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

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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, 16291.

December 23, 16291: 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 agreement2. However, it is possible that he signed the agreement sometime after the initial signing. We know

1640: Plantation Agreement at Providence

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

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 Instructions3. The committee was comprised of members from the towns of Providence, Portsmouth, Newport and Warwick.

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 Newport4. 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 Diman5, 1672


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

1Son Robert Williams burried. Source: Genealogical Gleanings in England, Vol 1, by Waters, pub. 1901.
2See pages 40 through 43 of the "Annals of the Town of Providence", published 1832. It documents that Robert Williams signed this agreement indicating he was in Providence by May 27, 1640. Of note, according to page 2010 of The Great Migration, Vol. 3, Robert arrived in Providence before 1644.
3See pages 61 through 63 of the "Annals of the Town of Providence", 1832.
4See "Memoir of Roger Williams", 1834. Pages 338-339, "Mr. [Roger] Williams complains of frequent and rude interruptions. His health was feeble, and he says, that, on the morning of the second day, 'I heartily wished that I might rather have kept my bed, than have gone forth to a whole day's fresh disputes.' His brother, Robert Williams, then a schoolmaster in Newport, attempted to aid him, but his interferenee was not permitted by his opponents. Mr. Williams' demeanor, during the controversy, was, apparently, patient and collected."
5Rev. J. Lewis Diman annotated and wrote the introduction to "Publications of the Narragansett Club, Volume 5" published in 1872. This volume re-published the 1676 book, "Gorge Fox Digg'd Out of his Burrowes" by Roger Williams.
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