Notes for Thomas Prence: PRENCE, THOMAS-Thomas Prence was born ca. 1600, for he was in his seventy-third year at his death on 29 March 1673 (PCR 8:34). His father was Thomas Prence (or Prince-the Plymouth man always spelled it Prence) who had lived at Lechlade, Gloucestershire, but was a carriage maker of All Hallows Barking, London, when he made his will 31 July 1639 and named his "son Thomas Prence now remayninge in New England" (Dawes-Gates 2:683, gives an excellent documented account of Prence's life). Prence arrived at Plymouth Colony in 1621 on the Fortune, and from the beginning seemed to have taken a leading role in Plymouth affairs- Of the eight Plymouth Undertakers, who seemed to be the most important men in the colony in 1627, Prence was the only one who had not arrived on the Mayflower. He became governor in 1634, and was elected an Assistant in 1635, and from then on he was either an Assistant or governor every year for the rest of his life. He also served as treasurer, as president of the Council of War, and in various other capacities. With the death of Bradford in 1657, Prence became without doubt the most important and influential man in the colony. He was of a conservative nature, as is shown by his siding with Bradford and Winslow in the 1645 Vassall controversy, and by his actions against the Quakers. He was involved in several law suits which were decided in his favor, such as 1650, when Strong Fumell of Boston submitted a written humble apology to the court for having evilly slandered Mr. Prence after the latter sued him for 200 pounds damage (PCR 2:152). In 1665 as compensation for having required Prence, as governor, to reside in Plymouth, the court ordered that he would be paid 50 pounds per year as long as he remained governor, and he was given a house in the Plain Dealing area of Plymouth as a residence (in 1668, at his request, the court sold him that house for 150 pounds (PCR 4:108, 184). He engaged in many land transactions, and he died a wealthy man, leaving a personal estate in excess 400 pounds and some eleven tracts of land, at least two of them containing 100 acres each (MD 3:206).
He married (1) Patience Brewster, daughter of Elder Brewster on 5 August 1624 (2) on 1 April 1635 Mary Collier, daughter of William Collier, (3) between 1662 and 1668 Apphia (Quicke) Freeman; and (4) before 1 August 1668 Mary ( ) Howes, widow of Thomas Howes (Ella Florence Elliot, "Gov. Thomas Frence's Widow Mary, Formerly the Widow of Thomas Howes, and the Inventory of Her Estate," MD 6:230; DawesGates 2:692 gives other dates for (3) and (4) and supplies the name Quicke). His children by Patience Brewster were Rebecca, who married Edmond Freeman; Mercy, who married John Freeman; Hannah, who married (1) Nathaniel Mayo and (2) Jonathan Sparrow; and Thomas, who died before 13 March 1672/73 in England. His children by Mary Collier were Jane, who married Mark Snow as his second wife; Mary, who married John Tracy; Sarah, who married Jeremiah Howes; Elizabeth, who married Arthur Howland; and Judith, who married (1) Isaac Barker and (2) William Tubbs (Dawes-Gates 2:693). In his will dated 13 March 1672/73, proved 5 June 1673, he named his wife Mary; his seven surviving daughters, Jane, the wife of Mark Snow; Mary Tracy; Sarah Howes; Elizabeth Howland; Judith Barker; Hannah; and Mercy; his grandson Theophilus Mayo; his granddaughter Susanna Prence, the daughter of his deceased son Thomas; his son John Freeman; Lydia Sturtevant; and his brother Thomas Clarke (MD 3:203). His chagrin over Arthur Howland's eventually successful suit for the hand of his daughter Elizabeth is related in the text, and he probably was not happy over the marriage of two of his daughters to sons of Edmond Freeman. The mention in his will of his deceased son Thomas's daughter Susanna Prence would indicate that he died without surviving male issue in the Prence line.
Mary WaIton Ferrir, makes the point in Dawes-Gates 2:686-87 that his reputation for intolerance, particularly toward the Quakers, has clouded over his extensive service to the colony. She especially notes that he presided over the court in the very sane and reasonable handling of Plymouth's first witchcraft trial in 1661; that he dealt in a humane way with the Indians, and missionary Thomas Mayhew wrote of his "gentle and kind dealing" with them (Prence also presided over the court as governor in 1638 when the momentous decision was made to execute the white men who had murdered an Indian); that he showed wisdom in 1637 when he negotiated with the Massachusetts men who unjustly demanded much of the land on the Connecticut River that Plymouth had purchased from the Indians; and that he advocated and brought about a free school system in the colony.
Source: Plymouth Colony Its History & People 1620-1691 by Eugene Aubrey Stratton ____________________________________________________________________________________ THOMAS PRENCE
ORIGIN: All Saints Barking, London [EIHC 17:103-04]
MIGRATION: 1621 on Fortune
FIRST RESIDENCE: Plymouth REMOVES: Duxbury by 1637, Eastham 1644, Plymouth by 1665
FREEMAN: In the "1633" Plymouth list of freemen Thomas Prence was just after the councillors, and ahead of those admitted on 1 January 1632/3 [PCR 1:3]. "Thomas Prence, gen.," is in the 7 March 1636/7 list of Plymouth freemen [MBCR 1:52]. In the list of assistants at the head of the "1639" list of Plymouth Colony freemen, but as this list was revised and annotated his name was included in the "Nawsett" portion of the list [PCR 8:173, 177]. In Eastham section of 1658 list of Plymouth freemen, and in Plymouth section of list of 29 May 1670 [PCR 5:274, 8:201]
EDUCATION: His inventory included a long list of books valued at £14 2d., including two great Bibles and "100 of psalm books."
OFFICES: Plymouth Governor, 1634, 1638, 1657-72 [MA Civil List 35]. Assistant, Plymouth Colony, 1632-33, 1635-37, 1639-56 [PCR 1:32, 36, 48, 116, 140, 2:8, 15, 33, 40, 52, 56, 71, 83, 115; MA Civil List 37-38]. Treasurer, 1637 [PCR 1:48; MA Civil List 36]. Council of War, 1637 [PCR 1:60, PTR 1:16]. Commissioner for the United Colonies, 1645, 1650, 1653-58, 1661-63, 1670-72 [MA Civil List 28-29]. In Plymouth section of 1643 Plymouth Colony list of men able to bear arms [PCR 8:188].
COMMENTS: For many years it was believed that Prence had married only three times and that his last wife was "Mary" Freeman, but this was straightened out in 1904 by Ella Florence Elliott, who divided the erroneous construct into its proper wholes, revealing divorcee Apphia Freeman and widow Mary Howes as Prence's last two of four wives [MD 6:230-35].
Establishing the probable date of marriage for Apphia and Thomas Prence has significant implications for the parentage of Prence's last three children. 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.
On 6 March 1637/8, having been elected governor, Thomas Prence was excused from the requirement that the governor live in Plymouth, and was permitted to retain his residence in Duxbury [PCR 1:79]. When he was again elected governor, in 1657, he was allowed to maintain his residence in Eastham, but in 1663 the court ordered that the governor's house at Plymouth be enlarged, and by 1665 Prence again became a resident of Plymouth [Dawes-Gates 2:684].
SOURCE: The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-33
More About Thomas Prence and Patience Brewster: Marriage: August 05, 1624, Plymouth , Plymouth, MA.2079
More About Thomas Prence and Mary Collier: Marriage: April 01, 1635, Plymouth , Plymouth, MA.2080
Children of Thomas Prence and Patience Brewster are:
+Hannah Prence, b. Bef. 1635, Plymouth , Plymouth, MA2081, d. Bef. November 23, 1698, Eastham, Barnstable, MA2081.
Children of Thomas Prence and Mary Collier are:
+Jane Prence, b. November 01, 1637, Duxbury, Plymouth, MA2082, d. Abt. May 1712, Harwich, Barnstable co., MA2083.