Dorset Pilgrims

The Earl of Warwick and the Colonizing of America 1600-35  ·  John White and the West Country's Atlantic Horizon 1620-30  ·  The Uprooting 1630-35  ·  The Voyage  ·  Sojourn at Dorchester On Massachusetts Bay 1630-35  ·  Retrospect

The Story of Westcountry Pilgrims Who Went to New England In the 17th Century: Preface

I owe it to the prospective reader to explain the circumstances which led me to write this book.

As with many such undertakings it developed unexpectedly as the by-product of a modest and private intention. This was to write something for our children about their family history. One of my wife's direct ancestors happens to have been a member of a Puritan group who emigrated to New England in the 17th century. Many years ago I began in odd moments to find out what I could about him and I became interested in the community of which he became a fairly prominent member. This community was recruited largely from Dorset by a famous Dorchester clergyman called John White and was dispatched by him across the Atlantic to found Dorchester on Massachusetts in 1630.

The history of this community came to have a particular attraction for me as a historian. These West Country people were a constituent group of the great migration from England which settled Massachusetts Bay in the 1630s. Whether they knew it or not, they were emigrants, and my special interest had come to be concerned with the great European demographic explosion of the 19th century which populated the who North American continent. For largely historiographic reasons to do with period specialization, the original migration to New England in the 17th century had been handled in a separate context and according to different criteria. There were clearly marked contrasts and discontinuities between the two periods. The role of the 17th-century emigrant, whether to Massachusetts Bay or to Virginia, was different from that of his 19th-century successors, less clearly defined, understood or developed. The very word 'emigrant' first appeared in the language as late as 1754 and was applied to the Germans who emigrated to Pennsylvania. Our 17th-century subjects did not consciously think of themselves as moving from one country to another. They were simply Englishmen who had chosen to settle or 'plant' in a New England which was one of King Charles's dominions beyond the seas. It is not too far-fetched to think of them as predecessors of the 20th-century settlers of Southern Rhodesia or Kenya. They were colonial Englishmen and this distinction in itself is worth exploring. At the same time I thought it might be useful to approach the phenomenon of 17th-century New England from the broader angle of vision of a migration historian.

There was another special interest for me in this West Country group who settled Dorchester, Massachusetts. They were the most homogeneous of all those shiploads of emigrants who constituted the Great Migration. They not only came largely from one West Country locality, gathered themselves into a church there and settled together on Massachusetts Bay, but, like a hive of bees, they swarmed a second time. Within five years the greater part of the Dorchester people uprooted themselves once more and trekked through the New England wilderness to settle on its 'frontier', the Connecticut River. Here, in a single plantation, which they also called Dorchester before they renamed it Windsor, they persisted as that same close-knit West Country community. But they were already on the move. They were arguably the first example of that phenomenon of westward migration which was to become such a dominant theme in American history.

The fact that this was a West Country group is also of particular interest in the history of the founding of New England. When Samuel Eliot Morison wrote his brilliant Builders of the Bay Colony he gave pride of place among all those remarkable founding fathers to John White, the rector of Holy Trinity church, Dorchester, Dorset, that Puritan parson who, as the reader will discover, was the moving spirit behind the Puritan colonizing of New England. Recognizing the spiritual needs of the West Country fishermen off the New England shore, White conceived the idea of a farming-fishing settlement, organized the Dorchester Company and, when that failed, us the rump of it as the basis for a successor which, when taken over by men from the City of London and East Anglia, was transformed into the Massachusetts Bay Company. Morison did justice to White's pre-eminence and to that West Country whence came the first impetus for the settlement of Massachusetts Bay. Yet thereafter the West Country element in that epic became submerged by what was to become the dominant New England strain: that of the eastern counties and London, of the Winthrops, Congregationalism and the Boston ascendancy, so that in time another Harvard historian could assert that New England might properly have been called New East Anglia. New England history has been as dyed in that Boston wool as ever was English history in its Whig tradition, and that rather different early West Country strain has tended to be ignored like a poor and inconvenient relation in a proud family. It seemed to me that it might be interesting to add a Dorchester counterpoint to the dominant New England theme.

I thought it also might be useful for an Englishman to look again at this case study from a perspective which embraced English origins as well as New England growth and development. Because of the unique role New England has played in the forming of American nationality, its history has been long and intensively studied and interpreted as a cradle of American values, always seeking the promise of the great events to follow, the Revolution and the Republic. The temptation to see it as an 'American' phenomenon from the start, a kind of Whig interpretation, was for an earlier generation inevitable. As a result the element of Englishness, of origins, tended to be at least foreshortened, used as a sort of permanent stage set, an unshifting backcloth, to what was regarded as an essentially American drama. It is true that within the last quarter-century as younger generation of scholars, using modern techniques of quantitative and sociological analysis, have produced a brilliant and sophisticated series of studies of New England towns. But they too, with notable exceptions, have taken English origins largely for granted.

Also, owing to the nature of these techniques, such studies, immensely valuable as they are in their quantitative analysis of social data, tend to be static in the pictures they present, still photographs rather than cinema film. For the historian of migration this is a limitation. The very nature of the migration process is movement, not the slow and perhaps imperceptible movement of societies over a generation, but the immediate and dramatic actions of travel and adventure, of trials and errors, of heady successes and miserable failures. Such subject matter demands in addition the use of another, more old-fashioned technique: that of narrative. Narrative is essentially a literary art and, at a time when history is in danger of being hijacked by the social sciences, its practice is neglected and indeed in some quarters despised. But I make no apology for my attempt to bring alive, to tell the story - the history - of this particular band of emigrants in narrative form.

For the social historian the art of narrative presents special difficulties because of the nature of evidence. For the most part we are not writing about outstanding individuals whose influential careers may be traced from public archives and personal papers. We are dealing with collective groups of little-known or anonymous people, knowledge of whom must be gleaned from the impersonal data of social statistics, of births, marriages and deaths, wills and inventories, land grants and conveyances, court records, ship's manifest, passenger lists and the like and the lucky chance of a diary, a bundle of letters or a business ledger. This has been especially so for the historian of migration who has only truly come into his own since the perfection of the new statistical techniques for analysing such intractable data.

However, the reality underlying a particular migration story is not the undifferentiated mass of computerized statistics but the innumerable individuals and families who are often only partially and tantalizingly revealed by the historian's magnifying glass. In this study I have tried to tell the story in terms of individuals even at the risk of confusing the reader with a multiplicity of names of obscure people. Also, where the evidence supports it, I have written a particular episode round its principal protagonist. In the first chapter I have introduced the reader to the Jacobethan globe through the personality of the Earl of Warwick who leads us from the glittering powerplays of the court, by way of the operations of buccaneers in the West Indies, to pin that tiny point on the map of New England where Puritan planters raised their flag. . . .

The Earl of Warwick and the Colonizing of America 1600-35

On Sunday, 24 July 1630, a company of sixty nobles and gentry in full panoply, accompanied by squires and pages, rode out from St. James's to the king's court at Whitehall. After parading round the tiltyard, they dismounted in St. James's Park, went up to the gallery and into the royal presence. There, one by one, King James I dubbed them Knights of the Bath in honour of his coronation which was to take place the next day. Among them was a young sprig of the nobility, sixteen-year-old Robert, now Sir Robert, eldest son of the third Baron Rich of Leighs in Essex.

At the time he was knighted he was a Cambridge undergraduate. He was a golden boy, an outstanding member of the jeuness d'orée of his time. A contemporary wrote that 'he had all those excellent endowments of body and fortune that give splendor to a glorious Court' and referred to 'a lovely sweetness transcending most men'. The Rich family belonged to the new order of aristocratic magnates whom the social upheavals begun by Henry VIII's Reformation seventy years before had brought to the fore. The founder of the family's fortunes, Richard Rich, of a London merchant family, rose rapidly by means of the Bar and the Reformation Parliament to become one of Henry VIII's most infamous hatchet-men and, in 1548, under Edward VI, lord chancellor. In his career he managed to double-cross an array of notables as disparate as Cardinal Wolsey, Bishop Fisher, Sir Thomas More, Protector Somerset, and his close colleague Thomas Cromwell. He was instrumental as lord chancellor in putting through the Calvinistic reforms of Edward VI's reign, and then he ingratiated himself to Queen Mary by restoring the Old Religion and zealously persecuting heretics. He had a rapacious hand in dissolving the monastaries as a result of which he became the greatest landed magnate in Essex, converting Leighs Priory into his country seat. His grandson, Robert, the third Lord Rich, father of our youthful knight, therefore inherited one of the greatest fortunes in the land. Though considered by sophisticates to be coarse and uneducated, he was of sufficient wealth and position to be a worthy match for the Lady Penelope Devereux, daughter of the first Earl of Essex and sister of the Queen's favourite. This beautiful and talented young woman had as a girl been the object of Sir Philip Sidney's desire and the Stella of his celebrated sonnet sequence. Despite bearing Lord Rich seven children she cut a considerable figure at court until disgraced at the time of her brother Essex's execution and attainder in 1601. Restored to favour by James I, she once again became prominent in court festivities.

It was through her influence that her eldest son Robert began so spectacularly a career at court which led to his wider role in public life. He was a talented courtier. Like his mother, he took part in the masques which were so sparkling a feature of the Jacobean court. On Shrove Tuesday, 1609, there was a masque to celebrate Lord Hadington's marriage, text by Ben Jonson, sets by Inigo Jones and music by Ferrabosco. As a chronicler wrote: 'The attire of the masquers throughout was most graceful and noble, the colours carnation and silver enriched with embroidery and lace, the dressing of their heads, feathers and jewels; their performance so magnificent and illustrious that nothing can add to the seal of it but the subscription of their names.' Among the earls, barons and their eldest sons who were the principal players was young Sir Robert Rich. He was also a skilled performer of the martial arts and regularly took part in those combats in the tiltyard which so appealed to the King.

Yet for Robert Rich this was just gamesmanship. 'He used it but for his recreation', wrote contemporary Arthur Wilson, the dramatist and historian who, as his gentleman-in-waiting, saw him at close quarters. At the same time he was seeking more serious and public pursuits. After Cambridge he joined the Inner Temple and in 1610 he was elected Member of Parliament for Maldon, and thus embarked on a parliamentary career which would lead him to power and distinction among the leaders of the opposition to the autocratic government of Charles I. Our concern is with only one aspect of this achievement. As Wilson wrote, 'His spirit aimed at more publique adventures planting colonies in the Western World rather than himself in the King's favour.'

Robert Rich, who became Earl of Warwick on his father's death, not only personifies a cardinal theme of English history in the era of the early Stuarts but, as we shall see, became a key and influential figure at court in the colonizing of New England in general and particularly in that venture which is the subject of this chronicle. As president of the Council for New England and himself the patron of Puritans, he had a principal hand in launching the Massachusetts Bay Company and in issuing to a group of Puritan noblemen and gentry the patent which laid claim to the territory of Connecticut. In thus providing a link between the power and authority of the English court and those tiny outposts on the edge of the world he is the appropriate beginning to this story.

It goes back to his father. Not content with his landed wealth and powerful court connections, the third Lord Rich, like other Elizabethan magnates, augmented his fortunes by seafaring. For the previous forty years, with Catholic Spain in the ascendency and France weakened by religious war, the English were increasingly isolated from the Continent and, from the 1570s onwards, overtly at war with Spain and supporting the Calvinist revolt in the Netherlands. This was a time when a strong monarchy, a rising population, improved land and coastal transport, and the multiplying of money and credit, all stimulated more diverse industry - especially textiles and mining - and overseas commerce. English overseas trade had traditionally been chiefly with Channel and North Sea ports and the Iberian peninsula. The loss of Calais and the disruption of trade with Antwerp and the Channel ports had played havoc with these connections. Moreover, despite the explorations a century before by the Cabots and others, the English had been slow to exploit their strategic position at the gateway to the north Atlantic. West Countrymen had long before joined Bretons, Basques and Portuguese in fishing off the Newfoundland banks; but maritime expansion in the whole Atlantic basin appeared to be balked by the hated papistical Spaniards, King Philip II, his dons and Inquisitorial clergy who controlled the shipping lanes to their vast and rich empire in South and Central America and, more immediately to the point, in the Caribbean. Until the power of Spain was neutralized, freebooting expeditions like those of Raleigh which attempted to establish English trading posts on the Virginia shore and the 'Wild Coast' of Guiana were bound to prove abortive. Meanwhile the navigational and mercantile skills, the religious and ideological zeal of the mariners and merchants of England were devoted to challenging the maritime power of Spain in the Atlantic. In those days of rudimentary navies expensively mobilized only for specific operations, the chief instruments of Enlish sea power were armed merchantmen sailing on voyages whose object was part exploration, part trade but, above all, with 'letters of marque' or licences from the Queen, the capture of Spanish prizes. It was the heyday of the privateer. During the last years of Elizabeth's rein Lord Rich had built up one of the largest privateering fleets in England.

In 1604, the year after the young Robert Rich became a knight, the new king of England at last made peace with Spain and so, for twenty-one years, letters of marque were no longer issued against Spanish merchantmen; but this did not unduly hinder English seafarers. Some smaller men, ship's captains and the like, crossed the shadowy line from privateer to pirate, often raiding Spanish treasure ships and other foreign merchantmen from English settlements in the Caribbean which became notorious as pirate lairs. But Lord Rich and his fellow admirals in their more ambitious and respectable freebooting, trading, privateering ventures simply obtained licences from other friendly powers like the Dutch who were happy to share the booty of the voyage, and disposed of their cargoes in Continental ports. In 1616 Lord Rich sent out three ships with a commission from the Duke of Savoy to prey on the Spanish. At the same time his son, our Sir Robert Rich, under the same flag of convenience, sailed for the Red Sea where, but for the intervention of the East India Company fleet, and in an act of blatant piracy, he would have captured a ship belonging to no less than the queen mother of the Great Mogl with cargo valued at £100,000. (The resulting embarrassment kept young Robert in litigation with the East India Company for a decade or more.)

In 1618 Lord Rich died, having just become Earl of Warwick, and his son inherited both the title and his father's large-scale privateering enterprises. When after the death of James I in 1625 hostilities once again broke out with Spain, the second Earl of Warwick received a broadly drafted commission from King Charles I authorizing him 'to invade and possess any of the dominions of the King of Spain in Europe, Africa or America', sufficient excuse for three years of extensive privateering. In 1627 he had letters of marque for some eleven ships. He himself commanded a squadron off the Iberian coast in search of the Brazilian treasure fleet; unfortunately he became separated from his other ships, mistook the Spanish fleet for the treasure ships and, having sailed through the entire armada, only escaped by keeping his nerve in the confusion and a dense fog. He returned without booty but admired for his exploit. As a newsletter reported: 'He was never sick one hour at sea, and would as nimbly climb up to top and yard as any common mariner in the ship: and all the time of the fight was as active and as open to danger as any man there.'

In these years, however, Warwick increasingly turned his attention to the West Indies, whose islands and bays provided shelter for vessels engaged in trade with local Spanish settlements for such essentials as salt, and were within striking distance of the rich Spanish merchantmen. As early as 1612 he had become a member of a company set up to settle the newly discovered Somers or Bermuda Island, and in 1618 his ship Treasurer under Captain Elfrith made a notorious marauding voyage in those seas. At length, in 1630, in order to establish a base for such operations, he with his brother and others organized a company to effect a permanent settlement on the island of Santa Catalina off the Mosquito Coast, to be renamed Providence. In this he had actually begun to transcend his role as admiral of privateers to become a principal influence in the English colonization of the North American littoral.

When James I came to the throne in 1603 there had been no English colonies on the American mainland; when his son was executed in 1649 there were upwards of 50,000 colonists settled up and down the North American seaboard and in the Caribbean from an England whose population was little more than four million. This astonishing phenomenon was a result of a combination of economic, religious and political forces which combined to give the reigns of the first two Stuarts a dynamic thrust towards colonization. With the ending of the long years of war with Spain in 1604 came the release of commercial energies looking for new outlets, especially in overseas trade. The very war itself, restricting trade with the Low Countries, had impelled the merchants of London and the outports to look further afield, and over the Tudor decades great monopolist companies had been organized under the Crown to trade with Muscovy, the Baltic, the Levant and the East Indies. A country's wealth, ran orthodox mercantilist wisdom, depended on foreign trade, with a favorable balance of exports over imports to provide treasure for capital investment. With the Spanish menace in eclipse, it was time to turn westwards across the Atlantic and, in increasing competition with the Dutch, to stake claims on the Caribbean islands with their tropical crops and those hundreds of miles of North American coastline separating Spanish Florida from the French settlements in the region of the St. Lawrence. Here were abundant primary staple products, from fish to timber, naval stores and minerals (if not the elusive precious metals) - the raw materials of natural wealth; and there was still the hope that among those uncharted bays and estuaries to the north-west might still be found a passage through to the Pacific Ocean and the riches of the East Indies.

The experience of Elizabethan explorers and freebooters, and especially Sir Walter Raleigh's tragic failure at Roanoke, had made clear that to establish trading settlements required the organization and resources enjoyed by the big regulated companies. In 1606, stimulated by Hakluyt's and other accounts of exploratory voyages, two groups of prominent seafaring knights and merchants, of London and West Country ports, obtained a charter from the Crown to establish twin companies to take that part of America 'commonly called Virginia' not in the possession of Spain or France, that is to say the middle Atlantic seaboard. Of these, the West Country (or Plymouth) Company quickly failed, but the London, now the Virginia Company, went ahead to establish settlements in the region about Chesapeake Bay. The first settlement did not prosper, suffering from the characteristic troubles of disease, inadequate planning of provisions, lack of accommodation and suitable colonists, and hostile Indians; but Virginia persisted and became England's first established mainland colony in North America.

Other colonizing ventures were to profit from her experience. Successful colonizing demanded technical knowledge, entrepreneurship, capital and labour. The first had been gradually acquired by explorers whose knowledge of seamanship, climate and topography had, over the years, sifted fact from fancy in a veritable corpus of travel literature and charts. Even so, the know-how required to survive a hazardous voyage and the hostile circumstances of the New World was still being acquired through the trials and errors of painful experience. Knowledge of the climate, which turned out to be temperate and fever-free; understanding the logistics of getting supplies across the Atlantic; the realization that hopes of quick profits from precious minerals and other exotics must be abandoned in favour of concentrating on practical subsistence crops and staples for trade; acknowledgment of the importance of selecting suitable, working colonists - all this expertise was only learnt as a result of bitter and sometimes mortal failures.

The necessary entrepreneurship was provided for the most part by that well-connected class, of which Warwick was so outstanding an example, of nobles, gentry and merchants with experience of mounting oceanic trading expeditions. Here the aristocratic element was vital. Such expeditions might have been privateering, but they were not private, and even the most buccaneering were undertaken with at least the tacit knowledge and interest of the Crown. When it came to establishing colonies, whether trading posts or settlements, it was assumed that these were English territory under the sovereignty of the monarch. They were political and territorial instruments and their promoters had to be such as had the ear and confidence of the king - for the most part grandees of standing at court and magnates in the country at large. As companies, they were in a sense an extension of the Privy Council and by their nature held a territorial and trading monopoly for which, incidentally, they usually paid a stiff price to the royal treasury. The granting of these monopolies to augment the royal revenues early became a contentious issue between James I and Parliament; but they were regarded as the natural device for colonization. For this purpose the organization of such companies had become more sophisticated since those Tudor times. The need to mobilize capital for expeditions involving squadrons of ships, continuous lines of communication and long lead-times before there was a return on the investment, led to the device of joint stock, whereby the company handled the subscribers' investment corporately, first for a single voyage and then for a number of years. Although not all colonizing companies functioned this way, the joint-stock company became the principal device for colonial settlement.

The mobilization of capital on a considerable scale was therefore the third cardinal factor in colonizing. The grandees with their court connection contributed their shares and enjoyed their profits and their losses. But their wealth usually consisted of lands and rents and hardly provided capital liquid enough for ambitious ventures. Such capital had to come from the rich and powerful mercantile fraternity, successors to the 'merchant adventurers' of Bristol, York, Hull, Exeter and other 'outports', and especially from the City of London, whose great companies and connections had subscribed backing for the regulated companies, and now in the boom times of the first Stuarts were poised to provide the credit and financial expertise for this new transoceanic, mercantile world. The connection between courtiers with access to royal influence and patronage and City merchants, intimate even to the point of family intermarriages, generated the intelligence, influence, wealth and power impelling the English colonization of North America.

To the south, the Spaniards had long before established an imperium of conquistadores and priests; the French, to the north, had their outposts for fishing and trapping and the Dutch were building trading factories in all the seven seas; but the English were the first to establish colonies of permanent settlement in the New World. This needed not only entrepreneurs and capital, but labour on some scale - ordinary people, men, women and children, prepared to till the soil and make homes for themselves in an unknown American wilderness. It so happened that in England at the turn of the 17th century there were the motives and means to take advantage of such an opportunity.

An underlying motive for colonizing, then and for a long time to come, was a desire for land. In Elizabeth's day the population of England had grown apace and was outrunning the limited amount of good farmland. The enterprising were now converting moor, forest and waste and draining fenland at great expense and with limited results. This was also a time when the conditions of rural life were rapidly changing. A new generation of gentry and yeomen, concerned with growing crops for markets and investing profits, wherever possible raised rents to keep pace with the endemic inflation which underlay most aspects of Elizabethan life. In this period of economic and social turbulance some made fortunes but others, of all rural classes - gentry, yeomen, husbandmen and cottagers, landlords, tenants and day laborers - went under. In addition, the fluctuations of industry and trade, especially a depression in the textile industries under the early Stuarts, created unemployment in the small towns and villages where spinning and weaving were a vital supplementary income to farm wages. People drifted from their hamlets and villages in search of work, often into the towns which were overrun with the poor and indigent. There was a floating population, from younger sons of the gentry to cottagers, whose ties with the land and traditional habits had loosened and who were ripe for a more radical uprooting. As a result, there was a spirit of unease, of insecurity abroad and a conviction that England was becoming overpopulated; and this was at a time when news of the fertile lands of the New World, conveyed by propagandist pamphleteering, was the talk of the town and the village. There were many in circumstances sufficiently discouraging and of a temperament sufficiently adventurous to be lured from their habitual existence and tempted to chance their arms across the Atlantic to win those fifty acres of freehold which were beyond the dreams of cottagers and artisans in Somerset and Suffolk. Such were the colonists whom the Virginia Company recruited for the first ship's companies who settled Jamestown.

It was through the Virginia Company that the young Sir Robert Rich first became seriously interested in colonization. In 1612 at the age of twenty-five he was made a member of it and its subsidiary, the Bermuda Company. Bermuda had been put on the map in 1609 when Sir George Somers was shipwrecked there and had returned to extol its beauties and fertility. Two years later the Bermuda Company had been given an independent charter with Rich as its principal shareholder and landowner. Thereafter, along with his privateering, Bermuda was a principal interest of his and he was responsible for importing the first negro slaves to work on his estate there. In due course he also came to be prominent in the affairs of the Virginia Company itself and deeply involved in its turbulent inner politics which, in 1623, led the King to revoke the company's charter and to take over Virginia as a royal colony. By this time, however, Warwick was beginning to shift his interests from Virginia to New England.

Now thirty-six, Warwick was a powerful and influential figure in colonial affairs. Personally, he had charm and an engaging intelligence and was expansive and generous with his associates. His daughter-in-law wrote that 'he was one of the most best-natured and the cheerfullest persons I have in my time met with'; and even Clarendon who was hostile to his politics conceded that 'he was a man of a pleasant and companionable wit and conversations, of a universal jollity'. Dominant and cool in keeping with his aristocratic bearing, he was aggressive, hard-headed, courageous and versatile in business. Unlike his younger brother who, as Lord Kensington then Earl of Holland, committed himself to a career at court, Warwick had by now outgrown court lie and was probably out of sympathy with it. He would shortly emerge as one of the leaders of the Puritan party in Parliament in opposition to Charles I. For despite his worldly, swashbuckling, acquisitive style of life, Robert Warwick had grown up in a Puritan atmosphere and had been educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, which was at the forefront of the intellectually fashionable Puritan movement.

The Puritan opposition to the early Stuarts, like so much else in this story, had Tudor origins. The Elizabethan Church Settlement was designed to end the conflicts caused by the ambiguities of Henry VIII's Reformation and the alternating Protestantism and Catholicism of his successors. Matthew Parker and his colleagues, with great political tact, ingenuity and artistry, constructed a Protestant church for and of England which managed to contain these disparate strands of doctrine and liturgy within a single allegiance. But in the latter years of the 16th century the radical Calvinist mentality of Geneva came to sit more and more uneasily with the liturgy of the Elizabethan settlement. For some strenuous souls only a spiritual conversion to a state of grace could be the test of true religion, and groups like the Brownists came together as gathered communities or sects, predecessors of the Separatists who at the turn of the 17th century felt they could no longer practice their faith in England and migrated to the more congenial Calvinist Netherlands. But most people of this persuasion remained content to worship loyally within the Church of England while striving to purge it of papistical practices and simplify and purify its doctrines and liturgy in the spirit of the early church of New Testament times. Both sectaries and reformers came to be described as 'Puritans', a generic term which went beyond immediate issues of church doctrine. It stood for all the intellectual, spiritual and indeed aesthetic values of a whole generation who regarded themselves as 'modern'. They sought to discipline themselves to the learning of the Renaissance, the spirit of the Reformation and the responsible social values of a more urban and outward-looking style of living than that of the post-feudal world which they had inherited. Puritanism was especially fashionable among the educated classes, including an important and powerful element of the aristocracy, bred at the universities and the Inns of Court, and especially at Cambridge which sent forth a whole cadre of intellectual, educated graduates to raise the often ignorant and slovenly standards of the clergy in parishes throughout the land.

So long as Roman Catholic Spain remained the national enemy these fractures within the Church of England were contained; but with the waning of that menace and the growth of a High Anglican court party under Charles I and his Catholic queen the inherent opposition between Puritan and High Church parties became increasingly polarized. This especially concerned the position and authority of the bishops. The rise to power of the High Church William Laud, as Bishop of London and then Archbishop of Canterbury, signalled an outright drive against Puritan values in general and Puritan clergy in particular. Lines also became drawn in secular politics, between the court party upholding James I's notions of the divine right of kings and the aristocrats, knights of the shire and burgesses from the boroughs (especially the City of London) who constituted the Houses of Parliament.

Prominent among the opposition leaders in the House of Lords was the Earl of Warwick. In attacking the King's personal rule this group of peers made common cause with like-minded friends in the Commons such as Sir John Eliot and John Pym. Warwick supported the Commons in their struggle for the Petition of Right, refused to subscribe to the forced loan and made an eloquent speech against the King's bid to imprison without due cause. He would subsequently become a prominent figure in the Parliamentary cause. True to his interests and talents he became president of the commission governing the colonies under the Long Parliament and later as Lord High Admiral between 1643 and 1645 he would successfully command the Parliamentary navy.

More immediately relevant to this narrative was his active influence on behalf of Puritan ministers. One of the perks which his great-grandfather, along with others of his kind, had acquired at the Reformation was the right to present clergy to livings in the parishes of their extensive landholdings. Such livings, inherited or acquired by Warwick and other peers, like the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Pembroke, were sufficiently extensive to block Laud's plan to achieve a fully Laudian parish clergy. Many of the great Puritan ministers survived as preachers because of this patronage. Perhaps the most powerful of them, Edmund Calamy, held one of Warwick's livings and described him as 'a great patron and Maecenas to the pios and religious ministry'. Even Clarendon, who thought Warwick a hypocrite, grudgingly admits it:
He had great authority and credit with that people who,
in the beginning of the trouble, did all the mischief; and
by opening his doors and making his house the
rendezvous of all the silenced ministers...and spending
a good part of his estate...upon them, and by being
present with them at their devotions...he became the
head of that party and got the style of a godly man.
Warwick's leanings towards Puritan clergy were not limited to the patronage of his own livings in England. During the thirty years that he was governor of the Bermuda Company he selected as ministers for those islands clergy who, although professedly Anglican, were at the heart non-conformists and set up a 'government of ministers' in Presbyterian fashion, eventually becoming schismatics. But this was only a minor aspect of the way he used his power and influence for the Puritan cause in the English colonizing of North America.

For among the ingredients making for successful colonization was religion. The lure of a landed freehold was powerful enough to attract the labour which made it possible to settle Virginia. Bt the unhappy early experiences of that colony with its motley band of settlers whose only motive was material betterment left something seriously lacking. And, if the less fertile and less climatically friendly region of the American littoral north of Chesapeake Bay was to be exploited, a motive was needed to release deeper and more sustained energies. With a fortunate conjunction of circumstances, which to its participants seemed like divine intervention, this was provided by Puritanism. For over a decade, from his influential position on the governing bodies of colonizing companies, Warwick was in a position to give a helping hand to directing Puritan energies towards colonial settlement.

After a failure in Maine the Plymouth Company remained inactive and indeed moribund. In 1620, however, it was reconstituted as the Council for New England with authority to develop the northern part of 'Virginia', that is to say all the territory between the Hudson River and the Gaspee Peninsula: that huge expanse stretching between 42 degrees and 48 degrees latitude which constitutes modern New England and Nova Scotia. Warwick was appointed to a seat on the new council. At this time those Separatists who twenty years before had left their native Lincolnshire for the religious freedom of the Netherlands were dissatisfied and restless with their life in Leyden and contemplating a more radical solution to their quest for a spiritual home. Like so many emigrants in the two centuries to come, having once uprooted themselves, they found it all the easier to contemplate uprooting themselves again, and the possibilities of America were being widely canvassed. At this time people were still thinking in terms of the Caribbean, and the year before a company had been formed to colonize Raleigh's old territory of Guiana. Warwick was the organizer and for some time had been in touch with the Leyden Separatists with a view to recruiting them for this venture. But it collapsed. Whereupon the Leyden people, with Warwick's help and backing from a group of London merchants, sailed in the Mayflower for their New World retreat, situated, they thought, to the north in the territory of the Virginia Company. However, the accidents of the voyage compelled them to land at what they called Plymouth in New England, outside the Virginia Company's patent but within the remit of the newly formed Council for New England. Once again it was Warwick, as a leading member of the latter, who came to their rescue and obtained for them a patent from the new council for the land on which they were squatting. 'It is a striking fact in Warwick's career', wrote Arthur Newton, the historian of this episode, 'that he was the only person of high rank and influence connected with all the bodies with whom the Leyden pilgrims negotiated before they could secure a home for themselves in the New World': that is to say, the Guiana Company, the Virginia Company and the Council for New England; and ten years later it would be Warwick again, as president of the Council for New England, who would obtain for Plymouth Colony its second, and definitive, grant.

The fortuitous 'setting down', as the phrase went, of the Pilgrim Fathers in Massachusetts Bay rather than Virginia radically shifted the colonizing scene from its buccaneering, West Indian orientation to that of the north Atlantic fishing grounds. West Countrymen, along with French, Basques and Portuguese, had been fishing off Newfoundland and Nova Scotia for nearly a century, and in 1610 some Bristol merchants had even tried to settle a colony on Newfoundland. More recently West Country ships were being attracted to the waters off the coast of Maine and it was the experience of fishermen whose home port was Weymouth, Dorset, that led to the first deliberate attempt to settle on the shores of New England. Weymouth was the port for Dorchester, eight miles inland and a county town with important mercantile connections overseas. Dorchester had come increasingly under the influence of its principal clergyman, John White. This remarkable man, a former fellow of New College, Oxford, was an able divine and an outstanding example of that generation of moderate Puritan reforming clergy. Since he will be the principal subject of the next chapter, it is sufficient here to note that from 1606, when he was inducted as rector of Holy Trinity, he had effected a single-handed reformation of public morality in Dorchester which extended from church worship to schooling and care of the poor. He also developed a concern for the spiritual needs of those Weymouth fishermen who were away from their parishes and family ties for half the year on their perilous calling. He became aware, too, that the effectiveness of that fishery left much to be desired. Since the season's catches had to be dried or salted for the long voyage home, the ships had to be doubled crewed to provide labour for the curing process at staithes set up on the New England shore. This was inefficient. Why not, thought this highly practical rector, transform those staithes into permanent shore settlements which could be manned throughout the winter as a service base for the seasonal fishing fleet and obviate the necessity for double manning? Moreover, such settlements might in time support wives and families and, more to his point, a minister to care for their spiritual needs.

After an exploratory voyage commissioned by prominent Dorchester merchant, he organized the granting of a patent from the Council for New England and in 1624, after a public meeting in Dorchester (called by a local wag the 'Planters' Parliament') he launched what came to be known as the Dorchester Company consisting of 109 members, mostly Dorset gentry and merchants and a strong element of Puritan clergy, the object of which was to establish a fishing 'plantation' in New England. Like so many pioneering efforts, this was a failure and in 1626 was wound up. White was not, however, a man to give up and leave in the lurch not only the company's creditors but a rump of settlers at Cape Ann on the north shore of Massachusetts Bay. By this time he had come to understand that his original idea of a fishing plantation was impracticable, if only because fishermen and 'landsmen' planters were fish and fowl; also the tide of governmental opinion was running so strongly against the Puritans that he and others were beginning to think seriously about extablishing a colony specifically as a retreat where Puritans could practise their religion unmolested.

Realizing that such a project needed more ambitious organization and funding, he recruited a nucleus of West Country notables, including Sir Henry Rosewell, the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, and John Humphrey, Esquire, treasurer of the Dorchester Company, prominent enough to attract the interest of London merchants and to pursuade the Council for New England to grant a new and more comprehensive patent. In 1628 that council appears to have been in abeyance; but its president was now our Earl of Warwick. With the council's great seal in his possession at Warwick House, off Holborn in London, he granted a patent for the New England Company, with more specific conditions, and territorial bounds four miles north of the Merrimac, four miles south of the Charles River, and west to the 'South Sea'. Whether he did this in his personal capacity as recipient of part of the council's earlier territorial division, or as president of the council without consulting the other council members, will never be known because the patent itself was spirited away and has disappeared. The act was, however, typical, both of Warwick's sympathy for the Puritan cause and of the high-handed way in which he took it upon himself to act: and the result in the end was a characteristic row.

The New England Company was constituted on a voluntary, unincorporated joint-stock basis with sufficient capital to start a plantation. Of its forty-one subscribers, twenty-five were merchants, most from the City of London and identified with other Puritan ventures, seven were gentry, mostly lawyers of the Inns of Court, and six belonged to the original Dorchester Company, including John White. They also included John Humphrey, who had been treasurer of that company. Humphrey, of Chaldon near Dorchester, was of the Dorset gentry and a Puritan friend of White. In 1630 he married Lady Susan, sister of the Earl of Lincoln who was of the same circle as the Earl of Warwick. Lady Lincoln was a daughter of Warwick's Puritan colleague in the House of Lords, Lord Saye and Sele. Lincoln's other sister, Arbella, was married to Isaac Johnson, also a member of the New England Company. John Humphrey succeeded in interesting his brother-in-law Lincoln in John White's colonizing venture; and it was Lincoln, together with his kinsman and steward Thomas Dudley, who was to provide, at Sempringham, a centre for that eastern counties group which, along with the London merchants, was to become so prominent in the New England Company and its successor, the Massachusetts Bay Company. It was owing to Humphrey that the Lincoln connection became associated with the enterprise.

The New England Company, having taken over the assets of the old Dorchester group, promptly dispatched the Abigail, one of the latter's ships, from Weymouth under John Endicott, a member of the new company and designated governor of the old Dorchester Company settlement, now at Salem; and other ships followed. Unfortunately these happenings came to the ears of an opponent of Warwick, Sir Fernando Gorges, who learned, to his annoyance, that they lay within territory which had been earlier granted to his son and where a scattering of his own servants were already settled. Realizing that their patent must thus be flawed and scenting trouble from the Gorges family, the members of the New England Company decided to go over the head of the Council for New England, whose president had so accommodatingly granted their patent, and apply to the King for a charter under the great seal. This they did and on 4 March 1629 when the charter passed the seals the New England Company was successfully transformed into the Massachusetts Bay Company. The circumstances whereby this came about are still obscure. Suffice it to say that of possible objectors Gorges was busy elsewhere, and of the two principal petitioners in favour one was Warwick, friend of the company's Puritan promoters.

With the granting of the charter, the company membership was revamped and extended to represent the rapidly growing Puritan interests of East Anglia and the Lincoln connection. In June, Warwick's Suffolk neighbour John Winthrop, squire and lawyer, like John Humphrey having been dismissed as attorney for the court of wards, was in a mood of profound depression about the state of the country. The passage by the Commons the year before of the Petition of Right had seemed at the time a triumph for the rights of the subject under the Common Law; but the King had responded by proroguing Parliament. In the new session that January matters had gone from bad to worse. The publication of a royal 'Declaration touching Public Worship', which seemed to Puritans to open the door to popish practices in religion, led to turbulent scenes in the Commons; and, when the King attempted to adjourn the House, the Speaker was forcibly held in his chair to enable defiant resolutions to be passed against Arminians and papists and the payment of tonnage and poundage. As a result, Parliament was dissolved and Eliot and eight other Members were arrested and sent to the Tower. It looked as if the King were preparing to rule the country personally. The appointment of Laud as Bishop of London and as president of the Court of High Commission was ominous news for Puritans. Abroad, the Protestant cause was everywhere on the run, from Denmark to La Rochelle, and absolutism and Catholicism seemed triumphant. It appeared only a matter of time before Laud and Charles's Catholic queen would bring England back to the Old Religion.

In a mood of dispair, John Winthrop determined on the radical course and, with his brother-in-law Emmanuel Downing, rode up to Lord Lincoln's seat at Sempringham to identify himself with the project to emigrate to Massachusetts Bay. In July he was one of the twelve members of the company who met in Cambridge to pledge themselves to emigrate on the understanding that they should take the charter with them across the Atlantic. In other words, the government of the enterprise should be in the hands not of 'Adventurers' sitting as a court in the colony itself. The full implications of this would take us beyond the scope of this narrative; it may, however, be ventured that this momentous decision, taken in private if not secretly, had the tacit approval of the Earl of Warwick who had been so influential in seeing that charter through the seals, just as he had on an earlier occasion approved a scheme for the local self-government of Virginia. It is clear from correspondence that the Massachusetts settlers were given considerable support by Warwick, and his fellow colonizers then and later. Meanwhile Winthrop was elected Governor of the enlarged company to which he immediately gave a new and more radical thrust. John Humphrey was deputy governor, thus keeping the West Country connection; and on 29 March 1630, after a hectic winter of preparations and the expenditure of large sums of money, a fleet, with Winthrop on board the flagship Arbella, set sail for Massachusetts Bay.

The voyage of the Winthrop fleet bearing over 700 people across the north Atlantic and the consequent settlement of Charleston, Boston, Dorchester and a half-dozen or more other townships on the shores and rivers of Massachusetts Bay was a colonizing venture of a new and different order of magnitude from anything that had gone before. It was a far cry from the early privateering ventures which had first tempted the young Sir Robert Rich into the Atlantic world; but it was not to mark the end of his interest or endeavours in the field of colonizing.

The looming crisis in the affairs of England which caused John Winthrop to despair also induced a deep pessimism in the Earl of Warwick and his associates, who for the past few years had made so much of the running for the opposition in Parliament. Warwick himself and Saye and Lincoln in the Lords, and in the Commons its Leader Sir John Eliot, Warwick's cousin Sir Nathaniel Rich, and John Pym were part of the inner core of the party and through working together in the House and its communities had come to form a close-knit group whose activities extended beyond the politics of Westminster. The dissolution of Parliament and the clear determination of the King to rule on his own, the death in prison of Warwick's close friend Eliot which must have deeply affected them all, and the impressive example of Winthrop and company's expedition, turned the thoughts of Warwick and his friends towards establishing a colony of their own to which they might themselves emigrate should the worst ensue.

Warwick was not yet, however, convinced by Winthrop's decision in favour of New England, and still hankered after his familiar warm and sunny waters of the West Indies, and in the December after the departure of the Winthrop fleet he launched the company we noted earlier, with the object of establishing a colony on what came to be called Providence Island on the Mosquito Coast. Of its twenty original subscribers, five were members of Warwick's own coterie, including his brother Lord Holland and his cousin and man of business, Sir Nathaniel Rich; nine were members of the inner core of opposition and Members of the Parliament of 1628-9; they included, besides Warwick himself, Lords Saye and Sele and Brooke, and, above all, John Pym, who was emerging as the ablest organizer of them all; and finally there was a small group of Puritan squires from East Anglia.

However, this was not the only fall-back position envisaged by this group of disaffected Puritan notables who, perhaps influenced by Winthrop's example, turned their attention to New England. As Sir Fernando Gorges commented, these 'were so fearful what would follow [the dissolution of Parliament], some of the principal of those liberal speakers being committed to the Tower, others to other prisons - which took all hope of reformation of Church government...some of the discreeter sort...made use of their friends to procure from the Council for the affairs of New England to settle a colony within their limits.' Thus Warwick, whether as president of the Council for New England of under his own territorial share dating back to 1623, issued yet another patent, confirmed on 19 March 1632, for a grant of land stretching forty leagues west of the Narragansett River to a group of 'peers and gentlemen' who included the familiar names of Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Brooke, Lord Rich, the Hon. Charles Fiennes of the Lincoln connection, Sir Nathaniel Rich, Sir Richard Saltonstall, John Humphrey Esquire, deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and John Pym. Once again Warwick, acting in his cavalier and lordly way, failed to consult the members of his council and there is doubt as to whether the patent was ever properly executed. There was another row with the Gorges faction who this time confronted Warwick and demanded that he deliver up the council's seal. Henceforward the court party, led by Gorges, took over the affairs of the council and Warwick played little part in its affairs.

In the next two years these notables were increasingly harried by the King's men. Warwick and Brooke were attacked on their estates by the vindictive enforcement of the forest laws, Pym was twice sued by the attorney general for breaking virtual house arrest in the country, Warwick lost his undivided lord lieutenancy and the first writs of ship money were levied. The time had come for these peers and gentlemen to take up their option of emigrating. There is no evidence that Warwick himself intended to emigrate; and the story put about by Royalist writers that Pym, Hampden and Cromwell actually embarked but were stopped on the King's orders is discredited. But with Pym and his associates the intention is clear.

Events crystallized with the return to England in the autum of 1634 of John Winthrop the younger who, somewhat disenchanted with the way things were going in Massachusetts Bay, was hoping to organize a settlement somewhere else in New England. Seeking out his father's friends Lord Saye and Sir Nathaniel Rich, he helped shape the plans of what came to be called, after its two principal peers, the Saybrook Colony. The following spring Sir Richard Saltonstall sent twenty of his servants to stake out an estate up the Connecticut River, and Winthrop was commissioned to lead an expedition to establish a settlement at the mouth of the same river, to build a fort and 'such houses as may receive men of quality'. He arrived back in New England in late autum and spent the winter at the mouth of the Connecticut where Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, an engineer officer who had served under Sir Edward Harwood in the Netherlands, supervised the construction of a fort.

A small settlement was thus precariously established; but as a base for the enterprise conceived by those English peers and gentlemen it proved to be yet another pioneering failure. It had been too long delayed. By 1635 Laud had become inquisitive about the Puritan colonies, demanding to see the Massachusetts Company charter, and suspicious of further departures, so that it was difficult to recruit colonists. By this time, also, the parties were becoming sufficiently polarized for Puritans to sense their duty was to take a stand at home. There was also uneasiness about the flaws in the so-called Warwick patent; and there was a problem over Saybrook's constitution, which limited voting and other civil rights to freemen in full church membership. English notables and squires, brought up to govern in manors and villages where the parochial clergy knew their place, shied from the thought of control by such spiritual authority. In the event, only one of the peers and gentlemen actually turned up: George Fenwick, Esquire, who arrived in 1636 and later brought over his wife; after that poor lady sickened and died he returned to England, selling his land and other rights to Connecticut Colony. As for Saltonstall's 'estate' up the Connecticut River, his servants there were cold-shouldered by certain squatters who arrived overland from Massachusetts Bay, and were fobbed off with land on the upper frontier of the settlement and with a grant of 2000 acres on the east side of the river. The latter, grandiloquently entitled Saltonstall Park, was never developed. Saltonstall, to his bitter anger, was cheated of his investment. The time was already past when, in New England at any rate, patrician colonizers, however well intentioned, could establish a colony based on the English shire, with estates worked by servants or tenants and a parochial clergy. As for the Earl of Warwick, his future career lay at home, fighting for the Parliamentary cause in the English Civil War.

That pioneer band of settlers who in 1635 forestalled Sir Richard Saltonstall's men by squatting on his lush Connecticut River meadows had trekked across the New England wilderness from Massachusetts. Five years before, they had been part of the hegira organized by the Massachusetts Bay Company and led by John Winthrop which had sailed from Southampton to settle in New England. But they were a special and discrete part of that great migration. Most of them had crossed the Atlantic in one great ship, the Mary and John, which had sailed not in company with the Winthrop fleet, but alone; and her passengers had established themselves in a settlement of their own. For, unlike most of the Winthrop emigrants, who were East Anglians, these were West Country people voyaging from Plymouth and hailing from particular parts of Dorset, Somerset and Devon. It is this ban of emigrants who are the subject of this narrative.

The ship's company of the Mary and John named both their Massachusetts Bay and their Connecticut River settlements Dorchester (later they would rename the latter Windsor). There was a reason for this dedication. Dorchester was not only the county town of most of them; it was also the home and headquarters of the Rev. John White, who had recruited them and masterminded their whole enterprise. So its story begins, as did so much of the colonizing of New England itself, with the rector of Holy Trinity church, Dorchester. He will be the subject of the next chapter.

John White and the West Country's Atlantic Horizon 1620-30

This, the twentieth of March in the year of our Lord 1630 and the fifth year of the reign of King Charles I, had been dedicated to the merciful Providence of God; or so John White, rector of Dorchester, must have thought as he took leave of his departing flock of 'planters' and watched their Mary and John warping through the congested shipping of Plymouth Harbour, bound for the grey Atlantic and a remote New England landfall.

The Mary and John, a great ship of 400 tons burden, Thomas Squibb master, must have tied up in Plymouth Harbour a day or two before, having sailed round the coast from her home port of Weymouth, Dorset. Many of her passengers had probably embarked at Weymouth after journeying with their belongings from homes in the villages and country towns of west Dorset and Somerset. John White had most likely travelled with them, together with other notables, including Mr Roger Ludlow, the new owner of the Mary and John, who was one of two assistants of the Massachusetts Bay Company travelling with the party and providing its official leadership. The other assistant, Mr Edward Rossiter, a landed gentleman of Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, appears to have missed the ship at Weymouth and to have had to travel overland to Plymouth where he and his family embarked with other recruits from Devon, especially nearby Exeter. At any rate, by that morning the entire ship's company had been assembled and her manifest was complete.

It had been an emotional and spiritually charged day for these Puritans, mostly parents with young children, virtually the first families to entrust themselves to the unknown hazards of a north Atlantic voyage, and for John White, whose initiative and drive had conceived and launched the whole enterprise. As befitted such a Puritan occasion, it had been a solemn day of fasting, given over to preaching and prayer. In the morning, the ship's company had disembarked and walked up from the harbour through the thronged streets of the port to the barely completed Hospital of the Poor's Portion, a Puritan institution for indigent old people and 'for setting children to work'. Their host had been Matthias Nicholls, 'preacher of God's Word in the town of Plymouth', a Puritan colleague of White's from New College days and a family friend.

The morning's proceedings had begun in Puritan fashion with a sermon preached by John White, 'that worthy man of God'. In the afternoon the ship's company formally confirmed the nomination of the two 'Reverend and Godly Ministers of the Word' who were to lead them on their errand into the New World wilderness. This was a variant of the normal ceremony for the appointment of a clergyman to a parish living; but in the unique circumstances, with an eclectic, Puritan congregation that was also a ship's company, no bishop was likely to have been prepared to act, so the office was undertaken by the Dorchester patriarch and ecclesiastical colonizer, John White. The other departure from Anglican practice was the ordination of two ministers, a preacher and a teacher. The preacher was John Warham, recently curate of St Sidwell's by Exeter, the teacher John Maverick, rector of Beaworthy, also in Devon. In the words of young Roger Clapp who was one of the ship's company: 'These godly people resolved to live together...and the people did solemnly make choice of, and call those godly ministers to be their officers, so also did the Reverend Mr Warham and Mr Maverick accept thereof and expressed the same.' This day of fasting and solemn exercises of humble testimony and dedication proved a fitting send-off for the forty or so families, 140 people in all, who constituted what would be known, in honour of John White, as the Dorchester migration and who were by now settling in on shipboard as best they might, no doubt in anxious anticipation of the ocean journey ahead. They were to sail down the English Channel on the tide perhaps that night or the following day.

Meanwhile, having said farewell to his intrepid company, John White made his way back on horseback from Plymouth through Exeter to his Dorchester home; but not to stay because he had to hurry on to the port of Southampton in order to catch the Arbella, flagship of the fleet of emigrant ships under John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which was also bound for New England and lay becalmed off Cowes. White's purpose, apart from saying farewell, was to present Winthrop with his own draft of a document entitled A Humble Request which he hoped would constitute a manifesto of the religious beliefs and purposes of the departing colonists and reassure the English ecclesiastical authorities that the departing Puritans remained loyal members of the Church of England and were not become subversive Separatists. For as we have seen, White had a principal hand not only in the venture of the Mary and John but in that whole great enterprise of the Massachusetts Bay Company and its predecessors which was to people New England.

When the Mary and John sailed for Massachusetts Bay, John White was in his fifty-sixth year and had been rector of Holy Trinity, Dorchester for some twenty years; it had been his first charge after leaving Oxford. Born at Christmas 1575, he was the son of the tenant of the manor farm of Stanton St John, just outside Oxford. This belonged to New College, Oxford and it was through the influence of an uncle, at that time warden of the college, that his father acquired the 'fame' of it. Young John was sent to Winchester and thence, in 1593, to that school's sister, New College. After taking his degree he remained there as a fellow until 1606 when he was appointed to the Crown living of Dorchester. In his time at Oxford, New College was known for its Puritan tendencies, which Laud had attributed to the study of Calvin's Institutes; and it is hardly surprising that the young John White should have been influenced by that fashionable theological discipline. In 1604 James I had instructed the Hampton Court conference of scholars and divines to compile a new translation of the Bible, and two of the translators were fellows of New College, one of them having taught White at Winchester. He had friends and associates who became known for their Puritan opinions. One, John Burgess, a pupil of Thomas Cartwright the Puritan divine, became White's brother-in-law; another probable kinsman, John Ball, wrote a Treatise on Faith which White was to use as a catechism; a third, Richard Bernard, who would become rector of Batcombe, Somerset, drew up a system of instruction for his parishioners which White adopted in Dorchester. Bernard's intimate friend John Conant, subsequently rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, was of the same school of thought and was to be a colleague of White's in his New England ventures; there was Dr Twise, a contemporary of White's at both Winchester and Oxford, who was concerned with events in the Palatinate and in New England, especially with converting the Indians; and there were the Nicholls brothers of New College, one of whom as we have just seen became a Puritan lecturer in Plymouth; the other, Ferdinando, was to be one of White's assistants in Dorchester and a more extreme Puritan than any.

These were heady times for young men about to take orders in the Church of England. For some, Puritan doctrines and practices were to take them further in the direction of the primitive church and against hierarchy, liturgy and ceremony, so that they sympathized with the Separatists who had fled episcopal persecution for Leyden and New England and, subsequently, with the more extreme sectaries of the Commonwealth. But not all were so extreme. John White, in particular, though Puritan, never parted from his identity with and loyalty to the Church of England or from his own sacramental dedication as a priest within it. This was fundamental to his role in the Puritan colonizing of New England. High-minded though he was, disciplined to a life of prayer, service and simplicity, he was no come-outer, and he assumed a role of dedicated leadership within the Church of England and to that West Country community of Dorchester to which he had been called. He remained a moderate Puritan, such as was congenial to his neighbour-to-be, the rector of Broadwindsor, Thomas Fuller, who was to write so vividly of the worthies of his generation and was a kindred spirit.

When White was instituted in 1606 he became rector of two churches, Holy Trinity and St Peter's, prominently situated within a stone's throw of each other towards the upper end of Dorchester's sloping High Street. The combined parishes in his charge comprised most of the area within the Roman walls of what was then, as it is now, the attractive county town of Dorset. A generation earlier Camden had praised it as 'a pretty, large town, with very wide streets and delicately situated on a rising ground, opening at the south and west ends into sweet fields and spacious downs.' In 1613, to quote what may well be White's own words, 'Dorchester (as it is well known) is one of the principal places of traffic for western merchants, by which means it grew rich and populous, beautified with many stately buildings and fair streets, flourishing full of all sorts of tradesmen and artificers, plenty with abundance revealed in her bosom, with a wise and civil government.' And twenty years later Thomas Gerard, though as a Dorset man no doubt prejudiced, was to describe it as having 'flourished exceedingly, so that now it may justly challenge the superiority of all this share as well for quick markets and neat buildings as for the number of the inhabitants, many of which are men of great wealth.'

Although only a young man fresh down from Oxford, White had standing as a university divine and he found himself at the centre of the town's affairs. With his energy and force of personality he established an ascendency, both moral and practical, which was to span the thirty-six years of his time there and earn him the affectionate title of 'patriarch of Dorchester'.

In his young days Dorchester 'possessed anything but a pious and estimable reputation': but gradually he made his influence felt and a 'Puritanical or rather a "precise" tone' began to emanate from Holy Trinity and to pervade the town. Absences from church were inquired into and staying at home 'amending her stockings' was no longer a sufficient excuse. Coming late or leaving before the sermon could be punished by fine or even imprisonment. Holy Communion was celebrated more frequently and to larger congregations who were subjected to the Puritan discipline of exhortation and catechism the previous evening. The church itself was embellished with a new pulpit, communion plate, surplices and carpet for the communion table (an indication that White was no Puritan extremist). But his bent was eminently practical as well as moral, and within seven years of his incumbency he was vouchsafed an almost unique opportunity to exercise his talents for civil leadership.

In the early afternoon of 6 August 1613 a tallow chandler's workshop caught fire and in the warm summer wind flames spread quickly through the town while the men and women were in the fields for the harvest. As a result the town was largely reduced to charred rubble. Some 170 houses were destroyed, as well as two of the three churches, including Holy Trinity, and most of the public buildings, shops and merchants' warehouses with their rich stores of merchandise: 'shops of silks and velvets on a flaming fire, multitudes of linen and woolen clothes burned to ashes, gold and silver melted, and brass, pewter and copper, trunks and chests of damasks and fine linens with all manner of stuffs'. Although, marvellously, no lives were lost, the town was a disaster area: 'Dorchester was a famous town, now a heap of ashes for travellers that pass by to sigh at', and the King advanced £1000 towards its rescue. This was John White's opportunity to invoke the help of Almighty God in galvanizing the Dorchester people into rebuilding their town and community. In this he, together with the bailiffs, burgesses and merchants, succeeded dramatically. Within a few years and despite another fire in 1622 Thomas Gerard could report that 'it is risen up fairer than before'.

The fire was a purging experience and as the town rose from its ashes there was evident a new spirit of social responsibility which owed much to the patriarch's high-Puritan dedication to the urgent needs of the poor, the starved and famished, the homeless and the growing numbers of unemployed and feckless hangers-on which were characteristic of the times. As White later recalled, 'The whole Town consented to double their weekly rates for the relief of the poor, enlarged their churches and reduced the town into order by good government.' As a borough memorandum records: 'It is not unfit to be observed that before the former great fire...little or no money was given to any charitable uses...But when they saw by this sudden blast...the great miseries of many families that were in an instant harbourless, many men's bowels began to yearn in compassion towards them, studying how to do some good work for the relief of the poor...whereupon many of us, assisted by our faithful pastor, had many meetings.'

In the year after the fire were built the first of three sets of almshouses. In 1617 after many meetings of 'well affected persons' a subscription was raised to establish a hospital or workhouse for 'setting to work the poor children of the borough' in spinning and burling wool and for their instruction in religion. The latter took the form of learning the catechism of White's friend John Ball. Later, with money left over from this project, a brewhouse was built on hospital land to improve the quality of the town beer. Also in 1617 the Free School was rebuilt and an under-school established with, as master, one Aquila Purchase whom White was to recruit for New England. In the upper room of the Free School a library was established, with a widely ranging catalogue of titles from Foxe's Book of Martyrs to Purchase his Pilgrims and Speed's History and Maps of England. For twenty years, on the anniversary of the great fire, Pastor White preached a sermon linked to the Gunpowder Plot and the collection went to the hospital.

By 1630, when our emigrants took their leave of Dorset, the morale of their county town was riding high. In that year the borough purchased from the Crown a new corporation charter with a mayor and enhanced privileges and the trades organized themselves into livery companies: clothiers, ironmongers, fishmongers, shoemakers and skinners. More significant, White's Dorchester was becoming known for its Puritan character. 'No place in the west or indeed in any part of England was more deeply imbued with the rigid piety of the Puritans - a feeling which seems to have been strongly fostered by the ministry of the Patriarch of Dorchester'. Clarendon went on to describe the town as the most malignant in the country, the 'magazine whence the other places were supplied with principles of Rebellion'.

This attitude was taking a more specifically political turn. Of the Members of Parliament imprisoned for resisting the King's order to adjourn the House in 1629, three were West Countrymen associated with White: Denzil Holles, the member for Dorchester and described as the patriarch's disciple, William Strode whose brother headed the list of New England promoters at the 'Planters' Parliament' in Dorchester in 1623, and Sir John Eliot who was probably influenced by White in preparing his Project for New England. At any rate, on 7 May, according to a Privy Council minute, 'one John White, Minister, preacher of Dorchester and Ferdinando Nicholls of Sherborne', one-time assistant to John White, attempted to speak to Holles from beneath his cell window in the Tower of London; they were discovered by the keeper and ejected. The episode spotlights John White as Puritan and as promoter of planting in New England.

When a Dorchester citizen looked up or down the street he saw beyond the houses an open vista of green downland; and in John White's time that downland was dotted with white sheep. In 1659 Edward Leigh recorded that 'within six miles compass round about Dorchester' there were 300,000 sheep. The Dorset downs were a prime wool-rearing district providing the raw material for the woollen-cloth industry of Dorset's towns and villages. Since its great fire Dorchester itself was in decline as a weaving centre; but from the shuttles of nearby Beaminster, Lyme and Bere and from farther off Sherborne, Shaftesbury and Sturminister, Gillingham and Wareham pack-horses and waggons carried along the winding country roads to Dorchester the broadcloths, the kersies and Dorset dozens which were her mercantile staples. As we have seen, Dorchester's warehouses were stocked with merchandise, notably woollen cloths and linen from the flax grown in the little Brit Valley between Beaminster and Bridport. The same very local rich, damp soil also grew the finest hemp in England, made into sacking and cordage, ropes and tackle in the rope-walks of Bridport which had had an ancient monopoly and still enjoyed a thriving manufacture for the fishing fleets sailing to Newfoundland.

Dorchester was no mere inland market town. She was an important entrepôt for 'western merchants' trading abroad. Only eight miles to the south lay the port of Weymouth whence Dorchester merchants exported their textiles and other wares across the Channel to France and Spain in exchange for wine and for 'rich stuffes' such as had been consumed in the great fire. Weymouth gave Dorchester a blue-water horizon. It was as much through her seaborne traffic out of Weymouth as by the carriers, wagoners and horsemen on their slow, dusty or muddy wayfaring up east over the downs to the Thames Valley and London that Dorchester kept in touch with the great world.

William Whiteway, member of a prominent burgess family and a family connection of White's, kept a diary throughout the 1620s and 30s in which he recorded immediate events, such as poor harvests, outbreaks of smallpox, a great cold which froze people to death on the highway, and a high wind which 'tore a coach all in pieces upon Eggardon Hill and beat out the brains of a serving maid in it', cheek-by-jowl with matters of state: Raleigh's execution, the rise of Buckingham, the settlement of Ulster and the plight of the Protestants in the Palatinate. He recorded the abortive negotiations with Spain over the royal marriage. The fleet sent to fetch a Catholic bride for Prince Charles from Madrid touched at Weymouth in August 1623, and he described her flagship, the Princess Royal, as 'a vessel of wonderful bigness and beauty'. To local Puritans like John White the threat of a Catholic queen was of deep concern, as were the events in the Palatinate. As early as 1620 Dorchester raised the remarkable sum of £2000 for the relief of the Protestants there. The sufferings of the Thirty Years' War were brought home to Dorchester people by the arrival in 1626 of a party of German refugees who settled in their midst; and Protestant students from the Continent also appeared from time to time, attracted by John White's reputation. By this time the growing political crisis of Puritanism at home had turned John White's vision to seek a solution overseas.

In 1633 our friend Thomas Gerard noted that the port of Weymouth and its twin borough, Melcombe Regis, 'gain well by traffic into Newfoundland where they have had 80 sail of ships and barques'. The traffic of Dorset across the north Atlantic to the shores of Newfoundland and its Grand Banks in search of cod and ling was an important industry for the county involving considerable resources of ships and men, from Weymouth, Poole and Lyme. It already had a long history. The Newfoundland fishery was firmly established as early as 1574 when a fleet of some thirty ships sailed thither for the season's fishing, and the number increased rapidly in subsequent years. The trade was profitable and the merchants of Lyme in the reign of James I, 'being engaged in trade to Newfoundland acquired large fortunes and raised the town considerably'. The fishery was not without its difficulties and dangers. As we noted earlier, the operation was seasonal and involved setting up drying frames for the catches on the Newfoundland shores. To cope with this processing, the ships were double manned and at the height of the season there grew to be a considerable fishing and curing population on the Newfoundland shores, not only of English but of French and Dutch. There were jurisdictional disputes and inevitable problems of maintaining order between landsmen and fishermen; in the end the Privy Council had to invest the mayors of Weymouth and neighbouring ports, together with the Vice-Admiral of Dorset, with the admiralty power to administer justice in cases of crime and other offences in Newfoundland and at sea.

The Newfoundland fishery, based on Dorset home ports and involving nearly 3000 miles of hazardous navigation across the north Atlantic, was a remarkable business for the people of that small western county with a population of probably less than 60,000; and over the generations it bred in her men and women a knowledge and awareness of a wider, maritime world that was in striking contrast to their neighbourly parishes and rural, village occupations. By the 1620s the north Atlantic and the North American littoral were for them very much a part of an enlarged universe: dangerous, unfriendly no doubt, but already taken for granted; and the experience of it gave them understanding, skills and self-confidence to handle north Atlantic enterprise.

John White became conscious of the needs of this fishing fleet and the maritime community which made their living by it. He regarded them as a kind of extension of his own parish and spiritual charge and he had a special concern for the souls of the fishermen on the Banks. As he wrote, 'Being usually upon their voyages nine or ten months in the year they were left all the while without means of instruction.' He meant, of course, instruction in spiritual matters and he considered how best to improve their lot. He knew about the double manning of the ships and it occurred to him, as it occurred to others, that if a proportion of each ship's company could be left on the Newfoundland shore at the close of the fishing season and through the winter there might be established firm supporting bases for the fishing fleet the following year, and ultimately a colony raising foodstuffs for the fleet and living a more settled and Christian way of life, with a minister to care for their souls.

White wove this strand of thought with other strands into a rope of colonial policy strong enough for his purpose. Like other Puritan evangelists he had a concern for the souls, not only of Dorset fishermen in Newfoundland, but of the aborigines further west on the American main. Ever since the early Virginia settlements, the conversion of the Indians had been a strong colonial motive for the religious-minded. But the strongest strand of all was the idea of establishing a settlement on the American mainland dedicated to the living of a godly Puritan life. Although White strongly disapproved of Separatists, it was the example of the Leyden exiles and their settlement at New Plymouth in New England in 1621, together with the ever more legible writing on the Church of England wall threatening Puritanism at home, that impelled him to shape his own version of a Puritan colonial policy for New England. It took the best part of the 1620s for this remarkable West Country religious statesman to perfect his theory and practical plans but by 1630 both were maturing. The departure of the Mary and John was the culminating event of years of trial and error in colonial experiment under John White's leadership; it was also marked by the publication of his fully fledged treatise on Puritan colonial policy, The Planters Plea.

This piece of apologetics for 'planting' is only part of a large literature on the subject; but as a distillation of the ideas and experience that lie behind the Dorchester emigration it is especially illuminating. It begins, as do others of its kind, by dwelling on the current problems of employment, and especially the distortions whereby many are drawn into serving in 'luxury and wantonness to the impoverishing and corrupting of the most' and many others, brought up to skilled and useful trades, are under-employed or reduced to 'such a low condition as is little better than beggary' and to idleness and sin. His general conclusion is that 'we have more men than we can employ to any profitable or useful labour', especially skilled people in 'our towns and cities'. He then calls attention to England's special opportunity, as a seafaring nation,
to transport our men and provisions by sea into those
countries, without which advantage they cannot possibly
be peopled from any part of the useful a
neighbour the sea is to the furthering of such a work...
and contrasts the relative economics of sea and land transport, where in the latter 'Planters...must needs spend much time and endure much labour in passing their families and provisions over rivers and through woods and thickets by unbeaten paths.

The English, being so well placed, have a religious duty to undertake the planting of colonies, for 'the most eminent and desirable end of planting is the propagation of religion'. Having established this proposition, he turns to the advantages of North America, especially New England, where we had recently been sending 'yearly forty or fifty sail of ships of reasonable good burthen' to trade in furs and fish; and he recounts its advantages: the climate, 'the dryness of the air and constant temper of it'; the corn of the country'; the fertility of the soil for grain and cattle rearing. As a Dorset man, he emphasizes that it is 'naturally apt for hemp and flax especially', and it is abundant in fish, fowl and venison. He is aware that because of 'a three years plague' over a decade before, the Indian inhabitants have been decimated, that their cleared lands are to be had for the asking and at the Indians' friendly invitation. Mercantilist as he was, he emphasizes the advantages that such a colony would bring to the mother country, for 'it is to be desired that the daughter may answer something back by way of retribution to the mother that gave her being'. There were not only the fisheries and the fur trade, but products for shipbuilding - 'planks, mats, oars, pitch, tar and iron' - and, of course, for 'hemp, sails and cordage'. At this point he gets carried away by his enthusiasm where he mentions the wines which New England will produce, 'some as good as any that are found in France by humane culture'; and he finally returns to the overriding duty to civilize the natives:
Withall, commerce and example of our course of living
cannot but in time breed civility among them and that by
God's blessing may make way for religion consequently
and for the saving of their souls.
It already has a 19th-century ring about it.

As in similar tracts he then sets out in dialogue form to answer the principal objections to planting: the winter cold (the snow is no worse than in parts of Germany and there is plenty of fuel); the serpents and other wild beasts (again no worse than Germany); the mosquitoes (no worse than in fenny parts of Essex and Lincolnshire). More seriously, he answers the charge that the English are not natural colonists: 'We are known too well to the world to love the smoke of our own chimneys so well that hopes of great advantages are not likely to draw many of us from home.' He recognizes there is truth in this, but believes that personal interests will prevail with some and that their example will induce others to follow. But he devotes the greatest space to rebutting a charge that those who would go overseas are seditious people and Separatist in religion, determined to subvert the state and to separate from the Church of England. He denies this, challenging his accusers to produce evidence that the Massachusetts Bay people have any such subversive intentions; and making the distinction, vital to his own position on theology and church order, between Separatism and a refusal to conform to Laudian liturgy within the existing Church of England:
...there is great odds between peaceable men, who out
of tenderness of heart forbear the use of some ceremonies
of the Church (whom this State in some things thinks fit
to wink at, and it may be would do more if it were
assured of their temper) and men of fiery and turbulent
spirits, that walk in a cross way out of distemper of mind.
Now suppose some of those men that...consider...
their contrary practice gives distaste to government, and
occasions some disturbance unto the Church's peace,
upon that ground withdraw themselves for quietness
sake; Would not such dispositions be cherished with
great tenderness?
In conclusion, he summarizes the motives of 'our Planters in their voyage to New-England', making 'bold to manifest not only what I know, but what I guess concerning their purpose'. It is absurd to think that they are all of one mind. 'Necessity may press some; novelty draw on others; hopes of gain in time to come may prevail with a third sort; but that the most and most sincere and godly part have the advancement of the Gospel for their main scope I am confident.' And of these, he admits, 'some may entertain hope and expectation of enjoying greater liberty there than here in the use of some orders and ceremonies of our Church, it seems very probable.'

All this was apologetics for a fait accompli: not only the Mary and John but a whole fleet of emigrant ships were about to transport across the Atlantic by far the most ambitious colonizing expedition yet to be launched for North America.

In 1622 the recently formed Council for New England broadened its company terms to invite as subscribers not only 'persons of honour or gentlemen of blood' but 'western merchants', in order to attract capital and enterprise from those mercantile interests in Dorset and Devon engaged in trade with Newfoundland and New England. This came to White's notice and he seized the opportunity to interest one of his parishioners who was just one of these 'western merchants'. Richard Bushrod was a prosperous Dorchester mercer and merchant adventurer trading in furs and fish from New England, had been a Member of Parliament for the town and was to be so again. White prompted him to form a syndicate of local merchants and gentry. With Sir Walter Erle of Charborough, another local MP, as titular head, they obtained an indenture from the Privy Council to form a company to establish a settlement in New England. On 31 March 1624 they called the meeting at the Free School in Dorchester of interested people which became locally known as 'the New England Planters' Parliament'. Of the steering committee of sixteen there appointed, apart from three parsons, about half were local gentry and half Dorchester merchants. This was the nucleus of the Dorchester Company which before long numbered some 200 members. Of these fifty were Dorset gentry; a half-dozen gentry from Devon; more than thirty were merchants, mostly of Dorchester; at least twenty were clergy; there were four widows whose husbands had been gentry or merchants; there were a few Londoners and the rest were local men 'in a small way of business'.

The company lost no time in organizing its first voyage to New England on White's principle of combining fishing with settlement. The Fellowship, a small ship of 50 tons, was brought and sent out from Weymouth that very season to fish off Cape Ann on the north shore of Massachusetts Bay; but she arrived too late for profitable fishing and sold her catch for a poor price in Spain. The next year, the company added a Flemish flyboat of 40 tons, probably renamed Pilgrim; but she was badly converted and had to be retrimmed; so again both ships arrived late at the fishing grounds and this voyage made a trading loss, all the worse because of the cost of maintaining the company of landsmen left at Cape Ann over the winter. The third year they tried again with an additional ship, Amytie; but one of the ships sprang a leak about 200 leagues out and had to return to Weymouth for repairs, and because of the war with Spain the market for fish collapsed. This voyage also failed. At this point the adventurers sold off their shipping and stocks and dissolved the company. John White himself ruefully analysed the reasons for the failure. Apart from mishaps and mismanagement in fitting out ships and in the fishing strategy, he blamed the collapse of the market and the badly led and ill-disciplined landsmen left at Cape Ann. They failed to grow provisions according to plan and remained a drain on the company's resources. Above all, White faced up to the fact that the theory behind the scheme, to combine settlement with fishing, was unsound:
Two things withal may be intimated by the way, that the
very project itself of planting by the help of a fishing
voyage can never answer the success that it seems to
promise. First that no sure fishing place in the land is fit
for planting nor any good place for planting found fit for
fishing at least near the shore. And secondly, rarely any
fishermen will work at Land, neither are husbandmen fit
for fishermen but with long use and experience.
However, he consoles himself by the philisophical reflection that
experience taught us that as in building houses the first
stones of the foundation are buried under ground and
are not seen, so in planting Colonies, the first stocks
employed that way are consumed, although they serve
for a foundation to the work.
But John White was not one to be easily defeated. And there was the problem of his moral responsibility for the people, the 'landsmen' who, as an essential element in the Dorchester Company project, had been landed on the desolate shore of Cape Ann. Fourteen had been left in 1623, thirty-two the following year and there may have been scores more: the grandson of one of them mentions a figure of 200 and cattle. Although the company had paid them off in full and offered transport home, many undoubtedly were still there Among them also was a significant group who were refugees from the uncompromising Separatism of Plymouth Colony. This group had established a temporary bivouac at Nantasket on the outer shore of what came to be called Boston Bay. They included a minister, John Lyford, a moderate Puritan, John Oldham, an experienced fur trader, and Roger Conant. Conant was one of three brothers of East Budleigh, Devon. He and his brother Christopher had made careers in London, the one as a salter, the other as a grocer, before joining the Plymouth Colony. The third brother, John, went to Oxford where, as we have seen, he was a contemporary and friend of John White, took orders and returned to the West Country as rector of Limington, Somerset. It was through John Conant that White had learned of the difficulties his brother Roger and the others had had with the Plymouth people. Wherepon White had taken the initiative on behalf of the Dorchester Company to write to Conant at Nantasket inviting him to settle at Cape Ann and to become the company's agent there. Conant had accepted. When, therefore, the company was wound up, Roger Conant was one of those who remained; and although he 'disliked the place' - i.e. Cape Ann - 'as much as the adventurers disliked the business' - i.e. the Dorchester Company - he clearly wished to stay and to establish a Puritan colony independent of the Plymouth influence. He looked about for a better place than Cape Ann and settled on Naumkeag, south-west of Cape Ann on the north shore of Massachusetts Bay. White encouraged him to found a new settlement there to be renamed Salem, and undertook to support this with a legal patent, men, provisions and trade goods for the Indians. To bring this about he recruited nine of the inner-core members of the old Dorchester Company under the old company articles, to be an instrument for the direct settlement of a Puritan colony. These were Dorchester merchants together with John Conant, Roger's brother. The new syndicate immediately set about organizing two small ships which were dispatched from Weymouth with cattle, fodder, beef, cheese and butter, soap and oil, beer and clothing for the infant colony.

But the undertaking was now too ambitious for this small, local group of merchants. They required a new patent under the Council for New England. For this they needed figureheads from among the gentry and they recruited five West Country notables of Puritan persuasion, three from Devon including Sir Henry Rosewell of Ford Abbey who gave his name to the patent, Simon Whetcombe of Sherborne and John Humphrey of Dorchester, both members of the earlier company. They also needed more capital and for this had to go to the City of London where, to begin with, some forty men - half a dozen or so gentlemen, mainly from the Inns of Court, a couple of clergy, two officers of the London trainbands and the rest merchants - subscribed to stock in the new venture, called for short the New England Company. This appointed a governor for Namkeag, John Endicott, of unknown origins but a forceful personality, and dispatched him forthwith in the Abigail from Weymouth on 20 June 1628, with his commission and a cargo of supplies as befitted a governor including wines and spirits, arms and armour. Thereafter the operation transcended its West Country origins. Endecott's new commission was deemed a success and interest in the venture spread abroad 'in sundry parts of the kingdom', in White's words, and
began to awaken the spirits of some persons of
competent estates, not formerly engaged, considering
that they lived either without any useful employment at
home and might be more serviceable in assisting the
planting of a colony in New England, took at last a
resolution to unite themselves for the prosecution of that
These were the new men, gentry and merchants, 'the North Country men' from Lincolnshire and Suffolk, the Johnsons, Dudleys, Winthrops and the rest who during 1629 reshaped the New England Company into the Massachusetts Bay Company, the instrument under which the Winthrop fleet set sail in the spring of 1630.

Meanwhile John White, as an original stockholder and one of the two Puritan ministers among the first adventurers, remained an influential and respected figure. His Planters Plea was already circulating in manuscript among the promoters of the Massachusetts Bay Company in the summer of 1629; he was on the committee appointed to make the first allotment of land in New England to stockholders and there are grounds for believing he was of the inner group of 'old adventurers' with control over a special joint stock fund; he was present at a momentous meeting of the company's court in London on 19 August 1629 which voted in favour of the revolutionary proposal that the patent and government of the plantation be transferred from London headquarters to New England; when the financial interests of the adventurers (investors) and the planters (settlers) had to be reconciled, White was one of the arbitrators; and he was a member of a committee with the invidious job of estimating the true value of the company's joint stock after a heated debate in which it had been necessary for our Puritan minister to remind 'these pious gentlemen and traders' that the purpose of their enterprise 'was chiefly the glory of God'. It was probably his hand which ensured a continuing West Country influence with the election of Roger Ludlow of Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire, John Humphrey of Dorchester and Edward Rossiter of Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, as Assistants of the company.

It may be, however, that White felt himself increasingly crowded out by the personalities of the City magnates in London and the influx of new, radical men from eastern counties, keep to exert their authority in their new-found zeal for planting in New England and later given credit for the whole enterprise. He was also probably out of sympathy with the domineering personality of Governor Endicott and had a special concern for those 'old planters' like Roger Conant of Nantasket and Naumkeag who had to struggle to protect their rights.

What must have given the parson special cause for concern was the way in which church government in Salem was moving towards Separatist beliefs and practices under the influence of the Plymouth neighbours. The matter was brought to a head by the expulsion, under the direction of the governor, of two brothers, John and Samuel Browne of Roxwell, Essex, known personally to White. These had withdrawn from the Separatist-tainted church to worship according to the Book of Common Prayer and had accused the ministers of departing from the orders of the Church of England. The Brownes returned to England in the autumn of 1629 complaining to the Council for New England of their treatment. This must have distressed White because of the subversion of his plans for Salem as a non-conformist, moderately Puritan colony within a purified Church of England, and because of the West Country element in Salem, such as Roger Conant who may have taken part in the Brownes' protest. Worse, White had already begun to recruit entire families for Salem from the West Country to join the old planters and those who had sailed with Endicott in Abigail. Some forty people sailed on the Lyon's Whelp a 'neat and nimble ship', in April 1629 from Dorset and Somerset and 'specially from Dorchester and other places thereabots', including the Sprage family of Fordington and of Upwey who were personal friends of White.

It seems probable that the Lyon's Whelp contingent were in a special sense under White's patronage. When the old planters were threatened with victimization he had, indeed, contemplated using his own land allocation, as an investor, to establish a colony of his own but had abandoned the idea when Conant, Oldham and company had received compensation. But with Salem going sour on him he may have returned to it. At any rate in the autumn and winter of 1629-30, after the momentous events in Cambridge and London which established the Massachusetts Bay Company and firmed up the plan for a multiple emigration to Massachusetts Bay the following sailing season, White, though playing his part in these events, appears in a measure to have kept his own counsel and back in Dorchester to have reverted to the idea of organizing a colony according to his own way of thinking and believing. He was concerned on the one hand to take the opportunity of the Massachusetts Bay Company's emigration plan to organize a new and more ambitious band of emigrant families from the West Country, while on the other to preserve not only their West Country character but their moderate non-conformity against the Separatist tendencies of Plymouth and Salem and, he may well have suspected, of the Winthrop party itself. And so, as he perfected his plans during that autumn and winter for a new Puritan swarming to the New World, commissioning a ship and sounding out suitable recruits for a Puritan ship's company of settlers, he appears to have thought in terms of a separate, autonomous venture sailing out of Plymouth, though under the general umbrella of the Massachusetts Bay Company and in association with what came to be called the Winthrop fleet. It is significant that John Winthrop made no reference to the enterprise in his diary even though, as we saw, White visited him on the Arbella at Southampton after seeing off the Mary and John from Plymouth. White also took care to ensure the Puritan orthodoxy of his emigrant flock within the Church of England by recruiting for it two ministers, properly ordained and with beliefs consonant with White's own.

He must also have thought his way through the problem of his emigrant band's destination in Massachusetts Bay. He had the choices of Salem, now from his point of view disaffected, of throwing in his lot with the eastern counties people or of keeping his distance from them. He appears to have chosen the third option. Among the planters of the Lyon's Whelp were some who, having fetched up at Salem, moved on to a new, infant settlement at the mouth of the Charles River (subsequently Charlestown) where the minister, Francis Bright, of the Lyon's Whelp contingent, was a moderate and congenial to the West Countrymen. Others, including the Sprague family, went from Salem further up the Charles River to what became Watertown. White determined that his chosen ship's company of the Mary and John should follow his friends the Spragues and should settle in Watertown.

As John White, a striking figure in his black gown, flat cap and white bands, waved fond goodbyes to his flock on the Mary and John in Plymouth Harbour that March day in 1630 he must have been confident that, God willing, his long-dreamed-of venture in Puritan living would grow into reality on the Charles River. But this was not to be. When that ship's company finally reached landfall in Massachusetts Bay they were to disembark willy-nilly and settle, not on the Charles River, but on a less hospitable neck of land. This settlement, which was to become the principal West Country outpost in New England, they would christen Dorchester in honour of their revered patriarch.

The Uprooting 1630-35

It is time to retrace the steps of the Mary and John passengers from their embarkation at Weymouth in March 1630 and to make a journey of the imagination back in time to the spring of that year and by Dorset roads and lanes to the neighbourhoods from which these intrepid people were uprooting themselves. Apart from half a dozen families from Devon, they hailed from a restricted and well-defined part of west Dorset and south Somerset. The fifty or so heads of families in the Mary and John and in several later associated ships sailing from Weymouth to Dorchester on Massachusetts Bay came largely from a few clusters of towns and villages: Lyme Regis, Bridport and the Brit Valley in west Dorset, and Crewkerne, Chard and half a dozen satellite villages in south Somerset. Dorchester, which lay further to the east only eight miles inland up the well-travelled road from the port of Weymouth, provided its own quota, as might be expected of the county town which was John White's own headquarters; but even from Dorchester it was a mere twenty miles, a day's walk, up the Frome valley and over the downs to Crewkerne.

Through the medium of their rector's pulpit and study, and the commitment of some of their own merchants, Dorchester people had for a long time been made conscious of New England's high purpose (indeed some may have become bored by it and one Dorchester dame went so far as to accuse her parson of funnelling away money to that project which ought by rights to have gone to the town poor). Only the previous spring, several families had joined a company of Dorset and Somerset people sailing from Weymouth in the Lyon's Whelp bound for Salem; and now in this spring of 1630 the town had lost six families and a couple of bachelors by the Mary and John, mostly important and interrelated merchant families, all recruited by the rector of Holy Trinity.

Leaving Dorchester by the High Street at the top of the town, past the gaol which was new in 1630, and climbing west on the old Roman road over downs which in that year were dotted white with grazing sheep, braced against the weather from Eggarden Hill to the north and Chesil Beach and the Channel to the south, travellers made their way over the tops, down to the estuary of the little River Brit and Bridport. Bridport, 'more old than fair' in the view of Gerard the chronicler, was a royal borough and a port, though with the silting of the estuary it had become somewhat decayed. Its fame and prosperity rested on making 'cordage or ropes for the Navie of England' and nets and fishing tackle. Until lately the town had a monopoly and still enjoyed an important trade, particularly with the Newfoundland fishing fleet. Its raw materials, hemp for the rope-walks and flax for rough clothing and sailcloth, grew abundantly in Bridport's backyard, cultivated in lynchets of the rich, damp, sandy soil up the little valley of the Brit where, according to Thomas Fuller, 'England hath no better than what groweth here betwist Beaminster and Bridport'. Bridport itself provided four families for the Mary and John and her successor ships and another important family the Fords, derived from the pretty village of Simonsbury (now Symondsbury), only a mile and a half away on a miniscule tributary of the Brit called the Simene. Simonsbury, 'or as we now call it Symsbury', as Gerard wrote, would one day give its name to a settlement in Connecticut.

Simonsbury is just off the high road which, through good dairy and cider country and the fishing hamlets of Chideok and Charmouth, reaches the port of Lyme rising up its cliff above the Cobb and Lyme Bay. Lyme was a deep-water port with Newfoundland connections. It provided one important mercantile family for the Mary and John, that of William Hill whose father had been mayor of the town and who himself had married into the important merchant community of Exeter. Lyme, on its salient thrusting into Devon, is the ultimate point of this coastal itinerary. Returning to Charmouth and then up the River Char past Whitchurch Canonicorum we pass on into Marshwood Vale. This was rough, steeply enclosed country on cold, heavy clay, remote and inaccessible in winter; it was largely pasture for dairying with plenty of game in the old forest and meandering roads linking ancient farmsteads. One of these was 'Coweleyes', the property of the Newberrys. Thomas Newberry was a younger son of a younger son of fairly prominent Dorset gentry. Like many a younger son he tried to make a living in London at the Bar but gave it up to return to live in the depths of the country in a house belonging to his father-in-law. In 1630 he was probably already contemplating a removal to New England, and with his family of seven children would sail from Weymouth in April 1634. Thomas himself, a stockholder in the Massachusetts Bay Company, would not long survive in Dorchester, Massachusetts, but his widow and their children would become one of the prominent first families of Windsor on the Connecticut.

From Marshwood Vale we return to Bridport and then up into the secluded Brit Valley which, in 1630, was terraced with flax and hemp. This was arguably the best land in Dorset, very deep, rich mould, yielding abundant harvests of grains as well as hemp and flax. In the next century land rents in this valley were twice the average for this part of Dorset. Its cider orchards were outstanding and cottagers were busy spinning wool as well as flax. Four miles upstream from Bridport lies Netherbury, to Leland 'an Uplandisch Town' on a hill with a strikingly dominant church, of which Thomas Fuller would become prebend the next year. Netherbury was a prosperous village, spinning wool and flax, making sailcloth and brewing cider by the thousand hogsheads. It had a well-endowed free grammar school. The largest parish in Dorset, its register entries include many whose names will be encountered in New England.

Only a little over a mile upstream from Netherbury, after skirting Parham, seat of the Strode family, we come at last to Beaminster itself, close to the source of the Brit which flows, as it did in Leland's day, 'under a little stone bridge of two pretty arches' and nestling under Beaminster Down. Beaminster is described by both Leland and Gerard as a pretty market town. In 1630 it had four main streets centring on an attractive square with a handsome pillared market house only recently built and much admired. The church had been enlarged in the Perpendicular style, with a fine tower built almost within living memory and an oak pulpit even more recent, carved with the fashionable Jacobean decoration. Beaminster was a place of importance in west Dorset. The justices met here for quarter sessions, staying at the White Hart, the principal inn and stopping place for carriers, higglers and an occasional coach. Apart from its market, Beaminster's chief activity was the cloth trade and its rows of weavers' houses were busy spinning wool from the renowned Dorset sheep on the nearby downs and weaving kersies and Dorset dozens for inland and overseas markets. Beaminster had close relations with Dorchester, fifteen miles away, and reflected something of Dorchester's reforming morality. Like Dorchester it boasted a new almshouse, endowed by a rich cloth merchant of the town. There were signs of a growing Puritan disposition, and by the outbreak of the Civil War the town would be reported as being violently opposed to the King and the church hierarchy. Four Beaminster families - Hosfords, Hoskins, Pomeroys and Samways - would find their way to Dorchester, Massachusetts and thence to Windsor on the Connecticut River.

Leaving Beaminster to the north one climbs up over Horn Hill and down into the valley of the River Axe to the village of Mosterton, home of the Gallop family, passengers on the Mary and John, and thence, by a couple of roundabout miles, to South Perrott, home of the Gibbs and from which Giles Gibbs and family have probably left to join the same ship; and so, down and across the infant River Axe, to the county of Somerset and, two and a half miles further on, to Crewkerne.

Crewkerne was a thriving market town which specialized in weaving sailcloth. According to Gerard, it had 'a fair, sightly built church built in a cross with a bell tower rising up in the middle' and Leland records that it had 'a pretty town house in the market place', a grammar school and, once again, an almshouse of recent foundation. Crewkerne was an important resource for John White's recruiting. John Warham, White's choice as minister for the gathered church of the Mary and John's ship's company, was born and bred there, though he came of gentle Dorset stock from nearby Maiden Newton. After coming down from Oxford he had apparently become a Puritan lecturer in the locality. He was clearly a considerable preacher. After he preached a farewell sermon in Crewkerne church the churchwardens were disciplined by the archdeacon's court for permitting it. At some point he was reputedly 'silenced or suspended' by his bishop for his subversive Puritan opinions but later given asylum by the more sympathetic Bishop of Exeter as curate of St Pedrock's. There he attracted to his congregation of Puritan-minded merchant families among others a young man, Roger Clap [later the family name was spelled "Clapp"], who 'took such a liking unto [him] that he did desire to live near him', having 'never so much as heard of New England until he heard of many a godly person that were going there and that Mr Warham was to go also'. Warham's influence in that part of Somerset was clearly still strong, reaching beyond Crewkerne into its neighbouring villages. Those of his new flock who came from that vicinity knew and liked him well and were attracted to the prospect of emigrating to New England with him as their pastor. Altogether, from Crewkerne itself, from Chard and from neighbouring villages, a score or so of families and individuals were recruited for the Mary and John and subsequent ships to join his church in Dorchester on Massachusetts Bay. They included some of the more notable people in the enterprise.

Crewkerne contributed William Gaylord, whom Wharham chose as the first deacon of his shipboard church that day of departure in Plymouth, and William Phelps, who became constable at Dorchester and magistrate in Connecticut. Five miles away, in the smiling vale sheltering below Windwhistle Ridge, lies the village of Chaffcombe, whose rector William Gillett contributed two young bachelor sons. A short walk from Chaffcombe brings one to Chard, an important cloth-weaving town which exported coarse cottons and wollens to Brittany, Bordeaux and La Rochelle. The largest of these groups of recruits came from here. The Cogans, a prominent family of merchants and clothiers, provided Boston, Massachusetts with its first shopkeeper and two daughters who married respectively Roger Ludlow, Assistant and owner of the Mary and John and principal colonizer of Windsor on the Connecticut River, and John Endicott, Governor of Salem, Massachusetts. A couple of miles north-west of Chard is Combe St Nicholas with another fine church standing high in the village. Here, in Ilminster and hereabouts, was the country of the Rossiters, country gentry of whom Edward, 'a godly man of good estate', an Assistant of the Massachusetts Bay Company, and his son Bryan, who was to practise medicine, were Mary and John passengers; and also from Ilminster came John Branker, an Oxford graduate who became schoolmaster and ruling elder in Warham's church.

Ten miles further still we come to the Vale of Taunton. Taunton Deane, with its rich, red earth which produces 'all fruits in great plenty', as Gerard put it, was renowned orchard and cider-making country. 'The paradise of England', John Norden called it. 'Where should I be born else than in Taunton Deane?' asked Thomas Fuller rhetorically. Its market town, Taunton, was a thriving and populous borough much praised by Gerard for the 'beauty of the streets and maketplace, having springs of most sweet water continually running through them', for its great church and its tower and ring of bells and, inevitably, for its almhouses. Taunton had a great market, especially for cattle; it was also an important cloth town. Some eight miles out of Taunton into the vale is the little village of Fitzhead, home of the Rockwell brothers, of whom William had been chosen by John Warham as deacon of his shipboard church, doubtless, like his fellow deacon Gaylord, in acknowledgment of his religious commitment and sterling qualities.

After Fitzhead, we have a short walk of a couple of miles by a back lane to our final destination on this excursion: the tiny, sequestered village of Tolland, home of the Wolcott family. The Wolcotts were clothiers from nearby Wellington who during the previous century had acquired lands, mills and a quarry in the manor of Tolland. Henry Wolcott, a man of affluent means, though in middle age had made a reconnoitring voyage to New England in 1628 and had then determined to foresake Somerset for the New World. Having disposed of the greater part of his family inheritance, he embarked with his family on the Mary and John. With his talents and energy Wolcott, along with Roger Ludlow, Edward Rossiter and Israel Stoughton, provided the leadership for the Dorchester enterprise, and would, together with Ludlow and Newberry, put up most of the money to found Windsor on the Connecticut. He was to be a principal magistrate of Connecticut Colony, the most prominent member of the Windsor settlement throughout his long life, and its richest citizen.

This journey through the highways and byways of the Dorset-Somerset border country on the track of New England planters has meandered through many villages and towns; but apart from a few outlying instances, the families concerned have been traced to a circumscribed area and this invites speculation. How did these families and individuals come to their Weymouth rendezvous in March 1630? To what extent were they in touch with one another beforehand as people with like motives? Did they come together spontaneously or were they organized from outside? We shall never have definite answers to such questions. We are dealing for the most part with people who left few, if any, family records beyond the register of their births, marriages and deaths, a few wills and inventories to illuminate their lives in England (their lives in New England are somewhat better documented), and a great deal has to be surmised.

The propinquity of these families and their villages and towns, the extent to which young men married girls two or three villages away, the inter-family connections which resulted, and the business travel to towns and ports, would lead one to suppose that many of these people knew or knew of one another and, stimulated by intelligence from New England, took steps to get in touch and concert their departure plans. It is hard to believe that the Fords, Ways, Capens, Purchases and Terrys of Dorchester, that county town which by our standards was still only a large village, did not know one another, or that the Hoskins, Hosfords and Pomeroys of Beaminster and Netherbury, the Denslows, Randalls and Ways of Bridport or the Gilletts, Rossiters, Brankers, Cogans, Strongs and Pinneys of the Chard-Ilminster neighbourhood did not at least hear through the local gossip was was afoot. John White's statement in The Planters Plea, of the Mary and John ship's company, that of 'about 140 persons...there were not six known either by face or fame to any of the rest' must be discounted. It has been plausibly suggested that he wrote thus to support his denial that his emigrants were an organized band of Separatists conspiring to subvert the Church of England. Yet the circumstances surrounding the sailing of the Mary and John and related ventures presuppose an organizing, external agent; and that agent must have been the patriarch of Dorchester in whose honour the emigrants named the place they founded on Massachusetts Bay.

John White was a man of energy and drive; and no doubt there came in and out of his rectory and vestry a daily stream of people who could be interested in and recruited for not only his good works in Dorchester but also his pious colonizing efforts. But although he masterminded the whole Mary and John expedition, he must have had agents to help him enlist his emigrants; and who better placed to act as such than his own professional colleagues, that network of parish clergy, many of whom shared White's convictions about theology, church order and the duty to save the souls of the heathen?

It will be recalled that among the members of the Dorchester Company were a score or so of clergymen, mostly in West Country livings, and no doubt many recruited by White himself. Of these, about a dozen held livings in our catchment area. In addition, another seven, not members of the company, were known for their Puritan leanings, their connections with White, or both. There was William Benn, rector of All Hallows, and Robert Cheeke, rector of All Saints and schoolmaster, in Dorchester itself. Edward Clarke, once one of White's assistants, member of the committee of the Planters' Parliament and brother-in-law of Dorchester's John Humphrey, the deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company, was vicar of Taunton and in a position to make contact with such people as the Strongs, Rockwells and Wolcotts. There was William Tilly, rector of Broadwindsor, two miles or so from Netherbury and Beaminster, and his neighbour George Bowden, minister of Mapperton, only a couple of miles from Beaminster, both strong Puritans. Walter Newburgh, rector of Simonsbury, was not only a member of the Dorchester Company but married successively daughters of two of its chief adventurers, Sir Richard Strode and Mr John Browne of Frampton. The latter, Jane, survived the squire of Framptonn to marry the Rev. John Stoughton, a prominent Puritan clergyman of Somerset and St Mary, Aldermanbury, London, brother of Israel and Thomas, both important settlers at Dorchester, Massachusetts. Walter Newburgh may well have prompted the emigration not only of his cousin Thomas Newburgh but of the Ways, Randalls and Denslows of nearby Bridport. William Gillett of Chaffcombe may not only have contributed his own two sons but influenced John Hill of his own parish and the people of nearby Combe St Nicholas, Ilminster and Broadway. We have already noted the likely importance of John Warham's incumbency of Crewkerne. Richard Bernard, the rector of Batcombe, was an important Puritan friend of White's, a writer of controversial tracts, two of which, critical of 'the manner of our gathering our churches', he was to send over to John Winthrop in Boston. It was his system for instructing parishoners that John White adopted in Dorchester, and Batcombe was not only a mere stone's throw from Roger Ludlow's home at Maiden Bradley, but the parish from which Joseph Hull recruited his own emigrant congregation.

Joseph Hull was one of three clergymen apart from John White who deserve special attention as being all directly active in the colonizing movement. He lived at Crewkerne, and led a shipload of 106 persons to found Weymouth on Massachusetts Bay. The second was John Conant, rector of nearby Limington, Somerset; it was probably through him that White was put in touch with his brother Roger Conant who rescued the Cape Ann venture and virtually founded Salem. The third was Richard Eburne, vicar of Henstridge next door to Caundle Purse whence came William Hannum. Little is known of Eburne save the all-important fact that he was the author of A Plain Pathway to Plantations which he published in 1624, the year of the Planters' Parliament. This pamphlet is of the same genre as White's Planters Plea and others of the time. In the form of a dialogue between a thinly disquised Eburne and a merchant, it is vigorous and racy advocacy of planting in Newfoundland as a moral virtue in itself and as the only cure for the economic social and moral ills of the country. Together with The Planters Plea it provides a valuable insight into the attitude of mind of that particular clerical generation in Dorset and Somerset.

Eburne was specific in his profile of the social composition for a successful colony in North America. First, there must be 'governors and rulers', people of 'better breeding and experience, gentlemen at the least'; but he qualified this by writing that if, as seems likely, not enough such come forward, then the organizers should go for 'others of a next degree unto gentlemen - that is, yeomen and yeomenlike men, that have in them some good knowledge and courage...who may in defect of better men be advanced to places of preferment and government there and haply prove not altogether unworthy thereof.' Men of substance were essential. Men 'better stored in money and means than the generality' - that is to say with working capital - were needed to 'employ the poorer sort and set them to work'. Above all, he stipulated that the colony, however primitive its circumstances, must have a learned ministry; but then again, 'if scholars, that is graduates and men of note for learning cannot be had, it may suffice sometimes that such be invited to the ministry as are of mean knowledge so that they have good utterance and be of sound and honest life and conversation.' Indeed not much more could be expected 'in the infancy of a church where neither schools nor other means for learned and able men are yet planted. Better such than none.' In other words, though the colony must be governed by degree, by position or class - and no one in that day would assume otherwise - there ws likely to be an element of levelling in which vigor and character would compensate for lack of breeding or position.

This passage is a revealing introduction to a consideration of the actual composition of the people whom White and his collaborators recruited for their New England venture. They were a strikingly eclectic group. Few individuals are completely unknown to us, whose families, towns and villages cannot be identified and whose social position at least roughly estimated. Of the fifty or so heads of families with whom we are becoming familiar, hardly any have left no trace of themselves. Broadly speaking our New England emigrants did not come from any social stratum lower than husbandman or artisan or higher than the minor gentry. The largest group, twelve families in all, belonged to that very broad class called yeomen, described by our local rector of Broadwindsor, Thomas Fuller, as 'an estate of people almost peculiar to England, living in the temperate zone between greatness and want'.

It was a large class, shading at the top into the gentry like the Hoskins of Beaminster and at the bottom into more humble husbandmen. Some of these were established families in their villages and towns, leaving land and chattels to their descendants and bequests to the poor with perhaps even a tomb in the parish church. Some were relatively poor. Others were younger sons who had to make their way in the world, like Humphrey Pinney of Broadway. A few, like Thomas Newberry of Marshwood Vale, were well off even by the standards of lesser gentry to which estate they might or might not aspire. Indeed, the line between yeomanry and gentry was shadowy and defined often as much by a man's 'port', his social ambition and style, as by a family listing in the Visitations of the Hearlds, and many a younger son of a younger son like John Hill of Chaffcombe must reconcile himself to sinking from Esquire or Mister to Goodman. A dozen or so might be classes as minor gentry, some tinged with yeoman, merchant or burgess; or vice versa. As for the smaller group of county families with notable estates who dominated their neighborhoods and provided the Crown with its justices and deputy lieutenants to govern the shrine, probably only one figured in our company: Roger Ludlow, the owner of the Mary and John, who came from a distinguished landed family with legal connections on the border of Wiltshire.

However, even Ludlow did not think it was beneath him to marry the daughter of a merchant, Philobert Cogan of Chard, although it is true the Cogans were so well established that they were entitled to bear arms. The line between merchant and gentleman was as shadowy as that between gentleman and yeoman. It was common for daughters of rich merchants and burgesses like the Capens and the Hosfords of Dorchester to marry into the gentry; and the Wolcotts, clothiers who had acquired land, a grist mill and quarries in fee simple, were well on their way to becoming gentry.

In our emigrant band, the urban, merchant class was the largest, most cohesive and forceful in the whole enterprise. It was represented by some twelve families, mostly John White's parishioners in Dorchester, like George Way, who had been an adventurer of the Dorchester Company, and the Capens and Purchases with links overseas through Weymouth, but also others, from Lyme Regis, Chard and Exeter. They were interrelated, as families and in business. William Hill of Lyme and Nathaniel Duncan married daughters of Ignatius Jourdain, a prominent Puritan mayor of Exeter and a successful overseas merchant, once of Guernsey, then of Lyme Regis and now of Exeter and the City of London. John Cogan, one of the Chard clan, was also established, like the Jourdains, in St Sidwell's, Exeter and it was no coincidence that this was John Warham's parish. Hill and Duncan sailed in the Mary and John and Cogan three years later, all three with their families. Young William Humphrey, of another Lyme merchant family kin to White's friend John Humphrey of Charldon, was to become an important merchant in Windsor, Connecticut.

Equally significant were the professional people, the clerisy gentry by courtesy: the clergy proper, the two ministers Warham and Maverick, both Oxford graduates; three sons of parsons, the two Gillett boys and Stephen Terry, John White's nephew; the surveyor George Hull whose two brothers were beneficed clergymen; and two schoolmasters, John Branker the Oxford graduate, and Aquila Purchase, who also belonged to the inner group of Dorchester merchant families.

Finally, there was a scattering of people with special skills - fullers, coopers, tanners and masons; and, not surprisingly for that Channel coast, there were six master mariners: John Gallop, Henry Way and John and Richard Rocket of the Bridport area, Elias Parkman of Sidmouth, and John Tilley, a black sheep of Chilthorne Dormer who had first gone to sea and learnt to rough it at Cape Ann in 1623. All were to pursue their calling off the New England coast.

If our company were relatively homogeneous as a social class they were also essentially a community of families. Of the Mary and John's adult passengers, only about twelve were single men (there were no single adult women); the rest, fifty-four in number, were twenty-seven married couples; and of those whose ages we know, the husbands range from a few in their twenties to nine who are well over forty, that is to say well over middle age for the time. Even more striking is the number of offspring; in that ship's company there were no less than seventy-two children. This was no band of young, unattached, swashbuckling adventurers such as had characterized transatlantic ventures hitherto. It was a well-knit company among the very first, of emigrant families with children as hostages to their fortunes, sober in their commitment to a planting venture, hazardous as it might turn out to be. These gentry, merchants, yeomen, professionals, artisans, sea captains and their families formed an eclectic and yet cohesive group, significant for what it did not include - especially servants of both sexes - as for what it comprised. Its members were selected and, in a measure, self-selected for a very special purpose.

What was that purpose? Why did they go? Why did they leave their English hearths? John White himself noted that the English loved the smoke of their own chimneys too well to leave home; and Richard Eburne quoted the Latin tag: 'Fumus patriae alieno inculentior' ('the smoke of a man's own country is dearer in his eyes than the fire of another'). For these West Country people we may echo Thomas Fuller's question: 'Where should I be born else than in Taunton Deane?' by adding parenthetically, 'and where should I wish to bring up my children but in the Vale of Taunton, or the Axe or Brit valleys, or the close country between, the high country behind or the downland east towards Dorchester?' For this was a rich landscape, nuturing a country people as well-found and as prosperous as any in England.

In the 17th century, Somerset was the third or fourth most populous English shire and the people in its southern hundreds especially were sustained by a bountiful countryside. The valleys of Taunton, Wellington and the Axe sent barley, wheat and oats, orchard fruit and hops, beef and dairy products to commercial markets as far away as London. South and east, that district of Somerset and west Dorset within a radius of fifteen miles of Crewkerne whence came most of our emigrants was prosperous, mixed-farming country. Comfortable husbandmen living in small, enclosed farmsteads grew corn, reared cattle and sheep and kept dairy cows from whose milk their wives made renowned butter and cheeses for market. The coastal area between Lyme and Bridport was especially famous for its Dorset butter. Thomas Fuller's Broadwindsor and Netherbury were renowned for their cider and the Brit Valley for its hemp and flax. Although Dorset was less populous, its farm produce supported twenty-one market towns. Thomas Gerard wrote of the yeomen of nearby Martock of this time that they were
seated in the fattest place of the earth of this country...
which makes the inhabitants so fat in their purses...
[They were] wealthy and substantial men through none of
the best bred, which is the cause their neighbours about
them are apt enough to slander them with the titles of
clowns; but they care not much for that, knowing they
have money in their purses to make them gentlemen
when they are fit for the degree.
No doubt this was fair comment on neighbors of our Tilleys in the next village, Chilthorne Domer.

The key element in this rural economy, however, was wool. The raising of sheep for their wool was the important item in the cash returns of many a small husbandman and the sheep runs of the Dorset downs were big business. It was boasted that there were 300,000 sheep within six miles of Dorchester. By the end of the century Dorset would be producing the highest number of packs of shorn wool of any county in England, grown on the backs of Dorset's own breed of white-faced, short-woolled sheep, unique for their early lambing and their combination of hardiness and medium-fine fleece. Most of the best spun wool was sent to the weaving centres of Somerset and Wiltshire; but the rougher wools were worked up locally in the cottages of Beaminster, Bere, Lyme, Sturminster and elsewhere, into kersies and Dorset dozens, coarse woollen cloths which the merchants of Dorchester exported from Weymouth to St Malo for the peasants of Normandy and Brittany, poor people, it was said 'of a base disposition', who would not 'go to the price of good cloth'.

Across the River Axe the weavers of Chard, Ilminster, Taunton, Wellington and Wiveliscombe were at the same business; but in Somerset the cloth industry dominated the rural economy in a way that was not true of Dorset and its prosperity or decline affected critically the fortunes of its populous towns and villages. Since the 1620s that industry had fallen on hard times.

The great expansion of the cloth trade in Tudor times had been followed by a slump beginning about 1620 which lasted on and off for a decade or more. Part of the problem was that the traditional English cloths were at a discount. The quality of the wool had declined and competition from abroad and changes in taste had lessened the demand for classic cloths woven from fine, short staple wool. The cloth industry of Wiltshire and Somerset, beautifully geared to the standard woollens had suffered most. New products were in demand. Worsten cloths, more loosely woven from long staple wools and from mixtures of foreign wool, silk and cotton warps, the so-called 'new draperies', were in fashion for apparel and furnishing. This was the market which, with its Low Country technicians, East Anglia had captured and which the West Country, with the exception of Taunton's fine serges, shalloons and druggets made from Welsh and Spanish wools, had failed to exploit. The export trade itself had declined; Continental markets were disturbed by the breakdown of relations with Spain, by the futile war with Richelieu's France in support of the Huguenots of La Rochelle, and by those operations in the Low Countries and in Bohemia and northern Germany which were the beginning of what historians would call the Thirty Years' War.

The people of Somerset had been geared too closely to the woollen industry; and too many of her villages had become cluttered with cottages for weavers and their families who knew no other trade. With the slump, their masters the clothiers cut off wool supplies and orders, and they became a classic example of rural un- or under-employment. 'The glut of unsold worsteds and coarser stuffs in Blackhall Hall, London' spelled gloom and tension for the part of the West Country stretching in an arc from Ilminster, Chard and Taunton to Frome and the cloth-weaving areas of Wiltshire.

This depression was exacerbated by severe fluctuations in the harvests. Several bumper crops producing gluts and ruinously low grain prices alternated with crop failures like that of 1621 recorded by William Whiteway from his Dorchester window: "This was a very cold and moist summer which ripened corn but slowly so that it began to rust at harvest which was very late, there being corn in the fields till the 10th of October.' It was followed by crop failures in 1622, 1629 and above all 1630 which brought famine prices 'half-filled stomachs' and starvation to unemployed weavers. Even those in work, wages lamentably failed to keep pace with prices so that 'the meaner sort of live in great neediness and extremity'. Conditions were so bad that the Privy Council was concerned about industrial unrest by the unemployed who might 'raise Tumults and fall to uproars for their bellies' sake', like the uprising of 1621-22 when Whiteway wrote in his diary (June 1622): 'In this month was there a watch appointed in all every crossway, one by day and two by night perpetually to give notice if any tumult should arise for want of trade.' There were riots in protest against the export of corn to Bristol and magistrates acted to distribute corn equitably, prosecute corn hoarders and ration malsters and alehouses. This uneasiness was increased by the violent rising of two years before, still endemic, of the people of Gillingham in Dorset against the threat to their livelihood by the King's decision to enclose the royal forest there.

Largely because of the cloth workers' plight, the pundits of the day were preoccupied with the fashionable diagnosis that the cause of the country's economic problems was over-population. When harvests failed, the landless poor took the brunt of the resulting poverty and famine, especially the cottagers in the clothing villages. Richard Eburne wrote his Plain Pathway to Plantations in Hendridge near Caundle Purse close to Sherborne and Yeovil at the centre of weavers' unemployment and distress. In his view, the region was no longer self-sufficient in food 'unless it be in an extraordinary year', the neighbourhood was over-populated and the only solution was emigration: 'Our land...swarmeth with multitude and plenty of people, it is time and high time that, like stalls that are overfull of bees or orchards overgrown with young sets, no small number of them should be transplanted into some other soild and removed hence into new hives and homes...The true and sure remedy is the diminution of the people.' This conclusion was echoed by his fellow colonial propagandist, John White: 'We have more men than we can employ to any profitable or useful labour...especially if there happen any interruption of trade.'

In addition to unemployment, poverty, and starvation, these were recurrent years of plague and other moral sickness. Outbreaks of plague in London like that of 1625 led to the complete breakdown of markets and trade and there had been a particularly bad outbreak close to home, in Plymouth; and if not the plague there was always smallpox and sometimes typhus and 'famine fever'. In the parish of Martock where we have just noted fat farms and yeomen, forty-four people were carried off by these diseases in 1623, fifty-five the following year and as many as seventy-seven in 1625, the most severe plague year.

To what extent did such circumstances persuade our emigrant families to take the drastic step of uprooting themselves to begin life again in New England? This impression of a time and place and of sunlit vistas streaked with ominous shadows of want, distress and unrest contrasts sharply with the image of that land across the Atlantic depicted by Eburne, White and their fellow propagandists, of a New England of plenty where the seasonal climate was familiar, where there was timber and fuel in abundance, where the forests teemed with game and rivers, lakes and ocean with fish, and where fifty acres of fertile land was to be had for the asking. In effect, here beckoned a land where transplanted English people might live in the social and economic circumstances they were used to but in much greater comfort and ease than in the more constricted circumstances of Dorset or Somerset.

As we have seen, most of our families were of the middling classes, yeomen, merchants and clerisy with a few gentry; none belonged to that nameless, landless class of cottagers and day workers, the poor, the indigent and the vagrant, who were most at risk and had least to lose by taking ship for the unknown. Yet the climate of the time may well have exerted a kind of lunar influence on that generation of West Country people. The tone of Eburne's and White's rhetoric suggests that they were conscious of the growing sprawl of over-crowded and unkempt cottages in the countryside, of the need for charities and almshouses for the poor and aged in the towns, of beggars and vagrants who must be moved on, of Protestant refugees from the Continental wars of their own ragged troops returning from La Rochelle, billeted on the unwilling citizenry of Dorset towns. The shock of that catastrophic fire which consumed most of Dorchester and its wealth remained a vivid memory and a symbol of the transience of worldly possessions. The fat men of Martock might well be conscious that despite their rustic homespun they could buy themselves gentility should they have the mind for it; but the death of so many of their family and neighbours by typhus and the plague must have reminded them of their mortal state. This, the Jacobean scene, had a sombre hue, tinged with melodrama and tragedy like the plays of Thames-side, and, it could be, engendering an apocalyptic outlook, turning men's minds towards radical and final judgments. Perhaps we shall come nearer to answering our question of why they went by looking beyond the material to more deep-seated motives.

To White and his fellow proselytizers, as we have seen, the principal motive for colonizing in North America was religious: 'the most eminent and desirable end of planting colonies is the propagation of Religion.' Moreover, it was a high duty to which England had been called: 'this Nation is in a sort singled out unto this work, being of all the States that enjoy the libertie of the Religion Reformed, and are able to spare people for such an employment, the most Orthodox in our profession.'

In the 1620s the state of religions politics in England made that call ever more urgent. Discrimination against ministers of the reformed persuasion was not as marked in the West Country as in eastern England; but there was writing on the diocesan walls of Bristol, Exeter and Bath and Wells. John White's Puritan zeal had long been famous and to some people notorious, as to that widow Samays who accused him of robbing the Dorchester poor to further his cranky colonial enterprise. But he had so far kept out of the ecclesiastical line of fire, though events of the 1630s, especially when his papers were seized and he was called before the Court of High Commission, would ultimately drive him to a greater extreme. Although reformist in church doctrine he is still loyal to the Church of England and this would be a cardinal fact for the Dorchester settlement. He may have been protected in his Puritanism by his bishop, Arthur Lake, who had been his virtual contemporary at Winchester and New College and was an ardent supporter of his colonizing efforts. But Lake died in 1626 and was succeeded as Bishop of Bath and Wells by none other than William Laud, on his way to national eminence. It was Laud who had driven the Puritan-minded John Warham out of Crewkerne to seek temporary refuge under the more tolerant Bishop of Exeter before accepting his call to the New World. Warham himself had become sufficiently notorious to be lampooned in 'A Proper Ballad, called the Summons to New England, to the tune of the Townsman's cap', which began:
Let all the Purisdian sect,
I mean the counterfeit Elect
and ended:
The native people, though yet wild,
Are all by nature kind and mild,
And apt already (by report)
To live in this religious sort,
Soon to conversion they'll be brought
When Warham's miracles are wrought,
Who, being sanctified and pure,
May by the Spirit them allure.
By that time White's influence was pervasive and recognized as fostering the naturally Puritan temper of Dorchester and Dorset. It would not be long before Laud himself would complain that there were Puritans in nearly every parish in the county and Bishop Skinner of Bristol would feel impelled to exhort the clergy of Dorset to return to kneeling at prayers, using the cross at baptism and holding feasts and holidays, so Puritan had they become. No wonder Clarendon was to describe Dorchester as the most malignant place in the country.

This soil nurtured the emigrants whom White and his colleagues recruited and it is strong circumstantial evidence of a powerful religious motive for their uprooting. This seems to have been popularly accepted. That November of 1630, in a deposition before the Dorchester magistrates, a Thomas Jarvis of Lyme Regis said that 'all the Projectors for New England business are Rebells and those that are gone over are Idolators, captivated and separatists'.

It is possible to be certain of the religious convictions of only a minority of our ships' passengers. Apart from the two parsons, Warham and Maverick, their two deacons Rockwell and Gaylord, and Ludlow and Rossiter, Assistants of the company, there were only a few whose religious convictions are explicitly recorded. One was young Roger Clap who in his old age was to describe in a memoir how as a youth he persuaded his parents to let him live with a Huguenot family in Exeter so that he could sit at John Warham's feet; there was Henry Wolcott who underwent a marked conversion to Puritan beliefs and whose plan to shift his family and fortune to the New World implies a powerful Puritan commitment; and there are a number of others in similar circumstances, such as Stephen Terry, the Gillett brothers and George Hull, sons and brother respectively of Puritan parsons, and Thomas Newberry, cousin of Roger, rector of Simonsbury. For the rest, the evidence is more circumstantial. Not all who took part in those farewell services in Plymouth would pass the rigorous process of self-examination and public declaration which would come to be the test of full church membership in Dorchester or subsequently in Windsor; and there were clearly a few odd men out, like the reprobate John Tilley.

Yet when all is said and especially bearing in mind the homogeneous character of those fifty or so families, their earnest commitment, their responsibilities for children, the hazardous nature of the enterprise, and also the high rate of success they would achieve in establishing themselves in New England, we can hardly doubt that a Puritan religious conviction was a dominant motive for most of them or that John White's own assessment, recorded at the very time of their departure, is sound:
I should be very unwilling to hide any thing I think might be fit to discover the uttermost of the intentions of our planters in their voyage to New-England, and therefore shall make bold to manifest not only what I know, but what I guess concerning their purpose. As it were absurd to conceive that they have all one mind, so were it more ridiculous to imagine they have all one scope. Necessity may press some; novelty draw on others; hopes of gain in time to come may prevail with a third sort; but that the most sincere and godly part have the advancement of the Gospel for their main scope I am confident. That of them some may entertain hope and expectation of enjoying greater liberty there than here in the use of some orders and ceremonies of our Church it seems very probable.
The Voyage

We do not know how long it took the Mary and John to raise anchor and manoeuvre out of Plymouth Sound round Rame Head into open Channel. There exists no account of this voyage. However, there are diaries kept by passengers on other voyages bound for Massachusetts Bay, notably Francis Higginson's for the Talbot the pervious season, John Winthrop's for the Arbella three weeks after the Mary and John, Richard Mather's for the James in 1635 and John Josselyn's for the New Supply in 1638. These provide plausible evidence of the experience of the ship's company of the Mary and John and of the later sailings for Dorchester, Massachusetts.

In 1630 the voyage from England across the north Atlantic might be perilous but was scarcely an unknown adventure. For a century or more West Country seamen had been navigating Atlantic waters, to Newfoundland to fish and latterly to New England both to fish and to plant. The masters, officers and seamen were professionals, for the most part committed to north Atlantic sailing, and during the season there was a fair amount of traffic. The previous spring at least six ships with a total of 350 passengers as well as cattle, armaments and provisions had sailed from the Thames alone and these were only the precursors of the great migration of the 1630s when some 200 ships transported more than 20,000 settlers to New England. The home ports of many of these ships were indeed on the Thames, or even further up the North Sea, at Ipswich or Yarmouth; but most hailded from the West Country, from Southampton round to Bristol. In 1634 William Whiteway noted in his Dorchester diary that 'this summer there went over to [New England] at least 20 sail of ships and in them 2,000 planters' from the ports of Weymouth and Plymouth alone. Sailing from western Channel ports could shorten the voyage considerably. It took Talbot and her sister ship Lyon's Whelp two weeks and New Supply ten days to make the complicated passage from Gravesend by way of anchorages in Margaret Bay and Dover Roads round to the Isle of Wight; and James hung about for over a month before sailing from Bristol, only to put in successively to Minehead, Lundy Island and Milford Haven before finally losing sight of land over five weeks later.

Apart from problems of cargo loading and government clearances, such delays were caused by the limited sailing capacity of the ships of the time. A square-sail rigged ship was at its best with a following wind or at least on the quarter and could not normally sail nearer to the wind than seven points. Consequently she must wait, sometimes for weeks, for a favorable wind. Mary and John was fortunate in sailing from a port as far west as Plymouth and she may have got away quickly down Channel, though the ultimate length of her voyage, over ten weeks, does not suggest this.

One cause of James's slow start was the reluctance of her crew to part company with Angel Gabriel who, though slower, was 'a strong ship furnished with fourteen or sixteen pieces of ordnance': for there was always a risk in coastal waters of attack from hostile privateers like those on the prowl from Spanish-held Dunkirk. Talbot 'saw six or seven sail of Dunkirkers wafting after us; but it seemed they saw our company was too strong for them', and the bark Warwick, 'a pretty ship of about eighty tons and ten pieces of ordnance', never made her rendezvous with Winthrop's squadron, having been, it was supposed, captured by a Dunkirker off the Downs. Four days out from the Scillies, Talbot was threatened by 'a Biskainer ship, a man-of-war ... but finding us too strong for him durst not venture to assult us'; and James had a similar scare from what was rumoured to be a Turkish pirate. Arbella's look-out saw eight sail astern which it was supposed were Dunkirkers, whereupon her captain 'caused the gunroom and gundeck to be cleared, hammocks taken down, ordnance loaded and powder chests and fireworks made ready, our landsmen quartered among the seamen and twenty five of them appointed for muskets ... [He also] took down some cabins which were in the way of our ordnance ... The Lady Arbella and the other women and children were removed into the lower deck ... All things being thus fitted, we went to prayer upon the upper deck.' But fortunately, 'when we came near we conceived them to be our friends'. Hostile interference had to be looked for not only from foreign vessels. The long arm of the English Crown was felt in the shape of officers on behalf of the Privy Council checking the papers of suspect passengers at the port of embarkation, and in officers of the king's navy who exercised their right to impress sailors from the fleet; Talbot lost two of her seamen that way and New Supply two of her trumpeters.

Such dangers receded as the Mary and John sailed down the English Channel, past the Lizard and out towards the open Atlantic. Without a log we cannot plot the course of that ship's voyage but there is no reason to doubt that Captain Squibb followed the route to be taken three weeks later by Arbella. This was the northerly course, keeping roughly to between 46° and 48° latitude. It may be that Mary and John's passengers saw their last of England 'at the Land's End, in the utmost part of Cornwall', or as far west as the Scillies; but it must have been an emotional moment when, as one of them wrote, they 'so left our dear native soil of England behind us'. It must have been especially poignant for the Dorchester people because, unlike Talbot or Arbella which were sailing in company, Mary and John was sailing on her own.

The Dorchester people were fortunate that their ship was relatively commodious. At 400 tons, she was large for her day, in the current phrase, 'a great ship'. Only a score or so of ships in the entire merchant fleet were over 400 tons. With only 140 passengers, Mary and John was, moreover, not unduly crowded, a less 'close' ship, as the phrase went, than many in the Winthrop fleet. She would have carried a crew of between forty and fifty seamen and, as a 'strong' ship, was probably armed with upwards of twenty guns. There is a hint in John White's Planters Plea that the organizers had originally envisaged a smaller ship but, presumably because more volunteers came forward than had been anticipated, Roger Ludlow had bought this 400-tonner. Her passengers were therefore not subjected to greater discomfort or hardship than was normal for the time.

There were miseries enough, all the same. These small ships tossed and rolled or, as they said, 'daunced' in the waves even in sheltered water, and once in 'the tossing waves of the western sea' people unused to ocean sailing were quickly prostrate with seasickness. The misery experienced by the seasick between decks on Mary and John may be imagined, with the vomiting, primitive sanitation, lack of air and confined space. Some of the grander passengers like the Ludlows, Rossiters, Wolcotts and Warhams may have had separate cabins, but most made do dormitory-fashion. On Arbella for instance the single men 'were very nasty and slovenly, and the gundeck where they lodged was so beastly and noisesome with their victuals and beastliness as would much endanger the health of the ship', whereupon, 'after prayer', a rota was drawn up to keep the gun deck clean.

But, although conditions were primitive, life at sea was disciplined, sociable and shipshape, especially once the passengers had found their sea legs and could be up on deck in fair weather. On Arbella the children and others 'that were sick and lay groaning in the cabins, were fetched out, and having stretched a rope from the steerage to the mainmast, we made them stand, some of one side and some of the other, and sway it up and down till they were warm, and by this means they soon grew well and merry.' The officers, like their successors down to this day, organized deck games: 'Our captain set our children and young men to some harmless exercises, which the seamen were very active in, and did our people much good, though they would sometimes play the wags with them.' Soon their minister was preparing a sermon 'sitting at his study on the ship's poop'; and observing the Mother Carey's chickens (storm petrels), 'a little bird like a swallow', following the ship.

They were all fascinated by the fish and sea mammals. There were porpoises 'pursuing one another and leaping some of them a yard above the water'; there were carvel or Portuguese men o' war, like 'a ship with sails'; there were sunfish, flying fish, swordfish, 'having a long, strong and sharp fin like a sword blade'; there were shoals of mackerel, and bonitoes 'leaping and playing about the ship', and codfish, 'most of them very great fish, some a yard and a half long and a yard in compass', which the sailors assured them were good to eat. Even more exotic were the grampus, 'leaping and spewing up water abot the ship', a turtle, 'a great and large shellfish swimming above the water near the ship', and sharks, 'a great one, with his pilot fish or pilgrim upon his back'. Above all, there were whales, 'huffing up water as they go, their backs ... like a little island'. One passenger spotted 'two mighty whales ... the one spouted water through two great holes in her head into the air a great height and making a great noise with puffing and blowing; the seamen called her a soufler ... [The whale's spout makes] the sea to boil like a pot, and if any vessel be near it sucks it in.'

The Mary and John passengers quickly settled to a shipboard routine. With such Puritan leadership the first matters to be organized were the religious exercises. She had sailed the day before Palm Sunday and no doubt seasickness prevented much in the way of devotions during Easter week; but by Easter Day, 28 March, they would have recovered enough for Masters Warham and Maverick to have celebrated fittingly. Thereafter, their ministers in turn 'preached and expounded the Word of God every day during the voyage'. The Sabbath was observed with prayers, psalms and sermons morning and afternoon, with catechisms on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; and 'solemn days of fasting'. Fasting at sea was a novelty for the crew, one of whom said 'that this was the first sea-fast that ever was kept and that they never heard of the like'; and one of the ministers noted with approval that the captain set the eight and twelve o'clock watches with a prayer and a psalm and that the prayer was 'not read out of a book' but improvised Puritan-fashion. He also took an unchristian satisfaction in the fate of 'a notorious wicked fellow' who 'mocked at our days of fast, railing and jesting against Puritans' and who 'fell sick of the pocks and died'.

Not all the passengers were saints or postulants for saintliness, and Mary and John, like the other ships, must have had her delinquents, to be dealt with by summary nautical discipline. Men involved in fights were 'put in the bolts' or made to walk the deck with hands bound behind them. During a fast, which was presumably too much for them, two landsmen broached a rundlet of spirits, for which they were laid in the bolts all night, and next morning the chief culprit was whipped in the open and both were kept on bread and water for the day. For stealing lemons from the surgeon's cabin a young servant was whipped naked at the capstan with a cat o'nine tails, and another servant was ducked at the main yard-arm three times for being drunk on his master's stolen spirits. Drink seems to have been a problem, particularly with the young, for Winthrop 'observed it a common fault in our young people, that they have themselves to drink hot waters very immoderately' - even girls, like the maidservant who, 'being stomach sick, drank so much strong water that she was senseless'.

There were severe punishments for a miscellany of offences: a man was put in bolts until he apologized for being rude to John Winthrop; a servant was strung from a bar for two hours with heavy basket of stones round his neck for bribing a child into letting him have the child's supply of biscuits. But such delinquency seems to have been exceptional, and Winthrop considered the Arbella, for one, had 'many young gentlemen...who behaved themselves well and are comformable to all good orders'. This was the small change of shipboard life which made day-to-day living vivid: there was the maid who fell down a grating by the galley and would have gone through into the hold but for the carpenter's mate who, 'with incredible nimbleness', managed to catch her; or the great dog which fell overboard and could not be recovered; or the birth of a child; or the flame called St Elmo's fire, 'the bigness of a great candle which settled on the main mast and was commonly thought to be a spirit'. More serious was real sickness and the threat of epidemic disease, above all smallpox or even the plague; but there is no evidence of any serious disease on Mary and John.

There must have quickly developed an easy social life among her company. Captain Squibb invited passengers of note to supper, when they did themselves well on boilded and roast mutton and roast turkey washed down with good sack in the comparative luxury of the captain's quarters. For the most part the passengers shared memories of growing up in the same neighbourhoods, and many were families of similar ages, with small or teenaged children. Altogether there were seventy-two children on board: and for them especially this must have been a formative experience, thrown together as they were, at close quarters on deck and between decks, playing games and making their own amusements. For the rest of their lives, in Dorchester and then, for so many of them, in Windsor on the Connecticut River, they were to share the secret of freemasonry of children and young people who have gone through an enclosed universe of experience together. No wonder so many subsequently married one another. For example, the young bachelors Aaron Cooke, Roger Clap and John Strong were all to marry daughters of Thomas Ford of Simonsbury; and Humphrey Pinney would marry the daughter of his fellow passenger George Hull when they were settled in Dorchester. To have been youthful passengers on these ships must have forged a bond as intimate as any set of school or family relationships.

Although the northern course may have been the most expeditious, it was not without its rough weather even in that favorable season of spring and early summer. Arbella suffered a storm only three days out from the Scillies which 'split her foresail and tore it in pieces' and a wave washed their fresh fish tub overboard. Thirteen days out Talbot was hit by a terrible storm when waves smashed over the deck and the crew had difficulty securing the long boat; it was fearfully dark and 'even the mariners' maid' (whoever she may have been) was afraid. As for the passengers, they were terrified by the wind and crashing waves and 'the noise [of the sailors] with their running here and there, loud crying one to another to pull at this and that rope'. However, it did not last many hours, 'after which it became a calmish day'; and one of the diarists recorded that his 'fear at this time was the less when I remembered [that] seldom falls out that a ship perisheth at storm if it have sea-room', which was sound reasoning. On 10 May when Arbella was in the meridian of the Azores, that is about half-way across the Atlantic, she was hit by another great storm with such high seas that they had to lower the mainsail. This was followed by heavy rain; the wind shifted and they tacked and 'stood into the head sea', making no headway but riding out the storm. Ten days later still Arbella breasted yet another head wind and sea and her tossing spritsail was plunged so deep into the waves that it split in pieces just at the moment when her captain emerged from his cabin to give orders to take it in. It was fortunate that the sail did split, because 'otherwise it had endangered the breaking of our bowsprit and topmasts at least', and then, 'unless the wind had shifted we had no other way but to have returned to England'.

These were the times when passengers began to appreciate the qualities of their captains. Some of them were men of mark, well connected and with shares in ships and plantations. Authoritarian and perhaps overbearing, they were forceful and versatile in command. We have seen how they cleared the decks and manned the guns to fight an enemy privateer, dispensed summary justice, played host and concerned themselves with the ship's company morale. In stormy weather, the passengers became especially conscious of the captain's controlling authority. Once, Arbella's Captain Milborne, 'so soon as he had set the watch, at eight in the evening called his men and told them to be ready upon the deck, if occasion should be; and he himself was up and down the decks all times of the night.' On another occasion, in heavy and murky rain, the captain was on deck all night 'and was forced to come in, in the night, to shift his clothes'.

A ship's captain on the north Atlantic run in the 17th century had to be both intrepid and skilled. He had to handle his clumsy vessel in high seas, driving winds, calm and fog; he had to be a master of navigation at a time when the science was little developed; instruments were primitive - observations were made and positions calculated by the 'cross-staff' or early quadrant. It is remarkable how the captains managed to keep such consistent courses. For example Milborne, after sailing south-west from the Scillies to about the 47° meridian for a week, kept to a course of between about 45° and 43° all the forty-five days' voyage to Cape Sable. Charts were inadequate, the English being a century behind Antwerp in the art of line-engraving, which was the means of reproducing them. In consequence the captains had to rely heavily on their own experience and memory, on trial and expensive error and on oral tradition. They cherished their own channels and courses as vital trade secrets and their dog-eared charts were the most highly prized of any shipmaster's possessions.

North Atlantic storms were formidable; but given sea room, courage and good seamanship they could be handled. Most to be dreaded was fog. As Mary and John approached the waters off Newfoundland, the weather changed, the wind dropped and, although it was early summer, it became clammy and cold and the landsmen shivered and wished for warmer clothes. With the cold came fog. All the ships of which we have logs encountered 'very thick foggy weather'. Passengers had the eerie experience of sailing for days in deadening silence through a white misty wall. Ships sailing in consort beat drums to avoid collision and for all there was the nightmare of icebergs. For they were now off Newfoundland and in the path of drifting ice broken off the Greenland icecap; strange, white islands looming through the fog of which they were in part the cause. 'We saw a mountain of ice shining as white as snow like a great rock or cliff', wrote one diarist and another described 'an island of ice...three leagues in length, mountain high in form of land with bays and capes like high clift land and a river pouring off it into the sea. Here it was as cold as in the middle of January in England and so continued till we were some leagues beyond it.'

However, the western ocean off Newfoundland had its compensations: the waters of the Grand Banks, those fabulous fishing grounds which had first tempted English seamen across the Atlantic. By this time the crew had begun to take soundings, first 40 fathoms, then 35, then 24 and then they were directly over the Banks. And so they cast their hooks and lines overboard and took in cod 'as fast as they could haul them up into the ship', sixty-seven cod with a few hooks in less then two hours. They were especially thankful for this at a time when, with 250 leagues still to sail, they were short of victuals, as they were probably also short of hay for the cattle and of water which had to be rationed.

By now Mary and John had been sailing her solitary course for upwards of six weeks without sight of land or sail; but off Newfoundland there were signs that they were not too far from land. Arbella saw a ship but the unfriendly vessel would not respond to her signal and made off in a surly and suspicious manner, evidently a Frenchman, they thought, from off the Grand Banks; and James saw 'abundance of fowl...swimming in the sea as a token of nearness of land'. Eventually, they sighted land. Arbella, the mist breaking, suddenly saw the shore, as they supposed south-west of Cape Sable at the southern tip of Nova Scotia, latitude 431/4°. On Talbot they 'had all a clear and comfortable sight of America' on 24 June, dead on course, seven or eight leagues south of Cape Sable, and, as a further token for their thanksgiving, 'saw yellow gilliflowers on the sea'; and James, after being frustrated for several days 'with foggy mists and winds', sighted land at about eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, in this case further south-west, off Menhiggin Island, Maine. After forty-two days out from Land's End in the case of Talbot, fifty-six from the Scillies for Arbella, forty-seven from Milford Haven for James and fifty-four from the Lizard for New Supply, they had at last made a North American landfall. It must have been a moment charged with emotion.

Cape Sable was, however, a long way from Massachusetts Bay and a deal of tricky sailing lay ahead off that New England coast notorious for its fogs and storms and treacherous shoals. Passengers might be beguilded by the distant sight of 'fine woods and green trees...and these yellow flowers painting the sea' into believing that they were already home and dry in their 'new paradise of New England', but, as one diarist exclaimed, 'how things may suddenly change'. Having tacked about to obtain sea room and in a vain attempt to make the harbour of Cape Ann, there came a 'fearful gust of wind and rain, thunder and lightning', heralding a furious storm which Talbot had to ride out as best she could with sails lowered. James had a similar experience. Having anchored overnight off the Isle of Shoals so as to reach Cape Ann next day, they, too, were hit by 'a most terrible storm of rain and easterly wind, whereby we were in as much danger as I think ever people were. For we lost in that morning three great anchors and cables and the sails were rent asunder and split in pieces as if they had been rotten rags'; they came within an ace of being driven on to the rocks. It was clearly a frightening experience, and 'when news was brought unto us into the gun room, that the danger was past, O how our hearts did then relent and melt within us and how we burst out into tears of joy amongst ourselves in love unto our gracious God'. New Supply, also within two leagues of Cape Ann, similarly ran into a storm, lost sight of land and 'fearing the lee-shore all night...bore out to sea'. However, for all three ships this proved to be the last kick of the Atlantic Ocean, a reminder of her savage power and a memory of perils overcome.

Thereafter, it was plain sailing and no doubt a mounting excitement as familiar signs of land and human activity began to multiply. Off the Isle of Shoals Arbella saw a ship at anchor and 'five or six shallops [sloops] under sail up and down'. After her terrifying storm, James had a 'marvellous pleasant day, for a fresh gale of wind and clear sunshiny weather...and had delight all along the coast, as we went, in viewing Cape Ann, the Bay of Saugust, the Bay of Salem, Marvil Head, Pulling Point and other places'. Arbella, too, had 'now fair sunshine weather and so pleasant a sweet air as did much refresh us, and there came a smell off the shore like the smell of a garden' and 'there came a wild pigeon into our ship and another small bird'. At Cape Ann, some of the Arbella people went ashore and gathered 'store of fine strawberries'; four of the Talbot men 'went and brought back again ripe strawberries and gooseberries and sweet, single roses'; and Higginson continues to marvel at the many islands 'full of gay woods and high trees...and flowers in abundance, yellow flowers painting the sea'. On the Friday, Arbella was stood to, within sight of Cape Ann, and on the Saturday, 12 June, they arrived off Naumkeag (Salem). Here the Governor, Mr Endecott, came aboard to welcome them and took them ashore where they supped on good venison pasty and good beer. Talbot, even with a pilot, had found the entrance to Salem's spacious harbour 'curious and difficult' and Arbella failed altogether to sail up the narrow channel and had to be warped in. As her passengers disembarked, they were saluted by Captain Milborne with a parting volley of five guns.

As the emigrants disembarked, lost the feel of the ocean swell and found their land legs, there was a general sense of thankfulness. Talbot's diarist the year before had noted that 'we rested that night with glad and thankful hearts that God had put an end to our long and tedious journey through the greatest sea in the world'; and he and his fellow passengers had congratulated themselves on a short and speedy voyage - 3000 English miles in six weeks and three days - 'comfortable and easy for the most part' and, though crowded, largely free of disease save for a few cases of scurvy towards the end. Six years later the James's voyage was thought to be 'very safe and healthful' with 100 passengers, 23 seamen, 23 heifers, three sucking calves and eight mares, 'yet not one of all these died by the way', an achievement which was attributed to good exercise and the excellence of the diet. This was in tragic contrast to her consort, Angel Gabriel, which was driven on to the rocks near Pemaquid, and was a total loss including her cargo; moreover, some of her passengers, having survived this disaster, were drowned on the same day in the wreck of the ship which had picked them up only a few hours before.

In 1630 Arbella came through comparatively unscathed; but other ships of the Winthrop fleet fared less well; in one, fourteen passengers died from smallpox, another arrived with 'many of her passengers...near starved' and two lost most of their cattle as a result of heavy seas when the animals 'shut up in the narrow room of those wooden walls where the fierceness of the wind and waves would often fling or throw them on heaps to the mischiefing and destroying [of] one another'. As for Mary and John, she had arrived on Sunday 30 May, the first of that fleet, as John Winthrop was shortly to discover.

Three days after landing in Salem harbour, Winthrop set out to prospect for somewhere to settle or, as he wrote, 'to find out a place for our sitting down', staying with a hospitable old planter on Noodle's Island at the mouth of the Mystic River. During the course of this reconnoitre, he learned that Mary and John, of whose departure from Plymouth John White had told him while Arbella was still lying off the Isle of Wight, had indeed already arrived in Massachusetts Bay and that her passengers were bivouacking at a place round a neck of land to the east of the Charles River. On Thursday 19 June, therefore, he made a detour across the Bay to pay them a call. He found the Dorchester people in some distress. They had arrived nearly three weeks before after a fairly comfortable but rather long voyage of seventy-one days; but they had been dumped down on a very bleak and inhospitable shore.

When Roger Ludlow had bought and commissioned Mary and John, he and John White had instructed its master, Thomas Squibb, to transport the West Country emigrants not just to New England but to a specific place on the Charles River. This was the spot which those friends of White, the Sprague family, who had sailed in Lyon's Whelp the previous season, had identified as being suitable. However, Captain Squibb had had a long and, no doubt, difficult north Atlantic passage. Moreover, his had been the first ship to arrive in the Bay that season. Mary and John, at 400 tons, had a deep draught, his charts were no doubt sketchy and he had no pilot. He apparently decided, therefore, that to sail into Massachusetts Bay, with all its islands, sandbanks and shoals, would be to endanger his ship. So instead he anchored off Nantasket Point on the ocean shore and, after they had kept the Sabbath on board that last Sunday in May, he decanted his passengers there, presumably on the Monday morning. As a seaman Squibb may well have been right; but his passengers, expecting to be delivered into a sheltered haven on the Charles River where they could settle, found themselves instead, as one of them wrote, 'in a forelorn wilderness destitute of any habitation and most other comforts of life', and were bitterly aggrieved. They declared Squibb was false to his contract and some of them never forgave him.

Left to shift for themselves, they decided that a group of ten able-bodied and armed men under the command of Captain Richard Southcott, one of the Devonians, a kinsman of an Assistant in the company and a veteran of the Low countries, should set off to prospect for a suitable place to settle; for clearly desolate Nantasket would not do. Fortunately, they found a boat belonging to 'some old planters' and in it they 'felt their way through the islands' in the Bay to Charlestown which consisted of a few Indian wigwams and some English people, including one old planter called Thomas Walfourd who could speak Indian and who fed them an austere meal of boiled bass without even bread to eat with it. Recruiting Walfourd as guide they rowed up the Charles River to where it 'grew narrow and shallow'. There 'with much labour' they landed their goods up a steep bank.

That night they became aware of a large number of Indians whom Walfourd asked not to disturb the English. The next morning, however, 'the natives stand at a distance looking at us but come not near till they had been a while in view; and then one of 'em, holding out a bass towards us, we send a man with a bisket and are very friendly.' Then they built a shelter for their supplies, fully intending, as the advance party, to make this the place of settlement for the whole Dorchester contingent. But they had been there only a few days when they were ordered to rejoin the main group. So they reluctantly left their riverside spot (which was to become Watertown) and returned to their ship's company who, it transpired, anxious to find suitable grazing for their famished cattle, had somehow journeyed to a neck of land within Massachusetts Bay, 'a place called by the Indians Mattapan', which, because of its salt marshes, 'was a fit place to turn their cattle upon'. There, in desperation, they decided to stop.

This was during the first days of June. They had been there upwards of a fortnight struggling to make a wilderness camp for themselves and their livestock when John Winthrop heard about them and made a detour on his way back to Salem. On seeing their sorry plight, he went over to Nantasket where Mary and John still lay and 'sent for Captain Squibb ashore'. What the new governor of Massachusetts Bay said to the master of the Mary and John is not recorded but Winthrop seemed to think he had 'ended [the] difference between him and the passengers', in token of which Captain Squibb gave the order for a salute of five guns in the governor's honour and it was said that Squibb later paid compensation to Ludlow.

This it came about that the Mary and John was the first of that great company of ships to arrive in the Bay in the momentous summer of 1630 and that it was a West Country community which first settled themselves on its shores. Thus also was it that our Dorset and Somerset villagers found themselves in the desperate wilderness of Mattapan Neck and not the more protected Charles River which the Spragues had marked out for them.

But stuck there they were; and despite their weakness after the long voyage they determined to make the best of it. For were they not religious men and women whose object was to establish a new Jerusalem in New England? As Roger Clap, who was one of them, later wrote: 'The discourse, not only of the aged but of the youth also, was not: "shall we go to England?" but "how shall we go to Heaven?" 'It was a dedicated mission and they would have said a hearty Amen to Francis Higginson's ultimate judgment on the experience of that Puritan voyage across the north Atlantic:
Those that love their own chimney corner and fare not
far beyond their own towns end shall never have the
honour to see these wonderful works of Almighty God.
Sojourn at Dorchester On Massachusetts Bay 1630-35

Captain Southcott was not pleased. No sooner had his exploring party set about the business of preparing a camp for the Mary and John community in that fertile place up the Charles River than along came this messenger with the order, no doubt from Mr Ludlow himself, to return to the main ship's company, now at Mattapan. There was nothing for it but to reload their unreliable boat, negotiate the long swan's neck of Shawmut and find, if they could, the bleak, remote bay fringed with salt marshes into which the Mary and John's company had chanced in their desperate search for grazing for their famished cattle.

But find them they did, all 140 men, women and children huddled along the marshy shore, brown and green under the misty-bright sun of Massachusetts Bay. They must have been a forlorn sight, bivouacking in the long grass dressed in their heavy 'drab'-coloured English clothing of canvas and linen, leather and serge, so unsuited to the hot New England summer, and surrounded by the coffers, chests and bundles stuffed with apparel, tools, cookpots, firearms, drums of saltmeats, dried pulses and herbs, hard cheese and ship's biscuit, casks of beer and aqua vitae which they had been instructed to bring with them. They were exhausted and travel weary. The excitement of making landfall after those weeks of confinement at sea was wearing off in the desolation of this wild shore where muddy creeks and unwadable tidewater rivers hemmed them in; only the sound of waves, the cry of innumerable sea birds and in the warm night the strange chorus of tree frogs and cicadas broke the silence. However, pulling themselves together, they explored a little way from the shore to a beckoning rocky hill below which were fresh meadows for their cattle. Here they put up their sailcloth tents and camped. That Sunday Mr Warham summoned them to a divine service of thanksgiving in the open air.

They remained in a pretty desperate condition, at a low ebb from the voyage and now exposed to the primitive conditions of camp life in this unknown country. They were bitten by mosquitoes, fearful of rattlesnakes, apprehensive of the Indians who watched them silently from a distance, and concerned to protect their cattle from marauding wolves. Worse, the unhealthy diet aboard ship took its expected toll; they became sick with that dread deficiency disease, scurvy. Fortunately, they managed to get in touch with the Plymouth plantation further along the coast, and Governor Bradford sent over their physician, Samuel Fuller, who administered remedies and let blood. Despite his efforts the disease became a scourge, for they were debilitated and short of food. The Bay as a whole was short of supplies that summer, the result of bad planning in England; a ship designed to provision Salem had arrived scandalously without its cargo and there were no reserve stocks for the new arrivals who had come too late in the season to sow the corn, and were too ignorant to catch the game, which would have seen them through the winter.

By summer's end the Mattapan community realized that they were in no condition, physical or moral, to make exploratory plans for an ideal place of settlement and that faute de mieux they must stay and make the most of the place where they happened to come ashore, namely Mattapan. Having resigned themselves to this, they renamed their settlement after the home town of the man who had inspired their journey across the ocean, John White. The Indian Mattapan became an English Dorchester in New England.

And so, as the summer heat cooled and the crisp frosts of autum turned the leaves bright reds and yellows, the Dorchester people settled down as best they could to improvise a plan for surviving their first, and unprepared-for, winter. Shelter was the urgent need. Like nearby Boston, Mattapan lacked trees and probably only a few grandees like Rossiter and Ludlow commanded the resources and labour to build timber-frame houses; instead people upgraded their canvas tents to Indian-style wigwams or burrowed into the hillside to make dugouts of earth on timber frames with a hole for a smoky fire. All was higgledy-piggledy and makeshift. In H.R. Shurtleff's words, 'the shores of Boston Bay must have presented a motley and untidy appearance in 1630-31. A few "great houses" sticking up like sore thumbs were surrounded by a disorderly scattering of wigwams, tents and other shacks, pitched without any plan or symmetry'.

These fair-weather shelters kept off showers but were poor protection against winter rains. As Winthrop wrote in his diary: 'the poorer sort of people [who] for want of houses...were compelled to live long in tents and lie upon, or too near, the cold moist earth...and having no fresh food to cherish them' succumbed to the scurvy. That autumn and winter many fell sick, though unlike Boston and Charlestown there was only one recorded death among the fifty or so heads of families or bachelors who had been passengers on Mary and John, and this was not one of 'the poorer sort of people' but Mr. Edward Rossiter who died on 23 October leaving his large landholding and company interest to his grown son, the physician and lawyer Brian or Bray. But the autumn was one of misery, affliction and growing disillusion for the settlers for whom this brutal reality contrasted starkly with the expectations engendered by the rhetorical prose of Eburne, White and their fellow enthusiasts for New England planting; and there was worse to come.

All this time there was, for the most part, 'fair, open weather, with gentle frosts in the night'; but on Christmas Eve, remembered though not celebrated by Puritans, winter truly set in, with a nor'wester driving snow and so suddenly cold that fingers were frost-bitten. Two days later the rivers were frozen over and it was so 'very sharp and cold' that it 'made them all betake themselves to the fireside and contrive to keep themselves warm till the winter was over', leaving their cattle to fend for themselves in the open. Fire itself could be a problem. In January, one house burnt down in minutes, and others would suffer the same fate when their wooden chimneys caught fire and could not be put out because all water was frozen.

By this time food was scarce. In Boston even Governor Winthrop had come to the last of the wheat store for his baking oven. Fortunately, the settlers' Indian neighbours helped with presents of their strange maize corn; but as February loomed the outlook was bleak. They survived mostly on fish, although they sometimes had to resort to collecting nuts and combing the frozen shore for clams and mussels. But then, when they must have been near to dispair, rescue came. John Winthrop may have been priviledged with frame house, servants and oven with its private grain store, but he was not Governor for nothing. As early as the previous July, taking stock of the lack of foodstuffs and fearful of winter, he had commissioned Captain Pierce of Lion to sail to Bristol for supplies. That had been over six months ago and even Winthrop must have begun to lose heart; but on 5 February Lion suddenly appeared off Nantasket, in good shape, with about 200 tons of goods, all in good condition. One may imagine the excitement and rejoicing. As the vessel made her way through the Bay the governor went out in his shallop to greet her and sailed in her to Boston 'where she rode very well despite a great drift of ice'. Her cargo of provisions was distributed to each of the little settlements dotted about the Bay; the siege condition was relieved and the governor ordered a day of thanksgiving. The cargo included barrels of lemon juice, the cure for scurvy, on a diet of which most of the sick speedily recovered. Not all of them, however; some, defeated by the winter's experience, yearned to return home to England; it was noted that such people were the most likely to succumb to the scurvy.

A few days later, on 10 February, the cold weather relented, the ice melted and, though there were still to be sharp frosts and violent storms, the back of winter was broken. The Dorchester people were not to experience anything so grim again. They discovered that the New England climate was by no means so mild and temperate as that of their own dear Dorset and Somerset. The next two winters would be, if anything, more severe and the summers either hot, dry and liable to drought, or cold and wet, breeding mosquitoes and cornblight; but they quickly became acclimatized to its extremes. They noticed, too, that like their Plymouth neighbors and the old planter of Salem they were becoming less prone to scurvy and other diseases; and once accustomed to New England they declared it healthier, if anything, than their native clime.

As the planters responded to the sun's warmth and the quickening of spring growth, they became conscious of the natural riches around them and set about to make the most of a hunting economy. There were fish from the Bay and from the spring spawing runs upriver. There were birds: flocks of passenger pigeons and doves so dense as to cloud the sun, geese and duck so thick on the marshes that a day's fowling would bring home fifty. There were deer to be stalked; and offshore there were lobsters, crabs and eels to be taken by the score on a single tide, as well as mussels and clams. Winthrop recorded 'great store of eels and lobsters in the bay. Two or three boys have brought in a bushel of great eels at a time and sixty great lobsters.' In the woods there were wild berries, grapes and herbs and the sassafras said to be a remedy against the pox. As they made the acquaintance of their Indian neighbors, they learned to plant their strange corn. All the while they were cutting timber, burning underbrush, planting garden patches and replacing wigwams and dugouts with carpentered huts and houses so that the little settlement began to look more like a village and less like an encampment.

The rocky hill and adjacent flats to which they had struggled from the shore were situated south of Mattapan Neck proper which, being a peninsula and needing minimal fencing, proved best suited for grazing cattle. On the 'plain' where they had erected their wigwams was a pond which fed a brook flowing north. The village site was slightly elevated and dry, with fresh, clear springs. However, the bay where they had landed, later called Old Harbour, proved too shallow for shipping and the brook was not free running enough for fish, not, as they said, an 'alewife' river. So the planters turned their gaze southwards where there was another useful peninsula, Fox Point, and a sizeable river, the Naponset, with a channel, moorings for ships and extensive water-meadows.

For the moment they were each occupied with building a house and clearing an acre or two round it for an allotment. They staked out their plots close together as in the West Country villages whence they came. This was instinctive, though it also conformed to a colonial rationale of defence and a Puritan imperative to gather round a future meeting house. Families who had been fellow passengers on shipboard and neighbours in Dorset or Somerset settled next to one another and worked together to clear their home lots and plant fields. Although most came from neighborhoods where land had long been enclosed, it is interesting that they cleared the wilderness communally as open fields. One field was as much as they could cope with this first season, but in the next couple of years they would clear four fields, north, south, east and west, and Dorchester would begin to look like an English open-field village. This practical response to necessity was rationalized in the formal land policy of the Massachusetts Bay Company, from which the Dorchester settlers derived their legitimacy.

In theory, land was held of the English Crown through its nominated agent, the Massachusetts Bay Company (although the Dorchester people satisfied Puritan consciences by obtaining some form of land title from the local Indian sachem, one Chickabot). The company in turn granted land in accordance with its own land policy set out in resolutions of the Court of Assistants drawn up in London as early as May 1629. These laid down that land should be allocated as follows: each investment in the company of £50 was to carry a right to 200 acres and a half-acre house plot; an investor who emigrated and paid his own passage was to be entitled to an extra fifty acres for every member of his family; an emigrant, not an investor but paying his own passage, was to be entitled to fifty acres only although at the company's discretion he could be allotted extra land 'according to [his] charge and quality', i.e. his family responsibilities and his social status; and for each indentured servant transported, his master could claim another fifty acres. The settler had the right to choose his own home lot provided it was within the township.

The Court of Assistants first allocated land to its own investors or adventurers. In Dorchester, the two Assistants, Ludlow and Rossiter, were granted farms of 100 acres apiece, large tracts of prime meadow and arable about the Naponset, in Ludlow's case most of the peninsula called Squantum Neck. Henry Wolcott, Thomas Newberry and Israel Stoughton were granted equivalent holdings. The first and principal settlers chose home lots on Rocky Hill: Ludlow built a substantial house on its south side. Newberry had an extensive home lot about the Rock, forty acres of adjacent upland, forty of marsh, and 100 acres of upland and another 100 of meadow on either side of the Naponset River, a large holding commensurate with the size of his investment, his social standing and his large family. Israel Stoughton was granted not only 150 acres of meadow marching with Newberry's eight or nine miles up the Naponset, but valuable milling and fishing monopolies. The holdings of these grandees were greater than those of ordinary settlers, matched only by similar grants to the other privileged group, the ministers; but it was in accordance with the same guidelines that the ordinary Dorchester settlers negotiated their own choices of home and great lots, meadow and marsh.

The granting of land in this way by the Court of Assistants, meeting in Boston or New Town, quickly became impractical. The scattering, by force of circumstances, of what had been intended as a single unified plantation into half a dozen settlements led to land being allocated to individual townships and soon in Dorchester this function was taken over, first by the church elders and then by the townsmen who continued to grant land consistent with the company's guidelines. The basic house plot was about half an acre, but this became subsumed in a 'home lot' of roughly four acres, large enough for house and smallholding without being so large as to break up the village street neighbourhood. This standard lot could be varied depending on the size of a man's family and his social standing. The position of the home lot was determined, usually in relation to the family's squatter rights; then came the allocation of the 'great lot', that is, the family's principal holding, usually 16 acres, though sometimes half that and occasionally as much as 20. Finally, there was a separate allotment of 'fresh marsh', meadow for fodder crops and salt marsh for rough summer grazing. These grants tended to be between two and four acres each, often in packets of two or more, scattered about the plantation. There were, of course, exceptions and adjustments to round out a man's holdings: a slip of upland here, a parcel of marsh there, 'the hedgy ground in the bottom' for Mr Newberry, and the habit of swapping lots to make a more convenient holding, and of outright purchases, grew apace. But there were few marked differences in landholding and such as there were reflected family size as much as social position. In Dorchester there appear to have been fewer servants than in Boston, which militated against social distinctions being reflected in property ownership. At first, settlers tended to look to great lots and meadow south and east of the village plain towards Fox Point, Squantum Neck, the fertile water-meadows of the Naponset and south-west towards the Blue Hills and what was to become Dedham. Once the lands 'towards Naponset' had been allocated, the village fathers turned for great lots west towards the brook which marked the boundary with their Roxbury neighbors.

Dorchester's domestic economy centred on the house and its home lot in the neighbourhood of the village street. Here the family cleard a plot for the kitchen garden, experimented with pumpkins and squashes and tended the cabbages, turnips, carrots and parsnips they had brought from England and the herbs so essential for seasoning and preserving. Here they began their first corn-patches, the maize planted in hillocks Indian-fashion with runner beans trained up the stalks. Here they planted the fruit trees they had also brought with them, especially apples for their hardiness and for the cider. Here they erected the outbuildings to shelter cows, oxen and eventually, maybe, a horse, and a pen for sheep; and the women kept hens and geese. Their pigs and goats ranged far afield rooting for themselves, eating anything and fierce enough to keep wolves and the occasional bear away from their prolific litters. The swine especially became animal 'weeds' of the countryside.

Cattle, pigs, goats and sheep needed more grazing than the village street provided and were brought together in communal herds with their own herdsmen. Sheep needed extensive pasture and folding against wolves. In the first years cattle, brought across the Atlantic at great expense and with many losses, were precious. In the spring of 1633 Dorchester could still only boast forty-five milch cows, the ownership of which was some indication of relative affluence, and two years later, in order to increase the stock, the town resolved that four bulls should go 'with the drift of milch cows'. This was Stoughton's responsibility with William Rockwell of Fitzhead, Somerset and Thomas Ford of Simonsbury, Dorset, all three prominent citizens. Each morning about sunrise the cows were brought to assembly points in the village and driven by the herdsmen out to pasture for the day, returning for collection to their home lots at sunset. In Dorchester it was the custom for the cowman to herald his coming and going with blasts on his horn. Cows were milked twice a day and the settlers' wives and daughters made butter and cheese in their makeshift dairies. The beef cattle were herded further afield and in the summer months grazed freely, especially on the common land of Dorchester's Mattapan Neck which was reserved for them because there they could be protected with minimal fencing against wolves. Cattle presented the greatest demand on the domestic economy; they needed between two and ten times as much land as was needed for tillage. In summer the herd grazed freely on the two necks and on salt marshes and after harvest on the stubble of the cornfields; but in winter they had to be kept nearer home and, if possible, in cowsheds during the hard months. And they had to be fed: hence the importance of 'mowing land', the fresh meadow of which each settler had his four to six acres for haymaking, often on Roxbury Brook or Naponset River above tidewater. The English quickly found the native grasses, the broomstraw and rye and the spartinas of the salt marshes, though tall and prolific, less nutritious than those they were used to in the West Country and their cattle grew 'lousy with feeding upon it and are much out of heart and liking'. The provision of good fodder for winter was a worry for the first year or two until English strains such as bluegrass and white clover, sometimes brought over by chance in shipboard fodder and dung, took hold.

Along with haymaking, the corn harvest was the most labor-intensive activity of the farming year. The settlers had a gentle introduction to tillage; they took over old Indian fields which, though partly worn out, they burnt over and cleared. English wheat, barley and rye were for the future. Instead they discovered the virtues of maize, cultivated Indian-fashion by hoe and mattock. To make the four great Dorchester fields meant felling trees and clearing brush. This must have been back breaking, even with the help of oxen; but cleared they were and to an unnecessary English standard before our settlers learned to girdle the trees and let them die. If clearing the fields was a communal effort, so, in a measure, was their planting. Each settler cultivated his own strips in these great fields, unenclosed save for external fences to protect them from cattle and wild animals. The crop to be planted and the dates for the sequence of cultivation - planting, hoeing, harvest and the opening of the stubble to the cattle - were communally determined.

And so the Dorchester community began to settle to a life which, though hard and unaccustomed, developed its own diurnal and seasonal rhythms which were a variant of those they had known in the West Country. In New England spring came later and more suddenly than in Dorset so that, whereas at the beginning of April the ground was still frozen and little could be done, by the end of the month the snow had melted, the streams were running, the marshes were filled and the Naponset River was alive with runs of spawing smelt, alewives, bass, salmon, sturgeon and shad so dense, at times, as to strain the nets and provide a spring harvest for immediate eating, smoking or fish manure. This was the season for planting corn in the fields and vegetables in the garden; and so quickly did spring melt into summer's heat that by June shoots must be hoed and it was time to mow the fresh meadows and to load the hay on rough sledges or lighters for poling back to the home lots for stacking. It was also the season for seafood, lobsters and crabs, clams and oysters. By August it was time to harvest the corn, to pick the fruit, especially apples for cider, and in September to tap the sweet syrup from the maples, and to take the fowling piece to the shore for wildfowl and to the woods for hares, rabbits and deer for venison. Then came the time to slaughter the pigs and to smoke and salt the pork for ham and bacon against the winter. And always there was wood to be cut and brought in prodigious quantities from the family's upland wood lot, to be corded and stacked by the house against the time, early or late in December, when the New England winter would close in and the family withdraw to its fireside to make do and mend implements and clothing, to spin and weave the wool and flax; and outdoors to mend fences, feed the stock and perhaps make a dugout to bury blocks of ice as a store for the summer.

Many activities took place at some distance from the home lot. Wood cutting, and haymaking on some far meadow or marsh, involved long treks by primitive paths and staying away from home; in summer the men, with their sons and servants if they had any, made a habit of camping, or even making shacks on some distant meadow, leaving the women to manage the more domestic chores back in the village, and the ministers and elders worried about the men's non-appearance at the meeting house on the Sabbath.

Husbandry was not the only preoccupation. As we noted, Israel Stoughton was granted the exclusive right to build a weir across the Naponset River and a watermill for grinding corn, the first in the colony. To be the town miller was a lucrative franchise. He was also granted the monopoly of netting the alewives as they swarmed upstream, provided he sold them to the plantation for five shillings a thousand. These strategic rights no doubt contributed materially to the fortune which Stoughton was to leave to his son William.

Dorchester people, some of whom came from the little ports of Dorset and Devon, took to fishing in the Bay, especially for cod, a staple food, and mackerel, chiefly for bait. The first fishing stages at Cape Ann and Salem had been manned by Dorset fishermen and, according to a contemporary, Dorchester men were 'the first that set upon the trade of fishing in the Bay'. Seafaring was in the blood and those West Country ships had master mariners among their passengers. John Gallop of Mosterton became a renowned sea captain; Henry Way and John Rocket of the Bridport neighbourhood, Elias Parkman of Sidmouth, John Tilley and William Lovell were all skippers of trading shallops, and chose neighbouring lots with a common landing place at the mouth of the Naponset where they could moor their ships. It was a hazardous occupation. Henry Way, who had lost his son overboard from a spritsail yard on the voyage over, was murdered by Indians on a trading voyage to Narragansett Bay in the winter of 1632; John Tilly was to be cruelly killed by Indians on the Connecticut River in 1626 on a trading voyage in search of beaver.

These seafarers were a noted element in Dorchester's 'trading men' who intended their settlement should become a mercantile port. Among them was a group of Dorset merchant families. There was Bernard Capen and his family, prominent in Dorchester. Thomas Purchase, a Capen kinsman, and his brother-in-law George Way were both Dorchester merchants of standing and partners in a colonizing venture in Maine. Nicholas Upsall, another Dorset merchant, became the first tavern keeper in Dorchester on Massachusetts Bay; John Cogan, of the Chard merchant family and kinsman of Roger Ludlow's wife, had been an Exeter merchant; William Hill of Lyme Regis and Nathaniel Duncan of Exeter, who had married daughters of Ignatius Jourdain the Exeter merchant, both had mercantile interests.

Dorchester proved a disappointment to some of them. The channel to Old Harbour was poor and the landing difficult and, although the Naponset estuary served them better, Dorchester in the end lost out as a port to Boston and Charlestown. John Cogan moved to Boston to open the town's first retail shop. George Way took one look at Dorchester and left for England on the first ship and old Bernard Capen soon died. But most came to terms with their situation, combining farming with trade. Early bartering with the Mattapan and Naponset Indians of butter and cheese for corn and other Indian products led to buying and selling with wampum, the Indian currency, and to a quickening of the latent interest of these Englishmen in the trade in furs, especially beaver. Tilly was not the only Dorchester man to compete with the men of Plymouth and the Dutchmen from Manhattan in opening up trade with the Connecticut River Indians. Within three years of their landing at Mattapan, Dorchester was handling quantities of furs, some from that unknown but beckoning river.

Three years after the arrival of the settlers a visitor to Massachusetts Bay, one William Wood, described Dorchester as 'the greatest town in New England...well wooded and watered, very good arable grounds and hay ground, fair cornfields and pleasant gardens...In this plantation is a great many cattle, as kine, goats and swine. This plantation hath a reasonable harbour for ships.' Wood's New England's Prospect is as attractive a travel book as any promoter might wish, but what he wrote was confirmed by other croniclers of this 'frontier towne', who also singled out her fair orchards and gardens, two small rivers and pleasant situation facing the Bay and stretching inland. By 'greatest town' Wood meant the largest in area of any town on the Bay, with limits stretching six miles south from Boston Neck and three miles west to the Roxbury limits. Another cronicler described its shape as a serpent whose head was the Dorchester peninsula, body the village itself, and tail the meadow and marshlands from Squantum upstream on both sides of the Naponset River towards the Great Blue Hills and what will become Dedham. Travelling to sequestered parts of Dorchester could be tedious. One could go by boat round Fox Point to Naponset; but there was a spidery network of cart- and footways that reached out from the village street north and west with a trestle bridge over the brook to Roxbury and a branch up to Boston, and south to Stoughton's bridge over the Naponset with lanes into the grazing grounds of the necks.

This was a straggling community of houses on the rising ground or 'knapp' south of Old Harbour and adjacent to Rock Hill, which the settlers singled out for their fort with drakes to command harbour and landing. Neighbouring the street was the pond which fed the brook, the burial ground so urgently needed with its bier, and the pound for stray cattle, more important than a gaol, though the stocks were already in use. There was also a wolf trap.

The building round which all activity revolved was the meeting house, situated on the plain at the north end of the village near Old Harbour. It must have been erected before 1632 because in that year the minister, Mr Maverick, 'in drying a little powder...fired a small barrel' which singed his clothes and the thatch of the meeting house. It was not only a place of worship. The whole business of the plantation was transacted there. Surrounded by a palisade, it served as an arsenal for military stores and a refuge during Indian alerts. A sentry guarded it at night and every evening people carried in their plate and other valuables. It was a substantial building; an outside staircase and a loft were planned for it, and it was proposed to place a preservation order on all trees within 300 feet of the building. Here, every Sabbath and on lecture days during the week, the whole of Dorchester gathered to listen to the Scriptures expounded, to sermons and, once a month, to celebrate the Lord's Supper, in winter wrapped up against the cold and in summer shaded from the sun's heat. The meeting house was the only gracious experience in a week where life was hard and even those in authority had to compose their letters home, their instrospective diaries, their accounts and court papers with writing tablets on their knees for want of a table or desk in the two- or three-roomed cottages which were their New England homes.

Two or three years after their landing, such was the rough but orderly life of Dorchester village. After the first brutal winters these Puritan families became attuned to the rhythms, pains and pleasures of their New England semi-wilderness. As Alice Earle wrote not too sentimentally:
I see them walking along the little lanes and half-streets
in which for many years bayberry and sweet-fern lingers
in dusty fragrant clumps by the road side. I see [them]
standing under the hot little cedar trees...not sober in
sad color, but cherry in russet and scarlet; and sweetbrier
and strawberries, bayberry and cedar smell sweetly and
glow genially in that summer sunlight.
The polity of this little community was governed by a trinity of institutions.

The first was church. The Dorchester people never lost sight of the fact that their fons et origo was that church, gathered in the New Hospital in Plymouth on the eve of Mary and John's departure. Their overriding purpose was to establish in an uncorrupted wilderness the true Protestant Church of England after New Testament fashion. The church was paramount and, to begin with, church order was the order of the community. The first executive government of the plantation was the church, through its officers the two ministers, Warham and Maverick, and the two ruling elders, Rockwell and Gaylord, whose signatures, or two of them, were the authority for all town acts, from allocating home lots to watching and warding, imposing rates for maintaining roads and bridges and appointing citizens 'to view the pales'. The earliest records are lost but it seems likely that the ministers and elders had their decisions ratified by the freemen after Sunday meeting for worship or a weekday lecture as they had been wont to do in the vestry meetings of their West Country parishes. Such a practice was formalized on 8 October 1633 when it was agreed 'by the whole consent and vote of the Plantation' that there should be a general meeting of all the inhabitants on the Monday before the monthly meeting of the Massachusetts Court at eight o'clock in the morning in the meeting house summoned by the beating of a drum, 'there to settle (and set down) such orders as may tend to the general good...and every man to be bound thereby without gain-saying or resistence.' It was agreed this meeting should select twelve men to conduct the day-to-day business until the next monthly meeting of the town and that the principle of majority votes should prevail. In this, Dorchester was very nearly the first town to institute that famous New England instrument of government, the town meeting (New Town, later Cambridge, preceded them by a year). Thereafter, the new 'select' men took over from the church officers the day-to-day administration of the town's affairs. They held office for only half a year, but most were renewed and the selectmen or townsmen quickly came to be the effective government of the town. Thus did the civic government of the town develop out of the business meeting of the church and under the shelter of the meeting house. The town meeting, unlike the English vestry or court leet, was to develop a robust, populistic character; but it retained a symbiotic relation to the church. Church and towns, clerical and civic officers, were close, complementary authorities in a polity which came to be known as the New England Way.

But Dorchester was not independent. Like the other Bay townships it had come into being as the result of an organized emigration and settlement under the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Company; its legitimacy derived from that company's charter which had become by sleight of hand the constitution of the Bay colony. It was the Court of Assistants of the company-colony which authorized its name, set its boundaries, delegated to it such powers as granting lands and taxation, saw to its magistracy and appointed its town constable. In addition to church and civic government there was a third sphere which preoccupied our first generation of Dorchester settlers, namely defence.

The Puritans had no illusions about the paramount need to buckle on the sword as well as study the Bible, as they set about building their uncorrupted city on a hill. There was danger from Indians - memory of events like the Virginia massacre of 1622 was still vivid - and from European rivals Dutch and French, or just lawless pirates and freebooters. From the start these communities of Saints felt the need of support from professional soldiers, especially to provide the defensive works and artillery so fundamental to the warfare they knew. The Leyden Separatists first saw this and engaged Captain Miles Standish for the New Plymouth pilgrimage and each subsequent plantation followed suit by appointing such Low Country veterans as Captains Underhill, Patrick and Gardiner to be their seasoned professionals. Dorchester was fortunate in acquiring the services of Captain John Mason. Mason had arrived on the Bay as early as 1632 when he led a foray, which John Gallop as master of their shallop, against a nest of local pirates. He also had the principal hand in designing Boston's fortifications.

From the beginning, the militia was a central institution of plantation life. It was assumed as a matter of course that the means of defence should be the traditional English trainband: citizen soldiers, compulsorily mustered under amateur officers and trained by professional mustermasters hired for the purpose, usually Low Contry veterans. The trainbands were organized at county level into regiments each commanded by a county grandee and consisting of six companies officered by a captain, a lieutenant, an ensign, two sergeants and three corporals. The companies were formed of three squadrons each and these were made up of files from adjacent villages and hamlets. Their officers were scions of the local gentry who exercised the same kind of authority in the militia as their families did as justices in local government, under the command of the lord lieutenant and his deputies. There were local training days for drill in weaponry and hand-to-hand fighting, and every summer a general muster of all regiments in the county. The traditional weapon was the pike, though 'trailing a pike' was by no means universal and musters saw a miscellany of weapons including the billhooks of husbandmen and cotters. For firepower, the bow had all but disappeared, giving place to the matchlock musket. The infantry company under the early Stuarts consisted of pikemen and musketeers; though muskets were cumbersome and indeed dangerous to deploy, the proportion of them increased as their fire power and range improved.

One of the county units was usually a regiment of horse, the militia's elite, a tradition going back dimly to knight service. Recruited from the gentry and superior yeomanry, they provided their own horses, accoutrements and weapons. A gentleman's estate determined the number he was expected to contribute in terms of equipped horsemen. Originally cuirassiers, armed with long sword and pistols, corselet and helmet, whose function was to attack the enemy's horse, they were already being supplemented by arquebusiers, mounted infantry armed with a heavy bore gun but lightly armoured for fast movement. They were to be succeeded by the caribiniers, the light cavalry of Prince Rupert and Oliver Cromwell and predecessors of the dragoons.

Within a year of their arrival, the Court of Assistants were already laying down the basis of a militia system for the whole colony on the English model. Dorchester, like the other towns, had its own company of trainbands consisting of all able-bodied men between sixteen and sixty, trained by its own professional mustermaster, Captain Mason, and officered on much the same lines as the militia companies they were used to in Somerset and Dorset by recruits from the local equivalent of gentry and yeomanry. The company captain was Israel Stoughton who had some military experience and was overseer of fort and ordnance. He would command a force against the Pequots and return to England to serve in the New Model Army. Officers were elected from among the freemen in their company, subject only to confirmation by the colony court. This innovation scandalized the old Low Country professionals and, for a time, was rescinded; but it became accepted practice in those pioneer communities of attenuated hierarchy. In time these town trainbands, each with its own colours, were grouped into three regiments. Dorchester, being the oldest town, was the senior company in the Suffolk County Regiment. The regimental officers, like those in the English shires, were grandeed; Governor Winthrop himself was Colonel and the deputy governor, Thomas Dudley, Lieutenant Colonel, of the Suffolk Regiment.

There were training days once a month, for Dorchester of a Friday, with stiff fines for absence, though persons of consequence such as magistrate Ludlow, deacons Rockwell and Gaylord and sea captain Parkman were exempt. In military training as well as organization the settlers transplanted their English practices. They made few concessions to the exigencies of wilderness warfare. Although they did accept that the twelve-foot pike was hopelessly inappropriate to local circumstances they continued to rely on the whole paraphernalia of musketry. Each private soldier carried a heavy matchlock musket with a four-foot barrel and its forked rest, a bandolier of cartridges and powder horn, and wore a cotton-padded corselet as protection against arrows, the only concession to local conditions. Drill was in accordance with the copy books they had brought with them. Musketeers carried their length of slow-burning match in their hand, kept a few bullets in their mouth and a priming iron in case the bullet did not fit the barrel. They fired by ranks, wheeling off to reload. The Indian neighbours who observed them would have found their drilling ludicrous, had they not been in awe of their firepower.

These duties were not necessarily as unpopular as they had been in the West Country. Where Indians were hostile, military training was seen to be relevant. For some, training days were a frustrating distraction from building and planting, but for others, a tonic diversion making for bonhomie and a literal esprit de corps which was an antidote to daily farm chores and soul-searching hours in the meeting house. It was also a useful secular occasion when private citizen soldiers could air informally matters which they might be inhibited from raising at town or church meeting, such as the level of the minister's salary for the coming year. The establishment recognized this. Ministers might disapprove of the rum or hard cider drunk on training days, but they thought it politic merely to open the exercises with a prayer. The elite quality of the militia was enhanced by the institution of a troop of horse on the English model, recruited from volunteers of standing, able to provide horses and accoutrements, and equivalent to London's Honourable Artillery Company, composed of 'divers gentlemen and others, out of their care for the public weal and safety by the advancement of the military art and exercise of arms'. They were given the privilege of choosing their officers, drawing up their own by-laws and levying fines, and received a grant of 1000 acres of land to provide an 'artillery garden', or exercise range, on the London model.

The militia was a powerful third force, a counterpoise to the New England Way. More than a century later, a fourth generation Bostonian of note, John Adams, was to describe training day, along with meeting house, town meeting and school, as one of the four pillars of New England.

Some thirty families and twenty bachelors, 140 men, women and children in all, had landed at Mattapan from the Mary and John in 1630. During the next five years an average of twenty ships a year arrived from England, each carrying up to 200 passengers; and by 1635 the population of Massachusetts Bay had swelled dramatically to upwards of 8000 while the number of heads of families and individuals who had been granted lands by the town of Dorchester had risen to just over 130. Although the origins of most of the later arrivals are not known, many were from the West Country, like the eighty passengers on the Weymouth ship of 1633 which brought those Dorchester merchant families; there was the ship which brought the Newberrys and Humphreys the following year, and the Weymouth ship of March 1635 which brought the Hull colony. Of those 130 heads of families and individuals of 1635, fifty-seven, or 43.5 per cent, are known to have been of West Country origin, a high proportion considering the number whose origins are unknown. Moreover, the West Country element provided the inner core of the community. Of eighty-four Dorchester citizens elected freemen, forty were from the West Country, four out of five of the constables were West Countrymen - three from Dorset, one from Somerset - as were a majority of the selectmen; and the landholdings of West Countrymen were more substantial than the average. Dorchester continued to be a predominantly West Country town, and John White's people remained a kind of oligarchy. They also clung to their own personal friendships and neighbourliness. West Country people seemed to cluster to the north of the village and, except for the seafarers, to have lots on the Roxbury bounds rather than Naponset. It was not fortuitous that neighbours from the Brit Valley, like the Hosfords and Denslows, or Dorchester merchants such as the Cogans, Duncans and Ways were granted both home lots and meadow next to one another.

Thus, five years after that first landing, the population of Dorchester, despite deaths from disease and hardship and defections by the faint-hearted back to England, increased more than fourfold. The demand for foodstuffs exerted pressure on the land. Fertile land, even in a plantation as extensive as Dorchester, was not unlimited and successive divisions of lots were beginning to press on the remaining commons. At this time the town resolved that no home lots henceforth granted should carry rights of common and young Roger Clap was instructed to investigate 'what marsh or meadow ground is not yet alloted out'. It may be that the existing land cleared for tillage, often old Indian fields, was becoming exhausted.

The increase in livestock was even greater. Those first few wasting cattle, the sustenance of which had been the chief motive for 'setting down' at Mattapan, had multiplied and with those four breeding bulls had become '450 cows and other cattle of that kind'. This was particularly worrying for a rural economy so dependent on cattle raising which demanded from two to ten times as much land as tillage; and raising cattle for the butcher, to feed the rapid immigrant influx and to ship out salted to the West Indies, had become profitable and more congenial than primitive subsistence farming to those West Country people. As early as 1634 the people of New Town were complaining of 'want of accommodation for their cattle' and no doubt Dorchester people felt the same. John Winthrop recorded that 'all towns in the Bay began to be much straightened' especially 'because of their cattle being so much increased'.

As Winthrop also hinted, there was a general unease in all the Bay towns because of 'their own nearness to one another', an ironic comment from the man who had designed a single colony and had only reluctantly accepted the inevitability of a scattering of half a dozen townships on the Bay. According to another of his contemporaries, Edward Johnson, 'some took dislike to every little matter; the ploughable plains were too dry and sandy for them and the rocky places, although more fruitful, yet to eat their bread with toil of hand and hoe they deemed it insupportable.'

About that time, however, the inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay heard tell of a possible place to settle 100 miles or more to the west which might answer their need for space and pasture. It was, as Edward Johnson recorded, 'a very fertile plain upon the river of Conectico, low land and well stored with meadow...This people, seeing that tillage went but little on, resolved to remove and breed up store of cattle, which were then at 8 and 20 pound a cow or near upon'.

Intelligence of the Connecticut or Great River had been filtering through to the Bay for some time. In 1631 a deputation of Indians had tried to interest Governor Winthrop and Governor Bradford of Plymouth in their river as a counterpoise to their threatening Pequot enemies. Meanwhile the Dutch had set up a trading post on the Connecticut's west bank about sixty miles upstream, forestalling the Plymouth people who sent their own expedition up the river in 1631. After a confrontation with the Dutch which just stopped short of shots being fired, the Plymouth party set up their own trading post a mile above, on a point of the river which was to become Dorchester, then Windsor. More arresting for the Dorchester people was intelligence learned from Governor Winthrop's barque Blessing of the Bay back from a trading voyage to the mouth of the Connecticut, and from a seasoned old Indian trader, John Oldham, who returned from an overland trek to the upper Connecticut with reports of lush meadows stretching for miles along the river's bank, with samples of black lead from an Indian mine and, specially intriguing to men of west Dorset, good quality hemp. Above all, there was evidence of valuable furs, especially beaver, which the Indians brought down river from its remote, uncharted headwaters, said to be a great and sacred lake far away in the northern wilderness.

The idea of pulling up stumps and migrating to the Connecticut was much talked of in the Bay towns. It was highly controversial; and powerful voices were raised against it: the Indians were hostile, the Dutch menacing, Plymouth had pre-empted a trading post, the river was a white elephant because the sandbar at its mouth prevented ocean-going ships sailing upstream, the journey overland was treacherous with unknown paths and natural hazards, and droving cattle there would be foolhardy. But, more formidable, the whole establishment of Massachusetts Bay Colony was against it. The Governor and his Assistants had all the prudent instincts of a governing class. The Bay, though growing fast, was still small, weak and exposed. Winthrop had been unhappy about the original dispersal willy-nilly into distinct settlements; in the interests of the future health of the colony the people of Massachusetts Bay should stay together in order to face a potentially hostile world which included Indians, Dutch, possibly French, and the English Crown which could raise awkward questions about the legitimacy not only of an outlying settlement but of the Bay's charter itself. In short, dispersal would weaken Boston and stretch her resources. If there was need for Lebenstraum let land-hungry settlers move a mile or so up the Merrimac or Naponset to colonize a nearby village within Massachusetts Bay. The clergy were also uneasy. Puritan orthodoxy demanded that the pure mile of the Word be cherished and deviations stamped upon. Although each of the plantation churches was a separate congregation, they were intimately connected; their ministers met once a fortnight to concert matters of order and doctrine and some were apprehensive that dispersal would encourage deviation, a falling away and weakening of spiritual and moral discipline.

So the argument went to and from in the townships and in the Court of Assistants during 1634 and early 1635. The bell-wether was New Town whose petition to the court for leave to depart was refused once; but in the end, and for reasons beyond this narrative and bound up with the powerful personality and standing of Thomas Hooker, resistance was overcome and permission was granted to emigrant goups first in New Town, then Watertown and Dorchester, to depart for the Connecticut in the summer of 1635.

This second swarming was not lightly undertaken; but the result of much soul searching, and the practical problems were immense. In Dorchester's case the upheaval was phenomenal. Of the 170 or so male inhabitants in 1635, about fify-six sold out to newcomers and joined the exodus to the Connecticut. The process, which took two seasons, could not have taken place without the would-be migrant's ability to dispose of his property. Fortunately, 1635 proved a good season for new immigrants to the Bay and Dorchester people had little difficulty in selling their land and improvements to incomers, in particular to the James's company from Lancashire under the Rev. Richard Mather, who were to provide an essential blood transfusion to a Dorchester church weakened by the departure of its pastor and most of his flock. Thus occured perhaps the first example of that classic process so characteristic of America's shifting frontier.

Beyond this, who went and who stayed depended on family circumstances, economic incentive and individual temperament, and on the influence of a few in positions of leadership. Four men stand out as leaders of the enterprise: Roger Ludlow, Thomas Newberry, Henry Wolcott and Captain John Mason. These were the chief notables of Dorchester. Apart from Mason the soldier, all were of the gentry, and substantial Dorchester landholders. Alas, Mr. Newberry, of Marshwood Vale, Dorset, like Mr. Rossiter before him, died before he could make the journey, leaving his large family to make it without him; but the others were the stalwart figures in the operation.

Their principal was Roger Ludlow and the enterprise owed much to his leadership. He had been deputy to Thomas Dudley as Governor of the Bay; but his overbearing and headstrong conduct had so offended his peers that he was not re-elected to that office or indeed to the magistracy in 1635, and he became disaffected. Whereas in office he had been against the Connecticut enterprise, now he was a principal, and effective, advocate. As an early chronicler, J.G. Palfrey, wrote: 'If motives...of jealousy and envy of people in authority in Boston...had weight with any of the projectors they are more likely to have influenced Ludlow of Dorchester whose ambitious and uneasy temper was sufficiently evinced before and after his departure.' And another, William Hubbard, writing within living memory, probably had him in mind when he wrote: 'there was an impulsive cause that did more secretly and powerfully drive on the business. Some men do not well like, at least cannot well bear, to be opposed in their judgments and notions, and hence were they not unwilling to remove from under the power, as well as out of the bounds of the Massachusetts. Nature doth not allow two suns in one firmament, and some spirits can as ill bear an equal as others a superior.' He may have been wilful and cantankerous, but the man who had bought and commissioned Mary and John and had decided on Dorchester as the place of settlement was just the kind of forceful leader that such an enterprise required.

More difficult to assess is the role of the minister, John Warham. His colleague John Maverick was against the move; but the old man died, much lamented, on 3 March 1636 and Warham, on his own, was thought to have been swayed by the majority of his congregation who were in favor. Warham was a deeply religious man, much respected and indeed revered. His leadership was an essential to the Dorchester exodus as that of Thomas Hooker was for that from New Town.

All these notables, save Captain Mason whose origin is not known, were West Countrymen. Indeed the Dorchester exodus was largely a West Country affair. Of fifty-four heads of families who opted for Connecticut and who can be identified, forty were West Country folk and twenty-six of these, including Warham, Ludlow and Wolcott, had crossed the Atlantic in the Mary and John five years before. They were, indeed, the greater part of that ship's company. Dorchester, so predominantly West Country, stood out in that Massachusetts Bay community which was overwhelmingly East Anglian. Dorchester was different; softer in speech, slower in tempo, and distinct in her rural habits and allegiances and, also, in the temper of her religion. John White's recruits were nothing like as far along the road to Separatism as the keen Independents of Suffolk, Essex and Lincolnshire. Though Puritan, they still professed and were deeply committed to the Church of, and in, England; one suspects they felt no particular neighbourliness to Roxbury, Charlestown or especially to Winthrop's bossy Boston and for them swarming to the Connecticut may have come as a release.


To understand in retrospect the story of those West Country people who in the 1630s left their villages and country towns for Massachusetts Bay and thence to the Connecticut River, it is important to cleanse one's mind as far as possible of all knowledge of what was to come and specifically of the anachronistic assumption that theirs was just a first chapter in that odyssey which was to lead ultimately to the growth of the American nation.

A useful exercise is to examine the language and discard the nomenclature which subsequent generations have used to describe the experiences of these 17th-century West Countrymen. For example it would be natural for us to describe them as 'emigrants'. However, emigrant is a concept they would not have understood; the word only entered the language a century later, in 1754 in relation to the Pennsylvania Germans. In the 1630s there was no word to convey the sense of a one-way voyager. The only term they would have used to describe themselves is 'planter', that is to say he who went abroad to plant, as opposed to the 'adventurer', who invested his money but stayed at home. They would not have recognized the term 'settler' which only dates from the 18th century. As for our planter's relationship with England, he may have become used to the term 'colony' but he did not yet see himself as a 'colonist' let alone a 'colonial' which was a term his old-country cousins were only to apply to him somewhat pejoratively just before the American Revolution. If he classed himself at all it was as a 'New-Englishman' or 'New Englander'. As for the word 'American', this was applied exclusively to the aborigines, more usually called 'the natives' in contradistinction to 'the English'. If one is searching for a word to describe our voyagers it would be 'pilgrims', that is, those who went on a journey in search of a land where the true principles of faith and morality could be practised as distinct from the corruptions of the old world. The fact that this word was much later hijacked for the founders of Plymouth Colony should not prevent our using it as an accurate description of the subjects of this narrative.

Having undergone some such exercise let us try to interpret the minds of our West Country voyagers.

To begin with there can be no denying their adventurousness. They were as much a part of that great age of discovery as the Earl of Warwick who surveyed and manipulated its potential rewards from his privileged position in Whitehall Palace. As those ships' companies of West Country people rounded Rame Head into the Channel towards the open Atlantic they carried mental maps of a shadowy New England littoral beyond the heaving ocean which was tinged with myth; but they sailed with a confidence based on generations of practical seamanship. 'How useful a neighbour is the sea', exclaimed John White and both he and John Higginson believed that those English who did not love their chimney corner too much could find honour and glory in the wonderful works of Almighty God beyond the sea. Such people were possessed of a high courage in facing that voyage into the unknown.

But that was the extent of their adventurousness. They were impelled by mixed motives: some, in White's terms, by 'necessity' or home circumstances from which ocean flight was the only way out, others by what he called 'novelty' or a spirit of adventure and still others by 'hopes of gain' in a land which, if not flowing with milk and honey, promised a better life than people of small means could enjoy in England; but for most the motive was religious: to worship according to a more reformed and purified Church of England than was providing possible in the England of Charles I. For the moving spirits, especially the Puritan ministers who had been ejected from their livings for conscience's sake, there was little choice; it was a matter of seeking a refuge in flight from adverse discrimination if not actual persecution. But it would be anachronistic to attribute to those Dorchester people on their forlorn Massachusetts shore the immigrant frame of mind of later generations. The experience of uprooting from their ancestral West Country must have been traumatic and the decision to leave in varying degrees a radical commitment. Henry Wolcott had not only undergone a Puritan conversion but he and Thomas Newberry liquidated considerable properties for the expedition and many other family heads must also have sold up to finance their removal. Among the Dorchester people, even at their weakest and most exposed, 'the discource...was not, "Shall we go to England?" but "How shall we go to Heaven?"' Yet after experiencing those first winters a few did take ship home and more must have harboured an arrière-pensée that if circumstances in England altered, they would return to resume their lives in a purified religious and civil polity. Several later did so, not least Roger Ludlow.

It would also be anachronistic to think of our pilgrims as contemplating an experimental future. Their 17th-century minds may have enjoyed a new and exhilarating global view of the world but they had no concept of 'progress' in a 19th-century sense. For our Puritans the key to utopia lay in continuing the work of an incomplete Reformation in a virgin wilderness insulated from corruption and looking, not forward to a temporal future of progress, but backwards to New Testament values. Everything they wrote testified to the singular providence of God under whom they were to establish a new way in the wilderness. In the words of William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, paraphrasing Scripture:

Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness, but they cried unto the Lord and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity.

They were agents for God's preordained plan. Such a world view renders unthinkable any concept of man-made progress.

These were a special sort of English people voyaging abroad. New-Englishmen, New Englanders in a literal sense, taking with them their own values, institutions and social order. In Dorchester, Massachusetts and then in Windsor our people practised the forms of government and political habits they had known in Dorchester, Beaminster or Crewkerne. The Assistants of the General Court were equivalent to the gentry from whom Members of Parliament were drawn; and the same men, acting as magistrates in the Particular or County Court, governed the Connecticut River towns in much the same way as the justices of the peace governed Dorset and Somerset through the quorum or at quarter sessions. At the township level, there were the constable, the town clerk, the townsmen who were English burgesses and vestrymen writ large, and an array of petty officers such as the clerk of weights and measures, the leather sealers and the way wardens, those Dogberrys and Verges of the New World, all regulating the town's affairs in a familiar paternalistic and mercantilist way. The town's militia company, too, with its compulsory service, professional muster master, amateur officers, complex drills, field days and its volunteer troop of horse for the quality, was modelled on that of the English shires.

Although Windsor church in its Puritan Congregational form followed the pattern of its neighbours, its founding father had been John White who had protested in the Humble Request that its congregation might be voyaging to the New World but were not separating from the Church of England; and it remained the church of John Warham who had so stubbornly asserted it to be the church of sinners as well as saints and who, until he lost his nerve, pioneered the half-way covenant.

Windsor's social order was also recognizably that of provincial England. Its ring of interrelated families of property and social position, with disproportionate amounts of choice land in and about Windsor's Island, holding the principal public offices, connected with the clerisy, distinguished by formal modes of address and sumptuary privileges - these constituted a governing oligarchy the members of which were the New World equivalent of English squires and burgesses.

The nexus of families was predominantly, though not exclusively, of that strain which had its origins in the West Country, its shared experiences of the Mary and John and the other ships and of that sojourn at Dorchester on the Bay. They held these loyalties in common with many less well-connected Windsor neighbours. Many of these, too, had settled both in Dorchester and then on Windor's Main Street with home lots and field strips next door to neighbours from the Brit Valley on the Crewkern district. Such common folk memories were an effective substitute for the customary communities they had left behind. Although only a few families such as the Wolcotts may have had the means to preserve and cultivate their family connections in Somerset, the way of life of most, with apple orchards and cider, Devon cattle rearing and dairying, hemp and flax, preserved a West Country flavour. If one reads aloud items from the inventories of Windsor planters, taken down and phonetically spelled by barely literate neighbours, one hears the echo of a West County burr.

Yet, however much these pilgrims continued to regard themselves simply as West Country English in New England, influences were at work which subtly alter their attitudes, habits and ultimately their institutions.

From the beginning they were never a characteristic sample of the English or even of West Country people in the rough and the round. They were a purposeful and highly eclectic version of English society, a self-selected group who, for a congeries of reasons connected with the need to worship God in their own way, deliberately chose to come together to live in a separate community in the New World. This set them apart and continued to define the perameters within which their own lives and those of their children were shaped. They were also singled out by the fact that they were predominantly a community of families with children and, largely, within a comparatively limited age range. Moreover, this character was enhanced by a second generation of large families which made Windsor a community of well-defined and interconnected family groupings. The social profile was also sharper and more limited than that of the west of England as a whole. There were relatively few servants and at the other end of the scale few, and only minor, gentry. The aristocratic or even the gentle strain did not transplant. Lords Saye and Brooke and Sir Richard Saltonstall never made their landing at the mouth of the Connecticut and even George Fenwick abandoned the place after poor Mistress Fenwick's death. Our pilgrims consisted, in fact, predominantly of that middling range from husbandman and master craftsman to substantial yeoman, merchant, seafarer and cleric which fitted Richard Eburne's prescription for a successful Puritan plantation.

Politically speaking, also, the New England climate was different. Our planters were governed in Massachusetts under the authority of a royal charter; but this was the charter of a trading company which the Governor and Assistants had brought with them and these circumstances subtly altered the attitudes of governors and governed from those they had grown up with in the West Country. In the first place, the seat of government was not over a hundred miles away in a royal establishment at the Palace of Westminster, but at a very different kind of court a few miles down the road, in Boston and then in Hartford; and once Connecticut set up its own government it became one remove further still from an external authority which remained somewhat shadowy until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Government was a neighborly affair. Moreover, according to trading company rules, the Governor and Assistants were elected by the freemen whose status was based on that of the freeholder of an English shire or the freeman of an English borough but was in Connecticut achieved probably by many, if not most, substantial citizens. At the town level this sense of immediate participation was even more direct because the franchise for town offices and affairs in Windsor was in the hands of all 'inhabitants', that is, householders of good repute, exercised through the town meeting. It is anachronistic to think of this as in any sense 'democratic'. Government remained an oligarchic affair but these representational ground rules were psychologically charged for the future.

If political affairs underwent a sea change, climate, and topography effected a kind of wilderness change. After the shock of the first winters and the heat and mosquitoes of summer our planters responded well to the New England climate and came to boast that it was healthier than that of the old country. But they had many adjustments to make before they settled to a viable domestic economy. The few mariners took easily to the albeit dangerous business of fishing and coastal trading but the great majority who must support themselves on the land underwent many trials and errors before adjusting their husbandry to the demands of the wilderness. They benefited immeasurably from taking over from the Indians their cleared lands and maize culture; but it was years before they could acclimatize English grains and find nourishing fodder for their livestock. They adjusted to the need to share scarce manpower, draft animals and ploughs to clear land for tillage by reverting to a form of the old English open-field system, and in other ways preserved a communal element in their village economy. They settled as a matter of course according to an English village plan within range of the meeting house; but the plentitude of land provided them with the luxury of home lots which were sizeable smallholdings so that the New England main street quickly took on the spacious character it preserves today. Similarly, though they built their houses according to English practice, the danger of fire forced them to build stone chimneys and to substitute wooden shingles for thatch, and they made other innovations like the lean-to kitchen as a result of which emerged the characteristic New England house as it still survives. Already in that first generation the English village became the New England township.

Church affairs also went through a sequence of changes in these two generations after the gathering of Warham's church in Plymouth that March day of 1630. Its members may have continued to think of their church as being still in some sense in communion with the Church of England and one of their elders, William Hosford, eventually returned during the Commonwealth to take a parish living in Devon; but their gathered nature, their topographical separateness and their government by ministers and elders tended inevitably towards a Congregationalist frame of mind and away from that of an English parish church. The church's rigid, Puritan discipline was essential in sustaining its pilgrim community in the unpromising soil of Massachusetts Bay and in the weary work of renewal on the Connecticut frontier; but it was a discipline difficult to maintain beyond the first generation of church members who had undergone the full rigours of a spiritual conversion. In time, and especially after the death of its revered pastor, Windsor church failed to withstand the strains of an inevitable cooling of evangelism's white heat and the emergence of a prolific second generation of potential church members. However, such was the dominance of the idea of a gathered church that there could be no return to the old English concept of the parish, only the half-way covenant and a replication of churches beginning in Windsor with Woodbridge's second church. The English parish never took root and the state, in the form of the General Court, gave up trying to impose a single church for each township.

Yet the disciplined Puritan way of life persisted. It would be a mistake to anticipate or over-emphasize the extent to which a diminution of the hardships of pioneering and the amenities of a more settled life induced the second generation a greater worldliness of outlook or liberality of values. Mistress Sarah Wolcott may have amassed a rich and varied wardrobe which even her husband's status as a magistrate and import merchant could hardly justify under the sumptuary law, but the only books she left were psalms, and catechisms for the instruction of her grandchildren. If the language had lost the earnest intensity of her Wolcott father-in-law's early, prayerful letters to his brother in Somerset, both rhetoric and content were Puritan still. Sermons were in the style of those Sarah's husband had taken down in shorthand as a young man and the habit of introspective diary keeping persisted; indeed, with Matthew Grant, it prompted a remarkable standard in the keeping of public records. Imbued as they were with a religion which enshrined 'the Word', literacy was paramount. Although it was a struggle to maintain a school, there were regular town subscriptions to support that college in Cambridge, Massachusetts to which they looked for their future ministers of that Word. Negative but telltale evidence of Windsor's continuing Puritan character is the absence of aspects of culture other than the literary. None of over a hundred inventories of the first two generations of Windsor people which itemize meticulous details from pewter plates to the last kitchen knife and farm tool record a single musical instrument, no recorder or fiddle, not even a fife, and there are no pictures, even portrait sketches. Could it have been that, over time, as with the English Quakers, music and the visual arts were, as it were, being bred out of this Puritan strain? At the outbreak of that new Indian revolt of 1675 which came to be called King Philip's War, the inhabitants of Windsor and the other river towns faced the crisis in true Puritan spirit. On a Solemn Day of Humiliation before the winter campaign of that year they were exhorted by the court to make diligent search for those evil amongst us which have stirred up the Lord's anger against us, that they, being discovered, may be repentance and reformation be thrown out of our camp and hearts.

It was still a very Puritan society.

The course of that campaign also proved that in the forty-eight years since the Pequot War they had learned a good deal about forest lore and about soldiering against the Indians in the wilderness. They had quickly made the militia a more serious military force than it had ever been in England. Training days might be cheerful masculine diversions from the drudgery of farm work or the exercises of the meeting house but over the years the foot came to be better armed and more sensibly drilled, more knowledgeable about the terrain and the enemy's methods and led by more experienced officers. And latterly the horse had come to be used, not as cavalry, but for scouting and intelligence and as mounted musketeers or dragoons. Yet when it came to the sticking point at the Great Swamp Fight in the December of 1675 the difference between defeat and victory lay not so much in the soldierly qualities of the English or their fire-power - the Indians had themselves acquired muskets - as in the decision, as in the Mystic Fort Fight all those years before, to smoke the enemy out by burning down his fort with all its inhabitants. And it was characteristic that they should justify such ruthless action to their consciences in the language and by the arguments of the Old Testament.

So, too, in those four decades the English had learned to know the Indians better; but in doing so they had developed ambivalent attitudes towards them. When they first landed in Massachusetts Bay they had looked on the unknown savages with curiosity and a certain dread but not without those missionary thoughts which had been a strong motive for a Puritan colonizer like John White; and although a Christian conversion into 'praying Indians' was more a feature of Massachusetts than Connecticut, Windsor people came to know and appreciate the friendliness of their Indian neighbors and with Puritan consciences they scrupulously acquired legal titles for their lands. Yet is was probably inevitable that the tribes should become increasingly uneasy about the way in which the increasing numbers of English were encroaching on their hunting territories; and, on the other hand, the sudden eruption of the maverick Pequots in 1637 brought home to the English how small and vulnerable they were and how easily they could be wiped out. So far as the Pequots were concerned it was thought to be 'them or us', and the only solution, their virtual extermination. That example gave the English the best part of four decades of uneasy coexistence with the other tribes but the memory of it complicated English attitudes towards the Indians whom they came to regard, however affectionately, as primitive and inferior peoples in much the same way as their 19th-century successors in a latter day Empire were to regard African natives; and is it too far-fetched to think of Major Mason as one of the first of a long line of colonial administrations with responsibility for tribal policy? When a second and prolific generation of English planters grew up demanding land of their own to settle on, the interests of the Indians received scant shrift.

In the settlement of New England, as we have seen, an antiphonal theme to the quest for a Puritan refuge was the appetite for land. John White had recognized this in The Planters Plea; dissatisfaction with the stony soil of Massachusetts Bay and the lure of those rich meadows along the Connecticut led to Dorchester's second swarming; and when the children of the Windsor planters grew up they, in turn, had to be accommodated, wither with land carved out of their parents' holdings, especially on the east bank of the Connecticut, or with new lands still further afield. Notable among such were those Indian-cleared meadows and upland some ten miles upstream at the Massaco falls of the Tunxis, which were settled by Ford and Cooke, and the younger Wolcott, Newberry and company, and called Simsbury. Simsbury, which survived King Philip's War, was only the most notable place to be colonized from Windsor. As the reader may have noticed, individual family groups had been leaving Windsor for supposedly greener pastures ever since Roger Ludlow led his little band to found Fairfield in 1639. Several went to other places on the sound or, as they put it, 'at the seaside', such as Hammonassett, Killingworth (a corruption of Kenilworth), or Bray Rossiter's Guilford; others were attracted to newer settlements up the Connecticut River like Thomas Ford and David Wilton to Northampton or George Phelps and Aaron Cooke to Westfied. And after the period of this narrative Windsor would colonize other settlements east of the river such as Hebron and Tolland. As with the founding generation's uprooting from the West Country, there was often a mixture of motives behind such departures. In addition to a desire for new and more fertile land such defectors often went for religious reasons like the folk who went to Northampton and those Anglican-minded people among the founders of Simsbury.

It is difficult to distinguish between those who went and those who stayed save to note the obvious fact that among the first settlers those most likely to stay in Windsor were the well established in terms of property and position and many of these were of West Country origin. However, a significant number of notable West Country people, such as those instanced in the previous paragraph, did in fact choose to go and for them this was a third uprooting. Could it be that the experience of uprooting, first undergone in 1630 in Dorset or Somerset, had perhaps become progressively less traumatic with each move and that the children of our band of West Country pilgrims were on their way to becoming, geographically and psychologically, pioneers of America's moving frontier of settlement, bonded together more by the intimacies of a travelling neighbourhood than by ancestral folk origin?

Thus the character of our West Country families was being altered in a variety of ways by their experience of migration. In their self-selection, their Puritanism, their political habits, their fortitude in voyaging and trekking, in bracing themselves for climate and wilderness, in their husbandry, in skills relearnt, in their soldiering and relations with the Indians and in their experience of rapid change, in all these respects they were no longer quite the West Country people they or their parents had been in 1630. England was still their old country but for the younger Henry Wolcott 'home' was Windsor in New England. They had become provincial English of a new kind. Were they becoming 'American' without knowing it?

Frank Thistlethwaite

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I've been researching genealogy and got back to Matthew Grant (mentioned here) as a direct ancestor. He was born in Dorset in 1601, and made it to MA in the 1630's. Very cool :)