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.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

More About Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, the Stepson of Pelham Founder Thomas Pell

Reverend Nathaniel Brewster was the stepson of Pelham founder, Thomas Pell.  In 1647, Thomas Pell 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. I have written about Nathaniel Brewster before.  See Tue., Nov. 04, 2014:  Rev. Nathaniel Brewster, Stepson of Thomas Pell.

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.  Her mother is unknown.

The Brewster House, Town of Brookhaven, Long Island.
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Organization Web Site and is Not Copied To This Blog.  Thus,
If the Photograph is Removed from the Ward Melville Heritage
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Changes, It Will No Longer Display Above.  See Image at

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog provides additional information about Nathaniel Brewster by transcribing a portion of an article that appeared in the January, 1915 issue of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.  One of the most interesting aspects of the excerpt quoted immediately below is the information it provides regarding Nathaniel Brewster's ties to and service on behalf of Oliver Cromwell and the assertion that Brewster returned to New England at the time of the Restoration.

"[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 [Page 5 / Page 6] 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 Massachuetts in 1637 and Chief of the Commission sent in 1639 to govern Connecticut, but when or where this union took place is not recorded.

The life of Mr. Ludlow, after he left Connecticut, is involved in some obscurity.  Mr. Savage says that after serving as a Commissioner of Connecticut in the convention of the United Colonies of New England in 1651-53, he 'went off next year to Virginia in some disgust and passed there the rest of his days.'  But the researches of Mr. Waters, published originally in 1886 (N. E. Gen. Reg., xl, 300), show conclusively that Ludlow, even if he visited Virginia, where his brother George lived, returned almost immediately to England.  George Ludlow of Co. York, Virginia, in his will, made Sept. 8, 1655, makes a bequest to his brother Roger Ludlow, and in a codicil of Oct. 23, the same year, bequeaths a part of his estate, in a certain contingency, to 'my nephew Jonathan Ludlow, the eldest son to my brother Roger, who lives in Ireland at Dublin,' and a residuary remainder to Roger's other children.  In 1656, Aug. 1, letters of administration were granted to 'Roger Ludlow, Esq., the father and curator lawfully assigned to Jonathan, Joseph, Roger, Ann, Mary and Sarah Ludlow, minors . . . during the minority of the said minors.'  This gives us for the first time the names and an approximation to the ages of Roger Ludlow's children.

Hubbard, in his History of New England, says that Roger Ludlow was a brother-in-law of John Endicott.  The will of Philobert Cogan of Chard, Co. Somerset, gentleman, of Feb. 10, 1640, proved April 12, 1641, mentions daughters 'Mary Ludloe and Elizabeth Endicott.'  This gives us probably the names of the wife of Roger Ludlow and of the last wife of Gov. Endicott.  In the Visitation of Somerset, under date of 1623, we learn that Mary, daughter of Philobert Cogan and of Ann, daughter of Thomas Marshall, was nineteen years old in that year.  She was born therefore in 1604, and was fourteen years younger than her husband Roger Ludlow, who was baptized in 1590.  When she married Ludlow is unknown, but it was probably before 1630 when Ludlow accompanied Winthrop to New England.

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 [Page 6 / Page 7] 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, 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, 22d 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 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 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 [Page 7 / Page 8] 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 at Harvard and sixty at the tie of his marriage to Miss Ludlow, then a minor.  But if, as is usually stated, he was seventy years old at his decease, December 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."

Source:  Champlin, John Denison, THOMPSON AND BREWSTER in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. XLVI, No. 1, pp. 4, 5-8 (NY, NY:  Jan. 1915).

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