| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
KING'S CHAPEL, BOSTON
 One might think, after all the Puritans had
suffered because of their desire to have their
own style of church worship, that they would
be perfectly willing to let all other people have
the same freedom that they themselves had
 But this was not the way people thought in those days.
"Believe what you wish," they would say, "only please do not
come among our people."
With all the trouble the Puritans had to contend against,
they may be excused for speaking thus. Enemies were on all
sides of them, as well as in England, and it seemed
absolutely necessary to them that they should be united
But there were people of other beliefs who had also found
it uncomfortable to live under the strict laws of England,
and who preferred to come to a new world where they thought
they could do more as they pleased.
Their ways, however, were not the ways of the Puritans,
so, naturally, they were not very welcome.
In 1631, a young minister, named Roger
 Williams, came to the colony, and he soon
began to give the Puritan leaders much trouble.
He thought that people should worship where
they pleased—and he publicly said so.
But, what was still worse, he
preached that the early settlers had no right to the very
land they lived on unless they bought that land of the
"Surely," the Puritans said, "we have enough trouble
with the Indians without putting this new idea into their
As was the case with troublesome people in those days, Roger
Williams was ordered out of the country. Fearing that, if
caught, he might be sent back to England, he made his escape
into the deep forests.
It was midwinter, but the Indians welcomed and protected
him. He gradually made his
 way to that part of the country now called Rhode Island. Here,
in 1636, he purchased land of the Indians, and, before
very long, many of his friends in Salem followed him and made a
OLD NORTH CHURCH, BOSTON
They built a town and named it Providence. In this
colony, it was declared that every one
 should be free to worship as he pleased. There, for the
first time in the history of the world, all people were
allowed to act as seemed to them best in their own
Roger Williams, meanwhile, did not forget the kindness
of the Indians. After he had learned to speak their
language, he spent much of his time with them, teaching
them to read and work.
You may be sure, his people all loved this good,
well-meaning man. At one time, when he had been away in
England nearly two years, the whole colony crossed the
river to meet him as he returned.
The old men and the young men, the old women and the young
women, and all the children, met him with flowers and songs
and every sign of joy.
Roger Williams' kind old heart was touched
 when he saw how his people loved him, and he was not
ashamed to let the tears run down his cheeks as he thanked
them for their love.
Meanwhile, there had sprung up in England another class of
people, under the leadership of George Fox, who went much
further in their idea of simple form of church worship than
even the Puritans had.
These people, called "Friends," would have no form at all.
They believed it was best and most pleasing to God to go
into their little churches, with no minister, no singing, no
praying, and sit there, perfectly quiet, fixing their
minds only on holy things. This, compared with the
elaborate form of worship in the English Church, was
certainly a great change, to say the least.
The English Church, which thought the Puritans had been
foolish enough, thought
 these last people more than foolish—they
thought them mad.
There is a funny little story connected with
these Friends, which shows how later they came to receive
their peculiar name of Quakers. It is said that one of these
people was brought for trial before an English judge.
The English judge having been rather
severe, the Quaker turned to him and said, "Dost thou not
quake with fear before the Great Judge, who this day hath
heard thy cruel judgment upon his chosen people?"
But just then, the Quaker, who was very
nervous and excitable, began to shiver and
shake and quake to such an extent that the
whole court burst into a roar of laughter.
From that time these people were nicknamed
In due time the Quakers were driven from
 England, as the Puritans had been before them. They,
too, came over to America, hoping to find freedom to
worship God in the way they thought best.
It was about thirty-five years after the Mayflower
entered Plymouth harbor that the first Quakers came.
There had been many changes in the colonies in that
time. The little children had now come to be middle-aged
men and women with children of their own.
The men and women who had done the hard work of
settling the little home at Plymouth, had now grown to
be quite old, and very, very many of them had, long since,
been laid away in the quaint little burying-ground.
Many, many other men and women had come over from
England, so that now, instead of thinking of a few people
living in their huts at
 Plymouth, you must think of little towns all
along the coast, having residences, stores,
churches, and schools, all of which were quite fair
buildings for the times.
OLD SOUTH CHURCH, BOSTON
The Old South Church, the Old North
Church and King's Chapel, which stand
 now in Boston, were built in these early times.
The new-comers, the Quakers, were strange in their looks
and in their manners, it is true; but so were the Puritans
as to that matter. Then, too, in their enthusiasm they
often forgot the rights of the Puritans in whose towns
they were living.
And so it came about that the Puritans had these
Quakers whipped in the streets; they cut off their ears and
their noses; they put cleft sticks upon their tongues to
keep them from speaking; and they punished them in many
Until within a few years, there stood on the beautiful
Common in Boston an elm tree, to whose boughs the Puritans
hanged a woman named Mary Dyer, not so much because
she was a Quaker and preached the Quaker
doc-  trines, but because she insisted on preaching on the
streets and in direct defiance of the laws of Boston.
OLD ELM TREE, BOSTON COMMON
And surely, we have to admit that the Puritans thought they
had a right to enforce their own laws: only of course
punishments were very severe; still we must remember they
would have used these same punishments on their own people
had they broken the same laws.
 The one thing that exasperated the Puritans with the Quakers
above all other things, was the fact that the Quakers
allowed the women to preach and pray as they liked. "A
preaching woman," said the Puritans, "is a disgrace to
religion! Away with such!"
You can imagine, therefore, how annoyed the Puritans were
with Mary Dyer when she insisted on preaching.
For a time Mary Dyer lived quietly in Rhode Island; but
when she heard of the cruel treatment of the Quakers in
Boston, she was determined to go to their aid. Twice was she
driven from the town, and threatened with hanging if she
But Mary Dyer was fearless; her one thought was that her
friends, the Quakers, were in prison, many of them dying of
fever and hunger. A third time she entered the
 town. She was at once seized, brought before
the judge, and condemned to be hanged. Many friends begged
that she might be spared, but the judge would not yield.
On the 27th of October, 1659, Boston Common was to
witness the hanging of a woman. The streets were thronged
with people, all anxious to get even one glance at the
unhappy Quakeress. By her side walked two young men, also
Quakers, who were to be hanged with her.
It was one of these who first ascended the
fatal ladder. As he was speaking of his faith, and
his willingness to die, someone in the crowd called out:
"Hold thy tongue! Art thou going to die with a lie in thy
Soon the other young man was led forth.
As the rope was being fastened he cried, "Know
 all ye, that we die not for wrong doing, but for conscience'
And then the judge called, "Mary Dyer!"
Her two friends were hanging dead before her eyes.
Fearlessly she mounted the scaffold, and quietly allowed
the hangman to fasten the blindfold and the rope. All was
ready. The great crowd stood breathless.
The hangman raised his hand to give the signal, when
there was heard a cry from the distance, "Stop! stop! she
is reprieved! The Governor has reprieved her!"
Shouts of joy rang through the Common, mingled with hisses
from those who had longed to see her hanged. She was taken
back to the prison, where she was received by her brave
son, who looked upon her as one brought back from death. He
it was who had besought the Governor to save
 his mother, and at last won from him her reprieve.
Joyfully, the son carried away the mother to their home in
Rhode Island. I wish I could tell you that the good woman
lived out her days there with her brave boy, happy and free.
But it was not so. Before many months had passed, again she
was seized with the idea that it was her duty to go again to
Boston and speak for her people.
Nothing could keep her from it; even the prayers and tears
of her son, who loved her so, could not prevail upon her to
give up the dangerous journey.
Hardly was she within the limits of the city before she was
seized upon by the officers and again carried before the
The judge, exasperated with her foolhardiness, as he called
it, offered her, once more,
 her choice between hanging and promising to leave the colony
forever. She would not accept the chance to escape, and was
sentenced to be hanged on the morrow at nine o'clock.
Half wild with grief, Mary's husband begged the judge to
save her once more; but the judge, saying that she had made
her own fate, would not change her sentence.
At the appointed hour, the officer led her forth from
the prison to the Common, and there, before the eyes of
a great number of people, she was hanged, declaring, with
her last breath, that she was giving her life, not for any
wrong act of hers, but for her religion's sake.
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