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The good ship Lyon had been sixty-seven days outward bound from the port of Bristol, in England, when she dropped anchor early in February, 1630, at Nantasket, near the entrance of Boston Harbor, in New England. The ship had met with many winter storms, and passengers and crew were glad to see the shores of Massachusetts. On the ninth of February the Lyon slipped through a field of drifting ice and came to anchor before the little settlement of Boston. On board the ship was a young man who was to play an exciting part in the story of the New World.

Yet this young man, Roger Williams by name, seemed simple and quiet enough, as he and his wife came ashore and were welcomed by Governor John Winthrop. He was a young preacher, filled with a desire to carry his teaching to the new lands across the Atlantic Ocean, and he had been asked to be the minister of the First Church in Boston. As it turned out, however, his ideas were not the ideas of the people of Boston, and he soon found that the First Church was not the place for him.

So after a short stay in Boston Roger Williams and his wife went to Plymouth, which was then a colony separate from Massachusetts Bay. William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth, and his neighbors made the young preacher welcome, and there Roger Williams stayed for two years, teaching and exhorting and prophesying, as ministers were said to do in those days. There his daughter Mary was born. Roger Williams, however, was given to argument and could be very obstinate at times, and presently he fell out with his neighbors at Plymouth, and moved again, this time to Salem. There he was given charge of the church, and there he, like many other free-thinking men, fell under the displeasure of the governor of Massachusetts Bay. For some things he taught he was summoned before the General Court of the Bay, and the Court ordered him to leave the colony. He did not go at once, and Governor Winthrop let him stay until the following January, when rumors came to Boston that Roger Williams was planning to lead twenty men of his own way of thinking to the country about Narragansett Bay, and there establish a colony of his own. John Winthrop objected seriously to any such performance.

The governor sent Captain John Underhill in a sailboat to Salem, with orders to seize Roger Williams and put him on board a ship that was lying at Nantasket Roads, ready to sail for England. But when Captain Underhill and his men marched up to the house of Williams they found that the man they wanted had fled three days before. There was no knowing which way he had gone, the wilderness stretched far and wide to west and south, and so they gave up the search for him and reported to Governor Winthrop that Roger Williams had disappeared.

Five friends of Williams, knowing that he had been commanded to leave Massachusetts Bay, had gone into the wilderness and built a camp for him on the banks of a river which was called by the three names of the Blackstone, for the first settler there, the Seekonk, and the Pawtucket. There Williams joined them, and there they stayed during the winter and planted their crops in the spring. Then a messenger from the governor of Plymouth came, saying that their plantation was within the borders of the Plymouth Colony, and asking in a friendly way that Roger Williams and his friends should move to the other side of the river.

January 4
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria

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