Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – William Knopp

While last week’s ancestor, John Warren, apparently had the financial wherewithall to outright pay the passage for his family in the Winthrop Fleet of 1630, fellow countryman William Knopp was not in the same financial circumstances. More about that in a bit.

William Knopp (many years later the surname standardized to Knapp) was baptized on 1 January 1580/81, the son of Thomas and Alice (Howlat) Knopp, in Bures St. Mary, Suffolk, England. William married Judith Tue on 11 January 1606/07 in the nearby village of Wormingford, which happens to be just over the county line in Essex. Judith was baptized on 31 May 1589 in that same village,  daughter and last of four children born to John and Cicely Tue.

William and Judith may have moved back and forth between the two villages as they had children baptized in both Bures St. Mary and Wormingford.


1. Elizabeth, baptized 10 July 1608, Wormingford; married Mr. Buttery and remained in England when her family emigrated. She was buried 23 February 1661/62 in Bures St. Mary.
2. William, baptized 3 February 1610/11, Wormingford; married (1) Mary, by 1642 and (2) Margaret, by 1652; died 25 September 1676, Watertown, Suffolk, Massachusetts
3. Mary, baptized 19 August 1613, Wormingford; married Thomas Smith by 1637
4. Anne, baptized 24 December 1618, Wormingford; married John Philbrick, by 1650; died 20 October 1657, at sea
5. John, baptized 20 January 1622, Bures St. Mary; married Sarah Young, 21 May 1660, Watertown, MA; died by 9 April 1696, Watertown, MA
6. James, baptized 30 April 1626, Wormingford; married Elizabeth Warren, by 1655; died by 11 November 1700, Watertown, MA
7. Judith, baptized 16 July 1629, Bures St. Mary; married Nicholas Cady, by 1650

The first of the ships in the Winthrop Fleet landed in Salem in the summer of 1630. By 30 November 1630, a notice appeared in the records of the Court of Assistants that “whoesoeuer employth Will[ia]m Knopp or his sonne in any work shall pay the one half of their ways to Sr Rich: Siltonstall, & whoeuer buyeth boards of them shall pay one halfe of the price to Sr. richard, till the money hee hath disbursed for them be satisfied.” On 22 March 1630/31, “It appears by Sir rich: Saltonstall’s note of disbursements that Will[ia]m Knopp owes him the sum of £19 5s., as was evidenced to the Court by Richard Browne & Ephraim Childe, being men indifferently chosen betwixt them to judge thereof.”

William was a carpenter by trade, as apparently was his son, William Jr., and William had borrowed monies from Sir Richard Saltonstall to finance his family’s emigration. William must not have made any payment in return to Sir Richard and was thus taken to court to have both his wages and those of his son garnished until the debt was repaid. William Knopp fits the second part of the theme challenge “There’s a way” as he found the financial means to emigrate even if he wasn’t quite up to speed with the payment plan.

That was not William’s only run-in with the authorities as he next appears in court records dated 6 October 1633, with a £10 bond and ordered to appear at the next session, to be censured for swearing.

More followed:

William, like John Warren, was not afraid to challenge authorities. On 6 June 1637, William Knopp “upon pain of £100 & imprisonment, to bring in sureties within 8 days for his appearance at the next Quarter Court to answer what shalbe objected about his speeches of Mr. Vaine, our late governor. 

On 1 June 1641, William was fine £5 for selling beer for two years with no license.

On 13 November 1644, he paid a fine of 20s., which had been reduced from £5 for an unspecified offense.

Lastly, on 7 October, 1651, he was hauled into court for “scurulus and undecent words” spoken to the schoolmaster. His penalty was 13s 4d. or two hours in the stocks. No mention is made of his choice!

William Knopp was a crusty old man who apparently went his own way. His religious beliefs aren’t known by records except that he sailed with Puritans to the colonies. It also isn’t known whether he knew the Warren family back in England, but it is certainly possible. Take a look at the map:

William Knopp was a carpenter who likely traveled to nearby villages for work. Bures St. Mary is just over five miles away from John Warren’s home in Nayland. The Knopp family also lived for a time in Wormingford (south of the Google travel time white box), which is even closer to Nayland, just over four miles away.

It is also possible that the families only met by chance if they sailed on the same ship in the fleet or maybe they never met at all until they settled in Watertown. Regardless of how they met, both John Warren and William Knopp were not the kinds of men to keep their opinions to themselves!

William’s wife, Judith died by June 1651 as he married widow Priscilla Akers shortly after that date. William became a welfare charge to Watertown late in life, so he never had much in the way of material goods. Economically and socially, he never attained the status of John Warren so I believe their common bond may have been their religious and political beliefs.

The odd story of their granddaughter, Elizabeth Knapp, is the subject of my post on 15 May, the day after tomorrow.

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