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Elder William Brewster

Elder William Brewster[1, 2, 3]

Male Abt 1560 - 1644  (~ 84 years)

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  • Name William Brewster 
    Prefix Elder 
    Born Abt 1560  Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [4
    Gender Male 
    Died 10 Apr 1644  Duxbury, Plymouth Colony, American Colonies Find all individuals with events at this location  [4

      William and his wife Mary and two of their children Love and Wrasling came on the "Mayflower". They left their other children behind to come later. He was educated at Cambridge University and was a religious leader and in 1608 he lead his followers to Leyden, Holland where he taught at the University there. In 1920 he lead his followers to the new world.

      WILLIAM BREWSTER: Was the leader of the PILGRIMS, who established Plymouth Colony.

      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 it's move to Holland in 1608. His influence was 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.

      Notes for MARY ?: She immigrated on Saturday, 16 December 1620 to Plymouth, New Plymouth Colony, on the Mayflower. She died at the age of about 59 on Tuesday, 17 April 1627.


      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 discreet and 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 gold chain, 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 of his 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; . . . "

      (c. 1566 - April 10, 1644), was a Pilgrim colonist leader and preacher who came from Scrooby , in north Nottinghamshire and reached what became the Plymouth Colony in the «i»Mayflower «/i» in 1620. He was accompanied by his wife, Mary Brewster, and his sons, Love Brewster and Wrestling Brewster. Son Jonathan joined the family in November 1621, arriving at Plymouth on the ship «i»Fortune«/i», and daughters Patience and Fear arrived in July 1623 aboard the «i»Anne«/i».



      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 Manor was in the possession of the Archbishops of York. Brewster's father, William senior, had been the estate bailiff for the archbishop for thirty-one years from around 1580. With this post went that of postmaster , which was a more important one than it might have been in a village not situated on the Great North Road, as Scrooby was then.

      William Junior studied briefly at Peterhouse , Cambridge before entering the service of William Davidson in 1584.[1] In 1585, Davidson went to the Netherlands to negotiate an alliance with the States-General . In 1586, Davidson was appointed assistant to Queen Elizabeth's Secretary of State Francis Walsingham, but in 1587 Davidson lost the favour of Elizabeth, after the beheading of her cousin (once removed) Mary, Queen of Scots .


      «/b»Cambridge was a centre of thought concerning religious reformism, but Brewster's time in the Netherlands, in connection with Davidson's work, gave him opportunity to hear and see more of reformed religion. While, earlier in the sixteenth century, reformers had hoped to amend the Anglican church , by the end of it, many were looking toward splitting from it. (See Brownist ).

      On Davidson's disgrace, Brewster returned to Scrooby. There, from 1590 to 1607, he held the position of postmaster. As such he was responsible for the provision of stage horses for the mails, having previously, for a short time, assisted his father in that office. By the 1590s, Brewster's brother, James, was a rather rebellious Anglican priest, vicar of the parish of Sutton «i»cum«/i» Lound, in Nottinghamshire. From 1594, it fell to James to appoint curates to Scrooby church so that Brewster, James and leading members of the Scrooby congregation were brought before the ecclesiastical court for their dissent. 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.


      «/b»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 Pilgrams settled in Amsterdam, and worshipped with the Ancient Church of Francis Johnson 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 .

      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.

      «/b»William Brewster married Mary , whose maiden name was Wentworth, and was descended from many Wentworth knights. 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.«u»
      The children of William and Mary were:

      «tab» Elder Jonathan Brewster«b» «/b» (August 12, 1593 - August 7, 1659) married Lucretia Oldham of Derby on 10 April 1624, eight children:
      «tab» Jonathan, born 17 July 1629
      «tab»Patience Brewster (c. 1600 - December 12, 1634) married Gov. «u»Thomas «/u»Prence of Lechlade , Gloucestershire , 4 children
      «tab»Fear Brewster (c. 1606 - before 1634) so called because she was born at the height of the Puritans' persecution. Married Isaac Allerton of London , 2 children.
      «tab»Unnamed child was born and died 1609 in Leiden, Holland.
      «tab»Love Brewster was born in Leiden , Holland about 1611 and died between October 6, 1650 and January 31, 1650/1, at Duxbury, Massachusetts . At the age of about 9, he came with his father, mother and brother on the Mayflower to Plymouth, Massachusetts. He married Sarah Collier in Plymouth, Massachusetts on May 15, 1634. Sarah was baptized on April 30, 1616 at St. Olave, Southwark, Surrey, England, and died on April 26, 1691 at Duxbury, Massachusetts. She was a daughter of Jane (____) Clark and William Collier, one of the investors, or Merchant Adventurers, an initial shareholder in the Plymouth Plantation. Love and Sarah were the parents of 4 children:
      «tab» Sarah
      «tab»«b»Wrestling Brewster«/b» was born in 1614 in Leiden, Holland; was living in 1627, died unmarried before the 1644 settlement of his father's estate.
    Person ID I460  Glenn Cook Family
    Last Modified 26 Jan 2015 

    Father William Brewster,   b. 1535, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1608  (Age 73 years) 
    Mother Mary Smythe,   d. Aft 1567 
    Family ID F551617961  Group Sheet

    Family Mary Love Wentworth,   b. 1569,   d. 17 Apr 1627, Plymouth Colony, Americaan Colonies Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 58 years) 
    Married 1591 
     1. Fear Brewster,   b. Abt 1606, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Dec 1634, Plymouth Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 28 years)
     2. Johnathan Brewster,   b. 12 Aug 1593, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 7 Aug 1659, New London, Connecticut, American Colonies Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 65 years)
     3. Love Brewster,   d. Yes, date unknown
     4. Wrasling Brewster,   b. 1605,   d. Yes, date unknown
     5. Patience Brewster,   d. Yes, date unknown
     6. Elizabeth Brewster,   b. 1584,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 11 Jan 2010 
    Family ID F179  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Mayflower Sights Land
    Mayflower Sights Land
    by Mike Haywood by permission
    An imaginary likeness of William Brewster. There is no known portrait of him from life.

  • Sources 
    1. [S273] Janice Gnekow.

    2. [S27]

    3. [S1725] The Brewster Genealogy, Emma C. Brewster Jones, (The Grafton Press, New York, 1908. Voliume 1, Volume 2,

    4. [S290] World Book Encyclopedia, 1960, vol. B, page 486.