Capt. William Trask, Sr.

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Capt. William Trask, Sr.

Also Known As: "William Traske"
Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: East Coker, Somersetshire, England
Death: Died in Salem Village, Mass Bay Colony, Massachusetts
Place of Burial: Peabody, Trask Burial Ground, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Nicholas Trask, Sr. and Christyan Nicholas Trask
Husband of Sarah Traske
Father of Henry Trask; Sarah Parkman; Susannah Trask; Mary Trask; William Trask, Jr. and 5 others
Brother of Agnes Traske; Johanne Traske and Joan Traske

Occupation: Soldier, miller
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Capt. William Trask, Sr.

Captain William Traske (also spelled Trask) was born 14 December 1585 in East Coker, Somerset England.

According to a book "Passages of the Planters", there is a record of a Captain William Traske as a passenger upon the ship "The Sea Lion" which departed Delft, Holland during June of 1624 to New England. According to the historians Will and Ariel Durant, in "The Age of Exploration", Captain Traske and Woodbury, Connaut, Balch, and Palfrey (The Old Planters) were confronted by Miles Standish and company while they were operating a fishing station, at Cape Ann, Massachusetts, during the year 1624. This paved the way for the Salem settlement. It is very likely that William Traske made several trans-Atlantic journies during the 1620's. His arrival at Naumkeag in 1628 on the "Abigail" with Governor Endicott was probably his last arrival to Massachusetts.

Captain Traske was pivotal in the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was named one of the five "Old Planters" of the colony. The others being Peter Palfry, John Balch, John Woodberry and Roger Conant. These men were all settlers before Endicott's arrival, and hence were called "Old Planters".

The Bay Colony's original company organizations are slightly vague, since the men of the colony trained and carried out guard duty from the day the ships anchored. Salem dates from 17 April 1629 under Captain John Endecott. This date is based on the letter of general instructions. By 1634 Endecott had been succeeded as company commander by Captain William Trask. (Ref. Records Mass., 1:386-98, 85, 93, 95, 120; Johnson, Wonder - Working, 19-22; Shelley, Underhill, 133-4.)

The companies in the Bay proper, covering the 1630 settlements, are all 8 ruled to have an organization date of 12 April 1631, based on the law requiring training passed by the General Court. These companies were: Captain John Underhill's (Boston and Roxbury); Daniel Patrick's (Watertown, Medford and Newtown); Richard Southcot's (Dorchester); and John Endecott's (Salem). Note that Underhill and Patrick had dual status as both company commanders and as hired "technicians." By 1635 the force had grown to 800 or so men in at least five companies: Underhill's (Boston); Patrick's (Newtown); CPT John Mason's (Dorchester); CPT William Trask's (Salem) and CPT Nathanial Turner's (Saugus).

In December 1636, with the colony facing war with the Pequots, a regimental organization was adopted for the colony's approximately 1,500 men. Under the overall command of the Governor as "chiefe general!" three geographically-based permanent regiments were set up, each commanded by a colonel and a lieutenant colonel, and each with a paid training officer (mustermaster). All regiments and companies were directed by the General Court to hold elections of officers prior to the next Court session and to report the results. Note that these units predate by six years the regiments of England. The act to execute this organization was passed on 13 December 1636 (ref. Records Mass. 1:186-187). The organization of 13 December 1636 with the results of commissions issued on 9 March 1636/7 (ref. Records Mass. 1:186-187). Captain William Trask was part of the East Regiment which is detailed as:

EAST REGIMENT (101st Egr Bn) COL John Endecott; LTC John Winthrop, Jr. Mustermaster CPT William Trask Salem: CPT William Trask Saugus (renamed 1637 as Lynn): CPT Daniel Patrick Ipswich: CPT Daniel Dennison Newbury: CPT John Spencer (NOTE: Missing is Marblehead which had town status 1633)

On 25 January 1635 Captain William Trask (as well as Peter Palfry, John Balch, John Woodberry and Roger Conant) was granted 200 acres of land (the whole being 124 rods by about 1,290) as a gift for defeating the Pequot Indians. This land was situated at the head of the North River near Peabody Square. Trask was also given two grants in the South Peabody area including a l00-acre farm near Spring Pond. However, it was the grant that was near what is now Peabody Square that was the most important. Trask and his descendants built dwelling houses and at least four mills in this area by ca. 1660. In addition, Salem granted several houselots in the same area. These grants represented the start of the village of Brooksby, now Peabody. Peabody's first mill, a grist mill, was built in 1634 by Captain William Trask near the old mil1 pond at Peabody Square. The pond is MHC Reconnaissance Survey Town Report: Peabody 8 now filled but originally existed in the vicinity of where Walks Street crosses the railroad tracks today. Some researchers say this is the oldest mill in America. By 1640 Trask built a second mill about 1/2 mile downstream from the first near present Grove Street. This mill may have been a tidal mill. In ca. 1656 a samp mortar mill replaced the original Trask grist mill on the pond near Peabody Square.

There is also reference to Captain Trask causing a bit of uproar in Salem. The trouble erupted on a cold October day in 1634. Captain William Trask was drilling his train-band in the fundamentals of military operations. Onlookers in Salem saw the men carrying the flag of St. George proudly. The flag belonged to the king of England and was used by the Royal Navy. The trouble was that it had been given to the king by the Pope as a talisman of victory. John Endecott who had been the first governor of the settlement at Salem saw it and was horrified. Endecott then cut the offending cross from the flag with his sword. The men in power were worried, fearing the London authorities would consider Endecott’s action a slap in the king’s face. An investigation was begun and the results were turned over to the General Court. Endecott was “admonished” and banned from holding public office for a year. He was then jailed. But Endecott was no dumb bunny. He was released the same day after admitting his errors.


The will of William Trask, sr., of Salem, was proved in the court held at Salem June 28, 1666. The following copy is transcribed from the original instrument on file in the office of the clerk of courts at Salem, volume XI, leaf 134.

Theƒe pƒents teƒtifie That I william Traƒke senior of Salem hauiug at this time my ƒenƒe & memory Though weake in bodie do make this my laƒt will & Teƒtament this 15th of may 1666

Imprimis I giue unto Sarah my wife the north end of my dwelling houƒe during the tearm of her life I doe allƒo apoint that ƒhee ƒhall haue ƒome of the fruit of the orchard for her owne uƒe & a little ƒpot for a garden if ƒhee deƒires it during the time of her life

Item I giue unto Sarah my wife ƒixteene pounds p annum to bee paided unto her yearelie for her maintenance during the time of her life, & allƒoe I giue her a cow, which cow is to bee ƒommerd & winterd for her, by the executors during the time of her life

Item I giue unto my ƒon william all the meadow that lyeth vpon the ƒide of the riuer betweene the upper & the lower mills & allƒo the upper mill pond to william

Item I giue unto my two daughters Sarah & Suƒan ƒixteene pounds a peice

Item I giue unto my daughter mary twentie ƒix pounds & this to bee paid out of my eƒtate by my executors in the ƒpace of three yeare after my deceaƒe

Item I giue unto my grandchildren 10s a peice

Item I doe apoint my two ƒons william & John to be executors of this my laƒt will & teƒtament giuing them all the reƒt of my eƒtate to bee equalli deuided betweene them

Signum William m Traƒke senior

Item as concerning my houƒehold ƒtuff I apoint that none of it ƒhall bee made away or diƒpoƒed of so long as my wife liues but ƒhe to haue the free uƒe of it as formerly & after her deceaƒe I giue vnto my daughter mary the great braƒse pan & to my ƒon william my bed & bedding that I now lye upon & the reƒt to be devided as above ƒaid in the preƒenceSignum us

William W Traƒke senior Joseph O Boice John Hill

The Essex Antiquarian


Christian Trask said that according to a book "Passages of the Planters" (The title may not be exact--notes and sources have become disorganized after 4 or 5 moves). There is a record of a Capt. William Traske as a passanger upon the ship "The Sea Lion" which departed Delft, Holland during June of 1624 to New England. According to the historians Will and Ariel Durant, in "The Age of Exploration", Capt. Traske and Woodbury, Connaut, Balch, and Palfrey (The Old Planters) were confronted by Miles Standish and company while they were operating a fishing station, at Cape Ann, during the year 1624. This paved the way for the Salem settlement. I think it is vey likely that William Traske made several trans-Atlantic journies during the 1620's.

Juel Trask stated he was sure that William made at least two trips between England and New England. That is the reason for the confusion over when he came over. His arrival in 1628 with Governor Endicott was probably his last arrival. The fishing station at Cape Anne was a business venture of the Dorchester Company out of Dorsetshire. They wanted to catch and dry fish to take back to England. Several of the East Coker families were involved in the fishing station. Juel has written additional information in his "paper" {The Traske's of Massachusetts Bay}.

Gloucester History:

The first Europeans to land on Cape Ann were the French. Samuel de Champlain led an expedition in 1605 and anchored briefly. The next year, Champlain led a second expedition, entering Gloucester harbor and calling it "le beau port," or "beautiful harbor." The party stayed about two weeks, making maps of the area. When they ran into 200 Indians and thought them hostile, they quickly left the area. Captain John Smith sailed by Cape Ann in 1614, and named it "Cape Tragabigzanda". Prince Charles of England finally coined the name "Cape Ann" in 1684 for his mother Queen Anne

The Dorchester Company sent out a group of fishermen from England in 1623. At Stage Point they set up stages to dry the fish before it was sent back to England. The same location was later a fort. Cannons were set up in the hills to protect Gloucester's fishing fleet from invading pirates and enemy warships during the war of 1812.

From: The Winthrop Society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to historical and genealogical research and the dissemination of educational material about The Massachusetts Bay Colony. There are several other applicable articles available at their web site, e.g., The First Freemen of Massachusetts Bay and The Oath of a Freeman.

The following individuals are reported to be the newest inhabitants of New England.

Among the very first Puritan settlers of Cape Anne and Naumkeag between 1623-1627): Allen, Balch, Conant, Cushman, Gardner, Gray, Jeffrey, Knight, Lyford, Norman, Oldham, Palfrey, Patch, Pickryn, Winslow, Woodbury.

Those settled by Gorges, 1623, and other very early settlers: Blaxton, Burslin, Hilton, Jeffrey, Hennens, Maverick, Pierce, Pratt, Sanders, Thomson, Walford.

[Note; There were at least two individuals with the name Gorges.

Captain Robert Gorges set out from Horton in Somersetshire in 1621 to Wessegusset, now called Weymouth, MA. John Balch was a member of this colony and went to Naumkeag when the settlement was abondoned two years later.

Sir Ferdinando Gorges (1566?-1647), English soldier, mariner, and colonizer, born in Long Ashton, Somersetshire. He founded two Plymouth companies (1606 and 1620) for acquiring and colonizing lands in New England. In 1629 he received the land between the Kennebec and Piscataqua rivers, and in 1639 King Charles I granted him a charter constituting him proprietor of the province of Maine. Gorges later called it New Somersetshire, after his place of birth. His son neglected the province, which finally placed itself under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Bay Colony.]

Among those who arrived with Endecott on the ship "Abigail" at Naumkeag in 1628: Brackenbury, Brown, Davenport, Elford, Endecott, Gott, Laskin, Leach, Maurie/Morey, Puchett, Scruggs and Captain Traske.

Among those who arrived with the Higginson fleet to Salem, 1629: Archer, Beard, Brand, Brown, Brude, Claydon, Craddock, Dixy, Dodge, Edes, Edmonds, Ewstead, Farr, Graves, Hanscombe, Haughton, Haward, Herrick, Higginson, Holgrave, Ingersoll, Malbon, Massie, Miller, Moulton, Rickman, Ryall, Sharpe, Sibly, Skelton, Sprague, Stileman, Tillie, Waterman, Webb, Wilson

The following men were transported in 1631 (from the London Rolls Office) probably aboard the "William and Francis": Gamlin, Harris, Hart, Hayward, Hill, Levins, Mannering, Norton, Olliver, Perkins, Smallie, Thomas, Whetson, Woodford, Winslow.

Others in Salem by 1633: Auger, Bennet, Clark, Dike, Huson, Johnson, Leavit, Manning, Noddle, Norton, Peach, Sweet, Wincoll.


From: The Salem Witch Museum:

The Dorchester Company had established a fishing settlement on Cape Anne during the winter of 1623-24 under a charter with England. It was located at Stage Point, now Gloucester, Essex County, Massachusetts.

In the late autumn of 1625, Roger Conant was invited by the Rev. John White and other members of the Dorchester Company to move to their fishing settlement on Cape Ann and serve as their governor ";for the management and government of all their affairs at Cape Ann"..

Roger Conant was born in the parish of East Budleigh, Devonshire, England in 1592, the youngest of eight children. In 1623 he emigrated to Plymouth with his wife, Sarah, and son, Caleb. However, he was uncomfortable with the strict Pilgrim society in Plymouth and moved his family to Nantasket in 1624.

Roger accepted the offer as governor at Stage Point. After a year's residence, he became convinced of the need for a more permanent settlement and found an ideal site at the mouth of the Naumkeag River in 1626. There the settlement grew by farming as well as fishing.

In 1627 a patent was solicited from England and it was obtained by a group, which included William Traske, led by John Endicott. They arrived at Naumkeag in 1628. Endicott and the other settlers of the New England Company now owned the rights to Naumkeag. Fortunately for the peaceful continuity of the settlement, Conant remained in Naumkeag and, despite what must have been a disappointment for him, acceded to Endicott's authority as the new governor.

When Governor Endicott arrived in 1628, he incorporated Conant and his men into the new government. Known as the "Old Planters", Conant and his followers lent continuity to the new settlement and can be considered the founding fathers of Naumkeag, renamed Salem for "Shalom" or Peace on June 29, 1629. Roger Conant died on November 19, 1679 considering himself "; instrument, though a weak one, of foundering and furthering this colony...";

Note; On the 25th January, 1635, the town of Salem granted to Peter Palfry, John Balch, William Traske, John Woodberry and Roger Conant, 200 acres each, the whole being 124 rods by about 1,290. These grantees were all settlers before Endicott's arrival, and hence were called "Old Planters". RWT

The "Dorchester Company" went into bankruptcy in 1627 and became "The Massachusetts Bay Colony" in 1629 under charter from England.


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Capt. William Trask, Sr.'s Timeline

December 14, 1585
East Coker, Somersetshire, England
December 14, 1585
East Coker, Somersetshire, England
Age 44
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
January 1, 1633
Age 47
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
January 1636
Age 50
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
June 10, 1638
Age 52
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
July 19, 1640
Age 54
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony