Ilminster, Somerset, England
|Died||12 January 1677
Portsmouth, Rhode Island
|Occupation||Commissioner, surveyor of highways, innkeeper|
|Children||Damaris, Samuel, Robert, Amos, Mercy, Jeremiah|
Stukely Westcott (1592 – 12 January 1677) was one of the founding settlers of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and one of the original members of the first Baptist Church in America, established by Roger Williams in 1638. Coming to New England from the town of Yeovil in Somerset, England, he first settled in Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but difficulties with the authorities prompted him to join Roger Williams in settling near the Narragansett Bay in 1638 at Providence. He remained there for a few years, but in 1648 he was recorded as an inhabitant of Warwick, probably having settled there several years earlier. He was most active in colonial affairs from 1650 to 1660 when he was a commissioner, surveyor of highways, and the keeper of a house of entertainment. His highest offices held were as an Assistant in 1653 and much later as a deputy to the General Court in 1671 when he was almost 80 years old. He made his will on 12 January 1677, dying the same day with the will unsigned, leaving his affairs in limbo for the following two decades.
The place of origin of the Westcott family appears to center around the town of Affton in county Devon in England. Here the unusual combination of the surnames Stukely and Westcott appears, as does the very unusual female given name of Damaris, found in the Stukely family.
Stukely Westcott first appears on a public record when he was married in St. John's Church in Yeovil, Somerset, England on 5 October 1619 to Juliann Marchante; his marriage record indicated that he was from Ilminster, a town in Somerset about twelve miles west of Yeovil. Juliann was the daughter of John Marchante (baptized at Yeovil 8 August 1571) who was the son of John Marchante (died 1593) by his wife Eva Corninge, which couple was married in Yeovil 18 July 1568. John Marchante was the same as the John Marchant who sailed with Sir Francis Drake and died in Panama in 1595. The baptisms of two of Stukely Westcott's children were also recorded in Yeovil: a daughter Damaris in 1620/21 and a son Samuel in 1622/23. There is no record of where Westcott lived following the baptisms of these two children, but there is evidence that in 1635 he and his family accompanied the family of William Arnold to New England, departing from the port town of Dartmouth in county Devon. Roscoe Whitman states this as a fact,  based upon a memorandum made in April 1656 by Benedict Arnold, the oldest son of William Arnold, and found among old family papers. The Arnold family came from the town of Ilchester, scarcely five miles north of Yeovil, and it is probable that the two families were acquainted with each other before sailing to the New World. Both families came to Providence at about the same time. The oldest daughter of Stukely Westcott, Damaris, married Benedict Arnold several years later.
Settling in New England
Once in New England, Westcott first settled in the town of Salem, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here he was received as an inhabitant and made a freeman in 1636. In late 1637 he was granted a house lot in Salem, his family then consisting of eight members. Soon tensions with the local authorities arose, and he, along with several others, was given a license to depart Salem in March 1638, with the proviso that he would be summoned if not gone by a court date in May. Within weeks Westcott and his family joined Roger Williams and other settlers in establishing a new settlement on land that Williams had bought of the local Indians on the Narragansett Bay. The settlement was named Providence and on the initial deed signed by Roger Williams, the initials S.W. for Stukely Westcott appear first, followed by the initials W.A. of his future in-law, William Arnold.
In 1640 Westcott signed an agreement with 38 others to form a civil government in Providence. He lived in Providence for a few years, but in 1648 he was recorded as one of the inhabitants of Warwick. However, he had likely gone to Warwick shortly after its establishment by Samuel Gorton in 1642, and may have been there as early as 1643. He lived in Warwick for most of the remainder of his life until the events of King Philip's War compelled him to move across the Narragansett Bay.
Stukely Westcott appears most often on the public records for Rhode Island between 1650 and 1660. During this time period he was a commissioner from Warwick during five different years and during most of these years he was a surveyor of highways. In 1653 he had the position of assistant in the colony and was on a committee to confer with the Indians about fencing and other matters. Warwick settlers had been accused of treating the Indians unfairly, and in 1655 Westcott and a Mr. Smith were ordered to gather up compensation that was due the Indians. In 1660 he was the foreman of a grand inquest to look into the beating death of a local Indian.
In 1655 Westcott was appointed to keep a house of entertainment, and nine years later in 1664 he once again received authorization for keeping "an ordinary for entertainment" while the King's Commissioners held court in Warwick.
King Philip's War
One of the highest offices held by Westcott was Deputy to the General Court, which he held during the year 1671 when he was nearly eighty years old. Within a few years, aged and infirm, he was surrounded by the tumultuous events of King Philip's War which was the outcome of severe friction between several of the indigenous New England tribes and the English settlers. The settlement of Warwick was totally destroyed, and the old man was taken to the settlement at Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island, just north of Newport, to the house of his grandson Caleb Arnold, the son of Governor Benedict Arnold. On 12 January 1677, with the end of his life near, he drafted a will under the direction of his grandson. He did not sign the will, however, expecting his sons to arrive from Prudence Island the next day. He died before they could get to his side, however, and the will was never signed. It was not until 20 years after his death that the will was approved and recorded into the town records. Shortly after his death, his remains were carried back to Warwick where he was buried by his wife on their old homestead.
Stukely and Juliann Westcott had six children, but a baptismal record has only been found for the first two. The oldest child, Damaris (baptized at Yeovil 27 Jan 1620/21 and died after 1678), married on 17 December 1640 Benedict Arnold, the son of William and Christian (Peak) Arnold, and had nine children. Samuel (baptized at Yeovil 31 March 1622) probably died before adulthood in New England. Robert (died 1676) married Catharine Rathburn and they had six children; Robert was a lieutenant who was killed during King Philip's War. Amos (1631–1685) married first on 13 July 1667 Sarah Stafford, the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Stafford and married second on 9 June 1670 Deborah Stafford, the sister of Sarah. He had one child with his first wife and five with his second. Mercy (died 25 March 1700), married Samuel Stafford, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Stafford and had nine children. Jeremiah (died 1686), married on 27 July 1665 Eleanor England, daughter of William and Elizabeth England, and had eight children.
Notable descendants of Stukely Westcott, through his daughter Damaris, wife of Governor Benedict Arnold, include a great-great-grandson, Benedict Arnold, one of the great generals of the American Revolutionary War who was best known for his treason to the American cause; Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, American hero of the Great Lakes during the War of 1812 and his younger brother Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who was sent by President Millard Fillmore to compel the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854; and Stephen Arnold Douglas who debated Abraham Lincoln in 1858 before a senate race and later lost to him in the 1860 presidential election. Rhode Island colonial Deputy Governor George Hazard is another descendant. The cowboy artist, rodeo champion and inventor Earl W. Bascom is also a descendant.
- Austin 1887, pp. 416,418.
- Whitman 1932, p. 13.
- Arnold 1918, pp. 75-76.
- Arnold 1921, p. 29-30.
- Moriarity 1944, p. 233.
- Whitman 1939, p. 7.
- Whiman 1932, p. 13.
- Bullock 1886, p. 10.
- Austin 1887, p. 416.
- Whitman 1932, p. 20.
- Austin 1887, p. 418.
- Arnold 1921, p. 31.
- Austin 1887, pp. 416-421.
- Arnold 1935, p. 132.
- Arnold 1935, p. 90.
- Arnold 1935, p. 274.
- Arnold, Elisha Stephen (1935). The Arnold Memorial: William Arnold of Providence and Pawtuxet, 1587–1675, and a genealogy of his descendants. Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing Company. OCLC 6882845.
- Arnold, Frederick Augustus (1921), "William Arnold, Stukely Westcott and William Carpenter", in Arnold, E. S., Arnold Memorial, Rutland, VT: Tuttle Publishing Company, pp. 9–39
- Arnold, Frederick Augustus (1918). "Rhode Island Historical Society Collections" XIV (3): 75–76. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
- Austin, John Osborne (1887). Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. Albany, New York: J. Munsell's Sons. ISBN 978-0-8063-0006-1.
- Bullock, J. Russell (1886). Stukely Westcote and some of his descendents. privately published.
- Moriarity, G. Andrews (April 1944). "Additions and Corrections to Austin's Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island". The American Genealogist 20: 233.
- Whitman, Roscoe L. (1932). History and Genealogy of the Ancestors and some Descendants of Stukely Westcott. privately published.
- Whitman, Roscoe L. (1939). Book of Appendices to the History and Genealogy of the Ancestors and Descendants of Stukely Westcott. privately published.
- Anderson, Robert Charles; Sanborn, George F. Jr.; Sanborn, Melinde L. (1999). The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England 1634-1635. Vol. I A-B. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society. ISBN 0-88082-110-8. See entry under William Arnold.
- Stukely Westcott genealogy a web excerpt from Whiman's genealogy of the Westcott family, 1932
- Three early Rhode Island Settlers the text of Fred Arnold's article on William Arnold, Stukely Westcott and William Carpenter, 1921
- Society of Stukely Westcott Descendants of America (SSWDA)