Hawley, Gideon

Birth: 1727-11-05 in Stratford (Bridgeport), CT
Death: 1807-10 in Mashpee, MA

Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in America


Yale College






minister; missionary

  • Stockbridge, MA (from 1752 to 1754)
  • Onaquaga, NY (from 1754 to 1756)
  • Mashpee, MA (from 1757 to 1807)
Marital status

Married Lucy Fessenden on July 14, 1759; they had three sons and two daughters, all of whom lived to maturity except the oldest. Lucy died on December 25, 1777 and at age 50, Hawley remarried Mrs. Elizabeth Burchard on October 7, 1778, a widow twice over.


Gideon Hawley was born in Stratford (Bridgeport) CT, the son of Gideon, a descendant of Joseph Hawley, who immigrated to America in 1629, and Hannah Bennett, daughter of Lieutenant James Bennett of Stratford. Hawley's mother died at his birth, and his father died when he was three; he was raised mostly by his older brother. A very good student, Hawley graduated from Yale College in 1749 and was liscensed to preach by the Fairfield East Association. Sponsored by the Company for Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the Parts Adjacent in America (the New England Company), Hawley accepted a position as schoolteacer in Stockbridge in 1752, under the supervision of the noted theologian Jonathan Edwards, who was a preacher to whites and Housatonic Indians in the region. But because of the contentious politics in Stockbridge, Hawley accepted the NEC's offer to take over the mission among the Six Nations on the Susquehanna, in the multi-tribal town of Onaquaga, where Elihu Spencer has served five years before as missionary. Hawley was ordained in 1754 and acted successfully as missionary and interpreter, but was forced to leave in May 1756 during the hostilities of the French and Indian War. He returned to Boston and accepted a commission as chaplain to Colonel Richard Gridley's regiment, but resigned because of illness. The NEC then sent him to the large plantation of Mashpee Wompanoags at Plymouth, MA, who approved of him and requested his permanent appointment in 1758. Hawley was a staunch supporter of traditional tribal land ownership and Indian rights; the Mashpees enlisted his help in petitioning the Massachusetts General Court for their rights to self-government. During the Revolution, Hawley did not enlist in order to protect the tribe, and in 1789, he succeeded in abolishing Masphee as a "district" subject to state rule and served as the only resident overseer and treasurer until 1795. He opposed the mixing of whites and Indians, as in Stockbridge, which ultimately disenfranchised and drove out the Indians, but insisted the Mashpee Wampanoags learn English, the only language in which he preached, and practice agriculture. He married Lucy Fessenden in 1759; they had five children, four of whom lived to maturity. Their youngest son graduated from Harvard in 1792. Lucy died in 1777 and at age 50, Hawley remarried Mrs. Elizabeth Burchard in 1778, a widow twice over with a large estate. He died beloved and respected by the Mashpee Wampanoags, whose village he helped to sustain.


"Hawley, Gideon." Congregational Library and Archives: History Matters. www.congregationallibrary.org/finding-aids/HawleyGideon1237; Kawashima, Yasuhide. "Hawley, Gideon." American National Biography Online. http://www.anb.org/articles/01/01-00385.html. Feb. 2000.

Further reading

Gideon Hawley. "Journals and Letters, 1753-1805" (bound in four volumes).Library of the American Congregational Association, Boston. Franklin B. Dexter. Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1896. vol. 2, 205-208.