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  BREWSTER, c.1500-1698
Related Families:  Man | Smythe | Oldham | Turner | Pickett

Migration: Yorkshire, ENG>Leyden, HOLL>Plymouth, MA>Preston, CT


        (1)  William Brewster, taxed 1524, Bently cum Arksey, York, England; married Maude Man before 1535.  Parents of:

  1. William, mentioned below
  2. Henry


        (2) William Brewster, born about 1535, died 1590, living in Scrooby, York, England in 1564; married Mary, daughter of William Smythe of Stainforth, Hatfield, England, widow of John Simkinson of Doncaster, York, England.  William was postmaster at Scrooby, an appointment later bestowed on his son.

        (3)  William Brewster, passenger on the Mayflower, was born about 1566/7, probably at Doncaster, Yorkshire, England.  William Brewster was the Reverend Elder of the Pilgrim 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. William was 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.
        After graduating from Cambridge University, William was employed by Sir William Davison, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I, thus becoming an official in her Court.  Davison was the center of a plot designed by Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and Elizabeth to absolve her from responsibility for the execution of her sister, Mary Queen of Scots, and Davison and his staff were expelled from the court and many imprisoned or hacked to pieces.  William Brewster retreated to the manor house at Scrooby where he inherited from his father the office of postmaster.  In those days, a postmaster was an official of extreme importance, responsible for the care and supply of horses for royal messengers and for passing on royal correspondence.  Letters from common folk were not yet carried by a government service.
        William was later a fugitive from King James I of England because he published a number of religious pamphlets while in Leyden which were directly critical of the King and opposed the tenets of the Church of England.

The "Brewster Bear" woodcut identified books printed by William Brewster.

        William Bradford, Brewster's adoptive son, wrote a lot about William Brewster in his contemporary history of the Colony entitled Of Plymouth Plantation, some of which follows:

William Brewster's chest, brought from England and now in the possession of Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth, Massachusetts, was constructed of six planks and served as his bed, storage space and as a writing desk.  In fact, tradition has it that the Mayflower Compact was drafted and signed atop it.

        The maiden name of William Brewster's wife Mary has not been proven.  The claim it 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 possible candidates for the William and Mary (Brewster) who came on the Mayflower.  So at present, there is no evidence to identify she who was William Brewster's wife.

  1. Jonathan, mentioned below
  2. Patience, born about 1600, probably at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England,  died before 12 December 1634, Plymouth, Massachusetts;  married Thomas  Prence, 5 August 1624, Plymouth
  3. Fear, born about 1606, probably in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, died  before 12 December 1634, Plymouth, Mass.;  married Isaac Allerton, died after 10  July 1623, Plymouth
  4. child, name unknown, born probably about 1609, Leyden, Holland, died about  1609, Leyden, Holland
  5. Love, born about 1611, probably Leyden, Holland, died between 6 October  1650 and January 1650/1;  married Sarah Collier, 15 May 1634, Plymouth
  6. Wrestling, born about 1614, probably Leyden, Holland, died before 1644  unmarried


        (4)  Jonathan Brewster, born 12 August 1593, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, died 7 August 1659, New London, Connecticut;  married in Plymouth, Massachusetts, 10 April 1624 Lucretia Oldham, baptized in Derby, England 4 January 1600, died in Norwich (now Preston), Connecticut.  She was the daughter of William Oldham and Phillipa SowterJonathan and Lucretia  are both buried in Brewster Cemetery, Brewster’s Neck, Preston, Connecticut, where a monument has been erected to their memory by their descendants.
        Jonathan’s name was recorded in the Leyden records several times.  He became a Dutch citizen 30 June 1617.  He was a witness to the reading and signing of the will of Thomas Brewer and his wife Anna Offley on 7 December 1617.  He also was a witness to the betrothal banns of John Reynolds entered 28 July 1617 and to the betrothal banns of Edward Winslow entered 27 April 1618.  Styled “Lintwercker” or ribbon maker, he lived in Pieterskerhof while in Holland.
        Jonathan arrived at Cape Cod on the Fortune 9 November 1621, and Lucretia came over on the Anne with her brother, John Oldham, arriving about 10 July 1623.  It was the murder of fiesty John Oldham that precipitated King Phillip's War.  Jonathan was also one of the men who undertook to discharge the debts of Plymouth Colony.  A freeman in 1633, he was active in the settlement of the town of Duxbury, incorporated 7 June 1637.  Records indicate that he served as a surveyor, laid out highways, practiced as an attorney, and was styled a “gentleman.”  Jonathan served as a military commissioner in the Pequot War in 1637, was on a committee to raise forces during the Narragansett Alarm of 1642, and was a member of Captain Myles Standish’s Duxbury Company in 1643.  He served several terms as Deputy to the General Court of Plymouth Colony in 1639, and from 1641 through 1644.
        In 1638 Jonathan Brewster established a ferry service to transport passengers and cattle across the North River.  In 1641, he sold this to Messrs. Barker, Howell and others.  Then, as the master of a small trading vessel, he plied the coast from Plymouth to Virginia.  This was evidently unprofitable, according to a letter written by Roger Williams to John Winthrop, Jr.:

This statement about his misfortune appears to be verified by Plymouth Colony Deeds Vol 2:24 which notes that John Holland & Hopestill Foster of Dorchester, merchants, sold to William Paybody 80 acres of meadow granted to them by “Jonathan Brewster ye elder of Duxburrow by vertue of his writing and deed bearing date fifteenth day November Anno Domo 1648,” which involved all “his dwelling house, out house, Barnes, Stables, orchyrds, gardens, Land, Meddow & pastures.”
        Removing to Connecticut, he settled on land granted him as follows:         Because Jonathan set up a trading post without the authority of the local government, he was censured, but the deed was confirmed by the town on 30 November 1652.  He was “clarke” of the Town of Pequitt (New London) in September 1649, Deputy to the General Court of the Colony of Connecticut, 1650, 1655, 1656, 1657, and 1658, and served as Assistant to the Town in 1657.
        On 1 September 1656, Jonathan “resolved for Old England,” according to a letter written to his sister-in-law, Sarah Brewster, widow of Love Brewster.  However, he did not return to England.  He died intestate at New London in 1659, having deeded all of his property to his son, Benjamin, and his son-in-law, John Pickett, in 1658.  John Pickett relinquished his rights to the property on 14 February 1661/2, and provided that his “mother-in-law, Mrs. Brewster, the late wife of his father, Mr. Jonathan Brewster, shall have a full and competent means out of the estate during her life, from the said Benjamin Brewster at her own dispose freely and fully to command at her own pleasure.”
        Jonathan Brewster left an invaluable legacy to the Brewster family known as "The Brewster Book," a record in his own handwriting of the deaths of his mother and father, the birth dates of each of his children, and the marriage dates of his daughters, Mary and Ruth, his son, William, as well as his own birth and marriage dates.  He apparently began the record after the marriage in Plymouth of his daughter, Mary, to John Turner in 1645, perhaps after he moved to Connecticut, leaving Mary and his grandchildren behind in Plymouth Colony, but before the date of his second entries, which follow the 1651 marriage of his son William.  All of the entries in this book were contemporary and made by three people, Jonathan,  his son Benjamin, and Benjamin’s great-grandson Jabez Fitch, Jr.  The book has been of inestimable value to the Brewster family.


  1. William, born 9 March 1625
  2. Mary, born 16 April, 1627;  married 10 or 12 November 1645 John Pickett.
  3. Jonathan, born 17 July 1629
  4. Ruth, born Jones River, 3 October 1631;  married 14 March 1651 John Turner, married second Charles Hill.
  5. Benjamin, born 17 November 1633
  6. Elizabeth, born 1 May 1637
  7. Grace, born 1 November 1639;  married Daniel Witherell.

  8. Hannah, born 3 November 1641

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