Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Line 2 William Pontus, the man who missed the Mayflower

William Pontus was born 1586 in England
Married Wybra Hanson born 1590, died 22 December 1690, probably in Plymouth, MA
Died 09 February 1652/53 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Children: by his first wife of William and Wybra Hanson:
1.      Mary Pontus married James Glass
2.      Hannah Pontus married John Churchill

William and Wybra missed out being among the passengers of the first Atlantic voyage of the Mayflower. But they were steady and true “saints” and indeed pilgrims of a later voyage.

There are some historians who say William was born in Dover, England but that may be a misreading of his and Wybra Hanson’s marriage record which records him a “living in the Marendorp near Douveren”. It is most certain that William was an Englishman who came over from England with the Separatists, not on the Mayflower but on a later ship.

William Pontus and the “saints” who sailed on the Mayflower were Separatists, a sect of Christians who wanted to “separate” themselves from the Church of England which they felt was too close to the Roman Catholic Church and not pure enough in its practice to be the “true” faith. They were a stricter sect of the Puritan or Calvinist movement. That seems almost impossible in Twenty-first Century terms, but the Separatists believed in separating themselves from all non-Christians who didn’t share a Calvinistic worldview. They wanted to keep their faith pure. Separatists believed that the church was governed by God and God alone and that neither man nor state should control it. In their hearts, they felt the Church of England was beyond reform. They followed that Calvinist line of election to sainthood. They “separated” themselves from others for fear of being contaminated by their beliefs and behavior. In Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, he continued the usage of “saints” for the Separatists and “strangers” for those who were either “godless” or worshiped in a (what they consider) ungodly way. Having been persecuted by the English, a group of separatists migrated to Holland where they found freedom to worship without persecution but also a secular lifestyle that was attractive to their children, pulling the younger generation from the church. The “saints” in Holland thought they found the answer to their dilemma by forming a colony in the New World where they could be safe from the corruption of the outside world. This was not to be so, as the Mayflower carried “strangers” as well as “saints” and a younger generation who fell away from their parent’s influence despite leaving heathen Holland. The separatists did not achieve their goal but they did form a basics on which the First Amendment of the American Constitution would be built.

William and Wybra were betrothed 13 November 1610, in front of witnesses that included William Brewster who was among the Mayflower’s first group of passengers to Plymouth. From the Dutch records we call find that he was a “Fustian-worker” and “too poor to be taxed.” While later generations took pride in being descendant from Mayflower passengers, many have sneered at these labor class people who populated early Plymouth. But there was a dignity and elegance in their hard working, simple lives that produced men and women of stamina and great courage and determination. While not an original Mayflower passenger, William Pontus was a man cut from the same cloth. He was poor but he was a man of faith and courage, living and worshiping with the Separatists in Leiden.

In 1622 William Pontus was named with his wife and daughter, Mary, assumed to be the Mary who married James Glass. “Pontus, William” with wife Wybra and daughter May were named in the List of Separatists who stayed in Leyden in 1622. However by 1633, William and his family were in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was named in the 1633 Plymouth freemen list, pointing to his coming to America on one of the last two ships carrying English Separatists from Leiden, Holland in 1629 and 1630. However he was missing from the 1633 and 1634 tax lists as well as the list in 1643, suggesting that his wealth did not improve in the colonies. He is missing from the list of men able to bear arms in 1643, as well, suggesting that he was either elderly or unhealthy. If the former, then we can guess that he was born before 1685. He did however, in 1637 request "6 acres of land to be laid to his house as near as conveniently may be" and in 1638 "two acres of upland to his half acre of meadow in the woods beyond his house about Agawam Path"

William had enough wealth to leave an estate and write a will. He died 9 February 1652 in Plymouth. His will was dated 9 Sept 1650 (signed by his mark) in Plymouth. He left his house to his “eldest daughter Mary”. His younger daughter, Hannah is also named in the will. James Glass (who married Mary) was named executor. James Glass, unfortunately, died not five months after his father-in-law. The will was witnessed by Joshua Pratt, James Hurst, and John Donham and proved 5 March 1652/3. In a memorandum, John Dunham testified that William Pontus had given John Churchill and Hannah, his wife (daughter of William Pontus) “one half of the medow at the watering place” in Plymouth. Mary Glass, widow gave her consent.

The daughters of William and Wybra Pontus both married, Mary to the James Glass who was named as his father-in-law’s executor and Hannah to John Churchill. James Glass came to the colony of Massachusetts as his uncle, Henry Cogan’s servant. He was able to buy his way out of his indentured position and married Miss Mary Pontus by whom he had four daughters. James drowned 03 September 1652, not seven months after his father-in-law. Mary married secondly Philip Delano and had at least three more children, including Samuel Delano who married Elizabeth Standish, a daughter of Alexander Standish and Sarah  Alden, and granddaughter of Miles and Barbara Standish and John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, Mayflower passengers. Mary Pontus Glass Delano died 03 February 1689/90. James and Mary Glass’ daughter Hannah Glass born 24 December 1651 married Isaac Billington, the grandson of John and Eleanor Billington. The Saints and the Strangers were now family and separate no more.

My PONTUS line

William Pontus m. Wybra Hensen
Mary Pontus m. James Glass
Hannah Glass m. Issac Billington
Lydia Billington m. John Washburn
Ichobod Washburn m. Bethiah  Phillips
Bethiah Washburn m. Daniel Braman

1. [WTD] Genealogical Register of Plymouth Families by William T. Davis, Boston 1899
2. [AEW] New England History and Genealogical Register, April 1851, "Abstracts of  the Earliest Wills." April 1851, page 259.
3. [NBS] Records of Plymouth Colony: Births, Marriages, Deaths, Burials and other Records, 1633-1689 Edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, 1857
4. [MF5G] "Mayflower Families Through Five Generations" Vol 5, Pub. by General Society of Mayflower Descendants
5. [GMB] "The Great Migration Begins; Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633" Vol I,  by Robert Charles Anderson, page 609
6. [LSSL] Internet "Mayflower" List of the Separatists who decided to stay in Leyden
7. [PCHP] "Plymouth Colony: Its History and People 1620-1691" part Three "Biographical Skeches"


  1. I believe we have much in common. I am a direct descendant of Deacon John Dunham who owned land adjacent to William Pontus referenced in a land transaction 1647.

  2. My ancestor (Deacon John Dunham) also came over form Leiden in 1630 so they were probably shipmates and new each other well in Leiden and Plymouth