WILLIAM WITTER was living in Massachusetts as early as 1639, at which date he was probably of Swampscott, near Lynn, Essex, MA. At a later period he was a resident of Swampscott, although he is mentioned in some of the records as of Lynn. The record of his arrival in New England is preserved in an old manuscript, written by his descendant, Samuel Witter, of the sixth generation, entitled, "The Genaligy of the Witters from their first arrival from England to America, drawn from the Original, March the 20th, AD 1773 by Samuel Witter", and the first entry reads as follows:
|"William Witter in his voiage from old England to America with his wife his son Josiah & daughter Hannah, arrived at Lynn in the Massachusetts Bay, where Josiah married Elisabeth Wheeler and Hannah married Thomas Bardan. Said William Witter died at Lynn. his Widows Name was Hannah. She came with her Son Josiah to Stonington and Lived to a Great Age."|
William Witter's wife also appears with the Christian name, Annis, probably a form of Anna or Hannah. Her maiden name is said to have been Churchman, and it has been thought that she was a daughter of Hugh Churchman, an early settler of Lynn, Massachusetts. A well-known authority on early New England genealogy states that Hugh Churchman of Lynn, 1640, died in 1644, that his will was probated July 9, of that year, and that Ann Churchman, perhaps his daughter, married John Rogers on April 16, 1639, at Weymouth. In Hugh Churchman's will he mentions Josias, son of William Witter, leaving the latter his homestead in Lynn, which, on William Witter's death, is to pass to Josias Witter (Josias was often used interchangeably with Josiah in old records.) It may be that the wife of William Witter was a sister of Hugh Churchman instead of his daughter.
Hugh Churchman's will, from the Essex Court files, is here given in abstract in the quaint old orthography of the original document:
|"I Hugh Churchman of Len do make this my last will ... first my howse and Lot in Len ... and all other appurtenances there unto belonging to wilyam Wenter (sic.) tel his son Josias shae atayn the age of twenty one years and then to his son Josias and his Ayeres for ever; with this condicon that ... he shale paye to his sister hannah winter (sic.) ten pounds within one hole year ... and if Josiah and hannah shall both dy before they shale atayen the age of twenty one yeres that then William Winter or his now wif or the longer liver of them to have it ...." He makes William Witter his Executor.|
William Witter's homestead at Swampscott was on "the spot where Joseph Blaney's house now stands," -- or where it was standing in 1844, about two miles from Lynn. The land on which it stood was purchased by William Witter from an Indian, according to the following deposition made by him, and recorded in the files of the Salem Court, under the dates April 15 and 27, 1657:
|"Blacke will, or duke william, so called, came to my house (which was two or three miles from Nahant), when Thomas Dexter had bought Nahant for a suit of clothes; the said Blacke will asked me what I would give him for the Land my house stood vppon, it being his land, and his father's wigwam stood their abouts ... " and he adds that he "bought Nahant and Sagomer Hill and Swamscoate of Black William for two pestle stones."|
At the time of the controversy between the Massachusetts Bay Colony authorities and the leaders of the Baptist movement, William Witter was one of those whose adherence to the Baptist tenets brought him into disagreement with the former. He was haled to Court more than once because of his opposition to infant baptism. He also gave offense because of his entertainment of the Baptist leaders, Obadiah Holmes, John Crandall and John Clarke, the first-named being an ancestor of Abraham Lincoln. In the narrative of their journey to Rhode Island, because of the persecution of the Massachusetts government, John Clarke wrote: "It came to pass that we three ... came into the Mathatusetts Bay about the 16 day of the 5th Month 51; and upon the 19th of the same ... we came into a Town ... called Lin, where we lodged at a Blind-man's house, neer two miles out of the Town, by name William Witter ..." From this we see that William Witter, in his old age, had become blind.
William Witter's will was dated August 6, 1657. In it he bequeathed to his wife, Annis, half of his estate, and to his son, Josiah, the other half. Of his daughter, he says:
|"Hannah shall have a yew and lamb this time twelf mounth."|
He died in 1659, two years after making his will.
wife Elizabeth Wheeler
wife Sarah Crandall
husband Thomas Bardan
husband Robert Burdick
husband EDMUND CHAMBERLAIN