NameRev. Thomas Harrison D.D.
Birth1617, Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, England
Death1682, Dublin, Ireland
FatherRichard Harrison Sr. (1595-1653)
MotherMary (1595-~1640)
Misc. Notes
From the “Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 25”

HARRISON, THOMAS, D.D. (1619-1682), nonconformist divine, born at Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, was taken by his parents while a youth to New England, and there trained up to the ministry. [Records indicate that his family arrived in Virginia about 1635. His father, Richard Harrison, later moved to Connecticut in 1640] He became chaplain to the governor of Virginia, an enemy of the puritans. The governor, with the connivance of Harrison, expelled from Virginia certain ministers who held extreme views, and their expulsion was followed by a disastrous rising among the Indians. This was held by many, Harrison included, to be a judgment of Providence against the persecutors of the expelled preachers. Harrison's change of views occasioned his dismissal [May 1648], upon which he came to London, and, obtaining some fame as a preacher, was chosen about 1650 to succeed Dr. Goodwin in his ‘gathered church’ at St. Dunstan's-in-the-East. Here he remained for a few years, after which he removed to Brombrough Hall, Wirrall, Cheshire. In 1657 he accompanied Henry Cromwell, when he went to Ireland as lord-lieutenant. He lived in Cromwell's family, and preached at Christ Church, Dublin. At the Restoration he left Ireland, and settled in Chester, preaching to large congregations in the cathedral, till he was silenced by the Act of Uniformity. From a list of graduates at Cambridge from 10 Oct. 1660 to 10 Oct. 1661, it appears that Harrison took his D.D. there; but according to Calamy (Account, p. 607) he received it at Dublin. After the passing of the Act of Uniformity he returned to Dublin, and founded a flourishing dissenting church of congregational views. His eloquence and fluency both in prayer and preaching brought him great notoriety, and Calamy states that ‘he was a complete gentleman, much courted for his conversation.’ When he died there was a general mourning in Dublin. He left behind him a valuable library, containing many manuscripts, among them a ‘System of Divinity’ in a large folio written by himself. He published: 1. ‘Topica Sacra: Spiritual Logick: some brief Hints and Helps to Faith, Meditation, and Prayer, Comfort and Holiness. Communicated at Christ Church, Dublin, in Ireland,’ London, 1658, 12mo. This was dedicated to Henry Cromwell. It became extremely popular during the end of the seventeenth century, especially among the poorer classes in Scotland. A second part was added in 1712 by John Hunter, minister of Ayr. This was frequently reprinted. A revised and corrected edition of the first part, under the title of ‘Spiritual Pleadings and Expostulations with God in Prayer,’ was published by the Rev. Peter Hall in 1838 in 16mo. 2. ‘Old Jacob's Account Cast up, &c.; a Funeral Sermon for Lady Susannah Reynolds, preached at Lawrence Jewry,’ 13 Feb. 1654; and 3. ‘Threni Hibernici, or Ireland sympathising with England and Scotland in a sad Lamentation for the Loss of their Josiah;’ a Sermon preached at Christ Church, Dublin, on the Death of Oliver Cromwell, London, 1659, 4to; dedicated to ‘the most illustrious Richard, Lord Protector,’ &c. Harrison prefixed ‘An Epistle to the Reader’ to ‘Lemmata Meditationum, &c. By Philo-Jesus Philo-Carolus,’ Dublin, 1672, 8vo.

[Palmer's Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802, i. 330, iii. 174; Wilson's Hist. of Dissenting Churches, i. 221–3; Hist. of the Writers of Ireland, written in Latin by Sir James Ware, … translated by Walter Harris, Dublin, 1639, p. 343; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 94, 181.]

From “Encyclopedia Virginia” - “Puritans in Colonial Virginia” (

Unfortunately for Virginia's Puritan community, Governor Sir William Berkeley, who had arrived in Virginia in 1642, was not among the well-disposed. Berkeley was fiercely loyal to King Charles I, who sought to prevent in Virginia the type of religious and political unrest that had led to civil war in England. Berkeley had been ordered to oppose any religious nonconformity within Virginia. The colony's ministers were to swear an oath of allegiance to the Church of England; those who did not would be expelled.

About a year later, on April 18, 1644, some Virginia Indians under the leadership of
Opechancanough launched a devastating attack on English settlements in Virginia. Several hundred Virginians were killed, but the Puritan community was spared.

Indeed, tension between the colony's Puritan and Anglican settlers was rising. The news of the civil war raging in England had widened the divide between the two religious groups; meanwhile, the Berkeley administration, perhaps hoping to decrease political opposition within the colony, passed increasingly aggressive conformity policies. Men who had tacitly endorsed Puritan pastors early in the 1640s ceased to do so, and certain
vestry leaders began to crack down on Puritan religious leadership.

This conflict played out in miniature against the backdrop of Lower Norfolk County late in the 1640s. In April 1645 Thomas Harrison, the Puritan minister of the county's Elizabeth River vestry, was charged with criminal nonconformity "for not reading the booke of Common Prayer and for not administering the sacrament of Baptisme according to the Cannons and order p[re]scribed." Harrison was well liked by the parish, and had been unanimously approved by the vestry five years earlier, but certain influential members of the parish opposed his nonconformity. In fact, most Puritan ministers rejected the Book of Common Prayer, and Parliament had even abolished it on January 3, 1645. But Berkeley continued to enforce its use in Virginia.

Harrison left Elizabeth River by 1647 and began ministering in neighboring Nansemond County, which had been without religious guidance since the New England ministers were driven out in 1643. Durand, acting as a lay preacher, began ministering to the Puritans of Lower Norfolk in Harrison's stead. In November 1647 the General Assembly passed an act reinforcing the use of the Book of Common Prayer by allowing parishioners to withhold tithes from nonconforming ministers. With this law, Berkeley's government delegated the enforcement of religious uniformity to individual parishes. On May 28, 1648, Durand was arrested at church by the county sheriff. With Durand's arrest and trial, the lines between nonconformists and Anglicans became more clearly drawn: those who supported Durand were declared "Abettors to much sedition and Mutiny." Shortly after the arrest, Berkeley became involved and banished Durand and Harrison from the colony.

It was at this time (1648) that Durand moved to Maryland and Thomas Harrison returned to England.
Birth1637, Chester, Cheshire, England
Death1682, Chester, Cheshire, England
Marriage1658, Chester, Cheshire, England
ChildrenIsaiah (1666-1738)
Last Modified 22 Aug 2013Created 11 Nov 2017 using Reunion for Macintosh