The “Pilgrims”, the Mayflower voyage of 1620 and the settlement of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts

The Mayflower Memorial in Southampton, Hampshire, England

The Mayflower was the ship that transported English and Dutch Separatists and other adventurers referred to by the Separatists as “the Strangers” to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620.   The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on 6/16 Sep 1620 with 102 passengers and about 30 crewmembers aboard the small 100-foot ship.  During the first month of the voyage, the seas were not severe, but by the second month the ship was being hit by strong North Atlantic winter gales, causing the ship to be badly shaken, with water leaking from structural damage.  There were two deaths, but this was just a precursor of what happened after their arrival in Cape Cod, when almost half the company would die in the first winter.  On 9/19  Nov 1620, they sighted land, which was Cape Cod.  After several days of trying to sail south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on 11/21 Nov 1620.  The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.  The Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States.  The main record for the voyage of the 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.

My family has many historical connections to the Mayflower voyage of 1620:

I have identified four ancestors (all on my father’s side) who were passengers on the Mayflower, which arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620:

  1. John Alden (1599-1687), paternal 10th g-grandfather
  2. Priscilla Mullins (1602-1688), paternal 10th g-grandmother and wife of John Alden
  3. William Mullins (1578-1621), paternal 11th g-grandfather and father of Priscilla Mullins
  4. Alice (1578-1621), paternal 11th g-grandmother and mother of Priscilla Mullins

I have also identified more than ten Mayflower passengers who are also related to us, though not directly ancestral:

  1. Isaac Allerton (1586-1659), g-grandfather of 1st cousin 10x removed Elizabeth Lee (1709-1750) whose paternal grandfather is Richard Lee (1617-1664), my 10th g-grandfather.
  2. John Billington[1] (1580-1630) is the paternal grandfather of Elizabeth Billington. She was the second wife of Richard Bullock, my paternal 10th g-grandfather. In 1630, John Billington was convicted of murder at Plymouth, and he has the distinction of being the first person to be hanged for any crime in New England.
  3. William Brewster (1566-1644), g-grandfather of wife of 9th g-grand uncle, Sarah Allerton (1671-1731) wife of Hancock Lee (1653-1709) whose father is Richard Lee (1617-1664), my 10th g-grandfather.
  4. Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644), paternal grandfather of wife (Bethia Hopkins) of 9th g-grand uncle (Samuel Stocking).
  5. John Howland (1602-1673), 10th g-grand uncle.  He is the brother of Arthur Howland, who also immigrated to Massachusetts, though not on the Mayflower.
  6. Joan Hurst (1567-1621), mother-in-law of 10th g-grand uncle (John Howland)
  7. Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687), wife of 10th g-grand uncle (John Howland)
  8. John Tilley (1571-1621), father-in-law of 10th g-grand uncle (John Howland)
  9. Mary Wentworth (1569-1627), g-grandmother of wife of Sarah Allerton (1671-1731) wife of Hancock Lee (1653-1709), the son of Richard Lee (1617-1664), my 10th g-grandfather.

All of the male passengers listed above were also signers of the Mayflower Compact.

Some of our ancestors have been the subject of various Mayflower hoaxes and legands over the years:

  • There was a there was a Richard Clarke among the Mayflower passengers of whom almost nothing is known.  His name is not known to have occurred in the records of Leyden, so he was probably one of the passengers who joined the voyage from England.  The only record of his existence is William Bradford’s naming him as a passenger and saying simply that he died the first winter and left no descendants at Plymouth.  The Clarke surname is far too common to do any serious research, as there is little hope of ever discovering or learning more about this passenger or connecting him to my direct ancestor, Joseph Clarke (1618-1694), my 8th g-grandfather.
  • There is also persistent family tradition that there was a George Carr, who was among the crew of the Mayflower as ship’s carpenter, but not included in any of the passenger lists.  Some sources identify this man as the brother of my 11th g-grandfather, Benjamin Carr (1592-1635), making him my 11th g-grand uncle.  The truth will probably never be known.  The Mayflower likely carried a crew of about 25 or 30.  Unfortunately, no passenger list has preserved the crewmembers’, and only a few names are actually known through compemporary accounts.  For details, refer to the discussion under the heading of Robert Carr (1614-1684).
  • Despite published claims, my 10th g-grandfather, John Dunham (1589-1669) was not a passenger on the Mayflower, although he was a member of the same church community in Leyden, Holland from which these “Pilgrims” came, migrated to Plymouth, Massachusetts at a later date and became a leader of the community in the new colony.  The true story is told under his own heading.
  • There is a tradition that the wife of our 9th g-grandfather William Kelsey was named “Bethia Hopkins”, a daughter of Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins.  This claim does not hold up to scrutiny.  The true identity of William Kelsey’s wife is unknown to us.


The “Pilgrims”

“The Landing of the Pilgrims.”(1877) by Henry A. Bacon. The Pilgrims are traditionally said to have landed at Plymouth Rock.

“Pilgrims” is a name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Early Plymouth records refer to all passengers from the first four ships as “First Comers.”  These ships were the Mayflower (1620), the Fortune (1621), the Anne and the Little James (1623).  The term “Pilgrim” was not generally used until the early 1800s.  There is no single definition of “Pilgrim.”  Many families, Separatists and non-Separatists and Separatist sympathizers alike, traveled to America in several ships in the 1620s.  The colony at Plymouth, established in 1620, became the second successful English settlement (after the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607) and later the oldest continuously inhabited British settlement in what was to become the United States of America.  The Pilgrims’ story of seeking religious freedom has become a central theme of the history and culture of the United States.


Separatists in Scrooby

William Brewster (1567-1627). The acutal location of his grave is unknown. This marker was placed where his remains may rest at Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The transcription reads: “Elder William Brewster, Patriarch of the Pilgrims and their ruling elder 1609-1644. Outstanding leader of Pilgrim movement. The founding of Plimoth Plantation and establishment of civil and religious liberty in the New World. B. at Scrooby, England ca. 1566-7; D. at Plymouth, N.E. ca. April 10, 1644; A resident of Plymouth and Duxbury. M. ca. 1589 Mary Wentworth of Scrooby: B. ca. 1568-9; D. at Plymouth ca. April 17, 1627; Both (Mayflower Passangers) rest in unknown graves in Plymouth, possibly in or near Burial Hill. Erected 1967 The Elder William Brewster Society.

The core of the group that would come to be known as the Pilgrims were brought together by a common belief in the ideas promoted by Richard Clyfton, a Brownist parson at All Saints’ Parish Church in Babworth, near East Retford, Nottinghamshire, between 1586-1605.  This congregation held Separatist beliefs comparable to nonconforming movements (i.e., groups not in communion with the Church of England) led by Robert Browne, John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe.  Unlike the Puritan group who maintained their membership in and allegiance to the Church of England, Separatists held that their differences with the Church of England were irreconcilable and that their worship should be organized independently of the trappings, traditions and organization of a central church.  William Brewster, a former diplomatic assistant to the Netherlands, was living in the Scrooby manor house, serving as postmaster for the village and bailiff to the Archbishop of York. Having been favorably impressed by Clyfton’s services, he had begun participating in Separatist services led by John Smyth in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

The Separatists had long been controversial.  Under the 1559 Act of Uniformity, it was illegal not to attend official Church of England services, with a fine of one shilling for each missed Sunday and holy day.  The penalties for conducting unofficial services included imprisonment and larger fines.  Under the policy of this time, Barrowe and Greenwood were executed for sedition in 1593.

During much of Brewster’s tenure (1595–1606), the Archbishop was Matthew Hutton. He displayed some sympathy to the Puritan (but not to the Separatist) cause, writing to Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to James I in 1604:

The Puritans (whose phantasticall zeale I mislike) though they differ in Ceremonies and accidentes, yet they agree with us in substance of religion, and I thinke all or the moste parte of them love his Majestie, and the presente state, and I hope will yield to conformitie. But the Papistes are opposite and contrarie in very many substantiall pointes of religion, and cannot but wishe the Popes authoritie and popish religion to be established.

It had been hoped that when James came to power, a reconciliation allowing independence would be possible, but the Hampton Court Conference of 1604 denied substantially all the concessions requested by Puritans, save for an English translation of the Bible.  Following the Conference, in 1605, Clyfton was declared a nonconformist and stripped of his position at Babworth.  Brewster invited Clyfton to live at his home.

Upon Hutton’s 1606 death, Tobias Matthew was elected as his replacement.  Matthew, one of James’ chief supporters at the 1604 conference, promptly began a campaign to purge the archdiocese of nonconforming influences, both Separatists and papists.  Disobedient clergy were replaced, and prominent Separatists were confronted, fined and imprisoned.  He is credited with driving recusants out of the country.

Scrooby village circa 1911

At about the same time, Brewster arranged for a congregation to meet privately at the Scrooby manor house.  Beginning in 1606, services were held with Clyfton as pastor, John Robinson as teacher and Brewster as the presiding elder.  Shortly thereafter, Smyth and members of the Gainsborough group moved on to Amsterdam.  Brewster is known to have been fined £20 in absentia for his non-compliance with the church.  This followed his September 1607 resignation from the postmaster position, about the time that the congregation had decided to follow the Smyth party to Amsterdam.

Scrooby member William Bradford, of Austerfield, kept a journal of the congregation’s events that would later be published as Of Plymouth Plantation.   Of this time, he wrote:

But after these things they could not long continue in any peaceable condition, but were hunted & persecuted on every side, so as their former afflictions were but as flea-bitings in comparison of these which now came upon them.  For some were taken & clapt up in prison, others had their houses besett & watcht night and day, & hardly escaped their hands; and ye most were faine to flie & leave their howses & habitations, and the means of their livelehood.


Migration to Amsterdam

Unable to obtain the papers necessary to leave England, members of the congregation agreed to leave surreptitiously, resorting to bribery to obtain passage.  One documented attempt was in 1607, following Brewster’s resignation, when members of the congregation chartered a boat in Boston, Lincolnshire.  This turned out to be a sting operation, with all arrested upon boarding.  The entire party was jailed for one month awaiting arraignment, at which time all but seven were released.  Missing from the record is for how long the remainder were held, but it is known that the leaders made it to Amsterdam about a year later.

In a second departure attempt in the spring of 1608, arrangements were made with a Dutch merchant to pick up church members along the Humber estuary at Immingham near Grimsby, Lincolnshire.  The men had boarded the ship, at which time the sailors spotted an armed contingent approaching.  The ship quickly departed before the women and children could board; the stranded members were rounded up but then released without charges.

Ultimately, at least 150 of the congregation did make their way to Amsterdam meeting up with the Smyth party, who had joined with the Exiled English Church led by Francis Johnson (1562–1617), Barrowe’s successor.  The Scrooby party remained there for about one year, citing growing tensions between Smyth and Johnson.  Smyth had embraced the idea of believer’s baptism, which Clyfton and Johnson opposed.  Robinson decided that it would be best to remove his congregation from the fray, and permission to settle in Leiden was secured in 1609.  With the congregation reconstituted as the English Exiled Church in Leyden, Robinson now became pastor.  Clyfton, advanced in age, chose to stay behind in Amsterdam.



In Leiden, members of the congregation lived in small houses behind the Kloksteeg, opposite the Pieterskerk.  The success of the congregation in Leiden was mixed.  Leiden was a thriving industrial center, and many members were well able to support themselves working at Leiden University or in the textile, printing and brewing trades.  Others were less able to bring in sufficient income, hampered by their rural backgrounds and the language barrier.  For those, accommodations were made on an estate bought by Robinson and three partners.

Of their years in Leiden, Bradford wrote[2]:

For these & other reasons they removed to Leyden, a fair & bewtifull citie, and of a sweete situation, but made more famous by ye universitie wherwith it is adorned, in which of late had been so many learned man. But wanting that traffike by sea which Amerstdam injoyes, it was not so beneficiall for their outward means of living & estats. But being now hear pitchet they fell to such trads & imployments as they best could; valewing peace & their spirituall comforte above any other riches whatsoever. And at length they came to raise a competente & comforteable living, but with hard and continuall labor.

The Netherlands was, however, a land whose culture and language were strange and difficult for the English congregation to understand or learn. They found the Dutch morals much too libertine. Their children were becoming more and more Dutch as the years passed by. The congregation came to believe that they faced eventual extinction if they remained there.


Decision to leave

By 1617, although the congregation was stable and relatively secure, there were ongoing issues that needed to be resolved.  Bradford noted that the congregation was aging, compounding the difficulties some had in supporting themselves.  Some, having spent through their savings, gave up and returned to England.  It was feared that more would follow and that the congregation would become unsustainable.  The employment issues made it unattractive for others to come to Leiden, and younger members had begun leaving to find employment and adventure elsewhere.  Also compelling was the possibility of missionary work, an opportunity that rarely arose in a Protestant stronghold.

Reasons for departure are suggested by Bradford, when he notes the discouragements of the hard life they had in the Netherlands and the hope of attracting others by finding a better, and easier place of living; the children of the group being drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses; the great hope, for the propagating and advancing the gospell of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.

Edward Winslow’s list was similar.  In addition to the economic worries and missionary possibilities, he stressed that it was important for the people to retain their English identity, culture and language.  They also believed that the English Church in Leiden could do little to benefit the larger community there.  At the same time, there were many uncertainties about moving to such a place as America.  Stories had come back from there about failed colonies.  There were fears that the native people would be violent, that there would be no source of food or water, that exposure to unknown diseases was possible and that travel by sea was always hazardous.  Balancing all this was a local political situation that was in danger of becoming unstable.  The truce in what would be known as the Eighty Years’ War was faltering, and there was fear over what the attitudes of Spain toward them might be.

Candidate destinations included Guiana, where the Dutch had already established Essequibo, or somewhere near the existing Virginia settlements.  Virginia was an attractive destination because the presence of the older colony might offer better security and trade opportunities.  It was thought, however, that they should not settle too near since that might too closely duplicate the political environment back in England.  The London Company administered a territory of considerable size in the region.  The intended settlement location was at the mouth of the Hudson River.  This made it possible to settle at a distance that allayed concerns of social conflict, but still provided the military and economic benefits of relative closeness to an established colony.



Robert Cushman and John Carver were sent to England to solicit a land patent.  Their negotiations were delayed because of conflicts internal to the London Company, but ultimately a patent was secured in the name of John Wincob on 9 Jun (O.S.) 1619.  The charter was granted with the king’s condition that the Leiden group’s religion would not receive official recognition.

Because of the continued problems within the London Company, preparations stalled.  The congregation was approached by competing Dutch companies, and the possibility of settling in the Hudson River area was discussed with them.  These negotiations were broken off at the encouragement of another English merchant, Thomas Weston, who assured them that he could resolve the London Company delays.

Weston did come with a substantial change, telling the Leiden group that parties in England had obtained a land grant north of the existing Virginia territory, to be called New England.  This was only partially true.  The new grant would come to pass, but not until late in 1620 when the Plymouth Council for New England received its charter.  It was expected that this area could be fished profitably, and it was not under the control of the existing Virginia government.

A second change was known only to the parties in England, who chose not to inform the larger group.  New investors who had been brought into the venture wanted the terms altered so that at the end of the seven year contract, half of the settled land and property would revert to them; and that the provision for each settler to have two days per week to work on personal business was dropped.


Brewster’s diversion

Amid these negotiations, William Brewster found himself involved with religious unrest emerging in Scotland.  In 1618, James had promulgated the Five Articles of Perth, which were seen in Scotland as an attempt to encroach on their Presbyterian tradition.  Pamphlets critical of this law were published by Brewster and smuggled into Scotland by April 1619.  These pamphlets were traced back to Leiden, and a failed attempt to apprehend Brewster was made in July when his presence in England became known.

Also in July in Leiden, English ambassador Dudley Carleton became aware of the situation and began leaning on the Dutch government to extradite Brewster.  An arrest was made in September, but only Thomas Brewer, the financier, was in custody.  Brewster’s whereabouts between then and the colonists’ departure remain unknown.  Brewster’s type was seized.  After several months of delay, Brewer was sent to England for questioning, where he stonewalled government officials until well into 1620.  One resulting concession that England did obtain from the Netherlands was a restriction on the press that would make such publications illegal to produce.

Thomas Brewer was ultimately convicted in England for his continued religious publication activities and sentenced in 1626 to a fourteen-year prison term.



Not all of the congregation would be able to depart on the first trip.  Many members would not be able to settle their affairs within the time constraints, and the budget for travel and supplies was limited.  It was decided that the initial settlement should be undertaken primarily by younger and stronger members.  The remainder agreed to follow if and when they could.  Robinson would remain in Leiden with the larger portion of the congregation, and Brewster was to lead the American congregation.  While the church in America would be run independently, it was agreed that membership would automatically be granted in either congregation to members who moved between the continents.

The Pilgrims on the Speedwell

With personal and business matters agreed upon, supplies and a small ship were procured.  Speedwell was to bring some passengers from the Netherlands to England, then on to America where it would be kept for the fishing business, with a crew hired for support services during the first year.  A second, larger ship, the Mayflower, was leased for transport and exploration services.



The first voyage of the ships departed Southampton, on 5 Aug 1620, but the Speedwell soon developed a leak, and had to be refitted at Dartmouth.  On the second attempt, the ships reached the Atlantic Ocean but again were forced to return to Plymouth because of the Speedwell‘s leak.  It would later be revealed that there was in fact nothing wrong with the Speedwell.  The Pilgrims believed that the crew had, through aspects of refitting the ship, and their behavior in operating it, sabotaged the voyage in order to escape the year-long commitment of their contract.

After reorganization, the final sixty-six day voyage was made by the Mayflower alone, leaving from a site near to the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, England, on 6 Sep 1620, with 102 passengers plus crew.

The intended destination was an area near the Hudson River, in the “Colony of Virginia.”  However, the ship was forced far off course by inclement weather and drifted well north of the intended Virginia settlement.  As a result of the delay, the settlers did not arrive in Cape Cod until after the onset of a harsh New England winter.  The settlers ultimately failed to reach Virginia, where they had already obtained permission from the London Company to settle, because of difficulties navigating the treacherous waters off the southeast corner of Cape Cod.


Mayflower Compact

Bradford’s transcription of the compact

With the charter for the Plymouth Council for New England incomplete by the time the colonists departed England (it would be granted while they were in transit, on 3 Nov 1620, they arrived without a patent.  To establish legal order and to quell increasing strife within the ranks, the settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at the tip of Cape Cod on 11 Nov1620, in what is now Provincetown Harbor.  The older Wincob patent was from their abandoned dealings with the London Company.  Some of the passengers, aware of the situation, suggested that without a patent in place, they were free to do as they chose upon landing and ignore the contract with the investors.  To address this issue, a brief contract, later to be known as the Mayflower Compact, was drafted promising cooperation among the settlers for the general good of the Colony unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  It organized them into what was called a civil Body Politick, in which issues would be decided by that key ingredient of democracy, voting.  It was ratified by majority rule, with 41 adult male passengers signing.  At this time, John Carver was chosen as the colony’s first governor.  It was Carver who had chartered the Mayflower, and being the most respected and affluent member of the group, his is the first signature on the Mayflower Compact.  The Mayflower Compact was the seed of American democracy and has been called the world’s first written constitution.

The Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact


First landings

Landing of the Pilgrims by Michele Felice Cornè, circa 1805. Displayed in the White House.

Thorough exploration of the area was delayed for over two weeks because the shallop or pinnace (a smaller sailing vessel) they brought had been partially dismantled to fit aboard the Mayflower and was further damaged in transit.  Small parties, however, waded to the beach to fetch firewood and attend to long-deferred personal hygiene.

While awaiting the shallop, exploratory parties led by Myles Standish – an English soldier the colonists had met while in Leiden – and Christopher Jones were undertaken.  They encountered several old buildings, both European-built and Native-built, and a few recently cultivated fields.  An artificial mound was found near the dunes, which they partially uncovered and found to be a Native grave.  Further along, a similar mound, more recently made, was found, and as the colonists feared they might otherwise starve, they ventured to remove some of the provisions which had been placed in the grave.  Baskets of maize were found inside, some of which the colonists took and placed into an iron kettle they also found nearby, while they reburied the rest, intending to use the corn as seed for planting.

William Bradford later recorded that after the shallop had been repaired,

They also found two of the Indian’s houses covered with mats, and some of their implements in them; but the people had run away and could not be seen. They also found more corn, and beans of various colours.  These they brought away, intending to give them full satisfaction (repayment) when they should meet with any of them, – as about six months afterwards they did.

And it is to be noted as a special providence of God, and a great mercy to this poor people, that they thus got seed to plant corn the next year, or they might have starved; for they had none, nor any likelihood of getting any, till too late for the planting season.

By December, most of the passengers and crew had become ill, coughing violently.  Many were also suffering from the effects of scurvy.  There had already been ice and snowfall, hampering exploration efforts.  During the first winter, 50% of them died.



National Monument to the Forefathers, Plymouth, Massachusetts (2005)

Explorations resumed on 6 Dec 1620.  The shallop party – seven colonists from Leiden, three from London, and seven crew – headed south along the cape and chose to land at the area inhabited by the Nauset people (roughly, present-day Brewster, Chatham, Eastham, Harwich and Orleans), where they saw some native people on the shore, who fled when the colonists approached.  Inland,  they found more mounds, one containing acorns, which they exhumed and left, and more graves, which they decided not to dig.

Remaining ashore overnight, they heard cries near the encampment.  The following morning, they were met by native people who proceeded to shoot at them with arrows.  The colonists retrieved their firearms and shot back, then chased the native people into the woods but did not find them.  There was no more contact with native people for several months.

The local people were already familiar with the English, who had intermittently visited the area for fishing and trade before the Mayflower arrived.  In the Cape Cod area, relations were poor following a visit several years earlier by Thomas Hunt.  Hunt kidnapped twenty people from Patuxet (the place that would become New Plymouth) and another seven from Nausett, and he attempted to sell them as slaves in Europe.  One of the Patuxet abductees was Squanto, who would become an ally of the Plymouth colony.  The Pokanoket, who also lived nearby, had developed a particular dislike for the English after one group came in, captured numerous people, and shot them aboard their ship.  There had by this time already been reciprocal killings at Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.



Map of Plymouth Colony showing town locations

Continuing westward, the shallop’s mast and rudder were broken by storms, and their sail was lost.  Rowing for safety, they encountered the harbor formed by the current Duxbury and Plymouth barrier beaches and stumbled on land in the darkness. They remained at this spot – Clark’s Island – for two days to recuperate and repair equipment.

Resuming exploration on Monday, 11 Dec 1620, the party crossed over to the mainland and surveyed the area that ultimately became the settlement.  The anniversary of this survey is observed in Massachusetts as Forefathers’ Day and is traditionally associated with the Plymouth Rock landing legend.  This land was especially suited to winter building because the land had already been cleared, and the tall hills provided a good defensive position.

The cleared village, known as Patuxet to the Wampanoag people, was abandoned about three years earlier following a plague that killed all of its residents.  Because the disease involved hemorrhaging, the “Indian fever” is assumed to have been fulminating smallpox introduced by European traders.  The outbreak had been severe enough that the colonists discovered unburied skeletons in abandoned dwellings.  With the local population in such a weakened state, the colonists faced no resistance to settling there.

The exploratory party returned to the Mayflower, which was then brought to the harbor on 16 Dec 1620.  Only nearby sites were evaluated, with a hill in Plymouth (so named on earlier charts) chosen on 19 Dec 1620.  Construction commenced immediately, with the first common house nearly completed by 9 Jan 1621.  At this point, single men were ordered to join with families.  Each extended family was assigned a plot and built its own dwelling.  Supplies were brought ashore, and the settlement was mostly complete by early February.

Between the landing and March, only 47 colonists had survived the diseases they contracted on the ship.  During the worst of the sickness, only six or seven of the group were able and willing to feed and care for the rest.  In this time, half the Mayflower crew also died.

William Bradford became governor in 1621 upon the death of John Carver, served for eleven consecutive years, and was elected to various other terms until his death in 1657.  The patent of Plymouth Colony was surrendered by Bradford to the freemen in 1640, minus a small reserve of three tracts of land.  On 22 Mar 1621, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony signed a peace treaty with Massasoit of the Wampanoags.


The London and Leiden Groups

The Mayflower passengers can be placed into two general groups.  The first group, the “Leiden Group”, were the religious Separatists who had originally fled from England to Leiden, Holland.  The initial Leiden group had come to Holland in 1608 from the general region of England where Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire meet (from towns like Scrooby and Austerfield), but over time additional members arrived and joined the church in Leiden, especially from Separatist groups from Canterbury and Sandwich, Kent; Norwich and Yarmouth, Norfolk; Colchester, Essex; and London.  The second group, the “London Group”, were in some way associated with the investors who were putting their money into the joint-stock company the Pilgrims were using to fund their voyage.  Some had Puritan sentiments.  Some were relatives of the Leiden group, but had not made the migration to Holland.  Some had financial schemes rolling through their minds.  And some simply wanted to go to Virginia to start a new life with new opportunities.  Below is a list, as best as can be compiled, showing which group the various passengers belonged to.  In most cases only the men are listed, since the women and children are presumed to have come from the same group.

Leiden Group:

Isaac Allerton
John Allerton
William Bradford
William Brewster
John Carver
James Chilton
Francis Cooke
Humility Cooper
John Crackstone
Moses Fletcher
Edward Fuller
Samuel Fuller
William Holbeck
John Hooke
Desire Minter
Degory Priest
Thomas Rogers
Edward Tilley
Thomas Tinker
John Turner
Thomas Williams
Edward Winslow


London Group:

John Billington
Richard Britteridge
Peter Browne
William Butten
Robert Carter
Edward Doty
Francis Eaton
Stephen Hopkins
John Howland
John Langmore
William Latham
Edward Leister
Christopher Martin
Richard, Ellen, Mary, and Jasper More
William Mullins
Solomon Prower
John Rigdale
Henry Samson
George Soule
Elias Story
John Tilley
Richard Warren
Gilbert Winslow


Hired Hands:

John Alden (cooper)
Myles Standish (military command)
Thomas English (seaman)
William Trevore (seaman)
Mr. Ely (seaman)
Richard Gardinar (seaman?)



Richard Clarke
Edmund Margesson
Edward Thompson
William White
Roger Wilder
John Goodman


The colony contained roughly what is now Bristol County, Plymouth County, and Barnstable County, Massachusetts.  When the Massachusetts Bay Colony was reorganized and issued a new charter as the Province of Massachusetts Bay in 1691, Plymouth ended its history as a separate colony.

Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Table

The First Thanksgiving, 1621 (Karen Rinaldo, 1995)

The First Thanksgiving, 1621 (Karen Rinaldo, 1995)

[1] John’s wife (Elinor) and sons (John and Francis) accompanied John on the Mayflower.

[2] Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 [Of Plimoth Plantation] (Boston, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Historical Society) 1912. Written over a period of years by William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, Of Plimouth Plantation is the single most complete contemporary authority for the story of the Pilgrims and the early years of the Colony they founded in Massachusetts.  Written between 1630 and 1647, the journal describes the story of the Pilgrims from 1608, when they settled in the Netherlands, through the 1620 Mayflower voyage, until the year 1647.  The book ends with a list, written in 1650, of Mayflower passengers and what happened to them.


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