Stephen Bachiler

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Stephen Bachiler (c. 1561–1656) was an English clergyman who was an early proponent of the separation of church and state in America.

An early graduate of Oxford (St. John's College, 1586), he was vicar of Wherwell, Hampshire (1587–1605) when ousted for Puritanical leanings under James I. Bachiler married Helena Mason, the widow of Revd. Thomas Mason of Odiham, Hampshire; Mary, the daughter of Helena and Thomas Mason, was married to Richard Dummer, who also became involved in the founding of the Plough Company.[1]

In 1630 he was a member of the Company of Husbandmen in London and with them, as the Plough Company, obtained a 1,600 mile² (4,000 km²) grant of land in Maine from the Plymouth Council for New England. The colony was called "Lygonia" after Cecily Lygon, mother of New England Council president Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Bachiler was to be its minister and leader. Although the settlers sailed to America in 1631, the project was abandoned.

Bachiler was 70 years old when he reached Boston in 1632, and gathered his followers to establish the First Church of Lynn (then Saugus). He incurred the hostility of the Puritan theocracy in Boston, casting the only dissenting vote among ministers against the expulsion of Roger Williams. Despite his age, he was uncommonly energetic, and throughout some two decades pursued settlement and church endeavors, always engaged in controversy and confrontation with Bay Colony leaders.

In 1638, Bachiler and others successfully petitioned to begin a new plantation at Winnacunnet, to which he gave the name Hampton when the town was incorporated in 1639. His ministry there became embroiled in controversy when Timothy Dalton was sent to the town as "teaching assistant" by the Boston church after New Hampshire was absorbed by Massachusetts in 1641. Shortly thereafter, Bachiler was excommunicated by the Hampton church on unfounded charges of "scandal", but protested to Governor Winthrop and was later reinstated. In other respects, Bachiler's reputation was such that in 1642, he was asked by Thomas Gorges, deputy governor of the Province of Maine, to act as arbitration "umpire" (deciding judge) in a Saco Court land dispute between George Cleeve and John Winter.

By 1644 Cleeve had become deputy governor of Lygonia, a rival province to that of Gorges' in Maine established from a resurrected Plough Patent, and asked Bachiler to be its minister at Casco. Bachiler deferred, having already received a call to be minister for the new town of Exeter. Once again Massachusetts intervened in his affairs when the General Court ordered deferral of any church at Exeter. Frustrated in his attempts at a new ministry, Bachiler left Hampton and went as missionary to Strawbery Banke (now Portsmouth, New Hampshire) probably that same year 1644. While there, he married in 1648 (as fourth wife) a young widow, Mary Beedle of Kittery, Maine. In 1651, she was indicted and sentenced for adultery with a neighbor. Denied a divorce by the Massachusetts Court, Bachiler finally returned to England about 1653. He died near London, and was buried at All Hallows Staining on October 31, 1656.

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