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  • 23 Dec 2020 2:43 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in harbour

    Much sad intelligence met the discovery party (especially Bradford, as to his wife’s drowning) on their return to the Mayflower.  But the report from the explorers brought “good news to the rest of our people, which did much comfort their hearts.”

  • 22 Dec 2020 3:21 AM | Soule (Administrator)

     At anchor in harbour 

    Exploration party still absent.

    “This harbour is a bay greater than Cape Cod, compassed with a goodly land, and in the bay, two fine islands uninhabited, wherein are nothing but wood, oaks, pines, walnuts, beech, sassafras, vines, and other trees which we know not. This bay is a most hopeful place, innumerable store of fowl, and excellent good, and cannot but be of fish in their season; skote, cod, turbot, and herring, we have tasted of, abundance of mussels the greatest and best that ever we saw; crabs and lobsters, in their time infinite. It is in fashion like a sickle or fish-hook.” Plymouth is unique to the South Shore as from its hills, one can gaze across almost the entire inner coast of Cape Cod -- from Sandwich to Provincetown.  Much of the harbour, as large as it was, was too shallow for ships as large as the Mayflower: this ship drew twelve feet of water, and that meant that it would have to anchor about a mile from the shore, making the transfer of cargo and personnel slow and laborious.  The harbour also did not connect to a navigable river to permit transportation or exploration into the interior.  There were no native settlements nearby, but it was certainly possible that an attack could be launched with little or no warning, as was done the previous week at First Encounter Beach.  Many of the passengers (and some of the crew) were ill, and although the exploratory party did not yet know that four had died in their absence, they certainly must have known that they were very much living on borrowed time, and they must establish a settlement quickly, as they were in what Bradford called “the heart of winter.”  They had been exploring for a full month, time was running out, and it was unlikely that any other, better option would appear soon.  So the party returned to the Mayflower to report back.

  • 21 Dec 2020 3:05 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in harbour; Discovery party reaches Plymouth

    Clear weather.

    The discovery party, having made necessary repairs to the shallop, took soundings in the harbour “and found it a very good harbour for our shipping.”  Philbrick continues the story (Mayflower, p. 75): “They ventured on land, but nowhere in either Of Plymouth Plantation or Mourt’s Relation … is there any mention of a Pilgrim stepping on a rock.  Like Cape Cod to the southeast, the shore of Plymouth Bay is nondescript and sandy.  But at the foot of a high hill, just to the north of a brook, was a rock that must have been impossible to miss.  More than twice as big as the mangled chunk of stone that is revered today as Plymouth Rock, this two-hundred-ton granite boulder loomed above the low shoreline like a recumbent elephant.  … At half tide and above, a small boat could have sailed right up alongside the rock.  For these explorers, who were suffering from chills and coughs after several weeks of wading up and down the frigid flats of Cape Cod, the ease of access offered by the rock must have been difficult to resist.”

    Today’s first landing at Plymouth was enshrined as Forefathers’ Day, although the earlier celebrations miscalculated the difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendars and added eleven days instead of ten, and thus observed the landing a day later until the middle of the nineteenth century.  By 1769, Plymouth inhabitants had created an Old Colony Club; meeting annually on the (erroneous, it turns out) anniversary of the Pilgrims' landing, club members ate a meal that supposedly re-enacted the plain foodways of the Forefathers and toasted ancestors and contemporaries. Quickly, members settled into a yearly ritual that added a military parade followed by an address celebrating the ideals and suffering of the small band.  Just as quickly, the Old Colony Club disbanded; by 1773, the majority of members were Loyalists, and the few “patriots” among them left.  It thus is highly ironic (if not comical) that nineteenth century orators have associated the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.  John Seelye’s expansive (with 700 pages of text, it is not for the faint of heart -- it took me two months to plough through it) Memory's Nation: The Place of Plymouth Rock (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998) notes that commemorations of the landing started about one hundred and fifty years after the original, and these events most often imagined or, perhaps, re-imagined the Pilgrims in the light of the present: during the American Revolution, the Pilgrims were the original secessionists, while fifty years later they became the paradigm of anti-seccesionists, and not long afterwards they were distinguished from the Puritans to avoid being tarred with the brush of being persecutors, and then fifty years after that they were strongly pro-immigration or anti-immigration, depending on who was talking.  Various theologians claimed the rock to defend doctrines ebbing or emerging: Congregationalists, new and old, on the one hand, Unitarians on the other, debated the Separatists' beliefs -- and thereby defended their own theological legitimacy.  I have been alternately amused and horrified by the duelling signs on the two churches across Leiden Street from each other in Plymouth, both of which claim, or, since the demise of one of the congregations, claimed to be the Church of the Pilgrims.  What the Pilgrims themselves would have thought about the United States and its founding documents, the cataclysm of the War Between the States, or the political activism of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is anyone’s guess, as they seem to have been remade in different images by every speaker, depending on whether the speaker’s goal is to praise or to attack the Pilgrims.  James W. Baker’s fascinating new book, Plymouth Rock’s Own Story (Plymouth: Pilgrim Society, 2020) distinguishes between the story of the physical rock itself (and its “travels,” remarkable for a multi-ton large boulder) and the story of the story of the rock, or the meaning that has been attached to it.  Unlike Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims are not completely mute, but also unlike the Rock, they have proven to be completely malleable.

    Bradford continued, “We marched also into the land, and found divers cornfields, and little running brooks, a place very good for situation.”  The presence of several freshwater springs close to the shore was a very important consideration: by now the passengers were forced to ration their beer, and one of the reasons why the Provincetown area was deemed unsuitable was because the water had to be lugged up and down dunes and hills, and its sufficiency was unknown (particularly in summer).  The fact that the land had already been cleared was also a benefit, although it was also recognised that there were no recent Native settlements anywhere in evidence.  Samuel de Champlain’s map of 1613 dots the harbour with wigwams (some with cute plumes of smoke coming out of them), and shows fields of corn, beans and squash growing all around.  The bay was filled with bluefish and striped bass, and the lobsters, it was said, were so numerous that the Indians plucked them from the shallows of the harbour by hand.  The human habitation came to an end from 1616 to 1619 because of an epidemic; the disease returned the following decade, when Roger Williams wrote, “I have seen a poor house left alone in the wild woods … all being fled, the living not able to bury the dead.  So terrible is the apprehension of an infectious disease, that not only persons, but the houses and the whole town, take flight.”  There were no native dwellings in Plymouth in the winter of 1620, “a very sad spectacle to behold,” Bradford wrote.  The explorers found not only no inhabitants, but no sign of recent occupation.  Other than the “encounter” of last Friday morning, and occasional distant sightings of what they thought were Indians, the group had not been able to establish (despite their best efforts) any contact, friendly or otherwise, with anyone.  This emptiness was seen as an instance of God’s dreadful providence, blessing, and sovereignty.

    Where the party spent the night is unknown (whether on the mainland or back at Clark’s Island), but, being gone for a week, it was clearly time to return.

  • 20 Dec 2020 2:46 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Cape Cod harbour

    The fifth Sunday in this harbour.  Four deaths, one by drowning; very severe weather; the ship’s narrow escape from being blown up; and the absence of so many of the principal men, made it a hard, gloomy week.

    The exploring party was still absent on the other side of the Bay, on Clark’s Island, but they recorded that “on the Sabbath day we rested.”
  • 19 Dec 2020 3:06 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in harbour

    “A fair, sunshining day.”  Burying-party sent ashore to bury James Chilton.  Passengers continued to fetch wood and water.

    And on the other side of the Bay …

    The exploration party now realised they were on a heavily wooded island, and since John Clark, one of the Mayflower’s crew, had been the first to set foot on it, they named the island after him.  “We marched about it and found no inhabitants at all, and here we made our rendezvous all that day,” drying their clothes and doing what they could to repair the shallop after yesterday's disastrous events.

  • 18 Dec 2020 3:28 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    First Encounter; first death of a head of a family (fifth death on the journey)

    A strong south-east gale with heavy rain, turning to snow and growing cold toward night, as it cleared.  This day James Chilton died aboard the ship; he was the third passenger, and the first head of a family; to die in this harbour.  James was born about 1556 in Canterbury, Kent, and was therefore about sixty-four years old at the time of his death -- easily the oldest passenger on the Mayflower.  He was referred to in English records as a tailor, and married about 1586 -- the name of his wife has not yet been discovered.  She was excommunicated in June 1609, along with Thomas Bartlett and Moses Fletcher, for “privately burying a child … which some of them seem now to dissent by calling into question the lawfulness of the king’s constitutions in this and other behalfs, affirming these things [viz., burial rites] to be popish ceremonies and of no other force.”  James’ own brush with fame, or at least with the public records, came in April 1619, when he made a statement in court about being pelted with stones by a gang of about twenty boys, who shouted anti-Arminian slurs.  (Caleb Johnson notes that since the Pilgrims themselves, being good Calvinists, were staunchly opposed to the teaching of Jacob Arminius, “in a sense James was hit by ‘friendly fire’”: Mayflower Passengers, p. 116).  James’ wife and thirteen year old daughter Mary accompanied him on the Mayflower; daughters Isabella and Ingle were left behind in Leiden.

    Meanwhile, on shore …

    After midnight, the encamped discovery party heard strange noises; although they grabbed their weapons, nothing happened, and one of the party said that he had heard similar noises from wolves in Newfoundland.  At about 5:00 AM, the group stirred and joined in morning prayer.  As part of the group were taking some of their armament down to the boat, they heard another strange call, followed by flying arrows.  “Captain Miles Standish, having a snaphance [an early version of the flintlock] ready, made a shot, and after him another.  After they two had shot, other two of us were ready, but he wished us not to shoot till we could take aim [the equivalent of ‘Don’t fire until you can see the whites of their eyes’], for we knew not what need we should have, and there were four only of us which had their arms there ready, and stood before the open side of our barricade, which was first assaulted. They thought it best to defend it, lest the enemy should take it and our stuff, and so have the more vantage against us.”  Standish did not know how many Indians were in the woods, and they might need every shot they could take.  The group was divided, with some at the barricade, and others at the shallop -- but those at the shallop, although they had weapons, had no fire to light them.  “Our care was no less for the shallop, but we hoped all the rest would defend it; we called unto them to know how it was with them, and they answered, ‘Well! Well!’ every one and, ‘Be of good courage!’  We heard three of their pieces go off, and the rest called for a firebrand to light their matches. One took a log out of the fire on his shoulder and went and carried it unto them,” an act of bravery or foolhardiness which “was thought did not a little discourage our enemies. The cry of our enemies was dreadful, especially when our men ran out to recover their arms; their note was after this manner, ‘Woach woach ha ha hach woach.’”  The Pilgrims estimated that their attackers were at least thirty or forty, and perhaps more; the discovery party were backlit by their campfires, and thus made very easy targets.  “There was a lusty man and no whit less valiant, who was thought to be their captain, stood behind a tree within half a musket shot of us, and there let his arrows fly at us. He was seen to shoot three arrows, which were all avoided, for he at whom the first arrow was aimed, saw it, and stooped down and it flew over him; the rest were avoided also. He stood three shots of a musket. At length one took, as he said, full aim at him, and after which he gave extraordinary cry and away they all went. We followed them about a quarter of a mile, but we left six to keep our shallop, for we were careful about our business. Then we shouted all together two several times, and shot off a couple of muskets and so returned; this we did that they might see we were not afraid of them nor discouraged.  Thus it pleased God to vanquish our enemies and give us deliverance.”  The clothes that the group left hanging on the barricade were riddled with arrows, but none of the men suffered even a scratch.  They collected eighteen arrows, which they sent back to England with Captain Jones; most were over a yard long, “some whereof were headed with brass, others with harts' horn, and others with eagles' claws.”  They named site of this battle First Encounter Beach, as it is still called in modern Eastham.  This put an end to any lingering idea of having a permanent settlement on this part of Cape Cod.

    The party loaded up the shallop and headed along the southern edge of Cape Cod Bay.  The wind picked up, and with the temperature just at about freezing, horizontal sleet along with salt spray hit them full in the face.  They were somewhere near Manomet Bluff when a wave dislocated the rudder.  “The seas were grown so great that we were much troubled and in great danger, and night grew on. Anon Master Coppin bade us be of good cheer; he saw the harbour. As we drew near, the gale being stiff and we bearing great sail to get in, split our mast in three pieces, and were like to have cast away our shallop.”  They gathered up the pieces of the broken mast, took up their oars and started to row for their lives.  Coppin then realised that this was not Thievish Harbour, but a dangerous beach on which they were about to be flung.  Rowing hard, they passed Saquish Head, and found themselves on the lee of what they later discovered to be an island.  It was a windy night, and deepening darkness, and they discussed what to do.  Some suggested staying on board the shallop in case of another Indian attack, but more were afraid of freezing to death, and went ashore and built a large fire.  “Yet still the Lord kept us, … it pleased the Divine Providence that we fell upon a place of sandy ground, where our shallop did ride safe and secure all that night, and coming upon a strange island kept our watch all night in the rain upon that island.”

    Quite a day, all around …

  • 17 Dec 2020 3:14 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Third death: death of first woman passenger

    Dorothy May Bradford, wife of William Bradford, who was away with the exploring party to the westward, fell over board and was drowned.  Sue Allan has done substantial work on Dorothy’s English origins, and has connected her to the White family -- so that it appears probable that Susannah White, wife of William White and mother of newborn Peregrine White, was Dorothy’s aunt.  Dorothy was born in 1597 and came from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire: for further information, the result of old-fashioned traditional research, see Sue Allan, In the Shadow of Men: The Lives of Separatist Women (Burgess Hill: Domtom Publishing, 2020), 59-69.  In 1869, Jane Goodwin Austin’s short story, “William Bradford’s Love Life” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine suggested that Dorothy Bradford had jumped overboard as a suicide because of unrequited love for Captain Christopher Jones.  Although this is clearly fiction, this is the first time (two hundred and fifty years after the fact) that suicide while of unsound mind had been given as the cause of death.  It has since, unaccountably, been taken as established fact by a number of writers.  Given the fact that the Mayflower’s decks were slippery and coated with ice and snow, Dorothy was undoubtedly wearing (several layers of) heavy woollen garments and her shoes had flat, smooth leather soles, and that once she hit the freezing sea water death would have happened in minutes, there is no reason to conclude that this was necessarily suicide.  While it is not impossible, there is nothing to suggest this in the facts of this case.

    Meanwhile, back on shore:

    The exploration party looked for a possible place for permanent settlement around present day Wellfleet: some took the shallop and went down the coast, while others struck inland.  Those on land found plenty of graves, more numerous than before, but when they determined that they were Indian graves, they left them alone.  They also found abandoned Indian houses, with some of them appearing to have been recently abandoned; here again, they left them alone.  Neither the shallop nor the shore party found any place for a settlement or for an anchorage.  When the two parties were reunited at dusk at what is now called Herring River, a small tidal creek, they gathered tree trunks and branches into a circular barricade, stationed guards at the small opening in the makeshift palisade, and tried to get some sleep.

  • 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.

  • 15 Dec 2020 2:42 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in harbour 

    Weather cold and foul.  Francis Billington, the young son of one of the passengers, put the ship and all in great jeopardy, by shooting off a fowling-piece in his father’s cabin between decks where there was a small barrel of gunpowder open, and many people about the fire close by.  None were hurt.  Ten settlers were chosen to make a third, and more extensive, exploration of sites for a permanent settlement: “Captain Standish, Master Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Tilley, Edward Tilley, John Howland, and three of London, Richard Warren, Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Doty, and two of our seamen, John Allerton and Thomas English. Of the ship's company there went two of the master's mates, Master Clarke and Master Coppin, the master gunner, and three sailors.”

  • 14 Dec 2020 2:06 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Cape Cod harbour; First death since arrival

    Carpenter completing repairs on shallop. Much discussion of plans for settlement: “Robert Coppin, our pilot, made relation of a great navigable river and good harbor in the other headland of this bay, almost right over against Cape Cod, being in a right line not much above eight leagues distant, in which he had been once; and because that one of the wild men with whom they had some trucking stole a harping iron [harpoon] from them, they called it Thievish Harbour [probably modern Boston, Massachusetts - you may draw whatever conclusions you wish from Boston’s original name being “Thievish” -- although Boston is 49 miles west of Provincetown, but Coppin’s memory was certainly hazy ]. And beyond that place they were enjoined not to go, whereupon a company was chosen to go out upon a third discovery.”  Master Jones urged that the settlers should explore with their shallop at some distance; he refused, given the season, to stir from the present anchorage until a safe harbour had been discovered where they would settle permanently, and where the Mayflower might go without danger.

    Edward Thompson, an indentured servant of William White, died today, the first to die aboard the ship since it anchored in the harbour. Jeremy Bangs notes that the servants of Pilgrims known to have lived in Leiden (such as the Whites) may also be counted as from Leiden, because their apprenticeships or similar terms of service must have been contracted there (and not in England: see Strangers and Pilgrims, p. 446f.).  Caleb Johnson indicates that Edward was not yet 21, since he did not sign the Mayflower Compact: it is possible, however, that he could not sign because his health was so poor.  He might have been over 21 (as Bradford calls him a “servant” and not a “lad”) and was one of the men who did not sign (comprising as much as 20% of the adult male passengers).  I have frequently wondered about the dynamic in the community of having more than three quarters of the adult male passengers signing (whether all signatures were voluntary, or some were coerced, cannot now be determined), yet a substantial number of adult male passengers did not sign (for reasons that cannot now be known).  The fact that he was indentured to William White would suggest that his not signing was not for religious reasons or from a desire to bolt once it became clear that the group was not headed to the Hudson River; at this distance it is impossible to tell for certain.  Thom(p)son is a common enough name, and “it is unlikely anything conclusive can be determined [about his English origins] unless he can be tied with an association to his master William White (whose English origins are also unknown)” (Mayflower Passengers, p. 233).  Winslow and Bradford both give as a reason for speeding up a choice of a permanent settlement, the fact that people were now dying onboard the Mayflower; this must have added significant pressure to come to a quick determination.

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