Most people know the story of the Mayflower and the first Pilgrims, but I doubt many know ‘what happened next.’ It was not all good.
Because the Plymouth colony was financed by London-based Merchant Adventurers, who expected some return on their investment, other ships sailed to the New World. In the fall of 1621, the Fortune became the second ship after the Mayflower to make the voyage. Fortune was much smaller than the Mayflower and transported only 35 settlers to the colony, arriving – as had its sister ship – in November, one year later. The ship had been unexpected and it brought no supplies, straining the resource of the colony. It did bring useful settlers, many of whom were young men. The Fortune stayed only three weeks, returning to England with good tail winds in December, and loaded with furs and other goods.
Fortune was captured by a French warship and ended up back in London in February of 1622, but without its cargo. The Merchant Adventurers thus lost their investment for the time being, but some of the passengers on the Fortune would come to play major roles in the history of the colony.
The leader of these passengers was Robert Cushman, who had been the Leiden agent for the Mayflower and Speedwell. He sailed with his son Thomas, whom he left in the care of William Bradford, when he returned to England. Thomas would become the husband of Mary Allerton, the woman whose life I am attempting to recreate. Although Bradford stated that there were thirty-five persons on board Fortune, the names of only twenty-eight persons arriving on the Fortune received lots of land in the 1623 Division of Land.
In 1623 the ships Anne and Little James were the third and fourth ships financed by the London-based Merchant Adventurers sailed to the New World. Anne carried mostly passengers, and the much smaller Little James carried primarily cargo, with a few passengers. After a stormy three-month voyage, Anne arrived at in early July 1623, with the Little James a week or so later.
Pictures of the Anne
Between them, 90-odd new settlers arrived, along with about thirty others who were not part of the core emigrant group. Some of this emigrant contingent would be judged unfit for the hardships of colony life and be sent back to England.
Little James was sent with the specific purposes of bringing back furs, but things did not go as hoped, so she sailed around Cape Cod as far as what is now Rhode Island, seeking Indian trade relations. Unfortunately, the captain did not have the quality trade goods that the natives wanted in exchange for furs and he was supplanted by very active Dutch traders, who could pay the natives a better price.
When Little James arrived back from Rhode Island and anchored at the entrance to Plymouth harbor, a storm ripped her anchors and drove the ship toward a dangerous sand bank. The crew had to chop down the mainmast and cut away rigging to save the ship. The company was forced to provide Little James with a new mast, and refit her with anchors and rigging. Throughouit the freezing winter of 1623, the crew had to exist on short rations with only cold water to drink, when alcohol was the drink of choice at the time. Discipline on Little James collapsed completely. In the spring of 1624, her captain took the ship to Maine where the crew mutinied and sent the captain back to Plymouth in a small boat. Ultimately, the Little James wrecked during a storm in Maine and once again the colonists made the repairs to make her seaworthy. William Bradford decided to send the ship and its angry crew back to London.
The Charity, which arrived in March of 1624, brought three heifers and a bull, the first of any cattle in the colony.
According to Captain John Smith of Jamestown fame who visited in 1624, there were about 180 people, some cattle and goats, and many pigs and poultry living in Plymouth. There were 32 dwelling houses stretching for about half a mile, and above the town on a high hill was a fort built with wood, loam and stone, containing cannon. The colonists had also made a saltwork, in order to salt and thus preserve the fish they caught to send back to London.