The Baron Family first appear in the Minutes of the Corporation of Boston when Peter Baron was made a freeman of the Borough on October 25th, 1606.1 Peter Baron was the son of a distinguished scholar from France that had earned his Doctor of Divinity at Cambridge University.2 It appears that Peter Baron was encouraged to move to Boston, Lincolnshire by his younger brother, Andrew, who (under the patronage of the Cecil Family) had received a patent confirming him to the office of Boston Port Comptroller in 1603. Peter Baron’s younger twin sisters, Elizabeth and Catherine, moved to Boston with him and later married there.
PETER BARON Sr. (PETRU BARO)
Peter Baron Sr. was a French Huguenot academic from Orleans, France that migrated to England in 1573. Lord Burghley, William Cecil, who was Chancellor of Cambridge University at the time, befriended Baron and awarded him a Doctor of Divinity in 1576. Baron preferred the name, Petru Baro, as continental theologians used Latin names. In 1579, Baro was appointed the Lady Margaret Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge. That same year, his son, Peter Baron, matriculated to Cambridge’s Peterhouse as a sizar.3
Peter Baron Sr. was an advocate of Arminianism.4 His work, De Fide ejusque Ortu et Natura,5 dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham, was printed in London in 1580. In December 1595, Archbishop John Whitgift censured him for spreading Arminianism and wrote that he had much offended her Majesty ‘that he, being a stranger and so well used, should dare to stir up or maintain any controversy in that place of what nature soever— Non decet hominem peregrinum curiousum esse in aliena republica.’6
In November 1596, Baron’s term as the Lady Margaret Professor was not renewed, even though Lord Burghley supported him. Baron left Cambridge for London where he spent his remaining years at a house in Dyers Yard Crutched Friars in the parish of St. Olave on Hart Street. There under the altar of the parish church, he was buried. The Bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, commanded the attendance of all his parish clergy at the funeral and those with Doctors of Divinity were pall-bearers.7
Peter Baron Sr. was survived by two sons and two daughters- all of whom moved to Boston, Lincolnshire due to continued patronage by the Cecil family. In 1603, Lord Burghley’s son, Robert Cecil- brother of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter granted Andrew Baron, Peter’s younger brother, a patent confirming him to the office of the Boston Port Comptroller. Andrew’s older brother, Peter, and twin sisters, Elizabeth and Catherine followed him to Boston.
PETER BARON Jr.
Peter Baron received his Master of Arts Degree in medicine at Cambridge University in 1585.8 In the fourth year of the reign of James I, Peter Baron and his wife, Mary de la Fontaine, were naturalized by statute and moved to Boston where Peter became a freeman and served as town physician until his death in 1630. In addition to his Boston medical practice, Dr. Baron leavened many of the chief men of the town with Arminianism9— the Lutheran doctrine preached by his father.10
Though duly elected to Boston’s Borough Council in May 1609, Dr. Baron was not well received by the other aldermen. In addition to being French and Arminian, Baron insisted on being esteemed to the point where in August 1609, the Earl of Exeter, Thomas Cecil, a friend of Baron’s father, interceded on his behalf by writing to mayor of Boston.11 “There are (as I hear) some few of the Aldermen far inferior to the Said Doctor Baron who refuse to give him place. I have thereupon thought good hereby to write and advise you that your brethren the Aldermen would avoid further discontentment that he may hold his place in your town and if there is any opposition against him, I pray you send me their names that further action maybe taken to redress them.”12 As a result of Exeter’s letter, Baron was elected mayor in 1610. 13
In 1612, Peter Baron was selected as one of the four Boston assemblymen to accompany former Boston vicar Wooll to Cambridge to select a new vicar. At the time, the town of Boston was at odds with the Bishop of Lincoln, William Barlow, who viewed the people of Boston as being “a factious people, who were imbued with the Puritan spirit.”14 Barlow’s opinion was likely influenced by the clash of Dr. Baron’s Arminianism with Boston’s historical puritan bias for the teachings of John Calvin. Given his strong Arminian views, Baron likely opposed Wooll and Alexander and voted against the selection of John Cotton as Boston’s next vicar. Cotton later recalled, “When I was first called to Boston in Lincolnshire, so it was, that Mr. Baron, son of Dr. Baron (the divinity reader of Cambridge, who in his lectures there, first broached that which was then called Lutheranism, since Arminianism.) … And though he were a physitian by profession, (and of good skill in that art,) yet he spent the greatest strength of his studies in clearing and promoting the Arminian tenets.”15
Although Dr. Peter Baron originally opposed Cotton’s selection as vicar, the two seem to have eventually come to respect each other. Cotton later wrote, “I coming among them a young man (as having gone to Cambridge in the beginning of the thirteenth year of my age, and tarrying there not above fourteen years in all, before I was sent for to Boston), I thought it a part both of modesty and prudence, not to speak much to the points at the first, amongst strangers and ancients; until afterwards, after hearing of many discourses in public meetings, and much private conference with the doctor, I had learned at length where all the great strength of the doctor lay. And then observing such expressions as gave him any advantage in the opinions of others, I began publickly to preach, and in private meetings to defend, the doctrine of God’s eternal Election, and the Redemption (ex gratia) only of the Elect; and the impossibility of the fall of a sincere believer, either totally or finally from the estate of grace. Hereupon, when the doctor had objected many things, and heard my answers to those scruples which he was wont most plausibly to urge; presently after, our public feasts and neighbourly meetings were silent from all further debates about Predestination or any of the points which depend thereon, and all matters of religion were carried on calmly and peaceably. Insomuch, that when God opened my eyes to see the sin of Conformity (which was soon after), my neglect thereof was at first tolerated without disturbance, and at length embraced by the chief and greatest part of the town.” 16
Peter Baron lived in a large home that stood between the east end of Beadman’s Lane and Spain Lane in Boston. He died September 6, 1630 and was buried in Boston on September 7. In his Will dated May 31, 1628, Baron described himself as ‘Peter Baron alias Baro of Boston in the county of Lincoln esquire and doctor of Phisick’.17
PETER BARON III
Dr. Peter Baron’s son, Peter Baron of Boston, was born about 1595 based on being described as being about 22 years old on his marriage license.18 He married Martha Forrest, eldest daughter of Miles Forrest of Peterborough. Her father, Miles Forrest, was the descendant of a certain Miles Forrest who appears as bailiff of Peterborough at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. Martha Forrest is described as of Skirbeck, and like her husband aged about 22 years. She was therefore born about 1595. She was buried at Boston August 7 1632. Peter Baron III re-married Joan Smith, daughter of Edward Smith of Lincoln. She survived Peter and re-married in Feb. 1658, to Andrew Slee of Boston, M.D., a grandson of Peter Baron’s uncle, Andrew Baron of Boston. Joan predeceased Andrew Baron and was buried at Boston on November 6, 1660.
Andrew Baron, the second son of Petru Baro, was born at Cambridge, July 8, 1574. In 1603 he received a patent confirming him the Boston Port Comptroller. This office was granted by the Crown under ministerial control of Robert Cecil, the brother of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter. As a result of this appointment, it appears Andrew was the first Baron to locate in Boston, Lincolnshire. Andrew’s wife was named Hester. Together they had two daughters: Hester and Mary. Later his daughter, Hester, married George Slee, who, in 1633, succeeded Baron as the Boston Port Comptroller.
ELIZABETH & CATHERINE BARRON
Elizabeth and Catherine Baron were born twin daughters of Petru Baro at Cambridge on August 24, 1577. Elizabeth married John Lockton of Boston, Lincolnshire in May 1600 and Catherine married Peter Vandeleur, a refugee from Ghent, Flanders.
© by Barry A. Cotton
1 Transcription of Minutes of the Corporation of Boston: Vol II (1608-1638). Edited by John F. Bailey. Vol. 2, Boston, Lincolnshire, UK: History of Boston Project, 1981.
2 The father, also named Peter Baron, earned a Doctor of Divinity at Cambridge in 1576. Later he was ordained by John Calvin in Geneva and was appointed a professor of divinity at Cambridge University largely due to the influence of Lord Burghley.
3 The term sizar is thought to derive from sizes or the apportionment of food and drink at college tables which sizars were obliged to serve in return for the larger share of their college tuition. Sizars assigned to fellows or fellow-commoners as waiters and valets were termed private or proper sizars. They dined on leftovers from the high table and often shared beds in crowded conditions that necessitated taking turns sleeping. Put simply, sizars were the lowest level students at Cambridge University and they paid the least to attend, which was five shillings tuition per term.
4 The doctrines of Jacobus Arminius (Latinized name of Jakob Hermandszoon, 1560–1609), a Dutch Protestant theologian who rejected the Calvinist doctrine of Predestination. His teachings had a considerable influence on Methodism.
5 ‘The Origin and Nature of Faith’
6 It is not fitting for a foreigner to be meddlesome in a foreign country.
7 The Ancestor: a Quarterly Review of County and Family History, Heraldry and Antiquities, Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co. LTD, 1902.
8 Venn, John. 2015. “Alumni Cantabrigienses.” Cambridge University Library. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
9 Cotton, John, Sr. The Way of Congregational Churches Cleared, Literary Licensing, LLC, 2014.
10 Arminius taught that Calvinist Predestination and unconditional election made God the author of evil and insisted that God’s election was an election of believers and therefore was conditioned on faith. Furthermore, Arminius argued, God’s exhaustive foreknowledge did not require a doctrine of determinism.
11 Lord Burghley, Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, was the son of William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer under Elizabeth I. He served as MP for Lincolnshire, first in the House of Commons and later in the House of Lords.
12 Page 37 Boston Corporation Minutes, November 22, 1609:
Coppie of the Letter sent ffrom my Lord Exiter tougheinge Mr Doctor Baron one of the Aldermen.
After my very harty Comendacons beinge given to understand that one Mr Peeter Baron Doctor n Phisicke is lately chosen one of the Aldermen of Your Towne of Boston beinge a man (as I am credably informed) of very good part both for his learneinge sufficyency and carriadege, and haveinge had (before his eleccon to that romme) his place at meeteings in your towne above any of the Aldermen next unto the Deputy Recorder Notwithstandeinge that the greater part of the sufficyentest Aldermen & Comon Councell of the Towne are contented to yeald it to him, Theare are (as I heare) some few of the Aldermen farre infoerior to the Said Doctor Baron whoe refuse to give him place I have there uppon thought good hereby to write and advise you, since it will much tend to the indignity of your Towne to seeke to bringe him to a lower rowme by beinge of your Company than hee formerly held amongst you Duputy Recorder & some of your bretheren the Aldermen would take such speedy order for avoydeinge all further inconveince & discontnetment that may arise as that he may quietly take & hold his place in your Towne next the Recorder oas afeoresaid, wherein if you shall finde any opposiscion to bee made by any of those persons that seeme to withstand him I pray you to cerifie mee theire names That such further course maybee taken for redresse of theire Copntention as shalbee requisite & epedient And so wisheing you all unity & mutuall love amongst you I leave you to Gods protection, Burghley this Xth of August 1609.
To my very loveinge ffrends the Maior of Boston for the time beinge the Deputy Recorder & the rest of the Aldermen theire.
Youre loveinge ffrend
13 Thomas Cecil was the eldest son of William Cecil, Lord Burghley
14 Thompson, Pishey. 1856. The History and Antiquities of Boston. 414
15 Ibid. 414-415
16 Cotton, John, Sr. The Way of Congregational Churches Cleared, Literary Licensing, LLC, 2014.
17 The Ancestor: a Quarterly Review of County and Family History, Heraldry and Antiquities, Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co. LTD, 1902.