There is not much information about William Filley’s early life. He was apparently born in England around 1617. Many
sources say he was born in Windsor, CT in 1617, but since that town was not founded until 1635, and he was one of the founders,
that seems unlikely. We do not know when he emigrated to New England – or why. It seems likely that he came as part
of the Great Migration that started in 1630.
What we do know for certain is that he owned a piece of property in Windsor, CT, and according to the town records, as of 1654, he had owned it for at least the past 20 years. That would put his possession of the property before the founding
of the town in 1635. This makes it likely that William Filley was part of William Holmes’ party to first make inroads
into the area that is now Connecticut.
While the English settled Plymouth, the Dutch had settled New Amsterdam (New York) and now both looked to expand out to
the fertile areas of Connecticut. The Dutch got their first, putting up a small trading post in the area of Hartford, but
that didn’t stop the English. In 1633 William Holmes and a small party of men, gathered the materials to build a trading
post, put them on a boat and sailed up the Connecticut River. They reached the Dutch who threatened them if they went further.
They went further anyway. They reached the area of the confluence of the Confluence and Connecticut Rivers and put their building
together. A group of men were left to guard it and the boat, with its commander went back home.
It is possible, that at about the age of 16, William Filley was one of those men. They had to fight off the Dutch, who
were not happy that the English had made inroads into the territory they wanted. They had to fight off the Pequot Indians,
who were happy trading with the Dutch. But the Connecticut settlers were upright men. They bought lands fairly from the Indians
found in possession, but they resisted being intimidated by violence and asserted themselves as much as the Indians did to
hold claim to the land.
In 1635 the Rev. Warham arrived from Dorchester, bringing with him, his congregation and the first permanent settlement
at the area. By 1637 the area had been renamed Windsor.
William Filley, is numbered as one of the founders of Windsor and he stayed there. He married a woman named Margaret. Some
say that Margaret’s last name was Cockney – but since no family with that name can be found in the area at the
time, that seems unlikely. They married in Windsor on September 2, 1642 and one year later on September 24, 1643 they welcomed
their son Samuel into the world. They had eight more children: John in 1645, Elizabeth in 1649, Mary in 1651, Hannah in 1653,
Margaret in 1655, Abigail in 1658, Deborah in 1660 and William in 1664.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of record of William Filley, he didn’t lead expeditions or hold public office,
as far as we can tell. There is no record of his death date, though I assume he died and is buried in Windsor, CT. What we
do know is that he was one of the brave young men of that time, willing to go where no one else had gone and to face much
danger along the way.