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  • 7 Jan 2021 3:04 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor 

    All who were able went ashore this morning to work on a platform for ordnance on the hill to the back of the settlement: “so many as could, went to work on the hill where we purposed to build our platform for our ordnance, and which doth command all the plain and the bay, and from whence we may see far into the sea, and might be easier impaled, having two rows of houses and a fair street. So in the afternoon we went to measure out the grounds, and first we took notice of how many families there were, willing all single men that had no wives to join with some family, as they thought fit, that so we might build fewer houses, which was done, and we reduced them to nineteen families.”  This was the initial plan, but the death toll later caused them radically to revise their expectations downward.  Instead of nineteen, only seven houses were built during the first year, along with four common use buildings, including the “rendezvous,” which served as fort, church, storehouse, common area, and gathering place.  “To greater families we allotted larger plots, to every person half a pole in breadth, and three in length, and so lots were cast where every man should lie, which was done, and staked out. We thought this proportion was large enough at the first for houses and gardens, to impale them round, considering the weakness of our people, many of them growing ill with cold, for our former discoveries in frost and storms, and the wading at Cape Cod had brought much weakness amongst us, which increased so every day more and more, and after was the cause of many of their deaths.” All but the guard returned to the ship at night, about a mile and a half away.

  • 6 Jan 2021 2:39 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in harbour

    Sent working party ashore.  All but the guard came back to the Mayflower at night; the common house by now has partial walls and a roof, with the thatch made from reeds and cattails from the nearby marsh.

  • 5 Jan 2021 2:56 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Plymouth harbour 

    A violent storm of wind and rain.  The weather so foul this morning that none could go ashore.  Only a small amount of work could be done, but those on land refused to be deterred by the weather.  The walls of the house were made of hewn tree trunks, interwoven with branches and twigs that were covered with clay.  This “wattle and daub” construction was surmounted by a thatched roof (which would have been a familiar construction from England).  There may or may not have been a chimney -- it is possible that there was just a hole in the roof, through which the smoke from the open fire on the dirt floor escaped.  There was probably no window covering, at least immediately: eventually there would have been linseed coated parchment used to cover the openings, which would have been semi-opaque.  There was no glass.  The common house would thus have been very dark and very smoky, and the floor was soon covered with bedding (wall to wall) as this was initially the only shelter on land.

  • 4 Jan 2021 3:34 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Plymouth harbour

     “We went on shore, some to fell timber, some to saw, some to rive (i.e., to split wood or stone), and some to carry, so no man rested all that day. But towards night some, as they were at work, heard a noise of some Indians, which caused us all to go to our muskets, but we heard no further. …. That night we had a sore storm of wind and rain.”  They began to frame the first house about twenty feet square for their common use, to receive them and their goods: there was no foundation to it, since they had neither the manpower, the time, nor the equipment for that kind of construction.  All but twenty of the passengers came back aboard at night, leaving the rest to keep guard on shore. 

    In the Julian calendar, today was 25 December [Christmas Day], but it was not observed by these colonists, being opposed to all saints’ days as a profanation of the pure Word of God; “we began to drink water aboard, but at night the master caused us to have some beer, and so on board we had divers times now and then some beer, but on shore none at all.”  Philbrick eloquently describes the setting (Mayflower, 81): “Ahead of them was an unknown wilderness that they could not help but inhabit with all their fears.  Behind them was the harbor and the distant Mayflower, lights beginning to twinkle through her cabin windows, a smudge of smoke rising from the galley stove in the forecastle.  What would have astounded a modern sensibility … was the absolute quiet of the scene.  Save for the gurgling of Town Brook, the lap of waves against the shore, and the wind in the bare winter branches, everything was silent as they listened and waited.”  Silent Night, indeed.

  • 3 Jan 2021 2:43 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Plymouth harbour 

    Second Sunday here.  “Our people on shore heard a cry of some savages (as they thought) which caused an alarm, and to stand on their guard, expecting an assault, but all was quiet.”

    This day Solomon Prower died, son of Mary and step-son of Christopher Martin.  Solomon’s death was the sixth this month, and the second in this harbour: the passengers are now well below one hundred.  A burying-party went ashore with Prower’s body, despite it being the Sabbath.

    Caleb Johnson notes (Mayflower Descendants, 199) that Solomon did not sign the Mayflower Compact, and concluded that he was not yet 21 (putting his birth somewhere between 1600 and 1606, when his widowed mother married Christopher Martin).  Solomon, like his stepfather, was charged with ecclesiastical offenses while in Great Burstead, Essex: he was presented to the Archdeacon’s Court for “refusing to answer me at all unless I would ask him some question in some other catechism” (i.e., in some catechism other than the Book of Common Prayer, which the Puritans rejected).  Johnson, however, later placed his birth in 1597, as the son of Edward and Mary Prower, since “Solomon Prower, singleman,” was on night watch duty in Billericay on 15 September 1619, and must therefore have been at least 21 at the time (Mayflower Quarterly 76 [2010]:242-246).  If this is correct, then Solomon is a tenth adult male who did not sign the Mayflower Compact, bringing the non-signers to 20% of the adult male passengers. 

    Caleb Johnson notes in “Mary (Prower) Martin: A new Mayflower ancestor” that since Mary Prower (her maiden name is unknown) was a Mayflower passenger, all of her children by her first marriage (five are known) would be Mayflower descendants.  Edward, the eldest, was born around 1594, and was probably named for his father; Solomon, the second son, was born around 1596.  Two of the children died in infancy, and Solomon died (unmarried) in Plymouth Harbour, so if there are any descendants of Mary Prower living today, they would be descendants of either Edward Prower or Mary Prower (baptised 21 June 1601, and presumably named after her mother -- nothing further is known about her).

    “News of Solomon Prower’s death in America,” Johnson continues, “would have returned to the families in England with the Mayflower, which arrived back in May 1621.  Three months later, Edward Prower and his wife Dorothy registered the baptism of their first child at Great Burstead, naming him Solomon Prower.  There seems little doubt that Edward named his son after his recently deceased brother Solomon.  The young infant Solomon Prower did not survive very long … So important was the family name that Edward and Dorothy named their next child Solomon as well, baptised 22 November 1622.”  Why was the name Solomon so important to this family?  Is this a clue for some other relative’s name who has not been previously identified?  Edward and Dorothy Prower (Solomon’s older brother and sister-in-law) also had a daughter (Martha Prower), and there is no burial record in the parish for either Solomon or Martha, so it is entirely possible that they survived to adulthood, married, and left behind descendants.  Caleb Johnson, in the same article, has also turned up a son of Mary (Prower) and Christopher Martin named Nathaniel, who was in trouble with ecclesiastical authorities in March 1619 for “answering [the vicar] crosslie,” perhaps during catechism instruction.  So if there are any descendants of Nathaniel Martin, they, too, would be Mayflower descendants.

    * * * * *

    The issue about answering questions that was brought to the Archdeacon’s court has to do with the catechism of the Book of Common Prayer.  In the “Instruction to be learned of every person before he be brought to be Confirmed by the Bishop,” the first two questions are: Q: “What is your name?” Answer: N. or N.N.  Q: “Who gave you this name?”  Answer: My Godfathers and Godmothers in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.  Solomon Prower (and probably Nathaniel Martin), following their parents, refused to answer these questions because they were associated with baptismal ceremonies that were not contained in Scripture, and were part of the preparation for Confirmation, a sacrament rejected by the Puritans.  Actually, smart-mouthed Solomon Prower is recorded (11 April 1620) to have answered “Mr. Pease the vicar when he asked him who gave him his name: he answered him he did not knowe because his father was dead and he did not knowe his godfathers” (MQ 76 [2010]: 243, from the Essex Record Office, Archdeaconry Records D/AEA 31 folio 279d).  I have often been amused by the difference in the opening questions of various catechisms: the Baltimore Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church starts out: “Who made you?”; the Westminster Catechism of the Reformed tradition starts out “What is the chief end of man?”  The Book of Common Prayer catechism (Anglican) sets the bar much lower with “What is your name?”

  • 2 Jan 2021 2:41 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor in Plymouth harbour

    Sent the body of Richard Britteridge ashore for burial, the storm having prevented taking it before, and also a large party of colonists to fell timber and begin construction of houses.  Left a large number on shore at the rendezvous.  Fetched wood and water.

  • 1 Jan 2021 3:01 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Plymouth harbour

    The storm continues, so that no one could go ashore, or those on land come aboard. 

    This morning goodwife Allerton was delivered of a son, but still-born. He was the third child born on board the ship since leaving England (all boys!) — the first in this harbour.

    Note that although we start the new year on 1 January, the Julian calendar still used by the Pilgrims did not start the new calendar year until 25 March (the anniversary of Jesus’ Incarnation).  Thus the year from today through the end of March would be 1620 to the Pilgrims and the English, but 1621 to most of the rest of the world and to us, who follow the Gregorian calendar.  Years in this blog will accordingly be “double dated.”  This change is in addition to the addition of ten days that occurred with the transition to the Gregorian calendar (so that while 1 January 1621 would be exactly 400 years ago in the Gregorian calendar, the exact same day would be 22 December 1620 in the Julian calendar).

  • 31 Dec 2020 3:02 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Plymouth harbour

    Wet and stormy, so the Pilgrims could not go ashore as planned; the Mayflower had to set out another anchor in the gale-force winds.  It was exceptionally uncomfortable for the party on shore, who were soaked, freezing, and starving: they “were wet, not having daylight enough to make them a sufficient court of guard to keep them dry. All that night it blew and rained extremely; it was so tempestuous that the shallop could not go on land so soon as was meet, for they had no victuals on land. About eleven o'clock the shallop went off with much ado with provision, but could not return; it blew so strong and was such foul weather that we were forced to let fall our anchor and ride with three anchors ahead.”   

    This day Richard Britteridge died aboard the ship, the first to die in this harbour.  Richard was a signer of the Mayflower Compact, and was listed in Bradford’s list of passengers with other adult, unmarried males (as opposed to indentured servants or children).  Richard’s exact date of death is recorded in Thomas Prince’s Chronological History of New England (1736), which relied in part on William Bradford’s “Register of Births and Deaths” (which no longer exists, having disappeared in the chaos of the American Revolution).  Caleb Johnson (Mayflower Passengers, 101) has identified a Richard Brightridge (not a very common surname), son of Anthony Brightridge, who was baptised in Crowhurst, Sussex, on 31 December 1581, which, if he is one and the same as the passenger, would make him 39 at his death.  This is, however, only a possibility.  There is no record of any marriage or children for him.

  • 30 Dec 2020 2:56 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    At anchor, Plymouth harbour, many ill

    After service the colonists decided to go ashore this morning and determine upon one of two places which were thought most fitting for their habitation.  “After we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution: to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places, which we thought most fitting for us, for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer. After our landing and viewing of the places, so well as we could we came to a conclusion, by most voices, to set on the mainland, on the first place, on a high ground, where there is a great deal of land cleared, and hath been planted with corn three or four years ago, and there is a very sweet brook runs under the hillside, and many delicate springs of as good water as can be drunk, and where we may harbour our shallops and boats exceedingly well, and in this brook much good fish in their seasons; on the further side of the river also much corn-ground cleared. In one field is a great hill on which we point to make a platform and plant our ordnance, which will command all round about. From thence we may see into the bay, and far into the sea, and we may see thence Cape Cod.”  It is interesting to note the “voice vote” -- probably calling out names and asking for a choice (as opposed to a written ballot), rather than using the equivalent of an applause meter.  The site known as Plimoth, and Cole’s Hill in particular, was chosen.  A considerable party went ashore and left twenty of their number there on the hill to make a rendezvous, the rest returning to the Mayflower at night, “resolving in the morning to come all ashore and to build houses.”  “Our greatest labour will be fetching of our wood, which is half a quarter of an English mile, but there is enough so far off.  What people inhabit here we yet know not, for as yet we have seen none.”

  • 29 Dec 2020 3:04 AM | Soule (Administrator)

     At anchor, Plymouth harbour

    A party from the ship went ashore to explore, some going by land and some keeping to the shallop.  A creek was found leading inland to a settlement site near the (modern) town of Kingston: “We found a creek, and went up three English miles. A very pleasant river, at full sea a bark of thirty tons may go up, but at low water scarce our shallop could pass. This place we had a great liking to plant in, but that it was so far from our fishing, our principal profit, and so encompassed with woods that we should be in much danger of the savages, and our number being so little, and so much ground to clear, so as we thought good to quit and clear [i.e., leave] that place till we were of more strength.”  It was given the name of “Jones River” in compliment to the captain of the Mayflower.  “Some of us having a good mind for safety to plant in the greater isle,” i.e., Clark’s Island, where the exploration party had spent two days the previous week after almost being shipwrecked during a storm, “we crossed the bay which is there five or six miles over, and found the isle about a mile and a half or two miles about, all wooded, and no fresh water but two or three pits, that we doubted of fresh water in summer, and so full of wood as we could hardly clear so much as to serve us for corn. Besides, we judged it cold for our corn, and some part very rocky, yet divers thought of it as a place defensible, and of great security” -- this would certainly have been a safe spot to defend in case of an Indian attack.  All came aboard at night with resolution to fix, tomorrow, which of the several places examined they would settle upon: the options were (1) making a settlement inland near modern day Kingston, although this was the least acceptable, and was probably not even considered in the final choice; (2) returning to the defensible and wooded but water-poor Clark’s Island; (3) the top of a 165-foot hill that had been cleared by the Indians (although none were in evidence) and from which the surrounding coastline could be seen for miles, near several fresh water springs, a salt marsh, and an anchorage for small boats.

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