Harvard, John (DNB00)

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HARVARD, JOHN (1607–1638), principal founder of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was born in the High Street of Southwark, close to London Bridge, and christened 29 Nov. 1607 (W. Rendle, J. Harvard, 1885, p. 13). His father was Robert Harvard, butcher, of Southwark, where there lived several families of that name (spelled Hayward, Harver, Harwood, Harvye, and otherwise), some butchers, others innkeepers. The father died of the plague, and was buried 26 Aug. 1625. The maiden name of Harvard's mother was Katherine Rogers. She took for her second husband John Ellison or Elletson, who died in June 1626. She then married her first husband's friend and neighbour, Richard Yearwood or Yarwood (M.P. for Southwark), and made a will in 1635 in favour of her two sons, John and Thomas Harvard (d. 1637). The signatures of the two are on a deed, 29 July 1635, belonging to St. Katherine's Hospital (Athenæum, 10 Dec. 1887). Among other property left to John was the Queen's Head Inn, Southwark. The second husband being a Middlesex man, which was doubtless the reason John Harvard was entered at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 19 Dec. 1627, as of ‘Midlesex.’ He graduated in 1631, and proceeded M.A. in 1635; he was now a man of meanss, as his mother had been left property by each of her three husbands. In 1637 he married Ann, the daughter of John Sadler, a Sussex clergyman, and sailed for New England. He was admitted a townsman of Charlestown, Massachusetts, 6 Aug., ‘with promise of such accommodations as we best can.’ His house was on the site now making the southerly corner of Main Street and the alley leading up by the town hall (J. Winsor, Memorial Hist. of Boston, i. 395, ii. xxii). On 2 Nov. he took ‘the freeman's oath.’ Harvard and his wife became church members 6 Nov., and for some time he occupied the pulpit as assistant to the Rev. Z. Symmes, pastor of the First Church in Charlestown. There is no record of his ordination. He was a wealthy man compared with most of the colonists, and was of good repute, being made, 26 April 1638, member of a committee ‘to consider of some things tending towards a body of laws.’

He died of consumption, 14 Sept. 1638, childless, leaving, by a nuncupative will, one half of his estate, stated in the college books to have been 779l. 17s. 2d., together with his library of 320 volumes, to the proposed college ‘ordered to be at New Towne,’ afterwards Cambridge, in November 1637. On 8 Sept. 1636 the general court of the settlement had voted 400l. towards a school or college, and after Harvard's death the building was at once begun with the aid of his legacy. In March 1638–9 ‘it is ordered that the colledge agreed upon formerly to be built at Cambridge shall bee called Harvard Colledge.’ It was highly spoken of as a place of education in 1643; the object was declared by the charter of 1650 to be ‘the education of the English and Indian youth of this country in knowledge and godlynes.’ A list of Harvard's books, consisting chiefly of theological, general, and classical literature (J. Quincy, History of Harvard University, i. 10), is in the college archives. One volume has been preserved; the others were burned in 1764. His widow, Ann, married the Rev. Thomas Allen.

The ‘ever-memorable benefactor of learning and religion in America,’ as Edward Everett justly styles Harvard (Address at the Erection of a Monument, Boston, 1828, p. 4), was, in the opinion of his contemporaries, ‘a godly gentleman and a lover of learning’ (New England's First Fruits, 1643, reprinted in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. i. 242), as well as ‘a scholar, and pious in his life, and enlarged toward the country and the good of it in life and death’ (Autobiography of the Rev. Thomas Shepard in A. Young, Chronicles of the First Planters, Bost. 1846, p. 552). He preached and prayed with tears and evidences of strong affection (Johnson, Wonder-working Providence, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. new ser. vii. 16). The autographs written on taking his degree are preserved at Cambridge (tracings in J. Winsor, Memorial History of Boston, ii. 318). No specimen of his handwriting is known to be extant in America. The alumni of Harvard erected a granite monument to his memory in Charlestown burial-ground, dedicated by E. Everett 26 Sept. 1828. A seated statue was presented by S. J. Bridge to the university, and unveiled by the Rev. G. E. Ellis (see Address, Cambridge, Mass., 1884), 15 Oct. 1884.

[For Mr. W. Rendle's interesting account of the birthplace, &c., of Harvard, see his John Harvard, St. Saviour's, Southwark, and Harvard University, 1885, 8vo; Inns of Old Southwark, London, 1888, sm. 4to; Genealogist, January 1884, pp. 107–11; Athenæum, 11 July, 24 Oct. 1885, and 16 Jan. 1886. The wills of Harvard's mother and her three husbands and other wills, the most important discovery connected with John Harvard, are reprinted by Mr. Waters in the New England Hist. and Geneal. Register, July 1885, Oct. 1886. See also J. Winthrop's New England, Boston, 1853, ii. 105, 419; Life and Letters of John Winthrop, ib. 1864–7, 2 vols.; W. I. Budington's First Church, Charlestown, Boston, 1845; J. F. Hunnewell's Records of the First Church, Boston, 1880, 4to.]

H. R. T.