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Capt. Thomas WILLETT

Male Bef 1605 - 1674  (> 68 years)

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  • Name Thomas WILLETT 
    Title Capt. 
    Born Bef 29 Aug 1605  Barley, Hertfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Christened 29 Aug 1605  Barley, Hertfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 3 Aug 1674  Swansea, Briston County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Death 4 Aug 1674  Swansea, Briston County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, East Providence, Providence County, RI Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • (1) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, International Genealogical Index ®, Copyright © 1980, 2002, data as of October 2, 2011, Batch No.: C072121, Dates: 1559 - 1812, Source Call No.: 0991364, Type: Film, Printout Call No.: NONE:

      Christening: 29 AUG 1605 Barley, Hertford, England

      Father: ANDREW WILLETT

      (2) Coddington, John Insley, The Mother-in-Law of the Reverend Peter Prudden with a Pedigree of the Boyse Family, The American Genealogist, Vol. 19, No. 3 (January 1943), pp. 139-140:

      JOANNA [BOYSE] . . . m. (2) at Milford, 20 Sept. 1671 (as his second wife), Captain THOMAS WILLETT. The parentage and place and date of birth of this famous man are not yet surely known. He spent a considerable part of his youth at Leyden, and knew the Dutch language well. He is said to have come to New England on one of the later voyages of the Mayflower, arriving at Plymouth 15 May 1629, with several other former residents of Leyden. He was soon sent to the Plymouth Colony's outpost, the Penobscot trading house, on the coast of the present State of Maine; and he was left in charge of that post in 1830, and remained in charge of it till he was ejected by the French in 1635. Meanwhile, he was made a freeman of Plymouth in absentia, 1 July 1633. He was at Plymouth, 1635-1639, and he m. (1) there, 6 July 1636, Mary Brown. He was master of the Plymouth trading house at Kennebec, 1639-1644. He then returned to Plymouth to live, but engaged in trading activities all over New England and New Netherlands. He had 6 acres of land in the North Precinct of Plymouth (now Kingston, Mass.) in 1643. He was chosen Captain of the Plymouth military forces, in succession to Mylee Standish, 7 March 1647/8. He was a member of a commission to settle the boundary between the English and Dutch colonies in Sept. 1650, and was appointed by Gov. Peter Stuyvesant to represent the Dutch interests on that commission. He was an Assistant in Plymouth Colony, 1651-1665, though he left Plymouth itself, and removed to Rehoboth in 1651 or 1652. Willett is said to have been so friendly to the Dutch that he warned them of the impending attack by the English in 1664. Because of his knowledge of the Dutch language and his friendship for the Dutch people, Willett was appointed the first (English) Mayor of New York, 12 June 1665, and held office till the summer of 1666; and again from the summer of 1667 to the summer of 1668. After that he left New York, and settled at Swansea, Mass. He d. in that part of Swansea which is now Seekonk, 4 Aug. 1674, and was bur. at the head of Bullock's Cove, in what is now East Providence, R. I. By his second wife, Joanna (Boyce) (Prudden) Willett, he had no children.

      (3) Anderson, Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Vol. 1-3, Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995:


      ORIGIN: Leiden, Holland

      MIGRATION: 1630

      FIRST RESIDENCE: Penobscot

      REMOVES: Plymouth, Rehoboth, New York 1665, Swansea 1668

      OCCUPATION: Merchant, magistrate and soldier.

      FREEMAN: Admitted freeman of Plymouth 1 January 1633/4 [PCR 1:4, 21]. In the list of 7 March 1636/7 [PCR 1:52]. In the Plymouth section of the Plymouth Colony lists of 1639 and 1658 (first in list, as "Capt. Thomas Willett") [PCR 8:174, 197]. In the Swansea section of the Plymouth Colony list of 29 May 1670 [PCR 5:279].

      EDUCATION: On 19 February 1660/1 "Capt. Willet" was one of five men "chosen by the town to transcribe the land records out of the town book [Early Rehoboth 4:13, citing Rehoboth TR 1:136]. His inventory include more than a hundred books, on theology, history, law, navigation and other subjects.

      OFFICES: Plymouth Assistant, 1651-1664 [MA Civil List 38-39].

      Plymouth selectman, 18 February 1649[/50] [PTR 1:30]. Committee to distribute the poor's cattle, 16 July 1638, 7 July 1642, 22 July 1644 [PTR 1:4, 8, 18]. Rater, 17 December 1640, 26 November 1641 [PTR 1:6, 8]. Surveyor, 17 May 1649 [PTR 1:28]. Supplier of coats to pay Indians for killing wolves, 4 November 1650 [PTR 1:31]. Agent to rent land at Punckateesett to Captain Cooke, 26 September 1657 [PTR 1:35].

      In Plymouth section of 1643 Plymouth Colony list of men able to bear arms [PCR 8:188]. He succeeded Capt. Miles Standish as captain of the military company at Plymouth on 7 March 1647/8 [PCR 2:121].

      Mayor of New York, 1665, 1667 [Berthold Fernow, ed., The Records of New Amsterdam from 1653 to 1674 Anno Domini (New York 1897; rpt., Baltimore 1976) 5:250-52].

      ESTATE: On 4 February 1638/9 Plymouth Court granted to "John Done and Thomas Willett one hundred acres apiece of upland and meadow" at Jones River [PCR 1:112]. On 1 June 1640 he was granted ten acres of meadow at Jones River [PCR 1:154]. On 3 August 1640 "Thomas Willett is granted six acres of upland for his houselot at the little swamp on the north side Mr. Done's field towards Fresh Lake" [PCR 1:159]. On 2 November 1640 he received twelve acres in the North Meadow by Jones River [PCR 1:166].

      He surrendered his right in Clark's Island granted by the town of Plymouth back to the town of Plymouth 18 February 1649[/50] [PTR 1:29].

      On 3 February 1648 Edmond Freeman Sr. of Sandwich sold to "Mr. Thomas Willit and Mr. William Paddy" of Plymouth, merchants, "an house and land at Joanese's River sometimes appertaining unto Mr. Isaack Allerton" [PCR 12:133]. On 22 March 1663[/4] Thomas Willett received lot 32 in Punkateesett Neck and shared it with "Mr. Paddy" [PTR 1:69].

      In his will, dated 26 April 1671 and proved 25 November 1674, "Thomas Willett of Swansey . . . being going on in the sixty-fourth year of my age," having named "my loving sons James, Hezekiah, Andrew and Samuell" as joint executors and having appointed as overseers "my wellbeloved son-in-law Mr. John Saffin and my loving friend Mr. Robert Holmes and my dear brother-in-law Mr. James Browne and my dear son-in-law Mr. Samuell Hooker and the Reverend Mr. John Myles," bequeathed to "my four sons my said executors, namely James Willett, Hezekiah Willett, Andrew Willett and Samuell Willett all my now dwelling house, warehouse, outhouses, barns and all other edifices, gardens, orchards and pasture fields whatsoever, thereunto belonging . . . to be equally divided amongst them" (land described in detail, with an attempt at entail); to "my said four sons . . . all my study or library of books" to be divided equally; to "my said four sons . . . all my estate of commonage, either in the township of Rehoboth or Swansey except what I shall give unto my grandson Samuell Hooker"; to "my grandson Samauell Hooker . . . eighty acres of upland . . . , together with fifty pounds estate of commonage" in Rehoboth; to "my grandchildren hereafter mentioned all my lands ... in the Narragansett Country"; to "my grandson Thomas Saffin a double portion of all my said lands in the Narragansett Country"; to "my son Hooker's six sons aleady born and to all and every such son, as shall be born to him by his wife my daughter Mary . . . and to my son Saffin's four sons not already mentioned . . . and to all and every such son as shall be born to him by his wife my daughter Martha . . . and to all such sons as shall be borne by my daughter Ester," a share in the Narragansett Country; to "my eldest son James Willett fifty pounds . . . in land remote from my dwelling house"; to "my dear daughter Ester Willett fifty pounds . . . in land remote from my said dwelling house"; to "my said four sons James, Hezekiah, Andrew and Samuell" all other lands not disposed of; to "my three sons Hezekiah, Andrew and Samuell fifty pounds apiece in money, towards their maintenance in schools and other ways and means for attainment of learning"; to "my grandson Samuell Hooker" ??25; to "my granddaughter Sarah Elliott" ??50; to "my old servant John Padducke" ??10; to my overseers forty shillings apiece; to the church of Plymouth ten pounds and to the church of Swansea ten pounds and to the church at Rehoboth five pounds; to "the Reverend Mr. John Myles ten pounds"; residue equally to "my said four sons . . . James Willett, Hezekiah Willett, Andrew Willett and Samuell Willett . . . and also to my three beloved daughters namely Mary Hooker, Martha Saffin and Ester Willett" [MD 26:80-84, citing PCPR 3:1:114-16]

      The inventory of the estate of "Capt. Thomas Willett," taken 21 August 1674, totalled ??2798 14s. 7d., including ??1289 in real estate: "the dwelling house, outhouses, warehouse and barn and all other edifices, gardens or orchards and all the land given by Mr. John Browne Senior whereon the before specified houses now stand and two 80 acre lots thereunto adjoining whereof by estimation there is 100 and 50 acres improved, 20 acres of meadow at Broad Cove and 20 acres at Cooper's Meadow, and twenty acres at Papasquash," ??720; "ten acres at Poquanamsquot and ten acres at Kekamuett and 5 acres at Musquashcocke," ??255; "450 acres of upland in several allotments," ??225; "35 acres of upland at Torrey's Creek," ??10; "80 acres of upland at Cooper's Meadow," ??25; "300 pound commonage in Rehoboth," ??15; "400 acres of upland and 40 acres of fresh meadow on the north side of the town of Rehoboth," ??10; "1 whole share of upland and meadow on the north side of Rehoboth," ??15; and "1 lot at Wachamauquatt containing 48 acres," ??14; to which was appended the "land at Narragansett not appraised, as also land at Pocasset one whole share not appraised" [MD 33:35-39, citing PCPR 3:1:117-28].

      BIRTH: About 1610 (possibly son of Thomas and Alice (_____) Willett of Norwich and Leiden [NEHGR 61:157-60]).

      DEATH: Swansea 3 August 1674 [SwVR 408] (according to Burgess, his gravestone says he died at Swansea on "August 4, 1674, in the 64th year of his age" [NEHGR 61:159]).

      MARRIAGE: (1) Plymouth 6 July 1636 Mary Brown [PVR 652], daughter of John Brown. She died 8 January 1669[/70] [NEHGR 2:376].

      (2) Milford 19 September 1671 Joanna (Boyse) Prudden, widow of Rev. Peter Prudden [TAG 19:139-40]. (Savage says her gravestone of 1699 calls her his only wife and finds the error peculiar, but Burgess reads the stone to say 1669 and attributes it more correctly to the first wife.)

      CHILDREN (see COMMENTS below):

      [i] MARY, b. 10 November 1637; m. Plymouth 22 September 1658 Samuel Hooker [PCR 8:21; PVR 662], son of THOMAS HOOKER; m. (2) Farmington 10 August 1703 Rev. Thomas Buckingham [Farm VR Barbour 24, citing Farmington LR 1:4].

      [ii] MARTHA, b. 6 August 1639; m. Plymouth 2 December 1658 John Saffin [PCR 8:22; PVR 662].

      [iii] JOHN, b. 21 August 1641; m. in 1663 Abigail Collins, daughter of Edward Collins [NEHGR 89:151; MHSP 2:7:150; Goodwin Anc 1:393].

      [iv] SARAH, b. 4 May 1643; m. by 1662 John Eliot, son of JOHN ELIOT.

      [v] REBECCA, b. 2 December 1644; d. Plymouth 2 April 1652 [PCR 8:14; PVR 660]. (The death record does not give her age.)

      [vi] THOMAS, b. 1 October 1646; no further record.

      [vii] HESTER, b. Plymouth 6 July 1648 [MD 15:27; PCR 8:4, 291]; m. 24 January 1671/2 Rev. Josiah Flint of Dorchester [Sibley 2:153 (the marriage is said to have taken place in Swansea, but the event does not appear in the published vital records of that town or of Dorchester)].

      [viii] JAMES, b. Plymouth 24 November 1649 [PCR 8:8; PVR 657]; m. (1) Rehoboth 17 April 1673 Elizabeth Hunt [PCR 8:52], daughter of Peter Hunt; m (2) Swansea 2 August 1677 Grace Frinck [SwVR 23].

      [ix] HEZEKIAH, b. Plymouth 20 July 1651 [PCR 8:12; PVR 659]; d. 26 July 1651 [PCR 8:13].

      [x] HEZEKIAH, b. Plymouth "16 November or thereabouts" 1653 [PCR 8:15]; m. Swansea 7 January 1675[/6] Anna Brown, daughter of John Brown [SwVR 23; PCR 8:61].

      [xi] DAVID, b. 1 November 1654; no further record.

      [xii] ANDREW, b. 5 October 1655; m. 6 March 1693/4 Susannah Holbrook [BrVR 721; NEHGR 59:145 (defective entry)].

      [xiii] SAMUEL, b. 27 October 1658; said to have married and had a large family at Flushing, Long Island, but there is much confusion with the descendants of another Thomas Willet who did settle in Flushing [NYGBR 10:181; Austin 430].

      ASSOCIATIONS: William Paddy remembered Willett's wife with a small bequest and was frequently closely paired with Willett in town duties and land grants. Willett was an executor of Paddy's estate [RCA 3:185].

      COMMENTS: On 30 July 1631 Thomas Willett was one of those who deposed about the activities of EDWARD ASHLEY at Penobscot [MHSP 45:496-97]. Willett managed the Plymouth fur trading interests in Maine at various later dates.

      In his journal kept in the summer of 1635 when he came to New England in the James, Richard Mather mentioned stopping at Richmond Island and

      "one Mr. Willett, of New Plymouth, and other three men with him, having been turned out of all their havings at Penobscot [by the French] about a fortnight before, and coming along with us in our ship from Richmond's Island, with his boat and goods in it made fast at the stern of our ship, lost his boat [in the terrible storm] with all that was therein, the violence of the waves breaking the boat in pieces, and sinking the bottom of it into the bottom of the sea" [Young's First Planters 475].

      Bradford's version was that

      "This year they sustained another great loss from the French. Monsier de Aulnay coming into the harbor of Penobscote, and having before got some of the chief that belonged to the house aboard his vessel, by subtly coming upon them in their shallop, he got them to pilot him in, and after getting the rest into his power, he took possession of the house in the name of the king of France; and partly by threatening, & otherwise, made Mr. Willett (their agent there) to approve of the sale of the goods there unto him, of which he set the price himself, in effect, and made an inventory thereof (yet leaving out sundry things), but made no payment for them, but told them in convenient time he would do it if they came for it. For the house & fortification, &c. he would not allow, nor account anything, saying that they which build on another man's ground do forfit the same. So thus turning them out of all, (with a great deal of compliment and many fine words), he let them have their shallop and some victuals to bring them home. Coming home and relating all the passages, they here were much troubled at it, & having had this house robbed by the French once before, and lost then above ??500 (as is before remembered), and now to lose house & all, did much move them" [Bradford 275-76].

      Despite these troubles, Thomas Willet had a facility for dealing with the Dutch and he proceeded from unfavorable dealings with the French to very positive dealings with the Dutch. In a letter dated 22 May 1637 Edward Winslow wrote to John Winthrop that "Thomas Willet is come in from the Dutch..." [WP 3:419]. On 4 April 1650 Thomas Broughton of Watertown, merchant, gave Capt. Thomas Willett of Plymouth power to request the sum of ??47 3s. 6d. from "Mijn Heere Peter Stuijvesant, Governor of the New Netherlands" [Aspinwall 277].

      Capt. William Davis and Capt. Thomas Willet were joint executors to the estate of Mr. William Paddy, and were sued by Capt. Thomas Clarke at the General Court 21 October 1666 and 31 May 1670, with a neutral result [MBCR 4:2:447, 455].

      On 5 March 1667/8 Plymouth Court did "allow and approve that the township granted unto Captain Willet and others, his neighbors, at Wannamoisett and places adjacent, shall henceforth be called and known by the name of Swansey" [PCR 4:175-76].

      On 11 November 1673 Thomas Willet petitioned the Court of Assistants for permission to detain the goods of some Dutchman in New England, as security against his goods which had been detained by the Dutch when they retook New York [RCA 3:257].

      Full dates of birth for all thirteen of the children of Thomas Willet have been published in various secondary sources [NEHGR 2:376; Austin 426-30], but contemporary records for only four [vii-x] have been found. If the remaining nine birthdates are correct, they presumably derive from a private record that has vanished from sight.

      BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE: The items offerred above depict only a few of the many aspects of the life of Thomas Willet. In 1907 George Canning Burgess published an excellent summary of the career of Thomas Willet [NEHGR 61:157-164]. Willet deserves attention from a modern biographer.


      Thomas Willett
      Birth: 1610, England
      Death: Aug. 3, 1674, Swansea, Bristol County, Massachusetts, USA

      Colonial Mayor. First Mayor of New York City. Arriving in 1632 on "The Lion" (with a religious separatist movement that called themselves "The Saints", that fled England to Leydon [sic], Holland then went back to England to follow the Mayflower voyage), Thomas Willett was a merchant that traded from Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. He succeeded Captain Miles Standish as head of the Colonial Militia and negotiated what is now known as the "Rehoboth North Purchase" which acquired land (now known as Attleboro and North Attleboro, Massachusetts) from Wampanoag leader Sachem Wamsutta who was the son of famed chief Massasoit. He later conducted sea trade from the Colonies and was a navigator from 1651 to 1654. When the charter of "New Amsterdam" was changed to British possession, Governor Richard Nicholls granted the city charter on June 12, 1665 and the city, population 1,500 at the time, got Thomas Willett as its English representative/mayor, making him the first mayor of "New York". He served two concurrent one-year terms from 1665 to 1667. His property in that colony was confiscated when the Dutch reclaimed the area and he settled in the locale of Barrington, Rhode Island (while some accounts have his retirement in Sewansea or Seekoknk, Massachusetts, these towns are all close and at the time the town lines that currently exist were not the same.) He was married to Mary Brown and together they had fourteen children. There is a large memorial marker placed for him, and near it is the original weathered stone which, now unreadable is documented as having the following inscription "1674 Here lyeth the body of the worthy Thomas Willett, Esq. who dies August 4 in the 64th year of his age, and who was the first mayor of New York and twice did sustain the place." (bio by: R. Digati)

      Family links: Spouses: Mary Brown Willett (____ - 1669), Joanna Boyse Prudden Willett; Children: Mary Willett Hooker (1637 - 1682), Mary Willett Hooker (1637 - 1682), Sarah Willett Eliot (1643 - ____), Esther Willett Flynt (1647 - 1737)

      Burial: Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, East Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island, USA

      Maintained by: Find A Grave
      Originally Created by: R. Digati
      Record added: Jun 08, 2004
      Find A Grave Memorial# 8890542
    Person ID I27871  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 

    Family 1 Mary BROWN,   d. 8 Jan 1670 
    Married 6 Jul 1636  Plymouth, Plymouth County, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 
    Family ID F12152  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Joanna BOYSE,   b. 1616,   d. Aft 8 Nov 1681, Stamford, Fairfield County, CT Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age > 65 years) 
    Married 19 Sep 1671  Milford, New Haven County, CT Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 5 Aug 2021 
    Family ID F12108  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Headstones
    Thomas WILLETT
    Thomas WILLETT