ENDECOTT, JOHN (c. 1588–1665), English colonial governor in America, was born probably at Dorchester, Dorsetshire, England, about 1588. Little is known of him before 1628, when he was one of the six “joint adventurers” who purchased from the Plymouth Company a strip of land about 60 m. wide along the Massachusetts coast and extending westward to the Pacific Ocean. By his associates Endecott was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the first colonists to the region, and with some sixty persons proceeded to Naumkeag (later Salem) where Roger Conant, a seceder from the colony at Plymouth, had begun a settlement two years earlier. Endecott experienced some trouble with the previous settlers and with Thomas Morton’s settlement at “Merry Mount” (Mount Wollaston, now Quincy), where, in accordance with his strict Puritanical tenets, he cut down the maypole and dispersed the merrymakers. He was the local governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from the 30th of April 1629 to the 12th of June 1630, when John Winthrop, who had succeeded Matthew Cradock as governor of the company on the 20th of October 1629, brought the charter to Salem and became governor of the colony as well as of the company. In the years immediately following he continued to take a prominent part in the affairs of the colony, serving as an assistant and as a military commissioner, and commanding, although with little success, an expedition against the Pequots in 1636. At Salem he was a member of the congregation of Roger Williams, whom he resolutely defended in his trouble with the New England clerical hierarchy, and excited by Williams’s teachings, cut the cross of St George from the English flag in token of his hatred of all symbols of Romanism. He was deputy-governor in 1641–1644, and governor in 1644–1645, and served also as sergeant-major-general (commander-in-chief) of the militia and as one of the commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, of which in 1658 he was president. On the death of John Winthrop in 1649 he became governor, and by annual re-elections served continuously until his death, with the exception of two years (1650–1651 and 1654–1655), when he was deputy-governor. Under his authority the colony of Massachusetts Bay made rapid progress, and except in the matter of religious intolerance—he showed great bigotry and harshness, particularly towards the Quakers—his rule was just and praiseworthy. Of him Edward Eggleston says: “A strange mixture of rashness, pious zeal, genial manners, hot temper, and harsh bigotry, his extravagances supply the condiment of humour to a very serious history—it is perhaps the principal debt posterity owes him.” He died on the 15th of March 1665.
See C. M. Endicott, Memoirs of John Endecott (Salem, 1847), and a “Memoir of John Endecott” in Antiquarian Papers of the American Antiquarian Society (Worcester, Mass., 1879).
A lineal descendant, William Crowninshield Endicott (1826–1900), graduated at Harvard in 1847, was a justice of the Massachusetts supreme court in 1873–1882, and was secretary of war in President Cleveland’s cabinet from 1885 to 1889. His daughter, Mary Crowninshield Endicott, was married to the English statesman Mr Joseph Chamberlain in 1888.