WILLIAM DUDLEY

A Biographical Sketch

On May 20, 1639, it is reported that the St. John, under Captain Richard Russell, left England for the colonies. It was the first boat to cross the Atlantic and go directly from England to Connecticut. The passengers, followers of Reverend Henry Whitfield, included William Dudley and his pregnant wife, Jane Lutman. They had been married some three years earlier on August 24, 1636 by Rev. Whitfield in his church, Saint Margaret's located in Ockley, County Surrey, England.

It was on June 1, 1639, while still at sea that the twenty-five male family heads drew up and signed an agreement known variously as the Guilford Compact and the Plantation Covenant. This simple agreement formed the basis for the establishment of a new settlement along the shores of what is now Long Island Sound in Connecticut. It has been documented that Jane delivered a child, William, while at sea aboard the St. John. Thus, the boat arrived with one more passenger than were on board when it left England.

Thanks to research done by Martin Hollick (see TAG, Vol. 82, No. 1, pages 63-75) and Steve Aberle (see The Dudley Family Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 2 and Vol. 6, No. 4), we now know more about William's ancestry. William was baptized on 22 January, 1608/9, probably in Dorking, County Surrey, England. His parents were William and Ellen/Eleanor, not David Dudley and Joanna Arnold as is often recorded. We have also determined Jane's parents were William and Jane Lutman of Dorking, and she was not of "Wyseborough Green". Guilford records indicate that the couple had four children. William, was born aboard the St. John on June 8, 1639; Joseph was born in Guilford, April 24, 1643; Ruth was born in Guilford April 20, 1645; and Deborah was born in Guilford, September 20, 1647. Two sources ascribe to them a fifth, unnamed child, but no records have been found to confirm this birth. No mention of a fifth child is made in William's will.

There is very little of record concerning William and Jane although he was apparently a substantial member of the community. He was granted 3 3/4 acres of land on Petticoat Lane (now Fair Street) for a home lot in the first division of land. In subsequent divisions he was granted additional land and eventually accumulated holdings of about 150 acres in various parts of Guilford. William was a farmer and kept cows, horses, sheep, and oxen. Upon his death, his estate was valued at 345 pounds, 3 shillings, 5 pence, a considerable sum in 1684.

Records reveal that he became a Freeman on June 30, 1650, at the same time as many others of the 25 original settlers. We have recently examined some old town records and find that William was elected and served as Townsman on three occasions, in 1653, 1656, and again in 1661. He was also chosen to "set out highway" as needed, to "set out grounds for the mill's use" and to set out fence for the young cattle. He also served as an appraiser of estates on several occasions. It has been claimed by some that he served as a representative to the General Court, but lists of those Deputies do not include his name and town meeting records do not reveal his ever having been elected to such a position. He may have been illiterate. His will drawn up on December 22, 1679 and a codicil, drawn up on July 25, 1683, were not signed, but marked and affirmed. His signature does appear on the Guilford compact, but one or two persons may have written it, like all the others. Similarities in the signatures leads one to this possible conclusion. If he were illiterate, it might explain why he never held public office as all Freeman were expected to do.

William Dudley died in Guilford on March 16, 1684 following by ten years the death of his wife, Jane in Guilford on May 1, 1674.

If you'd like to view a four generation descendancy chart for William and Jane, click here


This sketch is based on an article that was written for The Dudley Family Newsletter. For sources or further information E-mail Al Dudley here

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This page was last updated 1 November 2007

1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007 A. C. Dudley

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