William Brewster (Mayflower passenger)

William Brewster
William Brewster cropped.png
Published in The Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims: And its place in the life of to-day, 1911
Borncirca 1566
Scrooby, Nottinghamshire
DiedApril 10, 1644 (aged 77-78)
Duxbury, Plymouth Colony
NationalityEnglish subject
OccupationPostmaster and English teacher of Scrooby, preacher of Plymouth
Known forPilgrim
Spouse(s)Mary Brewster
Parent(s)William Brewster

William Brewster (1566 – 10 April 1644) was an English official and Mayflower passenger in 1620. In Plymouth Colony, by virtue of his education and existing stature with those immigrating from the Netherlands, Brewster, a separatist, became senior elder and the leader of the community.

Life in England

William Brewster was born in 1568,[1] most probably in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England. He was the son of William Brewster and he had a number of half-siblings. His paternal grandparents were William Brewster (1510–1558), and Maud Mann (1513–1558).[2][3]

He studied briefly at Peterhouse, Cambridge, before entering the service of William Davison in 1584.[4] Brewster was the only Pilgrim with political and diplomatic experience. With his mentor in prison, Brewster had returned home to Scrooby for a time, where he took up his father’s former position as postmaster.[5] Cambridge was a centre of thought concerning religious reformism, but Brewster had spent time in the Netherlands in connection with Davison's work, giving him opportunity to hear and see more of reformed religion. While, in the 1550s, reformers had hoped to amend the Anglican church, by 1600, many were looking toward splitting from it.[6] (See Brownist.)

William Brewster
An actor portrays Elder William Brewster in Plymouth Plantation.

Restrictions and pressures applied by the authorities convinced the congregation of a need to immigrate to the more sympathetic atmosphere of Holland, but leaving England without permission was illegal at the time, so that departure was a complex matter. On its first attempt, in 1607, the group was arrested at Scotia Creek, but in 1608, Brewster and others were successful in leaving from The Humber. In 1609, he was selected as ruling elder of the congregation.[5]