Monday, July 25, 2011

The Spencer-Case Family of England and Connecticut

The first Spencer I have on my ancestor chart is Michael born ca 1533 in Edworth, Bedfordshire, ENG. He m. Elizabeth ? ca 1563 there and d. aft 1599 probably in Stotfold, Bedfordshire, ENG. Elizabeth died in Nov 1599 in Stotfold. I have no more information on this couple, do you? Does anyone have the family of Elizabeth? I would like to be able to add to this lineage.

Gerard SPENCER was born in May 1576 in Stotfold and he m. Alice WHITBREAD on 10 Nov 1600 in St. Giles, Upper Gravenhurst in Bedfordshire (d. 20 May 1646 Stotford). Gerard d. before 1646 there. Alice was the dau. of John WHITBREAD and Eleanor RADCLIFFE who were married ca 1570 in Welwyn  Hertfordshire and he d. 28 Nov 1598 in Upper Gravenhurst. Eleanor died on 20 Nov 1628 in Elstow, Beds.

One of their sons was William SPENCER bpt. 11 Oct 1601 in Stotfold and he m. Agnes HARRIS in 1633 there. AS far as I know, they are our  IMMIGRANT FAMILY.
Agnes was the d/o Bartholomew HARRIS (ca 1560-10 Oct 1615)  and Elizabeth COLLAMORE (ca 1566-?)

William and Agnes had a daughter - Sarah SPENCER who is my direct ancestress. She was b. 1635 in Simsbury, Hartford Co., CT and m. John CASE ca 1656 in Hartford Co., CT. He was b. in Aylsham, Norfolkshire, ENG and d. 21 Feb 1703/04 in Simsbury, CT.

This is the information that I have on William SPENCER and Agnes HARRIS. I hope if you have more or any corrections of my notes that you will contact me. I would like to hear any comments at all.

William was one of the four founders of the Military Co. of MA, that is now called The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co., in which he initially held the rank of Lieut. However he is referred to as Lieut. Spencer only twice in civil or political records in the MA Bay and none in the CT. Colony records.

At the time of William's birth, English rule suppressed the freedom loving Puritan people and the Spencers were among the group who wanted changes in the rituals and laws of the Church of England. They agreed there should only be one church in England and that the church should be supported by the state. The beliefs, laws and rituals of the church were controlled by the English rulers and were changed in accordance to their ideas, thoughts and experiences by the particular king or queen in power at the time.
    The clergy was expected to comply with the ritual and laws set forth but were expected to study the Bible and preach their own sermons. Their spiritual direction often caused Puritan Clergy to refuse to carry out the orders of the bishops. When this happened they were taken before the High Commission for a trial of all their religious offenses. Some of the principal ministers withdrew to Holland and others remained in England, feeling hopeless, as they saw no sign of relief in the future.
    William was christened 11 Oct 1601 in Stotfold, Bedfordshire, ENG. He was appointed Deputy to Massachusetts General Court, 1634 through 1637, and representative to Connecticut General Court from 1639 to 1640.

According to Tepper's "Passengers to America", Will was on the "Mary & John" which left England on 24 Mar 1633. He was back in England for perhaps a year and evidently did not return to Newe Towne until the summer of 1633.  It was a year later that his name again appeared in the General Court records. He arrived with the group from Essex, ENG.
    In 1629 a royal charter was obtained under the name of the "Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England". This was like a trumpet call to the Puritans of England. They began at once to prepare for emigration to the new land of promise. Five ships sailed in the spring of 1629, the "Mary & John" sailed the following spring with a total of seventeen ships with 16 or 17 Hundred immigrants.
Brothers Gerrard, Michael, Thomas and William Spencer probably were among these people or they may have sailed with the group of Essexshire in 1632. This group came mostly from the area of the towns of Braintree, Colchester and Chelmsford, stopped first at Mt. Wallaston, now known as Quincy. They would have been followers of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, who was in Holland at the time but joined them the following year.

William was one of the first emigrants to New England with the Winthrop group arriving there (ca 1630) before 4 March 1632 when he took the oath of Freeman. So he must have arrived in Boston at least by 1631. The early ships from England had uniformly left their home ports in April and arrived in N.E. in mid-summer. This was found in the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper. It listed William and his three brothers and where they settled. William settled in Cambridge, MA and then Hartford, CT. William was 30 at the time he left England and was the best prepared from the standpoint of his education at Cambridge, from where he graduated. He is listed in the Newtowne town record books.
William played a special role in the activities of the MA Bay Co and was a co-founder of both Cambridge (Newe Towne) and Hartford, CT.

William died testate at Harford, CT between 4 May and 22 May 1640 at the age of 39.

William Spencer (1601-1640) & Agnes Harris (bpt. 1604-1680+); m2 William Edwards; m. bef. 1633 Cambridge, MA. [TAG 63:41]
Source: Torrey's New England Marriages.

In Dec 1630 the governor and most of the party agreed to build a town between Roxbury and Boston. After thinking about a place of more safety, they chose a place on the Charles River, and called it New Town, which became Cambridge.

While William was in MA, he was appointed by Gov. Winthrop to serve as judge in Ipswich and Newberry in order that he might hold the courts in those precincts.
The name of William does not appear again in the General Court until March of 1634 in Newe Town (Cambridge).
    1 May 1635, "William in town has one dwellinge house with other out howses and a garden and Backside"....
    26 Mar 1636 - He was on committee to decide on the bounds between Boston and Charles Towne on the east side of the Misticke Ryver".
    25 May 1636 - Member of committee to determine the value of property in the town to be reported at a meeting in Boston in June.
    8 Sep 1636 - Mr. Wm.Spencer was part of committee of three to examine accounts of persons the county owes money unto.

All three children were born at Newe Towne before the family moved to Hartford in 1639.

Records of events happening in Hartford in 1637 written in the hand-writing of William Spencer.
    "North-side Plantation book containing all the important orders in force in Hartford" such as Providing a guard during public worship - a proper precaution after the Pequot War (May 1637)."
    "Each inhabitant to have a ladder to reach the roof of his house, doubtless in case of fire. Forbidding the taking of stones at the fall, near the home of Thomas Lord - Settlers were extensively engaged in house building."

William died a short time later on 4 May 1640 at the age of 38 years old. He made his will on 4 May 1640 and died at Hartford that year. He divided his estate into thirds: to his son, Samuel 1/3, to his widow Agnes 1/3 and to his two daughters Sarah and Elizabeth 1/3. He was the ancestor of Honorable Joshua Spencer and Honorable Judge John C. Spencer of the state of New York. He was designated as one of the first Puritan settlers of Hartford.

    Another historical event for William was being appointed by the Gov. Winthrop with four others to raise a military company for the protection of the people of the colony. In 1638, he was one of the founders of "The  Ancient & Honorable Artillery Co. of Boston" which continued to be the oldest military organization in America. In March 1638, he was appointed "Lieutenant of the Military Co. of Newton."

    After moving to Hartford, he was immediately selected as one of the representations in that colony. He was selected to prepare the first Code of Laws for CT,  along with Mr. Wyllis and Mr. Webster. On 26 Dec 1639, he was elected as a townsman, who was described as a person chosen to order the affairs of the town.
The death of William Spencer must have been a great loss to the city of Hartford and the state of CT. No records have been found as to the exact date of his death or the cause. In his will, which was probated 4 Mar 1641, he partitioned his estate, giving 1/3 to his wife, son Samuel, and to each daughter, Elizabeth and Sarah. The inventory of the estate taken after his death, reveals the fact that he had accumulated a large fortune of those times.
    After William's death, Agnes married 2nd to William Edwards, making Agnes Spencer, the maternal ancestor of not only the Case family and the Aldermans, but also the great Edwards family of CT and New England. The Edwards gave to the world, scholars, authors, ministers, college presidents and professors. Williams life was short (39 years) but filled with adventure, courage and leadership.

The Spencer ancestry in England dates from the Norman invasion of 1066 A.D. and the Battle of Hastings. Over the centuries, there were several lines of Spencer descendants  but this group had lived in Bedfordshire for many generations, especially in the towns of Edworth and Stotfold.  All of the siblings were in their early adult years in the early 1600's so were most eligible for a new life in New England. The Spencer lineage descends from Charlemagne.
"Order of the Crown of Charlemagne in the United States"

All of the Spencer children seem to have embraced the Puritan faith as evidenced by their membership in the church and for the males, the attainment of freemanship in the political hierarchy.
If you know more and wish to share it with our readers, please contact me at
I really do want to hear from you all.