Experience Mayhew

Experience Mayhew (1673-1758) was a New England missionary to the Wampanoag Indians on Martha's Vineyard and adjacent islands. He is the author of Massachusett Psalter (a rare book like Bay Psalm Book and Eliot Indian Bible). He married Thankful, daughter of Thomas Hinckley, Governor of Plymouth Colony.

Experience was born on January 27, 1673, in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, the oldest son of Rev. John Mayhew, missionary to the Indians, nephew of Gov. Matthew Mayhew, and great-grandson of Gov. Thomas Mayhew.[1] Jonathan Mayhew, his most famous child, became a minister at Old West Church in Boston. Jonathan Mayhew coined the phrase "No taxation without representation."

The Mayhews’ missionary work is considered the “longest most persistent missionary endeavor” in the annals of Christendom.[2] Experience Mayhew began to preach to the Wampanoag Indians at the age of 21. He became a Congregational minister with the oversight of five or six Indian assemblies, and continued in his ministry for 64 years. Having thoroughly mastered the Wôpanâak language, which he had learned in infancy, he was employed by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England to make a new version of the Psalms and of the Gospel of John, which he did in 1709 in parallel columns of English and Indian.

In 1709, Experience published "Massachusett Psalter" with Thomas Prince. The 1709 Massachusett Psalter is the first appearance of any book of the New Testament printed in American in the English language.[3] " After John Eliot's Indian Bible, this is the most important monument of the Massachusett language. Mayhew's version of the Psalms and Gospel of St. John is based upon Eliot's, but the spelling varies considerably and there are other revisions in the verses. The book gains added interest from the fact that it went through the hands of an Indian printer, the J. Printer of the title-page. James Printer was a native who was taught English at the Indian Charity School at Cambridge. In his youth he was apprenticed to Samuel Green, the printer at Cambridge, and worked for him for many years, subsequently moving to Boston with Green's son Bartholomew. He was the first North American Indian to be known as a printer.[4]

In 1717, he translated the Lord's Prayer into Mohegan-Pequot.[5]

Mayhew published Indian Converts in 1727, which covers the lives and culture of four generations of Wampanoag men, women, and children on Martha's Vineyard. Mayhew is also the author of the sermon Grace Defended.

It was said of him, "Had he been favored with the advantages of education he would have ranked among the first worthies of New England."[1]


  1. 1 2 Wilson, James Grant, and John Fiske, eds. Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Appleton & Co. (1900), Vol. IV, pp. 275-76.
  2. "CHURCH AT THE CENTER June 2013" (PDF).
  3. "The Museum News, Volumes 6-8". Google book. Brooklyn Museum.
  4. "Sotheby's".
  5. Libby, Sam (18 October 1998). "Tribes to Revive Language". The New York Times. p. 6.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

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