William Wells (1605-1671), Long Island’s First Sheriff

21 Oct

William Wells is the 9th great-grandfather of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt, and Sandy; and the 10th great-grandfather of Asher, Owen, Caitlyn, Becky, Emily, Jack, Jill, Jordan, Mike, and Brian. 

William Wells (born Welles), baptized February 5, 1605, in Norwich, Norfolk, England, was the son of William and Elizabeth Welles. His father, the minister of St. Peter of Mancroft’s Church in Norwich and Chaplain to Queen Anne, died when William was 15.

William was educated in the law and became a lawyer. He emigrated to New England in 1635, settling first in Lynn, Massachusetts, moving to New Haven, Connecticut, c1639, and to Southampton, Long Island by 1643. By 1649 William had settled in Southold, Long Island.

William married Bridget, a widow of Henry Tuthill and mother of two children, John and Elizabeth, in 1653. Bridget died only months afterward, and William then married Mary or Marie Youngs in 1654. A daughter, Bethia, was born in 1655, followed by Abigail (1657-1658), Patience (1658-1659), William (1660), Mary (1661), Joshua (1664), and Mehitable (our ancestor; 1666).

William shows up in a legal capacity in a number of local records, including his appointment from 1657 to 1661 as Deputy to the General Court of New Haven (the eastern part of Long Island being a part of the Connecticut Colony until 1664), Constable of Southold from 1657 to 1659, and Town Clerk and First Deputy in 1660.


In February of 1665 William represented Southold in a convention of deputies assembled in Hempstead, Long Island, by New York’s first colonial governor, Richard Nicolls. On the adjournment of the convention Nicolls appointed William “High Sheriff of New York Shire on Long Island”, a post which he held until 1669.

William Wells died in Southold on November 13, 1671. He was buried in the old Burial Ground adjacent to the Presbyterian Church, beneath a substantial monument made of brick and cement. The inscription on the monument reads:

“Here lies ye Body of William WELLS of Southold Gen’t Justice of ye Peace & First Sheriffe of New Yorke Shire upon Long Island who Departed this Life 13 Nov 1671 Age 63 ~ yea here hee lies who speaketh yet though dead ~ on wings of faith his soule to Heaven is fled ~ His pious deedes and charity was such ~ that of his praise no pen can write too much ~ As was his life so was his blest decease ~ Hee lived in love and sweetly dyd in peace.”

William Wells (1605-1671), Old Burial Ground, First Presbyterian Church, Southold, NY

William Wells (1605-1671), Old Burial Ground, First Presbyterian Church, Southold, NY

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Posted by on October 21, 2013 in Biographies, Immigrant Stories


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