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  • Pilgrim Village Families Sketch: Thomas Willett

    Robert Charles Anderson

    Birth:  Thomas Willett was born about 1608, possibly in Norwich, Norfolk.

    Death:  He died on August 3, 1674, in Swansea.

    Ship:  Unknown, 1630

    Life in England:  Thomas Willett has been identified as the son of Thomas and Alice (_____) Willett of Norwich, Norfolk.

    Life in Holland:  Thomas accompanied his parents to Leiden and lived on Jacobsgracht. He was one of six children, one of whom was buried in 1615.

    Life in New England:  Thomas Willett was in New England by 1630, when he was sent to the Penobscot trading post to be a partner to Edward Ashley.William Bradford described him as “an honest young man that came from Leyden, with [Ashley] as his fellow (in some sort) and not merely as his servant.Which young man being discreet, and one whom they could trust….” Ashley was eventually removed from the post and Willett continued for the next few years. He became a freeman of Plymouth on January 1, 1633/4.Willet became a very prominent member of Plymouth Colony, serving many years in important government positions. He succeeded Captain Miles Standish as captain of Plymouth’s military company on March 7, 1647/8. In 1664, he was part of the English force which took New Amsterdam from the Dutch, and became the renamed New York’s first English mayor He returned to Plymouth Colony in 1668, to Swansea, where he died in 1674. He was a prosperous merchant, and had an estate of about £2,800 when he died. He owned hundreds of acres of land, numerous livestock, a large quantity of merchant’s stock, and a library of over 100 books.

    Family: Thomas Willett married (1) Mary Brown on July 6, 1636, in Plymouth and had thirteen children. She died on January 8, 1669/70. He married (2) Joanna (Boyse) Prudden on September 19, 1671, in Milford but had no children. She married (3) Rev. John Bishop as his second wife.

    Children of Thomas and Mary Willett:

    • Mary was born on November 10, 1637. She married (1) Samuel Hooker on September 22, 1658, in Plymouth and had eleven children. She married (2) Thomas Buckingham on August 10, 1703.
    • Martha was born on August 6, 1639. She married John Saffin on December 2, 1658, and had five children. He married (2) _____ Lee and (3) Rebecca Byfield.
    • John was born on August 21, 1641. He married Abigail Collins in 1663. He died on February 2, 1664. She married (2) Lawrence Hammond as his second wife.
    • Sarah was born on May 3, 1643. She married John Eliot by 1662 and had one child. He married (2) Elizabeth Gookin on May 23, 1666, in Cambridge.
    • Rebecca was born on December 2, 1644. She died on April 2, 1652, in Plymouth.
    • Thomas was born on October 1, 1646. There is no further record.
    • Hester was born on July 6, 1648, in Plymouth. She married Josiah Flint on January 24, 1671/2, and had four children. He died on September 16, 1680, in Dorchester. She died on July 26, 1737. James was born on November 24, 1649, in Plymouth. He married (1) Elizabeth Hunt on April 17, 1673, in Rehoboth and had one daughter. He married (2) Grace Frinck on August 2, 1677, in Swansea.
    • Hezekiah was born on July 20 in Plymouth, and died on July 26, 1651.
    • Hezekiah was born about November 16, 1653. He married Anna Brown on January 7, 1675/6, in Swansea. He was killed during King Philip’s War.
    • David was born on November 1, 1654. There is no further record.
    • Andrew was born on October 5, 1655. He married Susannah Holbrook on March 6, 1693/4, in Braintree and had five children.
    • Samuel was born on October 27, 1658. He is supposed to have moved to Flushing, New York, married and had a large family. Unfortunately, the records are confusing as there was another Willet family there.
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