Plymouth County Biographies

Part of the Massachusetts Biographies Project

Elder William Brewster

William Brewster lived in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, as early as 1570, or 1571, in which year he was assessed in that town on goods valued at three pounds. In 1575 or 1576 he was appointed by Archbishop Sandys, receiver of Scrooby, and bailiff of the manor-house in that place belonging to the bishop, to have life tenure of both offices. Some time in the year 1588, or possibly before, he was appointed to the additional office of postmaster under the Crown. He was known as the "Post" of Scrooby, and was master of the court mails, which were accessible only to those connected with the court. He died in the summer of 1590. His wife was Prudence - . Child: William, mentioned below.

Elder William (2) Brewster, immigrant ancestor, who came in the "Mayflower," was born during the last half of the year 1566 or the first half of 1567, the date being fixed by an affidavit made by him at Leyden, June 25, 1609, when he declared his age to be forty-two years. The place of his birth is not known. but is supposed to have been Scrooby. The parish registers of Scrooby do not begin until 1695, and no record of Brewster's birth, baptism or marriage has ever been discovered. He matriculated at Peterhouse, which was then the "oldest of the fourteen colleges grouped into the University of Cambridge", December 3, 1580, but does not appear to have stayed long enough to take his degree. He is next found as a "discreete and faithfull" assistant of William Davison, secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth, and accompanied that gentleman on his embassy to the Netherlands in August, 1585, and served him at court after his return until his downfall in 1587. He then returned to Scrooby, where he was held in high esteem among the people of that place, and did much good "in promoting and furthering religion". In 1590 he was appointed administrator of the estate of his father, who died in the summer of that year, and succeeded him as postmaster, which position he held until September 30, 1607. While in Scrooby he lived in the old manor house, where the members of the Pilgrim church were accustomed to meet on Sunday. When the Pilgrims attempted to remove to Holland in the latter part of 1607, they were imprisoned at Boston. Brewster was among those imprisoned, and suffered the greatest loss. After he reached Holland, he endured many unaccustomed hardships, not being as well fitted as the other Pilgrims for the hard labor which was their common lot, and spent most of his means in providing for his children. During the latter part of the twelve years spent in Holland, he increased his income by teaching and by profits from a printing press which he set up in Leyden. When, after the twelve years, it was decided that the church at Leyden should emigrate to Virginia, Brewster, who had already been chosen elder, was desired to go with the first company. He was, therefore, with his wife Mary, and two young sons, among the passengers of the "Mayflower," which landed in Plymouth harbor, December 16, 1620. Here he bore an important part in establishing the Pilgrim republic, was one of the signers of the famous Compact, and believed to have drafted the same. He was the moral, religious and spiritual leader of the colony during its first years and its chief civil advisor and trusted guide until his death. His wife was Mary - . She died April 17, 1627 , somewhat less than sixty years old. Elder Brewster died April 10, 1644, in Plymouth, and a final division of his estate was made by Bradford, Winslow, Prence and Standish, between Jonathan and Love, his only remaining children.

Children: Jonathan, born August 12, 1593, mentioned below; Patience; Fear; Child, died in Leyden, buried June 20, 1609; Love; Wrestling, came in the "Mayflower" with his parents and brother Love, was living at the time of the division of cattle, May 22, 1627.

Source: Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. Volume IV