Early Plymouth Colony settler (1620) from the Mayflower.
- Son of William Brewster (1527-1590) and Prudence Peck and great great a lot of great grandfather of Ayden Shields
- Born about year 1566 in Scrooby, in north Nottinghamshire, England
- First trip to Holland (1585)
- Immigration to Holland with Pilgrims (1609)
- Immigration to America on the Mayflower (1620) and fourth signatory to the Mayflower Compact
- Died 1644 - Plymouth Colony
William Brewster was the 'ruling elder' for the religious Pilgrims in the mixed group of passengers aboard the Mayflower in 1620. Previously he had been a diplomat, lawyer, printer and teacher. His printing press was destroyed by authorities and he was forced into hiding for his extreme non-conformist views that were quite contrary to the orthodox doctrine of the established Church of England. He arrived in London by disguise to take up passage on the Mayflower to escape English persecution.
He was the son of William Brewster and Mary Smyth and he had a number of half-siblings. His paternal grandparents were William Brewster and Maud Mann. His maternal grandfather was Thomas Smyth. Brewster may have been born in Doncaster.
Scrooby Separatists were a mixed congregation of early English Protestants / non-conformists founding living in the border region of of South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. They were called "Separatists" because of their rebellion against the religious authority of the Church of England, the official state religion. In 1607/8 the Congregation emigrated to Netherlands in search of the freedom to worship as they chose. Shortly after that they were the basis of the group to sail in the Mayflower to the New World.
They were set on a path of separation from the Anglican Church. From about 1602, Scrooby Manor, Brewster's home, became a meeting place for the dissenting Puritans. In 1606, they formed the Separatist Church of Scrooby.
Restrictions and pressures applied by the authorities convinced the congregation of a need to emigrate to the more sympathetic atmosphere of Holland, but leaving England without permission was illegal at the time, so that departure was a complex matter. On its first attempt, in 1607, the group was arrested at Scotia Creek, but in 1608 Brewster and others were successful in leaving from The Humber. In 1609, he was selected as ruling elder of the congregation.
Initially, the Pilgrims settled in Amsterdam, and worshiped with the Ancient Church of Francis Johson and Henry Ainsworth. Off put by the bickering between the two, though (which ultimately resulted in a division of the Church), the Pilgrims left Amsterdam and moved to Leiden, after only a year.
In Leiden, the group managed to make a living. Brewster taught English and later, in 1616-1619, printed and published religious books for sale in England though they were proscribed there, as the partner of one Thomas Brewer. In 1619, the printing type was seized by the authorities under pressure from the English ambassador Sir Dudley Carleton and Brewster's partner was arrested. Brewster escaped and, with the help of Robert Cushman, obtained a land patent from the London Virginia Company on behalf of himself and his colleagues.
Voyage of the Mayflower
In 1620 he joined the first group of Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower on the voyage to North America. When the colonists landed at Plymouth, Brewster became the senior elder of the colony, serving as its religious leader and as an advisor to Governor William Bradford (1590-1657).
The Mayflower, originating from London with a group of Adventurers bound for the New World rendezvoused on 22 July with the Speedwell just arriving from Holland with a group of religious refugees from Leiden. Originally intended to sail jointly to the English Colony in Virginia it soon became evident that Speedwell was not seaworthy. Passengers and cargo were combined onto Mayflower (with many left behind) for the journey, finally departing on September 9.
During the voyage fierce storms blew the ship off course, arriving at Cape Cod on the Eastern Massachusetts coastline on November 9th. For two days they attempted to sail south to Virginia but exhausting supplies and fierce storms caused them to abort this effort and drop anchor at what is now Provincetown Harbor. On November 11th, the group decided to settle here and start their own colony. They wrote a governmental contract called the Mayflower Compact, William was the 4th signer on this document.
About the middle of December 1620, the ship moved and dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor. All the while the pilgrims were conducting several exploring missions of the area and negotiations with the local natives. Almost half of the passengers died, suffering from an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 21, 1621, the surviving passengers disembarked from the Mayflower into their new settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Colony Religious Leader
As the only university educated member of the colony, Brewster took the part of the colony's religious leader until a pastor, Ralph Smith, arrived in 1629. Thereafter, he continued to preach irregularly until his death in April 1644.
Brewster was granted land amongst the islands of Boston Harbor, and four of the outer islands (Great Brewster, Little Brewster, Middle Brewster and Outer Brewster) now bear his name.
Brewster died in 1644 and was likely buried in Miles Standish Burial Ground in Duxbury.
Marriage & Family
William Brewster married Mary, whose maiden name is unknown. During much of the 20th century she was thought to be the daughter of Thomas Wentworth. However, there is no compelling evidence to support this. More recent speculation suggests her maiden name was Wyrall, but again the evidence is weak at best.
The children of William and Mary were:
- Jonathan Brewster (1593-1659) came to Plymouth Colony a year after his parents on the Fortune. There he married Lucretia Oldham. Her brother was Captain John Oldham, whose slaying led to the Pequot Indian war (1636-37). Brewster and Oldham had eight children.
- Patience Brewster (1600-1634) came to Plymouth Colony in 1623 with sister Fear and married Thomas Prence (1600-1673) who would become 4th Governor of the colony. They had 4 children.
- Fear Brewster (1606-1634) - so called because she was born at the height of the puritans' persecution. Married Isaac Allerton (1586-1658) of London, two children. Stayed behind when parents sailed on Mayflower, but joined them shortly afterwards.
- Unnamed son (born and died 1609)
- Love Brewster (1611-1650) came over on the Mayflower at age 9 and married Sarah Collier of London, 4 children
- Wrestling Brewster (1614-1627) - Mayflower passenger who died young and unmarried per Gov Bradford's journal (Ford 2:402).
- (possibly) Captain Edward Brewster - traveled to Virginia with Thomas West, Lord Delaware.
|Offspring of William Brewster III and Mary Smythe (1536-1579)|
|Henry Brewster (1562-1644)|| |
|William Brewster (1567-1644)||1566 Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, United Kingdom||10 April 1644 Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States|| Mary Brewster (1569-1627)|
|Edward Brewster (1568-1613)|
Other Household Members
- Humility Cooper (1619-1638) - arrived in 1620 on Mayflower with the Tilley's who both died. She was part of the Winslow household in 1623 per the land grant records giving her one acre. By 1627 she was in the Brewster home and in 1638 she returned to England.
- More, Richard (1614-c1694), brother, age 5 (birthday in late Nov), indentured to William Brewster (1567-1644). The only child to survive to adulthood, he lived a long and exciting life, married twice, posterity, eventually passing away in Salem, Massachusetts just shortly after witnessing the hysteria of the Salem witch trials.
- More, Mary (1616-1621)*, sister, age 4, assigned as a servant of William Brewster (1567-1644). She died sometime in the winter of 1620/1621.
Bradford's Passenger List
From Gov. Bradford's list of Mayflower passengers (written circa 1650).
Mr. William Brewster; Mary, his wife; with two sons, whose names were Love and Wrasling; and a boy was put to him called Richard More; and another of his brothers (sic: sister Mary). The rest of his children were left behind, and came over afterwards.
Mr. Brewster lived to very old age; about 80 years he was when he dyed, having lived some 23 or 24 years here in the countrie; and though his wife dyed long before, yet she dyed aged. His sone Wrastle dyed a young man unmaried; his sone Love lived till this year 1650 and dyed, and left 4 children, now living. His doughters which came over after him are dead, but have left sundry children alive; his eldest sone is still living, and hath 9 or 10 children; one maried, who hath a child or 2.
Richard More, his brother (sic: sister Mary) died the first winter; but he is married, and hath 4 or 5 children, all living.
National Monument to the Forefathers, commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims, (including this person) who came to Plymouth Colony in 1620 on the Mayflower. Dedicated on August 1, 1889, it is thought to be the world's largest solid granite monument. Located on an 11 acre hilltop site on Allerton Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Burial Hill Gravesite
William Brewster died on 10 April 1644, at Duxbury, Plymouth Colony. He was predeceased by his wife, Mary Brewster, who died in April 1627, age about sixty. William Brewster was buried in Burial Hill in Plymouth. A memorial stone exists there for him, but the burial place of his wife Mary is unknown.
ELDER WILLIAM BREWSTER
PATRIARCH OF THE PILGRIMS AND THEIR RULING ELDER 1609-1644 OUTSTANDING LEADER OF THE PILGRIM MOVEMENT. THE FOUNDING OF PLIMOUTH PLANTATION AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN THE NEW WORLD.
B. AT SCROOBY, ENGLAND, CA 1566-7
D. AT PLYMOUTH, N.E. CA. APRIL 10, 1644
A RESIDENT OF PLYMOUTH AND DUXBURY
M. CA. 1589 MARY WENTWORTH OF SCROOBY, B. CA. 1568-9, D. AT PLYMOUTH CA APRIL 17, 1627
BOTH (MAYFLOWE RPASSENGERS) REST IN UNKNOWN GRAVES IN PLYMOUTH POSSIBLY IN OR NEAR BURIAL HILL.
ERECTED 1967, BY THE ELDER WILLIAM BREWSTER SOCIETY
- Mayflower Bastard - A Stranger Amoung the Pilgrims by David Lindsay - History of 5 year old Richard More who lived with William Brewster Family at Plymouth Colony. 288 pages (Pulb 2007).
- William Brewster (1567-1644)/List of Famous Descendants
- William Brewster - Wikipedia
- Elder William Brewster IV - FindAGrave Memorial #1619588
- wikipedia:en:William Brewster (Mayflower passenger)
- The Elder William Brewster Society, A Pilgrim Lineage Society
- WilliamBrewster.com - Brewster Family Genealogy
- 1623 Plymouth Land Census
Namesakes of William Brewster (1567-1644)