to change the name of Lynn Commons to "Redding," and ask to be allowed to be incorporated as a separate town. The answer to this petition was that, when "Lynn Commons" had a settlement of twelve families and could support a minister, the petition would be granted. The names of the signers to this petition were lost, but it is claimed in the History of Reading that William Hooper's name was among them.
Reading in 1642 was a wide-spreading country, including all of what is now known as Wakefield and South Reading.
The land was originally bought from the Indians of Plymouth Colony for L10 16s., and the deed may still be seen, signed by Sagamore George, his sister Abigail, and Quannapoint. "In a few weeks the first settlers had a comfortable cabin, and in two years extensive fields of corn and wheat, with a young orchard started" ("Recollections of Rev. Timothy Flint," p. 11). But it was not until after long years that they had any manufacture or much trade, for they were isolated and away from those settlements that had better opportunities. There was exposure to the Indians, and the internal conditions were such that there was little education in schools. Indeed, the town was complained of as late as 1680 for having "too poor a school." Although such men as "Thomas Bancrofte" and "Captayne Marshall" write a clear and legible hand, it was quite uncommon among the townspeople, as the Registry of Deeds and the records in the Probate Office for Middlesex County will show.
- Bancroft, Thomas, Lieut. -- not on earliest lists; witness on will of William Hooper
- Brown, Nicholas
- Burton, Boniface
- Bacheller, John (also spelled Batcheller)
- Barker, Goodman
- Blots, Goodman
- Barnup, Isaac
- Cowdrey, William, Deacon
- Clark, Thomas
- Dustin, Josiah
- Dunton, Thomas
- Dunton, Samuel
- Davis, Geo.
- Eaton, Wm.
- Eaton, John Is he the same as Jonas Eaton below?
- Eaton, Jonas
- Feltch, Henry
- Fitch, Zachariah
- Fitch, Benjamin
- Fitch, Jeremiah
- Fuller, John
- Gould, Goodman
- Hartshorn, Thomas
- Hutchinson, Thomas
- Hooper, William
- Kendall, Thomas
- Knight, Goodman
- Marlin, Williarn.
- Marshall, Thomas, brother-in-law to William Hooper
- Parker, Thomas, Deacon
- Poole, John
- Person, John (Pearson)
- Swaine, Jeremiah
- Sader, Richard
- Taylor, Edward
- Walker, Richard
- Walker, Samuel
What surprises us today is how these small communities in pre-revolutionary America were so intermarried, witness:
- Brown, Joseph (son of founder Nicholas) and Bancroft, Elizabeth (daughter of founder Lieut. Thomas Bancroft) 1674
- Towns of New England and old England, Ireland and Scotland ... connecting links between cities and towns in New England and those of the same name in England, Ireland and Scotland (Google eBook). State Street Trust Company (Boston, Mass.), Allan Forbes, pages 152 - 153.
- Wikipedia article on Deacon Thomas Parker, "founder of Reading"
- William Hooper 1635: A Biographical Sketch of Eight Generations of Hoopers in America compiled by Mrs. William Sumner Crosby of Brookline, Massachusetts, 1906. Printed for private circulation by Geo H. Ellis Co, Printers, 272 Congress St., Boston
- The Town of Wakefield, Massachusetts site
- Wikipedia article on "Norton Sub Hamdon" with reference to Little Norton where Dea. Thomas Parker may have emigrated from, County Somerset
- Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts Gen Web