The Reverend William Golding/Goulding of the Somers Isles and Rector of St George Parish, Bermuda 1643-1648

Below are some of my background notes on the Reverend William Golding/Goulding (hereafter William Golding) of the Somers Isles. My theory is that the Rev William Golding is the father of the John Golding that married Elizabeth Ripley at Gloucester, Virginia in 1658, and is the origin of many Goldings and Goldens that live in the American South. 1609 – An English ship, commanded by a Captain Somers who was shipwrecked and settled there in 1609, discovers Bermuda and officially begins colonization. The islands are named and known as the Somers Islands until about 1670. 1614 – Devonshire, Bermuda founded. Devonshire is a parish in central Bermuda. Devonshire Parish is one of the nine parishes of Bermuda. It was originally named “Cavendish Tribe” and later “Devonshire Tribe”. The word “tribe” was originally used instead of the word “parish” or “shire”. The parish was named for William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire (1552-1626). (3)  

Map of Devonshire, Bermuda goes here

Note by Bill Golden: In earlier publication of my notes I had confused Devonshire, Bermuda with Devonshire, England based upon my reading of the will of the Rev William Golding. I was unaware that Devonshire was also a place in Bermuda.

1630 Apr 23 – John Goulden, son of William Goulden, minister baptized at Smiths Tribe, Bermuda. ‘Tribe’ was the word used to mean ‘parish’ within Bermuda. It can be presumed then that John was probably born in Bermuda and was baptized (christened) within 1-2 months after birth, or even within days of his birth if he appeared completely healthy. 1636 – ‘Blaeu Map of 1636’ – courtesy of the National Museum of Bermuda. The original map was black and white, and later colorized.

Blaeu Map of 1636 goes here.

1638 – William Goulding listed as owning 10 or more acres of land in Barbados (1). 1641 – The Rev Golding is one of four ministers in the islands. It would appear that the ministers had rather great authority to compel people to attend church. A great many Bermudans are unhappy with both the governor and the ministers, who seem to have the governor’s ear.  “… of late they had compelled all persons, men and women, throughout the island to present themselves and be catechised one day in each week.” … There was a man and wife “a very christian man and woman indeed … who disliking this new forme of catechising went to their Minister Mr. Golding privately intreating him that they might be spared from that his weekly exercise. … Where Mr Golding was much displeased, and had them boycotted.” (8, p.172)

Note by Bill Golden: From this point forward in history, the Rev Golding is repeatedly identified with the cause of the free exercise of religion. However, his brand of freedom of religion is very Puritan and actually represents the imposition of a theocracy of sorts that mandates the participation in the church … else you will face a boycott, a shunning by other community members. This posed an extreme situation for locals as the Rev Golding would refused to give you sacraments or to baptize your children. This was a world with a high illness and death rate, especially among children. A baptism was essential to being prepared for daily life not turning out well.

Rev Nathaniel Whyte returned to England in 1646 to face charges of treason. His influence over Golding had been significant. The Rev Golding evolved his views by 1647 with the founding of Eleuthera to support the complete liberty of conscience, with no man reproaching his neighbor for his beliefs (10, p.184). Your relationship became one between you and God.

1643-1648: The Rev William Golding served as Rector of St. Georges Parish, Bermuda. (7) 1643 -Religious controversies over sacraments and baptisms erupted in Bermuda. Aggrieved parishioners compmplained that their children died unbaptized and they themselves were depreived of sacraments (11, p.159). This occured due to the worldview that you were to be educated in church teachings and to study the Bible. It was not uncommon for sacraments to be routinely administered by the Church of England, and the Roman Catholic church before it. 1643 – Reverends Nathaniel Whyte, William Golding and Patrick Copeland form a Congregational church. In January 1644 this church seceded from the other Bermuda churches; i.e. it formally left the Church of England and became an independent church (9, p.180). 1645 – Reverends Nathaniel Whyte and William Golding appeal to Parliament  for freedom of worship (9, p.181; 10). Parliaments House of Commons ordered that liberty of conscience and worship be given in ‘the Plantations’ (English settlements in North America and the Somers Isles). This freedom of religion, freedom from worshiping just in Anglican churches, was ignored by the political and religious leaders in Virginia and the Somers Islands.  This directly resulted in those seeking greater religious freedom to try to form a colony called Eleuthera in 1646 and sailing to London, England to present Parliament with a letter of protest. Parliament alledgely granted a ‘patent’ for this purpose and approximately 70 Bermudans moved to Eleuthera. The island was too small to support agriculture and the colony badly faltered by 1650. Things were so bad that sympatheic Bostonian, Massachusetts religious freedom supporters sent a relief ship with supplies in 1650/51 (6, p.115). 1646 – Republic of Eleuthera, Bahamas formed: Capt. William Sayle, an ex-governor of Bermuda, formed a company of four directors to settle the island under the name of “The Company of Adventures for the Plantation of the Island of Eleuthera” or “Eleuthera” being the short name. Eleuthera is the Greek word for freedom. Eleuthera was to be a republic with freedom of religion allowed. Among the four directors was the minister Rev. Willliam Golding, a former Anglican minister who bolted the church to become an independent (responsible to self and to God, not to the Church of England or to Rome). In 1670, all of the islands in the area were consolidated by the Crown and made part of North Carolina. It was at this time that the name Bahamas came into general usage. 1646 Nov 5 – En route to England to present the case for more religious freedom to Parliament, the Rev William Golding attended a lecture in Boston, 5 Nov. 1646, and then sailed for England. He had been the minister of Bermuda. Winslow, N.E. Salamander Discovered, 17. (5) 1647 Jan – Letters arrive in Massachusetts updating church members on attempts to deliver a petition to Parliament. It seems that Massachusetts church members had expected a return by Golding et al to them: “Capt. Sayle and brother Golding, the Churches messingers to Parliament and Company, are not yet returned to vs from old England, yet by this ship, whereof Mr Campion comes maister, wee had letters from them, by way of Barbados, which beare date the 15th of the first moneth, 46 wherein they certified vs that they finde our Company inclable to heare our complaints and to right vs in the wrongs wee have sustained by our Governor, Council, and Assembly here.

Note: 46 refers to the year 1646, although it was really 1647. Due to a strangeness in the calendar at this time, many dates often appeared in publications (books, newspapers, etc.) denoting two years as the official year of the date. Example: Letters of complaint were written to the governor about the Rev Golding in 1641/42.

Calendars has been in constant flux since 1582 depending upon whether you lived in a Catholic or a Protestant country or region, and whether the local laws had abandoned yet the old style calendar for the new style. It would not be until approximately 1752 that the western world had migrated to a standard calendar.

1647 – “By the 1640s, or the second generation of blacks in Bermuda, there were more black baptisms, which eventually caused the Assembly to pass a law in 1647 excluding the baptism of “Bastards or Negroes children. (128) // (128) Bermuda 1647 act regarding baptism is in William Golding, ‘Servants on Horseback, or . . . A Representation of the dejected state of the Inhabitants of Summer Islands’, a pamphlet reprinted in BHQ 9, no 1 (1952): 182-213 (quotation, p. 200). 1648 March – The Rev Golding published ‘Servants on horse-back, or, A free-people bestrided in their persons and liberties, by worthlesse men being a representation of the dejected state of the inhabitants of Summer Islands : containing short illustrations upon a petition presented to the High Court of Parliament for redresse’ … This was Golding open letter to Parliament as to how the political and religious leadership in Bermuda colluded to suppress both the religious freedom and the trade rights of those desiring religious freedom. 1648 – Will of Rev. John Golding, minister of the Chapel of Jesus Christ, 1648: Only son John Golding to have property in Devonshire. Mary Waylett, dau of Richard Waylett, my predecessor, property in Pembroke bought of Wm Berkley. Wife Elizabeth whatever I am possessed of in County Suffolk. Should John die Devonshire property to go to nephew William Golding, son of Bartholomew. (2) A variety of books were also left to various individuals. (5, see 1650 below).

Notes: John Golding married the widow of Richard Waylett his predecessor and the property he had acquired by that marriage he leaves to his wife Elizabeth and the Waylett children … Elizabeth was daughter of Capt. Thomas Chaddock and married 1st William Seymour, by whom there were 4 children. 2nd Richard Waylett. There was a Goulding family in New York at this period. Vide Executive Council Minutes of New York Vol 1. p. 74 and Records at Gravesend, Long Island.

1650 – The 1648 will of the Rev William Golding designated two books for donation to the Library of the Somers Islands (now known as ‘The Old Bermuda Libary’). These books were in the possession of Mr William Wilkinson and delivered to the Librarian Mr Norwood on August 29 1650. The two books were The Imperial history of Edw. Grimstone and Thomae Aquinalis Summa totius Theologiae (5, p.59). All of the books that donated by various individuals can be found starting on page 597 of the source document (5). It has been noted by historians that this was a very advanced library that seemed beyond the needs of the common person.


“Mr William Goulding Minister gaue for Library of the Somers Islands by his last will and Testament 2 Bookes deliuered to Mr Norwood by Mr William Wilkinson August 29 1650 vz. The Imperial history of Edw. Grimstone Thomae Aquinalis Summa totius Theologiae”

?? Need to find where I put the complete will of Rev William Golding; I have only the excerpt that lists his name as John Goulding. ?? Need to research more the relationship of Josias Forster (Foster), a ship captain and governor of Bermuda.
(1) This List, which is reprinted in P.F. Campbell’s “Some Early Barbadian History”, published Barbados, 1993, appears to be part of an old publication which Campbell reproduces in its entirety, and which is entitled: “Memoirs of the First Settlement of the Island of Barbados and other the Carribbee Islands, with the Succession of the Governors and Commanders in Chief of Barbados to the Year 1742, extracted from Ancient Records, Papers and Accounts taken from Mr. William Arnold, Mr. Samuel Bulkly, and Mr. John Summers, some of the First Settlers, the last of whom was alive in 1688, aged 82. Also some Remarks on the Laws and Constitution of Barbados.” by William DUKE, the clerk of the House of Assembly, who first published the 100 page book in Barbados in 1741. Second edition London 1743. Reprinted in Bdos 1891. For more details, see Handler’s “Guide to Source Materials for the study of Barbados History”, page 30.London, Printed for E. Owen near Chancery Lane, Holborn, MDCCXLII. (2) Bermuda Settlers of the 17th Century: Genealogical Notes from Bermuda, by Julia E. Mercer, p.74 (3) History of Devonshire, Bermuda (4) Memorials of the Discovery and Early Settlement of the Bermudas Or Somers Islands, 1515-1687 [i.e. 1511-1687], by Sir John Henry Lefroy. (5) A Genealogical Register of the First Settlers of New England, 1620-1675, 1829, pg 124. (6) The Founders of Maryland as Portrayed in Manuscripts, Provinical Records and Early Records, by Edward Duffield Neill, 1876. (7) ‘Trinity Church, Bermuda, A Sketch of Its History Drawn from Various Sources‘, by Thomas S. Reid, 1886, Harvard College Press. (8) The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, April 1908, Bermuda Colonial Clergy in New England. (9) American Antiquarian Society, April 1960, Puritanism in the Southern Colonies. (10) Lefroy, Memorials, I, 600-603; William Frith Williams, A Historical and Statistical Account of the Bermudas, from their Discovery to the Present Time (London, 1848), pp. 39, 261-266. (11) Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World, by Alison Games, 1999.

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