William Dyer was born 16 September 1609 in Kirkby Laythorpe, Lincolnshire, England and died 18 April 1672 Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island of unspecified causes. He married Marie Barrett (1611-1660) 27 October 1633 in St Martin-in-the-Fields Parish, Westminster, Middlesex, England.


William Dyer (also Dyre) (1609–by 1677) was an early settler of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a founding settler of both Portsmouth and Newport, and Rhode Island's first Attorney General. He is best known for being the husband of the Quaker martyr, Marie Barrett (1611-1660) (better known as Mary Barrett, who was executed for her Quaker activism. They were married in 1633 in a London church called St Martin of the Fields Parish (Westminster).

Immigration to America

Sailing from England as a young man with his wife, Dyer first settled in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but like many members of the Boston church became a supporter of the dissident ministers John Wheelwright (1593-1679) and Anne Marbury (1591-1643) during the Antinomian Controversy, and signed a petition in support of Wheelwright.

Portsmouth Compact Settler

For doing this, he was disenfranchised and disarmed, and with many other supporters of Hutchinson, he drafted and signed the Portsmouth Compact, and settled on Aquidneck Island in the Narragansett Bay. Within a year of arriving there, he and others followed William Coddington to the south end of the island where they established the town of Newport.

Newport Administrator

Once in Newport, Dyer was very active in civil affairs, holding a number of offices, particularly those using his clerical skills such as clerk and secretary. The political alignment of the island towns of Portsmouth and Newport was in flux for the first decade of government there, and Coddington had gone to England to obtain a commission to keep the island independent with him as governor. By 1651 Dyer and others had greatly tired of Coddington's rule, and he was one of three men who went to England to have Coddington's commission revoked. Being successful, Dyer returned with the news in 1653, but his wife, Mary, who had been there at the same time, remained in England.

  • 1648 - elected general recorder for Colony of Rhode Island
  • 1653 - appointed naval commander of Colony of Rhode Island for possible hostile action with Dutch settlers further south.
  • 1661 - appointed Newport Commissioner
  • 1663 - named on the Rhode Island Royal Charter
  • 1664-1666 - deputy solicitor general for Rhode Island
  • 1665-1669 - solicitor general for Rhode Ilsand
  • 1669 - Secretary to the Council

Wife's Execution

Mary returned from England in 1657 after being there for five years, and had become a zealous Quaker convert. Banned from Massachusetts, she nevertheless defied the authorities and returned in 1659, being sentenced to hang, but getting a stay of execution while on the gallows. Her last trip to Boston in 1660 resulted in her execution and martyrdom.

Following Mary's death, Dyer remarried, and continued his public service, while having some legal entanglements with William Coddington. He was dead by late 1677, though no record for his death has been found.

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Mary Barrett

Six of the eight children of William and Mary Dyer grew to maturity and married.

  1. Samuel Dyer (1635-1678) - oldest surviving child, possibly born on the Atlantic Ocean during their migration to America, was baptized into the Boston Church, shortly after their arrival - 20 Dec 1635. He married Anne Hutchinson (1643-1716), granddaughter of the Purtian preacher of same name and named one of their children, Barrett.

2nd Marriage: Mrs Dyer

Following the death of his first wife, William Dyer remarried in 1664 and had one known child.


Offspring of William Dyer and Marie Barrett (1611-1660)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Samuel Dyer (1635-1678) 20 December 1635 Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts 1678 Kingston, Washington County, Rhode Island Anne Hutchinson (1643-1716)

Offspring of William Dyer and unknown parent
Name Birth Death Joined with
Unknown Dyer (c1664-)




Footnotes (including sources)