Abraham Pierson, the elder (1613-1678) was an English churchman, known as a minister in New England.
Born in Thornton, Bradford, West Ridings, Yorkshire, Pierson graduated B.A. from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1632. That year he was found to be an unlicensed curate at All Saints' Church, Pavement, York. He was ordained deacon at York in September 1632. Family genealogy says he was ordained in Newark, and that's how he chose the name for the New Jersey town he founded later in life.
On 19 March 1640 Pierson was summoned to the Court of High Commission, described as of Ardsley. He did not attend, and was fined. Family genealogy says he came to America in 1639, to escape persecution for his Puritan views. Pierson was in New England in the early part of 1640, and became ordained a Congregational minister in Boston.
In 1640 Pierson and a party of emigrants from Lynn, Massachusetts formed a new township on Long Island, which they named Southampton. There Pierson remained as minister of the congregational church for four years. In 1644 this church became divided. A number of the inhabitants left, and, uniting with a further body from the township of Wethersfield, formed under Pierson a fresh church at a settlement at Branford, within the jurisdiction of New Haven Colony.
In 1666 Pierson moved again. The background was the new charter was granted to Connecticut Colony, incorporating New Haven with the colony, several of the townships of New Haven resisted. Newhaven, rigidly ecclesiastical from the outset, had, like Massachusetts, made church membership a needful condition for the enjoyment of civic rights. No such restriction was imposed in Connecticut. Pierson disapproved of the Half-Way Covenant, and moved to pursue his vision of theocracy.
The men of Branford, were therefore supported by Pierson, when they opposed the union with Connecticut. When their opposition proved fruitless, they left their homes, leaving Branford almost unpeopled. Taking their civil and ecclesiastical records with them, they established a fresh church and township at Newark. There Pierson died on 9 August 1678.
In 1659 Pierson published a pamphlet entitled Some Helps for the Indians, showing them how to improve their natural reason, to know the true God and the true Christian Religion. It is a short statement of the fundamental principles of monotheism, with a linear translation into the Quiripi language that Pierson made with Thomas Stanton. Verses in Latin by Pierson on the death of Theophilus Eaton have been published.
Pierson married Abigail Mitchell, daughter of Matthew Mitchell and Susan Wood. The often repeated claim that she was Abigail Wheelright was proven wrong in Winthrope, MA by Col Charles Banks and Mr Horace Dickerman of New Haven. Abraham and Abigail's son, the younger Abraham Pierson was the first head of Yale College, Connecticut; and their daughter Abigail married John, son of John Davenport (died 1670). At least six other children are mentioned.