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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