William Bassett (sometimes Basset or Bassite) was born in England circa 1600. He came to Plymouth on board the Fortune in 1621. In 1611 a William Bassett, formerly of Sandwich in England, widower of Cecily Light, was twice betrothed at Leiden in Holland. Seems unlikely to be this William given the 10 year gap before his arrival in Plymouth and lack of evidence of children born earlier, but something interesting to investigate further.
He married Elizabeth, maiden name not known, either in England (most likely) or Plymouth and they had six children:
1. William who married Mary Rainsford, daughter of Edward. He was a tavern keeper in Sandwich.
2. Elizabeth who married Thomas Burgess. They had the first divorce granted in Plymouth.
3. Nathaniel who married Dorcas Joyce and Hannah _____. I descend through Nathaniel and Dorcas.
4. Sarah who married Peregrine White; he was born on board the Mayflower when it was anchored off Provincetown.
5. Joseph who married Mary (possibly Lapham) or Martha Hobart.
6. Ruth who married John Sprague and ___ Thomas.
I have read some conflicting and inconclusive information on William and Elizabeth’s children, so the information presented on them is a work-in-progress.
Elizabeth does not appear in any records after 1627 so she may have died soon after the birth of her last child about 1634.
William married second after 1651 and before 12 Dec 1664 Mary (Tilden) Lapham, daughter of Nathaniel Tilden, widow of Thomas Lapham She was living at Bridgewater as late as 28 March 1690.
William removed to Duxbury in 1638 and was in Bridgewater by 1656, as an original proprietor of the town. He was a blacksmith (the first five lines of the inventory included blacksmith's tools, including a pair of bellows, an anvil, a vice, tongs and hammers and coal shovels, and "all the rest of the smith shop" items). I have also seen him referred to as a gunsmith.
|Example of a blacksmith shop (source: wineandvinethings.com)|
William appears to have been educated as his inventory included more than 20 books listed by title, mostly theological, valued at 9 pounds 18 shillings. He was comparatively wealthy, being a large land-holder with only four men in Plymouth paying a higher tax in 1633.
William was very active in the community. He served on coroner's jury in Plymouth, committee to admit newcomers to Duxbury, Plymouth grand jury, Plymouth petit jury, Duxbury deputy to Plymouth court, committee to lay out land, committee on bounds between Duxbury and Marshfield, council of war for Duxbury, Duxbury constable, and committee to lay out highways.
He was listed in Duxbury portion of 1643 list of men able to bear arms (PCR 8:190).
William was listed in the 1623 Plymouth land division as "William Bassite," receiving two acres as a passenger on the Fortune in 1621 (PCR 12:5). In the 1627 Plymouth division of cattle, the sixth company include William Basset, Elizabeth Basset, William Basset Jr., and Elizabeth Basset Jr. (PCR 12:11). He was assessed 1 pound 7 shillings in the Plymouth tax lists of 25 March 1633 and 27 March 1634 (PCR 1:10, 27).
On 1 June 1633, 14 March 1635/6 and 20 March 1636/7 William Bassett was ordered to "mow at the end of his own ground" (PCR 1:14, 40, 56). On 23 June 1637 William Bassett of Duxbury released to Mr. Ralph Patridge "so much of the lot of his lands lying in Ducksborrow aforesaid as is now enclosed by the said Mr. Partridg" (PCR 12:18-19), and again on 7 Nov 1637 a similar agreement was reached regarding land released to William Leverich and Ralph Partridge (PCR 12:35).
On 6 April 1640 Plymouth Colony granted to "William Basset of Duxburrow" 100 acres of upland with "meadow convenient" (PCR 1:144, 146). On 3 June 1652 William Bassett of Duxbury gave to "his son-in-law Leiftenant Perigrine White" forty acres of upland with the meadow adjoining (MD 1:96; citing PCLR 2:1:5). On 16 June 1656 "William Bassett Senior of Duxburrow now living at Bridgewater" made a deed of gift of his Marshfield lands to his "two sons there living viz: Perigrine White and Nathaniell Bassett" (MD 10:25-27, citing PCLR 2:1:177-78).
William Bassett and Jr. (John) Howland jointly held one share as Dartmouth purchasers, 7 March 1652 (MD 4:187, citing PCLR 2:1:107). On 8 Nov 1666 William Bassett, blacksmith, of Bridgewater sold to John Sprague of Duxbury, husbandman for 40 pounds four lots of upland containing fourscore acres and five acres of meadow, with dwelling house, cowhouse, stable, barn, outhouse, orchard and garden; William Bassett acknowledged the deed on 7 Nov 1666 and on 5 Nov 1666 "Mary Bassett the wife of William Bassett Sr...of Bridgewater" consented to the sale (PCLR 3:66, with dates in the unlikely order given).
His will, dictated on his death bed on "the third of the second month (April), was probated at Plymouth 5 June 1667 (MD 16:162-3). He bequeathed the movables to his wife, and the house and land to her during her life, after which it was to go to his son William's son, and bequeathing his tools to his son Joseph, and "being demanded about his books which he formerly took care about, answered he could not now do it" (MD 16:162, citing PCPR 2:2:37). His inventory was taken 12 May 1667 and totaled 123 pounds 2 shillings 6 pence (which included no land, but did include his blacksmith's tools and more than 20 books). (PCPR 2:2:37-38). On 5 June 1667 letters of administration were granted to William Bassett Jr. on the estate of William Bassett Sr. deceased (PCR 4:155).
On 2 June 1669 "William Bassett of Sandwich...the eldest son and heir of William Bassett sometimes inhabitant of...Bridgewater...now deceased" confirmed to "Joseph Bassett of Bridgewater my youngest brother" land in Bridgewater granted him by his father in his lifetime but not legally confirmed (PCLR 3:140).
|pre-1746 map of Bridgewater (source: Mass Historical Society)|
On 6 March 1648/9 he was fined 5s "for not mending of guns of seasonable time," and on 9 June 1653 he was fined 10s "for neglicting to publish and make known an order directed to him from the council of war, prohibiting provisions for being transported out of the colony" (PCR 2:137, 3:36). On 9 Aug 1655 and 10 June 1661 the colony treasurer received payment of fines by William Bassett (PCR 3:93, 8:104).
His will, dictated on his death bed on "the third of the second month (April), was probated at Plymouth 5 June 1667 (MD 16:162-3).
William died between 3 April 1667 and 12 May 1667 in Bridgewater, Mass.
New England Ancestors, Spring 2004, Vol 5, no 2, has an article about the early Bassetts and the author has been conducting some DNA testing.
Sources not listed above:
Robert Ray King, The Family of Nathan Bassett of Chatham, NEHGR, Vol. 125, Jan 1971,
Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 1995
Eugene Stratton, Plymouth Colony, It's History and People, 1986
CW Swift, The Bassett Family of Yarmouth, Pamphlet No. 85 of the Library of Cape Cod History and Genealogy, 1912
Otis, Amos, Genealogical Notes of Barnstable Families, being a reprint of the Amos Otis Papers, originally published in the Barnstable Patriot, revised by CF Swift, Volume 1 and 2, Barnstable, MA, The Patriot Press, 1888