Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Smokin' Anecdote from the 1600s

In England in 1630, it seems a Spiritual Court found Thomas Hooker guilty of nonconformity with the Church of England, and so forbade him to practice his ministry. As he continued to engage in prayer and religious conference with other ministers in Chelmsford, a fifty-pound bond was added to the injunction, and Hooker was ordered to appear before the Court of High Commission. Instead, he... well, I guess you could say he jumped bail, and went to Holland.

Three years later, as his Puritan friends prepared to leave England for New England, they contacted him and asked that he join them as their spiritual guide. Since Mr. Hooker was not conforming comfortably with the churches of Holland either, he was pleased to do so. In preparation for the long journey by sea, he snuck back into England, and was laying low at the home of his friend Rev. Samuel Stone, my ninth great-grandfather, who was also preparing for the trip.

Hooker was still being pursued by the authorities, and they soon came looking for him at Stone's house. The story of what happened next was preserved by Cotton Mather:
"Mr. Stone was at that instant" (when the pursuivants knocked at the door of the very chamber in which Mr. Hooker was engaged in conversation,) "smoking of tobacco; for which Mr. Hooker had been reproving him, as being then used by few persons of sobriety. Being also of a sudden and pleasant wit, he (Mr. Stone) stepped to the door, with his pipe in his mouth, and such an air of speech and look as gave him some credit with the officer. The officer demanded whether Mr. Hooker was not there. Mr. Stone replied with a braving sort of confidence, 'What Hooker? Do you mean Hooker that lived once at Chelmsford?' The officer answered, 'Yes, he.' Mr. Stone, with a diversion like that which once helped Athanasius, made this true answer: 'If it be he you look for, I saw him about an hour ago at such a house in the town; you had best hasten thither after him.' The officer took this for a sufficient account and went his way."
Hooker continued to avoid appearing in public until he and Rev. Stone were well out to sea aboard the Griffin, on their way to New England, where they would become keystones of Connecticut colonization.


Having collected so golden a nugget of family history, I feel like I've just time-traveled back 400 years to spend a moment with my grandfather Stone, although he was not exactly grandfatherly in that summer of 1633, being just 31 years old. I learned a lot about him in that moment. He was bold, and quick-witted! And... he smoked!

A decade later, in mid-1640s Connecticut, I wonder what he thought about this new law:

Fforasmuch as it is observed, that many abuses are crept in, and comitted, by frequent taking of tobacko:

It is ordered by the authority of this Courte, That no person under the age of twenty one years, nor any other, that hath not already accustomed himselfe to the use thereof, shall take any tobacko, untill hee hath brought a certificate under the hands of some who are approved for knowledge and skill in phisick, that it is usefull for him, and allso, that hee hath received a lycense from the courte, for the same.—And for the regulating of those, who either by theire former taking it, have, to theire owne apprehensions, made it necessary to them, or uppon due advice, are persuaded to the use thereof:

It is ordered, That no man within this colonye, after the publication hereof, shall take any tobacko, publiquely, in the streett, highwayes, or any barne yardes, or uppon training dayes, in any open places, under the penalty of six-pence for each offence against this order, in any the perticulars thereof, to bee paid without gainesaying, uppon conviction, by the testimony of one witness, that is without just exception, before any one magistrate. And the constables in the severall townes, are required to make presentment to each perticular courte, of such as they doe understand, and can evict to bee transgressors of this order.
The controversy about smoking has gone on for more than 400 years. I don't know why this would surprise to me, but it does.

This year the Great American Smokeout takes place November 19th. Best wishes to all who participate. I won't be--I smoked my last cigarette in 1988, two years after I moved to Oregon. I'm not proud, I'm grateful. Smoking was less prevalent there than here in the midwest. It was a great help to be able to go to smoke-free restaurants (thank you, Davidson's Casual Dining, for being smoke-free even before it became the law there, as it is now) and to be in a social environment where good health habits were more favored than bad ones.

I appreciated any and every law that was passed to discourage smoking. I viewed it as moral support. My mother, on the other hand, was outraged when anything threatened to impede her smoking habit. She smoked until she was so dependent on her oxygen tank that she could no longer abandon it for the few minutes it took to sneak off to her bedroom for a Parliament. In other words, when she was weakest and least able to face the challenge, she ultimately was forced to endure the quitting anyway. She died a long and miserable death in 2005 from emphysema and COPD. (But if she could hack my blog, she'd be inserting her defense of smoking right here!)

I wonder if Hooker ever convinced Samuel Stone to give up his tobacco habit.


Sprague, William Buell. Annals of the American Pulpit, or, Commemorative Notices of Distinguished American Clergymen of Various Denominations: From the Early Settlement of the Country to the Close of the Year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-Five : with Historical Introductions. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1857. (Vol. I, p. 33)

Barber, John Warner. Connecticut Historical Collections, Containing a General Collection of Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, &C., Relating to the History and Antiquities of Every Town in Connecticut, with Geographical Descriptions. New Haven: J.W. Barber: Hartford, A. Willard, 1836. (p. 17-18)

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Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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