Deacons played a respected and important role in early New England churches. They sat in a raised pew near the pulpit and had special duties during communion.
Understand the Puritans better:
Weymouth is the second oldest town in Massachusetts. It was established in 1622 and incorporated in 1635. The town was a fishing and agricultural community.
Malden, Massachusetts was first settled in 1640. It was incorporated as a town in 1649 and as a city in 1881. Prior to 1649, it was part of Charlestown called Mystic Side.
Deacon Ralph Shepard was born about 1603 in Limehouse, Stepney Parish, Middlesex, England. In 1630, Limehouse became the separate parish of St. Anne-Limehouse. It is now a part of London and adjoins the East End. He was a tailor and draper.
He was the son of Isaac Shepard (born 1571 in London, England) and his wife, Mary.
He married Thanklord about 1633. Their children and life together are described in detail in the section on Ralph and Thanklord Shepard.
On April 24, 1634, Ralph was summoned before the Court of High Commissions which was an ecclesiastical court instituted by the crown in the 16th century to enforce the laws of the Reformation. At this time William Laud (1573-1645) was Archbishop of Canterbury. He opposed the Puritan reforms.
Ralph left England for relgious freedom and brought his family to America before 1636.
He was present at the first town meeting and signed the Town Covenant of Dedham, Massachusetts in 1636 and was granted twelve acres of land. He was a member of the first Town Assembly of Dedham and received many other grants of land. (Kin of Mellcene Thurman Smith, p. 85) Of the 26 town meetings held in Dedham, Ralph attended 21 of them.
In 1638 he was paid to cut wood for constructing the meeting house.
On February 9, 1645/45 he was made a fence viewer for the lower plantation. He was a ruling elder the in Weymouth Church.
In April, 1651 he took the oath of a freeman in Middlesex County.
He died on September 11, 1693 or August 20, 1693 in Charlestown, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He was probably visiting his son Thomas when he died.
He is buried in Bell Rock Cemetery, Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.
Lyes ye Body of
September VII, 1693
“The original tombstone was slate and is weather beaten and deteriorated from age, but it is now encased in a marble monument. . .The hourglass and crossbones tell us that time does not tarry and that death soon comes to all: while the wings on either side of the skull suggest the hope of a blessed immortality."
(Ancestors and Descendants of Albro Dexter, p, 29)
Old Style Calendar
Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.
Any man entering a colony or becoming a a member the church, was not free. He was not forced to work, but his movements were carefully observed to see if they followed the Puritanical ideal. After this probationary period, he became a "freeman." Men then took the Oath of a Freeman where they vowed to defend the Commonwealth and not to overthrow the government.
King Charles I ruled England from
1625 to 1649.
A draper sells cloth and dry goods.
Dedham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts was settled in 1635 by English Puritans.