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Mayflower, Day by Day - Wednesday, 16 December 1620

16 Dec 2020 2:16 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Second death in the harbour; Third discovery party departs

Very cold, bad weather.  Today Jasper More died, a seven year old bound to John Carver: this was the second death in the harbour.  Jasper was the second of four children, all below the age of ten, who were placed with leading members of the Leiden congregation: three of the four died within the first few months, and only Richard More, aged six, survived, reached adulthood and married, and had children.  The (exceptionally) complicated story began well over one hundred years earlier when William More of Larden in Shropshire (England) had two sons, Edward and Thomas, one of whom inherited the Larden estate and the other of whom became an officer of Henry VIII and received a lease on a valuable and substantial (former) abbey at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.  Fast forwarding to the seventeenth century, the sole heiress to the Larden estate was Katherine More; the family was concerned that when Katherine married, as both of her brothers had died by 1608, the estate would fall out of the family’s hands.  Katherine was therefore married to her second cousin Samuel More (Katherine was 25, Samuel was 17), thus reuniting the two branches and estates of the family.  Katherine, however, had established, ahem, um, er, a “friendship” with Jacob Blakeway (aged 27 at the time of Katherine’s marriage), a tenant on one of her father’s farms.  Four children were born and baptised in Shipton, Shropshire between 1612 and 1616: Jasper was baptised on 8 August 1613; four days after the baptism of the youngest, Samuel More (now 21) cut the children off from their rights to inherit the Larden estate, and Samuel’s father made similar moves to protect the other estate -- in this period property was almost always inherited solely along blood lines, and thus since it appeared that the children were not in fact Samuel’s, steps had to be taken to preserve the property in the family.  “Samuel … had come to the realization that these were not his children after all; in fact, most of them appeared to resemble Jacob Blakeway” (Caleb Johnson, Mayflower Passengers, p. 190).  Numerous suits and counter suits followed over the next two years; Samuel stopped short of actually declaring the children bastards, and was careful to have them entrusted to staunch Puritan families to be cared for (to keep them in his own home might have been interpreted as admitting paternity, and would have interfered with his desire to start a family of his own): Samuel purchased a double share in the Plymouth Company for each of the children plus an additional investment of £20, with the contractual obligation that each child was to be given 50 acres of land after seven years, and handed them over to Robert Cushman and Thomas Weston.  The children lived in Weston’s house in London before the Mayflower’s departure.  For more information on this story (and there is a lot more), see Anthony Richard Wagner’s accurate account in NEHGRegister 114 (1960):163-168 [includes transcripts of the original documents], 124 (1970):85-87, and Donald Harris, “The More Children of the Mayflower,” Mayflower Descendant 43 (1993):123-132, 44 (1994):11-20, 109-118.    Wagner also published an outline of various royal descents (Malcolm III of Scotland and Edward I of England) for the More children in NEHGRegister 124 (1970):85-87. David Lindsay’s biography of Richard More, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger among the Pilgrims (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2002) has been characterised as “readable … but rather speculative.”   Of the three children who died within the first few months of arrival in America, we only have a precise date for Jasper’s death.  I will have more to say about the More children if I have time and space later on.

Mourt’s Relation provides a narration of the discovery party “penned by one of the company.”  The third exploring party got away from the ship in the afternoon in the shallop: “we set out, being very cold and hard weather. We were a long while after we launched from the ship before we could get clear of a sandy point which lay within less than a furlong of the same. … Two were very sick, and Edward Tilley had like to have sounded [swooned] with cold; the gunner also was sick unto death, (but hope of trucking made him to go), and so remained all that day and the next night. At length we got clear of the sandy point and got up our sails, and within an hour or two we got under the weather shore, and then had smoother water and better sailing, but it was very cold, for the water froze on our clothes and made them many times like coats of iron. We sailed six or seven leagues by the shore, but saw neither river nor creek; at length we met with a tongue of land, being flat off from the shore, with a sandy point. … As we drew near to the shore, we espied some ten or twelve Indians very busy about a black thing — what it was we could not tell — till afterwards they saw us, and ran to and fro as if they had been carrying something away. We landed a league or two from them, and had much ado to put ashore anywhere, it lay so full of flat sands. When we came to shore, we made us a barricade, and got firewood, and set out our sentinels, and betook us to our lodging, such as it was. We saw the smoke of the fire which the savages made that night, about four or five miles from us.”  The “black thing” was probably (as recorded in Mourt's Relation for tomorrow) a grampus, the genus that includes Risso's dolphin as its only species; it is also a common name for the orca (killer whale) and pilot whale.

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