William Brewster (1567-1644)

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Early Plymouth Colony settler (1620) from the Mayflower.

Vital Statistics Edit

  • 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

Biography Edit

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.

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. Offput 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.

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). Richard More (1614-c1694) and his sister were children placed in their household in Plymouth.

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.

Children of William Brewster and Mary Love Edit

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.[3]

The children of William and Mary were:

  • Elder Jonathan Brewster (August 12, 1593 - August 7, 1659) married Lucretia Oldham of Derby on 10 April 1624, eight children.
  • Patience Brewster (c. 1600 - December 12, 1634) married Thomas Prence of Lechlade, Gloucestershire, 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, 2 children.
  • Unnamed son (born and died 1609)
  • Love Brewster (1611-1650) came over on the Mayflower 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.

Bradford's Passenger ListEdit

From Gov. Bradford's list of Mayflower passengers (written circa 1650).

Mr. William Brewster; Mary, his wife; with 2 sons, whose names were Love and Wrasling; and a boy was put to him called Richard More; and another of his brothers. 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.

References Edit

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