Whitson, John (DNB00)

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WHITSON, JOHN (1557–1629), merchant adventurer, was born in 1557 at Clearwell in the parish of Newland, Gloucestershire, and at the age of eighteen went to Bristol, where he entered the service of Trenchard, a wine-cooper and shipowner. He became Trenchard's first clerk, and on Trenchard's death married the widow and succeeded to the business. When Philip II laid an embargo on the English ships in 1585, Whitson fitted out the Mayflower to make reprisals. Her cruise was successful, but Whitson, not caring to carry on the business, sold her to Thomas James, afterwards mayor of Bristol, who has been erroneously described as father of Thomas James (1593?–1635?) [q. v.], the navigator. In the early voyages for the settlement of North America, Whitson took an active part, and especially in sending out Martin Pring [q. v.] He was also distinguished for his charities and as a benefactor to the town of Bristol, of which he was twice mayor—in 1603 and 1615. He represented Bristol in four parliaments, being returned in 1605, 1620, 1625, and February 1625–6. He died of a fall from his horse, and was buried in St. Nicholas Church, Bristol, on 9 March 1628–9. He was three times married.

[Brown's Genesis of the United States, with portrait, pp. 1020, 1052; Seyer's Memoirs of Bristol; Notes from Mr. Ivor James.]

J. K. L.