Wait Winthrop

Waitstill Winthrop (27 February 1641/1642 – 7 November 1717) was a colonial magistrate, military officer, and politician of New England.


Winthrop, born 27 February 1641/42 in Boston, the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was the son of John Winthrop the Younger and the grandson of John Winthrop, a leading founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Named Waitstill at birth, he preferred the shortened name "Wait". He was chief judge of the Massachusetts superior court (the highest court in the Province of Massachusetts Bay), and was a long-time councilor and contender for the governorship of Massachusetts.

During King Philip's War in the 1670s and King William's War in the 1690s, he led the Massachusetts provincial militia. Politically populist, he worked against royal governors, especially Joseph Dudley, and sought the restoration of the first Massachusetts charter.

In 1692 he was appointed by Governor Sir William Phips as one of the magistrates of the Court of Oyer and Terminer that heard the Salem witch trials. That same year he was elected to membership in the Military Company of Massachusetts and was also elected as captain of the Company in June.

When the provincial courts were organized under the new charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Winthrop was one of the initial appointees as an associate justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, as the province's highest court was known.

He held this position until the death of chief justice and acting governor William Stoughton, at which time the governor's council appointed him to be chief justice. Political forces allied to him were preparing to travel to London to lobby on his behalf for the position of governor when it was learned that Joseph Dudley had received the appointment. Winthrop then tendered his resignation as chief justice. In 1708 Dudley reappointed him to be chief justice, a position he held until his death in 1717.

Winthrop was also active in other pursuits. When not working at his public duties, he devoted himself to agriculture and the study of medicine, often providing assistance in these arts to his neighbors.


Winthrop's son John (1681-1747) graduated from Harvard in 1700, served for some time as a magistrate of Connecticut, and was afterward a fellow of the Royal Society of London, to whose Transactions he was a contributor, and one of whose volumes was dedicated to him.


  • Roberts. History of the Military Company of Massachusetts
  • Dunn, Richard. Puritans and Yankees: The Winthrop Dynasty of New England. Princeton University Press. 1962.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1889). "Winthrop, John" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
Legal offices
New seat Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature
Succeeded by
John Saffin
Preceded by
William Stoughton
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature
Succeeded by
Isaac Addington
Title last held by
Isaac Addington
Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature
Succeeded by
Samuel Sewall
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts

The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts is the oldest chartered military organization in North America and the third oldest chartered military organization in the world. Its charter was granted in March 1638 by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay and signed by Governor John Winthrop as a volunteer militia company to train officers enrolled in the local militia companies across Massachusetts. With the professionalization of the US Military preceding World War I including the creation of the National Guard of the United States and the federalization of officer training, the Company's mission changed to a supportive role in preserving the historic and patriotic traditions of Boston, Massachusetts, and the Nation. Today the Company serves as Honor Guard to the Governor of Massachusetts who is also its Commander in Chief. The headquarters is located on the 4th floor of Faneuil Hall and consists of an armory, library, offices, quartermaster department, commissary, and military museum with free admission.

Astor family

The Astor family achieved prominence in business, society, and politics in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 19th and 20th centuries. With ancestral roots in the Italian Alps,

the Astors settled in Germany, first appearing in North America in the 18th century with John Jacob Astor, one of the wealthiest people in history.

Epes Sargent (soldier)

Epes Sargent (July 12, 1690 – December 6, 1762) was an American soldier and landowner from Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Isaac Addington

Isaac Addington (January 22, 1645 – March 19, 1719) was a longtime functionary of various colonial governments of Massachusetts, including a brief period as the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature, the highest court in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

John Saffin

John Saffin (baptised 22 November 1626 – 29 July 1710) was a colonial New England merchant, politician, judge, and poet. He is best known for his A Brief and Candid Answer to Samuel Sewall's The Selling of Joseph, and for a small collection of poetry, most of which was not published until the 20th century. Literary historian Harrison Meserole ranks Saffin as "seventh or eighth" among colonial-era poets.

John Sargent (Loyalist)

John Sargent (24 December 1750 – 24 January 1824) was an American Loyalist during American Revolution who was exiled to Canada where he became a politician.

John Winthrop Chanler

John Winthrop Chanler (September 14, 1826 – October 19, 1877) was a prominent New York lawyer and a U.S. Representative from New York. He was a member of the Dudley–Winthrop family and married a member of the Astor family.

Lewis Morris Rutherfurd

Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (November 25, 1816 – May 30, 1892) was an American lawyer and astronomer, and a pioneering astrophotographer.

Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler

Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler (September 24, 1869 in Newport, Rhode Island – February 28, 1942 in New York City) was a New York lawyer and politician who served as Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1907 to 1908.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) is the highest court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The SJC claims the distinction of being the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in the Americas, with a recognized history dating to the establishment of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature in 1692 under the charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania disputes this, claiming to be eight years older.Although it was historically composed of four associate justices and one chief justice, the court is currently composed of six associate justices and one chief justice.

Nathaniel Byfield

Nathaniel Byfield (1653 – June 6, 1733) was an American jurist and Speaker of the Massachusetts General Court.

Byfield, first judge of the Court of Vice-Admiralty, was born in 1653, at Long Ditton, Surrey, England, the twenty-first child of Richard Byfield, rector there, and grandson of the vicar of Stratford-on-Avon. His father, as a member of the Westminster Assembly, helped to prepare the Westminster Shorter Catechism. His mother, Sarah Juxon, was, like many early New Englanders, 'nearly related' to an Archbishop of Canterbury.

Byfield arrived in Boston in 1674, and the next year married Deborah, daughter of Captain Thomas Clarke. Having been drafted to fight the Indians, he based a claim for exemption on XXIV Deuteronomy 5. At the close of King Philip's War he invested heavily in Rhode Island lands, becoming a settler at Bristol, Rhode Island, and living part of the time at Pappoosquaws Point better known in connection with Nathanael Herreshoff, the famous yacht builder.

Byfield joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1679, was a member of the Massachusetts General Court in 1696 and 1697, and served as speaker in 1698. He was commissioner for forming the excise, and judge of probate for Bristol County, as well as of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in Bristol and Suffolk. In June, 1710, he was suspended from the office of judge of probate 'for unmannerly and rude behaviour,' but resumed office in December, 1715. He was the first judge of the Court of Vice-Admiralty from 9 June, 1699, to 20 May, 1700, when Wait Winthrop obtained the place. Byfield threatened Winthrop and succeeded, through Governor Dudley, in securing his removal in 1701; he obtained the office for himself in December, 1703, holding it until 1715, and a third time from 1728 to 1733.

In earlier years the judge exercised much influence through his political alliance with Dudley and his marriage, in 1718, to Governor Leverett's daughter Sarah, following the death of his first wife. Cotton Mather, in February, 1702 or 3, received a visit from Governor Dudley, whom Mather advised to allow no people to say that the governor's policies were dictated by Byfield and Leverett. Mather continues: 'The Wretch went unto those Men, and told them, that I had advised him, to be no ways advised by them: and inflamed them into an implacable Rage against me.'

Byfield was a man of positive traits, dictatorial and overbearing, ambitious and revengeful, yet so sound that no decision of his was ever, upon appeal, reversed by a higher court. He printed and gave away thousands of copies of the Shorter Catechism; he strenuously opposed the witchcraft delusion, gave hundreds of pounds yearly in charity, and devoted his eloquence freely to public affairs.

He died between the hours of one and two of the morning of the 6th of June, 1733, at Boston, and was entombed at Granary Burying Ground. Two of his five children grew to maturity, one the wife of Lieutenant Governor William Tailer, another the wife of Edward Lyde, whose son, Byfield Lyde (son-in-law of Governor Belcher), was his chief heir.

At Granary Burying Ground, Byfield rests in Tomb #49 or #50, which is marked by stone bearing the Lyde family crest, along the Tremont Street fence.

This article incorporates text from The Founders: Portraits of Persons Born Abroad who Came to the Colonies in North America Before the Year 1701, with an Introduction, Biographical Outlines and Comments on the Portraits, Volume 2, by Charles Knowles Bolton, a publication from 1919 now in the public domain in the United States.

Oyer and terminer

In English law, oyer and terminer (; a partial translation of the Anglo-French oyer et terminer which literally means "to hear and to determine") was the Law French name for one of the commissions by which a judge of assize sat. The commission was also known by the Law Latin name audiendo et terminando, and the Old English-derived term soc and sac.

By the commission of oyer and terminer the commissioners (in practice the judges of assize, though other persons were named with them in the commission) were commanded to make diligent inquiry into all treasons, felonies and misdemeanours whatever committed in the counties specified in the commission, and to hear and determine the same according to law. The inquiry was by means of the grand jury; after the grand jury had found the bills of indictment submitted to it, the commissioners proceeded to hear and determine by means of the petit jury. The words oyer and terminer were also used to denote the court which had jurisdiction to try offences within the limits to which the commission of oyer and terminer extended.

Paul Dudley Sargent

Paul Dudley Sargent (Baptized June 23, 1745, Salem, Massachusetts – September 28, 1828 Sullivan, Maine) was a privateer and soldier in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont

Richard Coote, 1st Earl of Bellomont (sometimes spelled Bellamont, 1636 – 5 March 1700/01), known as The Lord Coote between 1683–89, was a member of the English Parliament and a colonial governor. Born in Ireland, he was an early supporter of William III and Mary II, siding with them in the Glorious Revolution.

In 1695 he was given commissions as governor of the provinces of New York, Massachusetts Bay, and New Hampshire, which he held until his death. He did not arrive in the New World until 1698, and spent most of his tenure as governor in New York. He spent a little over a year in Massachusetts, and only two weeks in New Hampshire. His time in New York was marked by divisive politics resulting from Leisler's Rebellion (1689–91), and difficult and ultimately unsuccessful negotiations to keep the Iroquois from engaging in peace talks with New France. Frontier issues were also in the forefront during his time in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where lumber and security from the Abenaki threat dominated his tenure.

He was a major financial sponsor of William Kidd, whose privateering was later deemed to have descended into piracy. Bellomont engineered the arrest of Kidd in Boston, and had him returned to England, where he was tried, convicted, and hanged.

Robert Winthrop (1764–1832)

Robert Winthrop (7 December 1764, New London, Connecticut – 10 May 1832, Dover) was a scion of the New England Winthrop family of high colonial civil servants, and a Vice-Admiral of the Blue in the Royal Navy. Among his many feats of arms was taking possession of admiral Samuel Story's squadron of the Batavian Navy after its surrender in the Vlieter Incident.

Samuel Sewall

Samuel Sewall (; March 28, 1652 – January 1, 1730) was a judge, businessman, and printer in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, best known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials, for which he later apologized, and his essay The Selling of Joseph (1700), which criticized slavery. He served for many years as the chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature, the province's high court.

Stuyvesant family

The Stuyvesant family is a family of American politicians and landowners in New York City. The family is of Dutch origin and is descended from Peter Stuyvesant (1610–1672), who was born in Peperga, Friesland, Netherlands and served as the last Dutch Director-General of New Netherland.

William Stoughton (judge)

William Stoughton (1631 – July 7, 1701) was a colonial magistrate and administrator in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. He was in charge of what have come to be known as the Salem Witch Trials, first as the Chief Justice of the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692, and then as the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Judicature in 1693. In these trials he controversially accepted spectral evidence (based on supposed demonic visions). Unlike some of the other magistrates, he never admitted to the possibility that his acceptance of such evidence was in error.

After graduating from Harvard College in 1650, he continued religious studies in England, where he also preached. Returning to Massachusetts in 1662, he chose to enter politics instead of the ministry. An adept politician, he served in virtually every government through the period of turmoil in Massachusetts that encompassed the revocation of its first charter in 1684 and the introduction of its second charter in 1692, including the unpopular rule of Sir Edmund Andros in the late 1680s. He served as lieutenant governor of the province from 1692 until his death in 1701, acting as governor (in the absence of an appointed governor) for about six years. He was one of the province's major landowners, partnering with Joseph Dudley and other powerful figures in land purchases, and it was for him that the town of Stoughton, Massachusetts was named.

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