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Thomas Willett (1605 - 1674)

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Mayor Capt Thomas Willett aka Willet
Born in Rectory House of Barley, Hertfordshire, Englandmap
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married in Plymouth Colony, Massachusettsmap
Husband of — married in Milford, CTmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Swansea, Bristol Co, Rhode Islandmap
Profile last modified | Created 19 Nov 2016 | Last significant change: 11 Oct 2018
23:35: Natalie (Durbin) Trott edited the Biography for Thomas Willett. [Thank Natalie for this]
This page has been accessed 1,224 times.

Categories: Puritan Great Migration Project Needs Biography | New Netherland Settlers | New York, New York, Mayors.


Spelling of the Name

Anderson spells the name "Willet,"[1] and others spell it "Willett."

Disputed Parents

Anderson reports that Thomas was born about 1610, "possibly" the son of Thomas and Alice Willett of Norwich and Leiden [NEHGR 61:157-60].[1]

GEORGE CANNING BURGB88, A.B., “THOMAS WILLETT OF LEYDEN AND PLYMOUTH, FIRST MAYOR OF NEW YORK” in New England Historical and Genealogical Register (Boston, MA: NEHGS, 1907) Vol 61 p 157-64 see p 158 The author states that there is no evidence he was the son of Rev. Andrew Willett. This theory was proposed in NEHGR 2:276 simply stating that the name is rare and that Rev. Andrew Willett had a lot of children. This claim was then repeated by other authors without evidence. But there is an origin nearer to Leiden. He cited Morton Dextor in “Members of Pilgrim Company at Leyden” p 639 that there was a Thomas Willett and wife Alice who came from Norwich, England to Leiden in the Puritan movement who lived for a while with Robert Browne who gave the name “Brownists” to the separatists. He points out that our Thomas Willett has a mastery of Dutch language, custom and manners and was probably born in Leiden. And that our Thomas married Mary Brown. Dexter states that “unqualifiedly, that he was the son of Thomas and Alice Willett.


Thomas Willett (1605 – August 29, 1674) was a British-born American merchant, Plymouth Colony trader and sea-captain, Commissioner of New Netherland, magistrate of Plymouth Colony, Captain of the Plymouth Colony militia and was the 1st and 3rd Mayor of New York City, prior to the consolidation of the five boroughs into the City of New York in 1898.

Colonial Mayor. First Mayor of New York City. Arriving in 1632 on "The Lion" (with a religious separatist movement that called themselves "The Saints", that fled England to Leydon, Holland then went back to England to follow the Mayflower voyage), Thomas Willett was a merchant that traded from Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. He succeeded Captain Miles Standish as head of the Colonial Militia and negotiated what is now known as the "Rehoboth North Purchase" which acquired land (now known as Attleboro and North Attleboro, Massachusetts) from Wampanoag leader Sachem Wamsutta who was the son of famed chief Massasoit. He later conducted sea trade from the Colonies and was a navigator from 1651 to 1654. When the charter of "New Amsterdam" was changed to British possession, Governor Richard Nicholls granted the city charter on June 12, 1665 and the city, population 1,500 at the time, got Thomas Willett as its English representative/mayor, making him the first mayor of "New York". He served two concurrent one-year terms from 1665 to 1667. His property in that colony was confiscated when the Dutch reclaimed the area and he settled in the locale of Barrington, Rhode Island (while some accounts have his retirement in Sewansea or Seekoknk, Massachusetts, these towns are all close and at the time the town lines that currently exist were not the same.) He was married to Mary Brown and together they had fourteen children. There is a large memorial marker placed for him, and near it is the original weathered stone which, now unreadable is documented as having the following inscription "1674 Here lyeth the body of the worthy Thomas Willett, Esq. who dies August 4 in the 64th year of his age, and who was the first mayor of New York and twice did sustain the place." (bio by: R. Digati)


Thomas married twice.

  • He married on 6 July 1636 at to Mary Brown, the daughter of John Brown.[2] She died on 8 January 1669/70.[1]


Children of Thomas and Mary (Brown):[1]

  1. Mary Willet, b 10 Nov 1637; m Samuel Hooker
  2. Martha, b 6 Aug 1639
  3. John, b 21 Aug 1641; m Abigail Collins
  4. Sarah, b 4 May 1643
  5. Rebecca, b 2 Dec 1644
  6. Thomas, b 1 Oct 1646
  7. Hester, b 6 Jul 1648
  8. James, b 24 Nov 1649; m 1) Elizabeth Hunt, 2) Grace Frinck
  9. Hezekiah, b 21 Jul 1651
  10. Hezekiah, b 16 Nov "or thereabouts" 1653
  11. David, b 1 Nov 1654
  12. Andrew, b 5 Oct 1655
  13. Samuel, b 27 Oct 1658

Death and Legacy

Thomas died on 04 August 1674 at Swansea, Bristol, Massachusetts Bay[2]

He was buried at the Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, East Providence, Providence County, Rhode Island. There is a large memorial marker placed for him, and near it is the original weathered stone which, now unreadable is documented as having the following inscription "1674 Here lyeth the body of the worthy Thomas Willett, Esq. who dies August 4 in the 64th year of his age, and who was the first mayor of New York and twice did sustain the place." (bio by: R. Digati)[3]

1674 Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay[4]

Research Notes

Wikipedia Article
  • "THOMAS, Plymouth, was in his youth assoc. with the Leyden congregat. 1629, and came over, as I judge, in the Lion, 1632, emb. in June. See 4 Mass. Hist. Coll. I. 94, where the official docum. makes his name Tobie W. But in comp. with Ashley he had come in the spring or 1630, and prob. was sent home on tempora. confidential business by his employer. That he was s. of Andrew, a D. D. of some celebr. with the Puritans, wh. d. Dec. 1621, is suggest. to me by Mr. Thornton. See BradfordÕs Hist. p. 259-60.
  • He m. 6 July 1636, Mary, d. of John Brown, one of the Assist. that yr. wh. many yrs. aft. liv. at Swansey; had Mary, b. 10 Nov. 1637, wh. by the mem. of the Willet fam. in Geneal. Reg. II. 376, is said to have d. without issue, 11 Dec. 1678, but in my opin. m. 22 Sept. 1658, Rev. Samuel Hooker of Farmington, bore him eleven ch. and after bec. sec. w. 10 Aug. 1703 of Rev. Thomas Buckingham; Martha, 6 Aug. 1639, m. 2 Dec. 1658, John Saffin of Scituate; John, 21 Aug. 1641; Sarah, 4 May 1643, wh. m. Rev. John Eliot, s. of the apostle, and d. 13 June 1665; Rebecca, 2 Dec. 1644, d. at 7 yrs.; Thomas, 1 Oct. 1646; Esther, 10 July 1648, tho. Col. Rec. says 6 July 1647, m. 24 Jan. 1672, Rev. Josiah Flint of Dorchester, and d. 26 July 1737; James, 23 Nov. 1649; Hezekiah, d. inf. 26 July 1651; Hezekiah, again, 17 Nov. 1653; David, 1 Nov. 1654, prob. d. soon; Andrew, 5 Oct. 1655; and Samuel, 27 Oct. 1658.
  • He was entrust. with command at the trad.-ho. of the Plymouth people at Kennebeck, 1639, and Winthrop in Hist. I. 322, tells a pleasant incident of his peaceful control of the Ind. He had been forcibly dispossess. some three or four yrs. bef. of the establishm. at Penobscot. by D'Aulney, the French lieut.-gov. of Acadia. See, in 3 Mass. Hist. Coll. VII. 92 and 94, the relations of the affair by the rival French officers, D'Aulney and La Tour. * He was an Assist. 1651 to 1664, and when the Eng. conq. N. Y. he accomp. them, and was made mayor. Not long aft. however, he went back to his first friends, took sec. w. 1 Sept. 1671, Joanna, wid. of Rev. Peter Prudden, resid. at Rehoboth, and Swanzey, d. at the latter 3, the gr.-st. says 4 Aug. 1674.
  • The inscript. on the of the wid. (HIS ONLY W.) says she d. 8 Jan. 1699, a. the 65th yr. of her age, wh. proves how errors may be found in such places, as she could only be 5 yrs. old when her first ch. by Prudden was b. Prob. the yr. of d. was 18 yrs. earlier. See Prudden. What could explain the error of her that she was the only w. is difficult to conject. Commonly we look to such muniments of history for a different sort of failures in truth. Perhaps only was error for sec. The brief mem. in Geneal. Reg. II. 376, corrects some current mistakes, but makers some others. " Source: Savage Gen. Dict.

Excerpt from: Cutter, Genealogy of CT, pg 208, in Windsor Historical Society Library, Windsor, CT

THOMAS came to America in 1632 and settled at Swansea, New Hampshire, then Seekonk, Long Island, New York. He was Captain of the military company at Plymouth, succeeding Miles Standish in 1647. In 1650 he was Commissioner to settle boundaries of New England and New Netherlands. Assistant to the Governor 1661 - 1665. In 1664 he aided England in organizing new government in Nieuw Amsterdam and was appointed first mayor of New York. He was Governor in 1673 and twice thereafter.[4]
Excerpt from: The Mayflower, pg 228 & 378, by Kate Caffrey
"THOMAS WILLETTE, son of English clergyman, came to America in 1629 at the age of 24. He was one of Plymouth's leading citizens. In 1664 he was with the expeditionary force that took New Amsterdam from the Dutch. He returned to Plymouth where he died in 1674."
Came to America aboard the "Lion" in 1632 from Leiden at the age of 22. He was the son of Andrew Willett, the Prebendary of the Ely Cathedral. He made a trading venture on the Penobscot River in Maine. Later in 1649 & 1656, he leased the fur trade on the Kennebuck River for 35 pounds per year payable in "money, moose, or beaver." (Beaver was as good as any money.) About 1633, he returned to Plymouth where he established himself as a successful merchant and honored citizen.
He married Mary Brown on July 6, 1636 at Plymouth who was the daughter of his good friends from Leyden, John and Dorothy Brown. In recognition of the social position of John Brown, the gravestone of his daughter contains an inscription calling her the daughter of the Worshipful John Brown, Esq. Mary and Thomas had thirteen children. All traditions agree that she was "an excellent and virtuous woman".
Thomas' business prospered in Plymouth and was expanded to New Amsterdam and overseas.
He trained the Pilgrim's militia after the death of Myles Standish and became "Captain". He was also a magistrate in Plymouth; assistant to the governor until he was called in 1664 to advise with Colonel Nichols in administering New York.
He served in many capacities of trust and confidence settling disputes, boundary claims, and other matters. He had a business, house, and occasional residence in New Amsterdam.
On June 12, 1665, the English having taken New Amsterdam, Deputy Governor Richard Nichols of New York appointed Thomas Willet the first Mayor of New York.
He was buried at "Seacouch", MA with a plain monument. His will was proved on November 25, 1674.
Note N225At time of his daughter's wedding to Samuel Hooker, he was a prosperous merchant in Plymouth and succeeded Capt Miles Standish as commander of the military company. Later first mayor of NY.
There is a lot of discussion about this man and his parents. Personally I would go with Thomas & Alice Willett, but wikipedia says it was Andrew Willet. The date given as his birth is the Christening date. There is another Thomas Willett born in the same area of England to Thomas & Alice Willett that is Christened 5 May 1605. So look at the earlier discussion about his parents moving from the Leiden (Leydon), Netherlands to England.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Anderson, Robert C. (1995) Thomas Willett," featured name. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. NEHGS, (Volumes I-III, pp 1997-2002).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Brown, George Tilden. (1919) John Browne, gentleman, of Plymouth ... (Providence: Remington Press) pp 26-29.
  3. * Find A Grave Memorial# 8890542' Maintained by: Find A Grave; Originally Created by: R. Digati
  4. 4.0 4.1 Cutter, William. (1911) Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut. (Lewis) p 208.

See also:

  • Austin, John O. (1899) The Journal of William Jefferay, Gentleman. (E. L. Freeman & Sons) Page 138: "1674. Aug. 4, Tuesday. Mr. Willett died."
  • Brown Family Genealogy, Pages 1073-1075, Genealogical information on the John Brown, his family and his ancestors.
  • Burgess, George Canning. (1907) NEHGR 61:157-64
  • Kate Caffrey, Mayflower (Henry Holt, Oct 1, 1975) Pages 228 & 378
  • MyHeritage. Record ID Number: MH:SC500707 Text:

    Thomas Willette
    Gender: Male
    Birth: Aug 19 1605 - Barley, Leicestershire, England
    Marriage: 1671
    Death: Aug 4 1674 - Swansea, Massachusetts, USA
    Father: Andrew Willett
    Mother: Jacobeda Goad
    Spouses: Mary Willett (born Browne) Joanna Boyce
    Child: Mary Hooker (born Willette)

    Quality or Certainty of Data: 4
  • NJGS. "Willett." Accessed 13 Jun 2016. PDF
  • Oakes, Rensselaer Allston, Genealogical and Family History of Jefferson County New York Volume II, NOTEOakes, Rensselaer Allston, Custodian of the Jefferson County Historical Society. Genealogical and Family History of Jefferson County New York Volume II. 1905. PDF. Internet Archive. : 1996. Terry Kraft has a pdf of this book; Online URL is</ref>
  • Wikipedia contributors, "Thomas Willett," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed June 18, 2016).

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Images: 2
Thomas Willett first burial marker
Thomas Willett first burial marker

Thomas Willett second burial marker
Thomas Willett second burial marker


On 4 Oct 2018 at 21:58 GMT Mike Cowper wrote:

On the topic of disputed parents the "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900" states that he is the fourth son of Andrew Willet. See,_Thomas_(DNB00) and,_Andrew_(DNB00)

On 14 Nov 2016 at 15:47 GMT Robin Lee wrote:

Willett-249 and Willets-182 appear to represent the same person because: based on dates, it would appear that these were intended to be the same person

On 13 May 2016 at 17:56 GMT R (Baker) B wrote:

These parents are disputed by Robert Charles Anderson and should probably be removed. See biography.

On 8 Mar 2016 at 04:23 GMT Sandy Culver wrote:

Willet-50 and Willett-249 appear to represent the same person because: Same so use and Bio, Wallet-249 appears to be the LNAB with the correct birth year.

On 8 Mar 2016 at 04:18 GMT Sandy Culver wrote:

Added back Mary Browne-58 as Thomas Willett's first wife and mother of numerous children.

On 20 Jul 2015 at 15:27 GMT Kay (Johnson) Wilson wrote:

Thomas's 'wife' Joanna Sargent-1689 has been removed from this profile. She died in 1649.

On 13 Feb 2015 at 17:47 GMT Anne B wrote:

David, I believe that through no fault of yours, Thomas' wife has gotten messed up. I have added the Savage Gen. Dict. entry and a link to a Wikipedia article, on Thomas (no John), in order to make some sense of what's going on here. First is this the Thomas you meant this profile to be? Do you object to me disconnecting this erroneous wife? Also if this is the Thomas Willett indicated by the bio stuff I added he will need to be merged with Willett-249

On 4 Aug 2014 at 19:34 GMT Terri (Wahlberg) Crowell wrote:

Willett-249 and Willette-22 appear to represent the same person because: These are the same person

Thomas is 13 degrees from Elinor Glyn, 17 degrees from Frances Weidman and 13 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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