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Eliot, John, 1754-1690

The Apostle to the Indians; born either in Nasing, Essex, or Widford, Hertfordshire, England., presumably in 1604, as he was baptized in Widford, Aug. 5, 1604. Educated at Cambridge, he removed to Boston in 1631, and the next year was appointed minister at Roxbury. Seized with a passionate longing for the conversion of the Indians and for improving their condition, he commenced his labors among the twenty tribes within the English domain in Massachusetts in October, 1646. He acquired their language through an Indian servant in his family, made a grammar of it, and translated the Bible into the Indian tongue. It is claimed that Eliot was the first Protestant minister who preached to the Indians in their native tongue. An Indian town called Natick was erected on the Charles River for the “praying Indians” in 1657, and the first Indian church was established there in 1660. During King [214]

John Eliot.

Philip's War Eliot's efforts in behalf of the praying Indians saved them from destruction by the white people. He travelled extensively, visited many tribes, planted several churches, and once preached before King Philip, who treated him with disdain. He persuaded many to adopt the customs of civilized life, and lived to see twenty-four of them become preachers of the Gospel to their own tribes. His influence among the Indians was unbounded, and his generosity in helping the sick and afflicted among them was unsparing. Cotton Mather affirmed, “We had a tradition that the country could never perish as long as Eliot was alive.” He published many small works on religious subjects, several of which were in the Indian language. His greatest work was the translation of the Bible into the Indian language (1661-66), and was the first Bible ever printed in America. It is much sought after by collectors. The language in which it was written has perished. He died in Roxbury, Mass., May 20, 1690.

The brief narrative.

This was the last of Eliot's publications relating to the progress of Christianity among the American Indians. Its full title was:

A brief narrative of the progress of the Gospel amongst the Indians in New England, in the year 1670, given in by the Reverend Mr. John Elliot, minister of the Gospel there, in a letter by him directed to the right Worshipfull the commissioners under his Majesties Great-seal for Propagation of the Gospel amongst the poor blind natives in

John Eliot preaching to the Indians.

[215] those United colonies. London, printed for John Allen, formerly living in little-britain at the rising-sun, and now in Wentworth Street near Bel-Lane, 1671.

Clergyman; born in Boston, Mass., May 31, 1754; son of Andrew Eliot; graduated at Harvard College in 1772; succeeded his father as minister of the New North Church in November, 1779; was one of the founders of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He published a Biographical dictionary of eminent characters in New England. He died in Boston, Mass., Feb. 14, 1812.

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