Leaving the village for the New World?

The paternal grandfather of my ninth great grand uncle. It’s hardly a direct family connection, its interest lay in location rather than heredity.

Johannes Pople, was born in 1545. His wife Catherine Taylor was born ten years later. They were married in the parish church of High Ham in 1572. Their son Guilelmus was born the year of the marriage.

The details are those of ordinary domestic life. People are born, people get married, people die. It is the stuff of daily existence, the flesh and blood behind the countless entries in church registers.

The ordinary details assume a fascination because the era of John Pople and Catherine Taylor and their family is described by the rector of the parish Adrian Schaell in his 1598 memoir of the parish. Becoming rector in 1570, he remained in the parish until the end of the century.

From Röderaue in the district of Meissen, ten miles from the city of Leipzig, the reason why a German Protestant became rector of an obscure parish in the diocese of Bath and Wells are unclear. A man of scholarship who established a school in the village, Schaell must have been a fascinating figure in a community where most people never travelled more than a few miles from the place where they were born.

Did Schaell’s strong Protestant beliefs influence the attitudes of the parish in the years that followed?

William Pople would have been thirty-nine when his daughter Elizabeth was born in 1611. Elizabeth married Richard Sawtell from the neighbouring parish of Aller in 1627.

There are suggestions on the Ancestry website that Richard and Elizabeth Sawtell were among the Puritans who emigrated to Massachusetts, settling in Watertown in the county of Middlesex.

The Ancestry site suggests that the Sawtell family became established in the New World, Elizabeth and her husband both living until 1694. Watertown was a Puritan settlement established in 1630. Radical Protestants who regarded the Church of England as corrupted and unscriptural, the most famous of the Puritans were the Pilgrim Fathers who had departed from Plymouth in 1620.

Could it have been that the German Protestant rector of a small Somerset parish so influenced local families that some among them left the unchanging, gentle pastures of Somerset to embark upon a new life in the New World?

A Google search brought a website claiming that the association of Richard Sawtell of Watertown with Richard Sawtell of Aller was erroneous, but the evidence seemed unclear. If the association is correct, Schaell would have been pleased.




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