Peters, Thomas (DNB00)

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PETERS or PETER, THOMAS (d. 1654), puritan divine, was son of Thomas Dyckwoode, alias Peters, who married at Fowey, Cornwall, in June 1594, Martha, daughter of John Treffry of Treffry, and elder brother of Hugh Peters [q. v.] He matriculated from Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1610, and graduated B.A. on 30 June 1614, M.A. 6 April 1625. For many years, probably from 1628, he was vicar of Mylor in his native county of Cornwall. He emigrated to America, arriving in New England, according to one historian, on 15 July 1639 (Felt, Eccl. Hist. New England, i. 410, 564, 592–3, 615); but the more probable statement is that he was driven out of Cornwall by the troops of Sir Ralph Hopton in 1643, and reached America in 1644. Peters was at Saybrook, Connecticut, in the summer of 1645, and afterwards with John Winthrop the younger at Pequot plantation. When this became the permanent settlement of New London, he was appointed in May 1646 its first minister; and, as he ‘intended to inhabite in the said plantation,’ was associated by the court at Boston with Winthrop in its management. A letter from him complaining of the Indian chief Uncus, ‘for some injurious hostile insolencies,’ was read before the commissioners of the United Colonies in September 1646, and in the following July he was reproved; but the commissioners did not think that the complaints justified any stronger proceedings (Records of New Plymouth, ed. Pulsifer, i. 71–3, 99–100). Meantime Peters had been ill; and on an invitation from his old parish in Cornwall had sailed from Boston in December 1646. He returned to England by way of Spain, leaving Nantucket on 19 Dec. 1646, and arriving at Malaga on 19 Jan. 1646–7, after ‘a full month of sad storms.’ Peters again ministered at Mylor, and died there in 1654, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. A gravestone in the churchyard records his memory. His wife, who is said to have been a sister of Winthrop, did not accompany him to New England.

Peters is described by Cotton Mather as ‘a worthy man and a writer of certain pieces’ (Magnalia Christi Americana, bk. iv. chap. i.). He himself, in the preface to his sermon, ‘A Remedie against Ruine,’ preached before the judges at the Launceston assizes, 17 March 1651–2, says that he ‘never before peep'd in the Presse beyond the letters of my name.’ A long preface deals with his differences with the Rev. Sampson Bond, rector of Mawgan in Meneague, Cornwall, whom he had accused of unsoundness, and of having stolen about a fourth of a sermon from the Rev. Daniel Featley [q. v.] The charge resulted in an accusation against Peters of perjury. But the case ended in a victory for him. Letters from Peters are in Winthrop's ‘History of New England,’ 1853 edit. pp. 463–4; the ‘New England Historical and Genealogical Register,’ ii. 63–4; and in the ‘Massachusetts Historical Society's Collections,’ 3rd ser. i. 23–4, 4th ser. vi. 519–20, viii. 428–33. He is said to have been of a milder disposition than his brother Hugh.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 475, iii. 1081; Foster's Oxford Alumni; Allen's American Biogr. Dict. (1857 edit.); Caulkins's New London, pp. 43–53; Savage's Geneal. Dict. iii. 402–3; Farmer's Geneal. Reg. pp. 224–5.]

W. P. C.