Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1604, was born John Eliot.

Eliot was a missionary to North America, who translated the bible into the language of the Indians.

Eliot was born on 5th August at Wideford, Hertfordshire, the son of a farmer, and was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge. While serving as a schoolmaster, he came under the influence of the Puritans, and became devoted to the idea of missionary work.

In 1631, he sailed for Boston, Massachusetts, where he was appointed pastor to Roxbury church. Here, with the support of his congregation and with continuing financial support from the Puritans in England, Eliot set out to convert the Indians. His efforts gained immediate success. It is estimated that he made 14,000 conversions, by simply familiarising himself with the native language and preaching to the Indians. Eliot simplified the administrative structure of his converts by organising them into colonies, called ‘Christian Towns’, ruled according to biblical law. The colonies managed to rule themselves, although, during disputes between natives and colonists, the ’Praying Indians’ were often attacked by both sides.

With this structure in place, Eliot was able to concentrate on his parish duties and to translate the bible into the Algonquin language. His parish duties were not unduly onerous. He expelled Anne Hutchison, whose personality and opinions he detested, and ejected anyone else who disagreed with him. He founded the Company for Propagating the Gospel in New England and Parts Adjacent in North America, the first missionary society, whose main purpose was to supply Eliot with sufficient funds and materials for him to carry on his translation work. His translation of the New Testament was printed in 1661 and the Old Testament in 1663. Although many of Eliot’s converts were massacred by the colonists, in the war between the colonists and the Indians of 1673, Eliot’s ‘Christian Towns’ continued to thrive. Eliot died on 21st May 1690 and is buried in the old cemetery in Boston.

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