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Cap. John Luther/Luter and the Great Migration - Bridport Origins

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The Luther Family Association genealogists have long thought that Captain John Luther Captain John likely emigrated from Dorset to Massachusetts from 1630 to 1637, as part of the Great Migration. Dorset County residents formed a meaningful number of the English emigrants during this time. An insightful book by English historian Professor Frank Thistlethwaite deals extensively with the West Country pilgrim emigrants.1 One of the most comprehensive studies (still ongoing) of the participants in this exodus is “The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Volumes 1-3” and “The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635, Volumes 1-6”. Boston: New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1996-2011 by Robert Charles Anderson. In preparing Schedule A of this article, the writer has consulted both of these sources, among other historical records and sources; source details are not included.

The small Town of Bridport and the nearby County Town of Dorchester played an important role in that resettlement. Both being located very close to the English Channel, it is natural that their residents would be engaged in seafaring activities. These two towns, about fourteen miles apart, had close historical ties, with numerous family & business connections. Although Bridport had a small port at West Bay, by the 1620s its utility had declined, duly to silting. The closest functional sizable port was Weymouth (Dorchester’s port), about eighteen miles from Bridport.

For centuries Bridport was legendary for its production of rope used in sailboat ropes and riggings. The flax and hemp used in rope making was grown in the rural areas surrounding Bridport. In 1211 King John ordered Bridport to produce sail cloth, cables and ropes2, and this activity continued into the 1600s (for a time as a monopoly) as its most important business activity.

People and vessels from this area of Dorset had for years crossed the Atlantic from Dorset to engage in the Newfoundland cod fishery. “Throughout the southwest of England the overseas cod fishery became an established industry, and migration to Newfoundland became a major cultural tradition. While much of the migratory activity at home was focused on the ports where the fish merchants operated and whence the ships sailed, the working population that went to Newfoundland each year was distributed throughout surrounding villages and inland market towns… Because of their close proximity to the sea, many of their young residents were seamen or fishermen. Weymouth was involved in the fishing industry in Newfoundland. There were substantial "Newfoundland" communities resident in such places as… Bridport in Dorset …”3.

In the 1620s & 30s England experienced a religious conflict between the Church of England traditionalists led by Charles I with his ally Archbishop Laud, and the Puritans who wanted church reform. The resulting persecution of Puritans led to a movement for them to leave England, where they could freely practice their religion. One of the prime proponents of such emigration was Rev. John White & his associates of Dorchester. They encouraged, organized & financed the Dorchester Company in the 1620s to encourage emigration to the New World. The overwhelming number of its shareholders/members were from Dorchester. The Bridport & area people were represented among its members are shown in Part 1 of Schedule “A”. They also organized the important 1630 voyage of the sailing vessel Mary and John to Massachusetts which contained primarily passengers from England’s West Country. Although there is no surviving passenger list, from the arrival dates in Massachusetts, it is likely that at least fourteen were from Bridport.

Bridport had a vibrant Puritan community, and there was some conflict with traditional Church of England adherents in the town. A slander court case of Miller vs. Maries, 1613-1614 involved no less than sixteen prominent members of the town, eight on each side.4

Part 2 of Schedule “A” sets out Great Migration immigrants to Massachusetts from or connected with Bridport & the nearby area. This demonstrates the considerable role that residents of Bridport & area played in inspiring, organizing, funding & participating in the Great Migration to New England.

This brings us to John Luter Jr., born in Bridport in 1602 & his wife Elizabeth Addams, who he married in 1625 in Bridport. It has been suggested in the past that Captain John Luther may have come from Great Canford/Canford Magna, Dorset. But in this study and in previous research, the writer has found no evidence of any participation of residents of that village in the Dorchester Company or the Great Migration.

Based on the foregoing, John & Elizabeth must have been well aware of the emigration from their home area to New England and quite likely knew some of the emigrants. As concluded by the founding Luther Family Association genealogists, it is quite probable that Cap. John Luther/Luter was influenced by Rev. White & others of nearby Dorchester to immigrate to the New World. Although there is no evidence of Captain John Luter/Luther being a religious man, his son Samuell did become a minister possibly in Dorchester and definitely in Swansea. And as John was a seaman, likely working out of the nearby Port of Weymouth, he may have previously sailed to the New World, perhaps involved in the fishing or fur trading industries, which were active from Weymouth. Since he was from a family with modest means, they were the very type of people with the economic incentive to do so. As has been said, most of the emigrants came from the cottages, not from the manor houses.

In the view of the writer, the information presented herein further supports the thesis that Captain John & Elizabeth Luther/Luter are in fact John Luter & Elizabeth Addams of Bridport.


1. “Dorset Pilgrims, The Story of West Country Pilgrims Who Went To New England in the 17th Century”, by Frank Thistlethwaite, 1989; Barrie & Jenkins, London

2. p. 29, “Records of Early English Drama - Dorset”, edited by Rosalind Conklin Hays and C.E. McGee; Brepols Publishers and University of Toronto Press

3. “The West Country”, Heritage Newfoundland and Labrador, heritage.nf.ca/articles/society/west-

4. National Archives (England), STAC 8/214/2:1614/15; mb 4: 1 June 1614; mb 2:11 July 1614; mb 3:28 November 1615



John Brown was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Bridport in 1614,1620-21 & 1628. He was also MP for Dorset from 1641 to 1653. He was also chosen Burgess (alderman) for Bridport in 1620 & 1625. A staunch Puritan and close friend of Rev. John White, he was also a member of the Dorchester Company & other schemes for colonization. He was a member of the New England Planters Parliament elected in 1624 under Governor Sir Walter Erle.

Johane Derby/Darby, widow of Henry Darby, a close associate of Rev. John White and resident of Beaminster, Dorset (six mi. from Bridport). She was mother of Anthony, Pawle & William Darby (below), the latter who emigrated to New England. She was a member of the Dorchester Company.

Anthony & Pawle Derby/Darby, natives of Beaminster, (6.5 mi. from Bridport), sons of Johane Derby (above), were also members of the Dorchester Company.

William Derby/Darby, a mercer (clothing merchant) in Dorchester Dorset, was a native of & was married in Beaminster. He was a close associate of Rev. John White & Richard Bushrod, instigators of the Dorchester Company and a leading member of that company.

Robert Miller/Millar of Bridport was a felt maker, businessman & member of the Dorchester Company. He and his wife died in Bridport in September of 1626 of the plague which affected the town.

Thomas Newberry of Whitchurch Canonicorum Dorset ( 5.5 mi. from Bridport) was a member of the Dorchester Company. He also emigrated to Dorchester, Mass. from Weymouth in 1634.

Walter Newburgh of Symondsbury, Dorset (1.6 miles from Bridport), son of William Newburgh, the Rector of Symondsbury Church, was a member of the Dorchester Company.

Giles Stoodley, merchant, of Broadwindsor (7 mi. from Bridport) was a member of the Dorchester Company.

William Tucker, gentleman & merchant, of Beaminster, was a member of the Dorchester Company. He died in Beaminster in or about 1654.

George Way was a prominent glover, merchant & investor in Dorchester Dorset and a close associate of Rev. John White. He was elected a bailiff of Dorchester in 1627. He also was a member of the Dorchester Company and a 1628 company of Adventurers for a settlement at Massachusetts Bay. He owned land in Massachusetts, but never moved there. He was probably related to Henry Way of Bridport below and the other Ways living in Bridport. He also owned properties in Bridport, probably through those family ties. In his 1641 will, his trustees included William Derby (see above) and Walter Baily of Bridport.

PART 2 – EMIGRANTS CONNECTED TO BRIDPORT & NEARBY TOWNS (excluding Dorchester) Richard Betscombe & wife Mary Strong emigrated from Symondsbury Dorset, to Hingham, Mass. in about 1635. A haberdasher, father of daughters baptized in Bridport. In New England, he had business relations with Leonell Brown of Bridport, woolen draper (Aspinwall, p.10). His wife died in Mass. in 1646; he returned to Symondsbury/Bridport & died and made his will there.

Henry Coggan & wife Abigail Bishop emigrated from Bridport to Dorchester, Mass. in about 1638. Henry was from Somerset and Abigail was a Bridport native, the daughter of Thomas Bishop. They were married in Bridport March 14 1636/7.

Aaron Cooke (Jr.), a Bridport native, was said to have emigrated to Dorchester Mass. on the sailing ship Mary & John on March 20, 1630, with his widowed mother & stepfather Thomas Ford. His father Aaron Cooke Sr. was a Puritan, who was plaintiff in a libel law suit in Bridport in 1613. In 1637 he joined a large group of families from the West Country who moved from Dorchester to the wilderness of Windsor Connecticut, wishing to seek more fertile land and to assert their independence. By 1650, Aaron Cooke Jr. married Joan Denslowe, daughter of Nicolas Denslowe, also from Allington/Bridport.

John Derby/Darby, a native of Powerstock, Dorset (4.7 mi. from Bridport) (Bridport, Dorset Parish Registers, 1538-2001) (3 miles from Bridport), emigrated to Plymouth/Yarmouth, Mass. before August 1637. He is in all likelihood not John Darby, son of Henry Darby of Beaminster, because his brother does not seem to be part of that family, but could be related.

Richard Derby/Darby, brother of John Darby above, who also was apparently a native of Powerstock, emigrated to Plymouth/Yarmouth, with a servant, John Chipman. He returned to England and was buried in Bridport on Jan. 3 1643. Seemingly not Richard Derby, son of Henry Darby of Beaminster, who died in 1623, but could be related.

Nicholas Denslowe & wife Elizabeth Doling (with daughters Temperance and Joan), emigrated to Dorchester Mass. by 1633 and moved to Windsor Mass. He was likely baptized (alias Bayley) in 1573 in Allington, part of Bridport. Daughter Joan married Aaron Cooke Jr. of Bridport above.

Osmonde Doutch/Dutch & wife Grace Pratte (with son Robert), from Bridport emigrated to Massachusetts and lived in Gloucester, Mass. A fisherman & mariner, he owned waterfront property in Gloucester harbour, very close to the property owned by Cap. John Luther/Luter.

John Elford of Bridport/Dorchester, Dorset was a seaman who emigrated to Salem Mass. by 1630, likely sent by Rev. John White. He was involved in various disputes & litigation in Dorchester and Massachusetts and was indebted to Rev. John White. He appears to have been baptized in Bridport on June 28 1601.

Thomas Ford & wife Elizabeth Cooke of Bridport/Dorchester emigrated to Dorchester Mass. in 1630, probably aboard the Mary & John. He married Elizabeth, the widow of Aaron Cooke Sr. & mother of Aaron Cooke Jr. in Bridport in 1616 and had two daughters there, before moving to Dorchester Dorset before 1624.

John Gallop, wife Christine Brushett & five children, emigrated from Bridport before 1633 to Boston, Mass. He was a fisherman & mariner, and they married and baptized all their children in Bridport. In Massachusetts, John Gallop was a noted mariner & coastal trader from Maine to Connecticut.

Andrew Hallett of Symondsbury emigrated on the sailing ship Marygould on March 20 1635 from Weymouth, Dorset to Dorchester, Mass., servant of Richard Wade, also of Symondsbury. He was baptized in Symondsbury/Bridport, Dorset May 19, 1607. He later lived in Sandwich & Yarmouth Mass.

Robert Hewstis/Huestis, a Bridport resident, emigrated on the sailing ship Marygould on March 20 1635 from Weymouth, Dorset to Boston, Mass. He married Anne Moon & baptized three daughters in Bridport. After his wife died, he moved to the New World, where he remarried and had more children.

William Hill of Lyme Regis (6.5 mi. up the coast from Bridport) emigrated to Dorchester, Mass. by 1633 and later moved to Windsor, Conn. He was a merchant, son of prosperous father William.

Angell Hollard & wife Katherine Richards, from Beaminster, near Bridport Dorset emigrated on the sailing ship Marygould on March 20 1635 from Weymouth, Dorset to Dorchester, Mass.

John Holman emigrated from coastal Swyre, Dorset (5.7 mi. from Bridport) before March 1632 to Dorchester, Mass., where he was born. He was apprenticed as a woolen draper at Dorchester, Mass. & engaged in fur trading in New England. By 1641, he married the daughter of Thomas Bishop of Bridport and they had numerous children. In 1647 Holman appointed Bishop his attorney to collect rent on property he owned in Swyre, which he inherited from his father Holman.

William Hosford, wife Florence Hayward & three children, from Beaminster, near Bridport, emigrated before December 1633 to Dorchester, Mass. They were married and their children were baptized in Beaminster. It is likely that father Nicolas was a Puritan who was plaintiff in a 1613 libel law suit in Bridport. He returned to England, but his son John stayed in Windsor.

John Hoskins emigrated from Beaminster in 1630, likely on the Mary & John, to Dorchester, Mass. He married Mary Forde in Beaminster in 1600 and had several children of her in Bridport. In Massachusetts his daughter/stepdaughter Katherine married David Wilton, also from Beaminster.

Michael Humfrey/Humphrey of Lyme Regis Dorset (9.5 mi. from Bridport), emigrated to Windsor, Conn. by 1643. His father married his first wife in Bridport in 1615. He was a prominent businessman, married, had children and died in Connecticut.

William Lane, wife Agnes & son emigrated from Beaminster in 1635 on the sailing ship Hopewell from Weymouth, Dorset to Dorchester Mass. He and his wife baptized three children in Beaminster.

Thomas Lombard of Thorncombe Dorset (10 mi. from Bridport) emigrated to Dorchester Mass. by October, 1630, likely on the Mary & John. Baptized five children in Thorncombe.

William Lovell of Bridport emigrated to Dorchester, Mass. before July, 1633. He baptized two children in Bridport in 1617, both of whom died at a very young age. In New England he owned boats and was an active coastal mariner.

Henry Lush likely of Bridport emigrated on the sailing ship Marygould on March 20 1635 from Weymouth, Dorset to Dorchester, Mass., servant of Richard Wade of Bridport/Symondsbury.

Thomas Newberry, merchant, from Whitchurch Canonicorum, Dorset (5 mi. from Bridport) emigrated on March 31 1634 on the sailing ship Recovery from Weymouth Dorset to Dorchester, Mass. He baptized five children in Whitchurch. He was a member of the Massachusetts Bay Company.

John Peach of Bridport, fisherman and boat owner, emigrated to Salem, Mass. prior to 1636. He was baptized on Bridport on April 26, 1600 and never married. In his will, he mentions a cousin in Symondsborough (presumably Symondsbury, near Bridport). John Peach (perhaps his father) paid Ale account levies in Chideoke, near Bridport in 1592-3.

Thomas Pierce/Pearce & wife Susana Whitehead were married in Bridport on June 29 1634 and are likely the couple who emigrated to Massachusetts and whose son Thomas in 1639 married Elizabeth Cole & had children in Charleston, Mass. Thomas Pierce (probably his father) is mentioned in the Puritan slander law suit in Bridport in 1613.

Eltwitt/Eltweed Pomeroy/Pomerye of Beaminster emigrated to Dorchester, Mass. by March 1632/3 then relocated to Windsor, Conn. He was baptized, married, had two daughters & buried his first wife Johanna Keech in Beaminster, Dorset. He remarried & emigrated with second wife Margery Rocket of Crewkerne, Somersetshire, had children with her in New England and after she died, lived with 3rd wife Lydia. He was appointed by Windsor Mass. to regulate the price and quality of yarn/rope made there.

Stephen Terry from Dorchester Dorset emigrated to Dorchester, Mass. probably on the Mary & John 1630. He returned to England to marry wife Elizabeth in Symondsbury in 1633 & reentered Mass. in 1634. Moved to Windsor, Conn. His mother was a sister of Rev. John White.

Richard Wade & servants Andrew Hallet & Henry Lush of Bridport/Symondsbury, Dorset migrated in 1635 on the Marygould from Weymouth, Mass. He was probably the Richard Wade baptized in Bridport on July 15 1610, son of Robert Wade, with several siblings there. There were also many (probably related) Wades in nearby Symondsbury. He & his family (with Andrew Hallett) later moved to Yarmouth/Sandwich, Mass.

John Warham & his wife Susanna Gollop of Crewkerne Somerset/Maiden Newton Dorset (12 mi. from Bridport) emigrated to Dorchester April 1630, aboard the Mary & John. He was baptized in Crewkerne, married in Stoke Abbott, Dorset (6 mi. from Bridport) & had one of their children there. After taking a position as a minister in Exeter Devon, he returned to Dorchester, Dorset to emigrate and was designated by John White as a minister onboard and in the New World. He became a prominent civic leader in Dorchester, and in Windsor when he moved there.

Henry Way, wife Elizabeth & children of Bridport, Dorset emigrated to Dorchester, Mass. in 1630, probably on the Mary & John. He was a mariner, fish merchant and the owner of several boats involved in fishing & other commerce in New England. He was probably related to George Way above.

David Wilton, baptized in Beaminster, Dorset 1608, emigrated to Dorchester Mass. before late 1632. He engaged in fur trading in late 1632.

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