William Vassall Pilgrim of the Blessing

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William Vestal

Also Known As: "Mr. William /Vassal; Esq.;vessal;"
Birthplace: Ratcliffe, Middlesex, Stepney, England
Death: Died in St. Michael's Parish, Barbados, Lesser Antilles, West Indes
Place of Burial: Cathedral Church of St Michael & All Angels Bridgetown Saint Michael, Barbados
Immediate Family:

Son of John Vassall, ll, The Gallant Alderman of London; Jean Vassall and Anne Vassall
Husband of Ann Vassall and Anna Vassall
Father of Judith Vassall; Frances Adams (Vassell); John Vassall; Ann Vassall; Margery Vassall and 10 others
Brother of Judith Perry; Samuel Vassall and John Vassall, III
Half brother of Anna (Ann) Jones; Rachel Andrews ; Elizabeth Church; Stephen Vassall; Thomas Vassall and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William Vassall Pilgrim of the Blessing

William Vassall (1592-1656), merchant-adventurer-planter, was a "first immigrant" from England to Massachusetts. A highly educated gentleman who was far ahead of his time, Vassall publicly supported true freedom of religion in British North America for all Christians regardless of denomination, as was well as religious freedom for those of the Jewish and Islamic faiths. He was born on 27 August 1592 in Ratcliffe, Stepney, County Middlesex, England (just east of London), and died 13 July 1656 in St. Michael's Parish, Barbados.

<n.b. conflicting birth place information: also see Devon. Have gone with Stepney as it's the place of baptism and marriage.>

His parents were John Vassall (1544-1625) and Anna Russell Vassall (1556-1593) of Stepney, England. John Vassall was a London alderman who served under Queen Elizabeth I and who equipped and commanded two ships in the fight against the Spanish Armada.

Married Anna King/Kinge on 9 June 1613.

In 1630 he sailed to Massachusetts as a leader of the "Winthrop Fleet," but returned to England. With his family he emigrated in 1635 on the "Blessing."

William Vassall and Anna Kinge's children include:

i. Anna Vassall (Died soon) (6 Sep 1614-22 Sep 1614)

ii. Judith Vassall (ca 1619-Apr 1670) married Resolved White

iii. Frances Vassall (ca 1623-ca 1670)

iv. Samuel Vassall (Died soon) (22 Jun 1624-16 Nov 1624)

v. Mary Vassall (Died soon) (22 Jun 1624-ca 1633)

vi. Capt. John Vassall (ca 1625-1688)

vii. William Vassall (ca 1626/7-)

viii. Ann Vassall (ca 1628-)

ix. Margaret Vassall (ca 1633-)

x. Mary Vassall (ca 1633-)

His direct descendants today are found in both North America (where he retained large tracts of land in Massachusetts) and in Great Britain.

History of William Vassall:


More information:

New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 17 page 56, entitled "The Vassalls of New England," by Edward Doubleday Harris.

Eleven vessels brought 700 passengers in 'the Great Emigration' on "The Winthrop Fleet" in 1630.


"William Vassall and Dissent in Early Massachusetts: Another look at the founding of Massachusetts with Special Emphasis on a Forgotten Dissenter, William Vassall" by Dorothy Carpenter, 2001. Free ebook:


"William Vassal: A Biographical Sketch"


The town of Vassalboro in Kennebec County, Maine was named in his honour.



William Vassal, the other son of John the Alderman was the settler in New England and Barbados. He came to Massachusetts in the Winthrop fleet of 1630, but soon returned to England. In 1635, he came back to Massachusetts bringing his family with him and settled in Roxbury, Mass., whence he soon remove to Scituate in Plymouth Colony (part of Massachusetts since 1692) where he was the leading citizen. Of pronounced Presbyterian views he soon became embroiled over religious and political matters with the Congregational rulers and in 1646 he went to England to petition for redress against the government, intending to return soon. He never came back, but in 1648 he settled in St. Michael's Barbados, where he was a prominent merchant and planter. All his daughters except Anne and Mary married in New England (White).

From "Genealogies of Barbados Families" Brandow


William, like his father, had a considerable fortune. He owned estates in England, Plymouth and Barbadoes. He was one of the original patentees of New England lands. He was one of Craddock's assistants at the time Craddock was made acting Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company of London.

In 1628, William was the first of the Vassalls to come to New England, landing in Salem.

He and his brother Samuel were grantees of land with a number of others on 3/4/1629 : "Copy of grant by Sir Henry Rosewell, Sir John Young, Thomas Southcott, John Humfrey, John Endicott, and Symon Whetcombe to Samuel and William Vassall among others lands in New England between the Merrimack and Charles Rivers called Massachusetts - exemplification of grant received in registry for the use of Mr. Stephen Winthrop and Mr. Joseph Weld and signed by Edward Winslow (The Complete Book of Emigrants ).

Also from the above source, the following : "1630 - The principal undertakers for the plantation of Massachusetts Bay who have gone over with their wives and children are : John Winthrop the Governor and three of his sons; Sir Richard Saltonstall and five children; Isaac Johnson, Lady Arbella his wife and Mr. Charles Fines, sister and brother to the Earl of Lincoln; Mr. Dudley, his wife and 6 children; Coddington and wife and two daughters; Vassall and wife; and Mr. Revell.

The Winthrop Society's website gives an "Index of Some Passengers to New England, 1633-1635"

(http://members.aol.com/winthropq/shipndx6.htm). Vassall and his family came over in "The Blessing," landing in Salem (having left England from Yarmouth) in 1635:

WILLIAM VASSALL of Prittlewell, Essex, England bound for Charlestown age 42

Mrs. Anne Vassall age 42

Judith Vassall age 16

Francis Vassall age 12

John Vassall age 10

Anne Vassall age 6

Margaret Vassall age 2

Mary Vassall age 1

He returned to England soon after, making a return voyage to the New World in 1630 aboard the "Arbella" along with John Winthrop (who later became Governor of Massachusetts). Once again, he returned to England on the ship "Lyon" along with his brother, having been chosen by the colonists to represent them to Craddock's company in their petitions of complaint against Endicott's government.

He returned in June, 1635, sailing from London on the ship "Blessing" with his wife, Anne (Kinge) Vassall and 6 children as well as his brother-in-law Thomas Kinge. He left them in Roxbury while he built "Belle House" on his plantation called "West Newland" which would be their home in Scituate. By all accounts, it was a beautiful house overlooking the river, marshes and ocean.

To give an idea of his "liberal" beliefs as they were called at the time, I relate the following story :

In Scituate on 3 September 1639 Christopher Winter was sentenced to be whipped at the post at the governor's discretion for committing uncleaness with Jane Cooper, whom he later married. For her part, Jane was sentenced to be whipped at a cart's tail, for Jane was apparently a woman with a past. In 1638, Winter had been fined ten shillings for engaging to marry Jane Cooper "contrary to order & custome of this govment." He was also excommunicated from Mr. Lothrop's church "for marrying of one Mrs Cooper, a woman of scandalous carriage, beeing vaine, light, proud, much given to scoffing." He had been warned not to marry her and part of his crime was to have broken his promise that he would not do so. Interestingly, William Vassall and Timothy Hatherly, known for their liberal sentiments, and "Goodman Raylings" (probably Thomas Rawlings, but possibly Henry Rowley), disagreed with the decision to excommunicate.

William and his son John, along with his son-in-law, Resolved White, appeared in the List of Those Able to Bear Arms in New Plymouth [NEHGR Vol. 4, 1850].

William returned to England in 1646 on the ship "Supply" with a petition for the redress of wrongs in the government. At this time, he had fallen out of favor with many of the local leaders due to differences in religious beliefs. His was a tolerant, accepting attitude towards the beliefs and ways of others which clashed with the Puritan beliefs of the day.

The next time he returned to the New World, it was in 1648, where he went directly to his estates in Barbadoes. He died in 1657 at age 65 in the Parish of St. Michael, never having returned to his estate in Massachusetts.

His will is dated at Barbadoes, 7/13/1655. He left his son John one third of all of his estates and left the other 2/3 in 5 parts to his daughters - Judith, Frances, Ann, Margaret and Mary. His son was executor of the estate.

In his absence in Massachusetts, Nicholas Ware was acting executor who appointed Capt. Joshua Hubbard of Hingham his attorney for the sale of the Scituate estate ("by virtue of two writings, one signed by Resolved White and James Adams dated 2/18/1656 and the other by Margaret and Mary Vassall, dated 3/3/1655-6.

The estate, comprised of about 120 acres including houses and barns, was conveyed by Joshua Hubbard to John Cushed and Mathyas Brig for £120. The deed was signed by Joshua Hubbard, Resolved White and Judith, his wife, and James Adams, dated 7/18/1657 [The Vassalls of New England, by Harris, pp. 4-5].

Strangely, the Complete Book of Emigrants has a note on William's will - 6/1657 : Probate of will of William Vassall Esq. of Ireland who died at Barbados and who had lands in New England." Ireland??

William Vassall,Sr. :

Church Membership:About 1635 " Mrs. Anna Vassail the wife of Mr. William Wassaile [ was admitted to Roxbury church]. Her husband brought 5 children to this land, Judith,Francis,John,Margaret,and Mary.{RChR 80}. Mr. Vassel joined Scituate church on November 28,1636{NEHGR 9:280}.

Freeman: Took the oath of allegiance to the king on Feb.1,1638/9 {PCR 1:110, 8:182}

Offices: Assistant, Mass. Bay Company, 23 March 1628, 11 May 1629, 13 May 1629, 20 Oct.1629. Committee to consider division of lands, 5 March 1628. Committee to resolve orders, 21 May 1629. Arbiter, 19 September 1629. Present at a court of Assistants on the Arbella, 23 March 1629. Deputy, 27 September 1642. Council of war, 27 September 1642 in Scituate section of 1643 Plymouth colony list of men able to bear arms.

On 15 December, 1629, "Capt. Waller and Mr. Vassall were content to give the first 50 lbs. to the plantation, so as their other 50 lbs. might go on wholly to this new stock."

Rev. John Lothrop listed "Mr. Vassall's" first among the houses built in Scituate in 1636.

On 2 April 1638, Mr. Vassell was granted two hundred acres of upland, "a competency of medow lands" to be laid out, and permission to keep a ferry over the north, where the indian ferry was".

On 3 December 1638 one hundred and fifty acres of lands were granted to Mr. Vassall "provided he take the oath of fidelity."

On 3 December 1639, Mr. William Vassall was granted liberty to make an oyster bank in the north river, 60 rods in length, and cross the said river, in some convenient place near his farm there, called the West Newland, and to appropriate it to his own use, forbidding all others to use the same without his license."

William Vassall contemplated removal to Salem, for on 15 July 1640, a meeting of that town noted that "Mr. William Vassall desireth a farm where the town thinketh meet"...but, there was no evidence that such a grant was made or that William Vassall actually moved.

In his will, dated 31 July 1655 and proved 12 July 1657, William Vassall Esq. of Barbados, mentioned his son John, executor; daughters Judith White, wife of Resolved, Francis Addams, wife of James Addams, Anna Ware, wife of Nicholas and their children, and Margaret Vassall and Mary Vassall "here with me"; son in law Nicholas Ware was to be executor until son John arrived in Barbados.

He returned to England with his family in the "Lyon" in 1630. He returned to America on the "Blessing",around July 1635, at the age of 42 with his wife, age 42, and settled at Roxbury. His wife joined the church in 1638.

They moved to Scituate and was admitted to the church around 11/28/1636. They took the oath of allegiance to the Plymouth colony on 2/1/1638. He moved to Marshfield, about 1643, where he was again a town officer.

William was not in sympathy with the attitude of Mass. Bay and Plymouth governments towards persons who differed from the received opinions in politics and religion and used his influences for greater charity toward the Quakers,etc. The elders expressed their disapproval towards his utterences.

The church of Plymouth sent him a message by way of John Cook, which is recorded in the book of the second Church, Scituate, dated April 14,1645; hoping he would desist from proceedings intended, and questioned if they would commune with him if he continued. He went to England in 1646 with a petition to Parliment for the liberty of English subjects.


ID: I184214

Name: William Vassall

Sex: M

Birth: 27 AUG 1592 in Stepney, London, Middlesex (Mayflower)

Birth: 27 AUG 1592 in Ratcliffe Stepeny, Essex, England

Death: 13 JUL 1655 in Scituate, MA

Death: 13 JUL 1655 in Barbados

Note: Ref; Signers of the Mayflower Compact, Adams, John & Bassett, William, Page 103.

Father: John Vassall

Mother: Anna Russell

Marriage 1 Anna King b: 1 DEC 1594 in Of, Woodham, Essex (Mayflower)

Married: 29 JUN 1613 in Cold Norton, Essex. Eng.


Judith Vassall b: 1619 in England

Marriage 2 Ann King b: 1 DEC 1594 in Woodham, Mortimer, Essex, England

Married: 29 JUN 1613 in Cold Norton, Essex, England


Anna Vassall b: 6 SEP 1614 in Cold Norton, Essex, England

Frances Vassall b: 1623 in Stepheny, Middlesex, England

William Vassall , Jr. b: 1623

Mary Vassall b: 22 JUN 1624 in Cold Norton, County Essex, England

John Vassall b: ABT 1625 in Of Stepheny, Middlesex, England

Ann Vassall b: 20 APR 1629 in Ratcliffe, Essex, England

Margaret Vassall b: ABT 1633 in Of Ratcliffe, Essex, England

Judith Vassall b: 1619 in England


Died soon after arrival in Plymouth


This Family is Descended in the 11th Century from the House of Du Vassall. They were of the Barons de Guerden, in Quarci Perigord, FRANCE.


Family Tree Maker "Descendants of John Vestall" (website http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/a/t/k/Lyle-L-Atkinson/GENE8-0003.html) lists William Vestall (Vasall) born 1593 as the father of "Major" William Vestall born 1623. The elder William is a historical figure. The father-son link is tenuous at best and very little seems to be known about the younger William. I am not allowed to delete the elder from our tree, but I am dubious that this relationship is valid, in spite of its listing on the Vestall family website.

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William Vassall Pilgrim of the Blessing's Timeline

August 27, 1592
Stepney, Ratcliffe, England
August 27, 1592
Stepney, London, Middlesex, ENG
Ratcliffe, Middlesex, Stepney, England
June 29, 1613
Age 21
Cold Norton, Essex, England
September 6, 1614
Age 22
Cold Norton, Essex, England
Age 27
Stephney, Middlesex, England
Age 27
Age 31
Stephney, Middlesex, England
June 22, 1624
Age 32
Cold Norton, Essex, England
June 22, 1624
Age 32
Cold Norton, Essex, England