Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, Stepson of Thomas Pell

Thomas Pell is widely considered the founder of the Manor of Pelham though he never resided permanently on the lands that he acquired from local Native Americans on June 27, 1654.  According to Pell's will, Pell left no issue (offspring) of his own.  In 1647, however, he married Lucy Brewster, the widow of Francis Brewster of Fairfield.  Lucy brought to her second marriage several children from her first marriage to Francis Brewster.  One of those children, Nathaniel Brewster, had 17th century ties to Eastchester and Pelham and is the subject of today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.  

Nathaniel Brewster was born to Francis and Lucy Brewster before 1618.  [Knapp, Alfred Averill, The Ancestral Lines of Mary Lenore Knapp, p. 117 (Ann Arbor, MI:  Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1948).]  Brewster died in 1690 in Setauket (now Brookhaven), Long Island.  See id.  In about 1644, shortly before his father was lost at sea in 1646, Nathaniel married Abigail Reynes, a daughter of John Reynes whose mother is unknown.  See id.  

Nathaniel Brewster and his first wife, Abigail Reynes, had at least two children:  John Brewster, born about 1645 in England, and Abigail Brewster.  Shortly after Thomas Pell acquired the lands that became the Manor of Pelham in 1654, Nathaniel Brewster married his second wife, Sarah Ludlow, who was a daughter of Roger Ludlow and his wife, Mary (Cogan) Ludlow in about 1655/56.  Roger Ludlow was an important early English settler who helped found the Colony of Connecticut as well as Fairfield and Norwalk.  Id.  According to one source, Nathaniel and his second wife, Sarah, had at least the following children:

"Sarah Brewster, b. about 1656.  m. Jonathan Smith. . . . 

Timothy Brewster, b. about 1858.  m. Mary Hawkins. . . . 

Daniel Brewster, bapt. 10-31-1662, Alby, England.  m. about 1693, Anne Jayne, dau. of William Jayne. . . . 

Hannah Brewster, b. about 1669/70. or 5-19-1679.  m. 1st, John Muncey.  2nd, John or Samuel Thompson. . . . 

Dinah Brewster, b. about 1666.  m. 4-6-1685, Joseph Tooker, son of Capt. John and Sarah Tooker. . . . 

Deborah Brewster, not proven by records."

Id., p. 118.

Nathaniel Brewster graduated from Harvard in 1642.  He served as a preacher in England from 1643 until 1663.  He returned to America at an opportune time.  His stepfather, Thomas Pell, had sold a large section of his land on June 24, 1664 to Philip Pinckney and others to permit the establishment of the settlement that became Eastchester.  The original ten families of Eastchester plus others who joined them built houses and settled adjacent to the lands owned by Thomas Pell.  

In 1665, the settlers of Eastchester agreed to the "Eastchester Covenant," an early 17th century copy of which still exists.  The Eastchester Covenant contained articles of agreement by which the early settlers agreed to abide as if the articles had the force of Town law.  One of the articles, designated number "19." in the early copy of the Eastchester Covenant, provided "That we give some encouragement to Mr. Bruwster eatch other weecke to give us a word of exortation and that when we are settelled we mete togeather etch other weeke one hour to talke of the best things."  [For an image of the early copy of the Eastchester Covenant, see Eastchester 350, Archive of Original Records:  Eastchester Covenant, 1665 <http://eastchester350.org/350/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Eastchester-Covenant1.pdf> (visited Nov. 1, 2014).]  

The "Mr. Bruwster" referenced in the above-quoted article was Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, a stepson of Thomas Pell.  Though Brewster had preached in England for nearly two decades, in 1663 he returned to America after "The Great Ejection" that followed the Act of Uniformity 1662 in England.  In The Great Ejection, about two thousand Puritan ministers left their positions as Church of England clergy, following changes after the restoration of Charles II to power following The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.  

For a very short time after his arrival in America, Brewster preached in Boston.
 Beginning in 1664, however, Brewster began preaching every other week in the tiny settlement of Eastchester  [See, generally, Morgan, Eloise L., ed., Out of the Wilderness -- The Emergence of Eastchester, Tuckahoe & Bronxville, NY 1664-2014, p. 67 & nn.154-57 (Privately Printed, Eastchester 350th Anniversary, Inc.).]  It would appear that Thomas Pell's ties to the tiny settlement of Eastchester facilitated a paid, though brief, tenure for Pell's stepson, Nathaniel Brewster, who preached to the Eastchester settlers every other week for about a year.  By 1665, however, Brewster removed to Setauket [now Brookhaven], Long Island where he preached for twenty-five years until his death in 1690.  Id.  It appears that Nathaniel Brewster removed to Eastchester not only because he had an opportunity to preach there, but also because certain of his children already lived there (see below).

This information sheds fascinating light on a matter about which I have written several times involving settlers who were allowed in 1669 to live on Minneford Island (today's City Island), part of the lands owned by Thomas Pell of the Manor of Pelham.  Nathaniel Brewster, Pell's stepson, was a preacher in Setauket in 1665 and thereafter.  Early in his tenure as a preacher in Setauket, a local husband and wife, Ralph and Mary Hall, were accused of practicing witchcraft and harming local residents who had become sick.  They were brought before the Court of Assizes which, after a witchcraft trial, sentenced the couple as follows:

"[Ralph Hall] 'should be bound Body and Goods for his Wife's Appearance at the next Sessions and so on from Sessions to Sessions, as long as they stay in this Government. In the mean While to be of good Behaviour.'"  The Court's message in its sentencing was clear:  "GET OUT!"  By August 21, 1668, the couple was living on Great Miniford's Island," part of the land owned by Thomas Pell.  [See Drake, Samuel G., Annals of Witchcraft in New England and Elsewhere in the United States from their First Settlement Drawn Up from Unpublished and Other Well Authenticated Records of the Alleged Operations of Witches and Their Instigator, the Devil, pp. 125-27 (NY, NY: Burt Franklin 1869).]

Although I have speculated that Thomas Pell's pangs of remorse over his family's earlier involvement may have played a role in allowing Ralph and Mary Hall to settle on Pell's lands, it would certainly seem that the circumstantial evidence is strong that Setauket preacher Nathaniel Brewster brokered an arrangement with his stepfather, Thomas Pell, to allow Ralph and Mary Hall to flee Setauket and settle on Minneford Island, part of Thomas Pell's lands. 

To read more about Ralph and Mary Hall of Setauket and their witchcraft persecution, see:  

See Fri., May 12, 2006:  Possible Evidence that Residents of the Manor of Pelham Were Acquitted in Rare 17th Century Witchcraft Trial in New York.

Thu., Oct. 30, 2014:  Did Thomas Pell Act on Pangs of Remorse After Witchcraft Persecution Involving His Family?

Another interesting issue to consider in connection with Nathaniel Brewster's brief tenure as a Puritan preacher in Eastchester is where did he and his family live.  No record has yet been located by this author to resolve this issue.  It is fascinating, however, to speculate that Brewster and his family lived in his stepfather's house believed to have been located on Pell's Point (today's Rodman's Neck) a thousand yards away from the center of the tiny little settlement of Eastchester at the time.  

We know that Brewster's stepfather, Thomas Pell, owned a home on a farm in Pelham due to the inventory of that portion of Pell's estate within the colony of New York taken shortly after his death in late September, 1669.  The inventory of Thomas Pell's New York estate is a fascinating document that seems to reveal much about Pelham's earliest years.  According to tradition, Thomas Pell never lived on the lands bought from Native Americans that came to be known as Pelham. His principal abode remained in Fairfield in the Colony of Connecticut.  The inventory, however, strongly suggests that Thomas Pell built a substantial farm on his Pelham lands and that the farm, which likely was located on what we know today as Rodman Neck, was in use at the time of Pell's death.  The inventory shows that Pell had "howsing [housing], lands, barnes" on the land that came to be known as Pelham.  There is an additional reference in the inventory to "House and land in Westchester" owned by Pell.  This is interesting because Westchester County was not created until 1683.  There was, however, a settlement known by the English as "West Chester" or "Westchester" in a portion of today's Bronx County on land that Pell sold to the early settlers of that community.  There is at least the possibility that Thomas Pell had a working farm on Rodman's Neck that included some form of housing as well as a house in the settlement of West Chester.  If, as tradition holds, Thomas Pell built a house and farm on today's Rodman's Neck, it would seem nearly a given that Nathaniel Brewster and his family would have stayed in the house during his time preaching at Eastchester.  Alternatively, they could have stayed in a house owned by Pell in the settlement of "West Chester" which was adjacent to the southern boundary of Eastchester.

One genealogist who has studied Nathaniel Brewster's life has written about him as follows:

"Nathaniel Brewster graduated at Harvard in 1642.  Preached in England from 1643 to 1663.  In Brookhaven, L.I. until his death [sic].  (It has also been said that he was Pastor at Setauket, L.I., from 1644 to 168, probably incorrect [sic].)  He was a member of the first class to graduate at Harvard in 1642.  Received the degree of B.D. from Dublin, Ireland in 1656.  In 1649 he appeared as Attorney for Thomas pell at Walderswish, Co. Suffolk, England.  His will was made 3-16-1684/85.  Proven 5-3-1695, at Brookhaven.  The will of John Reynes, dated 9-26-1662, proven 5-30-1663, mentions 'my son-in-law, Nathaniel Brewster who married my daughter'.  In a suit in England, 1660, Roger Ludlow is called 'natural and legal father of Jonathan-Joseph-Roger-Anne-Marie and Sarah ludlow.  If Sarah was still unmarried in 1660, she could have been the mother of Daniel and Timothy Brewster, but none older.  Roger Ludlow, father of Sarah, returned to England between 1651 and 1653.  Sarah's ancestry goes back to Magna Charta."

[Knapp, Alfred Averill, The Ancestral Lines of Mary Lenore Knapp, p. 117 (Ann Arbor, MI:  Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1948).]

Interestingly, Setauket citizens purchased a home for Rev. Nathaniel Brewster for use as a manse in Setauket (now Brookhaven), Long Island when he moved there in about 1665.  That home has been preserved, still stands, and is administered by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization.  The structure is believed to be the oldest now standing in the Town of Brookhaven.  It is a lovely saltbox-style structure created from the original "one-room cottage" built by Brewster in about 1665.  An image of the home appears below, embedded from within the Ward Melville Heritage Organization Web site.

The Brewster House, Town of Brookhaven, Long Island.
Photograph by Dr. Ira D. Koeppel, 2013.  Source:  This
Photograph is Embedded from the Ward Melville Heritage
Organization Web Site and is Not Copied To This Blog.  Thus,
If the Photograph is Removed from the Ward Melville Heritage
Organization Web Site or the Web Address for the Image
Changes, It Will No Longer Display Above.  See Image at

A local historian has written of Nathaniel Brewster, his wife Sarah Ludlow Brewster and her father, Roger Ludlow, as follows:

"Roger Ludlow married a sister of Governor John Endicott.  It is probable that this marriage did not take place until after he came to America as none of his children were of age when he left New England.  One of his children was born at Windsor, and probably most of his other children were born at Fairfield.  His daughter Sarah married Nathaniel Brester.  'She is represented as a person eminently distinguished for her genius and literary acquirements.'  Savage supposes her husband Nathaniel Brewster to have been a son of Francis Brewster of the New Haven Colony, and a nephew of the celebrated Elder Brewster, of the Plymouth Colony.  He was a graduate in 1642 of the first class of Harvard College, and, on account of the liberality allowed at that time to all classes of christians [sic], he with most of his class returned to England.  He received the degree of B. D. from the Dublin University, and was settled as a minister over the parish of Alby in Norfolk County.  It was during his residence in England that he married Sarah Ludlow.  Upon the restoration of Charles II, Episcopacy being again restored, Brewster returned with his wife to New England, and from Oct. 1663 preached at the First Church in Boston.  He was settled over the church of Brookhaven, Long Island, in 1665, where he continued his pastoral duties for the remainder of his life.  He died in 1690.  Both he and his wife 'were buried in the Presbyterian burying-ground of Setauket, but the inscriptions on their tomb stones are too much effaced to be read.'  They left three sons, John, Timothy, and Daniel, whose numerous descendants are still found there.

Capt. Caleb Brewster of Black Rock, who distinguished himself in the Revolution, was one of the descendants of the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster and his wife Sarah Ludlow.  His grand-son, Caleb Brewster Hackley, who now resides at Black Rock, is the sole surviving representative in Fairfield of this distinguished family.  Still further light is thrown upon the family pedigree of Roger Ludlow, by Sir Anthony B. Strausham, of London."

[Schenk, Elizabeth Hubbell, The History of Fairfield - Fairfield County, Connecticut from the Settlement of the Town in 1639 to 1818, Vol. I, p. 319 (NY, NY:  Published for the Author by the Press of J. J. Little & Co., 1889).].

Gravestone of Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, Setauket
Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Setauket, Suffolk County, New York.
Photograph by Michael Sparks.  Source:  This
Photograph is Embedded from the Find-A-Grave Web Site
and is Not Copied To This Blog.  Thus, If the Photograph is Removed from
the FindAGrave.com Web Site or the Web Address for the Image
Changes, It Will No Longer Display Above.  See Image at

Another authority has written of Nathaniel Brewster as follows:

"[I]t is most remarkable that the identity of so prominent a clergyman as the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster should still be an unsettled question.  The compiler of the Brewster Genealogy, published in 1908, says:  'The problem upon which numerous genealogists have been working for many years concerning the parentage of Rev. Nathaniel Brewster of Brookhaven, L. I., has not been solved.'

Yet Mr. Savage, whose Genealogical Dictionary was published a half century ago, says that he was probably the son of Francis Brewster of New Haven, between whom and Elder William Brewster no kinship has yet been traced, though Mr. William A. Beers, author of a memoir of Roger Ludlow, quoted by Stiles in his History of Ancient Windsor, calls Francis, without authority, a 'nephew of Elder William Brewster.'  Sibley, in his Harvard Graduates (1873), accepts Mr. Savage's suggestion that Nathaniel was the son of Francis, who is credited in 1640 with a wife Lucy and a family numbering in all nine heads.  In 1646 Francis Brewster was one of the passengers on the ill-fated ship built in New Haven and sent out in command of Captain Lamberton, the loss of which at sea is said to have been disclosed to the anxious inhabitants through the apparition of the phantom ship.  Mrs. Lucy Brewster, his widow, married 2nd Dr. Thomas Pell and died in 1669.

Nathaniel Brewster was a member of the first class graduated at Harvard in 1642, his classmates being Benjamin Woodbridge, George Downing, John Bulkeley, William Hubbard, Samuel Bellingham, John Wilson, Henry Saltonstall and Tobias Barnard.  He married, according to Mr. Savage, Sarah Ludlow, daughter of Roger Ludlow, Deputy Governor of Massachusetts in 1637 and Chief of the Commission sent in 1639 to govern Connecticut, but when or where this union took place is not recorded. . . .

We are almost equally ignorant of the movements of Nathaniel Brewster after his graduation at Harvard, nor do we know when or why he went to England, though it was probably after the loss of his father.  The earliest note we find of him is in 1649, when Thomas Pell of New Haven, chirugeon, constituted Nathaniel Brewster of Walberswick, Co. Suffolk, his attorney.  This is pretty good evidence of Nathaniel's connection with the New Haven family, for Thomas Pell was his stepfather through marriage with the widow of Francis Brewster.  Brewster must have removed soon after to Norfolk, where he preached at several places.  A church was formed at Alby in that county in 1651 and Brewster seems to have had some connection with it from the first, but he did not settle there until 1653.  In 1654 an order of council directed that an augmentation of [36 pounds sterling], which had been granted for the better maintenance of Nathaniel Brewster, late minister of Nettisheard and Irsted, Norfolk, be paid to John Leverington from the time of Brewster's leaving it.

Mr. Brewster seems to have been persona grata to the Lord Protector Cromwell and to have been employed by him in affairs of State.  In 1655 he was sent to Ireland with the Protector's son Henry Cromwell, who went with a commission as major-General to command the forces there.  Oliver, writing to the Lord Fleetwood, Lord Deputy of Ireland, under date of 'Whitehall, 22nd June, 1655,' says of Brewster:

'Use this Bearer, Mr. Brewster, kindly.  Let him be near you:  indeed he is a very able holy man; trust me you will find him so.'  Carlyle, commenting on this letter, in Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, says:  'Of Mr. Brewster and the other reverend persons, Spiritual Fathers, held in such regard by the Lord Protector as is due to Spiritual Fatherhood, and pious nobleness of Intellect under whatever guise, I can say nothing:  they are Spiritual Great-grandfather's [sic] of ours, and we have had to forget them!  Some slight notices of Brewster, who I think was a Norfolk man: . . . are in the Milton State Papers:  they prove the fervent zeal, faith and fearlessness of these worthies.'

The Milton State Papers referred to are letters and papers addressed to Oliver Cromwell between 1649 and 1658, found among the political collections of John Milton, including several concerning the churches in Norfolk.  Among them is a document in regard to the parsonages of Alby and Twaite, presided over by Mr. Nathaniel Brewster, who, having constantly preached in both places, cannot raise above [50 pounds sterling] per annum out of both.  'So as the said Mr. Brewster, a great family, and much employed in the country by preaching freely, when there is need, is reduced to very great straits, and not like to continue in his function without assistance from the State.'

It was probably in consequence of this report that he was sent to Ireland by Cromwell.  Mr. Brewster was in Ireland somewhat more than a year, though apparently not continuously, as there is mention of him at Alby meanwhile.  He received, it is said, the degree of B. D. from the University of Dublin, but his name does not appear in the catalogue of graduates.  He was a widower at the time if he married, as is said, the daughter of Roger Ludlow.  His first wife is said to have been Abigail Reynes, daughter of John Reynes of Edgefield, Co. Norfolk, who must have been the mother of his 'great family' mentioned above.  Mr. Brewster was much older than Sarah Ludlow.  If the statement of his grandson to President John Adams be correct, that he was ninety-five years old at the time of his decease in 1690, he was born in 1595.  But this is scarcely probable, as he would have been forty-seven at his graduation from Harvard and sixty at the time of his marriage to Miss Ludlow, then a minor.  But if, as is usually stated, he was seventy years old at his decease, Dec. 18, 1690, he was born in 1620, and was therefore thirty-six years old at the time of his visit to Ireland.  As Jonathan, the eldest of Roger Ludlow's children, was then a minor, he could not have been more than twenty, and Sarah, if the youngest, not more than twelve years old.  Of course it is possible that the six children are not mentioned in the order of their birth, but even if Sarah were next to Jonathan she could scarcely have been more than half the age of the Rev. Nathaniel.  If she were 'eminently distinguished for her genius and literary acquirements,' as we are told, she must have gained them through her connection with the learned graduate of Harvard.

Mr. Brewster probably resumed his ministrations at Alby and Twaite on his return to England, but after the Restoration he came back to New England and preached in the First Church of Boston several months from October, 1663.  In 1665 he went to Brookhaven, Long Island, where his sister had settled and in the autumn of that year accepted a call as the first minister of the church there.  He was incapacitated from ministerial duties several months before his death."

[Champlin, John Denison, "Thompson and Brewster" in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Jan. 1915, Vol. XLVI, No. 1, pp. 4, 5-8 (NY, NY:  Jan. 1915).].

Another writing about the history of Long Island has written of Nathaniel Brewster as follows:

"There does not seem to have been any idea of anything but a civil government at Setauket (where was made the first settlement in Brookhaven) . . . Of course there was a clergyman in the community, and he was a man of parts, one who, if he was not one of the first colonists, came so early that he is acknowledged as the first minister.  He was the Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, a grandson of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrim Fathers.  His three sons were among the pioneers and it is thought that he merely went to Setauket to visit them and was induced to stay.  These sons were Timothy, Daniel and John, who became prominent in town affiars, the first named serving for twenty-three years as clerk, and the second being continued in that office for twenty-six years following.

There is no record in the earlier years, however, to show that Mr. Brewster was regarded as the minister of the town.  In fact, in 1662, the town meeting extended a call to a dominic named Fletcher to become the minister at a salary of [forty pounds sterling] a year, but whether he accepted or not cannot be determined.  But from his arrival Brewster acted as minister, and in 1665 seems to have fully accepted the charge, for a house was purchased for his use as a manse.  It was evidently a most superior structure, for it had doors and glass windows and other modern improvements.  Brewster died in 1690.  In 1685 he was laid aside from active work through ill-health, and Samuel Eburne, one of the men in Thompson's list, was chosen as his successor.

[Pelletreau, William S., A History of Long Island From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Vol. II, p. 270 (NY and Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Co., 1905).].

To read more about Nathaniel Brewster, stepson of Thomas Pell, see:

Long Island Genealogy:  The Brewster Family of Long Island - Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, LongIslandGenealogy.com <http://longislandgenealogy.com/Surname_Pages/brewster.htm> (visited Nov. 1, 2014).

FindAGrave:  Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, FindAGrave.com <http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31597216> (visited Nov. 1, 2014).

Sullivan, May Lilian Hartwell, Rev. Nathaniel Brewster and His Wife, Sarah Ludlow.  Some of Their Descendants, (San Francisco, CA:  Privately Printed, 1919).  

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At 2:00 PM, Blogger kdhgreen said...

I question your date of the marriage between Sarah Ludlow and Nathaniel Brewster in 1655/6. We know Roger Ludlow left New England in 1654 for Virginia where he saw his brother George Ludlow prior to moving to Ireland. George left Roger's children bequests in his Will dated Sept 1655 "remainder of the money (in England) to "my brother Roger Ludlowe's children equally". Further, in his codicil dated 23 Oct 1655, he states he wants his nephew Jonathan (eldest son of brother Roger now living in Ireland) to inherit his Virginia estate should his nephew Thomas marry a Rebecca Hurst. Letters of administration were issued in 1656 to Roger Ludlow, Esq. "the father of and curator lawfully assigned to Jonathan, Joseph, Roger, Anne, Mary and Sarah Ludlowe, minors, the nephews and nieces and residuary legataries in this will, during the minority of the said minors". Sarah could not have married Nathaniel Brewster before 1656 because she was still considered a minor. Also, we know Joanthan was the eldest - did George list his nephews and nieces in order of their birth?


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