William Manning Sr. - Biography
WILLIAM MANNING [#1924], d. Boston, MA between 17 Feb 1665-6 and 28 Apr 1666, m(1) SUSANNAH ____, d. Oct 1650, m(2) Elizabeth ____.
William Manning arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony early, but it is not known exactly when. Indeed most of the information we have would be unavailable were it not for a certain, very interesting and informative document. It seems William was a member of the church at Cambridge where Reverend Thomas Shepard preached. Mr. Shepard left behind a manuscript in which were recorded the "confessions" of his congregation and to which he gave the general caption "The Confessions Diverse propounded to be received and were entertained as members". Thus modern day researchers are able to learn about William Manning's life and thoughts through his own words. The problem with all this is that although Rev. Shepard was an able preacher and well educated man, he was not the best penman in New England's history.[3/91] What follows is a rendering by an expert as can be found in the Manning Genealogy. The other problem is that we don't know how closely Rev. Shepard followed William's own words. While it may not be word for word, it can be assumed to be quite accurate.
"Goodman Manning's Confession" begins with William describing his sinful early years in which as an apprentice 14 years old he "liv'd in a place where it was bad examples, was drawn aside whereas I might have got good but being a prentice : with him 4 years I did grow very loose & vayne & would not be ruled nor governed by my dame". William goes on to say how he looked "upon them that liv'd more restraynedly & civilly than I did I thought I would leave off my bad company & joyne myself to such as they were". He "took a business lawfull & commendable in hand, yet joyning on it without any wisdom". Despite his desire to become good, he still clung to his worldly ways, being occupied in his business. Eventually however, faith won out and William made an attempt at righteous living, difficult as it was for him. He gives his reasons for emigrating to America as "... having at last thoughts of this place in N[ew] England; my wife & I hearinge some certynty of help here; I desired to come thither tho I was weake; yet the Lord in mercy made away ready for me".[3/9295]
The voyage from England was not an easy one. "When [the] Lord brought me to sea I was overcome with a discontented mind; meeting there with hard & sad tryalls; as that Losse of my wife; when I thought I had not done well in doing this I had done tho' they were but carnall thoughts & would if possible return again; yet the Lord in some measure let me see it was a sin to so wish or think, & thought the Lord would at last bring me higher".[3/9295] It would seem from this passage that William's wife died during the voyage, but another rendering of Shepard's work for this same passage reads slightly differently. "When the Lord brought me to sea, I was overcome with a discontented mind, meeting there with hard and sad trials as fear of loss of my wife".[4/97] Since William goes on to talk about his wife soon after their arrival, it would seem she was still alive.
William may have lived in Roxbury upon landing as he says, "at last the Lord brought me higher & I lived at Roxbury 9 or 10 weekes". It would appear that he stayed there shortly after his arrival, but some question could be raised. In describing how he came to live in Cambridge, William says, "Mr. Hooker being here my wife & I desired to come to this place"[3/9295] (Hooker was the minister of Cambridge). This statement would seem to indicate that William Manning and his wife left England in order to be with Reverend Hooker, thus he lived a short time at Roxbury until he found a place across the Charles River in Cambridge. However, if this were the case, why didn't he go directly to Cambridge? Could it be he had family or friends living in Roxbury? Or was it that he remarried in Massachusetts and it was his second wife he means when he said he and his wife wanted to be with Rev. Hooker?
Assuming that William Manning knew of Reverend Hooker before coming to this country may give an indication of William's English home. Hooker preached at Chelmsford, Essex and opened a school at Little Baddow about five miles away. He then went to Holland for two years before emigrating to Cambridge as early as 1633. He later left for Hartford, Connecticut in 1636. Many of his "flock" at Cambridge were from Braintree, Essex, 11 miles from Chelmsford. However, when he preached at Chelmsford, people came from all the surrounding towns to hear him. It would certainly seem likely that William Manning was one of these people. It could also be that Reverend Hooker was the force that inspired William to mend his ways, but this is mere speculation.
William Manning was made a freeman in 1640 in Cambridge. He lived a short distance south of Harvard Square at the southeast corner of what were then called Spring and Crooked Streets and are now known as Mount Auburn and Holyoke Streets, respectively. If his neighbors were any indication of his character and stature in the community, William would have to have been a respected citizen. Of his nearest neighbors, three were: John Russell, constable, Selectman, and clerk of writs; Joseph Cook, Selectman, town clerk, magistrate, and representative; and John Bridges, deacon and Selectman.
William's wife Susanna died in Cambridge Oct. 16, 1650. He married again to Elizabeth whose surname is not known. She may have been a resident of Boston as "willyam Manning was admitted member, 25. 6 mo. 1664" to the First Church of Boston. It should be realized that he may have been living in Boston for some time prior to this date but kept his church relationship in Cambridge. However he was certainly a Boston resident by the above date (August 25, 1664).[3/95]
In his will William Manning mentioned his wife Elizabeth, his son William, and his grandchild Samuel Walsbie. After the death of Elizabeth, William was to receive only one third of the estate because he already had "through ye providence of god A good estate". Samuel Walsbie was to receive the remaining two thirds. It can't be stated for certainty that Samuel was William's grandson. In those early times such expressions were used as a matter of convenience in addition to indicating a family relationship. Lacking other data, however, one should take the term at face value. Assuming this, it would be expected that William had a daughter named Hannah. A search of the colonial records indicates Samuel was the son of David Walsby of Braintree (a possible further connection to Hooker?), who had a wife Hannah. Hannah Walsby died Feb. 2, 1655-6, which explains why the daughter was not mentioned in the will written ten years later.
It is not known when William Manning was born, but the 1580's or early 1590's would be most probable as his son William was born about 1614.
REF:  History of Cambidge - Lucius R. Paige, 1877
 New England Historic Genealogical Register, 1952
 The William Manning Family of Cambridge - William H. Manning,
 Thomas Shepard's Confessions - edited by George Selement
& Bruce C. Woolley, 1981
1. William, b. abt. 1614, d. Cambridge, MA 14 Mar 1690-1,
m. Dorothy ____, d. Cambridge 26 Jul 1692
2. Hannah?, d. Braintree, MA 2 Feb 1655-6, m. David Walsby