George-Henry-Boughton-Pilgrims-Going-To-Church (Public Domain)
Rev. William Witherell was a pastor so renowned in those early days of the Plymouth Colony, his church roll reflects some 608 baptisms. People came from far areas around through the wilderness to take advantage of his known ministry. He served as pastor for 39 years from Sept. 2, 1645, till his death, Apr.9, 1685, at the the Second Church of Scituate, Mass., now the 350 year, First Parish of Norwell. He is a worthy ancestor on my mother's side, Grace Ella Witherell.
William was born in 1600 and his mother is purported to be the daughter of John Rogers, the Smithfield martyr. William married Mary Fisher, Mar. 26, 1627, in Canterbury, Kent, England. William and Mary arrived in the Plymouth Bay Colony on board the ship Hercules in 1634, just 13 years after the first autumn Thanksgiving in Plymouth. He was placed on the ministerial rolls by Cotton Mather.
Initially, he taught grammar school in Charleston, 1635, in Cambridge, 1637, and in Duxbury, 1638. When William was called to be the pastor in Scituate, the congregation in Duxbury regretted to lose him. William and Mary had nine children, Samuel, Daniel, Thomas, Mary, Elizabeth, Theophilus, John, Sarah, and Hannah, who rose to fame in their own rights.
The story goes that a young man, John Bryant, had a tendency to arrive late to Sunday service. So at an appropriate time following prayer in the service, the Rev. Witherell turned to address him.
“Neighbor Bryant, it is to your reproach that you have disturbed the worship by entering late, living as you do within a mile of this place. Especially since here is Goody Barstow who has milked seven cows, made a cheese and walked five miles to the house of God in good season” (Fewkes, R.M.).
John Bryant was not too put off by the rebuke. He married Pastor Witherell's daughter, Elizabeth, in 1657.
Noteworthy is this man's Christian service in the very foundational days of our nation , still an example to us 350 years later. The Pilgrim fathers were real people. Under great hardship, they and their Indian friends initially celebrated freedom with a Blessed Thanksgiving to God.
For more info:
Fewkes, R.M., “Church History: Lessons From 350 Years of History.” About Us, Feb. 2, 1992. http://www.firstparishnorwell.org/lessons.html (accessed 10-28-2009).
“Witherell Family Genealogy” http://www.renderplus.com/hartgen/htm/witherell.htm (accessed 11-06-2009).