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History of the Mayflower

  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

Very little is known about the ship that brought the Pilgrims to New England. No name is given in Bradford's History of Plimoth Plantation, nor in the other early accounts. The first mention occurred in a document of 1623, which assigned to the individual colonists an acre of land apiece. The list of people was subdivided by ship name, and the first group came under the heading "The Falles of their grounds which came first over in the May-Floure, according as their lotes were cast.1623." Bradford in his history stated only that she "...was hired at London, of burthen about nine scoure, . . ." A later passage concerning John Howland's fall from the Mayflower and subsequent rescue refers to his catching hold of a topsail halyard, thus indicating that topsails were present.

From this meager amount of information, plus the knowledge that the ship's master was one "Master Jones," a researcher, R.G. Marsden, in 1904, searched the English High Court of Admiralty Records looking for a matching vessel that could have traveled from London between July 1620 and May 1621. This proved to be a lengthy operation as "Mayflower" was a popular ship's name; but, he eventually reduced the number to six, and finally to one, the Mayflower of Harwich, whose master was Christopher Jones.

Notations in the Port Books indicate that the Mayflower went on at least one voyage to Norway, carrying hats, hemp, Spanish salt, hops, vinegar, and Gascon wine, returning with tar, deals (pine planks), and herring. More frequently, she traveled to Rochelle and Bordeaux with cloth and returned with wine. In the summer of 1620 she was hired to transport a group of colonists to the "northern parts of Virginia" (around the mouth of the Hudson River).

After Mayflower's return to England in May of 1621, she was again involved in trade between London and France. The last mention in the Port Books was recorded on October 31, 1621. Her master, Christopher Jones, died in early 1622. On May 26, 1624, an application was received by the High Court of Admiralty from Mayflower owners Robert Child, John Moore, and the widow of Christopher Jones, declaring the ship to be "in ruinis" and requesting an appraisement. She was valued at L128 8s. 4d. This was the last recorded reference.

 

Courtesy Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, MA

  • Subjects:
    Colonial and Revolutionary America, Holidays
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