Thomas Prence Governor of Plymouth
Thomas Prence (1599 – March 29, 1673) was a co-founder of Eastham, Massachusetts, a political leader in both the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, and governor of Plymouth (1634, 1638, and 1657 - 1673).
Thomas Prence was born in 1599 at Lechlade, Gloucestershire, England a son of Thomas Prence and Elizabeth Tolderby. Thomas emigrated to America in 1621 on the ship Fortune, arriving in Plymouth on November 9, 1621, just a few days after the first Thanksgiving.
75 Court Street (Route 3A), Plymouth, Massachusetts 02360
Marriage and Family:
Prence married three times. He married as his first wife on August 5, 1624 at Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts (the ninth marriage recorded in the colony), Patience Brewster, a passenger on the Anne which arrived in Plymouth in 1623. She was born circa 1600 probably in Scrooby a small village, where her father was born, in the northern part of the English county of Nottinghamshire and died before December 12, 1634 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, of a "pestilent fever." She was a daughter of Elder William Brewster, (c. 1567 - April 10, 1644), the Pilgrim leader and spiritual elder of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower.
Thomas and Patience had four children: Thomas Jr., Rebecca, Mercy, and Hannah. Rebecca married first Edmund Freeman, Jr. the son of Edmund Freeman and had two children. Rebecca married second Capt. John PUTMAN they had ten children. She died in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Mercy married John Freeman, had eleven children, and settled in Eastham, Massachusetts. Hannah married Nathaniel Mayo, had six children, and died in Eastham.
Prence next married on April 1, 1635 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Mary Collier, bapt. in 1612 at St Olave's Church, in the parish of Southwark St Olave, an area of south-east London, now the London Borough of Southwark, England and died before December 1662 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. She was a daughter of Jane (____) Clark and William Collier, one of the investors, or Merchant Adventurers, and an initial shareholder in the Plymouth Plantation. She was the sister of Sarah Collier, the wife of Love Brewster, a passenger on the Mayflower and the son of Elder William Brewster.
They were the parents of five children: Mary Prence, Jane Prence, Elizabeth Prence, Sarah Prence, Judith Prence. Jane Prence (November 1, 1637 - 1712) married Mark Snow the son of Nicholas Snow and Constance Hopkins, a daughter of Stephen Hopkins (born about 1582 – 1644), a tanner and merchant who was one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, settling in Plymouth Colony.
Lastly, Prence married Apphia Quicke in December, 1662. It is unknown if they had any children.
COMMENTS: For many years it was believed that Prence had married only three times and that his last wife was "Mary" Freeman, but this was straightened out in 1904 by Ella Florence Elliott, who divided the erroneous construct into its proper wholes, revealing divorcee Apphia Freeman and widow Mary Howes as Prence's last two of four wives.Career
He was allowed to join with Bradford, Allerton and Standish as a member of the Trade Monopoly. Later, in 1644, he and several other prominent families left Plymouth for better land and founded the community of Eastham, Massachusetts. He became governor of Plymouth, for the first time, in 1634; he was elected again in 1638 and served from 1657 to 1673. After the death of Governor Bradford in 1653, he became the leader of the Plymouth Colony serving in that capacity until his death.
He was distinguished for his religious zeal, and opposed those that he believed to be heretics, particularly the Quakers. He became infamous for the banishment of those who would not conform to his specific church law, including Samuel Gorton, the first governor of Rhode Island. He restructured the local government to secure his position and led the persecution of numerous people for offenses such as smiling in church, harboring non-church members, and tending garden during the Sabbath. He also procured revenue for the colony's grammar schools so future generations would be better educated.
Governor Prence gave to Wamsutta and Pometacom, the sons of Massasoit, the names Alexander and Philip as a compliment to their warlike character.
William Brewster, Thomas Prence,
Peter Browne, Stephen Hopkins and [Uncle Dr. Samuel Fuller.]
"He was another able business man to arrive in Plymouth on the Fortune in 1621, and became Governor of Plymouth Colony for 20 years, serving at times from 1634 to 1673. He followed his father-in-law, William Brewster, to Duxbury in 1632, and finally removed to Nauset (Eastham) in 1644 with six other families, returning later to Plymouth where he died."
- Leon Clark Hills, The Mayflower Planters, History and Genealogy of the Mayflower Planters & First Comers to Ye Olde Colony, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990, Baltimore, MD.
"Prence arrived at Plymouth Colony in 1621 on the Fortune, and from the beginning seemed to have taken a leading role in Plymouth affairs. Of the eight Plymouth Undertakers, who seemed to be the most important men in the colony in 1627, Prence was the only one who had not arrived on the Mayflower. He became governor in 1634, and was elected an Assistant in 1635, and from then on he was either an Assistant or governor every year for the rest of his life. He also served as treasurer, as president of the Council of War, and in various other capacities. With the death of of Bradford in 1657, Prence became without a doubt the most important and influential man in the colony. He was of a conservative nature, as is shown by his siding with Bradford and Winslow in the 1645 Vassall controversy, and by his actions against the Quakers. He was involved in several law suits which were decided in his favor, ... " - Plymouth Colony, Its History & People, 1620-1691.
"In July 1627, Thomas Prence became one of the eight parnters called undertakers, who guaranteed the purchase of Plymouth Colony from the merchant adventurers. He, with his father-in-law, William Brewster, and brother-in-law, Jonathan Brewster, signed 'Articles of Agreement' to have the 'whole trade consigned to us for some years' to pay the 'debts (of the colony) and set them free:' and to 'transport as many of our brethern of Leyden over' to Plymouth. Thomas Prence served Plymouth Colony as Governors Assistant in 1632, 1635-37, and 1639 through 1656. He was the treasurer of Plymouth Colony from 1637 to 1640 and he served as Commissioner of the United Colonies, 1645, 1650 and 1653-56. On 1 January 1633/34, when he was only 34 years old, Thomas Prence was elected as the fourth governor of Plymouth Colony. He served his second term in 1638, during which time he presided over the trial of four men wh had robbed and murdered an Indian near Providence. The evidence presented to the court resulted in them being found guilty and they were hung, one having escaped. 'On 3 June 1657, Thomas Prence was again elected Governor of the jurisdiction of New Plymouth and served until his death in 1673.'" - Barbara Lambert Merrick, William Brewster Of The Mayflower and His Descendants for Four Generations, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1996. "Thomas Prence was the most distinguished of the settlers of Eastham, though not the best educated. At the time of his removal in 1645, he was holding the position of an assistant ofFortune, in November, 1621. At the time of his removal he was residing in Duxbury. His farm at Eastham contained many acres. It was situated northwest of Town cove, in that part now include within the present town of Eastham. His house stood on the est side of teh county road, near where Mr. E. Doane's howse now  stands. It is said his farm comprised teh 'richest land' in the place. The famous old pear tree planted by him while a resident, and which was blown down in 1849, stood but a few rods westward from the site of his house. He was a large land-owner. He owned land in what became afterwards Harwich and Truro, besides tracts at Tonset and other localities iin ht Colony. He disposed of most of his landed estate before his death. His tracts at Sauquatucket, now Brewster, which came to him by grant, on the account of haveing been a 'Purchaser or Old-Comer,' he sold to his son-in-law, Major John Freeman, in 1672. His 'half share' at Paumet, both 'purchased and unpurchased,' lying between 'Bound Brook,' at Wellfleet, and 'Eastern Harbor or Lovell's Creek,' he sold to Mr. Thomas Paine in 1670. "Mr. Pratt, in his History of Estham, says the homestead of Gov. Prence was given by will to his son-in-law, Samuel Freeman, but the statement is not supported by documentary evidence. Records show that Gov. Prence did sell to his 'beloverd son-in-law, Mr. Samuel Freeman, Jan. 12, 1671, for thirty pounds' his 'hose lot situated and being in the town of Eastham' and 'containing eighteen acres of upland, be it more or less,' boutnde 'at the northeasterly end' by a creek, together with other upland and meadows in other parts of the town. Records also show that Gov. Prence provided a place of abode for his son-in-law, Samuel Freeman and Mercy his wife, soon after thier marrigae, and that in December, 1662, it was conveyed to them. They were then residing upon it. It was the place of the governor purchased of Mr. Josiah Cook, a 'gentleman' of Eastham. The position of this house lot the writer cannot give, but undoubtedly it was near Gov. Prence's place. "Gov. Prence continued in the office of an assistant by successive elections till 1657, when he was unanimously elected to the office of governor, as successor to Gov. Bradford, who died that year. As the law required the governor to reside at the seat of government, a dispensation was obtained from him, and he was allowed to remain at Eastham, as he desired. Mrs. Bradford was engaged to entertain him and his assistants while at Court; and attendant was appointed to attend him in his journey to and from Plymouth, and Mr. Allyn of Barnstable was engaged to accommodate him and his attendant in his house with private rooms when passing 'to and from' In 1665, Gov. Prence removed to Plymouth, and occupied the place provided by the government at a place called Plain Dealing, which the late Judge John Davis, a native of Plymouth, says was 'nearly two miles from the centre of the town on the road to Boston.' The late William Russell in his Guide to Plymouth, says the place called Plain Dealing 'extended it is believed to Kingston line'; and that Gov. Prence's house was near 'Mr. Hedges,' and in the vicinity of 'Starts Hill.' At this place, while occupying the gubernatorial chair, he died March 29, 1673, in his 73d year. He was 'honorably interred at Plymouth, April 8th.' Judge Davis says: 'The Plymouth church records, in expressing Mr. Prence's character and his amiable and pleasant conversation, depart from their usual course by an indication of his personal appearance, from which it may be supposed that it was peculiarly dignified and striking. He was excellently qualified for the office of governor. He had a countenance full of majesty, and therein, as well as otherwise, was a terror to evil doers. Gove. Bradford, and had twice been chosen govenor of the infant colony-first election in 1634, and second election in 1638. He was a native of Lechlade, a parish in Gloucestershire, England, it is understood, and born about the year 1600. He came to Plymouth in the ship
Besides holding the office of governor, Mr. Prence was a great number of years an assistant of Gov. Bradford. He was one of the commissioners of the United Colonies many years; colonial treasurer and one of the council of war. He was one of those who stood bound to the adventures for the payment of the sum they demanded for their interest in the stock, trade, etc., of the Colony, when the purchase was made in behalf of those who came in the three first ships, viz: Mayflower, Fortune and Ann.
"Gov. Prence's will bears date March 13th, 1673, and codicil march 28th, 1683. He appointed his wife, Mary, executrix, and desired that his brother, Thomas Clark, and Mr. Josiah Winslow be her advisers. To his wife mary, he gave the profits of his part of the mill at Sauquatuckett, now West Brewster, with the land adjacent to it, which he desired at her death to go to his grandson, Theophilus Mayo, who was living with him. This, he said, he gave him for his encouragement to proceed in learning. HE also gave him all his 'books fit for him in learning. He enjoined him to 'carry it well with his grandmother,' and, in case he did so, to have a 'bed.' How dutiful he was to his aged grandparent, we have no means of knowing. He doubtless removed with her to Yarmouth. From what can now be gathered he did not survive her. His death, it is supposed, took place about 1678. He was the youngest son of Nathaniel and Hannah (Prence) Mayo, and it would seem, at the death of his father, was taken by the governor into his family. The governor also gave him one-half of his land and meadow near Namassakett, in Middleboro, which if he died without descendants, would be equally divided between Gov. Prence's daughters. Of his books he gave, among others, 'to Maj John Freeman, of Eastham, Speed's, Church's and Wilson's Dictionary; Simpson's History of the Church, and Newman's Concordance.' He made other bequests, but we cannot mention them all.
"The inventory of the governor's estate shows he owned on the Cape, 'one fourth of the mill and land adjoining to it at Satuckett,' now West Brewster; twenty acres of land and three acres of meadow at Tonsett in Eastham, and eighteen acres on Porchy Island. Befre his death Gov. Prence disposed of most of his estate by deeds. Thomas Prence's descendants are numerous upon the Cape. Thomas Prence, the only son of the governor, died in England, leaving no sons, consequently he has no descendants of the patronymic living." - Josiah Paine, "Early Settlers of Eastham," Library of Cape Cod History and Genealogy, 33 and 34 (1916), 63 pages.
Prence died March 29, 1673, in Plymouth, Massachusetts and was buried on Burial Hill.
Ancestry Chain: 12th gr. grandfather (Gov.) Thomas PRENCE b.1599, Rebecca PRINCE b.1625, Priscilla PUTNAM b.1657, Lydia BAILEY b.1695, John JEFFORDS b.1724, John JEFFORDS b.1746, Lucretia JEFFORDS b.1766, Amariah RAWSON b.1787, Adaline RAWSON b.1811, Mary DUNN b.1833, Harriett Camilla ENSIGN b.1859, George Ensign SMITH b.1898, Camilla SMITH b.1926, Lark, TR.