Horncastle to Boston - a true American pioneer

It is famous for its tea party and is rated among the 30 most impotant cities in the world.

It’s home to the Freedom Trail, the Red Sox and more celebrities than you can shake a very big stick at.

However, how many people know that the first white settler to set up home in Boston was from...Horncastle!

While most people are aware of the town’s links with Sir Joseph Banks, William Blackstone (or Blaxton as he was also known) is rather less well known.

In 1625, Blackstone became the first colonoist to settle in Boston.

When other colonitists (Puritans) arrived, Blackstone - a loner who craved peace and solitude - moved on and became the first settler in Rhode Island.

So,what led to Blackstone’s pioneering life?

Some accounts suggest he was born in Horncastle; others that his birthplace was in Gibside, County Durham, in March 1595.

It is widely accepted he was baptised in Horncastle.

The son of minister, he was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge at the age of 14 and received an MA in 1621.

He was ordained as a priest of the Church of England in May 1619 by Thomas Dove, Bishop of Peterborough.

At the time, much of the world was still being ‘discovered’.

It was, for example, more than 150 years laterthat Banks set sail on his famous voyage to the South Seas alongside Captain Cook.

Blackstone joined the failed Ferdinando Gorges expedition to America in 1623, and arrived in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1623 on the ship Katherine.

He served as chaplain on that journey - and on the subsequent expedition of Robert Gorges.

Most of his fellow travellers returned to England in 1625 but Blackstone stayed on and became the first colonist to settle in Boston, living alone on what became Boston Common and Beacon Hill...the very heart of the modern day city.

However, the Puritans landed in nearby Charlestown in 1629.

They had problems finding a suitable water supply and many of them died as a result.

Blackstone invited them to settle on his land in 1630.

As a result, the settlers granted him 50 acres but he sold it back to them in 1634.

The land now makes up Boston Common, a central public park in ’downtown Boston.’

According to historians, Blackstone was a notoriously difficult man to get on with.

He might only have lived that lonely existance in Boston for three or four years but it was long enough to develope a steel-like independence, particularly when it came to religion.

Blackstone did not agree with the leaders of the Boston church so he moved about 35 miles south of Boston to what the Indians called the Pawtucket River - today known as the Blackstone River.

He was the first settler in Rhode Island in 1635, one year before Roger Williams established Providence Plantations.

Blaxton’s home and farm were located in Cumberland, Rhode Island on the Blackstone River.

He called his home ‘Study Hill’ and it was said to feature the largest library in the colonies at the time

Sadly, his library and house were burned during King Philip’s War around 1675.

Blackstone remained, tended cattle, planted in his garden, and cultivated an 
apple orchard.

He cultivated the first variety of American apples, the Yellow Sweeting.

He was in demand as a ‘forthright’ preacher and is considered to be the pioneer clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the
 United States.

He surprised many when he married a widow, Sarah Fisher Stevenson, in Boston on 4 July 1659 - at the age of 64,

A year later, the couple had a son named John (1660–1743).

Sarah died in June 1673 at the age of 48, and Blaxton died in 1675 at the age of 80, leaving substantial holdings in real

Today you’ll find all types of namesakes - Blackstone, Massachusetts; Blackstone Canal; Blackstone Street in Boston; Blackstone Boulevard, Providence

Among the sky-scapers, the restaurants and the swanky waterfront apartments, tourists might just spot the ‘Blackstone plaque’ on Beacon Street across from Boston Common, his original farmland.

In Horncastle....the name of one of America’s great 
pioneers remains a secret.