NEW WORLD PIONEER
Hertfordshire Life|September 2020
Hertford Puritan pioneer Samuel Stone founded what would become a state capital and a keystone in US democracy. This month, 400 years after The Pilgrim Fathers sailed to the New World, we look at his remarkable life and legacy
Gillian Thornton

Hertfordshire isn’t short on important figures from history. Just think of Alban, first Christian martyr or Nicholas Breakspear, England’s only Pope. Queen Elizabeth I spent her childhood at Hatfield House, and George Bernard Shaw wrote his influential plays at Ayot St Lawrence. But however well you know your county, few residents are familiar with Samuel Stone.

Born in Hertford on July 18, 1602, Samuel Stone put his birthplace on the New World map, bestowing it on a settlement founded between Boston and New York. Years later, Hartford (with an ‘a’) would become the capital city of Connecticut state. Nicknamed The Insurance Capital of the World, it would also number author Mark Twain among its residents.

The story begins in our county town where the Stone family lived on Fore Street in the early years of the 17th century. Walk across Mill Bridge today and you can’t miss Samuel, a striking figure in a broad-brimmed hat and frock coat, head held high, prayer book in one hand and the other pointing heavenwards, forefinger outstretched. Created by sculptor Henry Tebbutt, this evocative statue was commissioned to mark the Millennium by local businessmen Keith Marshall, who retired in October 2018 from the family furniture store on Fore Street.

John and Sarah Stone had their third son baptised at All Saints Church, and in 1617, Samuel became one of the first pupils at the nearby grammar school, founded that same year by wealthy London merchant Richard Hale. Originally known as Richard Hale’s School, it later became Hertford Grammar School, before being renamed again as Richard Hale School.

In 1620, Samuel Stone left school to study theology at Emmanuel College in Cambridge, and in 1626, he was ordained at Peterborough. A year later, he became curate at Stisted in Essex, where he lived with wife Hope and daughter Sarah.

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