William Bassett and Bridgewater

William Basset/Bassett* 1667 to 1735

Bridgewater MAWhen Plymouth became too crowded–which was almost immediately in the eyes of the early Pilgrims–the settlers started spreading out to found other communities. Bridgewater, Massachusetts (and East Bridgewater and West Bridgewater) is typical of the way those early towns came into existence.

At first new arrivals eagerly pushed inland and started new communities, sometimes creating a new town cheek by jowl with the old. But some of the descendents of the first arrivals were content to stay put.  This William Basset (1667-1735), my 7th great grand-father of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, was a stay-put kind of guy. And a marrying kind, too!

We all know that the first boatload of Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and founded Plymouth.  Amazingly, in the next ten years thirty-six more small communities were formed in what became the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The royal charter for the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 really opened the floodgates of immigration.

In 1630, a fleet of eleven ships with 700 passengers set out and landed in Salem (which had been founded in 1626) and moved on to Boston, incorporated in 1630. And that was just the beginning.  The next ten years saw twenty thousand immigrants arrive in Massachusetts.

In a later article, I will go into more detail about the life of the “original comer” William Bassett, but now, regarding his grandson William, I just want to point out that the first William moved from Plymouth to Duxbury, and then was one of 54 men given the right in 1645 to purchase land in what was to become the neighboring town of Bridgewater. There most of his children and some of his grandchildren would live out their lives.

The younger William grew up on his father Joseph’s property, next door to his grandfather William, the “original comer”, who was the village blacksmith and gunsmith.


Massasoit, Wampanoag Sachem, in 1621 smoking peace pipe with Pilgrims at Plymouth.

In 1645, Miles Standish, John Alden and 4 others were commissioned to divide an 8-mile-square piece of land, known as Satucket–or Sautucket, or Shumatuscacant  (Massachusetts– the land along the river of the same name. The six men were to divide the wooded land equally among the 54 plus the minister from Scotland, Rev. James Keith, and Deacon Samuel Edson.  Miles Standish stood in for the group in dealing with the Indian Sachem Ousanequin (better known in your history book as Massasoit) who set his mark on the agreement.

The price of the land was enumerated as

  • 7 coats, a yard and half in a coat
  • 9 hatchets
  • 8 hoes
  • 20 knives
  • 4 moose skins
  • 10 yards and a half of cotton

Having recently visited the area surrounding Boston where homes on less than an acre of land routinely sell for one million dollars, I would say that Standish got a pretty good deal for their 8 square miles.  Too bad my ancestors did not deed some of their property to their distant kin.

Bridgewater parsonage

The parsonage of Rev. James Keith, the first preacher at Bridgewater, who came from Scotland.

This town of Bridgewater, twenty miles from Plymouth and 26 miles from Boston, would be the home of first-comer William Bassett, his son Joseph and Joseph’s son William. This William lived his entire life in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, a community first settled by his grandfather, the first William Bassett in America, and one of  only two of the “original comers”  to found Bridgewater.

Although I don’t know what William did–beyond farming, which is the assumed occupation for men in that era–I do know what he did not do. According to historic records, he was not involved in government, apparently never holding office in town or church.

Indian Raid on a Puritan Village

Indian Raid on a Puritan Village

He was only eight years old when King Philip’s War affected Bridgewater, so he was not a soldier in that war, but it must have been terrifying for a youngster.  In 1675, citizens were urged to leave their homes and “repair to towns by the seaside,” but the people of Bridgewater opted to stay and erect a garrison and fortify several homes.  In the following year, Indians burned several homes in the eastern part of the town in April, and in May, a force of 300 Indians burned thirteen houses and four barns.  The fortifications and the defense of local men prevented any deaths.

When William was 26 years old, he married Sarah Swetland (Sweetland). She was nineteen.  A year later, 1694, their first son, William L. Bassett was born. As was usual in these families, other children followed regularly.

  • 1695: Joseph
  • 1700: Ruth (Davis)
  • 1702: Nathan

In April 1703, Sarah died, perhaps of complications of childbirth. She was only 29 years old.

Early death, sadly, is not surprising in this age, nor is remarriage.  I was, however, surprised that William married his second wife only two months after Sarah died. He and his new wife, Mary Bump (or Bumpus) observed another custom of the time that seems a bit creepy to me. They named their first-born daughter for the recently deceased Sarah.

William and Mary B. had five children in the next ten years:

  • 1704: Sarah
  • 1706: Elizabeth
  • 1710: Thankful
  • 1712: Benjamin
  • 1713: Seth

When Mary B. died about 1718, she would have been about 35, and left behind five children 14 or younger, plus her older stepchildren.

William Basset married again. No surprise, there–he needed someone to look after those kids. But his choice in wives continues to reflect a bigger age difference each time. He was seven years older than his first wife,16 years older than his second wife and 24 years older than his third, Mary Mahurin (28).  They married in February 1718, when he was 52 years old.

His oldest son, William L., married for the first time the same year– the following month– that his father married for the third time. Joseph (22) stayed at home for a few more years.

William Basset/Bassett died in 1735 at the age of 68. I have not found a record of Mary’s death or possible remarriage. And although there is a whole book of inscriptions on gravestones in the various Bridgewater cemeteries, many early residents are nowhere to be found.  Even many buried after 1740 were in graves with plain stones with no carving, or the stones have been carried away. So although it is a sure thing that William Bassett lies in one of those cemeteries, he left no trace.

*Although the name is generally spelled with two “t”s at the end, several references to this William use only one “t”. The Puritans did not consider spelling accurately to be a necessary godly skill.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Badertscher, the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of
  • Hattie Stout Morgan, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, the daughter of
  • William Bassett the son of
  • Samuel Bassett, the son of
  • William Bassett, Jr., the son of
  • William L. Bassett, the son of
  • William Bassett, the grandson of
  • William Bassett, the Pilgrim father

Research Notes

DAR research done by my grandmother in the 30s or 40s revealed her connection to William Bassett, the First Comer.
Nahum Mitchell, History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater, in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, including an extensive Family Register(Boston: Printed for the author by Kidder and Wright, 1840; repr. Bridgewater: Henry T. Pratt, 1897; Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1970; Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1983; Salem, MA: Higginson Books, 1992). Available on line at http://plymouthcolony.net/bridgewater/mitchell/contents.html

Williams Latham, Epitaphs in Old Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Illustrated with Plans and Views (Bridgewater: Henry T. Pratt, printer, 1882; repr. Middleborough, MA: Plymouth County Chapter, Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, 1976; Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, n.d.; Pittsfield, MA: Berkshire Family History Association, Inc., 2001). Available on line at  http://plymouthcolony.net/bridgewater/latham/contents.html

I also have checked ancestry.com for birth, death and marriage records from Masssachusetts Colony. And GenForum discussions of the Bassett lines.


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