Thomas Hooker

Last updated
Thomas Hooker
Hooker's Company reach the Connecticut.jpg
Hooker's Company reach the Connecticut, publishers: Estes & Lauriat, 1879
Born(1586-07-05)July 5, 1586
DiedJuly 7, 1647(1647-07-07) (aged 61)
Nationality English
Occupation Congregationalist minister
Known forHelped found the Connecticut Colony and write one of the first written constitutions along with a bill of rights.
Spouse(s)Susanna (possibly née Garbrand) Hooker (2nd wife)
The name of his first wife is not known [1]
Children6 [1]
Thomas Hooker signature.png

Thomas Hooker (July 5, 1586 – July 7, 1647) was a prominent Puritan colonial leader, who founded the Colony of Connecticut after dissenting with Puritan leaders in Massachusetts. He was known as an outstanding speaker and an advocate of universal Christian suffrage.


Called today "the Father of Connecticut", Rev. Thomas Hooker was a towering figure in the early development of colonial New England. He was one of the great preachers of his time, an erudite writer on Christian subjects, the first minister of Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the first settlers and founders of both the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut, and cited by many as the inspiration for the "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut", which some have called the world's first written democratic constitution establishing a representative government. [2]


Cuckoos Farm, Little Baddow, Essex, Hooker's home around 1629 Cuckoos Farm Little Baddow.jpg
Cuckoos Farm, Little Baddow, Essex, Hooker's home around 1629

Thomas Hooker was likely born in Leicestershire at "Marfield" (Marefield or possibly Markfield) or Birstall. [3] He went to Dixie Grammar School at Market Bosworth. [4] Family genealogist Edward Hooker linked Thomas Hooker to the Hooker family in Devon which produced the theologian and clergyman Richard Hooker. Other Hooker genealogists, however, have traced Thomas Hooker to Leicestershire. Positive evidence linking Thomas to Leicestershire is lacking since the Marefield parish records from before 1610 perished. Any link to the Rev. Richard is likewise lacking since the Rev. Thomas's personal papers were disposed of and his house destroyed after his death. [5]

In March 1604, he entered Queens' College, Cambridge as a sizar but migrated to Emmanuel College. [6] He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1608 and his Master of Arts in 1611. [4] [6] [7] In 1609 he was elected to a Dixie fellowship at Emmanuel. [4]

Hooker was appointed to St George's Church, Esher, Surrey in 1620, where he earned a reputation as an excellent speaker [4] [7] and became noted for his pastoral care of Mrs. Joan Drake, the wife of the patron. She was a depressive whose stages of spiritual regeneration became a model for his later theological thinking. While associated with the Drake household, he married Susannah Garbrand, Mrs. Drake's woman-in-waiting (April 3, 1621) in Amersham, Mrs. Drake's birthplace. [8]

Around 1626, Hooker became a lecturer or preacher at what was then St. Mary's parish church, Chelmsford (now Chelmsford Cathedral) and curate to its rector, John Michaelson. [4] However, in 1629 Archbishop William Laud suppressed church lecturers, and Hooker retired to Little Baddow where he kept a school. [4] His leadership of Puritan sympathizers brought him a summons to the Court of High Commission. Forfeiting his bond, Hooker fled to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, [7] and considered a position in the English Reformed Church, Amsterdam, as assistant to its senior pastor, the Rev. John Paget. [9] From the Netherlands, after a clandestine trip to England to put his affairs in order, [10] he immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the Griffin . [1] [4]

Hooker arrived in Boston and settled in Newtown (later renamed Cambridge), where he became the pastor of the earliest established church there, known to its members as "The Church of Christ at Cambridge." [11] His congregation, some of whom may have been members of congregations he had served in England, [12] became known as "Mr. Hooker's Company". [4]

Hooker and Company Journeying through the Wilderness from Plymouth to Hartford, in 1636, Frederic Edwin Church, 1846 Hooker and Company Frederic Edwin Church.jpeg
Hooker and Company Journeying through the Wilderness from Plymouth to Hartford, in 1636, Frederic Edwin Church, 1846

Voting in Massachusetts was limited to freemen, individuals who had been formally admitted to their church after a detailed interrogation of their religious views and experiences. Hooker disagreed with this limitation of suffrage, putting him at odds with the influential pastor John Cotton. Owing to his conflict with Cotton and discontented with the suppression of Puritan suffrage and at odds with the colony leadership, [7] Hooker and the Rev. Samuel Stone led a group of about 100 [13] who, in 1636, founded the settlement of Hartford, named for Stone's place of birth, Hertford in England. [14]

This led to the founding of the Connecticut Colony. [4] [15] Hooker became more active in politics in Connecticut. The General Court representing Wethersfield, Windsor and Hartford met at the end of May 1638 to frame a written constitution in order to establish a government for the commonwealth. Hooker preached the opening sermon at First Church of Hartford on May 31, declaring that "the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people." [16]

On January 14, 1639, freemen from these three settlements ratified the "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut" in what John Fiske called "the first written constitution known to history that created a government. It marked the beginnings of American democracy, of which Thomas Hooker deserves more than any other man to be called the father. The government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies." [17]

In recognition of this, near Chelmsford Cathedral, Essex, England, where he was town lecturer and curate, there is a blue plaque fixed high on the wall of a narrow alleyway, opposite the south porch, that reads: "Thomas Hooker, 1586–1647, Curate at St. Mary's Church and Chelmsford Town Lecturer 1626–29. Founder of the State of Connecticut, Father of American Democracy." [18]

Death and legacy

The Rev. Hooker died during an "epidemical sickness" in 1647, at the age of 61. The location of his grave is unknown, although he is believed to be buried in Hartford's Ancient Burying Ground where there is a crypt right now, there also is a plaque on the back of the church as well. Because there was no known portrait of him, the statue of him that stands nearby, in front of Hartford's Old State House, was sculpted from the likenesses of his descendants.

However, the city is not without a sense of humor regarding its origins. Each year in October, organizations and citizens of Hartford dress up in outrageous costumes to celebrate Hooker Day with the Hooker Day Parade. T-shirts sold in the Old State House proclaim "Hartford was founded by a Hooker." [19]


Plaque honoring Hooker's ministry at the First Church of Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts Thomas Hooker plaque, Cambridge - IMG 2950.JPG
Plaque honoring Hooker's ministry at the First Church of Cambridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Thomas Hooker strongly advocated extended suffrage to include Puritan worshippers, a view which would lead him and his followers to colonize Connecticut. [4] He also promoted the concept of a government that must answer to the people, stating: "[T]hey who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them" through "the privilege of election, which belongs to the people according to the blessed will and law of God". [4] Thomas Hooker argued for greater religious tolerance towards all Christian denominations. [20]

Hooker defended the calling of synods by magistrates, and attended a convention of ministers in Boston whose purpose was to defend Congregationalism. [4] Hooker later published A Survey of the Summed of Church-Discipline in defense of Congregationalism, and applied its principles to politics and government. [7]

Thomas Hooker was a prominent proponent of the doctrine of preparationism, which taught that by making use of the means of grace, a "person seeking conversion might dispose himself toward receiving God's grace." [21] He believed that much of God's favor needed to be re-earned by men. [22] To Hooker, sin was the most crafty of enemies, defeating grace on most occasions. He disagreed with many of the predecessor theologies of Free Grace theology, preferring a more muted view on the subject. He focused on preparation for heaven and following the moralist character. [22]


House of Thomas Hooker, Hartford, Connecticut Thomas Hooker residence Hartford Connecticut.png
House of Thomas Hooker, Hartford, Connecticut

Thomas Hooker came to the colonies with his second wife, Suzanne. Nothing is known of his first wife.

His son Samuel, likely born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduated from Harvard College in 1653. He became minister of Farmington, Connecticut, where his descendants lived for many generations. [notes 1] Of Rev. Samuel Hooker, Cotton Mather wrote in Magnalia Christi Americana : "Thus we have to this day among us our dead Hooker, yet living in his worthy son Samuel Hooker, an able, faithful, useful minister at Farmington, in the Colony of Connecticut."

His daughter Mary married Rev. Roger Newton who was a founder and first minister of Farmington, Connecticut. He later went on to be minister in Milford, Connecticut.

John Hooker, son of Rev. Samuel and grandson of Rev. Thomas, served as Speaker of the Connecticut Assembly, and previously as Judge of the state supreme court. James Hooker, brother of John and son of Rev. Samuel, also became a prominent political figure in Connecticut. He married the daughter of William Leete of Guilford, Connecticut, and subsequently settled there. James Hooker served as the first probate judge, and later as speaker of the Connecticut colonial assembly. Rev. Thomas's granddaughter Mary Hooker, the daughter of Rev. Samuel, married the Rev. James Pierpont. Their daughter Sarah Pierpont married the Rev. Jonathan Edwards.

Other descendants of Thomas Hooker include Henry Hooker, John Hooker, Arthur Atterbury, Charles Atterbury Mary Hooker Pierpont, William Howard Taft, Timothy Dwight V, Aaron Burr, William Gillette, William Huntington Russell, Edward H. Gillette, George Catlin, Emma Willard, J.P. Morgan, Rev. Joshua Leavitt, Roger Hooker Leavitt, Hart Leavitt, Frank Nelson Doubleday, John Turner Sargent, Thom Miller, Adonijah Rockwell and Nathan Watson. [1] On May 16, 1890, descendants of Thomas Hooker held their first reunion at Hartford, Connecticut. [23]

Famous Hooker descendants



  1. Married to the eldest daughter of Capt. Thomas Willett of Plymouth Colony, a Plymouth merchant and later first mayor of New York City, Rev. Samuel Hooker was the progenitor of all Hookers who claim descent from Rev. Thomas Hooker of Connecticut.

Related Research Articles

John Eliot (missionary) American Puritan missionary to Native Americans

John Eliot was a Puritan missionary to the American Indians who some called "the apostle to the Indians" and the founder of Roxbury Latin School in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1645.

Theophilus Eaton was a merchant, farmer, and Puritan colonial leader who was the co-founder and first governor of New Haven Colony, Connecticut.

Connecticut Colony English, from 1707, British, possession in North America between 1636 and 1776

The Connecticut Colony or Colony of Connecticut, originally known as the Connecticut River Colony or simply the River Colony, was an English colony in New England which became the state of Connecticut. It was organized on March 3, 1636 as a settlement for a Puritan congregation, and the English permanently gained control of the region in 1637 after struggles with the Dutch. The colony was later the scene of a bloody war between the colonists and Pequot Indians known as the Pequot War. Connecticut Colony played a significant role in the establishment of self-government in the New World with its refusal to surrender local authority to the Dominion of New England, an event known as the Charter Oak incident which occurred at Jeremy Adams' inn and tavern.

John Haynes, also sometimes spelled Haines, was a colonial magistrate and one of the founders of the Connecticut Colony. He served one term as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and was the first governor of Connecticut, ultimately serving eight separate terms.

Richard Mather English colonial Congregationalist clergyman

The Reverend Richard Mather was a Puritan minister in colonial Boston, Massachusetts. He was father to Increase Mather and grandfather to Cotton Mather, both celebrated Boston divines.

Thomas Willett was a British merchant, Plymouth Colony trader and sea-captain, Commissioner of New Netherland, magistrate of Plymouth Colony, Captain of the Plymouth Colony militia and was the 1st and 3rd Mayor of New York City, prior to the consolidation of the five boroughs into the City of New York in 1898.

Samuel Stone American puritan minister

Samuel Stone was a Puritan minister and co-founder of Hartford, Connecticut.

Richard Saltonstall English diplomat

Sir Richard Saltonstall led a group of English settlers up the Charles River to settle in what is now Watertown, Massachusetts in 1630.

Samuel Danforth Puritan minister, preacher, poet, astronomer, missionary

Samuel Danforth (1626–1674) was a Puritan minister, preacher, poet, and astronomer, the second pastor of The First Church in Roxbury and an associate of the Rev. John Eliot of Roxbury, Massachusetts, known as the “Apostle to the Indians.”

History of Hartford, Connecticut

The History of Hartford, Connecticut has occupied a central place in Connecticut's history from the state's origins to the present, as well as the greater history of the United States of America.

Peter Bulkley English and later American Puritan

Peter Bulkley was an influential early Puritan minister who left England for greater religious freedom in the American colony of Massachusetts. He was a founder of Concord, and was named by descendant Ralph Waldo Emerson in his poem about Concord, Hamatreya.

Thomas Welles is the only person in Connecticut's history to hold all four top offices: governor, deputy governor, treasurer, and secretary. In 1639, he was elected as the first treasurer of the Colony of Connecticut, and from 1640–1649 served as the colony's secretary. In this capacity, he transcribed the Fundamental Orders into the official colony records on 14 January 1638, OS,.

Jonathan Leavitt (minister) American minister

Rev. Jonathan Leavitt (1731–1802) was an early New England Congregational minister, born in Connecticut, and subsequently the pastor of churches in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, both of which dismissed him from his posts. Several of Rev. Leavitt's descendants became among the most noted abolitionists of their day, even though he himself was dismissed from one pastorate for allegedly abusing his runaway slave, and from another for his Loyalist sentiments.

Griffin was the name of a 17th-century ship known to have sailed between England and English settlements along Massachusetts Bay in British America. Several historical and genealogical references show Griffin making such journeys in 1633 and 1634.

Nathaniel Rogers (1598–1655) was an English clergyman and early New England pastor. According to the Dictionary of National Biography article on Rogers, his descendants in America were at that time more numerous than those of any other early English emigrant family.

William Wadsworth was an early pioneer of New England, a founder of Hartford, Connecticut and the patriarch of numerous and prominent Wadsworth descendants of North America, including the poet Ezra Pound.

William Parker (1618–1686) was an early Puritan settler in the Connecticut Colony and one of the founders of Hartford. He arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the summer of 1635 after sailing from London on May 21, 1635 aboard the ship Mathew. He settled in Newtowne, the community that is now Cambridge, and became one of the members of Thomas Hooker's congregation. He was one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut.

Jeremy Adams innkeeper

Jeremy Adams, also known as Jeremiah Adams, was one of the first settlers of Hartford, Connecticut. He was also the founder and first proprietor of Colchester, Connecticut, which was established on land owned by Adams, known as "Jeremiah's Farme".

Preparationism is the view in Christian theology that unregenerate people can take steps in preparation for conversion, and should be exhorted to do so. Preparationism advocates a series of things that people need to do before they come to believe in Jesus Christ, such as reading the Bible, attending worship, listening to sermons, and praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit. By making use of these means of grace, a "person seeking conversion might dispose himself toward receiving God's grace."

Rev. James Fitch was instrumental in the founding of Norwich and Lebanon, Connecticut. He was the first minister ordained in Saybrook, Connecticut and played a key role in negotiations with the Mohegans during King Philip's War.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Hooker, Edward; Margaret Huntington Hooker (1909). The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker, Hartford, Connecticut, 1586–1908. Cambridge: Harvard University. p.  231. henry hooker house .
  2. Following the Rev. Hooker's sermon in which he declared, "The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people", the Fundamental Orders were adopted by the colony of Connecticut on January 14, 1639 (by New Style reckoning). While some modern historians dispute the claim that this was the first constitution in the western democratic tradition, neither the Mayflower Compact nor the Narragansett communities agreements established any forms of government. Furthermore, former Connecticut Chief Justice Simeon E. Baldwin upheld the claim in Norris Osborn's History of Connecticut in Monographic Form, declaring that "never had a company of men deliberately met to frame a social compact for immediate use, constituting a new and independent commonwealth, with definite officers, executive and legislative, and prescribed rules and modes of government, until the first planters of Connecticut came together for their great work on January 14th, 1638–9." Drafted primarily by Roger Ludlow, it was clearly the first compact between a government and the people to uphold the Rev. Hooker’s proclamation that the foundation of constitutional authority was with the people. Ref: Osborn, Norris Galpin, Editor, History of Connecticut in Monographic Form (States History Co., 1925); Hooker, John, An Account of the Reunion of the Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker (The Salem Press, 1890), p. 27; Logan, Walter Seth, Thomas Hooker, the First American Democrat (The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America, 1904), p. 19; Lutz, Donald S., Stephen L. Schechter & Richard B. Bernstein, Roots of the Republic: American Founding Documents Interpreted, p. 24;, The Official State of Connecticut Website []; Connecticut, History of the USA
  3. Thomas Hooker. Puritans and Puritanism in Europe and America: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. 2006. ISBN   978-1-57607-678-1 . Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 "THOMAS HOOKER (1586–1647)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1911.
  5. Hooker, Edward, "The Origin and Ancestry of Rev. Thomas Hooker,@ a paper prepared by Commander Edward Hooker, U.S.N., and read before the Hooker gathering, August, 1892", The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, by New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff (Heritage Books, 1997), pp. 189–192; The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 44, by New England Historic Genealogical Society Staff (N.E. Historic Genealogical Society, 1890), pp. 397–398; Hooker, Margaret Huntington, "Introduction", Hooker, Edward W., The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker: Hartford, Connecticut, 1586–1908, p. ix; Porter, Alice, "Thomas Hooker", Connecticut Magazine, July–August 1906 ; Underwood, Nancy, Ancestry and Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker [ permanent dead link ]
  6. 1 2 "Hooker, Thomas (HKR604T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "Hooker, Thomas (1586-1647)". Encyclopedia of World Biography. 1998.
  8. Thomas Hooker, Writings in England and Holland, 1626–1633. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1975), p.7.
  9. Thomas Hooker, Writings in England and Holland, 1626–1633. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1975), p.25.
  10. Thomas Hooker, Writings in England and Holland, 1626–1633. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1975), p.33 et passim.
  11. Records of the Church of Christ at Cambridge in New England: 1632–1830, Boston, MA: Putnam, 1906).
  12. Williams, G.H., Thomas Hooker, Writings in England and Holland, 1626–1633. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1975), p. 33.
  13. Lucas, Beverly Johnson (August 2002). "History in houses: the Butler-McCook house and garden in Hartford, Connecticut". The Magazine Antiques. pp. 88–96.
  14. Walker, George Leon, Thomas Hooker: Preacher, Founder, Democrat (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1891), p. 97; Allen, Morse S., & Arthur H. Hughes, Connecticut Place Names (The Connecticut Historical Society, 1976), p. 234; Gross, Governor Wilbur L., Sponsor, Connecticut, American Guide Series by Workers of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Connecticut (The Riverside Press, 1938), p. 169.
  15. Kennedy, David; Lizabeth Cohen; Thomas A. Bailey (2006). The American Pageant 13th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 49. ISBN   0-618-47940-6.
  16. Hooker, Thomas, Lecture delivered at the First Church, Hartford, Connecticut, on May 31, 1638, quoted in Walker, George Leon, Thomas Hooker: Preacher, Founder, Democrat, p. 125; and Trumbull, Benjamin, A Complete History of Connecticut, Vol. I (Maltby, Goldsmith and Co., and Samuel Wadsworth, 1818, and Arno Press, 1972), pp. 20–21.
  17. Fiske, John, Beginnings of New England, or the Puritan Theocracy in Its Relation to Civil and Religious Liberty (Houghton Mifflin Company, the Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1889), pp. 127–28.
  18. The Cathedral Church of St Mary, St Peter, and St Cedd, Chelmsford, England, a centre of worship and mission; Brief History "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2011-01-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link); Thomas Hooker
  19. Hartford Courant, "Peters Is the Mayor to Lift City's Spirits", September 7, 1993, p. B.1; "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2015-03-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. Goode, Stephe (5 May 1997). "Why religious persecution violates American values". Insight on the News . pp. 14–15.
  21. McClymond, Michael J.; McDermott, Gerald R. (2012). The Theology of Jonathan Edwards. Oxford University Press. p. 678.
  22. 1 2 Parnham, David (December 2008). "Redeeming free grace: Thomas Hooker and the contested language of salvation". Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture . New Haven, Connecticut: American Society of Church History. 77 (4): 915–955.
  23. "In Honor of Thomas Hooker, His Descendants to Hold a Reunion in Hartford, Conn.", The New York Times, May 1, 1890

Further reading