Winding Down 1680-1691

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As he approached and entered his eighties, it is clear Edward Starbuck was taking a smaller part in public affairs. He had worked hard to make his businesses successful, to serve his community, and to accumulate land, thus becoming economically comfortable. During his last decade of life, Edward passed most or all his remaining land on to his children. He also stepped back from Nantucket responsibilities. There are references to a “Mr. Starbuck” who had town duties in the 1680s but it is difficult to tell if those referenced Edward, who would have been in his seventies and eighties, or Nathaniel, who would have been in his forties and fifties. Either could be a Mr. Starbuck.

Edward continued to witness deeds and make land agreements through the 1680s. Along with several others, he gave up commonage space to John Trott.[1] A “Mr. Starbuck” was appointed town trustee in 1690, but it’s more likely that was Nathaniel as Edward was eighty-five by then and passed away just eight months later.[2]

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What Religion was Edward Starbuck?-Part 3

The first two posts in this series showed Edward Starbuck was essentially a puritan, and that he also had a belief in credobaptism, for which he got into trouble with the Massachusetts Bay authorities. (See Parts 1 and 2.)

Edward’s adherence to believer’s baptism and the later association of the Starbuck surname with Quakers in both Dover and on Nantucket has led some family historians to label him a Baptist or Quaker. There was, however, no established Baptist or Quaker congregation in Dover nor on Nantucket during Edward’s lifetime, so it’s easy enough to answer this question with a simple, “no,” but this is also an opportunity to dive a little deeper into what it is about Edward’s life that caused some to connect him with those denominations.


Edward arrived in Dover about 1638 and is connected to the establishment of the first church by Hansard Knollys.[1] Edward was one of the first Elders in the Dover church.[2] Hansard Knollys did not stay in Dover for long. Conflicts with another minister, Thomas Larkham, was a significant factor in Knollys’ return to England about 1641.[3] Knollys went on to work as a chaplain in Oliver Cromwell’s army, survived arrest during the Restoration, and then left England for a while.[4] Upon his return he preached in London, was arrested again, and later released. The doctrine he taught was most closely aligned with Baptist beliefs and he took part in efforts in the late 1600s to consolidate the Baptists. Edward’s association with Hansard Knollys coupled with his belief in credobaptism may have led some to believe he was a Baptist.

However, the first Baptist church in America was not organized until approximately 1638, when Roger Williams’s Providence congregation was labeled Baptist.[5] Although Baptist doctrine and congregations grew from there, Dover did not have a Baptist church until 1824 and Nantucket did not have one until 1841.[6] There were obviously individuals in Dover who held anabaptist beliefs before 1824, Edward being one of them, but they were not organized into a group calling themselves Baptists before 1824.[7] While Edward can be described as an anabaptist, and he was associated with the church Hansard Knollys established, it is too much of a stretch to call him a Baptist.

First Baptist Church in America, image from Wikipedia, By Filetime – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Continue reading “What Religion was Edward Starbuck?-Part 3”