William Edwards: Myths and Legends

[Originally published Wednesday, November 22, 2006]

The have been some stories floating through the family about our original immigrant William Edwards. For example, one story says that he was illiterate. This story is not so far fetched. His son, John Edwards, signed his will in 1875 with his mark. If John was illiterate it follows that William probably was too.

 Another story says that William came over to America as a young man, perhaps between 14-16 years old.

One of our first family historians, William Henry Edwards III, said that William first arrived to Long Island, New York. This is interesting because very little is known about William prior to his marrying Christina Smith and starting a family in Germantown, New York.

The murkiest yet most intriguing story has at least two versions. One version says that William was a sailor and while crossing the Atlantic he made a play for the captain’s daughter and either ended in the water or as deserter from the ship. The other version has William getting up to his mischief in Wales and being sent to the colonies as his punishment. There is actually some support for this second theory. Peter Wilson Coldham cites a William Edwards arriving in 1771 as a bonded passenger in his book, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 (page 256). However, there were quite a number of William Edwards arriving during the 1770s so that is by no means conclusive.

The idea of William as a sailor has been passed down through many branches of the family. The descendants of Solomon Edwards and the descendants of Stephen and Seeber Edwards also share this lore about his occupation.

Does your branch of the family share these same stories? Do you have any other stories about William? Please let us know!