Rev. William Witherell

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William Witherell

Birthplace: Maidstone, Kent, England
Death: Died in Scituate, Plymouth County, Plymouth Colony
Place of Burial: Norwell, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Rev. Witherell's father and Rev. Witherell's mother
Husband of Mary Witherell
Father of Elizabeth Bryant; Samuel M Wetherell, Sr.; John Wetherell, Sr.; Daniel M. Wetherell, Sr. Capt.; Thomas Witherell and 5 others

Occupation: Pastor, teacher
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Rev. William Witherell

William came with Mary, 3 children and l servant, in the ship "Hercules" from Sandwich in 1635, under a certificate dated Mar 14, 1635, from the mayor of Maidstone, England, where he was a schoolmaster.

William attended Cambridge College, receiving a BA in 1622, and a MA in 1626.

In New England, he settled at Charlestown, and taught the grammer school there. In 1638 he moved to Duxbury where he was a proprietor. He was called as pastor to Scituate in Sept. 1644, and remained there the balance of his life. He wrote several elegies, one on Mrs. Sarah Cushing of Scituate as late as 1679. His will is dated Mar 29, 1684, and was probated June 4, 1684

William Witherell was the first minister of the Second Church of Scituate. He was ordained on September 2, 1645 and he ministered for 39 years. During that time, he baptised 608 children. His record of those baptisms still exist, and shows that people came to him in (current day) Norwell from as far away as Yarmouth on Cape Cod.

Before he died, he was able to bring about an end to the feud that initiated the creation of the Second Church of Scituate. The church which he served as the first minister continues on today as the First Parish of Norwell.


William Witherell, schoolmaster from Maidstone, England came to New England in the ship "Hercules" which set sail from Sandwich, England in the spring of 1634 with his wife, Mrs. Mary Witherall, and children, Samuel, Daniel and Thomas Witherall and servant Anne Richards. They were destined to Charlestown, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts.

   Mr. Wilm Wetherrell


WETHERELL, WILLIAM, Scituate, 1644, came with w. Mary and three ch. and one serv. in the Hercules from Sandwich 1635, under certif. of 14 Mary. in that yr. from the mayor of Maidstone, Co. Kent. where he was sch.-master, hav. bred at Bennet (now Corpus Christi) coll. Cambridge, and there took his A. B. 1622, i. e. Jan. 1623, and A. M. 1626, is by Frothingham, 85, claim. for resid. at Charlestown 1636, to wh. I have nothing to object, but that this name is not found in Budington's list of ch. memb. Farmer had provid. him a resid. in Cambridge also; but this, I presume, to be the same as Charlestown. He seems to have preach. at Duxbury, but bec. min. of the sec. ch. at S. in 1645, and had sev. ch. b. in this country, as prob. John; Theophilus; Elizabeth; Sarah; and Hannah, 20 Feb. 1647; but the last, it is thot. d. young; and he d. 9 Apr. 1684, aged perhaps 84. Mary, b. perhaps in Eng. m. 20 Nov. 1656; Elizabeth m. 22 Dec. 1657, John Bryant; and Sarah m. Jan. 1670, Israel Hobart of Hingham.

WILLIAM WITHERELL (1645-1684) First Parish of Norwell - History

As a result of this controversy, the Second Church was established February 2, 1642, by those with the more liberal ideas. William Vassall was the leader of the liberals and in all probability the first meetings were held in his home at Belle House Neck which stood near the present junction of Neal Gate Street and Route 3A overlooking the North River. The first minister was William Witherell, and the meeting house was located on Wilson Hill, Main Street at the corner of Old Meeting House Lane. It was a small frame building with thatch roof and no glass in the windows, just oiled paper. This was used by the society for the thirty-nine years Mr. Witherell served as pastor. He lived nearby but the house he occupied was not owned by the Society. There is a boulder marking the supposed site of the meeting house. Originally there was a small cemetery but later this land was used for farming purposes and the then owner removed the old grave stones and is said to have destroyed them completely. Mr. Witherell's record of baptisms begins in September, 1645, with that of one of his own children, "Anno 1645 Sarah, ye daughter of Wm. Wetherell, Septbre 7." This record, numbering 608 baptisms, appears in his own handwriting until 1674, when a paralytic affliction compelled him to employ assistance in such work. This large number of baptisms during the thirty-nine years of Mr. Witherell's ministry, large indeed for a country church in a sparsely settled district, in those early days, is evidence in itself that ministers of Mr. Witherell's popularity because of the broadness of his views regarding church membership, as well as that of infant sprinkling, was an uncommon one. Parents brought their children to him for baptism from as far away as Yarmouth on the Cape.

Mr. Chauncy left Scituate in 1654 and became president of Harvard University while Mr. Dunster left the presidency of Harvard to become pastor of the First Church of Scituate. Mr. Dunster died in 1659, and his successor was Nicholas Baker of Hingham. He and Mr. Witherell were both kindly tolerant men so together they managed to end the long feud between the First and Second Churches. Today both the First Parish in Scituate and the First Parish in Norwell are liberal Unitarian churches and members of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Rev. William Witherell, immigrant ancestor of the Wetherells and \Vitherells of Plymouth and Barnstable counties, was a graduate of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. England, July 3, 1619, a native of Yorkshire, England. He took the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts and was licensed as of Maidstone, England, aged about twenty-five, to marry Mary Fisher, March 26, 1627. Her mother Joan married (second) John Martin, yeoman. He came to this country in the ship "Hercules" of Sandwich, sailing March 14, 1634-35, with wife Mary, three children and one servant. He gave his occupation as school master. He settled at Charlestown, Massachusetts, and taught the grammar school. From 1636 to 1638 he was at Cambridge, then he removed to Duxbury of which he was a proprietor in August, 1640. He was called to the pastorate of the Second Church of Scituate in September, 1644, and filled that position the remainder of his life. He was admitted a freeman of the Plymouth colony, June i, 1658. He died in Scituate, April 9, 1684, aged eighty-four years. His will was dated March 29, and proved June 4, 1684, bequeathing to grandchildren: Samuel, Joshua and Hannah, children of his eldest son Samuel; to his widow Isabel; to sons John, Theophilus and Daniel; to daughter, Mary Oldham. Children, three or more born in Maidstone, county Kent: Samuel; John, mentioned below; Mary, married, November 20, 1656, Thomas Oldham; Elizabeth, married, December 22, 1657, John Bryant; Theophilus ; Daniel; Sarah, born at Scituate, February 10, 1644; Hannah, born February 20, 1646.

(from New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial, edited by William Richard Cutter)

Married March 26, 1627 in St. Mildred's Cathedral.
William Wetherell of Maidstone, schoolmaster, Mary, his wife, three children, and one servant. He carried certificates from Samuel Marshal, Mayor of Maidstone, Thomas Swinnuck, Edward Duke and Robert Barrel, 3/14/1634 ["Emigrants in the Hercules of Sandwich," NEHGR, Jan., 1861, p. 28].

About the Village of Maidstone

Interestingly, there was a time when the most important factor about Maidstone was its 5 watermills which ground grain to flour. Needless to say, this was in in the 10th-century, when the village, as it was then, was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Domesday Book recorded Maidstone as a village with a large population of 250 inhabitants. This too, is place where the first recorded trial in England was held - the site of which, Pendenen Heath, is now used for recreational purposes only.

The towns occupancy of a prime position on the Medway made it, from the Middle Ages, ideally suited as a natural Market Centre for fruit and vegetables to be gathered from surrounding towns and villages and transported to meet the demands of the city of London. This continues to this day.

In these days too, Maidstone had annual fairs as well as a weekly market. These events were so popular that people travelled from as far afield as London to attend a Maidstone Fair. The produce was always fresh and there was a diverse variety of goods on offer from the local craftsmen who worked in the town.

By the early 14th-century Maidstone had become a sizeble market town with an increasing population of around 2,000. In the year 1348 the horrors of the black death struck and the growing population was greatly diminished. Over the centuries Maidstone continued to suffer from spasmodic epedemics of decease with the final outbreak of plague being in 1666.

Cloth making and related industries flourished during the 16th-century when many refugees settled here following religious persecution in the Low countries. However, at the time of the civil war the town was secured by the parliamentarians. An uprising caused the Royalists to take control of the town but attack by the parliamentarians saw the royalist routed.

As the town increased in size, trade expanded and those that reaped rich rewards gave generously to both church and town and many beautiful buildings were built. The present Archbishops Palace dates from the 14th-century, it has though been altered and renovated several times. Close by this ancient building is the beautiful church of All Saints. It has a nave which spans over 90ft and building began in 1395. There is an attractive 14th-century bridge that spans the River Len in Mill Street, and the 15th-century Corpus Christi Hall is in Earl Street

During the 15th-century, one of the most powerful families in England, the Woodville family, made their home at Mote Park on the edge of the town. Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers was patron of William Caxton the printer. Elizabeth, his sister married King Edward IV. This beautiful house was rebuilt in the 18th-century and today it is a home for the disabled and owned by the Cheshire charity.


The Rev. William was admitted to the church in Charlestown in 1635 ["Charlestown Inhabitants," NEHGR, 1977, p. 212].

He became pastor of the Scituate Second Church in Sept., 1645 and "maintained his record of baptisms in a strictly chronological manner..." ["Seeing Double: The Children of Ephraim and Joanna (Rawlings) Kempton," by Dean Crawford Smith and Melinde Lutz Sanborn, NEHGR, 1994).

William was living in Hingham in 1638 and then in Scituate in 1644 (both in early Massachusetts) ["Charlestown Inhabitants," NEHGR, 1977, p. 212].

William Witherell was born about 1600 in England.

He married Mary Fisher in England. They had children.

William, his wife, three children, and a servant all travelled in 1634 to New England on the 'Good ship Hercules of Sandwich'.

He died in Scituate, Plymouth county, Plymouth Colony.

William Witherell was the first minister of the Second Church of Scituate. He was ordained on September 2, 1645 and he ministered for 39 years. During that time, he baptised 608 children. His record of those baptisms still exist, and shows that people came to him in (current day) Norwell from as far away as Yarmouth on Cape Cod.

Before he died, he was able to bring about an end to the feud that initiated the creation of the Second Church of Scituate. The church which he served as the first minister continues on today as the First Parish of Norwell.

Family links:

 Daniel Wetherell (1630 - 1719)*

Second Church Graveyard Main Street at Old Meeting House Lane Norwell Plymouth County Massachusetts USA

Cemetery notes and/or description: There are no markers at this graveyard.

The only reminder of the existence of the Second Church Graveyard is the boulder (see the photo and it's caption) that memorializes the site of the First Meeting House of the Second Parish of Scituate. The parish was established in February 2, 1642. The building stood from 1645 to 1680 and the burials remain. This site is atop 'Wilson's Hill'.

In 1680, the church moved further west on Main Street. The Second Parish Cemetery is at the site of the Second Meeting House of the Second Parish of Scituate.

In the early 1800s, this graveyard was heavily vandalized and all of the stones were removed. In April 1898, stone of Thomas King was found, and in February 1899, the stone of Cornelius Briggs was found.

According to the Rev. Samuel Deane, sometime between 1810-1834, "Here were buried the earliest generations of the Cushings, the Kings, the Torreys, the Hatchs, the Robinsons, with Mr. Witherell, their first pastor."

This burial place is referenced to in the book "Historia; A Magazine of Local History" volume 1, number 1, published in November 1898 and number 3, published in April 1899.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission does not refer to this cemetery in MACRIS.

More info; 1188. Rev. William Witherell. Born ca 1600. William died on 9 Apr 1684 in Scituate, MA.48

Witherell, also spelled Weatherwell or Witherle. In England William was a schoolmaster in Maidstone, Kent, England, having received his baccalaureate degree from Bennet (Corpus Christi) College, Cambridge University in Jan., 1623 and his A. m. at 1626. In New England he taught grammar school in Charlestown, MA in 1636. He preached for a time in Duxbury, and in Sept., 1644 became minister of the church in Scituate, MA; sworn a freeman June 1, 1658

William “was the first pastor of the Second Church in Scituate. He came in the ship Hercules of Sandwich, 200 tons, John Witherly, master, from Maidstone, England, with his wife Mary, three children and one servant, on certificates dated Mar. 1634. He had formerly resided in Sollolk. His house stood a few rods southeast of the meeting house, which was ‘fifty rods east of Stony Cove Brook,’ on the crest of Wilson Hill, and was his residence during the thirty-0nine years of his ministry. He died in 1684. Persons from neighboring towns brought their children to him for baptism, probably because their own ministers were opposed to infant sprinkling. Among them were the families of Rogers of Marshfield, Nathaniel and Josiah Winslow (the Governor), and Kenhelm Winslow (Governor Edward Winslow’s brother) from Yarmouth.”39

On 26 Mar 1627 William married Mary Fisher, daughter of Thomas Fisher (19 Nov 1564-2 Apr 1608) & Joan Lake (20 Dec 1576-), in St Mildred’s Cathedral, Canterbury. Born on 17 Apr 1604 in Boughton-Monchelse, Kent. Mary died bef 26 Mar 1684 in Scituate, MA. D. Pane-Joyce Created Jul 2013 with the reluctant help of Reunion, from Leister Productions, Inc.


  1. Wetherell, William in the Cambridge Alumni Database. "Matric. sizar from CORPUS CHRISTI, Easter 1619. Of Yorkshire. B.A. 1622/3 ; M.A. 1626 . Schoolmaster at Maidstone, Kent. Emigrated with his family to New England[cu] USA[/cu], 1635 . Lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts[cu] USA[/cu]. for almost three years, and taught in a school there and in the adjacent town of Charlestown [ Massachusetts[cu] USARemoved to Duxbury, Massachusetts[cu USA[/cu]., 1638 . Settled permanently in Scituate, Massachusetts[cu] USA[/cu].; pastor of the Second Church there, 1645-84 . Died there 09 Apr., 1684, aged 84. (J. G. Bartlett.)"
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Rev. William Witherell's Timeline

Maidstone, Kent, England
Age 20
of Scituate, , Massachusetts
December 7, 1628
Age 26
Maidstone, Kent, England
November 29, 1630
Age 28
Maidstone, Kent, England
Age 28
Age 31
Maidstone, Kent, England
Age 33
Massachusetts Bay Colony