Monday, March 16, 2020

Who is John Lothropp?

In the New England Memorial by Nathaniel Morton (1669), John Lothropp was considered to be one of the five most important ministers to arrive in New England during the Great Migration.
Five United States presidents, as well as Princess Diana, descend from John Lothropp. So does a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Pierpont Morgan, Lewis Comfort Tiffany, Walt Disney, Joseph Smith and dozens of other famous individuals who helped shape the country.

Thirty years ago, my father-in-law introduced me to his 8th great-grandfather, Reverend John Lothropp, through a booklet published by the Institute of Family Research called John Lathrop 1584-1653: Reformer, Sufferer, Pilgrim, Man of God (1979). Interested in history, genealogy, and religion, I was captivated by this courageous reformer with such immense zeal and humility. I was also curious as to why a man would risk so much for the right to pray and worship the way his conscience dictated, so similar to the plight of the American Pilgrims and other religious martyrs and reformers.

Against the backdrop of the 17th century Church of England’s religious suppression, my novel, The Pulse of His Soul: The Story of John Lothropp, a Forgotten Forefather, begins shortly after Reverend Lothropp takes his orders to become a perpetual curate in Egerton, England in 1610. I felt it was here we needed to start his journey and understand his character in order to follow him through his change of heart and separation from the Church of England to join with the Independent Church in London. Hannah Howse—his wife and the daughter of a vicar—was a strong and loving woman who did not make the same choices as her husband. Because of this, the religious conflict and fervor of the kingdom entered their home, even though both believed in a powerful and individual relationship with God that could be mastered through faith and unification. The Pulse of His Soul unfolds through the eyes of both Reverend Lothropp and his wife. His personal decision to renounce his orders affected his whole family when he fell out of favor with the Church and lost his social standing.
Saint James Church in Egerton, England

The turbulence of living under King James forced John to fight for his deep-seated principles, his family, his life, and the truth of his convictions in a world filled with hypocrisy, tyranny, and betrayal. John was tortured and imprisoned, and then lost his home and country.

When the Reverend John Lothropp came as an exile to America in 1634, he settled with thirty-two of his congregants in Scituate, but by 1639 he founded Barnstable, Massachusetts, a coastal town on Cape Cod. Here he became known as the minister of the Congregational Church. (It survives in customs and worship to this day, now known as West Parish Church). And just as his congregation had done in London, they covenanted together “to walk in all God’s ways as He had revealed or should make known to them.” They believed that each church was to control its own affairs. The town prospered under the spiritual guidance of Lothropp and for seventy-eight years it was the only church in Barnstable.

Amos Otis was a historian who lived in Barnstable a hundred years after John. He studied the lives of Reverend Lothropp and his contemporaries. Otis wrote, “Mr. Lothrop was as distinguished for his worldly wisdom as for his piety. He was a good businessman, and so were all his sons. Where every one of the family pitched his tent, that spot became the center of business, and land in its vicinity appreciated in value. It is men that make a place, and to Mr. Lothrop in early times, Barnstable was more indebted than to any other family.”
John Lothropp home, now Sturgis Library

Reverend Lothropp’s will left real property in Barnstable and money valued at 72 pounds 16 shillings and 5 pence. But that was not the true inheritance John left behind. He was a man who lived hardships most could not fathom. He journeyed through doubt, disbelief, impoverishment, death of his most beloved, torture, imprisonment, losing his home and country, and still through it all grew a testimony of Christ that could not be shaken. In America he found a place to rest and keep his commitment to walk in all of God’s ways.

Following are quotes extolling the Reverend John Lothropp:

“He was a man of a humble and broke heart and spirit, lively in dispensation of the Word of God, studious of peace, furnished with godly contentment, willing to spend and be spent for the cause of the Church of Christ.” Nathaniel Morton, 1669.

He is described in Governor John Winthrop's journal as “rejoicing in having found for himself and his followers a church without a Bishop... and a state without a King.”

“[Lothropp] was an independent thinker. He received no doctrines on the faith of others, he examined for himself, decided for himself. Though bold and decided in his denunciations of the arbitrary acts of the bishops, he was as meek as the lamb in reproving the faults of his brethren, and the children of his church. Creeds and confessions of faith he rejected. The Bible was his creed . . . Whatever exceptions we may make to Mr. Lothrop’s theological opinions, all must admit that he was a good and true man, an independent thinker, and a man who held opinions in advance of his times.” Otis, Amos, historian.

“…he was endowed with a competent measure of gifts and earnestly endowed with a great measure of brokenness of heart and humility of spirit.” Walter R. Goehring, historian.

“Mr. Lathrop was a man of deep piety, great zeal and large ability.” Charles Henry Pope

“A man of a tender heart and a humble and meek spirit.” Burrage Champlin

John Lathrop, a descendant of John Lothropp, also a minister
At present, I’m shopping my manuscript to agents, and I plan to announce the release date here and on my website. I believe I descend from Hannah Lothropp’s brother, Samuel Howse, and hope to make that connection before the book’s release. My husband is the 9th great-grandson of Reverend Lothropp. If you’re a history buff, you might recognize some other characters in the novel, such as Samuel Hinckley, Nathaniel Tilden, and Robert Linnell. I also share how the Pilgrims played into Reverend Lothropp’s life. This may interest those celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in America this year.

To learn more about John Lothropp

Check out The John Lothropp Foundation (some of the website is under construction at present) and also read about John Lothropp on Wikipedia, where it states: “Perhaps Lothropp's principal claim to fame is that he was a strong proponent of the idea of the Separation of Church and State (also called "Freedom of Religion"). This idea was considered heretical in England during his time, but eventually became the mainstream view of people in the United States of America, because of the efforts of John Lothropp and others.”


  1. Nice synopsis of John Lathropp's life. I enjoyed reading your book and learned a lot. Hope you do well with it.

  2. I appreciate your best wishes! You came up as "unknown," but I assume you were a beta reader. I loved the beta reader process and everyone had such great comments and suggestions. Thank you!