|First Baptist Church in Providence, RI|
Congregation first established by Roger Williams and others including Stukely Westcott
I appreciate his memorable first name - no ubiquitous John or William for this Stukely. Perhaps because the name is so recognizable, it has enabled me to discover fellow descendants in unexpected places. I spoke briefly about my discoveries about Stukely at a meeting of the Alberta Family Histories Society in Calgary, Alberta, only to discover that the woman seated beside me was another descendant, as was one other member of that audience. After moving to Victoria, British Columbia, I discovered to my delight that a new friend also has Stukely in her family tree.
It seems that Stukely was his mother's maiden name - she was Mary Stukely (sometimes spelled Stucley). Mary and her husband Stephen Guy Westcott were living in Ilchester, Somerset, England when Stukely was born in 1592.
|Location of Ilchester and Yeovil, Somerset, England|
Google Earth image
When Stukely was 27 he married Julianna Marchante in Yeovil on 5 October 1619. Their family started to grow with the birth of Damaris in about 1620, followed by Samuel in 1622 and other children including Robert, Mercy, Amos and Jeremiah (my 8th great grandfather) in 1633.
This was a time when religious differences continued to pervade England. Although many years had passed since King Henry VIII had broken from the Catholic Church, there were many Protestant factions that did not feel that the resulting English church satisfied their belief systems. Stukely and Julianna were among those who chose to leave England for religious freedom in America. Stukely sailed from Dartmouth, Devon on 1 May 1635 with wife Julianna, and children Robert, Damaris, Mercy, Samuel (13), Amos (4) and Jeremiah (2). They arrived in Salem, Massachusetts on 24 June 1635. Stukely was named a Freeman of Salem the following year.
By 1638 he was applying for a license to remove his family from the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. To understand the reason for this, it is necessary to step back a few years.
A man named Roger Williams had come to Plymouth in about 1631 to be their religious leader. Williams, a Baptist, was a man of very definite views and a man of conviction. He believed in separation of Church and State. He also felt that the settlers didn't own the land but that it belonged to the Native Americans. This was not a popular view among the other settlers and there was some talk of shipping him back to England. To escape this fate, Williams fled into the wilderness where he was eventually welcomed by the Native Americans. He made a deal with two of the sachems (chiefs) to acquire tracts of land in the area. Soon he was joined by some of his supporters. On 8 August 1638 Williams admitted 12 loving friends and neighbours into equal ownership with him in Rhode Island at a place they called "Providence" in recognition of its having provided their refuge from persecution. Stukely was in that group. The following year he was excommunicated from his former church in Salem.
Stukely was one of the largest landowners in Rhode Island, owning up to 20,000 acres. He co-founded the First Baptist Church of Providence, was several times chosen "assistant" and was frequently elected deputy to the Colonial Assembly.
|First Baptist Church in Providence, RI 1999|
|Layout of lots in early Providence, Rhode Island|
(Stukely's lot highlighted in yellow; other ancestors
were Chad Brown and William Wickenden)
All was not sunshine and prosperity for the new colony despite all the freedom and good will. They had very few resources after fleeing Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay and were struggling to feed and house themselves. The other colonies tried to claim their lands for themselves and the local native tribes were waging war in an attempt to rid New England of the unwanted settlers. Roger Williams was able to broker an alliance with the Narragansett tribe but war against other tribes wiped out the Pequots and peace remained elusive.
In 1642, Williams returned to England and obtained a patent from Parliament for the lands covering essentially all of what is now Rhode Island. However, with Civil War raging in England, it was uncertain whether the land grant made by Parliament would be respected should King Charles prevail. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were still eyeing the Rhode Island lands for their own expansion.
Amidst all the turmoil, the settlers did make some progress. Homes were built on long narrow lots (as shown on the map above) giving each family access to water and ample land to plant an orchard, build a house and out buildings as well as provide each with space for their own family burial ground. A visit to this area will show that these lots essentially ran along what is now Benefit Street with each family's lot running sharply uphill.
|Benefit Street area of Providence originally settled by Roger Williams|
and his followers including Stukely Westcott
Google Earth Image
|Memorial to Stukely Westcott in Warwick, RI|
- "Genealogy of Rhode Island Families", 2 volume set, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore 1983
- Ancestry.com, "U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index 1500s-1900s"; Place: Salem, Massachusetts; Year: 1636; Page 72
- Eleanor Wescott Trismen talk of 8 August 1964 quoted from the website at http://www.ctol.net/~billw/s
- Whitman, Roscoe L., "History and Genealogy of the Ancestors and Some Descendants of Stukely Westcott", 1932, pages 411-412
- Greene, W.A., "The Providence Plantations for Two Hundred and Fifty Years", 1886