North American Scholar

CHEEVER, Ezekiel

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1615-01-25
  • Born City: London
  • Born State/Country: England
  • Parents: William Cheaver, a spinner, & wife
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1708-08-21
  • Death City: Boston
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Married: Mary Culverwell, 1638; Ellen Lathrop, 1652
  • Education:

    Christ's Hospital & Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Eng, 1635

  • Professional Experience:

    Master of public schools, New Haven, MA, 1638-50; Gk & Lat tchr, Charlestown, MA, 1661-70; Boston Latin School, 1670-1708

  • Publications:

    Accidence A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue (Boston, 1708; repr as Cheever's Latin Accidence (Boston, 1838); Scripture Prophecies Explained (Boston, 1757)

  • Notes:

    Ezekiel Cheever attended either the Christ's Hospital, a school for poor orphans, called the Blue Coat School from the student uniform, or he attended St. Paul's School, a few years after John Milton had been a student there. Emmanuel College, founded in 1584, was the model for Harvard, founded by fellow Emmanuel Puritan John Harvard (1607-38).  Cheever came to America in 1637, arriving in Boston, where he stayed for one year before moving to Quinnipiac, the Indian settlement that became the New Haven Colony (later Connecticut), which he helped found. He held Latin classes in his home then in a schoolhouse and wrote a Latin school text generally known as the Accidence, which became widely used in New England, running through many editions for nearly 200 years after its publication, longer than any Latin textbook published in this country. The book was a compendium, so to speak, of Lily's famous text, to which it formed a short and simple introduction. This book and the notable students he saw into the colleges of his day that represents his signal contribution to the methods of teaching Latin in America. Cheever signed the Plantation Covenant in 1639 to establish the religious and civil structure of the colony. Censured in 1649 for "uncomely gestures and carriage before the church," (he objected volubly to a judgement by the church elders), the same year that his wife Mary died, he moved to Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he became the Latin master at the Boston Latin Grammar School, where he remained for 38 years. His underlit classroom featured a smoky fireplace and a bundle of birch rods beside his desk. Cheever taught Latin and Greek longer--70 consecutive years--than anyone else in the history of this country.   His pupil and first biographer, Cotton Mather (1663-1728), pronounced his praises in a funeral sermon that called upon Homer and Aristotle, Cicero and Cato, as well as the Church Fathers to provide historical examples comparable to his own of the proper respect and reverence due to schoolmasters, particularly a great teacher “than whom New England had known no better.”

  • Sources:

    Franklin Parker, "Ezekiel Cheever: New England Colonial Teacher," Peabody Journal of Education 37,6 (May 1960) 355-60; “Biographical sketch of Ezekiel Cheever, with Notes on the Free Schools and Early School-Books of New England” American Journal of Education (March 1856); Elizabeth P Gould, Ezekiel Cheever, Schoolmaster (Boston, 1904); John T Hassam, “Ezekiel Cheever and Some of His Descendants,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 33 (1879) 164-202; John F Latimer, “Ezekiel Cheever and His Accidence,” CW 43 (1949-50) 179-83; idem, “The 'Author' of Cheever's Accidence,” CJ 46 (1950-1) 391-7; Cotton Mather, Corderius Americanus (Boston, 1708); NatCAB 12:439; John F Ohles, BDAE, 262-3; Thomas Woody, DAB 4:47-8

  • Author: John Francis Latimer