Samuel Gorton was born 12 February 1593 in Gorton, Lancashire, England to Thomas Gorton (1566-1610) and Anne Johnston (1566-1623) and died 10 December 1677 Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island, United States of unspecified causes. He married Mary Maplet (1609-1677) 20 May 1628 in London, England.



Samuel Gorton (1593–1677) was an early settler and civic leader of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and President of the towns of Providence and Warwick. He was also theologically active, and the leader of a small sect of converts known as Gortonists or Gortonites. He had strong religious beliefs that were contrary to Puritan theology and was very outspoken, and as a result he was frequently in trouble with the civil and church authorities in the New England colonies.

Early Life

Samuel Gorton was baptized on 12 February 1592/3[a] in Manchester, Lancashire, England, the son of Thomas and Anne Gorton from the chapelry of Gorton, a part of Manchester.[2] Gorton's grandfather and great grandfather were both also likely named Thomas Gorton of the same place. They were members of an ancient family, found in Gorton as early as 1332. [2]

Gorton was educated by tutors, and became an accomplished scholar, particularly in the area of languages and English law. His library contained volumes "in which the ancient statutes of his country were written."[3] In one document, he was called a "clothier of London," though he wrote of himself that "he had not engaged in any servile employment until he settled in the colonies." [3] His father had been a merchant in London and a guild member, and the family was well off financially.

1637 Migration to America

Gorton was baptized in 1593 in Manchester, Lancashire, England, and received an education in languages and English law from tutors. In 1637, he emigrated from England, settling first in Plymouth Colony, where he was soon ousted for his religious opinions and his demeanor towards the magistrates and ministers. He settled next in Portsmouth, where he met with a similar fate, being whipped for his insubordination towards the magistrates. He next went to Providence Plantation, where he once again encountered adverse circumstances until he and a group of others purchased land of the Narragansett people. They settled south of the Pawtuxet River in an area which they called Shawomet, later named Warwick.

Trouble continued to follow Gorton to Providence, where his democratic ideas concerning church and state led to a division of sentiment in this town.[13] On 8 March 1640, Roger Williams wrote to Massachusetts magistrate John Winthrop, "Master Gorton having abused high and low at Aquidneck, is now bewitching and bemadding poor Providence, both with his unclean and his foul censures of all the ministers of this country (for which myself in Christ's name have withstood him) and also denying all visible and external ordinances in depth of Familism."[13] Being a bitter partisan by nature, Gorton used his talent and energy to consolidate many discontented settlers into a destructive party in the otherwise peaceful settlement established by Williams.[15] This group became known as the Gortonists or Gortonites.

1637 Portsmouth Compact Signer

Plaque commemorating the Portsmouth Compact 1638-1936

He was one of the signatories of the 1637 Portsmouth Civil Compact founding Portsmouth, Rhode Island, the 2nd settlement in the new colony of Rhode Island. This group, most of were caught up in the events of the Antinomian Controversy from 1636 to 1638, had followed the family of dissident preacher Anne Hutchinson and her family from Massachusetts Bay Colony seeking religious freedom. This document was the first compact to declare both political and religious separation.

Rift at Pawtuxet

At Pawtuxet there was immediate friction and a rift in the settlers, with a majority of them adhering to Gorton's views.[13] The original Pawtuxet settlers were deeply offended by Gorton's conduct, consisting of William Arnold (1587-1676), his son Benedict Arnold, his son-in-law William Carpenter, and Robert Cole. On 17 November 1641, these men sent a letter to Massachusetts in which they complained of the "insolent and riotous carriage of Samuel Gorton and his company," and they petitioned Massachusetts to "lend us a neighborlike helping hand."[13]

1642 Founding of Warwick

Warwick City Hall

Warwick was founded in 1642 by Samuel Gorton and his followers when Narragansett Indian Chief Sachem Miantonomi agreed to accept 144 fathoms of Wampum for what was known as "The Shawhomett Purchase". This included the present day towns of Warwick, Coventry and West Warwick. The following year, a major dispute erupted over the purchase leading to significant trial in the colonial courts.

Gorton refused to answer a summons following the complaints of two Indian sachems about being unfairly treated in a land transaction. He and several of his followers were forcefully taken away to Massachusetts, where he was tried for his beliefs and writings, rather than the original supposed infraction. He was sentenced to prison in Charlestown, though all but three of the presiding magistrates voted to give him a death sentence.

After being released, Gorton and two of his associates sailed to England where they obtained an official order of protection for his colony from the Earl of Warwick. During his stay in England, he was also very active in the Puritan underground, preaching in churches and conventicles known for their extreme religious positions. Once back in New England, with his settlement of Warwick secure, Gorton became a part of the civil authority that he had previously rejected, serving as an assistant, commissioner, deputy, and president of the two towns of Providence and Warwick.

He wrote a number of books, two of them while in England, and several others following his return. He was a man of great learning and great intellectual breadth, and he believed passionately in God, the King, and the individual man, and was harshly critical of the magistrates and ministers who filled positions that were meaningless in his eyes. His beliefs and demeanor brought him admiration from his followers, but great condemnation from those in positions of authority, and he was reviled for more than a century after his death. In more recent times, historians and writers have looked upon him much more favorably, and he is now considered one of the great colonial leaders of Rhode Island.

Marriage, Family, Descendants

Samuel Gorton was married prior to 11 January 1629/30[a] to Mary Maplet (1609-1677), the daughter of John Mayplet who was a haberdasher. Mary was the granddaughter of the Reverend John Mayplet, Rector of Great Leighs Parish in Essex, Vicar of Northolt in Middlesex, and a writer on the topics of natural history and astrology.[2] Mary Gorton's brother was Dr. John Mayplet, physician to King Charles II.[2]

Descendants of Samuel and Mary Gorton include General Nathanael Greene, the only American Revolutionary War general besides George Washington to serve during the entire war. Other descendants include Rhode Island colonial governor William Greene and state governors William Greene, Henry Lippitt, and Charles W. Lippitt. Lieutenant Governor and Rhode Island state historian Samuel G. Arnold and New York Lieutenant Governor Lewis S. Chanler also have Gorton as an ancestor.[41]


Offspring of Samuel Gorton and Mary Maplet (1609-1677)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Samuel Gorton (1630-1724)
Mary Gorton (1634-1698)
Mahershallalhashbaz Gorton (1638-1692)
Sarah Gorton (1641-)
Elizabeth Gorton (1641-1704)
Elnathan Gorton (1642-1731)
John Gorton (1643-1713)
Anna Gorton (1644-1712)
Benjamin Gorton (1648-1699) 1648 Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island, United States 25 December 1699 Warwick, Kent County, Rhode Island, United States Sarah Carder (1652-1724)
Susannah Gorton (1649-1734)
Maler Gorton (1650-)




Footnotes (including sources)