The Deafness on the Vineyard – Part I

Robert Traynor
November 25, 2014


Our story begins with Charles I.  Religious issues were in the forefront during the reign of Charles I of England, who ruled over England, Ireland, and Scotland from 1625-1649.  As was the custom for kings of his time, he was deeply involved in the battle of how the Church of England was to proceed. In the mid-1600s the issue of the English Reformation was paramount and always in the center of any political debate.  At issue was if Charles, as the head of the church,  should move toward the Arminian theology, which emphasized clerical authority and the individual’s ability to reject or accept salvation, or to leave the Church as it had been for many years.   

Though he favored Arminian Theology, it was viewed as heretical and a potential vehicle for the re-introduction into England of Roman Catholicism by its Calvinist opponents. Charles’s sympathy to the mvteachings of Arminianism, and specifically his wish to move the Church of England away from Calvinism in a more traditional and sacramental direction, were perceived by the Puritans as irreligious tendencies on his part.   

In the late 1620s, there were two factions of Puritans. One group  felt that the Church of England could handle the reformations and so they remained within the Church, although they disagreed on how much reformation was necessary.  The other Puritan faction, the Separatists, felt that the Church of England was so corrupt that true Christians should separate from it completely.

This was the environment in 1630 when Thomas Lambert (1582-1664) began his discussions of emigrating to the New World.   While there was no real religious persecution in his area of England (Kent) at this time, as a separatist Thomas always faced the threat of the prisons of London for anti-Church of England activity.   Thus, he began discussions with Reverend John White of the Dorchester Company , part of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and the Rector of Dorchester.  Thomas had been married in 1602 and again about 1617. But both his wives had died of unknown causes, so as a single man he looked at the trip to the New World as an adventure.   It was, in his time, much like being an astronaut today. Little did he know, however, that he and his family would become part of the history of deafness in the New World, and later in Massachusetts and the United States. 

Being promised land in Dorchester, Massachusetts by Reverend White, Thomas decided to join the Pilgrims in the new world as part of the “Great Migration.” To Thomas, it was going to be an exciting adventure into the unknown, full of new sights and freedom from the fear of religious persecution by Charles I and others

Seal Of The General Court of Plymouth Colony

Seal Of The General Court of Plymouth Colony. 

He left England on March 20, 1630 as a passenger on the Mary and John The Mary and John, under Captain Thomas Chubb, was a 400-ton ship not unlike the Mayflower, which had carried 140 like-minded passengers to Plymouth.

Thomas arrived in  Dorchester, Massachusetts, on May 30, 1630.  Originally he settled in Scituate, on Cape Cod, and by 1631 he had accumulated 18 acres in Dorchester from grants.  He became a Freeman, took a new wife, Joyce, in 1634, and in 1639 moved to Barnstable, where he was the first of seven inhabitants of the settlement. He was authorized by the Plymouth General Court to keep victualing (food) for entertainment of passengers (guests) and to draw wine.  In 1649 Thomas became the Barnstable Surveyor of Highways for a time. In Barnstable, he and Joyce had seven children……………

Thus ends the first part of a Pilgrim’s tale fitting for Thanksgiving week. It also sets the scene for next week when Hearing International tells the fascinating story of how Martha’s Vineyard, a small island off the Massachusetts coast, became one of the largest deaf communities the world has ever known.



Clare.  (2014).  Caleb’s Crossing:  A glimpse of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1600s. Retrieved November 23, 2014:

Lane,H.,  Pilford, R., and Hedberg, U. (2010).  The people of the eye:  Deaf ethnicity and ancestry:  Retrieved November 24, 2014:,+who+arrived+in+1692,+martha%27s+vineyard&source=bl&ots=m1X0f2uw7m&sig=8myd4B52uK1Xcnd6lRK_suxpblY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=djVzVJr5IoGsyASikoHwBA&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Jonathan%20Lambert%2C%20who%20arrived%20in%201692%2C%20martha’s%20vineyard&f=false

Dorchester Antheneum (2007).  This Mary and John.  Retrieved November 25, 2014:


Green, M., (2013).  Martha’s Vineyard.  Retrieved November 24, 2014:

Old Maps (2014).  Martha’s Vineyard 1775. Retrieved November 25, 2014:

Wikipedia (Unknown).  Charles I.  Retrieved November 35, 2014:

Webwevers free clip art (2014).  Thanksgiving.  Retrieved November 25, 2014:





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