John Eliot was baptised in the church of St.John the Baptist, Widford, on 5th August 1604. His parents, Bennett and Lettys Eliot (nee Aggar) were married in this same church on 30th October 1598. Bennett Eliot was a yeoman of Norman origin and was, according to William Sidney Eliot Jr., speaking at Natick, Massachusetts in 1901, a brother of Sir John Eliot, who died a prisoner in the Tower of London in 1632, following his declaration in the House of Commons that “the council and judges conspire to trample under their feet the liberties of the subject and the privileges of Parliament”.
At the age of fourteen, John Eliot entered Cambridge University, Jesus College. He took his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1622, at the age of eighteen, with a reputation for excellence in Greek and Hebrew. He took Holy Orders in 1625 and his Christian faith became the motivating force for his whole life.
He sailed in the ship “Lyon” to Massachusetts, arriving on 2nd November 1631. His fiancée, Hannah Mumford, then joined him and they were married on 4th September 1632 and settled to a life of service in the church.
In 1644 he began the work of learning the Algonquin language so thoroughly that he was able to preach in it, answer questions in it, and then finally translate the whole Bible, along with other books, so that the Indians could read their own language.
John Eliot helped to found Harvard University, where there is a memorial window to him. He had a hand in the first Charter and supported its first Master, Henry Dunster, in plans for an Indian College. The building was never used for its intended purpose.
One of his finest and most enduring achievements was as the Founder in 1645 of Roxbury Latin School, the oldest school in continuous existence in North America, a flourishing institution with a fine record and reputation.
John Eliot died on 21st May 1690, his wife Hannah, who had born him six children, having pre-deceased him in 1687.