If you have been following our blog over the last twelve months you may remember that we joined in the celebrations of the 400-year anniversary of the Mayflower voyage (from England to New England, America) looking at some of the events before, during and after the journey across the Atlantic. If you missed any of these you can see them in our archive.
When we last left the Mayflower, her crew and passengers had anchored in Plymouth Harbour in the middle of December 1620. In the following weeks they battled against the cold weather and went about the start of constructing their new homes. The first house, timber frame with wattle and daub walls, was built slowly over two weeks. Slowly the settlement took shape with more homes being built along with a wooden platform to support a cannon on the nearby Fort Hill.
The winter took its toll on the Pilgrims and Passengers. There was a lack of shelter, poor living conditions on board the Mayflower and disease. Of the 102 passengers. 45 died that winter. Many were too poorly and weak to help with the construction of the new settlement. Plans had aimed to construct 19 homes, however they were only able to complete seven residences and four common houses. It was enough though to unload the provisions from the Mayflower.
During these weeks of hard toil they also had several intense encounters with the Native Americans and so by mid-February they organised themselves into military orders. To lead the militia they appointed on 17th February, Myles Standish as the colony’s first commander. His name may stand out, with good reason, as he had played a key role in the three expeditions in the months leading up to the decision to settle in Plymouth. He had been hired by the Pilgrims as a military adviser back in the Netherlands, where he had been living in Leiden, possibly after having served in the English forces supporting the Dutch in the Eighty Years' War.
During his years as a solider in New England, the Plymouth colony would continue to re-elect him. His military leadership was to have a significant impact on its future and its relationship with the native people. He retired from service in 1640’s and went onto live in the town of Duxbury where he died in 1656, aged 72.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the voyage of the Mayflower. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1620 the Mayflower, having crossed the Atlantic and reached Cape Cod, dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor. It would be here that those on board, the so called Pilgrims and Strangers, would establish their new community and England's newest colony. The task would be an arduous one and they would need to fall on the charity of the local native Americans to see them through.
This is our final blog of 2020 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower's voyage. We will return in next year with lots more content, but for now we wish you a happy Christmas and a Happy New Year and the hope that 2021 will be a better year for everyone.
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With the second exploration of December 7th returning no possible site for settlement the passengers of the Mayflower discussed what to do next. It was agreed that they should sail south and explore the coast of Cape Cod Bay an. On December 16th, a group left on the shallop, which was piloted this time by Robert Coppin and John Clark, rather than Captain Jones. From amongst the Pilgrims were Bradford and Standish. By now the temperatures were below freezing and along with illness those onboard the Mayflower were suffering. On board the shallop the salt spray froze on their coats
On their journey the explorers once again spotted the elusive natives, who were working away at a beached bulbous-headed black whale. When they made their way ashore, they built themselves a barricade and a fire and settled down for the night. About four miles away they could see smoke from another fire.
With the new day some explored on land while others went along the coast in the shallop. Again, they found graves and empty native dwellings. That night the two groups met at a tidal creek (today known as Herring River) and again built themselves a circular barricade.
They posted guards who woke the group around midnight shouting “Arm! Arm!”. In the moment, some muskets were fired and then all went quiet. A sailor, whose name we do not know, but had visited the area before, helped ease the groups fear when he shared his experiences of similar noises of wolves and so the group went back to sleep. In the morning after they got ready and as they were taking their weapons and armour to the shallop they suddenly heard another “great and strange cry”; one of the group who had been in the woods came out shouting “Indians, Indians”. Then the air was full of arrows. Those who had guns nearby grabbed them and started shooting away. Standish was aware that ammunition was short and told the men to stop shooting until they could see their opponents. Meanwhile those whose guns were down by the shallop went to retrieve them. The natives took their chance and trapped them behind the boat. The skirmish between the two groups went on for a short while with the natives eventually withdrawing. The explorers followed for a short while and then returned, fortunately nobody had been hurt. And so, the First Encounter had taken place (the site is still known as First Encounter Beach in Eastham).
Once back onboard the shallop the explorers headed along the south coast of Cape Cod Bay, during which time the weather got worse. With the wind picking up and the temperatures around freezing they became drenched by the freezing horizontal sleet and salt spray. As they made their way along the coast a sudden wave hit them, tearing the rudder off the shallop. It took two men and a long oak oar to get the boat back under control. As night came it became harder to control the shallop and the news that their aimed for destination was in site, a place called Thievish Harbor, which is thought to actually be Plymouth Harbor, cheered them up. Then, another disaster, the mast broke into three pieces which had to be gathered up along with the sodden sail. They were now dependent on rowing and soon realised that they were drifting off course towards a wave pounded beech, which they had to avoid.
It was now getting dark and they came across what they would latter discover was an island. After some discussion they decided to land and make a big fire instead of stay on the boat, a decision that spared them a night on board the shallop which had been subject to a hard nights frost. They spent the next day, Saturday, on the island, which was named Clark Island, after John Clark, who had been the first to set foot on it. Over the next day they cut down the straightest tree they could find and made a spar to replace the splintered mast. With the next day being Sunday they rested as it was their sabbath.
They commenced their exploration on the Monday and found that the harbor would be suitable for ships the same size as the Mayflower. They explored the land in the area that is now Plymouth and found a site that had good water supply, fields that were cultivated and signs that there had been no recent native settlement. They had now found the site they would settle and so they headed back to the Mayflower with the good news. On their return William Bradford was met with the sad news that his wife Dorothy had slipped overboard and drowned and that night he went to sleep with mixed emotions.
As a post note, it has become legendary that the Pilgrims first stepped onto a rock, now known as Plymouth Rock, when they landed in the area on Monday. However, this was not recorded by those who were on the Mayflower and the first records appear from 1774. Since then, the rock has become an American symbol of the nation's founding.
On December 7th 1620 Captain Jones led a group of 34 on a second exploration of the Cape Cod area. The group was made up of 24 passengers and 10 sailors. The shallop had finally been rebuilt, but due to the wind they had difficulty weathering the point where the Mayflower was anchored. They were blown to the other side of the harbour where they found shelter in an inlet and spent the night there; the inlet is a part of what is now called Pilgrim Lake. Temperatures were now falling well below freezing and Bradford later reflected that this was the beginning of the death of some of those onboard the Mayflower. By morning there had been six inches of snow.
The party headed to south towards Parnet Harbour, being so cold and frostbitten they named the inlet Cold Harbour. They landed and spent the next few hours marching up and down the snow covered hills. Cold and fed up by now Captain Jones wanted to head back to the Mayflower. Others wanted to stay, and Captain Jones insisted they make camp for the night under several large pine trees. They caught six ducks and three geese and fed their cold hungry bodies. Their day’s work had shown them that Cold Harbour was not the place to found their settlement as the sea was too shallow.
In the morning it was agreed to relocate Corn Hill and collect more corn. By now the area had been covered by snow and after some time hunting for it and, having poked away at the surface with their cutlasses, they found the original bag and a further ten bushels. Captain Jones used this as a further supporting reason to get back to the Mayflower along with those who were too sick to continue. The others would explore the area further while they waited for the shallop to return.
On the morning of day three, Captain Standish, who was now in charge, led the group in search for the native that had been sighted the week before. They were however to remain elusive, having moved inland for the winter, not to return to the area until summer. However, in their search the explorers came across another apparent grave site. They found several boards, one with a carving of Poseidon’s trident, a clue that this came from a European ship. Further down they found two bundles one small and one large. In the large bundle there were some bones, with some flesh and golden hair on them along with a sailor's canvas bag which held a knife and sewing needle. In the smaller bag was another skull and the bones of a small child.
After returning their finds into the grave and covering the site back they carried on their exploration and found some native houses which from the evidence suggested they’d been left in a hurry. Bradford and Edward Winslow were later to leave one of the best first-person descriptions of a native house and their finds inside which included a pots, bowls, mats and the remains of a fire. As with the grave found earlier, they decided to take the best finds with them.
Finally, they headed back to the Mayflower where they were greeted with good news, a son had been born to Susanna and William White, who they called Peregrine. With their second exploration completed they were still without a site where they would settle down and over the next few days they discussed where to go next.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the voyage of the Mayflower. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On Wednesday 25th November 1620, or the 15th if you’re using the dates of the time, a group of 16 Mayflower passengers set out on an exploration mission, spending Wednesday and Thursday nights under the stars.
On the third morning they came across a stubbled field, previously planted with corn in relatively recent years, and their first evidence of the Native agriculture. This discovery was soon followed by what appeared to be a grave site where there were mounds of sand covered with reed mats. They started to explore the mounds, finding a bow and rotting arrows, but decided not to go down further out of respect to the local people. They returned the bow and arrows and covered them back up.
From there they continued south and came across what may have been wreckage from a French shipwreck from 1615. Later, near the river now known as the Pamet, they came across a seventeen-year-old fort built by Martin Prigg (an English Explorer from Bristol). Their next discovery was an area of flattened sand on a high shoreside hill. They considered it to be different from the graves they had come across earlier and so three dug down while the others formed a defensive ring around them. They soon came across a basket of woven reeds with four bushels of corn – further evidence of agriculture. They collected up some corn and returned to the ship with news of their discoveries.
On this day in 1620 a group of sixteen men from the Mayflower set out on a mission to explore the area they had landed at. They were led by Captain Miles Standish and included William Bradford and Stephen Hopkins. Each man had a musket, sword and corset (a light piece of body armour). The men rowed through a shallow area of coastline and had to jump out and wade through the cold icy water, weighed down by their armour and weapons. Once on the beach they marched in single file along the shore.
After a few miles they saw a group of people and thought they were Captian Jones along with the Mayflower’s spaniel who they knew were ashore. When the group ran away into the woods they realised they had seen natives for the first time. The explores followed the group of natives tracking their footprints in the sand. They tracked them for the rest of the day marching somewhere between 7 and 10 miles. With the light drawing in they set up camp for the night. They spent the night gathered around a large fire with three sentinels on guard at a time.
In the morning they continued to track the natives, despite being tired and thirsty. They found a source of freshwater at what is now known as Pilgrims Spring on a slightly raised section of land and once refreshed headed back to the beach where they built a large fire as had been agreed before leaving the Mayflower, which was now around 4 miles across the water from them. Tired after two days marching in the cold they slept well before the final day of their first exploration.
Having taken their first steps on American soil on a Saturday, the next day, being a Sunday, was spent on board the Mayflower in worship and fellowship. Once Monday came work began on a number of important tasks following the journey from Europe. The four sections of the shallop, a small boat that had been carried aboard in pieces, were taken ashore for reconstruction, though this took much longer than expected due to damage caused during the voyage.
Another key job was cleaning clothes. During the voyage washing clothes (a role at this time which was carried out by women) had not been possible so once on dry land they found a freshwater pool (which is near the location of modern Provincetown). For generations to come, in New England, Monday would be wash day, a tradition founded by the women of Mayflower. The passengers and sailors also took the opportunity to gather fresh sea food, which caused some of them to be sick!
The other key task they had was to explore the area. This would not have been so critical had they landed as planned at the mouth of the Hudson River, but now they there were somewhere they did not know. Exploration, however, was not going to be as easy as hoped as they were unable to use the shallop. Therefore, by the Wednesday it had been agreed that sixteen men would row ashore across what is now Provincetown harbour and explore the area by foot. This will be the subject of a coming blog.
On this day in 1620 the Mayflower dropped anchor in what became known as Provincetown Harbor, at the northern end of Cape Cod Bay, marking the arrival of her passengers in America. Before disembarking to explore the new land they first drafted and signed what would become known as the Mayflower Compact, a document that historian Nathaniel Philbrick has argued provided “the basis for a secular government in America”.
The Mayflower was originally bound for the Colony of Virginia but inclement weather and hazerdous waters forced her to seek anchor at the hook of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Owning to a lack of provisions it was considered unwise to continue and that a colony should be established there. Because they would not be settling in the agreed-upon Virginia territory this inspired some of the non-Puritan passengers to proclaim that they "would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them". To prevent this, the Pilgrims determined to establish their own government, while still affirming their allegiance to the Crown of England. Thus, the Mayflower Compact was created, forming a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the community's rules for the sake of order and survival.
The original document has long been lost, but three slightly different versions printed later in the 17th century still exist. A modern version of the wording goes as follows:
"IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620."
Forty-one of the Mayflower’s remaining 101 passengers signed the document. This was done on the 11th November under the Old Style Julian calendar, since England did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752. The modern date is November 21st.
Following the document’s signing the passengers disembarked onto the smaller of two boats that had been carried aboard and rowed to the shore where they would take their first steps into the New World. The second small boat, and the larger of the two, had been cut up into four and was stored below deck during the voyage and was yet to be assembled.
Sixteen men landed on the beach in Provincetown Harbour, where they fell on their knees and in the words of William Bradford:
“blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element”.
The landscape they found was similar to the Downs in Holland; hills of sand. It was an infertile land, with more trees than costal England or Holland and they found no people. They took back to the Mayflower freshy with sawed wood of red cedar and enjoyed perhaps for the first time since leaving England a warm fire. The days ahead would require more exploration of the land before they could start settling down and building their first homes.
On this day in 1620 those who’d survived the perilous voyage across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower set their eyes on America for the first time. It was late morning and the sun had risen behind the Mayflower and Captain Jones believed the land ahead was the ‘forearm’ of Cape Cod. Slowly the landscape of sand with tree covered hills came nearer. The intended site for the journey was the mouth of the Hudson River, which they were well north of. The passengers had been granted land in this area which was a further 220 miles away.
Captain Jones had to make a decision – either continue south to the Hudson or head northwards into the bay of Cape Cod and to what is now known as Provincetown. The first option depended on a north wind and would take several days, the second option would only take a few hours and required a southerly wind. The occurrence of northerly wind helped him with the decision and so the Mayflower went south and into poorly chartered waters. The threat of grounding the ship was high, so the leadsman constantly dropped the lead to measure the depth of the seabed.
After 1pm the tide and wind became less favourable and the Mayflower found herself in the Pollark Rip, an ever-changing maze of shoals and sandbars. Fortunately, the wind and tide changed and towards late afternoon the Mayflower was sufficiently away from the dangers of the Rip. With the change in the wind, they were now being pushed northwards and heading away from the mouth of the Hudson; Captain Jones decided to make for the protection of Cape Cod Bay.
The change in destination caused tension between the two groups of passengers, The Pilgrims and The Strangers, with the prospect of the new settlement being on land that they did not have permission to occupy. The solution will be the subject of our next blog.
Recently we took a look at a limited number of the crew, both officers and sailors who were key in navigating the Mayflower from England to America (here, here and here). But what about those who have gone down in history as the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’? Were all the passengers Separatists (Puritans who wanted greater reform in the church)? Surprisingly to some, not all the passengers were Separatists - some wanted to start life in a new place, others went as servants.
When the Mayflower set off from Plymouth on the 16th September 1620 there were 102 passengers aboard; 74 males and 28 females. Of the 102 passengers as few as 37 had been members of the separatist congregation in Leiden. So who were some of these passengers?
William Brewster was probably born in Scrooby and like his father held the position as postmaster of Scrooby for a period of time. He was a key member of the establishment of the Separatist church in Scooby, which often met in his home, Scrooby Manor. Along with the others in the church he left England for Holland to get away from the persecution and prosecution for this faith. During his time in Leiden he became a church elder, responsible for caring for the congregation. Whilst in Leiden he worked in a printing press which published religious books and pamphlets, which led to the English authorities discovering him and getting the Dutch authorities to pursue him. He went into hiding. He was chosen by the Leiden congregation to go with them to America which he agreed to. He continued to be a church elder throughout his life in the Plymouth Colony, dying in 1644.
Mary Brewster married Willaim Brewster in around 1592 and gave birth to their first son, Jonathan a year later. Her early years are unknown along with her maiden name. She had her second child, a daughter Patience in about 1600. Around the time the Separatist church started to come under more pressure and persecution from the authorities she had their third child, a daughter who they called Fear. Moving to Holland along with her husband she had a fourth unnamed child which they buried in Leiden. She gave birth to a son named Love in 1611 and to their last child, a son called Wrestling in 1612. She joined her husband William along with their two youngest sons, Love and Wrestling on the Mayflower. She died in 1627 having been one of five women to survive the first winter. The other children joined the family in America between 1621 and 1623.
William Bradford was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire. He was orphaned as a young boy and raised by his uncle, Robert Bradford. He was sickly as a boy and took to reading his bible. As he grew older he got to know the ministry of Richard Clyton and John Smith whose leadership would help form the Separatists churches in their area. By the age of 18 he joined the Separatists and fled England for Holland, first to Amsterdam and then Leiden. He married Dorothy in 1613. He became a widower in December 1620 and remarried in 1623. He became the second governor of Plymouth and was re-elected a number of times in the following years and played a key role in running the Colony. He had three children with his second wife. In 1630 he started writing a history of the Plymouth Colony which is a key source about the journey and colony and is the only one written by a Mayflower passenger. He died in 1657.
Dorothy Bradford was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire around 1597 and was the niece of William White. At the age of 23 she married William Bradford in 1613. Sometime around 1617 she gave birth to a son, John, in Leiden. When Dorothy and William joined the Mayflower voyage, they left their son in Leiden. After reaching America the Mayflower anchored off Provincetown Harbour on 11th November. Whilst William was out on one of the expeditions on the 7th December, Dorothy fell off the Mayflower into the freezing water and drowned. Their son, John, came to America later and married Martha Bourne.
William White was born in Wisbech moving to Holland when he was about 21. He later married Susanna Jackson in Holland. They had their first child, Resolved, in 1615. Their second child, Peregrine, was born on board the Mayflower in late November 1620 and was the first European to be born to the Pilgrims in America. He died during the first winter on the 21st February 1621
Susanna White (nee Jackson) was born in Scrooby. She moved to Amsterdam with her father and married William White. She joined her husband along with her oldest son, Resolved boarding the Mayflower whilst pregnant. She gave birth to Peregrine whilst at sea. Following the death of her husband she married Edward Winslow on 12th May 1621, the first marriage in the new Plymouth settlement.
Edward Thompson was in the care of the White family and under the age of 21. He sadly was the first passenger on the Mayflower to die after reaching Cape Cod on the 6th December 1620.
Willaim Butten was a youth and indentured servant, a form of work where there was no pay as such, of Samuel Fuller. He sadly never made it to America, dying 3 days before Cape Cod came into sight, on the 16th November 1620.
Christopher Martin was a non separtist and initial sailed on the Speedwell and later the Mayflower. He came from Great Burstead, Billericay, Essex. Whilst a churchwarden in Essex he refused to kneel at communion, a sign that he was abstaining from the rituals of the Church of England. This was a typical Puritan infraction. Church officials had issues with him for not providing financial accounts from his time as churchwarden and he went onto have problems with his finical records in his part of the Mayflower preparations. In 1617 and 1620 he sold of his land holdings in Great Burstead and purchased shares in the Pilgrim’s joint stock company. He was appointed by the congregation in Leiden along with John Carver and Robert Cushman to purchase goods and supplies in Southampton. He was asked to give an account of his spending when money ran short, to which he refused. Nonetheless he was appointed ‘governor’ on the Speedwell where he upset both crew and passengers. With the Speedwell having to stay behind he remained Governor of the Mayflower, a role he filed until the landing in America. Whilst in Essex he married a widower, Mrs Mary Prower and they had one son, Nathaniel, who stayed in England. Mary had a son, Solomon, who joined the voyage to America. Christopher, Mary and Solomon all died in the first winter.
Stephen Hopkins came from Hampshire and had previously been to America. Before his travels to America he had married Mary and they had had three children, Elizabeth, Constance and Giles. In 1609 he travelled to Jamestown, Virginia, on the ship Sea Venture. The ship was wrecked on the “Isle of Devils” (Bermuda) where he was stranded for ten months. After six months as a castaway the passengers and crew organised a mutiny against the governor. The mutiny was found out and Stephen was sentenced to death. He managed to get a pardon. The castaways eventually built themselves a ship and sailed to Jamestown. Whilst he was there his wife Mary, still in England, died. When he was back in England, he married Elizabeth Fisher and intended to take his family back to Jamestown. In 1620 he took his wife and children, Constance, Giles and Damaris (born to him by Elizabeth) on the Mayflower. His experience in Jamestown proved helpful to the colony and he was assistant governor through 1636. He died in 1644.
The journey took relatively few lives, but the first winter was more devastating with about half of the passengers dying. Nonetheless, a settlement was established and today many Americans are able to trace their ancestry back to some of these passengers.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the voyage of the Mayflower. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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