Somerset County MDGenWeb

Rev. John Huett, Jr.

This article started out on the Somerset County MDGenWeb site as a notice advertising for donations for a memorial to the Rev. John Huett, who established the Church of England in Somerset County in 1680, founding Stepney Parish and building the first church at Green Hill in about 1694. This notice was submitted by Richard Waller Cooper, David G. Nutter, and Jeffrey Hatfield. The drive for donations was successful, and on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 23, 1998, the memorial (along with a memorial to Alexander Adams, the rector who followed Rev. Huett) was unveiled at Old Green Hill Church, near Whitehaven, Maryland. Since the notice had so much good historical information, I thought it appropriate to move it over here to the History Article area.


A belated and yet a most deserving effort is underway to recognize an important 17th century Eastern Shore civic leader and first Episcopal clergyman, the Reverend John Huett, Jr. (circa 1640-1698), the founder of Stepney Parish. While there are important memorials on the Eastern Shore to the Presbyterian minister Francis Makemie and to Francis Asbury, the first Methodist Bishop, there is no tangible memorial to witness the work of Rev. Huett. The records show that for a long while he was a pre-eminent theologian in Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore, with a mission which included the present-day Maryland counties of Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester and parts of Sussex County in Delaware.

The Rev. John Huett, Jr. was the son of the Rev. Dr. John Huett, Sr. and his first wife, a Miss Skinner, the daughter of Thomas Skinner, a London merchant-tailor. When the younger Huett first came to the Virginia colony in the 1660's, he left behind in England a dramatic family history. His father, the Rev. John Huett, Sr., (1614-1658) had been a leading Anglican and the Dean of St. Gregory's by St. Paul's, a church near St. Paul's Cathedral in the heart of London. The older Huett's father, Thomas, had been a successful merchant-tailor in Lancashire and London, where John Sr., his youngest son, turned to the Church. John Huett, Sr. graduated from Pembroke College at Cambridge and received a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford, where the family lived in the 1640's. His history became a tragic one in the tumultuous Civil War, Commonwealth and Protectorate Period of English history. He rose steadily in prominence as a minister, author and preacher, served as chaplain to King Charles I, was the friend of Isaak Walton ("The Compleat Angler"), John Evelyn ("The Diary of John Evelyn") and Dr. Wilde and others at Oxford, and, after the Roundheads' victory in the Civil War, even officiated at the wedding of Oliver Cromwell's daughter Mary.

But in 1658 he was arrested, tried and convicted by the Cromwellian Protectorate because of charges that he was aiding the Royalists in their zeal to restore the exiled Charles II to the throne. In June of 1658, when the younger John was 17 years old, and in spite of pleas to spare his father made by Lady Fauconberg (nee Mary Cromwell) and Mrs. Claypole (nee Elizabeth Cromwell), the elder John Huett was beheaded in the Tower of London, leaving behind a series of gripping scenes memorialized by many authors including Antonia Frasier in her classic, "Cromwell: The Lord Protector". We have a fascinating poem, entitled "Considerations Against the Vanities of this World, and The terrors of Death" which Dr. Huett wrote during his last night in the Tower. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, Dame Mary Huett, his second wife and the daughter of Bertie, 1st Earl of Lindsay, petitioned Parliament for reparations for her husband's execution, and received an annuity of 100 pounds sterling. It is believed that a portion of this endowment was used by the younger John Huett to finance his education and his journey to America.

While learning the ways of the Old Somerset frontier during the 1660's and 70's, John Huett, Jr. apparently returned twice to England, to be ordained first deacon and later priest by the Bishop of London, and returned permanently to Maryland in 1682 as a theologian and minister. He ministered with dedication to the peoples of the growing colony. We know that in the Winter of 1682 he performed the wedding of "John Puckham, an Indian" whom Clayton Torrence in "Old Somerset" identifies as a Native American of the Monie Tribe, and "Jone Johnson, negro", whom Torrence believed to have been a member of a prominent 17th century free African-American family of the colony. We know that he lived with his wife Rachel Battian Huett (later Evans) and daughters Anne (later Nutter then Leckie) and Susanna (later Johnson) at his estate called "Contention", located just to the south of the surviving 1733 Old Green Hill church, that he built a brick house at Contention in the 1690's, and that his burial site is known to be located by the nearby bank of the Wicomico River.

By 1692, he had become a leader in religious affairs of the colony, was elected to serve in the new Maryland Provincial Legislature, and preached as a chaplain at St. Mary's City, the State Capitol at that time. Records show that meetings held in his house led to the formation of Stepney Parish in Somerset and facilitated the establishment of the Church of England in Maryland by the Vestry Act of 1692. We also know that shortly before his death in 1698 he supervised the building of a first rough church on old Haste's Creek, a short distance northwest of the preserved 1733 church.

Several parties have come together to plan for the creation of a permanent memorial to Rev. Huett at Old Green Hill, including the Green Hill Church Preservation Committee, the Preservation Trust of Wicomico County and members of the Nutter and related families who are descendants of Christopher Nutter, a 17th century Eastern Shore Indian Interpreter and planter, and his son Matthew, who married Rev. Huett's daughter Anne in the early 18th century. The name "Huett" has been passed down as a given name in several branches of the Nutter family for as many as 8 generations. These groups have voiced their support for a soon-to-be-designed memorial which will take the form of a plaque to be located within the church site.

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