|Thomas Willett biographical notes (13)|
bring the rest of the Leydon congregation to Plymouth. Many did make the voyage, including Thomas Willett Jr., but there is no record of Thomas Sr. nor any others of the Willett family doing so.
Thomas Willett, the emigrant, was born ca 1610 in Leydon, Holland, and sailed from London in the second “Mayflower” in 1629 with other Puritans, bound for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which had been founded at Salem in the previous September. The ship put in at Salem on May 15, 1629, and the passengers bound for Plymouth were taken there by boat. Thomas Willett was listed as one of the “Saints” on board, that is, one of the Leydon congregation. He was described as “an honest yonge man”. (Willison: Saints and Strangers, p.451) These were the original Pilgrims, although the Pilgrims had no name for themselves as a group; for generations they were known to their descendants merely as the Forefathers.
In 1630, Thomas Willett was sent by the Pilgrim leaders to their new trading post on the Penobscot River, on the coast of Maine. Governor Bradford thought that Thomas was discreet and trustworthy, and sent him to keep the manager of the post “within bounds”. However, apparently Thomas was not able to do this, as the manager was dismissed the next year and sent back to England “for trading powder and shote with ye Indeans” and other misdemeanors. (Ibid, pp 289-291). Thomas Willett was then given command of the trading post, but in 1632, while he was in Plymouth on business, a small French ship put into the harbor of the trading post on the Penobscot River, and feeling that the post was an encroachment on their territory, and hearing that the man in charge was away, they robbed it of “everything at hand - blankets, rugs, coats, biscuit and beaver worth five hundred pounds. They even compelled the servants to carry the loot on board and stow it down, before they leisurely sailed away” (Ibid. p.295)
In 1633, Thomas Willett became a freeman, but in 1635 the post on the Penobscot was again attacked by the French, and Thomas and his men were forced to give it up and return to Plymouth in a small boat, with only a few provisions. He was then made agent in charge of the trading post on the Kennebee River, which had been established by the Plymouth Colony several years before. This port was located on the present site of Augusta, Maine, and was a profitable enterprise for the Pilgrims.
On July 6, 1636 Thomas Willett married Mary, daughter of John Browne and his wife Dorothy. (Ibid. p.452; also Charles Henry Pope: Pioneers of Massachusetts, Baltimore 1969, p.73) Thomas and Mary Willett lived in Plymouth and in 1638, lands were confirmed to him. Thomas was a merchant, with many and varied business ventures, and he traded as far
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Updated Mar 2014
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