William Brewster

By Kathleen M. Myers

Date of birth: about 1566, probably Doncaster, Yorkshire, England
Baptized: unknown
Marriage: Mary (maiden name unknown)
Children: six (6)
1. Jonathan b. Aug 1593, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire
2. Patience b. about 1606, Scrooby, Nottinghamshire
3. Fear b. 1606
4. Child (name unknown) buried Leyden, Holland 1609
5. Love b. about 1611
6. Wrestling b. about 1614, died after 1627, unmarried
Death: 10 April 1644, Plymouth, MA
Burial Site: unknown


First Thanksgiving Brewster

'The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth' (1914) by Jennie A. Brownscombe

  • William Brewster's father was the estate bailiff at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, for the Archbishops of York. He later attained the position of postmaster, important in a village situated on the Great North Road.
  • He was educated in both Greek and Latin and spent time at Cambridge University, although he never completed a full degree. Cambridge was a center of thought concerning religious reformism.
  • William Brewster became the secretary for Sir William Davison, a diplomat to Holland for Elizabeth I. It was during this service that Brewster first traveled to the Netherlands.
  • In 1586 Davison became Secretary of State, but a year later lost favor with the Queen, was sent to the tower and Brewster returned to Scrooby.
  • Brewster became the Elder of the Pilgrim Separatists congregation. To support his family, he taught English to Dutch and German students, using Latin as their common language.
  • Brewster was instrumental in establishing a small Separatist church with Richard Clyfton, and they often held their meetings in the Manor House. With pressure mounting to conform to the Church of England, eventually Brewster and others were found out. Attempting to emigrate to Holland in 1607, he and several others were jailed. Released in 1608, he fled to Amsterdam to avoid prosecution. He moved to Leiden, Holland in 1609.
  • Brewster established a press where books and pamphlets promoting Separatist ideas were printed.  The pamphlets were illegally sent to England. Brewster also printed two books by David Calderwood that were directly critical of King James I of England. the English ambassador to Holland instigated a search for William Brewster and his press. Brewster went into hiding, his house was searched and his printing type was seized.
  • When the Leiden church decided to establish a colony in the New World, its Pastor, John Robinson, chose to remain in Leiden with the larger congregation. the next highest-ranking church official, William Brewster, agreed to make the voyage. He was accompanied on the Mayflower by his wife Mary, and his youngest children, Love and Wrestling. Also placed in his care were the More children, Richard and Mary.
  • In the Plymouth Colony 1623 Division of Land, William Brewster's lands are recorded in the handwriting of Governor William Bradford as "their grounds which came first over in the May Floure, according as their lotes were case. 1623. these lye on the South side of the brooke to the baywards...Mr William Brewster 6 akers to [each]."
  • William Brewster was the 4th signer of the Mayflower Compact.
  • In the 1627 Division of Cattle, the Plymouth Colony Records, Deeds & recites the following: "The fift lot fell to Mr Willm Brewster and his companie Joyned to him (2) Loue Brewster (3) Wrestling Brewster (4) Richard More (5) Henri Samson (6) Johnathan Brewster (7) Lucrecia Brewster (8) Willm Brewster (9) Mary Brewster... "To this lot ffell one of the fower Heyfers Came in the Jacob Caled the Blind Heyfer & 2 shee goats."
  • William Brewster was one of the eight Plymouth Undertakers, along with William Bradford, Myles Standish, Isaac Allerton, Edward Winslow, John Howland, John Alden and Thomas Prence. These men entered into a contract for financial reorganization to payoff debt owed to the Merchant Adventurers.
  • Mary Brewster, one of the oldest women to make the voyage on the Mayflower, died in 1627 and Elder Brewster never remarried. William Brewster received a Duxbury grant for eighty acres on the Standish Shore. He built his house around 1634 on additional land he bought from a neighbor. He lived there with his son Love and his family part of the year and part of the year in Plymouth.
  • Brewster continued his work as Elder throughout his life in Plymouth Colony, dying near age 80 in 1644. He was much loved and highly respected by the people of the Colony.


General Society of Mayflower Descendants
The Elder William Brewster Society, www.brewsterfamily.org
Roundabout Duxbury, by Dorothy Wentworth. Published by Duxbury Rural and Historical Society, Duxbury, MA, Webster Printing Co. Inc., 1995.