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William Brewster, (Mayflower)

William Brewster, (Mayflower)

Male 1566-1567 - 1643  (76 years)

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  • Name William Brewster, (Mayflower) 
    Suffix (Mayflower) 
    Born 1566-1567  Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Occupation Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Apr 1643  Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 16 Apr 1643  Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    • Plymouth Families #974.482/P3 D23d

      William Brewster, b. 1567, d. Apr. 10, 1644, was a leader of the PILGRIMS,who established Plymouth Colony. In England he studied briefly at Cambridge, the only Pilgrim Father to have some university training. A member of the local gentry in Scrooby, Yorkshire, he helped organize a separatist religious congregation in 1606 and financed its move to Holland in 1608. His influence wa instrumental in winning the approval of the Virginia Company for the proposal to resettle the congregation in America, and he was one of the few original Scrooby separatists who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. As the church's ruling elder in Leyden and then in Plymouth, Brewster shared with William Bradford and Edward Winslow in the leadership of the Pilgrim enterprise.

      In 1580, William Brewster (1563-1644) matriculated at Peterhouse College, in Cambridge, where it is believed he acquired his earliest Separatist ideas. The Separatists held the view that "the worship of the English Church is flat idolatry; that we admit into our Church persons unsanctified; that our preacher have no lawful calling; that our government is ungodly; that no bishop or preacher preacheth Christ sincerely and truly; that the people of every parish ought to choose their bishop, and that every elder, though he be no doctor nor pastor, is a bishop; --- that set prayer is blasphemous."These were radical views, which struck at the very roots of the government established English church. In Cambridge William BREWSTER joined the Separatist"underground" teachers and students who militantly refused to attend the compulsory services in the state-controlled churches.

      William BREWSTER, upon receiving news of the illness of William BREWSTER, Sr., returned to Scrooby in early 1589. Upon the death of the Senior William BREWSTER, Sir William DAVISON recommended his former aide, William BREWSTER (Jr.), for the bailiff and postmaster positions previously held by BREWSTER's deceased father. During his father's illness, young BREWSTER served more than eighteen months as his father's deputy. On 22 August 1590, a letter was sent from Mr. John STANHOPE to Sir William DAVISON, Queen Elizabeth's secretary. Mr STANHOPE sent his regrets that he could not comply with DAVISON's request. On the death of old BRUSTER, one Samuel REVERCOTES wrote to STANHOPE for the place of postmaster at SCROOBY, and STANHOPE had complied. He stated his reasons for not conferring the place on young BRUSTER, who had served in that place for his father, old BRUSTER. Secretary DAVISON returned the letter with notes in his own hand in defense of young BREWSTER, and pointed out that since, young BREWSTER had held the positions for over a year-and-a-half during his fathers illness, that he should be allowed to continue. Secretary DAVISON apparently was persuasive and/or able to use his influence. BREWSTER got the positions, which he held until he departed for Holland in 1609. CALENDAR OF STATE PAPERS, DOMESTIC SERIES, 1581-90, P.686; THE AMERICAN GENEALOGIST,v.41, pp.1-5; George F. Willison's SAINTS and STRANGERS (1945), pp.11-101, passim; Sherwood, Mary B. PILGRIM, A BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM BREWSTER (1982), 83-85.

      1607 - The Puritan persecution intensified under James I, and William BREWSTER, William BRADFORD and other Scrooby Separatists, at last decided to escape to Holland. "In Autumn 1607, those who had not yet been arrested and thrown into prison resolved to smuggle themselves out of the country. Packing their personal belongings and led by their pastor, Richard CLIFTON, the Separatists set out for the port of Boston, Lincolnshire,England (sixty miles from Scrooby). At Boston, they were betrayed by the captain of the ship that was to have transported them; their goods were ransacked; and they were imprisoned for a month or more. BREWSTER, BRADFORD, and CLIFTON were the last to be set free having served about a year in the prison at Boston, England. Cowie, Leonard W., THE PILGRIM FATHERS, (London, 1970 -American edition,1972) p.26; Sherwood, Mary B., PILGRIM, A BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM BREWSTER (1982); pp.79-110.

      "On 1 December 1607, William Brewster of Scrooby was cited before the High Court of Commission on information that he was a Brownist and disobedient in matters of religion. He was fined 20 pounds." (And apparently he went to prison in addition to the fine.) THE MAYFLOWER QUARTERLY v.57, No.2, pp.106-109.

      A diary entry of 1608 reads, "Seeing themselves thus molested, and that there was no hope of their continuance there, by a joynte consente they resolved to go into the Low Countries, where they heard was freedome of Religion for all men." Their exile to a new and foreign land was not easy. "The ports and havens were shut against them. So as they were fain to seek secret means of conveyance; and to bribe and fee the mariners, and give extra-ordinary rates fo their passages. And yet were they often-times betrayed, many of them; and both they and their goods intercepted and surprised, and thereby put to great trouble and charge." Cotton Mather's LIFE OF GOVERNOR WILLIAM BRADFORD; Bradford, William, HISTORY OF THE PLYMOUTH SETTLEMENT

      1609 - In February 1609 permission was granted by the Burgomasters of Leyden Holland for 150 persons, or thereabouts, to re-settle in Leyden,"provided such persons behave themselves and obey the laws and ordinances. Elder William BREWSTER removed to Leiden, Holland, where he was chosen a ruling elder in the new church. He, at first, made a living as "ribbon maker" in a silk factory, but, as an educated man, he soon was able to earn money by teaching. "His outward condition was mended, and he lived well and plentifully. For he fell into a way, by reason he had the Latin tongue, to teach many students who had a desire to learn the English tongue, to teach them English; and by his method they quickly attained it with great facility; for he drew Rules to learn it by, after the Latin manner. And many Gentlemen, both Danes and Germans, resorted to him, as they had time from other studies; some of them being Great Men's sons." Morton Dexter's ENGLAND and HOLLAND of the PILGRIMS; Bradford's LIFE OF WILLIAM BREWSTER; George F. Willison's SAINTS and STRANGERS (1945), pp.11-101, passim; THE ELDER BREWSTER PRESS (Summer 1980), v.2, No.1, pp.4-6.

      1616 - William BREWSTER, with the aid of John REYNOLDS, a master printer from London and his 22-year-old assistant Edward WINSLOW, printed several anonymous Puritan pamphlets and books, that were smuggled into England for sale there. The publishing house (an extension on the rear of William BREWSTER's house which faced the Stincksteeg, or Stink Alley) was financed by his young friend, Thomas BREWER. King James's government regarded these publications as treasonable; and the English ambassador to Holland insisted that the Dutch authorities imprison Thomas BREWER. William BREWSTER had to go into hiding to avoid arrest and the printing equipment was seized and impounded. THE MAYFLOWER QUARTERLY, v.49, no.4, pp.168-9; ibid, v.52, No.3, p.118; A list of books printed by William BREWSTER at Leiden is shown in THE MAYFLOWER DESCENDANTv.23, pp.97-105 Sherwood, Mary B., PILGRIM, A BIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM BREWSTER (1982), pp.128-136; James Riker, REVISED HISTORY OF HARLEM (1904), pp. 80-81.

      The Mayflower Compact As the ruling elder and only university trained passenger on the Mayflower, it is likely that William Brewster drafted the Mayflower Compact, the first constitution written and adopted in North America. The following is the text of the Compact:

      In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereigne Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britaine, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.

      Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first colony in the Northerne Parts of Virginia; doe, by these Presents,solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civill Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equall Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the Generall Good of the Colonie; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.

      In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Raigne of our Sovereigne Lord, King James of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland, the fiftie-fourth, Anno. Domini, 1620.

      Mr. John Carver Mr. Stephen Hopkins Mr. William Bradford Digery Priest Mr. Edward Winslow Thomas Williams Mr. William Brewster Gilbert Winslow Isaac Allerton Edmund Margesson Miles Standish Peter Brown John Alden Richard Bitteridge John Turner George Soule Francis Eaton Edward Tilly James Chilton John Tilly John Craxton Francis Cooke John Billington Thomas Rogers Joses Fletcher Thomas Tinker John Goodman John Ridgate Mr. Samuel Fuller Edward Fuller Mr. Christopher Martin Richard Clark Mr. William Mullins Richard Gardiner Mr. William White Mr. John Allerton Mr. Richard Warren Thomas English John Howland Edward Doten Edward Liester

      Elder William Brewster died at Plymouth, 10 April 1644, without having made a will, and on 5 June, 1644, his "onely two sonnes surviveing," Jonathan and Love were appointed administrators of his estate.

      Court Orders, II: 101. Under date of 5 June, 1644. The administraton of all the goods and cattells of mr Willm Brewster deceased are graunted by the Court to Jonathan Brewster and Love Brewster And A true Inventory thereof was exhibited to the Court upon the Oathes of the said Jonathan & Love.

      Plymouth Colony Wills, I: 53. Lres of Administracon of all the goods and cattells of mr Willm Brewster Deceased were graunted to Jonathan Brewster and Love Brewster at the genrall Court holden at Plymouth the fift Day of June in the xxth yeare of his said Mas now Raigne of England &c and a true Inventory thereof was exhibited to the Court upon the Oathes of the said Jonathan and Love the same Court.

      The totall is 107 0 8 Myles Standish Tho: Prence.

      The totall of both latten & English books amounts to the sum of 42 .19.11 The totall both of goods & bookes amounts in all to 150 . 00 . 27 Wm Bradford Tho: Prence

      Plymouth Colony Deeds, I: 198 Bradford Govr Whereas William Brewster late of Plym gent deceased left onely two sonnes surviveing vizt Jonathan the Eldest and Love the yeonger And where as the said William dyed intestate for ought can to this day appeare The said Jonathan and Love his sonnes when they returned from the buriall of their father to the house of Mr Willm Bradford of Plymouth in the prsence of mr Raph Partrich Pastor of Duxborrow mr John Reynor Teacher of the Church at Plymouth and mr Edward Buckle Pastor of the Church at Marshfeild and many others being exhorted to honor their Revrend father wth a peaceable proceeding about the division of his estate between them.

      The said Jonathan first answered for his part that although hee were the elder yet was willing to devide lands and goods equally betweene himself and brother. And if in case any differrence should arrise betweene them that it might be soone suppressed said he heere are four of my fathers deere and auncient frends vizt mr Willm Bradford then Govrnor of Plymouth mr Edward Winslow of Marshfeild mr Thomas Prence of Plymouth aforesaid and Captaine MilesStandish of Duxborrow And if my brother please to accept my motion whereinsoevr we shall differ we will stand to their award wch shalbe as firme as if it had beene done by your father &c

      To all wch the said Love Brewster condiscended to the greate satisfaccon of the whole Assembly the said friends of his father being there also prsent who willingly engaged themselves therein to the utmost of their power

      And whereas afterward differrence arose betweene the said brethren Jonathan and Love in divers prticulers about the late dwelling house of their said father at Duxborrow wherein the said Love dwelt and had donn from his marriage to that instant also about certaine accompt wherein Jonathan was made debtor to the estate in a large sume &c Hereupon according to promise theyre ferring themselve to the said speciall and most intimate frends of their said father the said Edward Winslow afterwards Govrnor of Plymouth mr Willm Bradford mrThomas Prence and Captaine Miles Standish aforesaid haveing heard divers thinges alleadged on Loves behalf to prove that the said House and half the Lands of the said Willm belonging thereunto as well as any other the lands of the said Willm devidedor to be devided wth an entire half part of the estate of the said Willm was given to the said Love and Sarah his wyfe upon a Covenant of Contract of marryage to be due at the death of the said Willm Brewster now deceased.

      All wch was offerred to be prooved legally if neede require by solemne prmise though not in writing The said Jonathan also offerring to take off upon oath the greatest part of the said debts also &c The said Edward Winslow Willm Bradford Thomas Prence & Captaine Miles Standish being well acquainted wth their said case as well by divers thinges heard from their revrend father in his life as by the evedence now offerred to be prduced on both sides deter myned as followeth

      And first of all for the said debts wch were alleadged against the said Jonatha the elder brother by the said Love the yonger as aforesaid we conceive that if their father had not acquitted them before his death yet hee would nevr have charged his Eldest sonn wth them in regard of his greate charge of children and so beleeveing it was donn actually or intensively or both we discharged Jonatha of all the said debt his brother made him debtor to thee state aforesaid except foure pounds sterling wch wee award him to pay his brother Love inconsideracon of the wintering of some cattell wch the said Jonathan had the sommering upon the division and for the dyett of Isaack Allerton a grandchild of the said Will wch he had placed wth his sonn Love to table And because hee was the first born of his father we gave him his fathers Armes and also a two yeare old heiffer over and above his part of the devideables of the said estate.

      And for the Dwelling house aforesaid of the said Willm wherein the said Love Brewster resided we were so well acquainted wth the purpose of the sd Willm now deceased and the evidence offerred for proofe seemed to us so strong as wee beleeveing the said Willm had actually or intentively or both given the said house to his sonn Love and Sarah his wyfe and their heires &c Wee the Edward William Thomas and Myles awarded the said dwelling house to the said Love and Sarah his wyfe and their heires &c together wth half the said Estate of Lands goods and cattells except before excepted and as well such other lands as are no yet divided blonging to the said Willm as a Purchaser of the Patent & Plantacon of New Plymouth aforesaid as that at Duxborrow whereon hee lived

      And whereas some differrence might have arrisen about the division of the said Lands at Duxborrow mr Willm Vassell being requested to survey the said Lands he made a division of yt in two parts being an hundred & eleaven acrees of upland or there abouts vizt to Jonathan Brewster an sixtie eight acrees or thereabout wch lay entire together next a dwelling house wch the said Jonathan had built o the said land by the leave of his said father and all the meadow on that side a creeke (wch divided the greatest part of the said land) below a Bridgon the was betweene the houses of Jonathan and Love his brother

      And to Love Brewster fourty three acrees of upland or thereabouts adjoyneing to his dwelling house whereof thirty acrees was cleered land and almost all in tillage the other thirteene being woodland as it was devided in the said Plott drawne by the said Surveighor and marked out and allowed by us except a prcell of land about three quarters of an acree prte in the garden of the said Jonatha and prt in a Swamp adjoyneing wherein onely the said Jonathan had Water to his house as it was marked and staked by us

      Also we gave unto Love Brewster all the meadow on that side the Creek adjoyne in to his land where he liveth and also that smale prcell wch lyeth above the Brid betweene their two houses before expressed

      And the reason wherefore we gave Love the lesse quantitie was and is because th quallity of Loves land in goodnes is equall to the quantitie of Jonathans as we judg And that this is the full determinacon of us the said Edward Willm Thomas and Myles upon the referrence aforesaid of the said Jonathan and Love as wee ar prswaded in our consciences to be equall and just haveing to our best abillitie faythfully discharged our duties towards God their deceased father our former worthy frend and towards Jonathan and Love his onely children remayneing

      In witnes thereof we have put to our hands and ordered it to be put Upon the Records of the Gover meet. ffinished at Plymouth the xxth August 1645 William Bradford Edw: Winslow Tho: Prence Myles Standish

      From Caleb Johnson's website:

      ANCESTRAL SUMMARY: (1) William Brewster, taxed 1524, Bently cum Arksey, York, England; m. Maude Man bef. 1558; children: William and Henry.

      (2) William Brewster II, b. c1535, d. 1590, living in Scrooby, York, England in 1564; m. Mary (Smythe) Simkinson, dau. of William Smythe of Stainforth, Hatfield, England, widow of John Simkinson of Doncaster,York, England.

      (3) William Brewster of the Mayflower

      On 12 June 1609, a Leyden record shows that William Brewster and Ann Peck gave power of attorney to Thomas Simkinson, merchant of Hull. Presumably Thomas Simkinson has some relation to Brewster's mother's first husband John Simkinson.

      Will of Love Brewster

      --------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------

      BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY: William Brewster was the Reverend Elder of the Pilgrim's church at Plymouth, since their pastor John Robinson remained behind in Leyden, Holland with the majority of the congregation which planned to come to America at a later time. Brewster was a fugitive from the King of England, because he had published a number of religious pamphlets while in Leyden which were critical or opposed the tenets of the Church of England. He had been a member of the Separatist church movement from its very beginning, and was the oldest Mayflower passenger to have participated at the First Thanksgiving, in his early fifties.

      William Bradford wrote a lot about William Brewster in Of Plymouth Plantation, some of which follows:

      After he had attained some learning, viz. the knowledge of Latin tongue, and some insight in the Greek, and spent some small time at Cambridge, and then being first seasoned with the seeds of grace and virtue, he went to the court, and served that religious and godly gentleman, Mr. Davison, divers years, when he was Secretary of State; who found him so discreetand faithful as he trusted him above all other that were about him, and only employed him in all matters of greatest trust and secrecy . . . he attended his mr. when he was sent in ambassage by the Queen into the Low Countries . . . And, at his return, the States honored him with a goldchain, and his master committed it to him, and commanded him to wear it when they arrived in England, as they rid through the country, till they came to the court . . . Afterwards he went and lived in the country, in good esteem amongst his friends and the gentlemen of those parts, especially the Godly and religious. He did much good in the country where he lived, in promoting and furthering religion not only by his practise and example, and provocating and encouraging of others, but by procuring of good preachers to the places thereabouts, and drawing on of others to assist and help forward in such work; he himself most commonly deepest in the charge, and sometimes above his ability. . ..They ordinarily met at this house on the Lord's day, (which was a manor of the bishops) and with great love he entertained them when they came, making provision for them to his great charge. He was the chief of those that were taken at Boston, and suffered the greatest loss; and of the seven that were kept longest in prison, and after bound over . . .After he came into Holland he suffered much hardship, after he had spent the most of his means, having a great charge, and many children; and, in regard ofhis former breeding and course of life, not so fit for many employments as others were, especially as were toilsome and laborious. But yet he ever bore his condition with much cheerfulness and contention. Towards the later part of those 12 years spent in Holland, his outward condition was mended, and he lived well and plentifully; for he fell into a way to teach many students, who had a desire to learn the English tongue, to teach them English; . . . He also had means to set up printing, by the help of some friends . . . and by reason of many books which would not be allowed to be printed in England, they might have had more then they could do. . . . And besides that, he would labor with his hands in the fields as long as he was able; yet when the church had no other minister, he taught twice every Sabbath . . . For his personal abilities, he was qualified above many; he was wise and discreet and well spoken, having a grave and deliberate utterance, of a very cheerful spirit,very sociable and pleasant amongst his friends, of an humble and modest mind, of a peaceable disposition, undervaluing himself and his own abilities . ..inoffensive and innocent in his life and conversation . . .he was tender-hearted, and compassionate of such as were in misery,but especially of such as had been of good estate and rank, and were fallen into want and poverty, either for goodness and religions sake, or by the injury and oppression of others; . . .

      --------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------

      NOTE ON WILLIAM BREWSTER'S WIFE: The maiden name of William Brewster's wife has not been proven. The claimit was Mary Wentworth rests solely on the fact that Mary Wentworth happened to live somewhat close to William Brewster in Scrooby,Nottingham. That is very shaky evidence to say the least. Further, it has been proposed that William Brewster may have married Mary Wyrall, but the evidence is just as flimsy for that marriage. There are no fewer than seven marriages from 1590-1610 that have been located in parish registers showing a William Brewster marrying a Mary. All, however, have been satisfactorily eliminated as probable candidates for the William and Mary (Brewster) who came on the Mayflower. So at present, there is no evidence to document who William Brewster's wife Mary actually was.

      --------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------

      This chest is thought to have belonged to William Brewster, and was likely brought over in the Mayflower. Photo courtesy of: Pilgrim Hall Museum

      --------------------------------- -----------------------------------------------

      SOURCES: Barbara Lambert Merrick, Mayflower Families in Progress: William Brewsterfor Four Generations, (Plymouth: General Society of Mayflower Descendants 1994).

      Henry M. Dexter, "The True Date of Birth and Death of Elder Brewster, "New England Historical and Genealogical Register 18 (1864):18-20.

      Lucy Hall Greenlaw, "Early Generations of the Brewster Family, "New England Historical and Genealogical Register 53 (1899):109-115.

      John G. Hunt, "William Brewster, Gent. of Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 75 (1967):407-409.

      John G. Hunt, "Master Williamson of the Mayflower, "National Genealogical Society Quarterly 62 (1974):88-90.

      John G. Hunt, "The Mother of Elder William Brewster of the Mayflower,"New England Historical and Genealogical Register 124 (1970):250-251.

      Mary B. Sherwood, Pilgrim: A Biography of William Brewster (Falls Church,Virginia: Great Oaks Press, 1982).

      Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and Its People,1620-1691 (Ancestry Publishing: Salt Lake City, 1986).

      Charles Edward Banks, English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (Baltiore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1929).

      William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, ed. Samuel Morison (NewYork: Random House, 1952).

      The following is from the Dictionary of American Biography Vol. 2, pg. 29-30:

      William Brewster, Pilgrim father, was an Elder of the Pilgrim Church, first in importance during the Scrooby period, second in importance during the Leyden and Plymouth periods.

      A deposition of his at Leyden finally settles the dispute about the date of his birth and fixes it in the winter of 1566/67, probably in January.
      He came to Scrooby in 1571 with his father and mother; his father in 1575 became baliff of the Manor of Scrooby, one of the exempt estates of the Archbishop of York, and in 1588 was appointed postmaster by Queen Elizabeth when Scrooby was made a post-house on the road between London and York. These positions made the father a man of great importance in the district and provided him with a considerable income. The boy was somehow prepared for the university and entered Peterhouse, Cambridge, in December 1580, where he himself later declared that he acquired his first Separatist ideas. He did not take a degree and perhaps remained at Cambridge only a few months.

      In the autumn of 1583 he became a member of the household of William Davidson, then important in administrative and diplomatic life at the court of Elizabeth, and, becoming one of his trusted retainers, accompanied him on missions to the Netherlands in 1584 and in 1585-86. Despite the disgrace of Davison in 1587 as a result of his part in the execution of Mary Stuart and his consequent retirement from public life, Brewster remained in his service until news of his father's serious illness caused his return to Scrooby in 1589. He served as his father's deputy until the latter's death in 1590 and then was himself appointed to the positions of baliff and postmaster, retaining both until the exodus to Holland in 1608.

      He married in 1591 Mary (---), by whom he had before 1620 six children. Gradually he became the protector and then the principal member of a little congregation of Puritans, gathered from Scrooby and the near-by villages. But they did not "separate" from the Established Church until the autumn of 1606 and it was not until a year later that John Robinson joined them. After some investigation of their proceedings by the High Commission of York, which certainly did not amount to persecution, they decided to leave so ungodly a land and finally succeeded in emigrating to Holland in 1608. Finding Amsterdam also uncongenial, they settled at Leyden in 1609. Here, if not earlier, Brewster became elder and teacher of the new church. To earn a living for his family, he became a printer of Puritan books, written by the leaders in England, and shipped back to them for sale and distribution at home.

      In 1617 the initiation of the plan for emigration to America took him and others to England where he interviewed officers of the Virginia Company and various royal officials to secure permission to colonize and a grand of land. Beyond much doubt he was the principal envoy. Returning to Leyden, he printed in 1618 or 1619 a book which gave great offense to James I. Of this the English government complained to the Dutch authorities in 1619 with such effect that Brewster felt it wiser to discontinue the press altogether and to return with his family to England where he seems to have lived unmolested until the Mayflower sailed in 1620. He played therefore no part in the final steps at Leyden for the emigration to America and was not present when the decision was reached, in April 1620, that the majority should remain at Leyden with Robinson their minister, while the minority should attempt the venture with Brewster himself as their leader. It also seems probable that he played no important part in organizing the company which sailed for America direct from England, being fearful of royal interference with his own emigration.
      He embarked on the Mayflower at London with his wife, two sons, and two boys "bound out" to him. At Plymouth, Brewster was the only church officer until 1629, but held services of prayer and praise only; he expounded the Scripture at length, but was forbidden by the rules to preach, baptize, or celebrate the communion. Though he was therefore never a minister in the Pilgrim sense of the word and though they "called" Smith, Roger Williams, Chauncey, and Reynor as their ministers later, he remained throughout his life the real leader of the church at Plymouth and the man chiefly responsible for its doctrines, observances, and worship. Administrative position was foreclosed to him by his position in the church but he was active in counsel and played a part second only to Bradford in all decisions, great and small. He became one of the Undertakers in 1627 who assumed the Pilgrim indebtedness.
      His library (Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 2nd ser., III, 261-74; V, 37-85) proves him to have been read in history, philosophy, and religious poetry and shows that he continued to buy books throughout his life. We have no idea of his personal appearance but we do know from the inventory of his property (Mayflower Descendant III:15-27) that he wore a violet colored cloth coat, black silk stockings, a ruff, and other clothing, of impeccable modesty, but less severe than the popular tradition attributes to the Pilgrims. Social life at Plymouth was undoubtedly quiet in the extreme but in it Brewster played a very important part, being, says Bradford, "of a very cherful Spirite, very sociable and pleasante amongst his friends."

      He died Apr. 10, 1644, at Plymouth, possessed of a house, lands, cattle, and personalty worth 107 pounds.


      William Brewster was born at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, probably between 1560 and 1566. As a young man, he attended Cambridge University but did not graduate. He then served as an assistant to William Davison, one of Queen Elizabeth I's secretaries of state, accompanying him on a diplomatic mission to Holland. After Davison fell from favor (due to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots), Brewster returned to Scrooby and served as postmaster.

      William Brewster was one of the original members of the religious Separatist congregation at Scrooby that became the nucleus of the Pilgrim church. When the community first attempted to emigrate to Holland in 1607, Brewster and several others were jailed for a short time. He was released and successfully emigrated in 1608. After his arrival in Holland, Brewster served as Elder of the Pilgrim Separatist congregation.

      To support his family, Brewster worked in Leiden as a printer in Leiden.

      When Brewster and other members of the Pilgrim community emigrated to America in 1620 on the Mayflower, their pastor John Robinson remained behind in Leiden. In the absence of an ordained minister, Brewster was the much-loved and respected religious leader of Plymouth Colony.

      Brewster's wife Mary was also a Mayflower passenger. She died in 1627. William and Mary Brewster had 6 children : Jonathan, Patience, Fear, Love, an unnamed child who died young, and Wrestling. Love and Wrestling Brewster arrived in Plymouth with their parents on the Mayflower. Jonathan, Fear, and Love Brewster also settled in Plymouth but emigrated slightly later.

      William Brewster died in 1644. His inventory of several hundred books in both English and Latin attests to his scholarship, his deep love of learning and his spirituality.


      The inventory of the goods of William Brewster, deceased 1644
      William Brewster died intestate*
      *without a will
      L s d
      Inpris 4 paire of stockings 00 04 00
      It 3 wascoasts and a pair of drawers 00 06 00
      It 1 old gowne 00 09 00
      It 1 blew cloth suite 00 15 00
      It 1 old suite turned 00 05 00
      It 1 black coate 00 01 06
      It old cloathes 00 03 00
      It 1 black cloth suite 00 06 06
      It 1 paire of greene drawers 00 01 00
      Item 1 paire of leather drawers 00 00 06
      It 1 list wascoate 00 00 06
      It 1 trusse 00 00 06
      It 1 black coate 00 10 00
      It 1 black stuff suite 00 10 00
      It 1 black suite & cloake 01 15 00
      It 1 dublett 00 01 06
      It 1 peere of stockings 00 01 00
      It 1 black gowne 02 10 00
      It 1 black hatt 00 04 00
      It 2 pere of gloves 00 01 00
      It 1 paire of shooes 00 03 06
      It 2 paire of shooes 00 01 00
      It 1 sheete 00 01 00
      It paire of canvas sheets 00 12 00
      It 1 paire of old sheets 00 06 00
      It 1 paire of sheets 00 07 00
      It 1 old paire of canvas sheets 00 04 00
      It 1 paire of little sheets 00 09 00
      It 1 single sheete 00 06 06
      It 1 diapr cloth 00 07 00
      It 1 sherte 00 04 06
      It 1 shert 00 01 00
      It 1 canvas sheete 00 06 00
      It 1 pillow beere 00 02 00
      It 1 paire of fine sheets 00 15 00
      It 1 paire of courser sheets 00 12 00
      It 1 paire of pillow beers 00 06 00
      It 1 towell 00 01 00
      It 1 pillow beer 00 02 00
      It 1 towell 00 01 00
      It 12 handkercheefs 00 08 00
      It 14 handkercheefs 00 03 00
      It 1 fine handkercher 00 03 00
      It 1 table cloth 00 03 00
      It 1 little table cloth 00 02 00
      It 6 towells 00 04 00
      It 1 old pillowbeere 00 01 00
      It 3 hand kerchers 00 00 08
      It 1 wrought capp 00 06 00
      It 1 laced capp 00 02 00
      It 1 quilted capp 00 01 06
      It 2 old capps 00 00 06
      It 1 ruffe band 00 02 00
      It ruff ript out 00 02 00
      It 6 bands 00 01 00
      It 1 red capp 00 00 08
      It 1 bundell of linnen raggs 00 00 04
      It 2 gerdles 00 01 00
      It 2 paire of thinn stockings 00 01 00
      It 1 knitt cap 00 01 00
      It 1 paire of garters 00 00 04
      It 1 knife 00 00 03
      It a table and forme 00 15 00
      It 1 pistoll 00 07 00
      It 1 silvr beaker & a spoone 01 05 06
      It 1 little trunck 00 00 06
      It 1 bagg & a felling axe 00 00 10
      It 1 little desk 00 01 00
      It 1 chest 00 10 00
      It 1 brod chest 00 08 00
      It 3 cusheons 00 06 00
      It 1 greene cusheon 00 00 06
      It 1 settle bed 00 10 00
      It 1 chaire 00 04 00
      It 1 paire of bellowes 00 01 06
      It a fire shovell & tongues 00 02 00
      It 1 chamber pott 00 03 00
      It 1 pewter bottle 00 00 06
      It 2 pewter cupp & spoons 00 02 00
      It 1 combe 00 00 04
      It 2 brushes 00 00 04
      It 1 candle stick and snuffer 00 02 00
      It 1 lampe 00 00 09
      It 1 boxe 00 00 03
      It sizzers 00 00 04
      It 1 paire of black silk stockings 00 01 06
      It a dagger & knife 00 02 00
      It tobaccoe case 00 00 03
      It 1 case of bottles 00 04 00
      It 2 boxes 00 02 00
      It 1 rapier 00 01 00
      It 2 hammers 00 00 06
      It 1 earthen pott 00 00 04
      It a feather bed & bolster 02 05 00
      It 1 blankett 00 10 00
      It a little table 00 02 00
      It 1 settle bed 00 02 00
      It 2 chaines 00 08 00
      It 2 old shares & 1 Coulter 01 00 00
      It 1 yeok of oxen 10 yeare old 16 00 00
      It 2 yoke of oxen yeonger 28 00 00
      It 1 two yere old stere 02 10 00
      It 1 old cowe 04 10 00
      It 1 red cowe 04 10 00
      It 2 yeong Cowes 08 00 00
      It 1 lame cowe 01 10 00
      It 2 yearling heiffers 02 10 00
      It 1 calf unweaned 00 08 00
      It half a yeong sowe 00 08 00
      It 1 shoare & a half 00 09 00
      It a pigg 00 01 00

      The totall is
      107 0 8
      Myles Standish Tho: Prence

      An inventory of the latten books L s d
      Inpris Nova testamenti Malarato 01 04 00
      It Tromelius & Junius biblia sacra 00 18 00
      It Beza nova testament lat & Cre 01 00 00
      It Centuria Selecta 00 08 00
      It Calvin duodecim prphet 00 15 00
      It Clavis scriptura flacio illirico 00 15 00
      It Peter Martyr Com prio ad Corinthos 00 08 00
      It Musculus Isaiam & Romanos 00 12 00
      It Regneri prandini 00 02 06
      It Gecolumnadij in Jeremia 00 03 00
      It Crisostm mattias & Joannes 00 06 00
      It Musculus Psalmos David 00 12 00
      It Calvi ad Daniel 00 05 00
      It Calvi on Isaye 00 15 00
      It musculus ambos Epist ad Corinthos 00 08 00
      It Molleri ad Psalmos 00 10 00
      It Lanaterus Esechieli 00 05 00
      It Zanchij ad Ephe 00 06 00
      It Syntagma amudo polo Syntagmatis theologia Christianos 00 10 00
      It sulteti Isaiam 00 05 00
      It Purei Hoseam 00 01 00
      It Gualterin Delverin nov testa. 00 02 08
      It Psalm Pagnij 00 02 06
      It Pareus in Genosa 00 08 06
      It Piscator in Nova Testament 00 17 00

      [The list continues with a
      further 39 books in Latin]

      An inventory of the English bookes

      It 1 English Bible lattin letter 00 08 00
      It 1 English bible 00 06 00
      It a new Testament 00 05 00
      It mr Ainsworths Psalmes in prose & meter 00 02 00
      It 1 new testament 00 01 04
      It Major Coment new testament 00 12 00
      It Hexapla upo Daniell 00 05 00
      It 2 volumes of mr Perkins 01 10 00
      It mr Hernes works 00 05 00
      It Babingtons works 00 08 00
      It Cartwright against Remists 00 08 00
      It Byfield on Coloss 00 05 00
      It Dodoner Herball 00 06 00
      It mr Rogers on Judges 00 06 00
      It mr Richardson on ye state of Eur 00 04 00
      It Knights Concord 00 05 00
      It Calvin on Isay 00 06 00
      It Willett on Roman 00 06 00
      It Grensames workes 00 10 00
      It Bodens Comon weale 00 08 00
      It Willet on the 1st Samuel 00 04 00
      It Surveyor by Ratborne 00 03 00
      It Willet on Genesis 00 07 00
      It Senaca workes 00 06 00

      [The list continues with a further
      288 books in English]

      The totall of both latten & English books amounts to the sum of 42 19 11

      The totall both of goods & bookes amounts in all to 150 00 07
    Person ID I594771  7_families
    Last Modified 23 Oct 2006 

    Father William Brewster,   b. Abt 1534, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1590, , , England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 56 years) 
    Mother Mary Smythe,   b. Abt 1535, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married , , England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F215522  Group Sheet

    Family 1 Mary (Wyrall?) Love,   b. 1569, , Leinceshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Apr 1627, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 58 years) 
    Married Bef 1593  London, Middlesex, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
     1. Elizabeth Brewster,   b. Abt 1584, Bishop's Stortford, Herfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
     2. William Brewster,   b. 1585-1586, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 10 Aug 1608  (Age 22 years)
     3. Edward Brewster,   b. 1587, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
     4. Mary Brewster,   b. Abt 1590, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
     5. Jonathan Brewster,   b. 12 Aug 1593, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Aug 1659, Norwich, New London, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 65 years)
     6. Robert Brewster,   b. 1599, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    +7. Patience Brewster,   b. 1605, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Dec 1664, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 59 years)
     8. Son Brewster,   b. Abt 1603, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   bur. 20 Jun 1609  (Age ~ 6 years)
    +9. Fear Brewster,   b. 1606, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Dec 1634, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 28 years)
    +10. Love Brewster, (Mayflower),   b. 1611, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Jan 1651, Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 40 years)
     11. Wrestling Brewster,   b. 1614, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1635, Piscataqua, Portsmouth, New Hampshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 21 years)
    Last Modified 15 Sep 2006 
    Family ID F215520  Group Sheet

    Family 2 Mary,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Last Modified 15 Sep 2006 
    Family ID F215521  Group Sheet

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1566-1567 - Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsOccupation - Postmaster - - Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - Bef 1593 - London, Middlesex, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - Apr 1643 - Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 16 Apr 1643 - Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Maps 
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    William Brewster - First Thanksgiving
    William Brewster - First Thanksgiving
    Elder William Brewster
    Elder William Brewster
    Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
    Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

    William Brewster's cemetery marker
    William Brewster's cemetery marker
    William Brewster marker
    William Brewster marker

  • Sources 
    1. [S7685] William Brewster of the Mayflower and his descendants for four generations, Barbara Lambert Merrick, E. Virginia Hunt, (Plymouth, Mass. : General Society of Mayflower Descendants, c1994), 1 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S311] Mayflower Descendant, (Wheat Ridge, CO: Search & Research Publishing Corporation, 1996), 1: 7 (Reliability: 3).