Person:Thomas Prence (1)

m. Bef 1600
  1. Gov. Thomas Prenceabt 1600 - 1673
  2. Mercy Prenceabt 1600 -
  3. Susanna Prence1602 -
  4. Rebecca Prence1604 -
  5. Katherine Prence1606 -
m. 5 Aug 1624
  1. Rebecca Prencebef 1627 - bef 1651
  2. Hannah Prence1628 - bef 1698
  3. Mercy Prence1631 - 1711
  • HGov. Thomas Prenceabt 1600 - 1673
  • WMary Collier1611/12 - bef 1644
m. 1 Apr 1635
  1. Jane Prence1637 - ABT 1712
  2. Elizabeth PrenceABT 1638 - Bef 1727
  3. Mary PrenceAbt 1639 -
  4. Sarah PrenceABT 1643 -
  5. Elizabeth PrenceABT 1647 -
  6. Judith Prenceabt 1650 - aft 1738
  • HGov. Thomas Prenceabt 1600 - 1673
  • WApphia Quickbet 1575 and 1616 - 1668
m. bef 1662
  • HGov. Thomas Prenceabt 1600 - 1673
  • WMary Burr - 1695
m. Bef. 9 Feb 1667/68
Facts and Events
Name Gov. Thomas Prence
Gender Male
Birth[1] abt 1600 Lechlade, Gloucestershire, England
Immigration? 1621 Plymouth aboard the Fortune
Occupation? Carriage Maker in London
Occupation? Governor of Plymouth Colony, 18 times
Marriage 5 Aug 1624 Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United Statesto Patience Brewster
Occupation? 1632-1656 Governor's Assistant
Marriage 1 Apr 1635 Plymouth, Massachusetts, United Statesto Mary Collier
Occupation? 1637 Council of War
Occupation? 1637-1640 Treasurer
Occupation? 1645 Commissioner for the United Colonies
Marriage bef 1662 to Apphia Quick
Marriage Bef. 9 Feb 1667/68 Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United Statesto Mary Burr
Death[1] 29 Mar 1673 Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Burial? 8 Apr 1673 Burial Hill, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Probate? 5 Jun 1673
Reference Number[3] Q7793263?

The proper spelling of this surname is Prince and it was so written by his immediate and collateral forebares, but Gov. Thomas chose to write it as Prence.


Life in New England

Thomas emigrated to America in 1621 on the ship Fortune, and arrived in Plymouth in November 1621, just days after the first Thanksgiving. He was allowed to join with Bradford, Allerton and Standish as a member of the Trade Monopoly. Later, in 1644, he and several other prominent families left Plymouth for better land and founded the community of Eastham, Massachusetts. He became governor in 1634; and after the death of Governor Bradford in 1653, he became the undisputed leader of the Plymouth Colony. [4]

In 1621 he went to Plymouth Colony, where he gained prominence and was one of eight colonial "undertakers" who assumed (1627) the colony's debt to the London merchants who had backed the establishment of the colony. He held various offices, including the governorship (1634–35, 1638, 1657–73). Prence supervised (1641) the building of the first bark constructed in the colony and established (1650) the Cape Cod fisheries. As governor he served with credit through a period of Indian wars and internal religious troubles and was noted for his successful effort to secure public revenues in support of schools.[5]

In 1635, he moved to Duxbury, in 1644 to Eastham, and in 1663, was induced to move back to Plymouth by a gift of a large farm at "Plain Dealing."

When he was elected governor, Prence was notable for his especial hatred of heretics, particularly Quakers. He also despised the ignorant, making a concerted effort to raise more money for schools in order to ensure that future generations would be better educated.[6] George Willison in Saints and Strangers noted that in 1646, Thomas Prence was opposed to religious tolerance and, in 1657, was a leader in Quaker and Baptist persecutions. In Duxbury, the policy of Gov. Prence "met stiff opposition led by Henry and Arthur Howland and others. Henry Howland was up on the malicious charge of 'improperlie entertaining' a neighbor's wife, and his young son, Zoeth, was put in the stocks for saying that he 'would not goe to meeting to hear lyes, and that the Divill could preach as good a sermon as the ministers,' with which many townspeople seemed to agree, choosing to pay a fine rather than attend public worship." Imagine Gov. Prence's feelings when he discovered that "one of his chief enemy's sons, young Arthur Howland, was surreptitiously courting his daughter Elizabeth. As the law forbad 'making motion of marriage' to a girl without her parents' consent, the irascible old governor promptly hauled the 'impudent' youth into court and fined him five pounds for 'inveigeling' his daughter. The young lovers were not discouraged and remained constant, for seven years later Arthur was again in court, was fined and put under bond of 50 pounds 'to refrain and desist.' The couple continued to behave 'disorderlie and unrighteously,' finally breaking the iron will of the old governor." They were married and, "in good time the names of their children, Thomas Howland and Prence (Prince) Howland, were inscribed on the baptismal roll of the church." [7]

Prence is credited for giving Metacomet his English name "Philip."[8]


For many years it was unclear how many times Gov. Prence had married. It was known that he had at least two wives, Patience Brewster and Mary Collier. Because Thomas Prence called Samuel Freeman his son-in-law, some researchers proposed that Prence had married Samuel's mother Apphia Freeman as a third wife. Others, notably Frederick Freeman in the Freeman Genealogy, advanced various arguments to refute this. The biggest stumbling block to accepting three marriages, however, was the known facts that Prence's second wife was named Mary and his widow was also named Mary. To have married Apphia Freeman as his third wife, Prence would then have had to have married yet a fourth time to still end up with a widow named Mary. In 1903, Ella Florence Elliott was able to show that the widow Mary was a different Mary from his second wife, based on clauses in Prence's will and items in the widow Prence's inventory that clearly indicated she had been a widow before marrying Prence, something that was not true of second wife Mary Collier. This incredibly detailed discussion had gone on for decades before Ms. Elliott's Mayflower Descendant article [6:230-35] finally allowed all the pieces to fall into place. Thus, Thomas Prence m. (1) Patience Brewster, m. (2) Mary Collier, m. (3) Apphia (Quick) Freeman (divorced from Samuel), m. (4) Mary (Burr) Howes (widow of Thomas).

Establishing the probable date of marriage for Apphia and Thomas Prence has significant implications for the parentage of Prence's last three children (Judith, Elizabeth and Sarah). Apphia is last seen as a Freeman 1 July 1644, about a year before the birth of Prence's seventh child, and at the end of a six- year hiatus in the birthdates of his children. She is called "Mrs. Freeman" as late as 15 October 1646 in a deed where she appears as an abutter, but this does not necessarily imply that she had not remarried by this date, since it was not unusual for archaic bounds to be used in this sort of description [ SLR 1:78].

In a letter dated at Plymouth 8 June 1647, Thomas Prence wrote to John Winthrop that "since my parting company [with you] I have almost met with Jacob's trial in his travel between Bethel and Ephrath: God's having been heavy upon my wife and that for diverse months and is not yet removed" [WP 5:169]. In Genesis 35:16-19 Jacob's favorite wife Rachel died between Bethel and Ephrath after giving birth to a son she named Benoni, but he called Benjamin. Prence here is referring to the birth of his own daughter Elizabeth, apparently a difficult childbirth. [9]


Source:Mayflower Descendant, p. 3:203 has a transcription of his will from which this abstract is made.

Thomas Prence "died the 29th of March 1673 and was Interred the 8th of April following", "a very awfull frowne of God upon this chh & colony in the death of Mr Thomas Prince the governour in the 73d yeare of his Age".

Will of Thomas Prence Esq'r, dated 13 Mar 1672/73, proved 5 Jun 1673, mentions "Mary my beloved wife", "Daughter Jane the wife of Marke Snow", "my Daughter Mary Tracye", "my Daughter Sarah howes", "my Daughter Elizabeth howland", "my Daughter Judith Barker", "my Grandchild Theophilus Mayo", "my Grandchild Sussana Prence the Daughter of my Deceased son Thomas Prence", "seaven Daughters, hannah, Marcye, Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Judith". A supplement dated 28 Mar 1673 mentions "my son, mr John ffreeman", "my brother Thomas Clarke".

The inventory of Thomas Prence's estate was taken "by Thomas Cushman Ephraim Tinkham senir and William Crow the 23 dy of Aprill 1673". His goods totaled £422 10 7, and the debts £54 9 6. [10]


For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Thomas Prence.

Text References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Thomas Prence, in Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995).

    BIRTH: About 1600 based on age at death, son of Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale, Gloucestershire. In his will, dated 31 July 1630 and proved 14 August 1630, Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale, Gloucestershire, left a legacy to his son Thomas Prence "now remaining in New England in the parts beyond the seas" [ EIHC 7:103-04, citing PCC 70 Scroope].
    DEATH: Plymouth 29 March 1673, in his 73rd year ("Thomas Prence, Esquire, Governor of the jurisdiction of New Plymouth, died the 29th of March, 1673, and was interred the 8th of April following. After he had served God in the office of Governor sixteen years, or near thereunto, he finished his course in the 73 year of his life. He was a worthy gentleman, very pious, and very able for his office, and faithful in the discharge thereof, studious of peace, a wellwiller to all that feared God, and a terror to the wicked. His death was much lamented, and his body honorably buried at Plymouth the day and year above mentioned" [ PCR 8:34; see also MD 3:203-04]).
    MARRIAGE: (1) Plymouth 5 August 1624 Patience Brewster [ Prince 229], daughter of WILLIAM BREWSTER; she died late in 1634 (in a letter to his son John Winthrop Jr. dated 12 December 1634, JOHN WINTHROP reported that "the pestilent fever hath taken away some at Plimouth, among others Mr. Prence the governor his wife ..." [ WP 3:177]).
    (2) Plymouth 1 April 1635 Mary Collier [ PCR1:34], daughter of WILLIAM COLLIER  ; she died perhaps by 1644.
    (3) After 1 July 1644 (when she witnessed Rev. George Phillips's will as Apphia Freeman in Watertown [ NEHGR 3:78]) and certainly some considerable time before 8 December 1662 (when Thomas gave land to her son) Apphia (Quick) Freeman, former wife of SAMUEL FREEMAN, daughter of William Quick of London [ TAG 11:178].
    (4) After 26 February 1665[/6] and by 1 August 1668 Mary (_____) Howes, widow of Thomas Howes [ MD 6:157-65, 230-35]. She died 9 December 1695 [ MD 6:230, citing YarTR 3:328].

  2.   Robert Ausbourne, cited by User:Siusaidh.
  3. Thomas Prence, in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
  6. Wikipedia article on Thomas Prence
  8. Wikipedia article on Thomas Prence
  9. Great Migration, Thomas Prence
  10. Plymouth Colony Wills 3:60-70,

Other Resources

Banks, Eng. Ancestry and Homes of Pilgrim Fathers, p. 125.

Gilmore, Albert F., Keene Descendants, 1975.

Hinchman, Lydia, Early Settlers of Nantucket, 1901.

New England Historic and Genealogical Register, Vol. VI, p. 234.

Savage, James, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986, 3:477.

Willison, George, Saints and Strangers, New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, pp. 380, 381, and 445.

Winsor, Justin, History of Town of Duxbury.

The Fortune (1621)
The Fortune, the second ship to arrive at Plymouth, was sent by the Merchant Adventurers, the same group that financed the Mayflower. It arrived unexpectedly and without significant supplies, thus further stressing the colony. Upon return to England, the Fortune was carrying £500 of cargo to pay off the Pilgrims' debt, but it was captured by the French en route.
Sailed: 9 Aug 1621 from London, England under Master Thomas Barton
Arrived: 9 Nov 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts, shortly after the first Thanksgiving
Next Vessel: The Anne and the Little James (1623)

35; 17 families left descendants (Full List)
John Adams - William Bassett - Jonathan Brewster - Clement Briggs - Edward Bumpas - Robert Cushman (and son) - Stephen Deane - Phillip Delano - Ford family - Robert Hicks - William Hilton - Thomas Morton - William Palmer (and son)- Thomas Prence - Moses Simmons - John Winslow - William Wright

Resources: Primary Sources: Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation - Mourt's Relation
Wikipedia: Arrival of the Fortune