ABOUT THE YEARE 1627 some friends beeing togeather in Lincolnshire, fell into some discourse about New England…and after some deliberation wee imparted our reasons by letters and messages to some in London and the west country⁠ where it was likewise deliberately thought uppon, and at length with often negotiation soe ripened that in the year 1629, wee procured a patent from his Majesty⁠ for our planting. 1   from Dudley’s letter to Lady Bridget – March 1630

Some friends beeing togeather in Lincolnshire refers to Thomas Dudley, Simon Bradstreet, Isaac Johnson, John Humfrey, and Richard Bellingham being together in Lincolnshire in 1627. Also present were: William Coddington, Atherton Hough, Thomas Leverett, and other members of Boston’s Borough Council. Together these men resisted the Forced Loan and were central to founding the Massachusetts Bay Company. In addition, Samuel Skelton, chaplain to the Earl of Lincoln’s household, and Charles Fiennes, the Earl’s younger brother,  were likely present as both lived with Dudley at the Sempringham estate of the Earl of Lincoln. 

Some in London refer to Puritan tradesmen in London that aspired to become merchants and supported the Feoffees for Impropriation—three of which were appointed feoffees and later joined the Massachusetts Bay Company.2 These men were mostly domestic retailers excluded from membership in the powerful overseas companies that dominated London trade.3 Of the one hundred twenty-nine members that eventually joined the Massachusetts Bay Company, only eleven could be considered merchants. Three of the eleven—Matthew Craddock, Samuel Vassall, and Nathan Wright—were named associates in the Massachusetts Bay Company’s charter. 

The west country refers to Dorset County in the southwest of England and remnants of the defunct Dorchester Company that went bankrupt in 1626. Rev. John White, its founder, and John Humfrey, its treasurer, sought to attract investors in London to restart their venture and appealed to Mathew Craddock and his group of London investors. It was Humfrey that introduced Craddock and his London cohort to Isaac Johnson and the Boston men. 

Humfrey was in Boston to witness Isaac Johnson’s Will in April 1627 and connected to Boston through his second wife, Elizabeth Pelham, whose half-brother, Herbert Pelham II, lived in Boston and was buried there in 1624.4 His son, Herbert Pelham III, inherited his father’s Boston estate and was described as being ‘of Boston’ in his 1626 marriage record. He was also one of ten Boston Men that helped found the Massachusetts Bay Company.5 

Elizabeth Humfrey was a half-sister and first cousin of Herbert Pelham III. The two also shared an aunt—a second Elizabeth West—that married Richard Saltonstall in 1627. Saltonstall’s involvement in the Massachusetts Bay Company likely resulted from his myriad connections to the Pelham, West, and Humfrey families.6

Humfrey was a member of Lincoln’s Inn at the Inns of Court and associated with fellow Lincoln’s Inn members John Preston and Richard Bellingham. 

In February 1628, Bellingham was elected to represent the town of Boston in Parliament and helped found both the New England and the Massachusetts Bay Companies.7 Later in New England, he served ten years as Governor of Massachusetts and married Penelope Pelham, the daughter of Herbert Pelham III.8 

As a member of the Inns of Court, Humfrey also associated with members of Gray’s Inn from the Boston area, like Herbert Pelham III, Isaac Johnson, and the Earl of Lincoln.9 

It was likewise deliberately thought uppon, and at length with often negotiation soe ripened refers to the Boston men coming to terms with the group of investors in London led by Matthew Craddock—referred to as ‘the adventurers.’ The Boston men led by Isaac Johnson and Thomas Dudley were called ‘the planters.’ 

Their mutual goal was to obtain a land grant from the Council for New England led by the Earl of Warwick, who had seized control from its former president, Ferdinando Gorges. As it happened, Gorges had been assigned command of the Fort at Plymouth in the Thirty-Year War and paid little attention to the Council for New England, so the Earl of Warwick did much as he pleased.10 

Isaac Johnson and his father-in-law, Lord Saye, solicited Warwick to issue a grant. Warwick required that gentlemen of blood apply,  so Humfrey and Rev. White secured three gentlemen from Dorchester—in conformance with their earlier Dorchester Company grant. 

In March 1628, what is known as The Rosewell Grant was issued—though no known copy exists. With the Rosewell Grant in hand, the New England Company was formally established in April 1628.11 

Out of forty-four members, twenty-four London investors formed the majority and elected Matthew Craddock as governor. Richard Bellingham is said to have served as legal counsel for the group and drafted the Rosewell Grant.  

Sir Henry Rosewell, Sir John Younge, Thomas Southcote, John Humfrey, John Endecott, and Simon Whitcombe were named patentees. The more important Associates listed in the grant were Isaac Johnson and Richard Saltonstall, both of whom pledged  £100 to the venture. Other prominent associates, John Venn, Matthew Craddock, and Richard Bellingham, who each pledged £50.12 

In June 1628, John Endicott was selected to lead the New England Company’s first voyage aboard the Abigail with fifty or so settlers. Little is known of Endicott prior to his association with the New England Company. Some historians assume he was from Dorchester, and his willingness to migrate resulted in his being selected to lead the company’s first expedition to Salem.

Not long after Endicott’s sailed for New England, death visited the company in England. John Preston died of tuberculosis in July, and John Humfrey’s wife,  Elizabeth, died in November. Earlier in August, Thomas Dudley’s daughter, Anne, was stricken with smallpox. Although just sixteen, Anne revealed in her fever that she was in love with Simon Bradstreet, and by the end of the year, the two were wed.

In the year 1629, wee procured a patent from his Majesty⁠ for our planting refers to the New England Company morphing into the Massachusetts Bay Company and obtaining a royal charter.13 

On March 2nd, 1629, Thomas Coney presented the Boston men’s desire to pledge £25 each for stock in the company. Although Isaac Johnson and Richard Bellingham were pivotal in founding both the New England Company and the Massachusetts Bay Company, this event was the first time the Boston men were mentioned as a group in the minutes of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Earlier, Isaac Johnson had pledged £400, which may have prejudiced the company’s general stock though it did not appear in company records. The company welcomed the Boston men’s investment as it was conducive to the good of the plantation.14 

Thomas Coney was then serving as Boston’s town clerk and was in London to renew Boston’s charter and solicit Parliament for repairs to its sluice.15  At the time, Atherton Hough was serving as Boston’s mayor and likely facilitated Coney’s attendance at the meeting as he was one of ten Boston men desiring to invest in the company. 

The timing of the Boston Men’s investment was strategic. To guarantee the success of their venture, Isaac Johnson worked behind the scenes with Lord Saye and the Earl of Warwick to ensure the Crown’s endorsement of the venture. 

Once royal patronage was secured, only then did the Boston men invest on March 2nd, 1629. John Humfrey later remarked, 

We are all much bound to Lord Saye for his cordial advice and true affections. As also my Lord of Warwick. Sir Nathaniel Rich deserves very much acknowlegement for his wise handling of Sir Ferdinando Gorges.16 

On March 4th, 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Company was granted a Royal Charter as a result of:

His Majesty’s especial grace, with great cost, favour of personages of note and much labour.17 

In May 1629, Samuel Skelton, chaplain to the Earl of Lincoln, was recruited to sail for Salem on the George Bonaventure. It was the company’s second expedition. Upon arrival in New England, Skelton was elected the first pastor of the Salem Church. 

With Craddock governor in London and Endicott governor in Salem, a rift developed between planters desiring to settle New England and the adventurers remaining in England. 

To resolve the rift, identical meetings were held in London and Sempringham on July 28, 1629, to ensure thatthe New England planters would be assured of governing their own affairs without interference from the adventurers in London. 

The London meeting of adventures took place at the home of Thomas Goffe, the company’s deputy governor. Matthew Craddock led the meeting to clarify the issue.

…for the advancement of the plantacon, the inducing and encouraging persons of worth an quality to transplant themselves and famylyes thether, and for other weighty reasons therein contained, to transfer the government of the plantacon to those that shall inhabite there, and not to continue the same in subordination to the Company heer, as now is.18

Craddock realized that if the governance of the company were to be transferred to New England, a governor representing the planters was needed. Despite Isaac Johnson’s commitment to migrate, he was not a suitable candidate as London investors wanted to protect their forty-seven percent stake in the company and were wary of  Johnson’s wealth and connections with nobility. Similarly, Dudley and Bradstreet were too close to the Earl of Lincoln, and Bellingham represented Boston in Parliament. Humfrey would have been a likely candidate if he had not been courting Lady Susan, the younger sister of the Earl of Lincoln.

A compromise candidate was needed, and through his numerous contacts at the Inns of Court, Isaac Johnson was aware that Emmanuel Downing had a brother-in-law named John Winthrop. Winthrop was an attorney by trade and a member of Gray’s Inn along with the Earl of Warwick, the Earl of Lincoln, and Herbert Pelham III.19 

Johnson corresponded with Downing and encouraged both Downing and Winthrop to attend a meeting planned at Sempringham.

It had beene an excellent Tyme for mr. Winthorpe to haue beene this Commencement att Cambridge, where I heare are many reverend Divines, to Consider of mr. Whites call. Lett mee entreat to bee remembred to him, when yow haue occasion to write to him. So expecting yow both heere ere it bee long, with the acknowledgment of much beholdingnes to yow, for many undeserved fauours, I am forced to break off, restinge Your assured frend

Isa: Johnson: Sempringham July. 8. 162920

Winthrop’s diary indicates that three weeks later, he and Downing traveled to the meeting at Sempringham.

July 28: 1629 My Bro: Downing and myself ridinge into Lincolnshire by Ely, my horse fell under me in a bog in the fennes, so as I was allmost to the waiste in water; but the Lorde preserved me from futher danger. Blessed be his name.21

The Sempringham Meeting consisted entirely of planters. Joining Winthrop, Downing, Dudley, and Johnson at Sempringham were those Boston men who intended to settle New England and three clerics:  John Cotton, Thomas Hooker, and Roger Williams. Although some historians assume the Earl of Lincoln hosted the Sempringham Meeting, it is highly unlikely as in 1622, the Earl severed ties with his mother, Lady Elizabeth, and relocated to his estate at Tattershall.22 

Isaac Johnson led the Sempringham meeting. He was both the wealthiest investor in the Massachusetts Bay Company and its largest. Moreover, he was committed to settling in New England. 

On August 26, 1629, a month after the Sempringham meeting, twelve planters from the newly formed Massachusetts Bay Company gathered at Queens’ College, Cambridge University, to declare their commitment to settle in New England provided that the government and charter of the company be legally transferred and carried to the plantation in New England. The meeting was documented in what is known as The Cambridge Agreement.


It is fully and faithfully agreed amongst us, and every one of us doth hereby freely and sincerely promise and bind himself, in the word of a Christian, and in the presence of God, who is the searcher of all hearts, that we will so really endeavor the prosecution of this work, as by God’s assistance, we will be ready in our persons, and with such of our several families as are to go with us, and such provision as we are able conveniently to furnish ourselves withal, to embark for the said Plantation by the first of March next, at such port or ports of this land as shall be agreed upon by the Company, to the end to pass the Seas (under God’s protection) to inhabit and continue in new England. Provided always, that before the last of September next, the whole Government, together with the Patent for the said plantation, be first, by an order of Court, legally transferred and established to remain with us and others which shall inhabit upon the said plantation. 23

All but two of the twelve signers eventually settled in New England. Isaac Johnson, Thomas Dudley, John Humfrey, John Winthrop, and Sir Richard Saltonstall were the most significant of the signers. 

Two days after the signing of the Cambridge Agreement, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Company reconvened in London at the home of Thomas Goffe to take up the issue of transferring the company’s government and charter to New England.24 Two committees were formed: one comprised of the adventurers and the other of the planters

The planters posed arguments in favor of the transfer, and the adventurers posed arguments against it. 

Nathaniel Wright, Theophilus Eaton, Thomas Adams, and William Spurstow argued against the transfer. While Richard Saltonstall, Isaac Johnson, and John Venn argued in favor of the transfer.25 

For the next couple of months, the legality of transferring both the company’s government and its charter to New England was argued. The adventurers, comprised of London investors, felt certain that the move was illegal. 

It was not until October 1629 that minutes recorded the first attendance of John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley at a meeting of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Both supported the planters, and both were committed to settling in New England. 

On October 19th, a single committee made up of adventurers and planters was established to finally resolve the issue of transferring governance to New England, 

The adventurers were represented by John Davenport, Nathaniel Wright, Richard Perry, Henry Waller, John Venn, Thomas Adams, Simon Whitcombe, Sir John Young, William Spurstow, and John Revell. 

Representing the planters were: Richard Saltonstall, Isaac Johnson, John Winthrop, John Humfrey, Thomas Dudley, William Vassell, William Pynchon, and Emmanuel Downing. 

The following day on October 20th, 1629, the committee came to an agreement and announced their decision.

It was thought fitt & natural that the gouvmnt of psons (persons) bee held there & the gouvmnt of  trade & merchandise to be heere.26

Following this announcement, the company nominated Winthrop, Saltonstall, Johnson, and Humfrey from among planters to become the company’s governor in New England. 

Winthrop was elected due to:

his integritie & sufficiencie, as being one every well fitted & accomplished for the place Govnor. 27 

John Humfrey was elected Deputy Governor.

Thomas Dudley and Issac Johnson were elected Assistants.

The following year—March 1630—the company relocated to South Hampton, where the Winthrop Fleet lay in anchor. 

An old warship named the Eagle had been purchased and refurbished by Isaac Johnson for £5,000. It was made the fleet’s flagship and renamed the Arbella, after Johnson’s wife, Lady Arbella.28

Simon Bradstreet and William Coddington were elected Assistants on March 18th, 1630. 

Five days later, Thomas Dudley replaced John Humfrey as Deputy Governor after Humfrey announced his intention to stay in England. 

In December 1630, Humfrey’s reason for remaining in England became clear when he wed Susan Clinton, Lady Arbella’s younger sister, and became the Earl of Lincoln’s brother-in-law.


1 Dudley, Thomas. “To the Right Honourable, My Very Good Lady, the Lady Bridget, Countess of Lincoln, March 28, 1630.” In First Planters of New-England, the End and Manner of Their Coming Thither, and Abode There: in Several Epistles, edited by Joshua Scottow and Paul Royster, Lincoln, NB: Joshua Scottow Papers, Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2007. 

Note: Old Style dates versus New Style Dates. March 28, 1630 OS becomes March 28, 1631 NS. There were two calendar changes in 1752 in Britain and Colonial  America. The first adjusted the start of a new year from Lady Day (25th of March) to January 1st; and second the switch the Gregorian calendar from the Julian calendar.

2 Francis Bridges, a salter from Surrey; Richard Davis, a wine merchant from London; and George Harwood, a haberdasher from London. (See- Larminie, Vivienne. “Feofees for Impropriations.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, May 28, 2015.

3 Brenner, R. Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London’s Overseas Traders, 1550-1653. (Verso first published by University of Princeton Press, 2003). P118

4 Besant, F. The Parish Registers of Boston in the County of Lincoln. vol. I (Lincoln Record Society, 1914).

5 Chester, J. L. Herbert Pelham, his ancestors and descendants. The New England Historical and Genealogical … 33, (1879).

6 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography – Saltonstall, Sir Richard (1521?–1601). (2018)

7 1.The Records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn,  Vol. 1, Admissions 1420 – 1799. vol. I (Society of Lincoln’s Inn, 1896).

8 Watson, P. & Sgroi, R. Bellingham, Richard II, (c.1592-1672). in (The Institute of Historical Research, 2010).

9 The register of admission to Gray’s Inn, 1521-1889, together with the register of Marriages in Gray’s Inn Chapel, 1695-1754. Notes Queries s7-VIII, 299–299 (1889).

10 Gorges, R. The Story of a Family Through Eleven Centuries, Illustrated by Portraits and Pedigrees. (Printed Privately, 1944). P130

11 Rose-Troup says in The Massachusetts Bay Company and Its Predecessors that the names of the members of the New England Company were found in documents quoted by Joseph Felt in the Annals of Salem, which lists the following Devon Patentees: Sir Henry Rosewell, Sir John Younge, Thomas Southcote, Simon Whetcombe; and  John Humfrey from Dorchester

12 Rose-Troup, F. The Massachusetts Bay Company and Its Predecessors. (The Grafton Press, 1930).

13 Shurtleff, N. B. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England 1628-1641. vol. 1 (1853).

14 From the Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England: 1628-1641. Edited by Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff. Vol. I, W. White, printer to the Commonwealth, 1853. p-28

“Also, it beeing propounded by Mr. Coney, in the behalfe of the Boston men, (whereof dyvers had pmised, though not in our booke underwritten, to adventure 400£ for the joint stock) that now there desire was that 10 psons of them might underwrite 25£ a man in the joint stock, they wthall pmisinge wth theise ships to adventure in there pticuler about 250£ more, and to puide abell men to send ouer for manadging the buissines; wch though it bee preiudiciall to the general stock, by the abatement of so much money thereout, yeet appearing realley to conduce more to the good of the plantation, wch is most desired, it was condiscended unto.”

15 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. p. 555

16 Gov. John Winthrop Papers, Vol. 2, 1557-1649. (2016). P329

17  Quote by Matthew Craddock in Andrews, C. M. The Colonial Period of American History. vol. I (Yale University Press, 1934). P367

18 Shurtleff, N. B. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England 1628-1649 – Printed by order of the Legislature. vol. I (William White printer for the Commonwealth, 1853). P49

19 The register of admission to Gray’s Inn, 1521-1889, together with the register of Marriages in Gray’s Inn Chapel, 1695-1754. Notes Queries s7-VIII, 299–299 (1889).

20 Gov. John Winthrop Papers, Vol. 1-5, 1557-1649. (2016). P103

21 Ibid. P103

22 Curzon, George Nathaniel, and Tipping, Henry Avray. Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire; a Historical & Descriptive Survey, London: Jonathan Cape, 1929.

23 Ibid. P151

24 Robbins, W. G. The Massachusetts Bay Company: An Analysis of Motives. Historian 32, 83–98 (1969).

25 Shurtleff, N. B. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England 1628-1649 – Printed by order of the Legislature. vol. I (William White printer for the Commonwealth, 1853).

26 Ibid. P56

27 Ibid.

28 Roger Thompson, ‘Johnson, Isaac (bap. 1601, d. 1630)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [, accessed 28 Jan 201528 Jan 2015]