chapter  2
14 Pages

A Puritan Family Line,

WithJames R. McGovern

MARY W. Pierce once confessed to Henry V. Poor that she could never marry a man who didn’t come from New England. 1 But, of course, she meant a New Englander who shared her traditions, descended from colonists not immigrants, for whom Thanksgiving and the American Revolution and liberal Christianity had the same symbolic meanings. Her grandparents were all descendants of seventeenth-century Massachusetts settlers. The Homes family settled on Martha’s Vineyard in 1686; the Tappans first lived in Newbury in 1637; the Blakes and the Pierces reached Dorchester in 1630. They were not nearly as adventuresome as the Poors. While the Poors and their relations were activists and frontiersmen, having broken away from the ideal of early generations of Puritan settlers to maintain a closed Christian community, Mary W. Pierce’s ancestors were sedentary farmers or merchants and ministers. They tended field, shop and pulpit carefully, and generally remained faithful to their original Puritan confines in and around Boston, as if recognizing an implicit conflict between Puritan communality and the frontier. 2 They retained that typical Puritan emphasis on consensual affiliation and were concerned lest others and, of course, God judge them as self-seeking or aggressive. Indeed, the Puritan tradition was proportionately as strong with them as the frontier tradition had been with the Poors.