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Eliot, John

Born August 5, 1604, at Widford, near London, England. Some biographies give the place of his birth as Nazing, a few miles from Widford, but John Eliot was eight years of age when his father moved to Nazing. The date of his emigration to New England is not known but it is probable that he arrived in Boston on the ship Lyon, November 12, 1631, and by 1654 he had published a little catechism, supposed to be the first book printed in the Indian language, as well as an Indian grammar, which is now in the Harvard College Library.

Eliot completed his famous Indian Bible in 1663; he had brought out the Book of Genesis in 1655, some of the Psalrns in 1658, and the New Testament in 1661. The entire work on the Bible had to be worked out by him without the assistance of previous knowledge or record and, as stated by Edward Everett, "The history of the Christian Church does not contain an example of untiring successful labor superior to that of translating the entire Scriptures into the language of the native inhabitants of Massachusetts, a dialect as imperfect, as unformed, as unmanageable, as any spoken on earth." He endured great physical hardship in his missionary work, but great was his zeal. In 1645 he established the Roxbury Latin School and inl689 founded the Eliot School. There is no doubt but that his work among the Indians was largely instrumental in frustrating the plans of the Indian leader, King Philip, when he started out with the New York Nations to exterminate the entire Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies. The first Indian Church was founded by Eliot in the year 1660 at Natick, Massachusetts. After almost sixty aears labor, during which entire time he was pastor of the church at Roxbury, near Boston, Massachusetts, he died on May 1, 1690, his remains being placed in the Ministers' Tomb in the First Burying Ground. Masonic records during that early period of American colonization were very few and those in existence are fragmentary in the information set do vn. The only reference to John Eliot which has come down to us is one of the earliest we have in America containing suggestions of a Masonic type. A Minute in the Plymouth Colony Records mentions the receipt of a package of goods sent from Coopers' Hall, London, in March 1654, and received by the Colony of New Haven. This parcel was marked in a peculiar manner which identified it from among the other packages contained in the consignment and which marks seem to be intended to represent the square and compasses.

The same marks were attached to a letter of instruction which reads as follows: "Among the goods sent this year we find one, Bale, No. 19, which cost there thirty-four pounds, nine shillings, five pence, and with the advance amounts to forty-five pounds, nineteen shillings, three pence, directed to Mr. Eliote for the use of the Indian work, but why it is severed from the Rest of the psell and consigned to him is not expressed; It seems different from the course yourselves approved, and may prove inconvenient if it be continued; but this psell shall bee delivered according to your desire.... Newhaven, the 15th September, 1655." It is not unreasonable to suppose that both the sender and recipient of this parcel were familiar with the peculiar significance of the emblems marked upon the package, although nothing more definite can be said on this point (see pages 131W2U, Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry).

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