Christening: 30 May 1624
Dorking, Surrey, England, England
William emigrated in 1635 aboard the Abigail, Robert Hackwell, master. It sailed from London in mid-July. He was nine years old and the Bassett on this voyage. However, his name appears in the midst of the Burt family on the ship's manifest, leading Robert Anderson to conclude that William's mother married Hugh Burt after the death of her first husband Roger and that she and her second husband brought William with them to New England.
William was definitely given enough education to read & write. He signed not only his own will, but that of Hugh Alley in 1673. His inventory also included books.
As an adult, William became a Husbandman.
He was elected Sergeant in the Lynn, Essex co., militia by 20 October 1675[8,15] and served at that rank in Captain Joseph Gardener's company on the expedition against the Narragansett from December 1675-February 1676, during King Philip's War[8,16].
Gardener's company fought first in The Great Swamp Fight. This battle was centered around the fort which the Narragansett had built in the Great Swamp, near what is now West Kingston, RI. The fort not only served as a base for the Narragansett people, but was also a place of refuge for any Wampanoag & Nipmuc refugees from the war with the English. Hidden agendas were revealed and frayed nerves snapped on 15 December 1675 when first a Narragansett named Stonewall John came to the English at Wickford, RI, ostensibly to sue for peace. However, he had brought with him a band of warriors who remained hidden in the woods, raising suspicions amongst the English that he was, in fact, there to assess the strength of the colonial military & fortifications. Needless to say, peace negotiations were not successful. At the same time, John Bull's garrison -- located 9 miles south of Wickford, RI - was attacked and destroyed in a Narragansett raid. Fourteen or fifteen English were killed and tensions rose further amongst the English troop. These two incidents, combined with dwindling food supplies led the English military to what they perceived as necessary action. Thus, on 19 December, with one "Indian Peter" acting as their guide under threat of hanging, they proceeded to the Narragansett fort. By virtue of what is now accepted as poor leadership by the Narragansett leader Canonchet, the fort was overrun by the English. The overcrowded conditions meant that, once the wigwams were fired, many Indians were driven to their deaths.
While the overall battle was an unexpected success for the English, they lost many officers in the fight -- three Captains, several Lieutenants and many other officers. One was Captain Gardener, who fell, mortally wounded, nearly at the feet of Captain Benjamin Church.
Regardless of these experiences, William Bassett, Sr. stayed in the militia. By 29 June 1682, William Bassett had made Quartermaster. He had been elected Ensign by the time he served on an Essex Grand Jury on 28 November 1682. During the King William's War -- otherwise known as the War of the Grand Alliance of England & Spain against France -- it is generally accepted that he was the "Captain William Bassett" who accompanied now Major Benjamin Church to a council of war at Scarborough, ME on 11 November 1689.
He took the Oath of Fidelity in 1677 " 1678 and the Oath of Freeman on 18 April 1691.
He served on the Essex grand jury on 28 November 1671, 25 June 1672, 28 Nov 1682, 25 November 1684 and 30 June 1685 and performed similar service on the Petit jury on 24 June 1662, 29 November 1664, 24 November 1668, 28 June 1670, 30 November 1675, 25 June 1678 and 28 November 1682. Finally, he served on the Coroner's jury on 4 December 1680. William was also named as selectman in June 1673, June 1674, June 1675, September 1677, November 1678, June 1679, November 1679 and June 1681, served as Constable in June 1666 and on a committee to lay out a cartway in June of 1678.
Beyond the public eye, William was also a trusted neighbor. He was named overseer of Christopher Linsy's will on 9 April 1669. In addition, William was part of a group of 12 men who "...petitioned against their neighbor John Hawthorne for serving too much strong drink despite the 'advice of his friends to the contrary'..." This John Hawthorne or a near relative with the same name was later a judge at the Salem Trials which so plagued the Bassett family.
Although he was too young to have received any land in the Lynn, Essex co., MA land grants during the early history of the town, William did a fair amount of real estate transactions. On 1 June 1660, William Bassett of Lynn, husbandman, with the consent of Sarah his "now wife," sold to Andrew Mansfield, husbandman, 3 acres of meadow in Lynn, Essex co., MA. In the 7 October 1661 will of his stepfather, Hugh Burt, "my son Will[iam] Bassitt" received 2 acres of salt marsh, 5 acres of upland, and "my wearing apparel".
On 23 February 1664/5, William Bassett of Lynn, husbandman, and Sarah his wife sold to Allen Bread of Lynn, husbandman, 2 acres of salt marsh in Rumney Marsh, Suffolk co., MA. On 29 October 1667, Edward Richards of Lynn, joiner, and Ann his wife sold to WIlliam Bassett of Lynn, husbandman, 12 acres of land, presumably in Lynn, Essex co., MA. On 15 April 1675, Benjamin Chadwell of Lynn, husbandman, with the consent of Elizabeth his wife, sold to William Bassett of Lynn, husbandman, 8 acres of salt marsh in Rumney Marsh, Suffolk co., MA. On 28 June 1680, Thomas Wheeler of Stonington, yeoman, sold to William Bassett, Sr. of Lynn, yeoman, 9 acres of fresh marsh, location unknown.
On 4 June 1685, the General Court answered a petition by William Bassett and others of Lynn, Reading, Beverly and Hingham, by granting a tract of land "in the Nipmug country, of eight miles square, for their encouragement & others that were serviuceable to the country in the late Indian War [King Philip's War]". As with the later government promise of "40 acres, and a mule", no settlement was made on this grant. However, in 1728 many of these petitioners were among those granted land at Narraganset Township No. 3, now Amherst, New Hampshire. William Bassett, Sr. was long dead, but his grant was claimed by 'William Bassett, grandson'.
On 10 July 1690, William and Sarah Bassett of Lynn sold to John Bancroft of Lynn two and a quarter acres of meadow in Lynn, Essex co., MA. On 10 July 1690, William and Sarah Bassett of Lynn sold to Thomas Bancroft of Lynn 3 acres of meadow, presumably also in Lynn. In a deed recorded 9 July 1691, William Bassett, Sr. of Lynn, yeoman, and Sarah his wife sold to William Bassett Jr. of Lynn, 'his son' ten acres of land in two parcels in Lynn, Essex co., MA.
William Bassett, Sr. wrote his will on 10 February 1701/2 and it was probated on 22 May 1703. In it, "...'William Basset' of Lynn, being 'of good old age,' bequeathed to 'my dear and loving wife' the improvement of the whole estate during her natural life, all moveables to be to her absolute disposal; to 'my eldest son William Bassett.' £5; to 'my son Elisha Bassett.' 50s; to 'my son Samuell Bassett.' 50s; to 'my daughter Elizebeth Bassett alias Richards.' 40s; to 'my daughter Sarah Ellwell.' 40s; to 'my daughter Merriam Sandy.' 40s; to 'my daughter Mary Rich.' 40 s; to 'my daughter Rachel Silsbe.' 40s; to 'my daughter Rebecca Bassett.' 40s; to 'my daughter Hannah Lille.' 40s; 'my son William Bassett' sole executor..."
"The inventory of the estate of 'William Basset of Lyn.' taken 23 April 1703, totalled £110 14s., of which £74 was real estate: 'one old house, half a barn " seven acres " half of land.' £67 10s.; and 'one piece of salt marsh lying by the beach.' £6 10s..."
Three of William & Sarah's 12 children were touched by the Salem Witch Hysteria prosecution. Their oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who married John Proctor, lost her husband and everything they had built together. Two of her children were arrested, tortured and tried and she, herself, was convicted and sentenced to death. Only her pregnancy prevented her execution. By the time she had given birth, the Hysteria was over and she was not hung. William, Jr.'s wife, Sarah [Hood], was also arrested, tortured and tried for witchcraft. Finally, William Sr. & Sarah's daughter Mary, wife of Michael De Rich, was also arrested, tortured and tried for witchcraft. Why this family was so plagued by this hysteria would make for an interesting investigation. The only clue I have is William Bassett, Sr.'s signature on a petition against John Hathorne for serving strong drink. I believe that either this John Hathorne or a near relative was the same John Hathorne who was one of the Salem Hysteria judges.
Heinous as the Salem Witch Hysteria was, it was also a pivotal moment in Colonial history which changed American Jurisprudence to this day. Read, especially, the case of Elizabeth [Bassett] & John Proctor. Sheriff Corwin of Essex County, MA was especially sadistic in his attempts to extract "confessions" from the accused. In his letter to the Boston clergy, John Proctor describes the hog-tying of his teenage son in an attempt by Corwin to extract a confession of witchcraft from him. This was apparently not out of the ordinary for Corwin. (Legend has it that a curse was laid by Giles Corey upon anyone who holds the office of Essex County Sheriff...and enough odd events have befallen those who have done so to keep the legend alive into the 21st century.) Regardless, changes to the way juries were chosen, confessions were obtained and -- most importantly -- that one was innocent until proven guilty (instead of the traditional other way around) were implemented after this judicial monstrosity. In addition, the use of "spectral evidence" and humiliating "physical examinations" in search of marks of the devil fell out of favor in American courts after this time.
I have reproduced the information and testimony below. It is a fascinating and infuriating read. If you are truly interested, be sure to download the Bassett Register Report .pdf. If you are just interested in the next direct descendant in this line, you can go right to William Bassett, Jr.'s page.
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