Sunday, June 24, 2012

Black Sheep Sunday - I Did It My Way!

Bachiler Monument - Founder's Park, Hampton, NH

Stephen Bachiler (variously spelled Batchellor, Batchelder etc) was a minister in Wherwell, Hampshire, England and then in the nearby village of Newton Stacy. He married and began a family and settled into life. His six children, by his first wife, were all born in Wherwell - a nice balance of three sons and three daughters. His first wife was a close relative of Rev. John Bate and many sources give her name as Ann Bate, but the documentation is lacking. His ministry spans a time of ecclesiastical strife as Puritans challenged the Church of England and leveled accusations of corruption and abuse. Despite the optimism among the Puritans that accompanied the ascension of King James I to the English throne, he proved no friend of the Puritan point of view and instead sided with the established church. King James I declared that he would "make them conform or harry them out of the land."  Rev. Stephen Bachiler was one of those who was removed from his pulpit for nonconformity. His son, Stephen Jr., was expelled from Magdalen College, Oxford University in 1610 and in 1613 father and son were sued by a clergyman for slander because they had allegedly written ""some scandalous verse" and were "singing them in diverse places." At the age of 44, he began a nomadic life that would take him to the colonies and eventually back to England. 

The Great Migration profile for Stephen Bachiler states that he came to the colonies in 1632 on the William and Francis. Before he immigrated, he was twice widowed and when he crossed the ocean he was married to his third wife, Helena, age 49. He was unusually old for an immigrant at age 71. Based on records, it is believed that Helena died sometime before May 1647. He moved frequently starting in Lynn, then possibly to Ipswich, was in Yarmouth in 1637/8, Newbury in 1638, Hampton, NH in 1639 and Portsmouth, NH in 1644. He left Lynn because he and some of his loyal followers were at odds with the rest of the congregation. In Yarmouth at age 76, he began his ministry yet again. An entry in John Winthrop's journal states that the group was very poor and taken over by others. Wherever he went dissension seemed to follow. In 1644, Winthrop remarked that  "Mr. Bachellor had been in three places before, and through his means, as was supposed, the churches fell to such division, as no peace could be till he was removed." In 1639, Bachiler moved to the new settlement at Hampton, NH. The Rev. Timothy Dalton was to share the pulpit with him - presumably because of his advanced age. 

 The final conflict with his congregation is reported in Winthrop's journal: Bachiler despite  "being about 80 years of age and having a lusty comely woman to his wife, did solicit the chastity of his neighbor's wife." This "lusty comely" wife would be Helena at age 58. She must have been a pretty sexy 58 as most women I know would not fit that description although they might aspire to it. There is no record of how this situation was resolved but in 1643-4, the town of Exeter invited Rev. Bachiler to be their minister and he hit the road again.

In 1648, he married for the fourth time, Mary, the widow of Robert Beedle. She had been living with him as his housekeeper and the community seems to have suspected that it was more than a working relationship prior to their marriage. Apparently, Rev. Bachiler at the advanced age of 87, was no longer quite able to keep up his end of the bargain and his wife left and went to live in Kittery with George Rogers. In April 1650 the court "ordered that Mr. Bachelor and Mary his wife shall live together, as they publicly agreed to do, and if either desert the other, the Marshall to take them to Boston to be kept until the next quarter Court of Assistants, to consider a divorce."  They did not live together or divorce. Sometime in the early 1650s, he returned to England. Mary became pregnant by George Rogers and was sentenced to receive 39 lashes at Kittery's town meeting and be branded with the letter "A." Some believe this story was the inspiration for the novel, The Scarlet Letter. 

Rev. Stephen Bachiler died in London at nearly 100 years old! Whether you find him an inspiration or an idiot, he lived the sentiment expressed by Frank Sinatra:

And now, the end is here 

And so I face the final curtain 

My friend, I'll say it clear 
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain 
I've lived a life that's full 
I traveled each and ev'ry highway 
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

This blogger has provided an even more detailed account of his life

Other sources of information:
The Great Migration Begins by Robert Charles Anderson accessed at

Connections to my family:
9th great-grandfather of Clayton Leonard Blake - my grandfather
9th great-grandfather of Linona Alice Blake - my grandmother
9th great-grandfather of Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother
AND grandson Nathaniel married my 7th great aunt, Mary Carter - completing a connection to all 4 of my grandparents!

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