Joanna Hooker c.1622-1646

Joanna was probably the first born to Thomas Hooker and his unidentified first wife. Not much is known about her. Much more prominent is all the information we have about her husband, Thomas Shepard. Shepard took over the ministry in Massachusets after Thomas moved to Connecticut. Edward Hooker in his The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker awards her one brief paragraph, and not many sentences in that paragraph are about her:

Joanna Hooker (Thomas), daughter of Rev. Thomas
Hooker, of Hartford, Conn.; m. (early in 1640), Rev. Thomas
Shepard, of Newtowne, Mass, (his second wife). He was a
son of William Shepard, of Tonaster, Eng., b. Nov. 5, 1605.
He succeeded Mr. Hooker as preacher at Newtowne, when Mr.
Hooker and his church removed to Hartford.
Mr. Shepard came to New England with his first wife, Mar
garet Fowteville and one son on the ship Defence arriving at
Boston Oct. 3, 1635. He settled at Newtowne and became the
third minister of that town. He succeeded Mr. Hooker and he
and his church purchased from Mr. Hooker and his church
all the property which they left behind when they removed to
Hartford.
His first wife died Feb. 1, 1636, leaving one son. He mar
ried Joanna Hooker, and after her death at Newtowne, April
28, 1646, he married Sept. 8, 1647, Margaret Borodale, and had
one son. She survived him and after his death married Rev.
Jonathan Mitchell. He died at Newtowne, Mass. (Cam
bridge), Aug. 25, 1649.

There is also a biography of Thomas Shepard which mentions Joanna with one sentence. will not bother with that one..

Thomas himself, however, demonstrates a great appreciation for Joanna and a great deal of grief over her early demise. She was only 24 +/- a few years (due to uncertainty of her birth year).

Thomas wrote an autobiography intended as an explanation of his life to his son from his first wife, Thomas. He is amazingly frank in his account:

  • he admits to having been ‘dissolute’ at university and getting drunk often (typical university student even then?). He writes:” … & fell from God to loose &” lewd company, to lust & pride & gaming & bowling & drinking; yet the Lord left me not,..”
  • he admits that once he was so drunk that he is not sure how he ended up in a man’s apartment or what happened. He writes: “…& I dranke so much on day that I was dead drunk, & that upon a Saturday night & was so carryed from the plac9 I had drinked at, St did feast at, unto a schol­ Jar’s chamber…& knew not where I was until I awakened late on that Sabbath St sick with my beastly carnage, & when I awakened I went from him in shame & confusion & went out into the ;fealds & there spent that Sabbath lying hid in the cornfealds
  • he admits to liking sex to the point where he almost preferred it to his Christian endeavors. He writes: “I began to grow secretly proud and full ofsen­ suality delighting my soul in my deare wife more than in my God…”

The autobiography of Thomas Shepard

click on the triangles below to open/close the additional text

Thomas Shepard wrote is autobiography for his son, Thomas born to his first wife. His account is so compelling that I am including large sections of it. He explains leaving Old England for New England, the trials and tribulations of dissenters and some of the terrors of the journey across the sea. On the first attempt, he lost his first borne and on the second attempt he lost his first wife and young Thomas became seriously ill.

Leaving for New England, death of 1.son, death of 1.wife and illness of the young Thomas

IN the yeare of the Lord 1634, Ootob. 16 my­ selfe, wife and family, with my first son Thomu, committed ourselves to the care of our God to keepe us on, and carry usover the mighty seas from old England to New England; but we had not bin iwo days on the sea but that the wind arose and drave our ship almost upon the sands, where the Lord did most apparently stretch forth his hands in saving us from them when we were within a very little ready to be dasht in pieces upon them; and this great danger of sinking, and loosing all our Jives was twise in two several dayes, that if there had not bin the infinite wisdom and power of God to helpe us, I did not conceive how possibly we could have escaped in such terrible storms.
Now one cause of our going at this time of winter wu because we were persecuted in Old England for the 1.ruth of Christ which we pro­ fessed there ; we durst not stay to make ourselves known there which would have bin at the baptizing of my child ; hence we hastened for New England.
After that we ea.me from the iea, my first SOD fell sick in passing from the ship to the shore in the·boat; of which sickness, within a fortnight . after, he died at •Yarmouth in Old oglaod, which w:as no small grief to ·us-; but the Lord preaened us, and provided for ine and my wife a hiding-place from the knowledge of our enemies and from ir JQaliee, by the meanea of Mrs. Corbet in Norfolke, in one of whose houses. we stayed all that hard winter with our dear friend Mr. Roger Harlakendoo, and enjoyed a sweet time together in a moat. retyered manner ; so the winter being spent, we were much perplexed whither to goe, and where to stay th t we might not be known, and keepe my second child ·so secretly as that it might not be baptised untii° it came to take of that ordinance ,in purity in old England; and being thus doq.btful what to doe, the Lord by letters from London called us to come thither, where my wife might have all helpe in her sickness and my child kept secret ; and this we concluded for to doe, and therefore tooke our leave of this ur winter. house, and in our way to London, we went to Mr. Burroughs his house a godly, able minister. From thi$ place we went to London, and there the Lord· provided for my wife and .aelfe and ·friends a very private house, where our friends did us a11 the good they could, and our enemies·’ eould doe us no hurt ; where my wife, on the sabbath day·being April 5, 1635, was deliveredmercifully or thitf 2d. sbn Thomas; whieh name I gave him because we thought’ the Lora gave me the first son I lost on sea in this, agayne, and hence gave him his brother’s name. And so tbe mother· growing strong the ehild begiib to gtow weake, and I did veryly thinke woold have died· of a sore mouth ; whieb I taking to hart, the Lord awakened rile in the night and stirred me up to pray for him, and that with very much ferving as I- thought; and many •guments to presse the Lord ‘for his life eame in, as:-The ‘glory the Lord should have by be­trusting me with this ehild, he should be the Lord’s forever.

-The ‘glory the Lord should have by be­trusting me with this ehild, he should be the Lord’s forever.

-Beeause this kindness would be to me fruit inseason, ifin the time ofmy privacy, persecution, and sorrow for the losse of my first child he would give me this, and that other, in this.

-Because though it was brought very low, yet then was the Lord’s time to remember to helpe.

-Because I thought if the Lord should not hear me now, my soule would be diseouraged from seeking to him, because I sought for the first and could not prevayle for his life, and this was sore if the Lord should not hear me for this.Because all healing vertue was in xt. Jesus hands who ·was very. tender of all that brought their sick unto him.

Although my sins might hinder him from doing·this, yet I told the Lord his mercy should be the more wonderfull if in healing my child of his sickness he would with l heal.me of my sins;
-and thus after a sad heavy ·night the Lord shined upon me i the.morning, for I foun4 him suddenly aml str gely JllDended of his sore mouth which I did expect would have bin his death. Oh the tenderness of-our God I Remember, therefore, my son, this mercy of the -Lord to you. Thus the child with the mother having recovered their strength, we set a second time to sea, and when we went; the child was so feeble that diverse of our friends di4 conclude the child could not live until it came to New· England in a close ship:·but the care of God was so great, that it was made much better by the sea, and more lively and strong ; and in this voyage, it and all of us were in danger of being drowned by a inost ter­ rible leake which the Lord stopt for us; another danger in the ship that the Lord delivered it from was this. The ship in a storm tumbling suddenly on the one eide, my wife having the child in her arms was almost pitcht with her head and child in her armes agaynst a post in the ship ; and being ready to fall shee felt herselfe pJuckt back by shee knew not what; where­by shee and the child were agayne preserved ;and I cannot ascribe this to any other but the angels of God who are ministering spirit■for the heirs of life.
And thus after about eleven weeks sayle from old England, we came to New England shore: where the mother fell sick of a consumption aud you my child wert put to nurse to one goodwife Hopkins, who was very tender of thee; and af:. ter·we bad been here diverse weekes on the 7th of February or there .about, God gave thee the ordinanee·of baptism, whereby God. is become thy God, and is before hand with thee, that whenever you shall return to God; he will un­ doubtedly receive you; and this is a most high and happy privilege ; and therefore blesse God for it. •And now after that this had bin done, thy deare mother dyed in the Lord, departing out of this world to another, who did loose her life by being carefull to prese”e thine ; for in the ship thou wert so feeble and froward both in the day and night; that hereby shee lost her strength and at last her life. Shee hath made also many a prayer and shed many a tear in secret for thee; and this hath bin oft her request that if the Lord did not intend to glorify himselfe by thee, that he would cut thee otr by death rather than to live to dishonor him by sin ; and therefore know it thatif you shalt tume rebell agaynst God.and forsake God, and care not for the knowledge of him QOr to beleeve iii bis Si,n, the Lord w\11 ,DJake all · these mercys, oes; and all thy mother’s praJtu”B, teares and death to be a swift witnees agay.nst thee at the great day.
Thus the Lord taking away thy deare .mother’s life, the Lord takes care for bee and preserved thee in health untill the spring, May 1, 1636. And now .the hand of the Lord was strecht out agaynst my child; so that he bad for _diverse weekes a sore mouth both within and without ; cheeks and lips full of blisters so as that he could eat no meat, only suck the breast, by which only he lived a1ong time, which I did thinke would have bin its death agayne; but the Lord being sought unto recovered him agayne, and then the humour fell into his eyes. which gr w so sore that partly by the humour and par.ty by the ill­ handling and applying medicines to them, his eyes grew starke blind with arles upon both eyes and a white film, insomuch as it was a most dreadfull sight unto all the beholders of him and very pittifull ; which was such a misery that me­ thought now I had rather that the Lord would take away my childe by death than let it lead a blindand a miserable life: but the LQrd saw my sor­ rowes, my teares, my poore prayers which were in bitterness for him ; and after that I had con-eluded I must have a blind child to be a constant l!IOrrow to me till my death, and was made to be con_tented to beare the indignation of the Lord because I had sinned, resolving w to feare nor care nor greeve no more but to be thankful), nay to.love the Lor , presently I say upon this by a poore weake meanes, vizt. the oyle • «Jiite pa­ per, the Lord: restored my child :(, his sigh& suddenly and strangely, I may almost say mirao­ ulously agayne, which was no small joy to me and no little encouragement to doe the Lord’s worke that tooke so much .care for me andmine. Now consider, my son, and remember to lift up thy eyes to heaven, to God in everlasting prayses of him. and _dependance upon him; and take heed thou dost not make thy eyes windowes of lust, but give thy eyes, nay thy heart and whole soule- and body to him that hath been so carefull of thee when.thou couldst not”care for thyselfe

Why Thomas went to New England

The reasons, which swayed me to come to N.E. were many. l. I saw no call to any other place in Old England nor way of subsistence in peace and comfort to. me and my family,

Diverse people in Old England of my dear freends desired me to goe to N. E. there to live together, and some went before and writ to me of providing a place for a company of us, one of which was John Bridge, and I saw diverse fam­ ilies of my • Xtian freends, who were resolved S.it”l\er to goe with me.

I saw the Lord departe• from England when Mr. Hooker and Mr. Cotton were gone, and I saw the harts of most of the godly set and bent that way, and I did think I should feele many miseries if I stayed behind.

My judgement was then convinced not only of the evil of ceremonies, but of mixt com­ munion, and joyning with such in sacraments,I   tho, I ever judged it lawfull to joyne with them in preaching.

I saw it my duty to desire the fruition of all God’s ordinances, which I could not enjoy in Old England.

My dear wife did much long to see me settled there in peace and so put me on to it.

Although it was true I should stay and suffer for xt. yet I saw no rule for it now the Lord had opened a doore of escape; otherwise I did incline much to stay and IIUil’er especially after our sea stormes.

Tho’ my ends were mixt and I looked much to my own quiet, yet the Lord Jet me see the glory of those Liberties in N. England, and made me purpose, if ever I come over, to live among God’s people as one come out from the dead, to his praise; tho’ since I have aeene as the Lord’s goodness, so my own exceeding weakness to be as good as I thought to have bin, and although they did desire me to stay in the North {l.nd preach privately yet, I. I saw that this time could not be long without troubl from King Charles. .

I saw no .reason to spend my time private­ ly when I might possibly exercise my talent publikely in N. E._

First attempt to cross the ocean

so that in the year 1634, about the beginning of the winter, we set saile from Harwich, and having gone some few leagues on to the sea; the wind stopt us that night and so we cast nnchor in a dangerous place, and on the morning the wind grew fierce and rough agaynst us full, and drave us toward the sands, but the vessel being laden too heavy at the head would not stir for all that which the seamen could doe, but draye us full upon the sands neare Harwich harbour; and the ship did grate upon the sands, and was in great danger; but the Lord directed one man to cut some ca­ ble or rope.in· th”e ship and so shee was turned about and was beaten quite backward toward Yarmouth, quite out of our way; …..Lord’s power hould be shewn in saving ofus, for so indeed it was; for the wind did drive us quite backward out of our way and gave us no place to anchor at until we came unto Yar­ mouth rodes, an open place at sea yet fit for an­ chorage, but otherwise a very dangerous place, and so we came thither thorow many uncomfort- ble hazards within 30 hours and cast anchor in Yarmouth rodes, which when we had done upon a Saturday morning the Lord sent a most dread­ full, and terrible storm of wind from the West, so dreadful) that to this day the seamen call it Windy Saturday; that it also scattered many ships in diverse coasts at that time, and diverse ships were cast away, one among the rest which was the seaman’s ship who came with us from New Castle wu cast away and he and all his were perished, but when the wind thus arose the master cast all his anchor■, but tile storm ·was so terrible that the anchors broke and the ship drave toward the sands where we could not be cast away; whereupon the master cries out that we were dead men, and thereupon the whole company goe to prayer, but the vessel drave so neare to the sands that the master shot off’ two pieces of ordnance to the town for helpe to save the passengers. The town perceived it and lOOOds came upon the walls of Yarmouth, and looked upon us, hearing we were New Eng-­ land men, and pittyed much and gave -us for gone, because they saw other ships perishing neare unto uir at that time; but could not send any helpe unto us, tho’ much mony was offered by some to hazard themseh·es for us; so the master, not knowing what to do, it pleased the Lord that there was one Mr. Cork a drunken fellow but no seaman, yet one that had bin at sea often, would come in a humour unto New England with us; whether it was to see the country or no I cannot tell, but sure I am God intended it for good or.to us to make him an in­ strument to save all our lives; for he persuaded the master to cut down his mainemast. The I   master was unwilling to it, and besotted, notsensible of oms and his own losse. At last this Cork calls for hatchets, tells the master if you be a man save the lives of your passengers, cut down your mainemast. Hereupon he encoura­ ged all the company, who were forlome and hopeless of life, and the seamen presently cut down the mast aboard, just at that very time wherein we all gave ourselves for gone to see neither Old nor New England, nor faces of freends any more, there being neare upon .200 passengers, and so when the mast was down, the master had one little anchor left, and cast it out, but the ship was driven away toward the sands still, and the seamen came to us and bid us looke (pointing to the place) where our graves should shortly be; conceiving also that the wind had broken off this anchor also; so the master professed he had done what he could, and therefore now desired us to goe to prayer, so Mr. Norton in one place and myself in an­ other part of the ship, he with the passengers and myself with the mariner1:1 above decks, went to prayer and committed our soules and bodies unto the Lord that gave them; immediately af­ ter prayer the wind began to abate and the ship stayed, for the last anchor was not broke (as we conceived) but only rent up with the wind and so drave, and was drawn along plowing the abating after prayer (tho’ still very terrible) the ship was stopt just when it was 11eady to be swallowed up of the sands, a very little way off from it; and so we rid it out, yet not without fear of our lives, tho’ the anchor stopt the ship;

So upon the Sab­ bath d11y morning boats came to our vessel from the town; and 10 my deare wife and child went in the first boat, but here the Lord saw that these matters were not sufficient to wash away my filth and sinfulness and therefore he cast me into the fire as soon as ever I was upon the sea in tho boat, for there my first borne child very precious to my soule, and dearly beloved of me was smitten with sickness, the Lord sent a vomiting upon it whereby it grew faint and no-. thing that we could use could stop its vomiting altlio we had many helps at Yarmouth and this was a very bitter affliction to me and the Lord now showed me my weake faith, want offeare, pride, carnall content, immoderate love of crea­ tures, and of my child especially, and begat in me some desires and purposes to feare his name; but yet the Lord would not be intreated for the life of it and after a fortnight’s sickness at last it gave up the ghost, when its mother had given it upto the Lord and was buried at Yarmouth, where I durst not be present least the Pursevants should apprehend me and I should be discovered which was a great affliction and very bitter to me and my deare wife,

Second, and successfull crossing to New England

10 of August 163.5, with myselfe, wife and my little son Thomas and other pre­ cious freends, having tasted much of God’s mercy in England and lamenting the losse o( our native country when we tooke our last view of it. Io our voyage upon the sea the Lord was very tender of-me and kept me from violence of the sea sickness. In our comming we were re­ freshed with the society of Mr. Wilson, Mr. Jones by their fayth and prayers and preaching. The ship we came in was very rotten and unfit for such a VO)’ge, and therefore the first storme we had, we had a very great leake, which did much apall and affect us; yet the Lord discov­ ered it unto us when we were thinking of re­ turning back agayne; and much comforted oµr harts. We had many stonns, in one of which my deare wife tooke such a cold and got such weakness as that shee fell into a consumption, of which shee afterward dyed; and also t)le Lord preserved her with the child in her armes from eminent and apparent death, baking of the ship in a violent storme her bead wu pitcbt agaynst an iron bolt and the Lord miraculously preserved the child and recovered my wife: This was a great affliction to me, and  was a cause of many sad thoughts in the ship how to behave myselfe when I came to New .England. My resolutions I have written down in my little booke; and so the Lord after many sad storms and wearisome days and many longings to see the shore, the .Lord brought us to the s_ight of it upon Oct. 2, Anno 1635 and upon Oct. the – we arrived with my wife, child, brother Samuel, Mr. Harluenclen, Mr. Cooke, &c., at Boston with rejoicing in our God after a longsome voyage, my deare wive’sgreat desire being now fulfilled, which waa to leave me in safety from the band of my enemies and among God’s people, and also the child under God’s precious ordinances

Thomas on Joanna:

Oct. 1637. The yeare after those wars in the country God having taken away my first wife, the Lord gave me a second, the eldest daugh­ ter of Mr. Hooker. a blessed store; and the Lord hath made her a great blessing to me to carry on matters in the family with much care and wisdom and to seeke the Lord God of her father.· The first child I bad by her (being a son) dyed. The second (whom the Lord, I blesse, hath hitherto spared) viz. my little Samuel, is yet living. The third son viz. my son John, after 16 weeks, departed on the Sabbath day morning, a day of rest to the bosom of rest to him who gave it, which was no small affliction and heart-breaking to me that I should provoke the Lord to strike at innocent children for my sake.

But the Lord hath not bin woont to let me live long without some affliction or other, yet ever mixt with some mercy, and therefore April the 2d 1646, as he gave me another son, John,,-so he tooke • !lway my most deare, precious, meeke ,nd loving wife, having left behind her two hopefull branches very dear children, Sam uel and John. This affliction was very heavy… also taking her away in the prime time of her life, when shee might have lived to have glorified the Lord God, also in threatening me to proceed in rooting out my family, and that be would not stop having begun here as in Ely for not being zealous enough agaynst the sins of his son, and I saw that if I had profited by former afflictions of this nature, I should not have had this scourge; but I am the Lord’s, and he may doe with me what he will; be did teach me to prize a little grace gained by a crosse as a sufficient recompence for all out­ ward losses, but this losse was very great; shee was a woman of incomparable meekness of spirit towatds myselfe especially, and very loving; of great prudence to take care for and order my family affayres being neither too lavish nor sordid in any thing so that I knew not what was under her hands: She had an excellency to reproove for sin and discerne the evilh1 of men. She loved God’s people dearly and studious to profit by their fellowship and therefore loved their company. She loved God’s word exceedingly-

She had a spirit of prayer beyond ordinary of her time and experience. She was fit to dy long before she did dy, even after”the death of her first born, which was a great affliction to her, but her woorke not being done then, she lived almost 9 yeares with me and was the comfort of iny life t me and the last sacrament be­ fore her lying in, seemed to be full of Obrist and thereby fitted for heaven. Shee did oft say shee should not outlive this child; and when her fever first began (by taking some cold) sbee told me soe that we should Jove exceedingly together because we should not live long to­ gether. Her paine tooke away her sleepe, want of sleepe wrought much distemper in her head and filled it with fantasies and distractions, but without raging. The night before shee dyed, sbee had about 6 hours unquiet sleepe, but that so cooled and settled her h8-‘, that when she knew none else so as to speake to them, yet she knew Jesus xt. and could speake to him and therefore as soone as she awakened out ofsleepe shee brake out into a most heavenly hart-breaking prayer after xt. her deare Redeemer for the spirit of life; and so continued praying until the last hour of her death, thus God bath visited and scourged me for my sins and sought to weane we from this woorld, but I have ever found it a difficult thing to profit even but a little by the sorest and sharpest ) afflictions.

Thomas’ view of his God changed over the years. The God of his youth was forgiving. The God of his more mature years was vengeful and Thomas attributes all of his afflictions, including the deaths of his wives and children, to God punishing him for his sins.

Thomas had a wife before Joanna, Margaret Tauteville, who died when Thomas Jr. was quite young. He had another wife after Joanna died, Margaret Boradill. She was the mother of Jeremia Shepard

Joanna’s children

  • Samuel – died in infancy
  • Elizabeth – may not have been her child, died in infancy
  • Samuel 1641-1688
  • John – died in infancy
  • John 1646-1726

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