This series of articles is a compilation of trivia, myths, legends, and mysteries I have found interesting while researching the history of New England. It is meant as a sequel to the first series, Crossing the Ocean Sea, which describes earlier explorations of the Atlantic coasts and islands by Western Europeans up to Christopher Columbus’ last voyage in 1502.
This new series covers the period between 1500 and Spring of 1630, when the Massachusetts Bay Company was about to send John Winthrop and eleven ships filled with planters [settlers] to America.
Whereas Crossing the Ocean Sea is complete, this series is in progress. To the right is the list of articles I have written so far, but only the underlined titles are posted.
You can scroll through the articles using one of two methods:
- click through the Contents List to the right
- click the link at the bottom of each article to the next article.
You will also find an email link to the author at the bottom of each article inviting you to give me your feedback, corrections, and additions.
I hope you enjoy this information as much as I do.
—Mary Ames Mitchell
The Beginning: Introduction
New England historians often speak about an event known as The Great Migration. In reality, there have been many Great Migrations to America. The New England Great Migration refers to the movement of a particularly large group of families from Old England to New England during a short span of time – twenty years. Based on percentages and statistics – no precise records exist – between 1620, when the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, and 1640, when civil war broke out in England and temporarily halted migration from the country, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 children, women, and men crossed the Atlantic in what we today consider small wooden boats. For those people, they were large wooden boats.
Those settlers belonged to only 3000 to 4000 different families. That averages to 7.5 people per family. Obviously, families had more children in those days than they do now.
The largest group to sail at one time, about 700 to 800 settlers, arrived on eleven ships – some say twelve(1) – during the summer of 1630 with their leader, Governor John Winthrop. That group founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony along the Charles River, which is today Greater Boston in the state of Massachusetts. 700 immigrating English is nothing compared to the 1000 or more Irish, Italians, Polish, Germans, Scandinavians, and Russians who arrived every day to New York Harbor during the late 1800s and early 1900s. But in 1630, that was a lot of souls to assimilate in an uncultivated land with no markets in sight. Few of the people who moved to New England were over the age of forty. About a third died the first year.
Settlers in those days were referred to as planters. They moved to America to plant new towns, plant new fields, plant new churches, and plant a new nation. The large self-sustaining farming communities they established were called plantations.
The Mayflower’s story is interesting and important. However, it is only one of many equally significant adventures involving ships carrying Europeans to what seemed to them to be a virgin wilderness. Text book editors delete the other events because they make textbooks too long. We are giving them back to you. When possible, we let the explorers tell you their adventures themselves.
Some say seventeen. Counting all the vessels that sailed in 1630: Margrett & John, Lyon, Mary & John, Arabella, Jewel, Ambrose, Talbot, Mayflower of Yarmouth, Whale, Success, Charles, William & Francis, Hopewell, Trial, Gift, Handmaid, and one other.
Next Article – Medieval Ships