Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)
|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.|
|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.|
|Capacity:||Unknown, but carried c. 135 people to Plymouth Colony|
The 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. There were 102 passengers, and the crew is estimated to have been about 30, but the exact number is unknown. The ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States. 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. There was a second ship named Mayflower which made the London to Plymouth, Massachusetts voyage several times.
The 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. The Mayflowers 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.
The Mayflowers 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. The general layout of the ship was as follows:
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.
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 the Mayflower, either for sleeping or cargo.
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.
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. There was no privy on the 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.
The 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.
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. 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. It is not known when and where the 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.
Records dating from August 1609 note Christopher Jones as master and part owner of the 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 the 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 the Mayflower whaling in the North Atlantic in the Greenland area or sailed to Mediterranean ports.
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.
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 the Mayflower voyage due to his membership in the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, and he eventually traveled to the Plymouth Colony himself.
Approximately 65 passengers embarked on the Mayflower in the middle of July 1620 at either Blackwall or Wapping on the River Thames. 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 the 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 the 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 the Speedwell passengers joined the Mayflower and others returned to Holland. The Mayflower then continued on her voyage to America, and the Speedwell was sold soon afterwards.
Mayflower carried 102 passengers plus a crew of 25 to 30 officers and men, bringing the total to approximately 130. According to William Bradford, Speedwell was refitted and "made many voyages ... to the great profit of her owners." He also suggested that the 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.
In early September, western gales began to make the North Atlantic a dangerous place for sailing. The 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 the Mayflower sailed from Plymouth on September 6, 1620, O.S. (September 16, 1620, N.S.) with what Bradford called "a prosperous wind".
Aboard the 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.
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.
The crew of the 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.
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.
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 the 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, the 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.
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, sparking friction with the locals. 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. 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.
During the winter, the passengers remained on board the 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 the Mayflower on March 21, 1621.
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.
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." The 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.
The 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, less than half the time that it had taken her to sail to America."
Jones died after coming back from a voyage to France on March 5, 1622, at about age 52. For the next two years, the 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.
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.
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. Others 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. 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. For instance it was proven that the four More children were sent to America because they were deemed illegitimate. 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.
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.
Passengers would pass the time by reading by candlelight or playing cards and games such as nine men's morris. 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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
According to author Charles Banks, the officers and crew of the 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 the 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 the Mayflower, which sailed for London on April 5, 1621.
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.
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 the 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. The vessel was valued at one hundred and twenty-eight pounds, eight shillings, and fourpence.
What finally became of the 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.
Another ship called the 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.
The Pilgrim ship 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.
The 300th anniversary of the Mayflower 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.