Thomas Prence  

Born: 1600  Near Cricklade In Wilts, Leclade, CG, England

Name Var:  Prince
Thomas Prince, Senior, carriage maker of All Hallows, Dorking, London, England, in his will of 1630 mentions, "my son Thomas Prence now remayninge in New England in parts beyond seas." The proper spelling of this surname is Prince and it was so written by his immediate and collateral forebares, but Gov. Thomas chose to write it as Prence.

Immigration:  1621
Note:  Came to Plymouth Colony in the "Fortune".

Occupation:  1633
Note:  Was the first elected Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Served either as Governor or Assistant Governor for the remainder of his years.

1st Marriage:  01 APR 1635 to Patience Brewster, daughter of Elder Brewster

Note:  1637
Details:  H
e raised a corps of volunteers to assist the Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay Colonies in defeating the Pequot Indians. In 1638, he was active in the capturing, trial, and execution of four young servant men of Plymouth who attacked a solitary Indian at Pawtucket, within the Colony limits, robbing and mortally wounding him."

Birth of Daughter:  Rebecca Prence

Birth of Daughter:  Mary Prence

Birth of Daughter:  Hannah Prence

Birth of Son:  Thomas Prence

2nd Marriage:  01 APR 1635 to Mary Collier in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Birth of Daughter:  Jane Prence

Birth of Daughter:  Mary Prence

Birth of Daughter:  Sarah Prence

Birth of Daughter:  Elizabeth Prence

Birth of Daughter:  Judith Prence

Note:  1644
"He was the first of a group of Plymouth residents to settle at Eastham on Cape Cod in 1644, where he built his home in 1646. Legend, woodcut and poem testify to the pear tree which he brought from England and planted on his Eastham farm. . . He again became Governor in 1657, stipulating that he must continue to reside in Eastham, contrary to the usual requirement of Plymouth residence for Governors of the Colony. In October of 1665, the Colony finally requested his removal to Plymouth 'for the more convenient administration of justice'. The Colony purchased of Edward Gray the residence 'Plain Dealing' for the Governor's use, located nearly two miles from the center of town on the road to Boston."

Note:  It was in 1660 when Thomas Prence was Governor of the Colony, and concerned his daughter. "The tolerant course of the elder Arthur Howland toward Quakers had earned the ill will of Gov. Prence, and when in 1660 he found Arthur Howland, Jr., had woed his daughter Elizabeth, he had the swain before the General court, where he was fined 5 because he had disorderly and unrighteously endeavored to obtain the affections of Mistress Elizabeth Prence, and was put under a bond of 50 to refrain and desist. But Prence, like Canute, was unable to control the forces of nature. This action was in July, but before the next spring the imperious Governor seems to have been forced to capitulate, for Arthur, Jr., and Elizabeth were united and in the course of events there was a Thomas Howland and a Prence Howland. Governor Prence's friend and neighbor, Constant Southworth, had a like experience with his daughter Elizabeth. In his will, 1679, he gave her "My next best bed and furniture, with my wife's best bed, provided she do not marry Wm. Fobes, but if she do, then to have 5s." The bed and adjuncts were then worth thirty times 5s, for a fine bed was thought a goodly bequest; but it was the grand old story; Elizabeth chose to have 5s with William, to two beds without him, and provided her own beds."  - Lysander Salmon Richards, History of Marshfield, Volume One

3rd Marriage:  BEF 08 DEC 1662  Apphia (Quick) Freeman

4th Marriage:  BET 1665 - 1668 to Mary Howes, widow of Thomas Howes

Death:  29 MAR 1673  Plymouth, Massachusetts
The Plymouth Church Records said of him, 'He was excellently qualifyed for the office of a Governour, he had a countenance full of majesty and therein as well as otherwise a terrour to evil doers'. (see also his will on page 74)."

Burial:  08 APR 1673  Plymouth, Massachusetts

chairpr.JPG (49058 bytes)
A chair belonging to Thomas which now resides in the Pilgrim Hall Museum.

Click here to see Parents: Thomas Prince and ?


On 1 Apr 1635 Mary married Gov. Thomas Prence, son of Thomas Prence (-1630) & Elizabeth Tolderby, at Plymouth, MA. Born ca 1600 at Lechdale, Gloucester, Eng. Thomas died at Plymouth, MA on 29 Mar 1673. "Thomas Prence Esquire Govr: of the Jurisdiction of New Plymouth Died the 29th of March 1673 and was Interred the 8th of Aprill following; after hee had served God in the office of Govr sisteen yeares or neare therunto hee finished his Course in the 73 yeare of his life: hee was a worthy Gentleman very pious: and very able for his office and faithfull in the Discharge therof studious of peace a welwiller to all that feared God; and a terrour to the wicked, his Death was much lamented, and his body honorably buryed att Plymouth the Day and yeare abovemensioned". Buried on 8 Apr 1673 in Plymouth, MA.
"Plymouth Colony vital records," Mayflower Descendant, Transcribed by George Ernest Bowman, various volumes.  Transcribed form marriages appearing in the Court Orders, and from "Marriages, Births and Burials"

    "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 of 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 Fortune, 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 [1916] 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.

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.


ORIGIN: All Saints Barking, London [ EIHC 17:103-04]
MIGRATION: 1621 on Fortune
REMOVES: Duxbury by 1637, Eastham 1644, Plymouth by 1665
FREEMAN: In the "1633" Plymouth list of freemen Thomas Prence was just after the councillors, and ahead of those admitted on 1 January 1632/3 [ PCR 1:3]. "Thomas Prence, gen.," is in the 7 March 1636/7 list of Plymouth freemen [ MBCR 1:52]. In the list of assistants at the head of the "1639" list of Plymouth Colony freemen, but as this list was revised and annotated his name was included in the "Nawsett" portion of the list [PCR 8:173, 177]. In Eastham section of 1658 list of Plymouth freemen, and in Plymouth section of list of 29 May 1670 [PCR 5:274, 8:201]
EDUCATION: His inventory included a long list of books valued at 14 2d., including two great Bibles and "100 of psalm books."
OFFICES: Plymouth Governor, 1634, 1638, 1657-72 [ MA Civil List 35]. Assistant, Plymouth Colony, 1632-33, 1635-37, 1639-56 [PCR 1:32, 36, 48, 116, 140, 2:8, 15, 33, 40, 52, 56, 71, 83, 115; MA Civil List 37-38]. Treasurer, 1637 [PCR 1:48; MA Civil List 36]. Council of War, 1637 [PCR 1:60, PTR 1:16]. Commissioner for the United Colonies, 1645, 1650, 1653-58, 1661-63, 1670-72 [MA Civil List 28-29].
   In Plymouth section of 1643 Plymouth Colony list of men able to bear arms [PCR 8:188].
ESTATE: In the 1623 Plymouth division of land Thomas Prence received one acre as a passenger on the Fortune [PCR 12:5]. In the 1627 Plymouth division of cattle Thomas Prince, Patience Prince and Rebecca Prince are the tenth, eleventh and twelfth persons in the fifth company [PCR 12:10].
   In the Plymouth tax list of 25 March 1633 Thomas Prence was assessed 1 7s. [PCR 1:9]. He was omitted from the list of 27 March 1634. His cattle mark was three marks on the outer side of the ear [ PTR 1:2].
   Thomas Prence received grants of land, 1 July 1633, 14 March 1635/6, 20 March 1636/7 meadow at Jones River; 6 March 1636/7 land between two cedar swamps at Island Creeke Pond; 5 February 1637/8 all the land between Greenes Harbor and South River; 2 April 1638 a garden place; 5 November 1638 ten acres of land "in some convenient place about the town"; 3 December 1638 an acre and a half at Smilt River; 2 December 1639 a parcel between John Barnes's garden and George Watson's field; 16 September 1641 an enlargement at the head of his Joanes River lot; 17 October 1642 an additional six acres at Joanes River; 2 October 1650 granted rights to bass fishing at Cape Cod [PCR 1:14, 40, 51, 56, 77, 83, 102, 103, 136, 142, 145, 163, 2:26, 49, 161]. He exchanged land with John Combe, Phinehas Pratt and John Barnes [PCR 1:25, 30, 12:197].
   On 14 September 1638 Mr. Thomas Prence purchased two acres of land on the south side of the second brook from Ellinor Billington and Francis Billington [PCR 12:37]. On 29 May 1643 he contributed 6d. to buy drumheads and 14 to buy bread [PTR 1:14-15]. About 1645 Mr. Thomas Prence acknowledged that he had sold to Mr. Edmond Freeman all his house and garden place and barn in Plymouth, ten acres of upland in the woods and five acres in the second brook, and eleven acres by John Barnes's land and one farm at Joanes River [PCR 12:129-30]. On 11 July 1649 Mr. Thomas Prence of Nawset, gentleman, sold to Jacob Cooke of Plymouth, planter, forty acres of upland in Rocky Noocke with three acres of marsh [PCR 12:175]. On 13 July 1649 Mr. Thomas Prence of Nawset, gentleman, sold to Richard Church of Nawset, carpenter, and to Anthony Snow of Marshfield, feltmaker, upland and marsh at Marshfield and forty acres of upland received by grant dated 5 February 1647 [PCR 12:176].
   On 13 June 1655 Thomas Prence of Eastham sold to "Mr. Edward Buckley" of Marshfield five acres of marsh in Marshfield [ MD 9:234, citing PCLR 2:1:155]. On 12 July 1655 Thomas Prence of Eastham sold to John Browne of Rehoboth "my half share with other purchasers situate and being near Rehoboth and Sowamsett" [MD 10:16, citing PCLR 2:1:159]. On 31 August 1658 Thomas Prence sold to John Cooke of Plymouth two acres of marsh meadow at Jones River [MD 13:44, citing PCLR 2:2:6].
   On 5 February 1665 the town of Plymouth granted Mr. Thomas Prence six acres of upland meadow on the west side of Jones River meadow and on 16 March 1667[/8] twelve acres more there [PTR 1:83, 97].
   On 8 December 1662 Thomas Prence deeded to "my son [i.e., stepson] Samuell Freeman and Mercye his wife the house and land Samuel now dwelleth in" [PCLR 3:201]. On 20 September 1664 Thomas Prence deeded to John Freeman of Eastham "all that his upland and meadow lying on the southeast side of great Namskekett, viz: a parcel of upland containing eight acres ... with five acres of meadow"; also two acres of meadow with ten acres of upland [PCLR 3:28]. On 14 November 1669 Thomas Prence exchanged one hundred acres "of upland lying upon Pachague Neck on the southerly side of Teticutt River" with "Mrs. Alice Bradford the executrix of Mr. William Bradford," receiving in return "a half share of Purchase Land at Satuckett, be it forty-five acres more or less, and also the one-half of twenty-five acres of meadow" [PCLR 3:171]. On 2 May 1670 Thomas Prence of Plymouth, Gent., sold to Thomas Paine of Eastham, cooper, "all my one-half share of Purchase Land at Paomett," with the consent of "Mrs. Prence" [PCLR 5:480]. On 25 July 1672 Thomas Prence, Esquire, Governor of New Plymouth, deeded to John Freeman Sr. of Eastham "one parcel of land containing thirty acres"; "another parcel of land containing eight acres ... of swamp and upland"; "one other parcel of marshland, containing twenty-four acres"; "also forty acres of upland"; "also [another] forty acres of upland"; "also fifteen acres of upland"; and "also five acres of upland" [PCLR 3:278].
   In his will, dated 13 March 1672/3 and proved 5 June 1673, "Thomas Prence being at present weak in body" bequeathed to "Mary my beloved wife ... such household goods of any kind as were hers before we married, returned to her again, after my decease, and if any of them be much impaired or be wanting, that she shall make it good out of my estate in such goods as she desireth"; to "my said loving wife my best bed and the furniture thereunto appertaining, and the court cupboard that now stands in the new parlor with the cloth and cushion that is on it, and an horse and three cows such as she shall make choice of, and four of my best silver spoons, and also during her natural life, I give her the rents and profits of my part of the mill at Satuckett, and of the lands adjoining, and my debts and legacies being first paid, I do further give unto my said wife a full third part of my personal estate that remains"; to "my daughter Jane the wife of Marke Snow my silver tankard"; to "my daughter Mary Tracye a silver wine cup and a dram cup"; to "my daughter Sarah Howes my biggest beer bowl"; to "my daughter Elizabeth Howland my silver salt"; to "my grandchild Theophilus Mayo and to the heirs of his body lawfully begotten, the one half of my lands and meadows at or near Namassakett in the township of Middleberry"; "I give unto my grandchild Sussanna Prence the daughter of my deceased son Thomas Prence, the other half of my above mentioned lands and meadows at Middleberry aforesaid"; in the absence of an heir of these grandchildren, the abovesaid lands to revert to "my daughters, or such of them as shall be then surviving, or their heirs if all my daughters should be dead"; "to my said grandchild Theophilus, and to his heirs forever, my part of the mill and lands adjacent at Satuckett after the decease of my wife, and this I give for his encouragement to proceed in learning"; residue divided between "my seven daughters, Hannah, Marcye, Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah and Judith, and my above mentioned grandchild Susanna Prence"; Mary "my beloved wife sole executrix"; "my loving friend Major Josias Winslow to be helpful therein." A codicil to the will bequeathed "to Mr. John Freeman Speed's Cronicle and Wilson's Dictionary and the abridgement, and Simpson's History of the Church and Newman's Concordance"; to "my daughter Elizabeth Howland a black heifer"; a little yellow heifer to Lydia Sturtivant; to "my daughter Jane a bed, and another bed to my daughter Elizabeth Howland"; to "my grandson Theophilus Mayo all my books fit for him in learning, and if he carry it well to his grandmother I then give him a bed"; also "I desire my brother Thomas Clarke to be helpful to my wife as need may require" [MD 3:204-06, citing PCPR 3:1:58-59].
   The inventory of "Thomas Prence Esqr. lately deceased" was taken 23 April 1673 and totalled 422 10s. 7d. [MD 3:206-16, citing PCPR 3:1:60-70]. Real estate was listed at the end of the inventory, but unvalued: "one hundred acres of land lying in the town of Middleberry at or near Winnapaukett pond and the brook going from it"; "one share of meadow lying in a certain tract of meadow called the Major's meadow that lieth upon Namassakett River, betwixt the pond and the weir"; "one hundred acres of land lying on the northerly side of Teticutt River"; "a considerable tract of land that lieth on the easterly side of Namassakett River between Winnapauckett pond and a tract of land called the Major's purchase"; "eight acres of land on the westerly side of Namassakett River"; "a grant of ten or twelve acres of land and a small parcel of meadow at Jones River meadow in the township of Plymouth"; "ten acres of land lying on the south side of a cart way that goeth to Lakenham, called Prence bottom in Plymouth"; "the one half of fifty or sixty acres of land and three acres of meadow between him and Major Winslow in Middleberry"; "twenty acres of land and three acres of meadow at Tonsett in the township of Eastham"; "eight acres of land lying on Pochey Island in the aforesaid Eastham"; and "one fourth part of a mill at Satuckett and lands adjoining to it" [MD 3:215-16].
   On 10 June 1673 John Freeman, Jonathan Sparrow, John Tracy, Mark Snow, Jeremiah Howes, Arthur Howland and Isaac Barker receipted to "our mother-in-law Mrs. Mary Prence late wife and executrix to our father Thomas Prence Esquire deceased" for their shares of the estate of Thomas Prence [MD 33:97-100 (with photograph of the unrecorded original)].
   On 10 June 1676 Josiah Winslow, Esquire, "attorney for ... Susanna Prence at Catheren Gate near the Tower in London ..., singlewoman"; and John Freeman in the right of Mary his wife and as attorney for "Mary Prence, relict and executrix of the last will and testament of the honored Thomas Prence, late Governor ... deceased," and of Jonathan Sparrow and Hannah his wife, Marke Snow and Jane his wife, and Jeremiah Howes and Sarah his wife, daughters of the said Thomas Prence; and John Tracye and Mary his wife, Arthur Howland and Elizabeth his wife, and Isacke Barker and Judith his wife, daughters also of the said Thomas Prence, sold to Constant Southworth, treasurer and agent of Plymouth Colony, "all that our dwelling house, messuage or tenement" in Plymouth "at a place commonly called Plain Dealing"; signed by Josiah Winslow, John Freeman, John Trasye, Arthur Howland and Isack Barker [PCLR 4:124].
BIRTH: About 1600 based on age at death, son of Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale, Gloucestershire. In his will, dated 31 July 1630 and proved 14 August 1630, Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale, Gloucestershire, left a legacy to his son Thomas Prence "now remaining in New England in the parts beyond the seas" [EIHC 7:103-04, citing PCC 70 Scroope].
DEATH: Plymouth 29 March 1673, in his 73rd year ("Thomas Prence, Esquire, Governor of the jurisdiction of New Plymouth, died the 29th of March, 1673, and was interred the 8th of April following. After he had served God in the office of Governor sixteen years, or near thereunto, he finished his course in the 73 year of his life. He was a worthy gentleman, very pious, and very able for his office, and faithful in the discharge thereof, studious of peace, a wellwiller to all that feared God, and a terror to the wicked. His death was much lamented, and his body honorably buried at Plymouth the day and year above mentioned" [PCR 8:34; see also MD 3:203-04]).
MARRIAGE: (1) Plymouth 5 August 1624 Patience Brewster [ Prince 229], daughter of WILLIAM BREWSTER; she died late in 1634 (in a letter to his son John Winthrop Jr. dated 12 December 1634, JOHN WINTHROP reported that "the pestilent fever hath taken away some at Plimouth, among others Mr. Prence the governor his wife ..." [ WP 3:177]).
   (2) Plymouth 1 April 1635 Mary Collier [PCR 1:34], daughter of WILLIAM COLLIER; she died perhaps by 1644.
   (3) After 1 July 1644 (when she witnessed Rev. George Phillips's will as Apphia Freeman in Watertown [ NEHGR 3:78]) and certainly some considerable time before 8 December 1662 (when Thomas gave land to her son) Apphia (Quick) Freeman, former wife of SAMUEL FREEMAN, daughter of William Quick of London [ TAG 11:178].
   (4) After 26 February 1665[/6] and by 1 August 1668 Mary (_____) Howes, widow of Thomas Howes [MD 6:157-65, 230-35]. She died 9 December 1695 [MD 6:230, citing YarTR 3:328].
     With first wife


     i   REBECCA, b. say 1625 (living at time of cattle division in 1627 [PCR 12:10]); m. Plymouth 22 April 1646 Edmund Freeman [PCR 2:98].


     ii   THOMAS, b. say 1627 (in the 1627 Plymouth division of cattle is a second Thomas Prence, inserted at the end of the tenth lot; this may be the son Thomas Prence, born at about the time this list was compiled, and added separately from his family); m. _____ _____ (an appendix to the fifth edition of Morton's Memorial refers to letters from the widow and daughter of this Thomas Prence, in London, to his father, the immigrant [pp. 424-25]; these letters have apparently never been published, but copies of some of them are held by the Massachusetts Historical Society).


     iii   HANNAH, b. say 1629; m. (1) Eastham 13 February 1649/50 Nathaniel Mayo [PCR 8:26]; m. (2) by 1671 Jonathan Sparrow [MD 14:193-203].


     iv   MERCY, b. say 1631; m. Eastham 13 February 1649/50 John Freeman [PCR 8:26].

   With second wife

     v   JANE, b. Duxbury 1 November 1637 [MD 6:230]; m. Eastham 9 January 1660[/1] Mark Snow [PCR 8:28], son of NICHOLAS SNOW.


     vi   MARY, b. say 1639; m. by about 1661 John Tracy [ Tracy Gen 26].

   Perhaps with third wife

     vii   JUDITH, b. say 1645; m. (1) Plymouth 28 December 1665 Isaac Barker [PCR 8:31], son of ROBERT BARKER; m. (2) after 1693 William Tubbs [ PPR 1:168; PLR 2:123].


     viii   ELIZABETH, b. about spring 1647 [WP 5:169]; m. Marsh~field 9 December 1667 Arthur Howland [ MarVR 10], son of Arthur Howland [ NGSQ 71:90-91].


     ix   SARAH, b. about 1648 ("departed this life March the 3d 1706 in the 60th year of her age," tombstone, Yarmouth, which conflicts with YarVR [NEHGR 59:217]); m. by about 1669 Jeremiah Howes (birth of child estimated by child's date of marriage), her stepbrother [MD 6:233; NEHGR 59:217-18].



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 [MD 6:230-35].
   Establishing the probable date of marriage for Apphia and Thomas Prence has significant implications for the parentage of Prence's last three children. Apphia is last seen as a Freeman 1 July 1644, about a year before the birth of Prence's seventh child, and at the end of a six- year hiatus in the birthdates of his children. She is called "Mrs. Freeman" as late as 15 October 1646 in a deed where she appears as an abutter, but this does not necessarily imply that she had not remarried by this date, since it was not unusual for archaic bounds to be used in this sort of description [ SLR 1:78].
   In a letter dated at Plymouth 8 June 1647, Thomas Prence wrote to John Winthrop that "since my parting company [with you] I have almost met with Jacob's trial in his travel between Bethel and Ephrath: God's having been heavy upon my wife and that for diverse months and is not yet removed" [WP 5:169]. In Genesis 35:16-19 Jacob's favorite wife Rachel died between Bethel and Ephrath after giving birth to a son she named Benoni, but he called Benjamin. Prence here is referring to the birth of his own daughter Elizabeth, apparently a difficult childbirth.
   On 6 March 1637/8, having been elected governor, Thomas Prence was excused from the requirement that the governor live in Plymouth, and was permitted to retain his residence in Duxbury [PCR 1:79]. When he was again elected governor, in 1657, he was allowed to maintain his residence in Eastham, but in 1663 the court ordered that the governor's house at Plymouth be enlarged, and by 1665 Prence again became a resident of Plymouth [ Dawes-Gates 2:684].
BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE: Perhaps due to the fact that Thomas Prence had no grandsons that carried the Prence surname, little attention has been directed to this family. A very brief account of his family was prepared in 1852 by David Hamblen and a more substantial treatment was published in 1931 by Mary Walton Ferris [Dawes-Gates 2:682-94].


Mary Collier  

Baptized:  18 FEB 1611/12  St. Olave Parrish, Southwark, Surrey, England.

Death:  BEF 1644

Click here to see Parents:  William Collier and Jane Clarke


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