John Harvard (clergyman)

John Harvard
John Harvard statue.jpg
Born(1607-11-26)26 November 1607
Southwark, Surrey, England
Died14 September 1638(1638-09-14) (aged 30)
Cause of deathTuberculosis
Alma materEmmanuel College, Cambridge
Known forA founder of Harvard College
Spouse(s)Ann Sadler
JohnHarvard Signature.jpg

John Harvard (1607–1638) was an English minister in America,"a godly gentleman and a lover of learning"[1]whose deathbed[2]bequest to the"schoale or Colledge"founded two years earlier by the Massachusetts Bay Colony was so gratefully received that it was consequently ordered "that theColledgeagreed upon formerly tobeebuilt atCambridg shalbeecalled HarvardColledge."[3]The institution considers him the most honored of its founders – those whose efforts and contributions in its early days "ensure[d] its permanence," and a statue in his honor is a prominent feature of Harvard Yard.


Early life

Harvard was born and raised in Southwark, Surrey, England, (now part of London), the fourth of nine children of Robert Harvard (1562–1625), a butcher and tavern owner, and his wife Katherine Rogers (1584–1635), a native of Stratford-upon-Avon whose father, Thomas Rogers (1540–1611), was an associate of Shakespeare's father (both served on the borough corporation's council). Harvard was baptised in the parish church of St Saviour's (now Southwark Cathedral)[4] and attended St Saviour's Grammar School, where his father was a member of the governing body and a warden of the Parish Church.

In 1625, bubonic plague reduced the immediate family to only John, his brother Thomas, and their mother. Katherine was soon remarried‍—‌firstly in 1626 to John Elletson (1580–1626), who died within a few months, then (1627) to Richard Yearwood (1580–1632). She died in 1635, Thomas in 1637.

Left with some property, Harvard's mother was able to send him to Emmanuel College, Cambridge,[5] where he earned his B.A. in 1632[6] and M.A. in 1635, and was subsequently ordained a dissenting minister.[7]

Marriage and career

In 1636, Harvard married Ann Sadler (1614–55) of Ringmer, sister of his college classmate John Sadler, at St Michael the Archangel Church, in the parish of South Malling, Lewes, East Sussex.[citation needed]

In the spring or summer of 1637, the couple emigrated to New England, where Harvard became a freeman of Massachusetts and,[5] settling in Charlestown, a teaching elder of the First Church there[8] and an assistant preacher.[7] In 1638, a tract of land was deeded[clarification needed] to him there, and he was appointed that same year to a committee "to consider of some things tending toward a body of laws."[5][clarification needed]

He built his house on Country Road (later Market Street and now Main Street), next to Gravel Lane, a site that is now Harvard Mall. His orchard extended up the hill behind his house.[9]


On 14 September 1638, Harvard died of tuberculosis and was buried at Charlestown's Phipps Street Burying Ground.

In 1828, Harvard University alumni erected a granite monument to his memory there,[5][10] his original stone having disappeared during the American Revolution.[8]