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The first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

By Aaron Sargent.
This honor has been claimed for three persons,—Matthew Cradock, Roger Conant, and John Endicott. Perhaps none of them were entitled to the distinction. Matthew Cradock was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, formed in London in 1628 and 1629, the precursor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England, for so the company became in 1630; but Cradock was not its governor. John Winthrop, by virtue of his having been the follower in London of Cradock, as second governor of the company, became the governor of the colony, its successor. Roger Conant came over seven years before Winthrop, and in 1627 was at Salem as governor, agent, [79] or superintendent of the Dorchester projected settlement of perhaps fifty persons, and he was nothing more. John Endicott came over in 1628, and was at Salem governor, agent, or superintendent of London's Plantation of about thirty persons, superseding, also, Conant, and he was nothing more at that time. ‘Honor enough there is for Endicott, the earliest patentee who came over under the indenture from the Plymouth Colony,’ says Savage, ‘without challenging for him any that does not belong to him. . . . Endicott is entitled to no more office than the Plymouth company gave by their deed of indenture.’ Bradford says that at SalemMr. Endecott had cheefe comand,’ and gives him no further title. In 1629 Endicott sent Ralph Sprague and a small company overland to Charlestown, where they formed a settlement, but they were no more the Massachusetts Bay Colony, or any part of it, at that time than was Thomas Walford, the only white man whom they found in that peninsula. Walford was called a blacksmith, but what he could find to do at his calling among Indians it would not be easy to tell, unless it was the delightful occupation of Taking tomahawks and scalping knives for the savages.

Winthrop, as governor, came over in 1630, with a company of about fifteen hundred persons, to Charlestown; and the Massachusetts Bay Colony commenced its existence in that part of the town which is now in Somerville. Cradock remained at home, but had possessions here, and the Cradock house at Medford was purchased some years ago by General Samuel C. Lawrence, for the laudable purpose of saving it from demolition, or perhaps from what might have been a worse fate.

The annual Manual of the General Court of Massachusetts for many years has contained, and still contains, a list of public officials, colonial and state, from the earliest time. The compilation from 1860 to 1870 was by Dr. Shurtleff, and Cradock is named as first governor in 1629, followed by Winthrop in the same year. In placing the governorship as above stated, Shurtleff, in part, followed Savage. The compilation for the thirty-two years from 1871 to 1902 was by David Pulsifer. For the first seven years, he says Endicott and Cradock were governors in 1629, and Winthrop in 1630. For the remaining twenty-five [80] years he omits Cradock, and names Endicott as governor in 1629, and Winthrop in 1630. Always Endicott first; but Pulsifer was a Salem man. The compilation from 1903 to the present time places Cradock, Endicott, and Winthrop as governors in 1629. Winthrop is called the ‘chief’ governor, and Endicott the ‘local’ governor; but it will not probably be claimed that these adjective prefixes were legal titles, or were even used or known at the time. None of the compilers, or Savage, make any recognition of Conant.

Matthew Cradock was not a governor of the colony as a fact, but only so by a lively imagination and misapplication of a title. Roger Conant was not a governor of the colony as a fact, but only so by family invention and easy credulity, and John Endicott was not the first governor of the colony as a fact, but only so by local pride and pleasant fiction.

Somerville, and not Salem, gave birth to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

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