Deacon William Cowdrey

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Deacon William Cowdrey, whose ancestry is unknown (or not traced here), was born at Weymouth, Dorset, England, 1604.1 He died at Reading, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts, 10 November 1687.2,3

William married (1) Joanna Licence, whose parents are not known (or are untraced), at Buckinghamshire, England, 17 April 1626;1,4 he married (2) Alse (…), whose ancestry is unknown or not traced here, at Reading, 5 December 1666.5,6

William and Joanna's marriage record can be found in Buckingham Parish Registers, Marriages, in Phillimore, Vol 6, p.11.

On 27 Sep 1672, he deposed he was 69 years old; not long after, he deposed again and was called about 70 (Middlesex County Court Records).

The histories of Lynn and Reading, Massachusetts record that he sailed from Southampton England in 1630, but the first record of him does not occur until 1639 or so. He settled first at Lynn on the site of the late Quannapowett House on the Common. He was Deacon, Clerk of the Writs, Town Clerk, Selectman, and Representative to the General Assembly of the Colonies, and was for a long time a most influential and useful citizen. The town of Reading was incorporated in 1644, and he was probably one of the first inhabitants there.

"Redding" as it was first written (and is pronounced to this day), was settled about 1639. The settlers of Lynn, desiring to extend their territory further inland, petitioned the colony Court and it was granted. The first record of William Cowdery was just before the settlement of Reading when he was taxed ten shillings.

In 1647, Reading ordered a general division of land based on people and cattle: two acres for each person and one acre for each "beste." William Cowdery was one of four chosen to supervise this division.

In 1648, the town chose William to enforce an order that required attendance at general town meetings.

William and Joanna appear on the lists of members of the First Congregational Church of Reading, 1648-50.

In 1650, his house lot was mentioned as a reference in locating some land given to Thomas Hartshorn.

In 1652, the town allocated lots, and William drew 20 acres.

In 1654, he was allowed to sell wine and strong liquors to the Indians "as to his judgment shall seem most meet and necessary for their relief in just and urgent occasions and not otherwise, provided he shall not sell or deliver more than one pint to any one Indian at any one time upon any pretence whatever."

In 1658, he, Nicholas Browne, and Peter Palfrey were chosen as commissioners to try small causes. In February, he received a 188 acre, 57 perch allotment of the Upland on the north side of the Ipswich River. In June of that year, he was asked to lay out a half acre lot for Thomas Tower.

In 1675, he and others petitioned the Court for a remedy to the fact that the Lynn Iron Works were stopping the fish from coming up the river (not for the sake of the fish, but to "refresh and relieve the people").1,3

Family 1

Joanna Licence d. 6 May 1666
  • Nathaniel Cowdrey+1,7 b. 1630, d. 16 Jun 1690
  • Hannah Cowdrey3 b. say 1635
  • Mathias Cowdrey3 b. 30 Sep 1641, d. 25 Mar 1663
  • Bethia Cowdrey8,3 b. 17 Apr 1643

Family 2

Alse (…)
This person was last edited on13 Dec 2017


  1. [S33] Clarence Almon Torrey, "Marriages in England of Early American Immigrants," The American Genealogist 10 (July 1933): 14-15, at 14, further cited as Torrey, "Marriages in England."
  2. [S347] Thomas W. Baldwin, compiler, Vital Records of Reading Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1912), 508, further cited as Reading Vital Records.
  3. [S15] Mary Bryant Alverson Mehling, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy: William Cowdrey of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1630 and His Descendants([New York, New York]: Frank Allaben Genealogical Co., 1905), 37-46, further cited as Mehling, Cowdrey Family.
  4. [S1872] Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700, 3 vols. (Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011), 385, further cited as Torrey, New England Marriages (2011).
  5. [S347] Baldwin, Reading Vital Records, 312.
  6. [S15] Mehling, Cowdrey Family, 37.
  7. [S15] Mehling, Cowdrey Family, 49-52.
  8. [S347] Baldwin, Reading Vital Records, 57.