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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Willett

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 254-255 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The family name of Willett is sometimes to be met with in history spelled Willet or Willets, and as such is in common use in various sections of the country, also other variations in less usual degree. The family has gained an enduring place in American history, several members having achieved success and greatness in the early generations, down through the American revolution and later.

(I) The progenitor of this family, in America was Captain Thomas Willet, or Willett, who came from Leyden, Holland, where he had been sojourning with other Puritans, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1629, or the spring of 1630, when twenty years of age. He was sent to Penobscot, Maine, to superintend a trading house, but returned shortly and engaged in the carrying trade between New England colonies and New Amsterdam, acquiring landed interests in 1645. He was a navigator from 1651 to 1664, when, on the request of Colonel Nicholson, he accompanied him on his expedition of the English against the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. On the change of the charter of the city of New York to an English form, he was appointed the first mayor of that city by Governor Richard Nicolls, June 12, 1665, and held that office again in 1667. When the Dutch retook the colony in 1673, his property in New York was confiscated, and he retired to New England, settling in Rohoboth, or Swansea, later known as Seconek, Massachusetts, and died there August 3, 1674. (This town, with adjacent land, set off as in Rhode Island, in 1747, hence some accounts state he retired to Barringtown, Rhode Island.) Thomas Willett married, July 6, 1636, Mary, daughter of John Brown, of Swansea, who died January 8, 1669. They had fourteen children, one of them, Thomas, who became a soldier, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, October 1, 1646; was major commanding the Queens county militia, and summoned them to meet the French under the Marquis Denonville in 1687; was a councillor under Sir Edmund Andros. Samuel, fourteenth child of Thomas and Mary (Brown) Willett, was born October 27, 1658, settled on Long Island, where he became the sheriff of Queens county, and practiced the belief of a Quaker. He had three children. Edward, eldest child of Samuel Willett, was born in 1701, died in New York in 1794; child, Marinus, born in Jamaica, Long Island, July 31, 1740. He served with distinction as lieutenant in General Abercrombie's expedition against Fort Ticonderoga in 1758, and participated in the capture of Fort Frontenac; was a leader in the Sons of Liberty in New York City; in August, 1777, while second in command at Fort Stanwix (Rome, New York), he led a sally against Colonel Barry St. Leger, thus giving the victory to the militia at Oriskany; joined Washington's army in 1778, and accompanied General John Sullivan's expedition against the Six Nations. He died in New York City, August 23, 1830.

The Willetts of the second and third generations had produced large families, residing for the most part in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in Rhode Island, New York City, Long Island, and the upper part of New Jersey.

(I) Thomas J. Willett was born October 15, 1812, in New Jersey. He was a carriage manufacturer by trade. He married Phoebe Breese, born May 20, 1817. Children:

  1. John Crigen, born May 30, 1837;
  2. Oscar D., March 12, 1839;
  3. Willis L., December 21, 1840;
  4. Eugene Merritt, August 12, 1842, see forward;
  5. A. Cyrene, April 19, 1844;
  6. Josephine E., July 18, 1846;
  7. Gertrude L., July 20, 1848;
  8. Robert Allen, November 3, 1858.

(II) Dr. Eugene Merritt, son of Thomas J. and Phoebe (Breese) Willett, was born in Nunda, New York, August 12, 1842. He was educated in the schools of his native town, learned dentistry, and practiced in Albany many years, where he became one of the most prominent in his profession. He was a member of the Dutch Reformed church, active in all that church undertook and holding several offices in its conduct. Dr. Willett married Laura Phelps, September 22, 1870, daughter of Avery Phelps. Children:

  1. Edward Cyrene, born September 3, 1871, see forward;
  2. Frances Eugenia, born December 12, 1873, died March 13, 1908;
  3. Eugene Russell, August 22, 1886.

(III) Edward Cyrene, son of Dr. Eugene Merritt and Laura (Phelps) Willett, was born in Newark, Wayne county, New York, September 3, 1871. He was reared in Albany, educated in schools of that city, where he prepared for the College of Dentistry, and assisted his father for a number of years in his profession. He, however, gave up dentistry and took up the mineral water business, in which he continued with success. His companionable nature made many friends for him and he gained a wide circle of acquaintances by affiliation with a number of organizations, in which he took considerable interest. He became a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias, holding the office of district department grand master of the Albany district No. 1, of Phoenix Lodge No. 41, of the former society. He is a member of the Albany Encampment No. 58; Royal Welcome Rebekah Lodge No. 272, and Jabel Santorum No. 89, O. O. H & P. Mr. Willett married, November 8, 1891, Harriet May, born May 24, 1873, daughter of Frank and Idelia (Keller) Cramer. Children:

  1. Herbert Cyrene, born May 23, 1903;
  2. Helen Martina, March 6, 1906.

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