Pynchon, William (DNB00)

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PYNCHON, WILLIAM (1590–1662), colonist and religious writer, whose name also appears as Pinchon, Pinchin, or Pincheon, was born in Springfield, Essex, in 1590. He was probably educated at Cambridge. In 1629 his name appears as one of the grantees of the charter of Massachusetts, and in 1630 he arrived in the colony under Governor Winthrop. He was one of the first court of assistants, and treasurer of the colony from 1632 to 1634. He aided in founding Roxbury, and in organising the church there; but in 1636 he removed with his family and a small party to the junction of the Connecticut and Agawan rivers, where he founded the town which was afterwards called Springfield, after Pynchon's birthplace, and held a commission, in conjunction with five others, to govern it. Here, again, his first care was for the church. Between 1638 and 1640 it was supposed that the new settlement was in Connecticut, and for part of that time Pynchon sat in the legislature of that colony. Withdrawing through differences with his colleagues, he obtained from Massachusetts in 1641 a formal assertion of jurisdiction and a commission again to ‘govern the inhabitants.’ In his administration he sought to conciliate the Indians, and obtained their complete confidence.

In 1650 Pynchon visited England, and published a book entitled, ‘The Meritorious Price of our Redemption,’ which controverted the calvinistic view of the atonement, and created great excitement in the colony, as containing ‘many errors and heresies.’ On his return he was received with a storm of indignation; the general court condemned the book, ordered it to be publicly burnt, and required the author to appear before them in May 1651. This order he answered by asserting in a letter that he had been completely misunderstood. He was called upon to appear in October, and, as he made default, again in May 1652. But he declined to appear, and abandoned the colony in September 1652. His children remained. Settling anew in England, he made his home at Wraysbury, near Windsor, where he passed the closing years of his life in affluence, chiefly engaged in the study of theology, ‘in entire conformity with the Church of England.’ He died on 29 Oct. 1662.

His chief works are: 1. ‘Meritorious Price of our Redemption, or Christ's Satisfaction discussed and explained,’ 1650; revised and republished with rejoinder to the Rev. J. Norton, 1655. 2. ‘Jews' Synagogue,’ 1652. 3. ‘How the first Sabbath was ordained,’ 1654. 4. ‘Covenant of Nature made with Adam,’ 1662.

[Collections of Massachusetts Historical Society, 5th ser. vol. i.; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography.]

C. A. H.