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Rev. Peter PRUDDEN

Male 1601 - 1656  (~ 54 years)

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  • Name Peter PRUDDEN 
    Title Rev. 
    Born Dec 1601  Kings Walden, Hertfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Immigration 26 Jun 1637  Boston, Suffolk County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 6 Jul 1656  Milford, New Haven County, CT Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • (1) Prudden, Lillian E., Peter Prudden, New Haven, CT: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co., 1901, pp. 5-18, 36-42, 63-64:

      [Note by compiler: This source does not mention Peter PRUDDEN's first marriage.]

      The veil which obscures the Prudden name prior to the time when the Rev. Peter Prudden came to this country in 1637, is lifted once in the chronicles of the latest Danish kings of England. Here we learn that in the year 1042, King Hardicanute died at a carousal in Lambeth Palace, where one of his nobles was celebrating the marriage of his daughter to "Tovi, surnamed Prudan, a noble and powerful Dane."

      Most of the histories of that time spell the name of this person "Pruden," but by some it was written "Pruda." It is impossible now to say whether this name continued during the next three hundred years, or those who bore it were descendants of this ''Tovi" or "Tobi" Prudan, or even, whether the "Pruddens" that began to be found in the sixteenth century are descendants of his. At different periods the English records so vary the manner of spelling the same name that it would not be surprising if as time passed this one had been completely altered. A continuous line of descent may have followed down through the names of Prudde, Prudow, Prothowe, Proddehowe, Prudhon, and a dozen other similarly sounding names.

      The derivation and meaning of the name is uncertain. One writer says it means the ''proud." Another, interpreting English Surnames, says, ''We now talk of a 'prude' as one who exaggerates woman's innate modesty of demeanor. Formerly it denoted the virtue pure and untravested. The root of the Latin 'probus,' excellent, still remains in our Prudhommes, with those more commonly corrupted forms, Pridham, Prudames or Prudens, a sobriquet which formerly referred simply to the honest and guileless uprightness of the owners."

      The first distinct record of the name which has been found, since that of 1042, is in some early wills in Her Majesty's Court of Probate, in Somerset House in London, where it is spelled, as now, "Prudden." All of these earlier Pruddens seem to have been inhabitants of a district on the borders of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, twenty-five miles from London.

      The will of Thomas Prudden of Kingswalden mentions his three sons Peter, William and Edward. It also mentions John Prudden of New Wyle End, and further, Thomas Prudden of Breechwood Greene.

      The parish register of Kingswalden gives the name of Prudden from its commencement to about the beginning of the seventeenth century. The latest record is 1620. Thereafter the name disappears. It is, however, found later in the neighboring parish of Hitchin Hestor, and in the nearer part of the adjacent county of Bedford, and has continued on there until now, giving ground for the surmise, that as this Kingswalden family disappeared about the time that Peter Prudden and his brother James came to this country, the disappearance may be due to their emigration.

      There is on the records of Kingswalden the memorandum of the death of _____ (''name illegible, but looks like Elizabeth") wife of James Prudden. As James Prudden of Milford, Conn., had a daughter Elizabeth, who married in 1648, and another daughter who married in 1640, and as the wife of James Prudden is never mentioned in Milford records, it is possible that he came to this country a widower, with daughters of marriageable age, and that the record at Kingswalden chronicles the death of his wife.

      While we know little of the life of Rev. Peter Prudden before he arrived in Boston, in company with Mr. John Davenport, Mr. Theophilus Eaton, and the other founders of the New Haven Colony, we can easily conjecture some of the influences that surrounded his boyhood, and early manhood. Born three years before the death of Queen Elizabeth, while Shakespeare was still writing plays, and while the Protestant Reformation was not yet a century old, the political, intellectual and religious ferment of the times must have been felt in his environment. History was being made in those days. The Gunpowder Plot was discovered when he was five years old. The first settlement was made in Virginia when he was six. Imprisonments, fines, mutilations and martyrdoms for teaching and preaching outside the National Church sent the Pilgrims secretly across the Channel to Holland, when he was seven. The Mayflower sailed from Southampton when he was nineteen. He grew to manhood during the years of alarm and despair because of the follies and tyrannies of James. The spirit of adventure was in the air. The stories of Drake, Raleigh and Smith had already thrilled many English hearts with romantic ideas of the unknown sea and the unexplored wilderness of the new world. Probably the Bible, in the Geneva version, the "Breeches Bible," was the strongest literary and moral influence of his life. As Cambridge was near his home and Puritan in its tendencies, he may have been educated there, though his name does not appear in any lists of graduates of that University.

      For sixteen years after Peter Prudden reached maturity, he remained in England, preaching, according to tradition, in both Yorkshire and Herefordshire, and, like many other ministers who came to this country during the great Puritan emigration between 1629-1644, acquired such influence as a preacher that a company of his own people were willing to emigrate with him. These ministers were men of "fidelity, ability and learning," the best stock of the mother country, not fanatics, but practical Englishmen of good-sense, and brave hearts, who had gained from their Bibles both religious fervor and a longing for freedom. Civil and religious liberty were more and more menaced. A standing army, burdensome taxation, and a government without Parliament, created increasing anxiety and alarm.

      There is no good reason for supposing that Mr. Prudden was a Separatist (or Congregationalist) until he reached America. He had probably known Mr. Davenport and watched his struggle for freedom of thought in the established church. He may not have been involved in the same persecution, but similarity of calling and views gave him knowledge of the plans of Messrs. Davenport and Eaton, which he naturally shared with his Herefordshire friends. That Mr. Prudden had thought of some such enterprise for two years, at least, and that he was esteemed fitted for leadership, is indicated by the record of a committee for the settlement of Providence Island (one of the Bahamas), which is now kept among English State papers of 1635 in Her Majesty's Public Record Office, and which says, "We have hope of Mr. Prudden, a minister consenting to go over," and later it mentions "A minister and three servants."

      It should be remembered that the motives of Mr. Davenport's company were different from those which had led men for forty years to brave the perils of the sea and the wilderness. Neither hunger for gold, thirst for conquest, desire for adventure, nor even religious separation alone was their object. Unlike earlier settlers, they sought no charter, or grant of land from the crown. Theirs was a commercial enterprise undertaken by men who desired also to form a Christian Commonwealth. In seeking a new home in America they were not trying a new experiment, for the possibility of successfully battling with the dangers of the ocean, the forest, and the Indians, had already been demonstrated.

      The ship ''Hector," which was first engaged, was a vessel of only 250 tons, and since she could carry but 100 passengers, was altogether too small for the large number which, owing to Laud's persecutions, wished to emigrate with this company; therefore, a consort which was said to have been called the ''Martin," was secured. Even then, however, some of the shareholders were unable to sail until two years later.

      It was no light undertaking to make their arrangements in secret consultations, and so adjust financial affairs as to secure transportation for themselves and their goods, without attracting the attention of those who would gladly have hindered them. Since several were men of position and wealth, and a royal edict prohibited emigration to holders of property without permits, many probably embarked under assumed names. Mr. Atwater says, "If ever lists of the passengers of the 'Hector' and her consort are found, they will probably not contain the names of John Davenport or Samuel Eaton"; nor, we may add, the name of Peter Prudden. Shortly afterwards, a proclamation was made requiring more careful certificates from all emigrants, particularly men of wealth, and this new proclamation is supposed to be due to the knowledge that so many such men went on these ships.

      We know nothing of their voyage, save that they sailed in the spring of 1637, but we can imagine some of the discomforts of the crowded cabins in the small vessel, the limited variety of fresh food, the seasickness, the homesickness, and danger of disease during the six weeks, which was the shortest possible time of crossing the ocean. The cost of the passage was ??5 for each individual and ??4 for each ton of goods.

      Coming, as they did toward the end of "the Puritan exodus," during which 26,000 people reached New England, they had no such hard experiences as many of their predecessors. Well established colonies already existed at Plymouth, Salem and about Boston, in which dwelt many old friends with hospitable homes. Two years before, Hooker, following pioneers at Windsor and Wethersfield, had founded the Connecticut colony at Hartford; Roger Williams had started his plantation on Narragansett Bay; while farther away were the thriving Dutch trading posts at Albany and New York, and the English settlement in Virginia. There was as yet no jealousy of the English Colonies on the part of either Spain or France. Only a few feeble French outposts existed on the Bay of Fundy and the St. Lawrence. The brave Spanish missionaries and explorers, who had already for a century enacted
      some of the most romantic chapters in American history, were too busy with their own discoveries, conquests and colonies, from Mexico northward over nearly half the present territory of the United States, to care what Anglo-Saxons were doing on the Atlantic seaboard. Only the Indians, just defeated in the Pequot War, and the primeval forests barred the way to their free choice of a place for settlement.

      Naturally a company so well equipped, and containing so many citizens valuable for any community, received a hearty welcome at Boston, where they landed June the 26th, 1637. The Colony of Massachusetts Bay at once offered them opportunities and inducements to settle. As regards those in whom we are particularly interested we find in the town records of Dedham, Mass.

      "11th of Ye 6th month [August] 1637."

      "It is ordered yt if Mr. Peter Prudden, with fifteen more of his company shall please to come unto us, they shall have enterteynment, and lotts accordingly, to be lay'd out to them, bringing stiffcat from the magistrates, as is required." Also, "Ye 28th of ye ninth month [November], 1637." "Whereas, Mr. Prudden, with fifteen more of his company, had liberty given to come and have lotts in our towne yf they soe pleased, but not having since understood anything of their acceptance, we nowe hold ourselves noe longer to stand engaged to them therein."

      As this record was made only about six weeks after the arrival of the "Hector," it is probable that Mr. Prudden preached in Dedham during that summer. We are not sure whether the invitation to locate in Dedham was declined because of a desire to avoid the religious controversy that was disturbing Massachusetts, regarding the peculiar doctrines of Ann Hutchinson, or because of dissatisfaction with the "lotts" offered them, or, as is more likely, because of a cherished hope that they might better carry out their own ideas elsewhere. It is certain, however, that the colonists who came by the Hector soon sent out an exploring party whose report of the sheltered bay and level meadows of Quinnipiac (afterwards New Haven) decided them to locate there in the following spring. There they secured the desired harbor for commerce, and land that could be made habitable without great effort in clearing forests. Mr. Prudden, like most of his companions, must have spent that first winter in or near Boston.

      The date and place of Peter Prudden' s marriage are unknown, and it may have been one of the events of those winter months. Mr. Savage affirms that his marriage occurred at Edgton, Yorkshire, a hamlet reached by a pleasant walk of two miles through the fields from Kirby Moorside. This conclusion, for which there are no proofs, was probably based on the fact that the descendants of Peter Prudden and Joanna Boyse held inherited property at Edgton for more than one hundred and fifty years. The Parish register, which has been carefully searched, contains no record of the birth or marriage of either Peter Prudden or Joanna Boyse, indeed the name "Prudden" is not found in it. Certainly Peter Prudden never preached there. Since, however, the name "Boyse" is frequent, it is probable that Edgton was the home of Mrs. Prudden's ancestors, though the wills of her parents indicate that they lived in Halifax, Yorkshire, where John Boyse, her father, was a clergyman. That the Boyses were a family of means, is shown by the wills, which provide a dowry of ??200 for each daughter in addition to ''Landed Estate.'' From the mother's will we infer that Joanna Boyse was not married before 1631, and from the names of her two brothers mentioned in the will, we find a reason why the names ''Samuel," and "John" were given to her sons. One of her sisters was the wife of Rev. John Raynor, pastor of the church at Plymouth, Mass., from 1637-1655, and later of Dover, New Hampshire. In the absence, therefore, of any evidence that Joanna Boyse was married before leaving England, and from the fact that her eldest child was born in 1640, it seems probable that she crossed the ocean with her sister, Mrs. Raynor, before her marriage, and married Mr. Prudden in New England, though no record of their marriage has thus far been found.

      * * *

      The Milford planters were, at first, quite independent of any other part of the Colony, although their civil code was essentially similar to that of New Haven. The power of selecting magistrates, dividing the land and managing the common interests of the plantation, was in the church only. Finding themselves too weak, however, to lead an independent existence, they sought admission to the New Haven Colony. But disapproval of their ''laxity" caused opposition to their admission because they had "taken in as free burgesses six planters, not in church fellowship." The difficulty was only adjusted when the Milford deputies promised that these unchurched free burgesses should not at any time be chosen deputies, nor vote at the election of magistrates, and that in future, no one should be admitted to citizenship except "according to the New Haven plan." It is difficult to suppose that this "laxity" could have existed, if a tolerant spirit had not guided ministerial authority in widening the bounds of citizenship. There is more than a hint of such a spirit in a letter from Mr. Prudden to Richard Mather in 1651, in which he says on the subject of baptism, ''Touching the desire of such church-member's children as desire to have their children baptized, it is a thing I do not yet hear practised in one of our churches. But, for my own part, I am inclined to think it cannot be justly denied, because their next parents (however not admitted to the Lord's supper) stand as complete members of the church within the church covenant, and so acknowledge that they might have baptism. Their children are also members by virtue of their parent's covenant and membership. Baptism cannot be denied them." Thus the dangerous heresy of "The half-way covenant" seems to be asserted.

      We know from the Cheever letter that Mr. Prudden took the long journey to Boston in 1651, for Mr. Cheever makes it the occasion of an appeal to his well-known kindly interest in the affairs of the whole Colony, bespeaking his influence as a broad-minded and trustworthy man in securing fair judgment for him in New Haven.

      Like all people of Connecticut, Mr. Prudden was doubtless interested in the founding and maintenance of Harvard College, and it is worthy of note that three of the five graduates of the Class of 1668 were his son John, Zachariah Whitman, the son of his ruling elder, and Abraham Pierson, and first President of Yale, son of the Branford minister. No doubt he saw to it that the people of his parish paid the tax of corn, with which Harvard was first supported.

      Other ministers of the time were more prominent, and more noted than he, but the little we know of Peter Prudden warrants us in ranking him among the worthiest of the honored founders of New England. As visible fruit of his ministry of sixteen years in Milford, we find the record of 204 baptisms, and 106 added to the church. The size of the church, however, in a community of 500 souls would by no means represent the extent of his influence. A man marked in those days of strong Puritan Divines as ''zealous," "pious," "able," and "peaceable," the best years of whose life were given to the new settlement, must have furnished assistance and encouragement, example and counsel that went far to secure the quiet and prosperous existence of the plantation.

      The cause of Mr. Prudden's premature death in July, 1656 is unknown, but that it was a serious loss to the young colony is abundantly evident from contemporary history. In the language of Fell's Ecclesiastical History of New England, ''his course had been dutiful and its termination blessed." The elaborate eulogy of him which Mr. Cotton Mather gives in the ponderous English and Latin phrases of his Magnalia has furnished so many suggestions in regard to his character that we reprint it here.


      "Prudentius - The life of Mr Peter Prudden

      "That greatest of peacemakers, the Son of God, has assured us, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall he called the children of God. I am sure then, 'tis a blessed child of God, whose name is now before us; (Prudden shall we call him?, or, Prudent?), who besides his other excellent qualities, was noted for a singular faculty to sweeten, compose and qualify exasperated spirits, and stop or heal all contentions. Whence it was that his town of Milford enjoyed peace with truth all his days, notwithstanding some dispositions to variance, which afterwards broke forth among them.

      God had marvellously blessed his ministry in England, unto many about Herefordshire, and near Wales; from whence when he came into New England, there came therefore many considerable persons with him.

      At their arrival in this country, they were so mindful of their business here, that they gathered churches, before they had erected houses, for the churches to meet in. There were then two famous churches gathered at New Haven; gathered in two days, one following upon the other; Mr Davenport's, and Mr Prudden's. And this with one singular circumstance, that a mighty barn was the place, wherein the duties of that solemnity were attended. Our glorious Lord Jesus Christ Himself being born in a stable, and laid in one of those moveable and four-squared little vessels wherein they brought meat unto the cattel, it was the more allowable, that a church, which is the mystical body of that Lord, should thus be born in a barn. And in this translation, I behold our Lord, with his fan in his hand, purging his floor, and gathering her wheat into the garner. That holy man Mr Philip Henry, being reproached by his persecutors, that his meeting place had been a barn, pleasantly answered, No new thing, to turn a threshing floor into a temple.
      So did our Christians at New Haven.

      The next year Mr Prudden, with his church, removed unto Milford; where he lived many years an example of piety, gravity, and boiling zeal, against the growing evils of the times.

      And though he had a numerous family, yet such was his discretion, that without much distraction, he provided comfortably for them, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances, wherewith an infant-plantation was encumbred.

      He continued an able and faithful servant of the churches, until about the fifty-sixth year of his own age, and the fifty-sixth of the present age; when his death was felt by the colony as the fall of a pillar, which made the whole fabrick to shake.

      Like that of Piccart, now let our Prudden lie under this Epitaph.

      Dogmate non tantum fuit Auditoribus Idem
      Exemplo in Vita; jam quoque morte praeit."

      It remained for the eighth and ninth generations from these first Milford planters to perpetuate their memory in a handsome bridge of stone on the two hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of the settlement of the town.

      * * *

      The children of Peter Prudden and Joanna Boyse - daughter of Rev. John Boyse and Joanna Boyse of Halifax, England:

      I. Joanna, born August, 1640, married _____ Chittenden.

      II. Mary, born Jan., 1641, married Zacheriah Walker as his first wife. Mr. Walker was a minister, at Jamaica, L. I., then at Stratford and later the first pastor at Woodbury, Conn., where he went with a company of followers from Stratford. . . .

      III. Elizabeth, born Feb., 1642, baptized 4th of March, 1643. Married, name unknown. . . .

      IV. Samuel, born Feb., 1643, died 1685; lived in Milford. . . .

      V. John, born Nov., 1645 in Milford, died Dec. 11, 1725, graduated at Harvard College in 1668. Minister in Newark, New Jersey - founder of the New Jersey branch of the family. . . .

      VI. Abagail, baptized Dec, 1647, married Joseph Walker of Stratford, Nov. 14, 1667. Married, second, Richard Hubbell, in 1688. . . .

      VII. Sarah, born May 12, 1650, married Gideon Allen.

      VIII. Peter, born May 26, 1652, died June 10, 1652.

      IX. Mildred, born March, 1653, married Lieut. Sylvanus Baldwin, 20th of Sept., 1671, died Jan. 6, 1712.

      (2) Coddington, John Insley, The Mother-in-Law of the Reverend Peter Prudden with a Pedigree of the Boyse Family, The American Genealogist, Vol. 19, No. 3 (January 1943), p. 139:

      JOANNA [BOYSE] . . . m. (1) about 1637-8 (as his second wife), the Rev. PETER PRUDDEN. He was b. in Dec. 1601, probably at or near Kings Walden, co. Hertford, or Luton, co. Bedford; was educated at the Merchant Tailors' School, London, 1616-7, and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 1620. He labored and preached in South Wales and Hertfordshire, and came to New England in 1637, for he was at Boston on 26 June 1637. He was at New Haven and Wethersfield, Conn., in 1638; and he founded Milford, Conn., in 1640, and was Pastor of the Church at Milford from 1640 till his death in July 1656. The Rev. Peter and Joanna (Boyse) Prudden had nine children, born at Milford.


      Rev Peter Prudden
      Birth: 1601, England
      Death: Jul. 6, 1656, Milford, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA

      Educated at Merchant Taylor's School in London (1616-1617) and Emmanuel College in Cambridge, England (1620), he preached in Hertfordshire, England (about 25 miles from London) until 1637, when he vacated his post due to persecution.

      Shortly thereafter, he sailed from London arriving in Boston in June of 1637. His first wife, Jane Thomas, daughter of William Thomas, Gent. of Wales, must have died prior to coming to America. While in Massachusetts, he married his second wife, Joanna Boyse, on July 2, 1637. She was the daughter of Rev John & Joanna (Stowe) Boyse.

      Rev. Prudden declined an invitation to settle as pastor at the church in Dedham. Instead, he removed first to the colony of New Haven and then to a tract of land purchased from the Indians called Wepawaug (Milford) with a flock of settlers from New Haven to start a church and settlement. On April 8, 1640, he was ordained pastor of the Milford church.

      Rev. Prudden was given homelot #40, the eastern end of which was called "Peter Prudden's Garden" and was used as the first burial ground at Milford. It was used for this purpose until 1675 when the area was expanded into the what is now the Milford Cemetery. Rev. Prudden, himself, was buried in his garden.

      His wife, Joanna, appears to have been the mother of his nine children. His will was dated November 8, 1681[?] and his inventory was taken on March 22, 1682[?]. Those mentioned in his will included his two sons, Samuel & John, and daughters: Joanna, Elizabeth, Abigail, Sarah, Mildred, children of his late daughter Mary Walker.

      After his death, the widow, Joanna, married Capt. Thomas Willett and Rev. John Bishop. She died in Stamford in 1683.

      The picture to the right is not his tombstone but is a memorial found the at one end of the Memorial Bridge over the Wepawaug River in Milford honoring Rev. Peter Prudden as the first minister of Milford.

      Family links: Spouse: Joanna Boyse Prudden Willett; Children: Elizabeth Prudden Burr (____ - 1685), Samuel Prudden (1644 - 1685), John Prudden (1645 - 1725), Peter Prudden (1652 - 1652)

      Burial: Milford Cemetery, Milford, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA

      Created by: Nareen, et al
      Record added: Aug 31, 2008
      Find A Grave Memorial# 29448747
    Person ID I27948  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 26 Apr 2019 

    Family 1 Joanna BOYSE,   b. 1616,   d. Aft 8 Nov 1681, Stamford, Fairfield County, CT Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age > 65 years) 
    Married 2 Jul 1637  MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 26 Apr 2019 19:38:14 
    Family ID F12143  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Jane THOMAS,   b. Abt 1605, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Bef 1637, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 31 years) 
    Married Abt 1633  Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 26 Apr 2019 19:38:14 
    Family ID F12189  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart