|Thomas Willett biographical notes (9)|
In 1660, Thomas Willett founded the town of Swansea, Rhode Island, and here were [sic] Massachusetts and Rhode Island join, made his home. It must have been a nice home. Willett was well-to-do, if not down-right rich. His son John was living in New Amsterdam, perhaps as overseer to the Willett ventures there. His son Hezekiah lived at Swansea, probably with his father. Hezekiah had a negro slave, Jethro. In a few years he would build a house on the outskirts of the settlement. The whole of the town was founded on a large tract of land patented
to Thomas Willett. Life must have been leisurely as the elder Thomas journeyed back and forth, in Plymouth on Court days, overlooking the accounts in New
Amsterdam when he could take the time, but probably spending most of his time developing his plantation and town at Swansea. On September 30, 1660, the Council of New Netherlands ordered that 4 negroes be delivered to Captain Thomas Willett for payment for provisions he had delivered the year before.
On March 4, 1661, he was deputed to speak to Wamsutta about an exchanging lands that he had brought [sic] of him in the same year. Evidently, this was an attempt to convince Wamsutta to sell the area around Swansea to Thomas. In 1662, Governor Stuyvesant had Captain Willett accompany him on a state visit to the wilderness outpost of Albany. Massasoit died in this year, and his eldest son Wamsutta succeeded him. When the Plymouth Colony requested that Wamsutta come to Plymouth, he delayed until his friend, Captain Thomas Willett could accompany him. Wamsutta died the next year, and his brother Philip became chief.
With war between England and Holland being threatened, Governor Stuyvesant made an agreement with Captain Thomas Willett on May 31, 1664, for provisions for the colony. This consisted chiefly of beef, and pork, to be obtained in Plymouth or in the “father land” if necessary. Thomas was to be paid in negroes or beaver.
Thomas Willett was brought into the Burgomaster's Court on June 7, 1664, because of his son, John's debts; John had died on February 12, 1664.
“On the 7th of June, 1664, Adrain Van Laar claims before the Burgomaster's Court that Thomas Willett shall pay the debts of his deceased son, John Willett. Thomas replies that he had nothing to do with his son’s debts. To this is answered that Willett has some hogsheads of tobacco that belong to his son. Willett replies that this has been placed in the hands of the Heer Burgomaster Cornelis Steenwyck for the benefit of John Willett's creditors. The Court therefore decides that the plaintiff must look for his pay along with the other creditors, to the effects of John Willett, deceased” (Cornell, page 247).
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Updated Mar 2014
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