William Weeks—From England to Martha’s Vineyard before 1642

By Robert Weeks

I have been unable to determine exactly how William Weeks arrived on Martha’s Vineyard.  In The History of Martha's Vineyard, Volume I, Dr. Charles Banks reports a legendary settlement before 1642.  There are several legends; however, all of these legends have in common that there was ship bound from England to some port on the East Coast of America.  This ship's crew and passengers became short of provisions and many became sick.  As a result, they supposedly came ashore on the Vineyard.  Dr. Banks does not put faith in these legends and presents conclusive facts to discount any humans, other than Indians, living on the Vineyard before 1642 when a family by the name Mayhew family came to the Vineyard to develop a settlement.

After researching Dr. Bank's report of the legendary settlement, I find that there is no evidence as to how William Weeks arrived on the Vineyard.  I think, however, after researching the Latter Day Saints’ (Mormons’) Genealogical Files and other Massachusetts records that there is greater evidence to claim that the Weeks Family came from the original colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to the Vineyard.  My research indicates that there were other Weeks families in Massachusetts.  Dr. Banks hints several times that the early settlers of the Vineyard came from the Massachusetts Colony.

Mayhew & Indians
It is conceivable that when William Weeks began coming to the Vineyard that it was governed by Indians. It seems that the mariners spent the summers on the island and the winters at Plymouth on the mainland.  By the time the first proprietor of the island, Thomas Mayhew, Sr. arrived on the Island in 1642, William and his wife “Goodwife Weeks” had a sizable family.  Apparently William had been living peacefully on the island with the Indians before Meyhew’s arrival.

Old Mayhew House - Edgartown
Thomas Mayhew, Sr. purchased the proprietorship of Martha's Vineyard from Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Lord Stirling in 1642. William Weeks, as well as the other settlers, lived under Mayhew's lone authority for many years.

As land was needed for settlement on the island, authorized persons would negotiate with the Indians on behalf of the colony.  The first recorded division of lands among the settlers came on May 8, 1653.  William Weeks was a recipient of land during this division, as well as, three of the four land divisions that were to follow. The first allotment of land to William Weeks was later called "The Planting Field.” This plot is located in what is now known as Edgartown. William Weeks, at one time, served as constable on the Vineyard.

The Bay at Edgartown
William was married at the time that he was granted land at Edgartown; however, there is no record of the name of his first wife.  "That he was married at this time is indicated by a disposition of Goodwife Weeks, dated Dec. 25, 1655, and it is probable that his children were either brought here when he settled or were born shortly after." (Banks)

"Goodwife Weeks" died sometime before 1658 because William married his second wife, Mary Lynde Butler, sometime after 1658.  We know that she was a widow and that she was born in 1628.  William died in 1688 or 1689; however, Mary was still living in 1693 and listed as the widow of William Weeks.

William and his first wife, "Goodwife Weeks," had the following children: William (Born 1645); Elizabeth (Born 1648 and married John Robinson May 1, 1667); Samuel (Born 1651); Richard (Born 1653 and married Abigail Norton.  He died August 26, 1724 in Attleboro, Bristol County, Massachusetts); John (Born 1655 Died 1730.  Married Mary Rowley, daughter of Moses Rowley and Elizabeth Fuller, July 7, 1675/76 in Falmouth, Barnstable, Massachusetts); Abigail (Born 1658 and married Jonathan Hatch son of Jonathan Hatch and Sarah Rowley, December 4, 1676, in Martha’s Vineyard.  He was born November 17, 1652 in Barnstable).

Of these children, we are most interested in William.  He will hereafter be referred to as William, Jr.  Our family descends from his line.  In 1685, William, Jr., conveyed land to his son Samuel.

William left Edgartown and lived in Falmouth, Mass, where he died sometime after February 28, 1716.  His descendants continue to reside in the vicinity of Falmouth.  William was married, like his father, two times.  First, he was married to Mercy Robinson March 16, 1668 (or 1689).  Mercy was the daughter of Isaac Robinson and Margaret Hanford.  Isaac was the son of The Reverend John Robinson who was the pastor of the Pilgrims at Leyden, Holland.  A very interesting fact about Mercy is that she was left three pounds in the will of Miles Standish.  Later, William, Jr., was married to Mary Hatch (daughter of Jonathan Hatch) about 1689, who was still living in 1713.

The following children were produced from the two marriages of William Jr.: Mary (Born January 16, 1669-70 and married Aaron Rowley March 7, 1690); Mehitable (Born October 16, 1671, and married Timothy Robinson May 3, 1699); Sarah (Born May 6, 1674); Experience (Born June 24, 1677); Mercy (Born April 24, 1679); Jonathan (Born May 1, 1681); Benjamin (Born April 4, 1685, and married Mary Chase January 14, 1704 - November 1744); and Lydia (Born June 30, 1687) and married William Swift October 9, 1707.
William, Sr. and William, Jr. were at one time engaged in a Packing Business.  Most likely, their vessels transported goods from Martha's Vineyard downward to the New York area.  We know for sure that William Weeks was engaged in a shipping business to Rhode Island because in 1662 he sued a Thomas Jones for his passage to Rhode Island, and in turn he was sued by Jones for weaving.  In both cases, William Weeks received the verdict.  On November 18, 1667, William, Sr., and son were making a trip from the Vineyard when their vessel wrecked at Quick’s Hole and was seized by the Indians of Elizabeth Islands.  “Hole” refers to a small inlet of water which could be used to shelter boats.  William, his son, and Thomas the Indian, who was a seaman in the vessel, signed the following interesting account of this event:

            One Mondaye night the 18.9.1667 about 2 or 3 a clock in the morning,
            by reason of the violence of the wind, my anchrs remaining home, my
            vessell drove in the harbor at the west end of the Iland next to Quickshole.
            Myselfe and company then went to warme orselves at an Indian house,
            the Indians saied the vessell and the goods were theirs, wee
            answered noe, they had noe right to it, they sent to the Sackym & to
            other Indians who all came together, and while they were consulting
            about the vessell and goods they bid us to goe to the other howse;
            wee answered noe, they need not turn us out of the howse wee did
            not hinder them; then the Indians went out of the howse to the next
            howse & wee went aboard, & about an hower & halfe after wee
            being returned to the howse the Indians came thither allso, and toll’d
            us they had determined all together wee should neither have or vessell
            or goods, they would take them.  I desired my chest of them, some of
            them answered noe there was sum cloth in it & they would have it, I
            desired my weareing cloathes whch they graunted and some provisions
            to eate while wee were there wch they graunted.  They tooke away a
            suite of cloathes from me, 2 pre of shooes, all my tooles, the sachim
            had my saw in his hand wch I would have had, but he woulld not gyve
            it to me, not my axe.  They took away a new Hatt and a new paire of
            shooes from my sonne:  the partyculars lost are my vessell of 15 tunns
            wth all due furniture belonging to it, and a soresaile to spare, my Cables
            and anchors I desired of them but they woulld not gyve them unto mee,
            my vessell has not seene to be staved when we viewed hir at low water,
            only the back of hir rudder broken off; my freight aboard was
            421i Indian corns, fower barrels of pork, 4 hydes, 1 firkin of buter,
            1 smale caske of suett about 40r, on barrell of tobacco, about 34 or
            341i cotton wool, 26 bushells meale, 8 bushells of it wheate meale, the
            rest Rye of Indian meale, 1 bushell wheate, 1 bushel Rye, 2 bushells
            turnepps, one bushell of Inions, Red cloth 6 yards, 3 or 4 yards pemistone,
            My leade and lyne with divers other things out of my chest and vessell.
            Shooes, one poayre women’s shooes, two Iron potts, 3 paire Chilldrens
            shooes, 2 paire new Russett shooes, 401 tallow, two gunns, a greene
            blankett, a woman’s cloake from Goddy Doggett, this is the truth of the
            case at present to or best remembrance.

William and his son were rescued by a man named John Dixey.  The news of this encounter was carried to the Governor of New York, who wrote back to Governor Mayhew. . . to deal with the piratical Indians for their unlawful acts and require restitution of the vessel and all the stolen cargo.
A 1660 Edgartown Tavern
William also ran a tavern.  "It is probable that William Weeks was the first taverner at Edgartown, as early as 1680, though no record appears of his receiving a license as such.  Under that date he was fined five shillings 'for suffering disorder in his house by drunkenness & fighting.' “Additionally, we know that as far back as 1661, ". . . he was fined for selling strong liquor.' “The most conclusive evidence that William Weeks ran a tavern is the following court record:  "The complaint of Arthur Biven against William Weeks 'for taking six-pence for two amesho-ogs & said Biven caled for a gioll of rum & they brought half water and the said Weeks had no lodging for him nor food for his horse.’ “The Weeks "ordinary" was located on North Water Street about 50 rods above Main Street. Town and county records give evidence of his activities and litigation in 1684, 1685, and 1687.  William began selling his real estate in 1688.  He died sometime before August 3, 1689, and his widow Mary sold the home lot.  This action on the part of Mary brought William's sons, William, Jr., and Richard, to sue her.  The court gave the sons possession of William's property.

I can find no solid proof that the early Weeks family was members of the Quaker faith; however, there are several references that suggest they might have been Quakers.  “In The History of Barnstable County, by Simon L. Deyo, pg. 672, it states that nearly all of the early settlers in what became West Falmouth were Quakers.  It is known that William Gifford, who was among the first settlers, was a Quaker.  With him were William Gifford, Jr., William Weeks and John Weeks.  Because they were grouped with some of the Quaker families who were moving into this area, it may have been assumed that John and William were of the same religion. . .”  Another hint that suggests the Weeks Family was Quaker comes from the statement made by William, Sr., and William, Jr., in conjunction with the seizing of their ship by the Indians at Quick’s Hole which is reported above.  Quakers did not believe in using the names for days of the weeks or months of the year because they believed that these names were derived from pagan gods.  Quakers indicated dates by writing them as did William in his statement about the ship seizure as follows: 18.9.1667.