Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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EATON', Theophilus, governor of New Haven, born in Stony Stratford, Oxfordshire, England, about 1591; died in New Haven, Connecticut, 7 January 1658. He was the son of a clergyman, and was educated for mercantile life. He was sent by the king of England as an agent to the court of Denmark, where he remained several years, and on his return to London became a merchant of high reputation. In 1637 he accompanied John Davenport's party to New England (see DAVENPORT, JOHN), and on his arrival in Massachusetts was chosen to be a magistrate the Massachusetts planters made strong efforts to retain the party, who were gentlemen of wealth and character. The general court offered them whatever place they might choose, and the inhabitants of Newbury agreed to give up that town to them, but they determined to found a distinct colony. Accordingly, in the fall of 1637, Eaton, with a few friends, carefully explored the Connecticut coast, and finally selected a place called Quinnipiac, where in March 1638, the colony was planted. In November Eaton was one of those who contracted with the Indians for the sale of lands including what are now seven townships, the price being thirteen English coats. On 4 June 1639, he was one of the "seven pillars" selected to form a government for the colony. He was chosen its first governor, and continued in the office till his death.
Governor Eaton was one of the commissioners that formed the " United Colonies of New England" in May 1643, and in 1646 he proposed to the Dutch governor, Kieft, to settle all differences with him by arbitration. On his arrived in New Haven, Eaton attempted to carry on his old mercantile pursuits, but soon abandoned them for agriculture. In person he was handsome and of commanding figure, and, although strict and severe in religious matters, he was affable and courteous.
His brother, Samuel Eaton, clergyman, born in England about 1597; died in Denton, Lancashire, England, 9 June 1665, was educated at Magdalen College, Cambridge, receiving the degree of B. A. in 1624, and that of M.A. in 1628. Shortly after leaving the University he took orders in the Church of England, but could not conscientiously conform to its usages, and came to New England with his brother Theophilus ill 1637, becoming assistant pastor with John Davenport at New Haven. He differed from his colleague ill respect to the principles of civil government, and returned to England in 1640, with the design of gathering a company to settle Toboket (afterward Branford), of which a grant had been made to him. After leaving New Haven he preached for some time in Boston, where an unsuccessful attempt was made to secure his services permanently.
On reaching England he found such an improvement in the civil and ecclesiastical condition of the country that he remained there till his death, holding various pastorates. In 1662 he was silenced by the act of uniformity. His publications included "Defence of Sundry Positions and Scriptures alleged to justify the Congregational Way" (1645; second part, 1646); " the 31istery of God Incarnate" (1650); " Treatise of the Oath of Allegiance and Covenant" (1650); and " Human Life" in seventeen sermons (London, 1764).
Another brother, Nathaniel Eaton, educator, born in England about 1609; died in London after 1660, was educated at Franeker, in the Netherlands, and it is said that he entered the order of Jesuits. He came to New England with his brothers, and in 1637 was appointed first professor of the school (afterward Harvard College) that had been established by the legislature in the preceding year. Mather speaks of him as "a Blade who marvelously deceived the Expectation of Good Men concerning him, for he was One fitter to be Master of a Bridewell than a College; and though his Avarice was notorious, yet his Cruelty was more Scandalous than his Avarice. He was a Rare Scholar himself, and he made many more such; but their Education truly was in the School of Tyrannus." His pupils complained of bad food and ill treatment, and in September 1639, Eaton was fined 100 marks for beating his usher, Nathaniel Bnscoe, "with a cudgel," and was removed from his post. He fled to Virginia, leaving debts amounting to £1,000, and was afterward excommunicated by the Cambridge Churches. Winthrop says that "in Virginia he took upon him to be a minister, but was given up of God to extreme pride and sensuality, being usually drunken, as the custom is there." He returned to England in 1645, and after the restoration became a parish minister in Biddeford, Devonshire. He was afterward put into the King's bench prison for debt, "where," says Mather, "he did at length pay One Debt, namely, that unto Nature, by Death."
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