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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, by William Halsall.jpg
Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)
Name: Mayflower
Namesake: Crataegus monogyna (may)[1]
Owner: Christopher Jones (¼ of the ship)
Maiden voyage: Before 1609
Out of service: 1622–1624
Fate: most likely taken apart by Rotherhithe shipbreaker c. 1624.
General characteristics
Class and type: Dutch cargo fluyt
Tonnage: 180 tons +
Length: c. 80–90 ft (24–27.5 m) on deck, 100–110 ft (30–33.5 m) overall.
Decks: Around 4
Capacity: Unknown, but carried c. 135 people to Plymouth Colony

Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth, England to the New World in 1620.[2] There were 102 passengers, and the crew is estimated to have been about 30, but the exact number is unknown.[3] The Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact prior to leaving the ship and establishing Plymouth Colony, a document which established a rudimentary form of democracy with each member contributing to the welfare of the community.[4]

As one of the earliest pilgrim vessels, the ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States. A second ship named Mayflower later made the London to Plymouth, Massachusetts voyage several times.[5]

Motivations for the voyage

A congregation of approximately four hundred English Puritans living in exile in Leiden, Holland, was determined to purge the Church of England of what they felt were many excesses and abuses. But instead of working for change in England, in 1608 they chose to live as Separatists in the religiously tolerant Holland. As Separatists, they were considered illegal radicals by England.[6]

However, life in Holland for the congregation became increasingly difficult. They were forced into menial jobs which led to various health afflictions. In addition, a number of the country's leading theologians began engaging in open debates which led to civil unrest, instilling the fear that Spain might again place Holland's population under siege, as it had done years earlier.[6] Those and other reasons became motivating forces in their deciding to sail to the New World, along with the benefit of being beyond the reach of King James and his bishops.[6]

Their willingness to travel to America was considered audacious and risky, as previous attempts to settle in North America had failed. Jamestown, founded in 1607, saw most of its settlers die within the first year. The following year, 440 of 500 of Jamestown's new arrivals died of starvation during the six months of winter.[6] The Puritan Separatists also learned of the constant threat of attacks by native Indians.[6] But despite all the arguments against going to a new land, their conviction that God wanted them to go held sway:[6] "We verily believe and trust the Lord is with us," they wrote, "and that He will graciously prosper our endeavors according to the simplicity of our hearts therein."[6]

John Carver, the first signer of the Mayflower Compact, which he wrote in 1620 during the Mayflower's three-month voyage, would inspire the Pilgrims with a "sense of earthly grandeur and divine purpose," and was called the "Moses of the Pilgrims," notes historian Jon Meacham.[7][8] Early American writer James Russell Lowell noted the similarity of the founding of America by the Pilgrims to that of ancient Israel by Moses: "Next to the fugitives whom Moses led out of Egypt, the little shipload of outcasts who landed at Plymouth are destined to influence the future of the world."[9]


Speedwell and Mayflower

Mayflower arrived in Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620 (satellite photo, 1997)
Mayflower arrived in Provincetown Harbor on November 11, 1620 (satellite photo, 1997)

Approximately 65 passengers embarked on Mayflower in the middle of July 1620 at either Blackwall or Wapping on the River Thames.[10] The ship then proceeded down the Thames into the English Channel and then on to the south coast of England to anchor at Southampton Water. She waited there for a rendezvous on July 22 with the Speedwell, which was coming from Holland with English separatist Puritans, members of the Leiden congregation who had been living in Holland to escape religious persecution in England.

Both ships set sail for America around August 5, but Speedwell sprang a leak shortly after, and the two ships were brought into Dartmouth for repairs. They made a new start after the repairs, and they were more than 200 miles (320 km) beyond Land's End at the southwestern tip of England when Speedwell sprang another leak. It was now early September, and they had no choice but to abandon Speedwell and make a determination on her passengers. This was a dire event, as the ship had wasted vital funds and was considered very important to the future success of their settlement in America. Both ships returned to Plymouth, where some of Speedwell passengers joined Mayflower and others returned to Holland. Mayflower then continued on her voyage to America, and Speedwell was sold soon afterwards.[11]

Mayflower carried 102 passengers plus a crew of 25 to 30 officers and men, bringing the total to approximately 130.[12] According to William Bradford, Speedwell was refitted and "made many voyages ... to the great profit of her owners." He also suggested that Speedwell's master used "cunning and deceit" to abort the voyage, possibly by causing leaks in the ship and motivated by a fear of starving to death in America.[13]

Mayflower sets sail

In early September, western gales began to make the North Atlantic a dangerous place for sailing. Mayflower's provisions were already quite low when departing Southampton, and they became lower still by delays of more than a month. The passengers had been on board the ship for this entire time, and they were worn out and in no condition for a very taxing, lengthy Atlantic journey cooped up in the cramped spaces of a small ship. But Mayflower sailed from Plymouth on September 6, 1620, O.S. (September 16, 1620, N.S.) with what Bradford called "a prosperous wind".[14]

Aboard Mayflower were many stores that supplied the pilgrims with the essentials needed for their journey and future lives. It is assumed that they carried tools and weapons, including cannon, shot, and gunpowder, as well as some live animals, including dogs, sheep, goats, and poultry. Horses and cattle came later. The ship also carried two boats: a long boat and a "shallop", a 21-foot boat powered by oars or sails. She also carried 12 artillery pieces, as the Pilgrims feared that they might need to defend themselves against enemy European forces, as well as the Indians.[15]

The passage was a miserable one, with huge waves constantly crashing against the ship's topside deck, fracturing a key structural support timber. The passengers had already suffered agonizing delays, shortages of food, and other shortages, and they were now called upon to provide assistance to the ship's carpenter in repairing the fractured main support beam. This was repaired with the use of a metal mechanical device called a jackscrew, which had been loaded on board to help in the construction of settler homes. It was now used to secure the beam to keep it from cracking farther, thus maintaining the seaworthiness of the vessel.[15][16]

The crew of Mayflower had some devices to assist them en route, such as a compass for navigation, as well as a log and line system to measure speed in nautical miles per hour (knots). Time was measured with the ancient method of an hourglass.

Arrival in America

Landing of the Pilgrims, painting by Charles Lucy (c. 1898)

On November 9, 1620, O.S. (November 19, 1620, N.S.), they sighted present-day Cape Cod. They spent several days trying to sail south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, where they had obtained permission to settle from the Company of Merchant Adventurers. However, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, well north of the intended area, where they anchored on November 11. The settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at Cape Cod, in what is now Provincetown Harbor, in order to establish legal order and to quell increasing strife within the ranks.[17][18][19][20]

The pilgrims stepping upon the shore, as described by William Bradford, the second Governor of the Plymouth Colony:

Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable earth, their proper element.[19]

On Monday, November 27, an exploring expedition was launched under the direction of Capt. Christopher Jones to search for a suitable settlement site. As master of Mayflower, Jones was not required to assist in the search, but he apparently thought it in his best interest to assist the search expedition. There were 34 persons in the open shallop: 24 passengers and 10 sailors. They were obviously not prepared for the bitter winter weather which they encountered on their reconnoiter, Mayflower passengers not being accustomed to winter weather much colder than back home. They were forced to spend the night ashore due to the bad weather which they encountered, ill-clad in below-freezing temperatures with wet shoes and stockings that became frozen. Bradford wrote, "Some of our people that are dead took the original of their death here" on that expedition.[21]

The settlers explored the snow-covered area and discovered an empty native village, now known as Corn Hill in Truro. The curious settlers dug up some artificially made mounds, some of which stored corn, while others were burial sites. The modern writer Nathaniel Philbrick claims that the settlers stole the corn and looted and desecrated the graves,[22] sparking friction with the locals.[23] Philbrick goes on to say that they explored the area of Cape Cod for several weeks as they moved down the coast to what is now Eastham, and he claims that the Pilgrims were looting and stealing native stores as they went.[24] He then writes about how they decided to relocate to Plymouth after a difficult encounter with the Nausets at First Encounter Beach in December 1620.

However, the only contemporary account of events, William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, records only that the pilgrims took "some" of the corn, to show to others back at the boat, leaving the rest. They later took what they needed from another store of grain, but paid the natives back in six months, and there was no resulting conflict.

Also there was found more of their corn and of their beans of various colors; the corn and beans they brought away, purposing to give them full satisfaction when they should meet with any of them as, about some six months afterward they did, to their good content.[25]

First winter

During the winter, the passengers remained on board Mayflower, suffering an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. When it ended, only 53 passengers remained—just over half; half of the crew died, as well. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and the passengers disembarked from Mayflower on March 21, 1621.[26]

Historian Benson John Lossing described that first settlement:

After many hardships, . . . the Pilgrim Fathers first set foot December, 1620 upon a bare rock on the bleak coast of Massachusetts Bay, while all around the earth was covered with deep snow. . . Dreary, indeed, was the prospect before them. Exposure and privations had prostrated one half of the men before the first blow of the ax had been struck to build a habitation. . . . One by one perished. The governor and his wife died in April 1621; and on the first of that month, forty-six of the one hundred emigrants were in their graves, nineteen of whom were signers of the Mayflower Compact.[27]

The settlers decided to mount "our great ordnances" on the hill overlooking the settlement in late February 1621, due to the fear of attack by the natives. Christopher Jones supervised the transportation of the "great guns"—about six iron cannons that ranged between four and eight feet (1.2 to 2.4 m) in length and weighed almost half a ton. The cannons were able to hurl iron balls 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) in diameter as far as 1,700 yards (1.5 km). This action made what was no more than a ramshackle village almost into a well-defended fortress.[28]

Jones had originally planned to return to England as soon as the Pilgrims found a settlement site. But his crew members began to be ravaged by the same diseases that were felling the Pilgrims, and he realized that he had to remain in Plymouth Harbor "till he saw his men began to recover."[29] Mayflower lay in New Plymouth harbor through the winter of 1620–21, then set sail for England on April 5, 1621, her empty hold ballasted with stones from the Plymouth Harbor shore. As with the Pilgrims, her sailors had been decimated by disease. Jones had lost his boatswain, his gunner, three quartermasters, the cook, and more than a dozen sailors.

Mayflower made excellent time on her voyage back to England. The westerly winds that had buffeted her coming out pushed her along going home, and she arrived at the home port of Rotherhithe in London on May 6, 1621,[30] less than half the time that it had taken her to sail to America."[31][a]


Some families traveled together, while some men came alone, leaving families in England and Leiden. Two wives on board were pregnant; Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to son Oceanus while at sea, and Susanna White gave birth to son Peregrine in late November while the ship was anchored in Cape Cod Harbor. He is historically recognized as the first European child born in the New England area. One child died during the voyage, and there was one stillbirth during the construction of the colony.

Pilgrims John Carver, William Bradford, and Miles Standish, at prayer during their voyage to North America. 1844 painting by Robert Walter Weir.
Pilgrims John Carver, William Bradford, and Miles Standish, at prayer during their voyage to North America. 1844 painting by Robert Walter Weir.

According to the Mayflower passenger list, just over a third of the passengers were Puritan Separatists who sought to break away from the established Church of England and create a society along the lines of their religious ideals. Other passengers were hired hands, servants, or farmers recruited by London merchants, all originally destined for the Colony of Virginia. Four of this latter group of passengers were small children given into the care of Mayflower pilgrims as indentured servants. The Virginia Company began the transportation of children in 1618.[33] Until relatively recently, the children were thought to be orphans, foundlings, or involuntary child labor. At that time, children were routinely rounded up from the streets of London or taken from poor families receiving church relief to be used as laborers in the colonies. Any legal objections to the involuntary transportation of the children were overridden by the Privy Council.[34][35] For instance it was proven that the four More children were sent to America because they were deemed illegitimate.[36] Three of the four More children died in the first winter in the New World, but Richard lived to be approximately 81, dying in Salem, probably in 1695 or 1696.[37]

The passengers mostly slept and lived in the low-ceilinged great cabins and on the main deck, which was 75 by 20 feet large (23 m × 6 m) at most. The cabins were thin-walled and extremely cramped, and the total area was 25 ft by 15 ft (7.6 m × 4.5 m) at its largest. Below decks, any person over five feet (150 cm) tall would be unable to stand up straight. The maximum possible space for each person would have been slightly less than the size of a standard single bed.[38]

Passengers would pass the time by reading by candlelight or playing cards and games such as nine men's morris.[15] Meals on board were cooked by the firebox, which was an iron tray with sand in it on which a fire was built. This was risky because it was kept in the waist of the ship. Passengers made their own meals from rations that were issued daily and food was cooked for a group at a time.[38]

Upon arrival in America, the harsh climate and scarcity of fresh food were exacerbated by the shortness of provisions due to the delay in departure. Living in these extremely close and crowded quarters, several passengers developed scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. At the time the use of lemons or limes to counter this disease was unknown, and the usual dietary sources of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables had been depleted, since these fresh foods could not be stored for long periods without their becoming rotten. Passengers who developed scurvy experienced symptoms such as bleeding gums, teeth falling out, and stinking breath.[39]

Passengers consumed large amounts of alcohol such as beer with meals. This was known to be safer than water, which often came from polluted sources causing diseases. All food and drink was stored in barrels known as "hogsheads".[39]

The passenger William Mullins brought 126 pairs of shoes and 13 pairs of boots in his luggage. Other items included oiled leather and canvas suits, stuff gowns and leather and stuff breeches, shirts, jerkins, doublets, neckcloths, hats and caps, hose, stockings, belts, piece goods, and haberdasherie. At his death, his estate consisted of extensive footwear and other items of clothing, and made his daughter Priscilla and her husband John Alden quite prosperous.[15][40][41]

No cattle or beasts of draft or burden were brought on the journey, but there were pigs, goats, and poultry. Some passengers brought family pets such as cats and birds. Peter Browne took his large bitch mastiff, and John Goodman brought along his spaniel.[15]

Mayflower ship history

There were 26 vessels bearing the name Mayflower in the Port Books of England during the reign of James I (1603–1625); it is not known why the name was so popular.[42] The identity of Captain Jones's Mayflower is based on records from her home port, her tonnage (est. 180–200 tons), and the master's name in 1620 in order to avoid confusion with the many other Mayflower ships.[42] It is not known when and where Mayflower was built, although late records designate her as "of London". She was designated in the Port Books of 1609–11 as "of Harwich" in the county of Essex, coincidentally the birthplace of Mayflower master Christopher Jones about 1570.[43]

Records dating from August 1609 note Christopher Jones as master and part owner of Mayflower when his ship was chartered for a voyage from London to Trondheim in Norway and back to London. The ship lost an anchor on her return due to bad weather, and she made short delivery of her cargo of herring. Litigation resulted, and this was still proceeding in 1612. According to records, the ship was twice on the Thames at London in 1613, once in July and again in October and November, and in 1616 she was on the Thames carrying a cargo of wine, which suggests that the ship had recently been on a voyage to France, Spain, Portugal, the Canaries, or some other wine-producing land. Jones sailed Mayflower cross-Channel, taking English woolens to France and bringing French wine back to London. He also transported hats, hemp, Spanish salt, hops, and vinegar to Norway, and he may have taken Mayflower whaling in the North Atlantic in the Greenland area or sailed to Mediterranean ports.[citation needed]

After 1616, there is no further record which specifically relates to Jones's Mayflower until 1624. This is unusual for a ship trading to London, as it would not usually disappear from the records for such a long time. No Admiralty court document can be found relating to the pilgrim fathers' voyage of 1620, although this might be due to the unusual way in which the transfer of the pilgrims was arranged from Leyden to New England, or some of the records of the period might have been lost.[citation needed]

Jones was one of the owners of the ship by 1620, along with Christopher Nichols, Robert Child, and Thomas Short. It was from Child and Jones that Thomas Weston chartered her in the summer of 1620 to undertake the Pilgrim voyage. Weston had a significant role in Mayflower voyage due to his membership in the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, and he eventually traveled to the Plymouth Colony himself.[44][45][46]

Mayflower structure and layout

Mayflower depicted on a 1920 U.S. postage stamp
Mayflower depicted on a 1920 U.S. postage stamp

Mayflower was square-rigged with a beakhead bow and high, castle-like structures fore and aft which protected the crew and the main deck from the elements—designs that were typical of English merchant ships of the early 17th century. Her stern carried a 30-foot high, square aft-castle which made the ship difficult to sail close to the wind and not well suited against the North Atlantic's prevailing westerlies, especially in the fall and winter of 1620; the voyage from England to America took more than two months as a result. Mayflower's return trip to London in April–May 1621 took less than half that time, with the same strong winds now blowing in the direction of the voyage.[44][47]

Mayflower's exact dimensions are not known, but she probably measured about 100 feet (30 m) from the beak of her prow to the tip of her stern superstructure, about 25 feet (7.6 m) at her widest point, and the bottom of her keel about 12 feet (3.6 m) below the waterline. William Bradford estimated that she had a cargo capacity of 180 tons, and surviving records indicate that she could carry 180 casks holding hundreds of gallons each.[47] The general layout of the ship was as follows:

  • Three masts: mizzen (aft), main (midship), and fore, and also a spritsail in the bow area[48]
  • Three primary levels: main deck, gun deck, and cargo hold

Aft on the main deck in the stern was the cabin for Master Christopher Jones, measuring about ten by seven feet (3 m × 2.1 m). Forward of that was the steerage room, which probably housed berths for the ship's officers and contained the ship's compass and whipstaff (tiller extension) for sailing control. Forward of the steerage room was the capstan, a vertical axle used to pull in ropes or cables. Far forward on the main deck, just aft of the bow, was the forecastle space where the ship's cook prepared meals for the crew; it may also have been where the sailors slept.[49]

The poop deck was located on the ship's highest level above the stern on the aft castle and above Master Jones' cabin. On this deck stood the poop house, which was ordinarily a chart room or a cabin for the master's mates on most merchant ships; but it might have been used by the passengers on Mayflower, either for sleeping or cargo.[50][51]

The gun deck was where the passengers resided during the voyage, in a space measuring about 50 by 25 feet (15.2 m × 7.6 m) with a five-foot (1.5 m) ceiling. But it was a dangerous place if there was conflict, as it had gun ports from which cannon could be run out to fire on the enemy. The gun room was in the stern area of the deck, to which passengers had no access because it was the storage space for gunpowder and ammunition. The gun room might also house a pair of stern chasers, small cannon used to fire from the ship's stern. Forward on the gun deck in the bow area was a windlass, similar in function to the steerage capstan, which was used to raise and lower the ship's main anchor. There were no stairs for the passengers on the gun deck to go up through the gratings to the main deck, which they could reach only by climbing a wooden or rope ladder.[50][51]

Below the gun deck was the cargo hold where the passengers kept most of their food stores and other supplies, including most of their clothing and bedding. It stored the passengers' personal weapons and military equipment, such as armor, muskets, gunpowder and shot, swords, and bandoliers. It also stored all the tools that the Pilgrims would need, as well as all the equipment and utensils needed to prepare meals in the New World. Some Pilgrims loaded trade goods on board, including Isaac Allerton, William Mullins, and possibly others; these also most likely were stored in the cargo hold.[52] There was no privy on Mayflower; passengers and crew had to fend for themselves in that regard. Gun deck passengers most likely used a bucket as a chamber pot, fixed to the deck or bulkhead to keep it from being jostled at sea.[51][52]

Mayflower was heavily armed; her largest gun was a minion cannon which was brass, weighed about 1,200 pounds (545 kg), and could shoot a 3.5 pound (1.6 kg) cannonball almost a mile (1,600 m). She also had a saker cannon of about 800 pounds (360 kg), and two base cannons that weighed about 200 pounds (90 kg) and shot a 3 to 5 ounce ball (85–140 g). She carried at least ten pieces of ordnance on the port and starboard sides of her gun deck: seven cannons for long-range purposes, and three smaller guns often fired from the stern at close quarters that were filled with musket balls. Ship's Master Jones unloaded four of the pieces to help fortify Plymouth Colony.[47]

Mayflower officers, crew, and others

According to author Charles Banks, the officers and crew of Mayflower consisted of a captain, four mates, four quartermasters, surgeon, carpenter, cooper, cooks, boatswains, gunners, and about 36 men before the mast, making a total of about 50. The entire crew stayed with Mayflower in Plymouth through the winter of 1620–1621, and about half of them died during that time. The remaining crewmen returned to England on Mayflower, which sailed for London on April 5, 1621.[53][54]

Crew members per various sources

Banks states that the crew totaled 36 men before the mast and 14 officers, making a total of 50. Nathaniel Philbrick estimates between 20 and 30 sailors in her crew whose names are unknown. Nick Bunker states that Mayflower had a crew of at least 17 and possibly as many as 30. Caleb Johnson states that the ship carried a crew of about 30 men, but the exact number is unknown.[3][55][56][57]

Officers and crew

  • Captain: Christopher Jones. About age 50, of Harwich, a seaport in Essex, England, which was also the port of his ship Mayflower. He and his ship were veterans of the European cargo business, often carrying wine to England, but neither had ever crossed the Atlantic. By June 1620, he and Mayflower had been hired for the Pilgrims voyage by their business agents in London, Thomas Weston of the Merchant Adventurers and Robert Cushman.[58][59]
Historical marker in London honoring Mayflower and Captain Jones
Historical marker in London honoring Mayflower and Captain Jones
Plymouth Rock, which commemorates the landing of Mayflower in 1620
Plymouth Rock, which commemorates the landing of Mayflower in 1620
  • Masters Mate: John Clark (Clarke), Pilot. By age 45 in 1620, Clark already had greater adventures than most other mariners of that dangerous era. His piloting career began in England about 1609. In early 1611, he was pilot of a 300-ton ship on his first New World voyage, with a three-ship convoy sailing from London to the new settlement of Jamestown in Virginia. Two other ships were in that convoy, and the three ships brought 300 new settlers to Jamestown, going first to the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Nevis. While in Jamestown, Clark piloted ships in the area carrying various stores. During that time, he was taken prisoner in a confrontation with the Spanish; he was taken to Havana and held for two years, then 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 back in Jamestown as pilot of the ship Falcon. Shortly after his return to England, he was hired as pilot for Mayflower in 1620.[56][60][61][62]
  • Masters Mate: Robert Coppin, Pilot. Coppin had prior New World experience; he previously hunted whales in Newfoundland and sailed the coast of New England.[56][60][63] He was an early investor in the Virginia Company, being named in the Second Virginia Charter of 1609. He was possibly from Harwich in Essex, the hometown of Captain Jones.
  • Masters Mate: Andrew Williamson
  • Masters Mate: John Parker[60]
  • Surgeon: Doctor Giles Heale. The surgeon on board Mayflower was never mentioned by Bradford, but his identity was well established. He was essential in providing comfort to all who died or were made ill that first winter. He was a young man from Drury Lane in the parish of St. Giles in the Field, London who had completed his apprenticeship with the Barber-Surgeons in the previous year. On February 21, 1621, he was a witness to the death-bed will of William Mullins. He survived the first winter and returned to London on Mayflower in April 1621, where he began his medical practice and worked as a surgeon until his death in 1653.[64][65][66]
  • Cooper: John Alden. Alden was a 21-year-old from Harwich in Essex and a distant relative of Captain Jones. He hired on apparently while Mayflower was anchored at Southampton Waters. He was responsible for maintaining the ship's barrels, known as hogsheads, which were critical to the passengers' survival and held the only source of food and drink while at sea; tending them was a job which required a crew member's attention. Bradford noted that Alden was "left to his own liking to go or stay" in Plymouth rather than return with the ship to England. He decided to remain.[67][68]
  • Quartermaster: (names unknown), 4 men. These men were in charge of maintaining the ship's cargo hold, as well as the crew's hours for standing watch. Some of the “before the mast" crewmen may also have been in this section. These quartermasters were also responsible for fishing and maintaining all fishing supplies and harpoons. The names of the quartermasters are unknown, but it is known that three of the four men died the first winter.[60][62]
  • Cook: (name unknown). He was responsible for preparing the crew's meals and maintaining all food supplies and the cook room, which was typically located in the ship's forecastle (front end). The unnamed cook died the first winter.[69]
  • Master Gunner: (name unknown). He was in charge of the ship's guns, ammunition, and powder. Some of those "before the mast" were likely in his charge. He is recorded as going on an exploration on December 6, 1620, and was "sick unto death and so remained all that day, and the next night". He died later that winter.[70]
  • Boatswain: (name unknown). He was the person in charge of the ship's rigging and sails, the anchors, and the ship's longboat. The majority of the crew members "before the mast" were most likely under his supervision, working the sails and rigging. The operation of the ship's shallop was also probably under his control, a light open boat with oars or sails (see seaman Thomas English). William Bradford made this comment about the boatswain: "the boatswain... was a proud young man, who would often curse and scoff at the passengers, but when he grew weak they had compassion on him and helped him." But despite such assistance, the unnamed boatswain died the first winter.[69]
  • Carpenter: (name unknown). He was responsible for making sure that the hull was well-caulked and the masts were in good order. He was the person responsible for maintaining all areas of the ship in good condition and being a general repairman. He also maintained the tools and all necessary items to perform his carpentry tasks. His name is unknown, but his tasks were quite important to the safety and seaworthiness of the ship.[60][71]
  • Swabber: (various crewmen). This was the lowliest position on the ship, responsible for cleaning (swabbing) the decks. The swabber usually had an assistant who was responsible for cleaning the ship's beakhead (extreme front end), which was also the crew's toilet.[72]

Known Mayflower seamen

  • John Allerton: A Mayflower seaman who was hired by the company as labor to help in the Colony during the first year, then to return to Leiden to help other church members seeking to travel to America. He signed the Mayflower Compact. He was a seaman on ship's shallop with Thomas English on exploration of December 6, 1620, and died sometime before Mayflower returned to England in April 1621.[73][74]
  • ____ Ely: A Mayflower seaman who was contracted to stay for a year, which he did. He returned to England with fellow crewman William Trevor on the Fortune in December 1621. Genealogist Dr. Jeremy Bangs believes that his name was either John or Christopher Ely (or Ellis), both of whom are documented in Leiden, Holland.[75]
  • Thomas English: A Mayflower seaman who was hired to be the master of the shallop (see Boatswain) and to be part of the company. He signed the Mayflower Compact. He was a seaman on the ship's shallop with John Allerton on exploration of December 6, 1620, and died sometime before the departure of Mayflower for England in April 1621. He appeared in Leiden records as "Thomas England".[76][77]
  • William Trevore (Trevor): A Mayflower seaman who was hired to remain in Plymouth for one year. One reason for his hiring was his prior New World experience. He was one of those seamen to crew the shallop used in coastal trading. He returned to England with _____ Ely and others on the Fortune in December 1621. In 1623, Robert Cushman noted that Trevor reported to the Adventurers about what he saw in the New World. He did at some time return as master of a ship and was recorded living in Massachusetts Bay Colony in April 1650.[78][79][80]

Unidentified passenger

  • "Master" Leaver: Another passenger not mentioned by Bradford is a person called "Master" Leaver. He was named in Mourt's Relation (London, 1622), under a date of January 12, 1621, as a leader of an expedition to rescue Pilgrims lost in the forest for several days while searching for housing-roof thatch. It is unknown in what capacity he came to Mayflower and his given name is unknown. The title of "Master" indicates that he was a person of some authority and prominence in the company. He may have been a principal officer of Mayflower. No more is known of him; he may have returned to England on Mayflower's April 1621 voyage or died of the illnesses that affected so many that first winter.[81]

Later history

The 1920-21 Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar, designed by Cyrus E. Dallin, commemorates the 300th anniversary of Mayflower's voyages
The 1920-21 Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar, designed by Cyrus E. Dallin, commemorates the 300th anniversary of Mayflower's voyages

Three of Mayflower's owners applied to the Admiralty court for an appraisal of the ship on May 4, 1624, two years after Captain Jones' death in 1622; one of these applicants was Jones' widow Mrs. Josian (Joan) Jones. This appraisal probably was made to determine the valuation of the ship for the purpose of settling the estate of its late master. The appraisal was made by four mariners and shipwrights of Rotherhithe, home and burial place of Captain Jones, where Mayflower was apparently then lying in the Thames at London. The appraisement is extant and provides information on ship's gear on board at that time, as well as equipment such as muskets and other arms. The ship may have been laid up since Jones' death and allowed to get out of repair, as that is what the appraisal indicates.[42][82] The vessel was valued at one hundred and twenty-eight pounds, eight shillings, and fourpence.[83]

What finally became of Mayflower is an unsettled issue. Charles Edward Banks, an English historian of the Pilgrim ship, claims that the ship was finally broken up, with her timbers used in the construction of a barn at Jordans village in Buckinghamshire. Tradition claims that this barn still exists as the Mayflower Barn, located within the grounds of Old Jordan in South Buckinghamshire. In 1624, Thomas Russell supposedly added to part of a farmhouse already there with timbers from a ship, believed to be from the Pilgrim ship Mayflower, bought from a shipbreaker's yard in Rotherhithe. The well-preserved structure was a tourist attraction, receiving visitors each year from all over the world and particularly from America, but it is now privately owned and not open to the public.[42]

Second Mayflower

Another ship called Mayflower made a voyage from London to Plymouth Colony in 1629 carrying 35 passengers, many from the Pilgrim congregation in Leiden that organized the first voyage. This was not the same ship that made the original voyage with the first settlers. The 1629 voyage began in May and reached Plymouth in August; this ship also made the crossing from England to America in 1630 (as part of the Winthrop Fleet), 1633, 1634, and 1639. It attempted the trip again in 1641, departing London in October of that year under master John Cole, with 140 passengers bound for Virginia. It never arrived. On October 18, 1642, a deposition was made in England regarding the loss.[84]

Place in history

The Pilgrim ship Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States.[85]

The main record for the voyage of Mayflower and the disposition of the Plymouth Colony comes from the letters and journal of William Bradford, who was a guiding force and later the governor of the colony.

The 300th anniversary of Mayflower's sailing was commemorated in 1920 and 1921 by the issuance of the Pilgrim Tercentenary half dollar, which portrays the ship on its reverse and passenger William Bradford on its obverse.

The 400th anniversary of Mayflower's sailing will take place in 2020. The Harwich Mayflower Heritage Centre is hoping to build a replica of the ship at Harwich, England.[86]

See also


  1. ^ Jones died after coming back from a voyage to France on March 5, 1622, at about age 52. For the next two years, Mayflower lay at her berth in Rotherhithe, not far from Jones' grave at St. Mary's church. By 1624, she was no longer useful as a ship; her subsequent fate is unknown, but she was probably broken up about that time.[32]


  1. ^ Angier, Bradford (July 29, 2008). "Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants". Stackpole Books – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Folsom, George. et al. Historical Magazine: and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History, and Biography of America. (C. B. Richardson, 1867) page 277
  3. ^ a b Johnson 2006, p. 33.
  4. ^ Bertrand Brown, 'To Celebrate the 300th Anniversary of America's Origin', The Journal of Education", Vol. 92, No. 6 (Trustees of Boston University, August 1920), p. 151
  5. ^ "The Mayflower and the Birth of America", Sky History
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  7. ^ Meacham, Jon, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Random House, 2006, p. 40
  8. ^ Talbot, Archie Lee (1930), A New Plymouth Colony at Kennebeck, Brunswick: Library of Congress.
  9. ^ Lowell, James Russell (1913), The Round Table, Boston: Gorham Press, pp. 217–18, Next to the fugitives whom Moses led out of Egypt, the little shipload of outcasts who landed at Plymouth are destined to influence the future of the world. The spiritual thirst of mankind has for ages been quenched at Hebrew fountains; but the embodiment in human institutions of truths uttered by the Son of Man eighteen centuries ago was to be mainly the work of Puritan thought and Puritan self-devotion. …If their municipal regulations smack somewhat of Judaism, yet there can be no nobler aim or more practical wisdom than theirs; for it was to make the law of man a living counterpart of the law of God, in their highest conception of it.
  10. ^ Charles Edward Banks p.17
  11. ^ The story of the Pilgrim fathers, 1606-1623 A. D.; Arber, Edward, ed. 1836-1912., p. 341,, accessed 11/28/2019
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Further reading

External links

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