John Harvard (clergyman)

John Harvard (November 26, 1607September 14, 1638) was a Massachusetts clergyman, after whom Harvard University is named.

He was born and raised in the London borough of Southwark, Surrey, the fourth of nine children, the son of Robert Harvard (1562-1625), a butcher and tavern owner, and his wife, Katherine Rogers (1584-1635), a native of Stratford-on-Avon whose father, Thomas Rogers (1540-1611), is sometimes thought to have been an associate of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

In the summer of 1625, his father, a stepsister, and two brothers died of the plague. Only his mother and one brother, Thomas, remained of his immediate family. She remarried to a John Elletson (1580-1626) who died within months of their marriage in 1626, and then to a Richard Yearwood (1580-1632) in 1627 who died in 1632.

Harvard entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, then a Puritan stronghold, in December 1627 and received his B. A. in 1632. Katherine died in 1635 and Thomas in the spring of 1637. John married Ann Sadler (1614-1655), of Ringmer, Sussex, in April, 1636, daughter of the Rev. John Sadler and sister of Harvard's contemporary, John Sadler, lawyer and orientalist.

In 1637 he emigrated with his wife to New England and settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts where many of his classmates had arrived before him.

John Harvard didn't get much of a start. Almost as soon as he arrived in May of 1637, the town of Charlestown made him the teaching elder of the Church there, but within the following year he had contracted tuberculosis and died September 14, 1638 of the resultant "consumption".

Although he died childless, he bequeathed 800 (half of his estate) and his library of around 400 volumes to the New College at nearby Cambridge, which had been founded on September 8, 1636, and to his friend, the first schoolmaster of the same above-said New College: Nathaniel Eaton who, needless to say, was very much hated afterwards by the jealous townsfolk who saw to his deposition and even attempted to do the same to his successor, Henry Dunster, but were foiled by a much more aware ecclesiastical power of the Church at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The school renamed itself "Harvard College" on March 13, 1639, and Harvard was first referred to as a university rather than a college by the new Massachusetts constitution of 1780.

No records or illustrations remain of the earliest college which burnt to the ground in 1674 along with all but one of Harvard's original 400 volume donation; but judging from student references to persons of negro ancestry as being "Moors", its quite probable that Shakespeare's works comprised a large portion of those volumes.

Eaton's own records indicate that the building of the New College began immediately in 1638 with the assistance of the carpenter Thomas Meakins and/or his son, Thomas Meakins, Jr. of Charlestown, had an apple orchard, and live-in accommodations for some 30 students.

Debate rages over whether or not the students actually had daily access to alchohol in the form of beer, or whether or not the word "beare" these people cite as "proof" of alchohol consumption actually refers to "berrie", the unfermented juice of grapes or apples: much as what college students consume today in their free time or during their studies. Vessels of the time, such as commemorative rummers or pewter tankards, indicate that beer was commonly spelled "bier" or "beir", and court records indicate that excessive alchohol consumption was punished by the temporary attachment of one's estate, or permanent attachment and banishment from the colony. Also, 17th Century phonics tend to indicate that anything with an "e" on the end of the word was pronounced "ē" as a separate syllable.

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