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On Genealogy: Whipped for Baptist Beliefs – My Connection to Rev. Obadiah Holmes

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Ok, it’s safe to say we all know that I’m a genealogy NUT, I won’t even try to deny it.  I love learning and I love history, especially when it comes to MY OWN.  They say to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve been.  I believe in knowing the trials, tribulations and successes my family has gone through, endured, surmounted and overcome, I can better understand a part of myself – and mainly teach this to my own children and to my family.  I believe I’m the first in my family to have undertaken such an in depth look at ALL lines of our family.  Sometimes I get so excited with where each branch goes, I don’t know where to go next after I’ve followed one to something exciting.

Yesterday I wrote about my familial connection to the Salem Witch Trials and I could have and likely should have stayed with that line as original settlers to the new colony, but something else piqued my interest in another line and off I went …

In going through my photo and story hints in my Ancestry.ca site, I came across a photo that someone had posted about a distant relative by the name of Obadiah Holmes.  Being Canadian, I’m astounded to see such American roots and the importance that some of my ancestors/colonial descendants have.  I had NO IDEA who Obediah Holmes was before starting this research and this blog.  A quick check online and up came a litany of information,  videos, articles and movies/documentaries on HIM.  In all honesty, I was going to write this blog about one of Obadiah’s famous descendants, but as I researched him and his significance to American history and the Baptist church, I felt it was worth writing about.

I’ll add the link to” The American family of Rev. Obadiah Holmes”  here for you to take a look at, but, I’ll provide a brief synopsis of his ancestry:

Arrival to the New Colony:

The decade of the 1630’s so disheartened England’s Puritans that they left their homeland in shipload after shipload to create a newer and purer England far away. These were the years of the Great Puritan Migration and Obadiah Holmes also “adventured the danger of the seas to come to New England.” Holmes and his wife probably sailed from Preston (just north of Liverpool), down the River Ribble, across the Irish Sea, and into the open Atlantic. They had an extremely stormy voyage that prevented them from entering Boston harbor until six weeks had passed. Soon after landing at Boston, most likely in the summer or early fall of 1638, they made their way up the coast and settled at Salem, Massachusetts.  Later removed to Rehoboth in Plymouth Colony.

Obadiah is said to have brought the first pendulum clock to America. This timepiece, one of the first of the kind ever constructed, is still doing duty in the cabinet of the Long Island and Historical Society, Brooklyn, having been presented to them by John Holmes Baker, Esq., a descendant.

Born Obadiah was born/baptized March 18, 1610 in Didsbury Chapel, County of Lancashire, England.  His father, Robert, was 31 and his mother, Katherine, was 26.
Died 15 October 1682 at Newport, Rhode island
Resting place Holmes Cemetery, Middletown, Rhode Island
Education It is said that he attended Oxford in England, but it is not certain if he graduated.
Occupation

The young Salem settlement encouraged Obadiah and his co-workers in the development of what may have been the first glass factory in North America. They made the common window glass.

Obadiah performed other duties befitting a good citizen; he surveyed and set boundaries for the land of another citizen.

In February, 1643; he accepted an appointment by the town in September 1644 to cut and gather firewood for the church elders.

He often served on juries during his years of residence at Salem.

He succeeded Dr. John Clarke & became the minister of the First Baptist Church in America. The church at Newport was his permanent charge for more than thirty years until his death.

Spouse Married Katherine Hyde (1608 – 1682) at the age of 21.  They were married in Manchester’s Collegiate College Church on November 20, 1630.
Children John, Jonathan, Mary, Martha, Samuel, Obadiah, Lydia, John, Hopestill
Parents Robert Hulmes / Holmes (1578 – 1649)  and Katherine Johnson (1584 – 1630)
Religious Affiliations

Obadiah soon found himself disliking the rigidity of the established church. Then came the horror (for the Puritans) known as Anabaptism. The Baptist zeal in Rhode Island was immeasurably heightened by a direct infusion of English Baptists from abroad. They were convinced that immersion or “dipping” was the only proper form of baptism. This innovation brought conflict and irritation to the Puritans, but brought peace and serenity, at last, to Obadiah Holmes.

He was Baptized with the “new baptism” along with 8 others and became out and out Baptists, with Obadiah becoming their leader and pastor. Obadiah took the irrevocable step toward separation from New England’s official way. It took three years for the membership of the Rehoboth church to become divided on doctrinal and legal lines and become aligned behind the minister and Obadiah as the respective leaders. Obadiah’s conversion to the distinctive views of the Baptists was developed here. He became the leader of the Schismatists (he formal separation of a church into two churches or the secession of a group owing to doctrinal and other differences).

Rev. Obadiah Holmes was a Baptist minister at a time when Baptists were barred from worshipping in the colony of Massachusetts.

A grand jury — included William Bradford, John Alden and Miles Standish — indicted Obadiah Holmes for heresy. He and his family left Plymouth for Newport, R.I., in 1650.

Fateful Trip to Lynn, Massachusetts

On July 16, 1651, Dr. John Clarke (pastor of the Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island), John Crandall and Obadiah Holmes walked 80 miles from Newport, RI to Massachusetts.  The purpose of the visit was to bring spiritual comfort and communion to William Witter, a blind and aged Baptist who had invited the three to come to his house. The broader purpose was, of course, an evangelical one: to tell of the new baptism and its importance. The word was proclaimed, converts were baptized, the elements of the Lord’s Supper were served all of this done privately in William Witter’s home.  I

On Sunday, July 20, they were holding church services to a small congregation. While Dr. Clarke was reading passages of scripture, two constables, with a warrant for the 3 visitors, broke in on the scene. The offence charged against them was conducting religious services in non-conformity with the statutes. The 3 Rhode Islanders were placed under arrest and taken to the local Anchor Tavern, to be fed and to await their scheduled appearance before the General Court, early the next morning. 

In the morning, after a brief appearance before Robert Bridges in Lynn, Mass, the evangelists were sent to Boston for trial. The authorities denied the defendants the opportunity to offer a defence, they simply read the charges and imposed the fines. The court order for commitment to prison, indicated essentially four complaints against the “strangers”. They had offended by (a) conducting a private worship service at the same time as the town’s public worship; (b) “offensively disturbing” the public meeting in Lynn; (c) more seriously, “seducing and drawing aside others after their erroneous judgment and practices”; and (d) “neglecting or refusing to give in sufficient security for their appearance” at the next meeting of the county court.  

The same charges were levied against all three men, all of whom fell under the proscription of the 1645 law against Anabaptists. Clarke, was fined £20; Crandall, as a tag-along and largely silent companion, was fined only £5. Obadiah Holmes, already under the cloud of excommunication from the church in Rehoboth, received the largest fine of £30. Should they not wish to pay the set fines, they had an alternative: the culprit was to be “well whipped”. 

Holmes refused to accept the offer of friends to pay his fine, believing it would be an admission of guilt, making it a matter of his conscience and scruples. He remained in prison from July till September.  

The Whipping

On September 5, 1651, Obadiah was taken from the jail, outside to the market place, where Magistrate Increase Nowell told the “executioner” to strip Obadiah naked down to the waist after he refused to disrobe himself, saying “that for all Boston I would not give my bodie into their hands to be bruised upon another account, yet upon this I would not give the hundredth part of a Wampon Peaque to free it out of their hands, and that I made as much conscience of unbuttoning one button, as I did of paying the £30 in reference thereunto.” He was then tied to the post and publicly flogged at Devonshire & State Streets in Boston, just because he was a Baptist.  

There were thirty strokes (which was 10 lashings short of a death sentence), with a three-cord whip, Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 4.21.20 PMheld by the executioner – one lash for each pound he owed. Holmes proclaimed, “I bless God I am counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus.” Though he received 30 lashes, to his bare back, Obadiah is said to not have let out a groan or scream – after the whipping he uttered the words “You have struck me as with roses.”  

After the flogging and out from the crowd came forward to offer their sympathy and shake Obadiah’s hand.  John Spur and John Hazel were promptly arrested and jailed.  Obadiah’s testimony deeply affected Harvard’s President, Henry Dunster.  For weeks and weeks after the flogging had to sleep on knees and elbows. 

Life After Religious Persecution

Obadiah returned to Newport and in 1652 succeeded Dr. John Clarke. He became the minister of the First Baptist Church in America. The church at Newport was his permanent charge for more than thirty years until his death. In 1656 he was made a Freeman (in U.S. colonial times, a person not under legal restraint). He served as a Commissioner from 1656-58.

Obadiah died October 15, 1682 in Newport and was buried in his own field, where a tomb was erected to his memory (in what is now the town of Middletown). His wife did not long survive him.  He had nine children and 42 grandchildren when he died.

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Thank God for men who put principles and compassion for fellow believers above their personal safety.

Last Will & Testament

These are to signify that I, Obadiah Holmes of Newport on Rhode Island, being at present through the goodness and mercy of my God of sound memory; and, being by daily intimations put in mind of the frailty and uncertainty of this present life, do therefore – for settling my estate in this world which it has pleased the Lord to bestow upon me – make and ordain this my Last Will and Testament in manner following, committing my spirit unto the Lord that gave it to me and my body to the earth from whence it was taken, in hope and expectation that it shall thence be raised at the resurrection of the just.

Imprimis, I will that all my just debts which I owe unto any person be paid by my Executor, hereafter named, in convenient time after my decease.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Mary Brown, five pounds in money or equivalent to money.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Martha Odlin, ten pounds in the like pay.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Lydia Bowne, ten pounds.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my two grandchildren, the children of my daughter, Hopestill Taylor, five pounds each; and if either of them decease, the survivor to have ten pounds.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my son, John Holmes, ten pounds.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my son, Obadiah Holmes, ten pounds.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my grandchildren, the children of my son Samuel Holmes, ten pounds to be paid unto them in equal portions.

All these portions by me bequeathed, my will is, shall be paid by my Executor in money or equivalent to money.

Item. I give and bequeath unto all my grandchildren now living ten pounds; and ten shillings in the like pay to be laid out to each of them – a bible.

Item. I give and bequeath unto my grandchild, Martha Brown, ten pounds in the like pay.

All [of] which aforesaid legacies are to be paid by my Executor, hereafter named in manner here expressed: that is to say, the first payment to [be] paid within one year after the decease of my wife, Catherine {sic} Holmes, and twenty pounds a year until all the legacies be paid, and each to be paid according to the degree of age.

My will is and I do hereby appoint my son Jonathan Holmes my sole Executor, unto whom I have sold my land, housing, and stock for the performance of the same legacies above. And my will is that my Executor shall pay unto his mother, Catherine Holmes, if she survives and lives, the sum of twenty pounds in money or money pay for her to dispose of as she shall see cause.

Lastly, I do desire my loving friends, Mr. James Barker, Sr., Mr. Joseph Clarke, and Mr. Philip Smith, all of Newport, to be my overseers to see this my will truly performed. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this ninth day of April, 1681.

Obadiah Hullme [Holmes][Seal]

Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of
Edward Thurston
Weston Clarke
(Edward Thurston, Sr., and Weston Clark appeared before the Council [of Newport], December 4, 1682, and did upon their engagements [pledges] declare and own that they saw Obadiah Holmes, deceased, sign seal and deliver the above written will as his act and deed; and, at the time of his sealing hereof, he was in his perfect memory, according to the best of our understandings. Taken before the Council, as attested. Weston Clarke, Town Clerk.)

My Lineage 

Rev. Obadiah Holmes (10th Great Grand Father)

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Martha Holmes

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Hannah Audley

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Abigail Devol

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Job Milk II

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Sarah Milk

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Roger Moore

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Ambrose Richards

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George Richards

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Ambrose Richards

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Benjamin Richards

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Patrick Richards

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MOI

 

Conclusion

This was an interesting person to research, I had no idea that I was connected to such a significant man/family.  It’s warming to see how revered he is in the Baptist community.

Stay tuned for the original reason I was going to write about Obadiah – his most famous descendant …. any guesses on who it is?

Namaste

T xo

 


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