Many of my immigrant ancestors made the arduous journey by sea to the colonies in search of religious freedom. The mandated, government religion in England did not suit them so in the 1600s, the Tower family set off for what became Hingham in the Massachusetts Colony. Knowing that family history, not just for the Tower family but also other early arrivals in the colonies (Vining, Joy, and likely other lines), shaped my thinking about religion.
I’m a strong advocate of separation of church and state. Fortunately, the founding fathers as they worked on crafting the U.S. Constitution put that in. Jefferson, Franklin, and other great minds of the 1700s wanted to preserve the U.S. government from control by religious groups. In America, you are free to practice the religion of your choice and not have the government telling you which you can choose and not having those religions dictating laws for the government.
Therefore, I’m happy to find on my family tree umpteen variations of Christianity from Quakers to even a couple of Mormons and I’m sure, some atheists too. There are probably other religions that I haven’t spotted yet on the family tree from Jewish to Islamic to Hindu. Many people today identify themselves as spiritual but not part of any organized religion.
Here’s more from Wikipedia about the Great Migration which the early Tower family were part of:
Many Puritans refused to conform to the wishes of the King (Charles I) and his loyal Archbishop so they fled to the Plymouth Bay or Massachusetts Bay colonies, in what has been labeled the “Great Migration.” In 1633, migration from England to the Americas began with a number of participants on a ship named the Bonaventure. Robert Peck, the Rector of St Andrew’s Church, emigrated to the new colony of Massachusetts with half of his congregation, most likely all of the 133 people on HMS Diligent, which departed in June 1638 from Ipswich, England. Peck had been censured by religious authorities for his Puritan practices, and his daughter had married the son of another well-known Puritan minister named John Rogers.
The passengers on the Diligent, working-class people such as shoemakers and millers, a number of ministers, and gentry, were mostly Puritans. Once there, the passengers founded “New” Hingham, to remind them of “Old” Hingham in England. Once most of the passengers settled there, the population of the town had doubled. More specifically they were called East Anglicans, possibly named after the former Kingdom of East Angles in which Hingham resided, and maybe after the Anglican Church.
In more recent generations, my tree contains deacons and ministers in various denominations. My great-aunt Bertha McGhee studied at Baker University in Kansas. Later, while working at the Methodist orphanage in Seward, Alaska, she used her free time to start a church in the rural community of Hope. This photo shows Bertha inside that log church in the 1940s.
Bertha’s Story of Going to Alaska
In 1939 on the advice of a Deaconess friend, I enrolled for a year of post-graduate training at National College for Deaconesses and Missionaries. As the time for graduation neared and field representatives came to interview graduates for appointments. I wondered if I would consider a task in Alaska if it was offered.
While in Baker I had taken a course in the “Spread of Christianity around the World” and Dr. Ebright had assigned me the area of Alaska to study. Besides that a friend in our student volunteers for Christ had shared letters from a nurse friend of hers, who had gone with a group of children by boat from Nome via Unalaska to Seward when the Jesse Lee Home had been moved there in 1925. Nurse, Beth Stewart Dalit was to become a very dear friend of mine in the years that followed.