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Robert Williams Bio (1604-1680); Brother of Roger Williams of Providence

By Mike Prestwood

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Biography: Robert Williams was born to Alice Pemberton and James Williams. He was the brother of Roger Williams and lived most of his life in Rhode Island.


When Robert was born in 1604, his father, James, was 42 and his mother, Alice, was 40. Robert had two brothers and one sister.

1620: Death of Father

His father James passed away on September 7, 1620, in London, London, England, at the age of 58.

1628: Death of Sister Catherine

His sister Catherine died in 1628 when Robert was 24 years old.

1629: Death of Son Robert

Robert’s son Robert died before 23 Dec 1629 and was burried on December 23, 1629.

December 23, 1629: Robert Son of Robert Williams and Sarah.

1634: Death of Mom

His mother Alice passed away on August 1, 1634, in London, London, England, at the age of 70.

1638: Roger Reserves Space for Robert

In 1638, Roger Williams and others allocated 54 home lots of land at the south end of the town between Fox Point and Wickenden street. The home lots all bounded on the Town Street, now South and North Main Street, on the west, and what is now Hope-street on the east.

Before 1640: Immigration to New England

Robert was likely in Providence by 1640 because he was among about 40 that signed the May 27, 1640 Providence agreement. However, it is possible that he signed the agreement sometime after the initial signing.

1640: Plantation Agreement at Providence

Robert Williams signed the Plantation Agreement at Providence in August 1640 so therefore he had to have immigrated prior.

1644: Robert Williams buys Robert Morris’ Home

From 2nd Book of Providence records: 

The 27 of the 11th month 1644

Robert Morris Sould vnto Robert Williams, his house and
all his home share as it is now laid out beyond ye Swamp
Bounding on iye land of William Renols on
^Ae iVorth on the land of Chad Browne
[ ] South on iye west w”” “^e high-
[ ] ^Ae east w* the Comon

1644: Robert Williams buys William Renolds Homes

From 2nd Book of Providence records: 

The 27 of the 11 month 1644
William Renolds Sould vnto Robert Williams all his houses
and home share with 3 small pesse of meddow on Called Romles
Marsh on called the litl” Flood and the other the litle patch
of meddow lying ouer against the litle flood : the said last
peess is to be fenced, his house lot Bounding vpon the north
w* the ground of Stukely Westcot on ‘^e South w”” Robert
Morris ground : on iye east and west with the Comon

1646: Reference, Land Purchase

On October 7, 1646 Robert Williams reference:

Wapewasik, over against Portsmouth 10. 7. 46 so called.

We, Gregory Dexter, Thomas Olney, Roger Williams and Robert Williams, in a word of truth and faithfulness declare, that being requested by the town of Providence, in our name and in their behalf, to buy the right which Ousamequin pretendeth to a parcel of land, which lies between our bounds at Pawtuckqut and an Indian plantation northwest from thence called Loquassuck

1647: Death of Brother Sydrach

His brother Sydrach died on April 29, 1647, in England when Robert was 43 years old.

1647: Committee Instructions

In May 1647, Robert Williams was one of ten individuals addressed in the Committee Instructions. The committee was comprised of members from the towns of Providence, Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick.

1649: Robert Williams, Assembly Moderator

From 2nd Book of Providence records. Robert Williams was chosen moderator many times after this point. I’m not positive this is the first time, but it might be.

The 4″” of the 12″” m. 1649 (called.)
Robert Williams is Chosen Moderatour of
this Assembly

1650: Robert sells 60 Acres to Blackstone

From 2nd Book of Providence records: 

The 27 of the 5″^ m. 1650 (called.) M’ Robert Williams, sold
unto M’ Blackstone his 60. zicxes of upland | more or lesse | &
2 shares of Medow, as it was layd out by Thomas Harris &.
Hugh Bewet the said Land lying above the second Wading =
place above Pawtucket ffalls, provided, that if in case hereafter
the Towne shall be put to 2My charge about Indians, that he
or they that do possesse th^ said Land, shall pay their share

1651: Robert Moves his fence

Okay, this entry is not the most crucial but the fact that we know this tickles me. From 2nd Book of Providence records:

The 25 of the ist m. 165 1.
(Ordered that Mr Robert Williams shall have liberty to set
his fence upon firmer Land, neare unto his Medow called
Rumley Marcsh .

1952: Neighbor Stuckley sells home to Samuel Benet 

From 2nd Book of Providence records:

The 12th of the 3rd m. 52.
Stuckley Westcot sold unto Samuel Benet his house & house
Lot lying betwixt Richard Waterman & Robert Williams house
Lot, w* Orchard, & all other appurtenances thereto belonging
also his first share of Medow lying on the West of Wanasquatucket
River, w”*’ Said Meddow is bounded on the West = side
thereof w”” Benedict Arnolds Meddow. And also 25 acres of
uplan<2f next adjoining unto his said Meddow on the North
& East sides thereof, with all his Right & Priviledges on that
side the said River, acccording to a deed given to the said
Samuel Bennet /

1652: Commissioner of Providence

In 1652 Robert was one of the commissioners. From 1652-1654 Roger Williams was in England trying to secure Royal Charter, but was occupied with religious matters. After several letters documenting the disruption back in his beloved colony, he had to return. One such letter was from his brother Robert Williams and was noted in a town meeting in December 1652:

“…by Robert Williams…hereby signify…that the…Committee at Warwick hath declared disloyalty unto the Commonwealth of England…24 Dec 1652…Letter…sent unto our agent Mr. Roger Williams in England…”

Here is the clip from “The Early Records of the Town of Providence”, volume 15, page 60.

1672: Robert Williams and the Great Quaker Debates

By 1672, Robert was a schoolmaster in Newport. Robert participated in the Great Quaker Debates with his brother Roger. He submitted a paper that was rejected. He arrived two days early to the first session to await his brother Roger who rowed 30 miles all night and arrived the morning of August 9, 1672. Robert’s role was fairly active, for example, when Roger was interrupted to the extreme, Robert attempted to help him, but was not allowed.

The following is from page xxxii of the introduction of the Narragansett volume 5 book:

Among the rest, a brother of Roger Williams, “Mr. Robert Williams, School-Master in Newport,” submitted a paper which the Quakers very properly declined to receive, as not included in the original propositions.Rev. J. Lewis Diman, 1672


Still researching. Currently, I believe he died in 1680 having lived a long life of 76 years.

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