William Backus "The Immigrant"

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William Backus

Also Known As: "William Backus Jr.", "William Backus II", ""The Immigrant""
Birthplace: Sheffield, Yorkshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: June 07, 1664 (57)
Norwich, (Present New London County), Connecticut Colony, Colonial America
Place of Burial: Norwich, New London County, Connecticut, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Backus, I and Sarah Backus
Husband of Ellen Cook; Sarah Elizabeth Gardiner; Elizabeth Ellen Backus and Anna Backus
Father of John Backus; Thomas Backus; Ellen Backus; Elizabeth Backus; Sarah Reynolds and 7 others

Occupation: Cutler; oldest of the 1st settlers of Norwich & the 1st to die there, the immigrant
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Backus "The Immigrant"



William Backus was born 1606 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England. He died 10 Jun 1664 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]


  1. on 1627 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England to Elizabeth ??. She was born 1607 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England and died Feb 1643 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England; was buried 9 Feb 1643 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England. [1] [2] [11] [12]
  2. on 1659 in Saybrook, Middlesex, Connecticut to Anna Fenton (1606-1670), daughter of Robert Fenton (1584-1623) and Alice Hancock (1585-1644), and widow of Thomas Bingham; Anne Fenton and Thomas Bingham had 8 children.

Children of William Backus and Elizabeth ??:

  1. Sarah BACKUS was christened 31 Aug 1628 and died 22 Jul 1702.
  2. N.N. BACKUS 1 was born 1630 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England. He died 7 Jan 1630 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England.
  3. Mary BACKUS was christened 6 May 1632 and died 8 Jul 1717.
  4. Lieutenant William BACKUS was christened 30 Nov 1634 and died Apr 1721.
  5. Lydia BACKUS was christened 310 Dec 1637 and died Jun 1696.
  6. N.N. BACKUS 1 was born 1639 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England. He died Dec 1640 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England and was buried 28 Dec 1640 in Sheffield, West Riding, Yorkshire, England.
  7. Stephen BACKUS was christened 3 Jan 1641 and died 1695.


Wife / mother of children name discrepancy in sources. Notes below have his first marriage to Sarah Charles. However based on dates that seems to be a mixup with the 2nd William Backus, so as of 25 Dec 2010, she shows in Geni as the wife of William Backus Jr, not Sr.


Little is known of the history of William Backus, Sen. He is supposed to have been living at Saybrook as early as 1637. In the settlement of the estate of John Charles, who died at Bradford in 1673, the children of William Backus received a share, in right of their deceased mother, who was his daughter. From this faut it is ascertained that the first wife of William Backus was Sarah, daughter of John Charlee.

Before removing to Norwich, he married Mrs. Anne Bingham, and brought with him to the new settlement three daughters, two sons, and his wife's son, Thomas Bingham. The three young men were of mature age, or near maturity, and are all usually reckened as first proprietors. The daughters were subsequently united in marriage to John Reynolds, Benjamin Crane, and John Bayley.

The house-lots of the younger William and of Stephen Backus are both recorded aa laid out in 1659 ; but the latter was the allotment of his father, who dying at an early period after the settlement, and the land-records being made at a later date, it was registered in Stephen's name, who had received it by bequest from his father. Hence, William Backus, Senior, does not appear on the town record as a land-holder.

His will, dated June 12, 1661, and witnessed by Thomas Tracy and John Post, is recorded at New London, and endorsed as allowed by a court held in that place, June 21, 1665. The inventory of his effects is found among ancient court documents at Hartford, dated June, 1664. The date of his death has not been recovered. It is probable that it took place soon after the signing of the will. The slender legacies mentioned are suggestive of the limited resources of the settlement in its earliest days, and we may fairly infer from the rapid growth of the town afterward, that they would have been enlarged by a subsequent addition, or that a fresh instrument would have been executed, had the testator .survived until 1664. That three or four years intervened before the settlement of the estate, scarcely militates against this supposition, when the circumstances of the case are considered ; the land almost a wilderness, the inhabitants engaged in arduous labors, the town but just organized, and no justices, no law offices or courts within their own bounds.

The provisions of the will are few and simple. He has nothing to bequeath but his house and land, cows, corn, household stuff, and "the tools belonging to the trade of a smith or cutler;" and he confirms it with the signature W. В., instead of writing his name.

It is interesting to observe how rapidly the settlement advanced in prosperity and comfort. This family and others in the course of a single generation grew strong and luxuriant, throwing out buds and branches of rich and noble growth.

The death of Mrs. Backus is registered with the Bingham family.

" Mrs. Anne Backus, mother of Thomas Bingham Sen. died in May 1670."


William Backus is supposed to have been an inhabitant of Saybrook as early as 1637. He was a smith, or cutler by trade, and his first wife, Sarah, was the daughter of John Charles of Branford, Ct. She died in Saybrook, and just before removing to Norwich, he married Ann, widow of Thomas Bingham. On his arrival at Norwich, his household probably consisted of his wife, his son Stephen, and his step-son Thomas Bingham. Three daughters had married in Saybrook, one only, coming to Norwich, Sarah, the wife of John Reynolds To his eldest son, William, had been assigned a home-lot near Bean Hill. William OLD HOUSES OF NORWICH. 67

Backus, St., died soon after the settlement of Norwich, probably between 1661 and 1664, so the land is recorded as the home-lot of his son Stephen.


William BACKUS

  1. Bingham, Everett F., "William Backus of Sheffield, Yorkshire, and Norwich, Connecticut" NEHGR 142:3 (Jul 1988) (New England Historic, Genealogical Society.), pp. 253-254, Los Angeles Public Library.
  2. Jacobus, Donald L., "Backus Correction," The American Genealogist 14:2 (Apr 1938), p. 242, Los Angeles Public Library.
  3. Backus, Mary Elizabeth Neilson, The New England Ancestry of Dana Converse Backus (Salem, Massachusetts: 1949.), pp. 2-5, Los Angeles Public Library, 929.2 B126.
  4. Backus, Reno Warburton, The Backus Families of Early New England (Minnesota: R. W. Backus, 1966.), pp. 4-6, Family History Library, 929.273 B128.
  5. Jacobus, Donald Lines, Hale, House and Related Families: Mainly of the Connecticut River Valley (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978.), p. 452, Family History Library, 929.273 H135j 1978.
  6. "The Four Spencer Brothers," The American Genealogist 27:3 (Jul 1951), p. 165, Los Angeles Public LibraryBingham, Richard C., "Fenton Records in Sheffield, Yorkshire," NEHGR 153:4 (Oct 1999) (New England Historic, Genealogical Society.), p. 499, Los Angeles Public Library.
  7. Jacobus, Donald Lines, The Granberry Family and Allied Families (Hartford, Connecticut: E.F. Waterman, 1945.), p. 163, Family History Library, 929.273 G762j.Crane, Jonathan, "The Crane Family," NEHGR 27:1 (Jan 1873) (New England Historic, Genealogical Society.), p. 77, Los Angeles Public Library.
  8. Jacobus, D., Granberry Family, p. 163.
  9. Torrey, Clarence Almon, New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985.), p. 29, Los Angeles Public Library, Gen 974 T694.

Birth: unknown Death: 1661 Norwich New London County Connecticut, USA

William Backus, Sr. came from England and settled in Old Saybrook, Middlesex, Connecticut, by 1637. He died in 1661 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut, soon after relocating there. No record of his burial place has been found. Although it is accurate to consider him one of the founders of Norwich, he died soon after moving there, leaving his property to his son, Stephen. For this reason, his name does not appear on the records of the thirty-some original proprietors of Norwich, or on the Mason, or "Founders" Monument. The monument, located in the variously named: Mason Cemetery, Post Gager Burial Ground/Post and Gager Cemetery, Ancient Norwich Burying Ground, Norwich Founders('s) Cemetery, Founders Cemetery, etc., names only Ensign William Backus Jr and Stephen Backus, his sons. Although their names are included on the Mason, or Founders, Monument, no record of the burial place of either son has been found, so the Mason/Founders Monument must be considered a cenotaph for both Ensign William Backus, Jr and Stephen Backus, but not for William Backus, Sr., whose name is not included.

All of the known children of William Backus, Sr. were born to his first wife, whose name, place and dates of birth and death, are unknown.

The following is quoted from THE BACKUS FAMILIES OF EARLY NEW ENGLAND, by Reno Warburton Backus:


Factual details on the life of William Backus are few. He is usually said to have been born in Norwich, England, but clear proof of this is lacking. He was established in Saybrook, Connecticut, by 1637, shortly after the founding of that settlement in 1635, probably having entered America through a Massachusetts port. Whether a wife and family accompanied him, or whether he married after his arrival, is not known.

Several authors state that he came to this country on the sailing ship Rainbow, 250 tons burden, of which Captain Haskins was Master. Col. Banks, in his Topographical Dictionary gives a list of emigrants from various cities and villages in the several counties of England in that period; among those coming from the county of York appear the names of Francis and William Backus, but without place of origin or any other data. It is assumed that this William is the one who settled at Saybrook. But what relationship did Francis bear to William, - father, brother, cousin? We do not know.

In a memoir of LeRoy Manson Backus, Sr., of Seattle, in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, July, 1949, (the material having been submitted by Mr. Backus himself), an interesting reference to William Backus appears, his year of birth being given as 1589/90.* The present writer has been unable to find any confirmation of that date elsewhere in spite of repeated search. So, for solid ground, we again must return to Saybrook and 1637.

The story of Saybrook is that of a seacoast village, now old, still small, on the Connecticut shore of Long Island Sound, at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Barber gives a fine, succinct account of the settlement and its early history. The actual site of the settlement was a broad peninsula or lip on the west bank of the river, measuring about a mile in length, connecting with the mainland by a narrow neck. Convenient for defense against marauding Indians, it did not lend itself to large development.

Records of the early personal happenings at Saybrook are sparse indeed. There are accounts of John Winthrop, The Younger, first “governor” of the settlement, and references to Lion Gardiner, the engineer engaged by Winthrop to construct fortifications. There are references also to the three chief patentees of the land grant, Lord Say and Seal, Lord Brook, whose names are commemorated by the town, and Colonel George Fenwick, who visited the settlement in 1636 and 1639 and remained several years on the latter occasion. Beyond these items, little remains of the early local history. In a town meeting of January, 1648, however, an account is given of plans for development of outlying lands around the original settlement. In this, William Backus is found among twelve men assigned land across on the east side of the Connecticut River, in that area which later became known as Lyme. Whether this was William’s homestead, or was in addition to a home in the town, is not indicated. There is no reference in the town records to his work, activities, station in life, or when or whom he first married, the dates or order of birth of his children, or when their mother died. Older accounts incorrectly show his first wife to have been Sarah Charles; but Jacobus has demonstrated clearly that Sarah Charles was the first wife of his son William, Jr., not of the senior William. By 1659 William, Sr., had taken as his second wife a widow, Mrs. Anne Bingham, variously recorded by earlier writers as Anne (Stenton) Bingham , or as Anne (Stetson) Bingham. She was the widow of Thomas Bingham, they having been married July 6, 1631, in Sheffield, England. ... Thomas and Anne (Fenton) Bingham had a son Thomas, recorded in Saybrook, Connecticut, also Norwich, and later Windham, where he was known as Thomas, Sr.. Curiously and confusingly, two children of this stepson of William Backus, Sr., later married grandchildren of William.

The records of Saybrook indicate that the shore-line soil was thin and unproductive. In time, some of the Saybrook settlers became desirous of moving to better ground. An opportunity to improve their lot came in the form of warfare between two of their neighboring Indian tribes. Mohegans under a sachem, Chief Uncas, occupied the valley of the Connecticut. To the east lived the Narragansetts, a related tribe, but one with whom they were frequently on bad terms. During this new conflict, the home stockade of the Mohegan was surrounded and placed under siege for some days. A plea to the English colonists from Chief Uncas for help against the Narragansetts caused a relief party to set out from Saybrook under Lieut. Leffingwell, breaking the siege and turning the tide of battle. For this act, the Mohegans later granted to the English a generous tract of land nine miles square around the head of the Thames River. A settlement, first occupied in the fall of 1659, was more firmly settled in the spring of 1660, and became the town of Norwich. Thirty-five families (or thirty-eight according to other authority) moved to the new location as original settlers.

William Backus, Sr., did not long survive the transfer, his share of the new land descending to his younger son, Stephen, presumably just coming of age, while his elder son, William, Jr., had a share in his own right. In this manner the two sons appear on the records among the thirty-some original proprietors of Norwich, but William, Sr., does not. Older accounts show him dying in 1664. Mary E. N. Backus in her excellent history of the family gives good reason for believing he died between June 12, 1661, the date of his will, and August 28 of that same year, since an official record of property transfer indicates that Stephen had already succeeded to his father's estate by the latter date. With the colony still in the early stages of governmental organization, legal matters sometimes suffered delay. It was June 2l, 1665, before the will of William, Sr., was allowed in the New London Court. A copy of the will is filed in the records of New London Town, Book 1646-66, pp. 143-4,...

The Norwich Vital Records (153, v.1, p. 8) list William's wife Anne, "Mother of Thomas Bingham, Sr." as dying in May, 1670.


Backus, Reno Warburton. The Backus Families of Early New England, 1966, p. 4-9.

  • Duplicate children are due to cenotaph memorials created for William, Jr and Steven Backus.


@R-1044483872@ U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current Ancestry.com Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 1,60525::0




@R-1044483872@ U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current Ancestry.com Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 1,60525::0




@R-1044483872@ U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current Ancestry.com Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 1,60525::0




@R-1044483872@ U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current Ancestry.com Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 1,60525::0





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William Backus "The Immigrant"'s Timeline

November 23, 1606
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England
February 28, 1619
United Kingdom
March 24, 1620
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
United Kingdom
August 31, 1628
Probably England
Sheffield, York, England
Sheffield, Yorkshire, England