Whitfeld, Henry (DNB00)

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WHITFELD or WHITFIELD, HENRY (d. 1660?), divine, is said by Mather to have been second son of Ralph Whitfeld of Gray's Inn, by Dorothy, daughter of Sir Henry Spelman [q. v.] He was more probably son of Thomas Whitfeld, lord of the manor of East Sheen and of Mortlake, who was licensed to marry Mildred Manning of Greenwich on 10 Jan. 1585 (Addit. MS. 27984, f. 20b). He appears to have taken holy orders, is described as B.D., and is said to have been appointed to the rich living of Ockley, Surrey, in 1616, although the register there contains no mention of his induction. Mather (Hist. of New England, 1853, i. 592) says that, possessing a fair estate of his own besides the rectory, he put ‘another godly minister’ in at Ockley, and went about preaching in the neighbourhood for twenty years as a conformist. As Nicholas Culpepper was instituted on 14 Sept. 1615, and the next rector, Hubert Nowell, on 15 Jan. 1638–9, this may have been the case. Whitfeld wrote during this period ‘Some Helpes to stirre up to Christian Duties’ (2nd edit. corrected and enlarged, London, 1634; 3rd edit. 1636).

In 1639 Whitfield, who had become a nonconformist at the same time as Cotton, and refused to read the ‘Book of Sports,’ resigned the rectory, sold his estate, and, accompanied by a number of his hearers from Surrey, Sussex, and Kent, embarked in May for New England. In July 1639 they landed at Newhaven, ‘the first ship that ever cast anchor in that port,’ and founded Guildford, Connecticut, Whitfield being the wealthiest of the six settlers who purchased the land. One of the first houses built was Whitfield's, called ‘the Stone House’ (figured in Appleton's Cyclop. of American Biogr.) Members increased but slowly until 1643, when seven ‘pillars’ were chosen to draw up a doctrine of faith. After eleven years at Guildford, Whitfield returned to England. He settled at Winchester, where he became a member of the corporation. Brook says he died about 1660.

By his wife, who came from Cranbrook, Whitfield had nine children, baptised at Ockley between 1619 and 1635. Besides ‘Some Helpes,’ Whitfield was author of ‘The Light appearing more and more towards the Perfect Day, or a Farther Discovery of the Present State of the Indians in New England concerning the Progresse of the Gospel amongst them’ (London, 1651, 4to; reprinted in ‘Massachusetts Historical Collections,’ 3rd ser. vol. iv., and in Sabin's ‘Reprints,’ 1865, 4to). This was followed by ‘Strength out of Weakness’ (London, 1652, 4to), an account of the further progress of the Gospel in New England.

[Brook's Lives of the Puritans, iii. 373; Savage's Geneal. Dict. of First Settlers, iv. 517; Sprague's Annals of the American Pulpit, i. 100; Proceedings of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Guildford, Newhaven, 1889, pp. 49, 75, 149, 257, 262; Ruggle's Hist. of Guildford in Mass. Hist. Coll. iv. 183; Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, vol. vi.; Drake's American Biogr.; information from the Rev. F. Marshall of Ockley.]

C. F. S.