Peter Prudden

A boiling zeal against the growing evils of the times

Born in Hertfordshire, England in 1601, Peter Prudden was tutored at the Merchant Taylors School for entrance to Cambridge University. After graduation from Emanuel College, Cambridge, he entered the ministry, as did most Oxford and Cambridge graduates. We have little knowledge of his life from his graduation, ca 1623, until 1633. But it may well be that sometime before 1632, Peter and a Jane Thomas were married, for in 1633, a gentleman named Peter Prudden and his wife, and other relatives, contested the probate of William Thomas, Esq. In any case, in 1635 the application of Peter Prudden, Cleric, was received officially as a candidate to leave England and take a ministerial post at Providence Island in the Bahamas. In his application, he mentions two servants, no wife and no children. We can assume then, that Jane Thomas died ca. 1634.

Apparently his application to the Bahamas was turned down since within two years he was completely embroiled in religious revolt against the King’s church and its unbending ways. Still, by the spring of 1637, Prudden was eager to depart for the New World. At the same time, Mr. Theophilus Eaton, a merchant, Samuel Eaton, his brother, and Rev. John Davenport, were making plans to depart for the same destination to found a religious community. The Eatons, Davenport and Prudden each had their own special followers, all of whom were being rigorously persecuted under Charles I for their religious beliefs.

In the spring of 1637, the “Hector,” with Davenport, the Eatons and their followers set sail, arriving at Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, on June 26, 1637. Five weeks after, the “Martin,” with Prudden and his flock, joined them in the New World. The Colony at once offered Prudden opportunities and inducements to settle in Dedham.

“11th of Ye 6th month 1637. It is ordered yt if Mr. Peter Prudden, with fifteen more of his company shall please to come unto us, they shall have entertaynment, and lotts accordingly, to be lay’d out to them, bringing stifficat from the Magistrates, as is required.”

Prudden declined their offer, and, notwithstanding this and various other blandishments towards all of the newcomers, the combined groups continued to focus on relocating to a place where they would be free to establish their own religious communities. They deliberated for nine months over their choice for such a location. At one point the Eatons and Rev. Davenport sent out exploring parties to visit, inspect and report back on the sheltered bay and level meadows of Quinnipiac (present day New Haven, CT). Based on favorable reports from this group, they chose Quinnipiac as a site for their new colony.