John Webster (governor)

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John Webster
Governor of the
Colony of Connecticut
In office
Preceded by Thomas Welles
Succeeded by John Winthrop, Jr.
Deputy Governor of the
Colony of Connecticut
In office
Preceded by Thomas Welles
Succeeded by Thomas Welles
Personal details
Born bef. August 16, 1590
Cossington, Leicestershire, England
Died April 5, 1661(1661-04-05) (aged 70)
Hadley, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Spouse(s) Agnes Smith
(m. 1609; his death 1661)
Children 9
Parents Matthew Webster
Elizabeth Ashton
Religion Puritan

John Webster (bef August 16, 1590 – April 5, 1661) was an early colonial settler of New England, serving one term as governor of the Colony of Connecticut in 1656.

Early life[edit]

Webster was born in Cossington, Leicestershire, England, the son of Matthew Webster (1548–1623) and his wife, Elizabeth Ashton.[1]


In the early 1630s, he traveled to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his wife and five children, settling in the area of Newtowne (now Cambridge, Massachusetts). He left in 1636, in all probability with Thomas Hooker and his adherents, to settle Hartford, Connecticut. His first public office was as a member of a committee that joined with the Court of Magistrates in determining the course of war with the Pequot Indians. He was chosen from 1639 to 1655 to be magistrate, and in 1655 he was chosen as Deputy Governor of the Colony of Connecticut. In 1656 he was elected governor, and he served as first magistrate from 1657 to 1659.

In addition to his service as Governor of the Connecticut Colony, John Webster was one of the nineteen men representing the towns of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor in 1638-39 who participated in the drafting and adoption of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, a document that is widely acknowledged as establishing one of the earliest forms of constitutional government.[2]

Communion controversy[edit]

A split amongst the church members in Hartford grew when the current minister at the First Church in Hartford, Samuel Stone, declared that the requirement that stated only parents that had both taken communion should be allowed to have a child baptized would be removed, and non-communicants would be allowed to vote. John Webster, among others, were a part of a council that agreed that this was not acceptable. Reverend Stone chose to ignore this sentiment, and the issue was taken up with the General Court in Massachusetts. The Court ruled that although Reverend Stone had been too strict in ignoring the majority of his parishioners, he was right in liberalizing the baptism ritual. It was also found that those who disagreed with Stone could remove themselves to a location in Massachusetts to practice how they saw fit. This eventual location chosen was Hadley, Massachusetts, and in 1659, a new community was built there. Webster lived there for less than two years, for in 1661 he contracted a fever and died.

Personal life[edit]

On November 7, 1609, Webster married Agnes Smith (born August 29, 1585 in Cossington, Leicestershire, England) at Cossington. She died in Hadley, Massachusetts in 1667. They had nine children (all born in England):

  • Matthew Webster (b. 1608/09), who married Sarah Waterbury and Mary Reeve
  • Margaret Webster (b. 1609/10), who married William Bolton and Thomas Hunt
  • William Webster (1614–1688), who married Mary Reeve (1617–1698)
  • Thomas Webster (1616–1686), who married Abigail Sage Alexander (1647–1688)
  • Robert Webster (1619–1676), who married Susanna Treat (1629–1705)
  • Anne Webster (1621–1662), who married John Marsh (1618–1688)
  • Elizabeth Webster (1622/23–1688), who married William Markham (1621–1690)
  • Mary Webster (b. 1623), who married Jonathan Hunt (or died before April 15, 1623)
  • Faith Webster (1627–1627), who died 10 days after her birth


His descendants are numerous, including:[3]

  • Earl W. Bascom (1906–1995), cowboy sculptor[4]
  • Frank A. Dudley (1864–1945), lawyer, politician, hotelier and business owner[5]
  • Philo Farnsworth (1906–1971), television inventor[6]
  • Noah Webster (1758–1843), a Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives and a lexicographer[7][8]
  • Delia Ann Webster (1817–1904), who was descended from his son, Thomas, through her father, Benajah Webster III (1779-1851), a Conductor on the Underground Railroad, imprisoned in the Kentucky Penitentiary, had financial support from Northern Abolitionists for her work in Kentucky. She rescued many Slaves, including the Lewis Hayden family. She was arrested when she returned from taking them to freedom in Ohio.[9]
  • Nicholas Webster (1912–2006), a film and documentary director/Producer noted for groundbreaking 1960's prime time documentaries on Black Americans, Holocaust survivors, the Russian Educational system, and children with developmental issues.[10]


  1. ^ "The Ancestry of Governor John Webster," in The American Genealogist, vol. 24, no. 4 (October 1948), pp. 197ff.
  2. ^ "The Constitutional History of Connecticut" by Roger Welles in Connecticut Magazine, vol. 5, at p. 93 (1899).
  3. ^ Webster, William Holcomb; Webster, Melville Reuben (1915). History and genealogy of the Gov. John Webster family of Connecticut, with numerous portraits and illustrations. Rochester, NY: E.R. Andrews Print. Co. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  4. ^ Gordon, Kathryn Jenkins (2013). "Butch Cassidy and other Mormon Outlaws of the Old West" (Covenant Communications, pages 169-174). ISBN 978-1-62108-119-7
  5. ^ Pool, William (1897). Landmarks of Niagara County, New York. Niagara County, NY: D. Mason & Company, Publishers. pp. 130–131. Retrieved 14 October 2015. 
  6. ^ Lovece, Frank (August 1985). "Zworykin vs. Farnsworth, Part I: The Strange Story of TV's Troubled Origins". Video. p. 71. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  7. ^ Dobbs, Christopher. "Noah Webster and the Dream of a Common Language". Noah Webster and the Dream of a Common Language. Connecticut Humanities. Retrieved July 24, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Connecticut Births and Christenings, 1649-1906". FamilySearch. Retrieved July 24, 2015. 
  9. ^ Runyon, pp. 199
  10. ^ "The Envelope: Hollywood's Awards and Industry Insider - Los Angeles Times". 
  • Webster, William Holcomb and Melville Reuben; William Holcomb Webster; Melville Reuben Webster (1915). History and Genealogy of the Governor John Webster Family of Connecticut. E. R. Andrews Printing Company. pp. 1–19. 
  • Barbour, Lucius Barnes (1982). Families of Early Hartford, CT. Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. 
  • Holmes, Frank R. (1974). Directory of the Ancestral Heads of New England Families 1620–1700. Genealogical Publishing Company. 
  • Meckler. Biographies of American and Colonial Governors. 
  • Goodwin, Nethaniel (1856). Genealogical Notes First Settlers of Connecticut and Massachusetts. 
  • Randolph Runyon (19 August 1999). Delia Webster and the Underground Railroad. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2769-9. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Welles
Governor of the Colony of Connecticut
Succeeded by
John Winthrop, Jr.