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William Brewster

Civilization:American: Massachusetts
Era: Colonial Times
1560–1644Field of Renown:literature: Historian

 Meeting with Massasoit

William Brewster was born in Yorkshire, England and raised in Scrooby Manor, where his father had served as the estate bailiff and postmaster for the Archbishop of York. The young man studied at Cambridge for a short time before serving under William Davison, a well-known court official who only a few years later lost the favor of Queen Elizabeth after he played a key role in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. After Davisonís disgrace, Brewster returned to Scrooby, where he assumed his fatherís old position of postmaster.

Brewsterís plan of settling down was only successful for a short time, however. His brother James was at that time a rather unorthodox Anglican priest, and within a few years of Williamís return, James had already begun to separate his congregation from church practices and beliefs. By 1602, the dissenters began to meet in Scrooby Manor, and a few years later the Separatist Church of Scrooby was formed.

By the 17th century, England was not yet a country of religious toleration, and the Separatists understood that they could only truly be free to practice their beliefs in the more liberal atmosphere of Holland. Unfortunately, emigration from England was at that time also illegal, and on their first attempt the congregation was arrested before they could escape. One year later, they tried again and were successful, and Brewster was soon selected as ruling elder of the congregation. Once in Holland, he taught English for a time before partnering with Thomas Brewer to print and publish religious books that were sold in England. This business lasted until pressure from English authorities led to Thomasí arrest. Brewster escaped, and in 1620 he joined the first group of Pilgrim sailing for America aboard the Mayflower. At Plymouth, William served as senior elder, religious leader, and advisor to Governor William Bradford. Only a year after his arrival, he helped establish a treaty between the settlers and the Pokanoket tribe, meeting with their leader Massasoit to discuss the terms of their agreement. He was granted land in 1632 and removed himself from Plymouth to live on his own farm until his death in 1644. Four of the islands in Boston Harbor still bear his nameóGreat Brewster, Little Brewster, Middle Brewster, and Outer Brewster.

Key events during the life of William Brewster

Year Event
1560 Born.
1584 Served under William Davison.
1590-1607 Returned to Scrooby Manor and worked as a postmaster.
1606 Creation of the Separatist Church of Scrooby.
1607 Failed in an attempt to secretly emigrate from England.
1608 Successfully sailed to Holland.
1616 Helped Thomas Brewer print religious books for sale in England.
1620 Arrived at Plymouth Colony aboard the Mayflower.
1621 Son Jonathon came to Plymouth.
  Treaty with the Pokanoket tribe.
1623 Daughters Patience and Fear reached America on the Anne.
1632 Was granted lands in Duxbury and created a farm there.
1644 Died.


Story LinksBook Links
William Brewster and Friends  in  Story of Liberty  by  Coffin
The Mayflower  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  Guerber
Brewster, 1560-1644  in  Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages  by  Hodges
Royal Guest  in  Stories of the Pilgrims  by  Pumphrey

Image Links
Massasoit and his Warriors in King Philip

Contemporary Short Biography
Massasoit Indian chief who befriended the pilgrims and lived in peace with them for forty years in Massachusetts.
Mary I of Scotland Queen of Scotland. Deposed and exiled. Held captive and executed by Queen Elizabeth.
Elizabeth I of England Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Sir Philip Sidney Favorite of Queen Elizabeth's court. Was a poet, soldier, courtier, and adventurer.
King Philip Leader of the Wampanoags who led the first serious uprising against the white settlers in New England.