Over the last few weeks we've been looking at some of the events which lay behind The Mayflower leaving England for America on September 6th 1620. Over the next couple of weeks we are bringing you a series of short biographies on some of the ship's crew members, beginning last week with Captain, Cristopher Jones. This week we will introduce you to the Mayflower's Master’s Mate and pilot, John Clarke.
John Clarke was the Mayflower’s Master’s Mate / pilot, an important role that saw him responsible for overseeing ship operations, and navigation when the captain was not on duty. He was also responsible for steering ships in and out of berths, through hazardous conditions, and boat traffic.
Clarke remained around Jamestown for around forty days, making himself useful by piloting ships in the area carrying various stores. It was while engaged in this work however that he encountered a Spanish vessel and following a brief confrontation was taken prisoner and transported to Havana in Cuba. He would be held in Havana for around two years, then being transferred to Spain where he was in custody for five years. In 1616, he was finally freed in a prisoner exchange with England. In 1618 he was once more back on the other side of the Atlantic, piloting a ship called the Falcon, which was based in Jamestown. He returned to England in 1620 and was shortly after hired as the pilot of the Mayflower.
The Mayflower reached North America in November 1620 and while the crew of the Mayflower had hoped to return to England straight away, sickness meant they had to stay moored off the coast until sufficient crew were fit again. In December, the passengers of the Mayflower were shuttling in and around the shoreline of Duxbury and Plymouth, using a small shallop as transportation. On one occasion a storm came up quickly and threatened the small boat, with Clarke serving as captain. The crew spotted a small island off the coast of Duxbury and rowed for it. Back on solid ground, the Pilgrims and crew paused to give thanks for their deliverance from the storm. For his part in saving those on board, the Pilgrims named the island Clark’s Island.
Soon Clarke decided to settle in America and headed south to Virginia where he would attempt to make a home in Jamestown. Jamestown was a vastly different society to the ones the Pilgrims were trying to create in New England and relations were approaching breaking point with the local Native American tribes. Matters came to a head in 1622 when Chief Opchanacanough and his Powhatan Confederacy attempted to eliminate the English colony once and for all. On the morning of March 22nd, they attacked outlying plantations and communities up and down the James River in what became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622. More than 300 settlers were killed in the attack, about a third of the colony's English-speaking population. Jamestown was spared only through a timely warning by a Virginia Indian employee. There was not enough time to spread the word to the outposts. Of the 6,000 or so people who came to the settlement between 1608 and 1624, only 3,400 survived. Clarke was among the dead.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Simon Pickard 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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