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Samuel Skelton (c. 1592[dubious ] - August 2, 1634) was the first pastor of the First Church of Salem, Massachusetts, which is the original Puritan church in North America.[1][2]


On February 26, 1592/3,[3] Skelton was baptized in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, England[4] where his father, William was rector. He matriculated at Clare College, Cambridge, in 1608 and graduated from the University of Cambridge in 1611 and earned a master's degree there in 1615. He was curate of Sempringham, Lincolnshire, c. 1615-20 and probably later chaplain to the Earl of Lincoln. In 1619 he married Susanna Travis at Sempringham.

He was recruited by John Endecott, who had just been appointed as the governor of a new colony, the London Plantation in the Massachusetts Bay in New England. Endecott invited Skelton to come to America with him and serve as minister of the colony. Endecott already had a close relationship with Skelton and considered him as his spiritual father.[5][6][7]

Skelton and his family arrived in Salem on June 23, 1629. Skelton had been ordained in England, and had served for many years as a priest of the established Church of England in Lincolnshire. The new church in Salem was organized as one of the established English churches, and continued in that capacity until January 1, 1630. At that point, use of the Book of Common Prayer was discontinued, and the church became the second independent Congregational church in New England. This change, along with the significant assistance of Skelton, made it possible for the Pilgrims and the Puritans to unite as one colony.[8][9][10]

Colonial authorities granted Skelton 213 acres of land in Danversport for services rendered to the colony (the land was a peninsula which became known as Skelton Neck). Skelton was considered to be reserved "in his manners," but "his talents and attainments were respectable." He was "a man of gracious speech, full of faith, and furnished by the Lord with gifts from above."[11]

Roger Williams came to America in 1631 and in April became an assistant to Rev. Skelton. After Skelton's death, Williams became minister but was banished from Massachusetts for questioning the power of the colonial government over the church. As a result, he left the colony and founded Rhode Island.[12][13]


  1. ^ Barz-Snell, Rev. Jeffrey, "A 'Short' History of the First Church in Salem," First Church in Salem, Unitarian Web Site ("Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2016-02-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)), Retrieved 4 Feb. 2011.
  2. ^ Marsh, D. W., Ed., Genealogy of the Marsh Family Outline for Five Generations, p. 1, Press of J. R. Williams, Amherst, MA, 1886.
  3. ^ Alumni Cantabrigienses
  4. ^ Anderson, Robert Charles (1995). The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society. pp. 3: 1685.
  5. ^ Upham, William Phineas, Papers Relating to the Rev. Samuel Skelton, 1875.
  6. ^ Harrison, Bruce H., The Family Forest Descendants of Rev. Samuel Skelton, p. 4, Millisecond Publishing Co., Inc., Kamuela, HI, 2004.
  7. ^ Stager, Helen and Evelyn, A Family Odyssey, pp.445-447, Nicollet Press, Inc., Pipestone, MN, 1983.
  8. ^ Cutter, William Roland, Historic Homes and Places and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Vol. II, pp. 632-634, Lewis Historical Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1908.
  9. ^ Dow, George Francis, Everyday Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, pp. 239-240, Heritage Books, Inc., Bowie, MD, 1935, reprinted 2002.
  10. ^ Winthrop, John, History of New England, 1630-1649, Edited by James Kendall Hosmer, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, NY, 1908.
  11. ^ Marsh, Lucius B., The Genealogy of John Marsh of Salem and his Descendants, 1633-1888, pp. 16-20, J. E. Williams, Book and Job Printer, Amherst, MA, 1888.
  12. ^ "Roger Williams ... a Brief Biography," Roger Williams Family Association Web site ( Retrieved 4 Feb. 2011.
  13. ^ Williams, Roger, "A Plea for Religious Liberty," Web site ( Retrieved 4 Feb. 2011.

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