Contemporaries 1

William Brewster (1567-1644)
Refusing as a young man to conform, Bernard was deprived of his living in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and in 1604 went to Gainsborough, where he spent time with William Brewster and John Robinson. For about 3 years Bernard was an avid separatist. Unlike Brewster he soon reverted to Anglicanism.
Brewster grew up in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire but in 1620, like Robinson, he sailed on the famous Mayflower for the famous Plymouth Colony, New England, where he became a leader. He went to America with his wife Mary and two of his sons.
Scrooby Manor was in the possession of the Archbishops of York and was occupied by Brewster's parents, William and Prudence. William was estate bailiff for the archbishop for 31 years, from about 1580. With the job went that of postmaster, an important position that involved providing stagehorses for the mails. Scrooby was on the Great North Road.
William junior studied briefly at Peterhouse, Cambridge before entering the service of William Davidson in 1584. In 1585, Davidson went to the Netherlands as an ambassador to the States-General. In 1586 he was appointed assistant to Queen Elizabeth I's Secretary of State but lost the Queen's favour the following year.
Cambridge was a centre for reformed religion but it was in the Netherlands that Brewster had opportunity to hear and see more of it. Following Davidson's disgrace, he returned to Scrooby and from 1590 (until 1607) he held the position of postmaster. By this time Brewster's brother James, vicar of the parish of Sutton and Lound, Nottinghamshire, was a rather rebellious Anglican priest. From 1594, it fell to him to appoint curates to Scrooby church. The brothers were soon brought, with other leading members of the Scrooby congregation, before an ecclesiastical court for dissent. They were set on a path of separation from the Anglican Church. From about 1602, Scrooby Manor, Brewster's home, became a meeting place for dissenting Puritans and in 1606, they formed the Separatist Church of Scrooby.
Restrictions and pressures applied by the authorities convinced the congregation of the need to emigrate to the more sympathetic climate of Holland but to leave without permission was illegal so things were complex. On its first attempt, in 1607, the group was arrested at Scotia Creek but Brewster and others were able to escape along the Humber the following year. In 1609 Brewster was made ruling elder of the congregation.
In Leiden the group managed to make a living. Brewster taught English and later printed and published religious books for sale in England, though they were proscribed. In 1619 the printing type was seized by the authorities under pressure from the English ambassador and Brewster's partner was arrested. Brewster escaped and, with the help of Robert Cushman, obtained a land patent from the London Virginia Company on behalf of himself and his colleagues.
In 1620 he headed for America. There he served both as a church leader and as an advisor to Governor William Bradford. As the only university educated member of the colony, Brewster acted as pastor until Ralph Smith's arrival in 1629. Thereafter, he continued to preach until his death in April 1644.
In 1631 Bernard's daughter Mary Williams (1609-c1683) emigrated to New England with her husband Roger Williams (1599-1683). His son Masakiell (b 1607) also went to New England with a group led by Rev. Joseph Hull in 1635.
Brewster was granted land among the islands of Boston Harbour and four of the outer islands that still bear his name. He married a Mary Wentworth and together they had six children (Jonathan, Patience, Fear, Love, Wrestling and one more). Descendants have include William Howard Taft, Zachary Taylor and Katherine Hepburn.

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