William Nicoll was born in the village of Islip, Northamptonshire, England in 1657 and arrived in New Netherland/New York with his father, Matthias Nicoll, who was the first Secretary of the New York Colony and compiler of the Duke’s Laws promulgated by Governor Richard Nicoll at the Hempstead Convention of 1665.
William was educated by his father and studied law with him. When Edmund Andros returned to England in 1681 to receive a knighthood, William went with him, served in the English Army and saw active service in Flanders.
Upon his return to America, William Nicoll was admitted to the New York bar and was appointed Clerk of Queens County. In 1683, he became Register of the Court of Admiralty and on April 11, 1687, he was appointed Attorney General of the Province of New York. He held this office for just a year because on May 7, 1688, James II annexed New York to the Dominion of New England and the government of the Province of New York ceased to exist.
On November 29, 1683, Governor Thomas Dongan granted William Nicoll a royal patent to 50,000 acres on the south side of Long Island. In subsequent years, William was the recipient of further land grants and his manor became the largest on Long Island. In 1701, he built a mansion on the Great South Bay that he named Islip Grange in honor of his birthplace in England.
William Nicoll opposed the Leisler Rebellion and refused to surrender his commission as Justice of the Peace, whereupon Leisler imprisoned him. Nicoll remained incarcerated for fourteen months until March 1691 when Governor Henry Sloughter arrived from New York. Upon his release from prison, Nicoll was appointed to the Governor’s Council and named King’s Counsel in Leisler’s Treason Trial.
In 1695, Nicoll and fellow Council member, Chidley Brooke, were sent by the New York Assembly to London to urge the English government to force the other English colonies to contribute to a force to defend against the French. While in transit, they were captured by a French privateer, robbed, and imprisoned for a time in St. Malo.
In 1701, William Nicoll was elected to the Assembly, where he served until his death. He held the office of Speaker from 1702-1718.
William Nicoll died at his manor, Islip Grange, on November 20, 1723.
The Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York (1916)