William Wickenden was an elder in Rhode Island’s second Providence Church. He was a signator of the first compact of Rhode Island in 1637 and served as a member of the legislature. In 1655 he visited the Dutch colony of New Netherlands (New York), to preach the gospel.
On this day (August 5) 1657 two Dutch Reformed ministers in New Netherlands wrote an official paper on “The State of Religion” in their colony, sending it back to the old country. Part of that report declared, “Last year a fomenter of evil came here. He was a cobbler from Rhode Island, in New England, and stated that he was commissioned by Christ. He began to preach at Flushing and then went with the people into the river and dipped them. This becoming known here, the fiscaal [a Dutch police officer] proceeded thither and brought him along. He was banished from the province.”
Thomas Armitage, in his history, added, “The Baptists at Flushing were the next feel the wrath of the law. William Hallett, sheriff of that place, had dared to collect conventicles [meetings] in his house, and to permit one William Wickendam (sic) to explain and comment on God’s Holy Word… though not called thereto by any civil or clerical authority (referring to the Dutch Church). He [referring to Sheriff Hallett] had, moreover, assisted at such meetings.” For this violation, Hallett was removed from office and fined 50 pounds which he was unable to pay, and thus he was banished. On the 8th of November Wickenden was fined one hundred pounds and was to be banished from the province once that was paid. But it was not. After some time the preacher was expelled and told if he ever returned he would have to pay that fine and further costs in full or remain behind bars.
Wickenden died twelve years later without ever returning to New Netherlands.