born:about-1510Cossington, ENG  
buri:06-24-1575Cossington, ENG


John Webster II of Cossington

JOHN WEBSTER II was born in the little village of Cossington, Leicester, England about 1510. The records also mention his father JOHN I and his grandfather, called WILLIAM of Syston.

JOHN II was paid by the town to haul wheat to Stamford in Lincolnshire, some 30 miles to the east. His Lay Subsidy (wealth tax) was half that of his brother William, indicating that William was the eldest son.

John Webster I of Syston

JOHN I was born about 1485. He was called JOHN of Syston, butcher, in 1576-77, when his son William was made a freeman. William was a fishmonger (seller of fish). Syston was a larger town just a few miles from Cossington.

JOHN I became a tenant under the Ulverscroft Priory (monastery) about 1535. Some years later, in 1544, he sued to secure title. In 1554 he was given possession of the property of the then defunct monastery. He died before his wife, EMETT WELLE. At her death, EMETT left money to the Cossington All Saints' Church and the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincolnshire.

William of Syston

WILLIAM of Syston was the father of JOHN I. He was born about 1460 and was a butcher. He became a freeman of Leicester in 1502-03.



  born marr died
JOHN WEBSTER about-1535                   10-11-1594     
William about-1538   02-05-1572/73

The American Genealogist

The following was published in the October, 1948, volume of The American Genealogist. Parts of it appear in the biographies of the Webster family.

The American Genealogist
Whole Number 96       Volume XXIV, No 4.
October, 1948

The Ancestry of Governor John Webster

Compiled by Mrs. S. H. Skillington, of Leicester, England
and communicated by Dr. and Mrs. Bruce Hunter Sisler of Chattanooga, Tennessee

Editor's Note. This article, one of the most important and interesting that we have had the honor of publishing, has a fascinating history. In July, 1931, the late Col. Charles E. Banks published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (Vol. 62, pp. 232- 234) a short article revealing the English origin of John Webster, a prominent citizen of Hartford, Conn., and Hadley, Mass., and Governor of Connecticut. This article gave abstracts of the wills of the father and grandfather of John Webster and, from the registers of Cossington, co. Leicester, records of John's marriage, his grandfather's burial, and the baptisms of three of his children. It is surprising that this revalation was not promptly and vigorously followed by further research to obtain a more extended history of the antecedents of the family in England.

Mrs. Bruce H. (Ethlyn Brown) Sisler is maternally descended from Gov. John Webster. In 1944 Colonel Sisler, then serving in the army, made the acquaintance of S. H. Skillington, F.S.A., honorary secretery of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society, and of his accomplished wife, mrs. S. H. (Florence E.) Skillington. The latter, a native of Cossington, is a keen student of its antiquities, and became deeply interested when she learned of the findings made by Colonel Banks relative to the Webster family. In subsequent correspondence between the Skillingtons and the Sislers, much additional data on the history of the Webster family were supplied by the former. When permission was requested to make the data public, Mrs. Skillington very kindly typed the material and sent it to Mrs. Sisler, nearly in the form in which it is now printed. The editor, in fact, has done little more thaqn to rearrabge the charts slightly for greater convenience in fitting the dimensions of our printed pages.

Webster descendants are also indebted to the Skillingtons for the Cossington illustrations which provide a pictorial background to the Webster history. The Websters of Cossington and Syston

The evidence in support of this pedigree has been collected from the following sources: the register of the Freemen of Leicester, Vol. I; Records of the Borough of Leicester, Vols. III and IV; Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes, Vols. II and IV; the parish register of Cossington; documents in the Leicester Museum Muniment Room; and in the Leicester Probate Registry.

Information about the parish and people of Syston, co. Leicester, in the Tudor period is scarce; on the other hand, documents relating to the obscure village of Cossington are unusually plentiful. The parish register, though not complete for the earliest years, contains entries dating from 1558 and, what is also rare, the accounts of the church wardens for some seventy years in the sixteenth century have survived. From these and the other documents set forth in the appendix, it is possible to form an estimate of the Webster family during the five generations that preceded John IV's emigration to America.

William Webster of Syston, butcher, became a freeman of Leicester in 1502/03; this enabled him to sell his meat in Leicester without paying a heavy toll. It also laid upon him responsibilities, notably those of fair trading and of contributing a reasonable amount to the borough expenses. His eldest son. John, took up his freedom in 1509/10, when he would probably be in his early twenties. He paid the Lay Subsidy in Syston in 1524 and his name appears on the Musters there in 1540.

John Webster I became tenant, under the priory of Ulverscroft, co. Leicester, of a farm in Cossington about 1535, and in 1544 he went to law about it. His opponents, Thomas Chamberlain and William Chamberlain, were probably his friends, who joined him in a collusive suit to secure his title. It is significant that William and Richard Chamberlain were witnesses to the will of Emett Webster, John's widow. In 1554 John bought this house and farm, where he had lived for some years. His name appears twice in the churchwardens' accounts: in 1545 he paid rent for a piece of land (a butte) and in 1549 he held the office of churchwarden.

John Webster I died before 1558 when his widow, Emett, made her will. Emett, whose brother, William Welle, was in holy orders, belonged to the old school of churchmanship; she not only left the customary fourpence to Lincoln Cathedral and to her parish church, but she endowed a mass and left other money to Cossington church. It is not difficult to picture the day of her funeral: family and friends were early at church for the dirge and mass that preceded the burial and then went home for breakfast.

The American Genealogist

After the meal a little party of relatives and neighbours went through the three rooms of the house valuing its austere equipment, and out onto the land to price the stock and implements. They they would return to the house, gather around the table again, the one among them who could write occupying the only chair, and so make out the inventory.

The churchwardens' accounts show John Webster II paying his mother's legacy, collecting a levy and doing business for the village at Stamford. Stamford, whose fair was one of the most notable in the Midlands - its fame penetrated even to Justice Shallow in remote Gloucestershire - is about thirty miles from Cossington, and that, with a laden waggon on Tudor roads would be three days' journey. His spouse, the "goodwyfe Webster," was responsible for the church's washing. In 1572, John Webster was taxed 6s. 8d. for the lay subsidy; his brother William, at Thrussington, paid twice as much, which suggests that he had received an eldest son's portion from John I. William Webster became a freeman of Leicester, possibly for the second time, in 1576, and he was still living in 1585. John had died ten years earlier.

John Webster III, whose domestic life was punctuated by a pathetic succession of lyings in and layings out, appears to have married shortly after his grandmother's death. His bride, Isabel, died in child bed within a year and he married again very soon, for another babe was laid in the churchyard before sixteen months were out. In those days, when no man could run a farm or a business without a helpmate, he would not be accused of inconstancy.

He prospered in business; the accounts show that he ranked extra land and that he was taxed quite highly for parish purposes. He became, after the squire and the parson, a leading man in the village; in fact, his name appears next after theirs in the articles of agreement made in 1585. It is interesting to notice that these rules, that were "to contynew for ever," were drawn up at a time when England was in greater peril than she was ever to be again until 1940.

In 1587 Matthew Webster, John's son and heir, married, and his father settled one third of his farm on the young couple, with the remainder to come to them and their issue after his death. John would, of course, give them cattle, sheep and implements at the same time; this should be remembered when considering John's will. Matthew and his father were probably partners before the marriage, for in 1586 they both paid 1s. 4d. for the tax called "the fifteene." Matthew Webster died in 1592, leaving a widow, one son and two daughters. His will appears to have been made hurriedly, but it was witnessed by his father-in-law, the squire and the parson. John Webster died two years later.

There is not much evidence of John Webster IV's life in England. he married, when only nineteen, a girl whose family had lived in Cossington at least as long as his own. She bore him nine children, only two of whom died in infancy. He prepared to leave his homeland in 1634. The deeds show that he then owned in Cossington three houses and a cottage, various small closes, about one hundred acres of arable land, and considerable grazing rights.

So John Webster set out for the New World with a wife still vigorous, six stalwart children, some implements of husbandry, and with more than 1,000 in his possession.