Edward’s Silent Years 1603-40

We have no definite evidence for any of Edward Starbuck’s first 35 years of life,  between his (probable) baptism at Derby in 1603/4 and emigration to Dover, probably sometime between 1638 and 1640.

From his children’s calculated birth dates, we know Edward must have married at least by 1630 and had three children in England by 1636. We believe that his eldest child Sarah was baptised in Derby in 1630, so if that’s correct, Edward probably stayed in Starbucky Territory, rather than seeking his fortune elsewhere. What might these ‘silent years’ have been like?

Childhood and education

Edward grew up in a period of religious and political turmoil. Puritan ministers and their flocks – “the godly” as they called themselves – vied to eliminate those elements of Church of England doctrine and ritual they regarded as ‘papist’ (Roman Catholic) which the Elizabethan Settlement of 1558 had retained. At the same time, some “Separatists” rejected the Church of England completely, in favour of independent, self-governing congregations. However, the majority of people in England were conformist, attending parish church as required and getting on with their lives. A small minority staunchly (and secretly) continued their Catholic ways, paying a high price in fines, persecution and fear.

In Starbucky Territory, Edward would have been exposed to all these outlooks amongst family, friends and neighbours. From the evidence of his life in Dover and Nantucket, we know he had godly beliefs and this suggests that he was brought up or schooled in a godly fashion. The fact that he was literate and numerate strengthens this theory, as the godly believed firmly in sufficient education for all members of their gathered churches, in order to read the bible and prayer book for themselves without reliance on a priest.[1]

Godly families often educated their children within the home, or through lessons at the church with a puritan-leaning curate, or sometimes at “dame schools” where they existed. The level of Edward’s literacy we see in Dover suggests a reasonably good education, so it is possible that he attended a school, perhaps for about 7 or 8 years to the age of 12-14. Within or near Starbucky Territory were several schools he might have attended.

During his short reign, King Edward VI (1547-1553), being devoutly Protestant, supported the foundation of grammar schools, which continued to develop in following centuries.[2] So by Edward’s childhood, a good schooling was available. Those he would most likely have attended were:

Grammar schools in this period were fee-paying and selective, designed to provide a ‘classical education’ to sons of wealthier merchants and tradespeople, though most offered a few bursaries for poorer students. Often termed ‘free schools’, this meant  they were free of direct attachment to religious institutions, privately run instead, usually by wealthy individuals and Church of England clergy.

Whatever their foundation story, by Edward’s early years, almost all grammar schools were Protestant in nature, some of them strongly Puritan, labelled “breeding grounds” for pathways to university at puritan-leaning Oxford and Cambridge Colleges. Any of the schools listed were realistically accessible for Edward as a day or weekly pupil, or as a boarder, but considering the fact he probably lived with his family in Nottingham during his growing-up years, the Free School there seems the most likely option.

Being a literate and godly man, Edward had the writing skills and the contacts to participate in correspondence with others of his ilk in Starbucky Territory and further afield in Britain and Europe, and with those who had gone before him to New England, and also to read the secretly-distributed publications and letters the exiled godly ministers and writers produced.[3]

Apprenticeship and occupation

In Dover and Nantucket, Edward demonstrated, and was particularly respected for, his experience and skills in watery trades and tasks, especially fishing (by means of weirs) and water-mill building and operation (mainly for timber sawing). These abilities fit well with the notion that he grew up and worked in an area like Starbucky Territory with its three substantial rivers, and many streams, brooks and flood meadows. Records show there were at least two water mills in Sawley parish and another in Toton, with more mills nearby on the Trent through Nottinghamshire.

It is logical to deduce that, after his schooling, Edward was apprenticed in one or more of these trades, including perhaps rope-making. If so, he would have been trained by his father or close family member, or a qualified Master.[4] Most apprenticeships began around the age of 14 and lasted about 7 years (the number of years varied). If trained this way, Edward would have been about 21 in 1624 or thereabouts when qualified.

Most often, apprenticeships were agreed between the child’s parents and a Master by means of an indenture with an upfront fee payable for the whole period, but many simply happened within a family and were not recorded, although they were regarded as equally valid to indentured ones. Also, early 17th century apprenticeship indentures are rare survivals now, so for both reasons it’s not surprising we have no record of an apprenticeship for Edward.[5]

As well as their importance for fishing, milling, etc, rivers in the 17th century were the easiest way for people and goods to move about, as there were no hard-surfaced roads except for Roman ones.[6] Edward’s watery occupation could well have included operation of a ferry service, as one is mentioned in Sawley records. Any significant river travel would have made Edward more mobile than most and brought him into contact with groups of godly folk in the area, especially in the main towns of Nottingham and Derby, and he could have carried dissenting materials with him, as travelling chapmen did.

Edward’s religious leanings

Edward’s first three children, born in England before emigration, were named Sarah, Nathaniel and Abigail. All three are “Old Testament” names that were favoured by the godly, especially the last two which alone are strong indicators of Edward’s affiliation in the 1630s. Choice of these names at that time was a brave and risky one, a public declaration of religious leanings.

The parts of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire within Starbucky Territory were rich with dissent in the 1550-1640 period:

  • Arthur Hildersham lived and ministered (until expulsion) in Ashby de la Zouch, north Leics, preaching there and in many nearby places. Francis Higginson was one of his acolytes. The Ireton family based at Bramcote in Attenborough (beside many Starbucks in the parish) sponsored Hildersham after ejection from his ministry. Rev John Ireton of that family, minister at nearby Kegworth in Leics, (where another branch of Starbucks lived), was a friend and mentor of Hildersham.
  • Thomas Helwys (founder of the first Baptist congregation in England) lived at Broxtowe Hall in Bilborough parish (on the boundary between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire) before heading with the Brownists to Holland. Before that, he preached at illegal, separatist ‘conventicles’ in Starbucky territory, which young Edward could have attended with his parents and sibs.
  • Bilborough was next to Ilkeston from where William Wilcockson and his Ilkeston-based Harvie and Beardsley relatives migrated on the Planter to New England in 1635.[7]
  • Adam Blackman, spiritual leader of the flock that included the Wilcockson group in newly-founded Stratford, Conn, was previously a preacher at Heage in Derbyshire after ejection as Curate from Great Bowden, Leics, both places held by Stanhope gentry in Edward’s time.
  • John Cotton of Boston was born in Derby.[8] He travelled with Thomas Hooker on the Griffin in 1633. A member of the Pepper family in Derby, perhaps related to Edward’s grandmother, was co-witness with John Cotton’s father Roland in an indenture of 1583.[9]
  • Thomas Hooker preached in Great Bowden (where a Starbuck family from Toton had settled in 1613) on the way to his own emigration in 1633.
  • In the Great Migration Directory and other records, we find more than 40 other individuals, definitely known to be from Notts, Derbys and Leics, who left England for the new world in the 1620s-40s.[10] Many more from Starbucky Territory will be among those in the Directory with unknown origins.
  • The Stanhope family, lords of several manors where Starbucks lived including Sawley and Toton, were among other Puritan-leaning gentry of this time period.
  • Sir Percy Willoughby (died 1643) in 1596 inherited the home and estate of Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire via his wife Bridget, daughter and co-heiress of the Hall’s builder Sir Francis Willoughby. Wollaton (now a suburb of Nottingham) was only 7 miles from Sawley, and some Starbucks lived there. Sir Percy was heavily involved as an adventurer in the Newfoundland Company (see below).

As we can see, Edward and his family would not have been alone in Starbucky Territory with their godly leanings and decision to migrate to the new world. Any one of the influencers mentioned here, any of the numerous Puritan ministers in the area, or like-minded neighbours and associates, could have aroused the motivation to leave. It’s not impossible to imagine that Edward himself was part of this eminent godly company, even a lay preacher himself, as he was selected one of the two Elders of Dover Church almost immediately on arrival. His status as a respected, godly man could have preceded him.

He may also have been escaping the risk of persecution, just as Hooker and Cotton were, especially if he was already espousing “anabaptism”. In any event, it is highly unlikely he and his family travelled alone across the Atlantic in the 1630s when the Great Migration was at its height.

Picturing Edward’s emigration

Emigration in the early 17th century to barely explored territory on the far side of the Atlantic was a huge logistical challenge as well as an emotional and spiritual one. We know from surviving records of other migrating families during the 1620s-1640s that it could take up to two years, or even more, to prepare for leaving: selling off or gifting land, property and household goods, acquiring all the seeds, tools, goods and vittles the family could need in the new world for at least a year and, not least, finding a ship which they and colleagues, with all their supplies, could travel in together.

The Tuttle family of Northamptonshire and St Albans, Hertfordshire, who travelled with the Wilcocksons hired a ship themselves for this purpose.[11] All of this required money but most importantly perhaps a clear and determined spiritual and/or economic motivation for taking such a leap, investing, and giving up so much – and cleaving to the idea for so long before departure. If any of the godly feared persecution as well, for that entire period before leaving they might have had to find hiding places with sympathisers, communicate in secret, possibly change their name, and may well have been separated from family until settled over the sea.

Edward his wife and children would have faced many of these challenges, so it’s fascinating to consider what could have led them into this undertaking, and who they might have travelled with.

Newfoundland and the Atlantic fishing[12]

Edward’s emigration and choice of Dover may have been influenced by more factors than just religion. Sir Percy Willoughby of Wollaton, Notts, was a prominent member of the merchant adventurers known as the Newfoundland Company (aka the London & Bristol Company). Granted a charter by James I as early as 1610, it aimed to monopolise the North Atlantic fishery and make permanent settlements in Newfoundland, in addition to the temporary summer ones for salting and shipping fish, as European and British fishers had been doing in large numbers for a century or so already.

Sir Percy was brought into the Company Council from the start and for two decades he invested heavily in its ventures, ultimately failing to gain any return, largely because the Company were out-manoevred by south-west England’s fishers, successfully lobbying over decades to retain their monopoly. The other factor working against the Company was the Newfoundland winter, too severe for any farming beyond fishing and hunting. However, under the guidance of John Mason, some hardy settlers were successful, with descendants still resident today in Newfoundland.

Mason was the second Proprietary Governor of Newfoundland from 1615 until 1621 and in 1622 was granted, with Sir Ferdinando Gorges, a land patent for all the territory lying between the Merrimack and Kennebec rivers, a large portion of which – granted to Mason – became the province of New Hampshire. The settlement of Dover began in 1633-35, organized by Mason and Gorges. Their planters were mainly fishers from the south-west of England. Others like Edward Starbuck and his family would have arrived during the following years to 1640.

Considering the proximity of Sir Percy Willoughby to Starbucks in England and the Newfoundland venture being well-known in Starbucky Territory plus the ‘coincidence’ of John Mason’s association with both Newfoundland and Dover/Piscataqua, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Edward Starbuck and his wider family knew of these ventures, or that he or his father could have been involved in some way.[13] And, as a probable separatist by religious sentiment, Edward could have made this non-Puritan, economically-based settlement of Dover, where watery and timber-milling skills would be highly valued, the best choice for his new life.

In summary…

There is scope for much more research into multiple historical sources which could one day yield new details about Edward’s ‘silent years’ after 1604 until he first appeared in Dover records, 1638-40. But what we can know already includes:

  • Edward, his parents and grandparents, lived and survived through incredibly turbulent times of religious and political upheaval
  • The decision to leave England and the work and time involved in preparing for departure made emigation a very tough call. He clearly had the strongest reasons for going.
  • Without question, Edward belonged to a network of family, neighbours, associates and influencers of a Puritan or separatist sympathy with interests in colonising ventures, so it’s close to certain he and his family would not have travelled alone – the unknown ship they sailed in was most likely full of likeminded believers and associates.

Author: Celia Renshaw

Morganhold family history blog: www.morgansite.wordpress.com

© February 2024

[1] Ownership of a personal bible was at times in this period a criminal offense.

[2] One of these, the King Edward VI School in Stratford on Avon, educated William Shakespeare, for a few years at least, until his father hit hard times.

[3] Sarah Kate Hall, “Preserving Sociability: Negotiation and Mediation in Transatlantic Puritan Correspondence Networks, 1625-1649,” (Ph.D. thesis, East Anglia University, 2019), 82. In her thesis, Sarah Hall discusses the dissemination of information through letters which helped form bonds between godly families and individuals before and after emigration to New England.  

[4] One Edward Starbuck, described as a roper, was presented in Nottingham St Mary in 1626, with Maria Slater, “upon a fame of fornication together, the woman is great with child.”

[5] But we do have records of two Long Eaton Starbuck boys being apprenticed in London in 1619 and 1621: Edward and George, both sons of Thomas Starbuck yeoman of Long Eaton, apprenticed to Anthony Bristowe & Roland Trulove, Masters of the Tylers & Bricklayers Company. Both sons settled in London and their records prove this Edward was not the one who emigrated.

[6] One of which ran through Starbucky Territory, from Derby to the river Trent at Sawley.

[7] Bilborough and Ilkeston were both just 5-6 miles from Long Eaton. For the Wilcockson odyssey story by Jane Wilcox, see: https://4getmenotancestry.com/the-grand-wilcockson-tour-to-derbyshire-day-1/

[8] A Pepper family member in Derby, perhaps related to Edward’s grandmother, were associates of John Cotton’s father Roland in the 1580s.

[9] Held at Derby Local Studies Library ref MTD/3/57 (352) dated 10 Sep 1583, abstract viewed by Celia Renshaw 24 Sep 2021.

[10] The Great Migration Directory – Immigrants to New England 1620-1640, A Concise Compendium, by Robert Charles Anderson FASG (New England Historic Genealogical Society, AmericanAncestors.org, 2015)

[11] The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards, by Ava Chamberlain (NYA Press, 2012)

[12] An excellent source for this poorly accounted history is: ‘The Newfoundland Company: A Study of Subscribers to a Colonizing Venture’, by Gillian T. Cell in: The William & Mary Quarterly, Vol.22, No.4 (Oct., 1965) pp.611-625. Available online at JSTOR: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1922912

[13] Known from the extensive records about Sir Percy and Newfoundland held at Nottingham University Library Manuscripts & Special Collections ref. Mi X 1-6. Viewed by Celia Renshaw, 16 November 2021.

Author: ancestorquests

I'm Keri-Lynn, an "amateur professional" genealogist. I have a degree in Family History and have been researching my family lines for many years.

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