A blue plaque is to be installed in East Budleigh in honour of former resident Roger Conant, who founded the city of Salem in Massachusetts.

Conant was born in the village in 1592 and his family lived in the Mill House; there is a ‘Conant Stone’ outside the church hall, said to have come from the mill.

As an adult he worked in London and later emigrated to the US with his wife and son in 1623, just a few years after the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in the Mayflower. Unhappy with the strict Puritan way of life in the Plymouth colony, he led a group of settlers to a place known as Naumkeag, where they built houses and founded businesses. Conant served as governor of the settlement.

He was very active in local affairs and was renowned for his altruism and his attitude of tolerance and conciliation among the early settlers of New England. This was famously demonstrated when in 1625 he intervened in a dispute between some West Country fishermen and a group of Puritan separatists led by an aggressive military officer, Myles Standish. The episode has been commemorated in a painting by Budleigh Salterton artist John Washington, titled ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’.

In much the same spirit, he peacefully surrendered control of Naumkeag to another group of settlers who arrived to take it over in 1628. The place was renamed Salem, a version of the Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, meaning ‘peace'.

Last year, with the 400th anniversary of Conant’s voyage to the US approaching, a group of East Budleigh residents decided to commemorate his life with a blue plaque in the village, and set up a crowdfunding page for the initiative. The plaque has now been made and will be officially unveiled on May 12 by the MP for East Devon, Simon Jupp.

In advance of the unveiling ceremony Mr Jupp has visited East Budleigh, met the Roger Conant group and viewed the plaque, the Conant millstone and the painting.

A group of American visitors, including direct descendants of Roger Conant, will be coming to East Budleigh for the unveiling.