1580 - 1658
1 William Knapp, 2 Mary Knapp, 3 Mary Smith, 4 Joseph Kimball, 5 Peter Kimball Kimbrell, Sr., 6 Peter Kimball Kimbrell, Jr.,7 Buckner Mansfield Kimbrell, 8 Mary Polly Kimbrell, 9 Thomas L. Johnson, 10 Lula Jane Johnson, 11 Charles Thomas Copeland, Sr., 12 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr.
|Bures, Suffolk England|
But that pattern changed drastically in 1629 when they made the decision to leave their families, friends and home behind with no expectation of ever seeing them again. It might have been driven by the recognition that their debts had grown too large and could never be repaid (just an assumption on my part). Perhaps they simply craved adventure or, if they were Puritans, were the victims of religious intolerance.
Like many who were anxious to leave the “old country” at that time, the Knapps could not have made the trip if William hadn't signed an indenture contract with Sir Richard Saltonstall. In the contract, he pledged his life and services for the next seven to ten years to Sir Richard who would, in return, pay for the family's shipboard travel and shelter after they reached their destination.
|Sir Richard Saltonstall|
|Richard at his dying wife's bedside|
|The Barque Arabella|
|The Winthrop Fleet|
The ships were packed with approximately 700 passengers plus ship crews and livestock. Obviously, there was little if any housing on the ships, so temporary shelters had to be built on deck to protect the women and children during the 3,000 mile journey. All the plans finally came together and on August 26, 1629, they set sail from Yarmouth, England and didn't reach Salem, Massachusetts until June 12, 1630.
|Sir Richard Saltonstall|
|Sir Richard Saltonstall statue|
Upon his return to England, Sir Richard found himself challenged to re-build his fortune - and do it quickly. Very astutely he had made arrangements before he left Massachusetts to be repaid all monies owed him by both his indentured servants (which included William Knapp) and anyone else who was indebted to him.
Perhaps he didn't fully realize that Sir Richard, with debts of his own, had no intention of letting any of his indentured servants or other debtors off the hook (especially William with whom he seemed to have had some problems). As a result, he reached across the sea and successfully petitioned the Massachusetts “Court of Assistants” to collect all debts owed him. One of the debtors was William, and the Court ruled that any money he or his sons earned was to be halved - with half going to William and the other half sent to Sir Richard until the debt was fully satisfied.
Despite losing that battle, William was still in better financial shape than he had ever been before - at least for awhile. As one of the first settlers of Watertown, he had been granted several plots of land and even a 93 acre farm. However, old/bad habits die hard and there are definite signs that William (also known as “Ould Knop or “Father Knop”) continued to get himself into trouble.
|Governor Henry Vane the Younger|
William and his wife, Judith, lived together a number of years after arriving in Massachusetts. Although we're not privy to their discussions over the years of course, one has to believe that he didn't have to read her mind to know how she felt about the trouble he continued to get himself and his family into which often resulted in having to turn over their hard earned money in fines and being harassed by their neighbors.
Judith was about 70 years old when she died in 1639. Like many men of his time, only a few months after his wife died, William entered into a prenuptial agreement and soon married a widow, Priscilla Akers, who seems to have traveled to America at the same time as the Knapps.
This man obviously had "chutzpah" and never saw a challenge he didn't think he'd win. Despite all the trouble he had caused his family and friends during his lifetime, he sold much of his property to his son, John, and then applied for assistance from the Selectmen of Watertown!
But these townsmen knew him well and didn't buy into his tale of financial woe, especially because he had blown most of the money he had made over the years. As a result, they demanded that he place whatever was left of his estate into the hands of his children, who would then be required to support him. His children, however, had also reached the end of their patience and flat out refused the directive. So during the last years of his life, the selectmen took over ownership of his lands and leased them out, using the proceeds to pay others for his upkeep.
William died at age 78 on August 30, 1658. The man's penchant for mischief lived even after his death! Although his will had been dated July 5, 1655, it was never probated because of its ambiguous and confusing language.
All this led to another court battle - this time between his widow, Priscilla, and the children over whatever had been left of his estate. Priscilla appeared before the court with her premarital agreement and was granted the use of one-third of the lands of her late husband as long as she lived, her chest and her other necessary household utensils which had been withheld from her by John, William's son.
Since "The Old Burying Ground" was the only cemetery in use in Watertown at the time of his death it is believed that he was buried there. You probably won't be at all surprised to learn that he lies in an unmarked grave.
Based on the above tale, one can't help but agree that William was a complex man who often found himself in trouble on two continents. Despite all his mis-steps, however, his family prospered and became leaders in their communities over the centuries. For more detailed information on William's life and tribulations see William Knapp