RIGENWEB-L ArchivesArchiver > RIGENWEB > 2003-09 > 1064622403
Subject: [RIGENWEB] William Aspinwall from TGM
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2003 20:26:43 EDT
FIRST RESIDENCE: Charlestown
REMOVES: Boston by 1635, Portsmouth 1638, New Haven 1641, Boston 1642
RETURN TRIPS: Possibly made a brief return trip to England in 1631; returned
England permanently in 1652.
OCCUPATION: Notary; court recorder.
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: Admitted to Boston church as member #10, which would be
in August 1630 [BChR 13]. Chosen deacon of Boston church, 27 August 1630 [WJ
1:38]. Readmitted to Boston church 27 March 1642 [WJ 2:74]. One of Boston's
delegates to the Cambridge Synod of 1646 [BChR 47].
FREEMAN: Requested 19 October 1630 and admitted 3 April 1632 (as "Mr. Willm.
Aspinwall") [MBCR 1:80, 367].
EDUCATION: Clearly a well-educated man, given his constant employment in
quasi-legal positions, and also based on his publication of many
politico-theological tracts following his return to England [MHSP 2:12:218-19]. There is no
evidence that he attended either Cambridge or Oxford, but he may have spent
some time at one of the lesser Inns of Court in London. He was also a skilled
surveyor, for on more than one occasion he was asked to view the boundary
between two towns and "make a draft thereof" [MBCR 1:119, 159, 180, 189, 196].
OFFICES: Coroner's jury on death of Austen Bratcher, 28 September 1630 [MBCR
1:77]. Grand jury, 19 February 1635/6 [BTR 1:8]. Boston selectman (for six
month terms), 14 March 1635/6, 16 October 1637 [BTR 1:9, 20]. Deputy for
Boston to General Court, 1 August 1637, 20 September 1637 [MBCR 1:200, 204];
replaced as deputy, 6 November 1637 [BTR 1:20]. Committee on raising a colony
rate, 1 August 1637 [MBCR 1:201].
Appointed secretary, Portsmouth, Rhode Island, 7 March 1637/8 [RICR
Appointed Boston town clerk, 7 September 1643 [MBCR 2:45]; chosen court
recorder, 13 November 1644 [MBCR 2:84]; appointed public notary for this
jurisdiction, 13 November 1644 [MBCR 2:86].
Admitted to the Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company in 1643 [HAHAC
ESTATE: Gave 50s. for the building of the sea fort, 1 April 1634 [MBCR
On 13 September 1636 "Will: Aspinall of Boston" sold to Edward Tinge of
London for œ41 "the house in the Corn Field with the appurtenances ..." [SLR
1:16]; on 26 September 1636 the Boston selectmen fined Aspinwall œ2 for having
"sold a houseplot and a garden unto one Mr. Tinge, contrary to [a former
order]," and on 15 November 1636 he paid 25s. of the fine [BTR 1:12, 13].
On 8 January 1637/8 granted twenty-two acres of upland at Pullen Point [BTR
1:29]. By 25 March 1639 Valentine Hill had purchased the houseplot of William
Aspinwall [BTR 1:38].
Granted two hundred acres at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, 10 February
1639/40 [RICR 1:73].
In the Boston Book of Possessions (compiled by William Aspinwall) William
Aspinwall held three parcels of land: one house with garden; nine acres at
Muddy River; and "at Hogg Island one acre of upland and three quarters of marsh
bought of Mrs. Ormsbie." There is a later annotation referring to the
windmill (see below), and also a record of the sale on 11 November 1651 from William
Davies, apothecary, to William Aspinwall of half an acre of land [BBOP 30].
On 26 December 1648 Richard Woodward of Boston sold to William Aspinwall of
Boston "my windmill in Boston with all the utensils thereunto belonging ...
together with the land appertaining thereunto being half an acre more or less"
On 30 January 1653/4 Theodore Atkinson had "lately purchased of William
Aspinnal of Boston" two acres and a half in Boston [SLR 2:1]; this sale had
probably taken place at about the time of Aspinwall's departure in 1652.
BIRTH: By about 1605 based on birth date of eldest child.
DEATH: Living at Chester, England, as late as 13 April 1662, when he wrote a
letter to an unknown acquaintance in New England [MHSP 2:12:217-18].
MARRIAGE: By 1630 Elizabeth _____; "Elizabeth Aspinall the wife of Willyam
Aspinall" admitted to Boston church as member #16, which would be in August
1630 [BChR 13]; last seen of record in Boston on 10 September 1650 when mentioned
in the will of Susanna Phillips [NEHGR 5:448].
CHILDREN:i (poss.) MARY, b. about 1628; m. Cambridge 6 October 1658 John
Gove as his first wife. (There is no direct evidence that Mary belongs in this
family, but she has been placed here by many writers because there is no other
family in which to place her [unless she is in some way related to Peter
Aspinwall, who arrived in New England in the 1640s]. Her estimated date of birth,
which would make her thirty at marriage, is made necessary because there is no
place else to fit her in the sequence of births down to 1644, and any later
date would make her only about twelve at marriage. [As Boston town clerk and
recorder of births, marriages anddeaths at the time these early Boston vital
records were prepared in 1644, Aspinwall included his daughter Dorcas, who must
in fact have been born in Portsmouth. Having done that, he would surely have
included daughter Mary if she had been born in 1642, say.])
ii EDWARD, b. 26 September 1630 [BVR 1]; d. 10 October 1630 [BVR 1].
iii HANNAH, b. 25 December 1631 [BVR 1]; m. by 1652 John Angier;
on 8 June 1652 William Aspinwall of Boston sold unto "my son-in-law Mr. John
Angier my dwelling house in Boston" with about two acres adjoining [SLR 1:206].
iv ELIZABETH, b. 30 September 1633 [sic] [BVR 2]; bp. Boston 22
September 1633 [BChR 278]; no further record.
v SAMUEL, b. 30 September 1635 [sic] [BVR 3]; bp. Boston 20 September
1635 [BChR 280]; with his father, witnessed several deeds between 26 December
1651 and 13 July 1652 [SLR 1:153, 165, 192, 211, 235, 256]; no further record.
vi ETHLAN[NAH] (son), b. 1 March 1636/7 [BVR 4]; bp. Boston 12 March
1636/7 [BChR 281]; no further record.
vii DORCAS, b. 14 February 1639/40 [BVR 7]; no further record.
ASSOCIATIONS: 5 August 1634: "John Humfry, Esq., & Mr. Increase Nowell was
desired by the Court to take depositions of the witnesses of Mr. Aspinwall, in
a case betwixt Sir William Brewerton, Baronet, & the said Mr. Aspinwall" [MBCR
1:123]; Aspinwall's opponent in this case was Sir William Brereton
(1604-1661) [DNB]. This case was presumably brought in the English courts and, although
there may not be any genealogical relation between Aspinwall and Brereton,
the records of this case, if they could be found, should tell us something of
Aspinwall's whereabouts and activities in England before 1630. (Note also that
Aspinwall apparently ended his days in Cheshire, which was the county of
origin of Brereton.)
In her will of 10 September 1650, Susanna Phillips, widow of William
Phillips, after making bequests to her children, gave œ5 to Elizabeth Aspinwall, wife
of William Aspinwall, and then enlisted the aid of William Aspinwall in making
a provisional bequest: "if any of my brother or sister's children come over
to live within two years after my decease, six pounds apiece, to the value of
eighteen pounds, the first three that come to demand it" [SPR 1:127; NEHGR
5:448]. Although these two bequests do not state any relationship between Susanna
Phillips and the Aspinwalls, the possibility exists.
COMMENTS: William Aspinwall stands out among his peers for being more
contentious than most, but still being found useful to the leaders of many colonies.
After being forced to leave Massachusetts Bay during the Antinomian
Controversy, he lasted only two years in Rhode Island before leaving that place as
well. But within a few years he had been accepted back in Boston, and was given
positions of considerable trust and responsibility, only to be driven out
again a decade later.
His differences with authority wherever he lived led to frequent changes
of residence, and it is worth examining carefully the evidence for these
moves:He first appears at Charlestown in 1630, as an early member of the church
formed there by the leaders of the Winthrop Fleet. Since he applied for
freemanship in October 1630, but was not admitted until April 1632, there is the
possibility that he made a return trip to England in 1631. The only way he could
have done this would be to take ship with the Lyon when it left Boston in April
of 1631, and to return with the
Lyon later that same year. There may, of course, be other reasons for not
taking his freemanship in May 1631, so this return trip remains only a
That he did not immediately move to Boston is indicated by his inclusion in
the list of inhabitants admitted to Charlestown in 1630 [ChTR 5]. When the
Charlestown church separated from the Boston church late in 1632, Aspinwall was
not among those dismissed to Charlestown, which might make one believe that he
was already a resident in Boston by then, and this would be consistent with
the baptism of one of his children at Boston in late 1633. But Aspinwall
appears in a list of the inhabitants of Charlestown on 9 January 1633/4 [ChTR 10],
and he does not appear in the town records of Boston until 10 December 1635
[BTR 1:6]. The conclusion to be drawn here is that he remained in Charlestown at
least until 1634, but chose to remain with the church in Boston, perhaps
because he anticipated making the move to Boston, but was not ready to do so in
late 1632 when the churches separated.
Aspinwall was one of the strongest supporters of Rev. John Wheelwright, and
drafted the infamous petition which caused so much trouble [WJ 1:293, 481-83].
As a result he was not simply disarmed, but was one of the few banished from
the colony, being told on 2 November 1637 to depart by the first of the
following month [MBCR 1:205, 207, 211]. He was one of those who signed the
covenant at the formation of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, on 7 March 1637/8, and was
appointed secretary on the same day [RICR 1:52; WP 4:17]. But Aspinwall did not
attend subsequent Portsmouth town meetings; on 2 January 1638/9 he was to be
dealt with "concerning his defaults," and then a month later was accused of
sedition [RICR 1:64, 66]. On 28 April 1639 he was sued for debt, and "warrant
was granted forth, for the attachment of his shallop till both that debt and
other actions of the case be satisfied and discharged by him" [RICR 1:69]. He
was still living at Portsmouth on 10 February 1639/40 when he was granted two
hundred acres of land [RICR 1:73], and on 29 June 1640 when he signed a letter
to John Winthrop [WP 4:260], but he may have moved to New Haven soon, as he is
found there briefly when, on 2 March 1641/2, "Will[iam] Aspenall" gave
testimony in a criminal case in New Haven General Court [NHCR 1:67].
By 7 October 1641 he was already making overtures for his return to
Massachusetts Bay [MBCR 1:338]. On 27 March 1642 he was reconciled with and
readmitted to Boston church [WJ 2:74], and on 20 May 1642 "William Aspinwall, upon
his petition & certificate of his good carriage, is restored again to his
former liberty & freedom" [MBCR 2:3]. As noted above, he soon acquired all the
important scribal posts available (Boston town clerk, Suffolk recorder, notary
In 1644 Aspinwall joined with other Boston merchants in an unsuccessful
expedition up the Delaware in search of furs and "the great lake"; Winthrop
describes him as "a good artist [i.e., surveyor], and one who had been in those
parts" [WJ 2:193-94, 218-9; MBCR 2:60].
After ten years in which Aspinwall served the colony well, he again began
to run afoul of his fellow citizens in 1651 [MBCR 3:226, 253-54, 278-79,
307]. Finally, on 14 October 1651 the General Court became enraged when Aspinwall
was "accused for charging the Court & jury to go against law & conscience in
making the landlord to pay rent to the tenant," at which point he was removed
as Suffolk recorder and as Boston town clerk [MBCR 3:257-58]. After the
middle of 1652 no further record of Aspinwall is found in New England.
Upon his return to England he became one of the most prominent of the
Fifth Monarchists, a radical religious sect which had a brief existence in the
turmoil of the Commonwealth [see Christopher Hill, The Experience of Defeat:
Milton and Some Contemporaries (New York 1984), and P.G. Rogers, The Fifth
Monarchy Men (London 1966)].
William Aspinwall is last seen alive on 13 April 1662 when he addressed a
letter from Chester in England to an unidentified friend in New England [SLR
10:23]. In that letter he referred to "that small parcel of land in Boston
whereon the mill stood which was mine own purchase ... which land I gave to my
son." The son in question is presumably his son-in-law, John Angier, as there
is no evidence that any of his children other than the daughter who married
Angier remained in New England.
IBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE: The records that Aspinwall kept at Boston as notary from
1644 to 1651 have survived and are one of our best sources for this period [A
Volume Relating to the Early History of Boston Containing the Aspinwall
Notarial Records from 1644 to 1651, Boston Record Commissioners' Reports 32 (Boston
1903), referred to elsewhere herein as "Aspinwall"]. An excellent summary of
the New England career of Aspinwall, with lengthy transcripts of original
documents, was published in 1898, and was soon reprinted twice [MHSP 2:12:211-19;
SLR 10:15-24; Aspinwall i-x].