Edward Norris II, Pastor of Salem Church, Massachusetts

Last Modified: Apr 28 2017

While there is no evidence to suggest any connection to my ancestors, it is interesting to look at some of the people through the ages who have carried the name Noers, Norreys, Norris or Nurse.

My next “famous” person is Edward Norris, Pastor of Salem Church, Massachusetts.

Edward Norris (born. 1579; d. 23 Dec 1659) was probably born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England, where his father was vicar. He was only four years old when his father died. No record of his mother's death has been found. He undoubtedly received a good elementary education, since he matriculated at Oxford from Balliol College on 30 Mar 1599, and graduated with a BA degree from Madgalen Hall on 23 Jan 1606-7. He received his MA degree from that institution on 25 Oct 1609, and became rector of the parish of Anmer in Norfolk

Because of his Puritan religious beliefs he suffered great persecution in his community. His persistence in shipping off to New England those of his parishioners who declined to conform brought him under the notice of Bishop Laud and in 1639 he had to seek refuge for himself in America as well.

Upon arrival in America Edward Norris first joined the church at Boston on 21 Jul 1639 according to the records of the town of Boston. In Dec of 1639 Edward Norris joined the church at Salem, with his wife joining in Apr. On 18 Mar 1640, he was chosen to be the fourth minister of the Salem church as a colleague with Hugh Peters, whose physical and mental condition in this difficult land had exhausted him. Almost all of the ministers of the colony were present for his installation. Governor Winthrop wrote in his journal regarding this installation:

“Mr. Norris was ordained teacher of the church in Salem, there being present near all the elders of the other churches and much people besides”.

On 13 May 1640, Edward Norris was admitted as a freeman into the community of Salem. The town granted him one hundred acres of land and sixteen acres of meadow on 21 Jan 1640. His first house in Salem was located on the northeast corner of Essex and Turner Streets.

The influence of Edward Norris in the early American communities of Salem and Lynn grew steadily. In 1647 he was named first of the seven ministers commissioned to draw up a confession of faith. The following record appeared on 27 Oct 1647:

Whereas there is a synod in being, and it is the purpose, beside the clearing of some points in religion questioned, to set forth a form of church government according to the order of the gospel, and to that end there are certain members of the synod that have in charge to prepare the same against the synod; but this Court conceiving that it is as fully meet to set forth a confession of the faith we do profess touching the doctrinal part of religion also, we do desire, therefore, these reverend elders following to take some pains each of them to prepare a brief form of this nature, and present the same to the next session of the synod, that, agreeing to one, (out of them all,) it may be printed with the other Mr. Norris, Mr Cotton, Mr. Madder (Mather), Mr. Rogers, of Ipswich, Mr. Shepard, Mr. Norton, and Mr. Cobbet.

That Edward Norris was listed first among these elders of the early Massachusetts churches is undoubtedly an indication of his influence in the community. During the witchcraft delusion of 1651 to 1654, he used his influence to resist the persecutions.

According to William Bentley he was successful in opposing accusations of witchcraft in Salem in 1655, and his influence was against violent means toward the Quakers, through he died before the Quaker troubles were at their height.


Bibliography and Notes

[1] – Wikisource  - http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Norris,_Edward_(1584-1659)_(DNB00)

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