10 People You Didn't Know Came to America in the Mayflower
10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower

Larry Holzwarth - March 14, 2018

The story of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, which is unfortunately mostly wrapped up in the First Thanksgiving Day, is an interesting tale for many reasons. What isn’t told in the Thanksgiving story is that the Mayflower voyage and the establishment of a new colony in what was to have been Virginia was a commercial enterprise, backed by financial investors who wanted to make a profit. One of the leading investors sailed to the new world in Mayflower and became the colony’s first governor after writing and signing the document we know as the Mayflower Compact.

The story of John Alden is known as a romance involving himself, Priscilla Mullins, and Miles Standish. Alden was critical to the success of the Plymouth Colony but he wasn’t one of the Pilgrims. He was a member of Mayflower’s crew. He later acquired the status as one of the Separatists through the poetic license of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, himself a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Longfellow based his poem on the family oral tradition which was formally published by Reverend Timothy Alden, the founder of Allegheny College, in 1814.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
The Pilgrims spent their first winter in the New World sheltered in the Mayflower in Cape Cod Bay. NASA

Here are ten of the more interesting passengers and crew who first came to America in the famous ship Mayflower in 1620, and a few of their descendants.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
In his dealings with the Separatists Thomas Weston arranged financing which was damaging to their plans. Wikimedia

John Carver

John Carver was critical to the voyage of Mayflower and the success of the Plymouth Colony. He was one of the better educated of the Separatists as well as one of the wealthier participants in the enterprise. It was Carver who wrote the Mayflower Compact while the ship was weather-bound in Cape Cod Harbor, and he was the first to sign the document. Carver was elected as governor of the expedition while Mayflower was crossing the Atlantic and he served as the first governor of the colony when the Pilgrims finally went ashore and established their settlement.

Carver’s date of birth is unknown, and the earliest documentation of his existence indicates that he was a member of the Leiden congregation in Holland, where he was a deacon of St. Pancras Church. His first died in 1609, following the death of a child earlier that year. He remarried, to Katherine White, and became involved with the Leiden English Separatist Church. It was Carver who opened negotiations with the Virginia Company to acquire land in Virginia for the establishment of an independent colony for the Separatists. These negotiations began in 1617 and through them Carver agreed to the requirements that the colony would acknowledge the authority of the throne and the Church of England as specified in the Virginia Company’s charter.

Carver arranged for much of the financing for the Mayflower voyage, and put his own money into the enterprise as an investment. He contacted a group of investors in London known as the Merchant Adventurers, led by Thomas Weston, to arrange financial backing. Weston was an ironmonger and somewhat less than scrupulous financier who would at a later date be arrested several times in the English colonies. By the summer of 1620 there was sufficient funding in place and Carver purchased supplies for the voyage and the sustenance of the settlement in Virginia.

Carver boarded Mayflower in the company of his wife, seven year old Jasper More (one of the four More children which Weston had arranged to be sent to the new colony under the care of settlers) and five servants. The ninety foot (by deck length) Mayflower carried 102 passengers and a crew of about 30, although some historians believed for many years that the crew numbered around fifty. The already low provisions were depleted by the multiple delays in sailing caused by the severe weather, and Mayflower didn’t depart English waters until early September 1620, arriving off Cape Cod in November. Unable to sail south to Virginia it anchored in Cape Cod Harbor for the winter.

Carver’s contributions during the grim first winter spent aboard the Mayflower and during the building of the settlement the following spring were many. It was he who negotiated the treaty with the Wampanoag sachem Massasoit which ensured peace between the Pilgrims and the settlers, which in turn led to the success of Plymouth Colony after such a difficult start. Carver was not there to enjoy the success. In April 1621 he collapsed after working in his fields, and died shortly after. His wife died shortly thereafter and his only surviving servant became a free man. Carver was the first of the Pilgrim dead to be buried in a formal ceremony, those preceding him were buried in unmarked graves.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
A mid-twentieth century postcard depicts the Aldens of Plymouth Plantation. Boston Public Library

John Alden

Mayflower was provisioned as were all ships of the time for a long voyage, with a supply of salted meat, ship’s biscuit, and water. It also contained a liberal amount of beer, as water kept in wooden casks quickly became tainted to the point of being undrinkable. These supplies were all stored in wooden barrels which required constant care by the ship’s cooper. It was the cooper who supervised the ship’s hold and rotated the barrels, examining them for evidence of rot. John Alden was Mayflower’s cooper, coming aboard ship in Southampton. He may have been from the port of Harwich, but his story is unknown prior to coming aboard the ship.

It is possible that Alden joined the voyage with the original intent of remaining in the New World, but he was hired as part of the ship’s crew by its Captain, Christopher Jones. He was not a Separatist and was unknown to any of the expedition when he came aboard, but it is possible he was familiar to Jones as an experienced seaman. During the voyage he became friendly with Miles Standish and others of the Separatists, and at some point he decided that he would remain with them rather than return to England in Mayflower the following year.

As such, he was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, signed in November of 1620. He joined in some of the exploratory trips during the winter to various sites ashore, and helped scout the placement of the artillery which the Separatists had the foresight to bring with them. Within a few weeks of arrival it was evident to Captain Jones that his ship would have to winter in Cape Cod Bay as nearly half of his crew became ill with the same contagious illness which had begun to ravage his passengers. The illness which killed so many during that winter aboard ship has never been accurately diagnosed, but by then all of the travelers were showing signs of scurvy as well.

By the time the Pilgrims went ashore in the spring of 1621 only 53 of them were still alive. Temporary huts were quickly erected and Mayflower’s holds emptied of the supplies, tools and weapons brought by the colonists, its weight replaced by stones brought from shore to ballast the ship. Mayflower departed for England on April 5, 1621. By that time the only surviving unmarried woman of marriageable age in the colony was Priscilla Mullins. Whether Longfellow’s poem is true or not, Alden and Mullins were married in the spring of 1622. During the course of their marriage they had ten children.

Alden served in several positions of authority in Plymouth, including assistant governor, treasurer, and as a member of the Duxbury militia formed by Miles Standish. The rival Massachusetts Bay Colony arrested him in 1634, for a fight in which he was not involved. The Bay colonists arrested Alden because he was the highest Plymouth official they could lay their hands on. He was released through the intervention of the governor. John Alden died in Duxbury in September 1687, the last of the Mayflower Pact signatories. One of his sons, John Alden Jr, was later tried for practicing witchcraft at Salem, but managed to survive the hysteria and publish an account of the trial.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
Fishing for cod and trading with Virginia and England rapidly became industries in Plymouth. Wikimedia

Richard More

Richard More was one of the four More siblings who were sent to the New World by Thomas Weston, after they were taken from their mother for the crime of adultery. Their father, in a nasty divorce which rivals anything today, had them removed and placed in what would now be called foster homes, and then decided that since his own parentage could not be proved they should be sent to Virginia as indentured servants. He arranged for Thomas Weston to make this happen and Weston was happy to oblige. The children were Elinor, age 8 and assigned to Edward Winslow; Jasper, age 7, under the care of John Carver; Richard, age 6 and assigned to William Brewster; and finally Mary, age 4 and also assigned to William Brewster.

The young More sisters and their brother Jasper all died during the winter of 1620-21, the little girls succumbing first while still in the ship. Only 6 year old Richard More survived to go ashore with the colonists in the spring of 1621. He resided with the Brewster family and contributed to the growth of the colony until 1627. His indenture to Brewster had been for seven years. More was then entered into the records of the colony, and went to work for Isaac Allerton, who was building a trade company with merchants and investors. While working for Allerton More made a trip to England in 1635. The following year he married Christian Hunter.

By 1642 More was an experienced sailor and fisherman, and was living in Salem. He sailed regularly to the West Indies, Virginia, England, and Holland on trading voyages, transporting tobacco, wines, and other supplies to and from the English settlements and the European ports. He also bought and sold land in the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies and took part in military and naval expeditions against the French. When the English established a law which required all European goods sent to the English settlements must pass through England he began trading more extensively with the North American colonies, a far less lucrative business.

By the 1680s Richard More had acquired fifty years of living off of the sea as a sailor and trader, and had never had a ship lost, an unusual and impressive feat given the largely uncharted American coastline and the dangerous currents often found there. But the implementation of trade laws and taxes by the British had left him practically destitute. In Salem he found himself repeatedly chastised by Church elders for various indiscretions, and finally excommunicated from the Church for the crime of adulterous behavior with another man’s wife.

Richard More was married three times and may have had simultaneous wives in New England and England. During his lifetime he had several encounters with Church and legal authorities for crimes ranging from intoxication to indebtedness. He had six children with Christian Hunter and one in London with his wife there, Elizabeth. The year of his death is debated, his gravestone records it as occurring in 1692, but he is known to have been alive in 1694, and the date on the gravestone wasn’t added until 1901. He was one of the last surviving male passengers to arrive on Mayflower at the time of his death, and quite possibly the last.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
This circa 1920 photo is of the John Howland House built in Plymouth in 1666. Wikimedia

John Howland

When John Carver boarded Mayflower he had five servants with him, one of whom was John Howland. Howland was the only one of Carver’s servants who survived the voyage and the first winter to go ashore in the colony. After just over a month ashore John Carver died and his wife followed him in death five weeks later. Howland thus became a freeman, responsible for a ward for whom Carver had been providing, Elizabeth Tilley. Her parent’s had succumbed during the first winter in the New World. Despite being assigned the status of servant at the time, John Howland was a signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Howland received the Carver estate and began to establish himself in the fur trade. He was one of a group of men who built a fur trading post on the Kennebec River in what is now Maine. Howland was in charge of the Plymouth Colony’s northern post when a dispute with encroaching fur traders from the Massachusetts Bay Colony led to the death of Moses Talbot, one of the men employed by Howland. Howland’s men shot and killed Talbot’s murderer in retaliation. The Massachusetts Bay Colony men were supposed to be on the Piscataqua River, and it was this incident which led to the arrest of John Alden.

Howland was one of the colonists who was asked to join the group which wanted to take over the colony’s debt by purchasing it from the Merchant Adventurers, giving the colony more autonomy. The colonists paid a total of $4,200 to clear the investor’s land claims and other debts and received in return a monopoly on the fur trade, which in the early days of the colony was its most lucrative product. Howland served as a member of the committee which regulated the fur trade among the colony’s own trappers and hunters and the trade with the Indians, who found blankets imported from England to be preferable to some furs.

Howland married Elizabeth Tilley sometime after 1623. They had ten children together, all of whom lived to adulthood, and Howland eventually had a staggering 88 grandchildren. Among his direct descendants as a result of this issue can be found the actors Humphrey Bogart and Christopher Lloyd, and the Baldwin brothers. Ralph Waldo Emerson was also a direct descendant of Howland’s, as was another poet, Florence Earle Coates.

The Howlands lived in Plymouth for a time, then in Duxbury, and finally on a farm in Kingston which was known as Rocky Nook. Late in his life John Howland would spend his winters in the home of his son Jabez. This house still stands in Plymouth, the only remaining structure in which one of the passengers from Mayflower lived. John Howland died at the age of 80 in 1672. Elizabeth Tilley Howland lived another 15 years. She is buried in what is now East Providence, Rhode Island. The whereabouts of John Howland’s grave is uncertain.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
This warrant signed by Plymouth Governor Edward Winslow authorizes the sale of captive Indians as slaves. Wikimedia

Edward Winslow

Edward Winslow was a stationer’s apprentice in London who left that contract unfilled and journeyed to Leiden to join the Separatists in 1617. His experience as a stationer and printer made him valuable to Separatist Elder William Brewster. Together they produced a pamphlet which criticized the English Church to the point that an enraged King James sent agents to arrest Brewster, forcing the Church leader to go on the run for a time. In Leiden Winslow married Elizabeth Barker. Winslow rapidly became a leader among the separatists and was involved heavily in the arrangements for the trip.

In making these arrangements and dealing with Thomas Weston several of the Church Elders found themselves frequently being misled by the scheming head of the Merchant Adventurers, Winslow included. These schemes caused the trip to be delayed several times which, although frustrating at the time proved advantageous in the long run. The time allowed for King James’s temper to cool, and for William Brewster to emerge from hiding. Brewster’s leadership was essential to the success of the enterprise and Plymouth Colony.

Both Winslow and his wife survived the voyage and the winter in Mayflower’s hull but it severely weakened Elizabeth, who died shortly after the colonists moved ashore in the spring of 1621. The month before, in February 1621, William White had died, leaving a widow and two sons, the second of whom, Peregrine, was the first born to the Pilgrims on the American side of the Atlantic Ocean. Edward Winslow and Susanna White were married six weeks after the death of Elizabeth Winslow; it was they rather than John Alden and Priscilla Mullins to be the first couple wed in Plymouth Colony.

Winslow worked with colony and English officials to facilitate trade and other relations between the growing colony and the Mother Country. He served as Governor of the Plymouth Colony and in 1643 he became a Commissioner for the United Colonies of New England. The United Colonies was the first time the English settlements formally worked together to provide for the common defense. It would not be the last. Winslow returned to England to serve with Cromwell during the Civil War. After the execution of Charles I Winslow remained in England.

He never returned to Plymouth Colony, and while serving in a naval expedition against the Spanish in the West Indies he died in 1655, presumably of yellow fever. He was buried at sea. His name appears on a monument at Winslow Cemetery in Marshfield Massachusetts which honors the settlers of Green Harbor. His second wife’s name appears with his. Some of his writings regarding the earliest days of the Plymouth Colony survive and he is believed to have co-written, with William Bradford, the tract known as Mourt’s Relation, which describes the First Thanksgiving.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
Allerton’s Warehouse is seen near the wharf as it appeared in 1679. Allerton had been banished from Plymouth. Wikimedia

Isaac Allerton

Isaac Allerton sailed in the Mayflower accompanied by his wife, son, and two daughters, one of whom, Mary, would live long enough to be the last survivor of the Mayflower voyagers. Allerton was the son of a tailor but chose blacksmithing as his trade, being apprenticed to a London blacksmith for a period of seven years. He did not complete the apprenticeship, fleeing to Leiden about 1611, where he worked in his father’s trade as a tailor. He married Mary Norris and the Allerton family, though not particularly active in the affairs of the Separatists in Leiden, joined the passage in Mayflower in 1620. Upon arrival in American waters Isaac Allerton signed the Mayflower Compact.

Allerton had sufficient prestige and business skills to be selected as the assistant to Plymouth’s first governor, John Carver. Following the death of Carver William Bradford became governor and Allerton served as his assistant until 1624. Allerton expressed a lively interest in the colony’s finances and as he developed his own trading business, establishing with Edward Winslow a fur trading post on the Kennebec River in Maine, he frequently intertwined his own money with that of the colony. He is likely the first example of government malfeasance in America. Allerton returned to England to negotiate with the Merchant Adventurers, obtaining better terms for Plymouth’s debt and for his personal business ventures.

It was Allerton who first employed Richard More as a fisherman and trader. He also established a second fur trading post on the Kennebec, owned personally, and thus entered into competition with the colony. Through the competition and his continual mishandling of Plymouth’s affairs he became wealthy considering his time and place, much of his wealth obtained at the expense of the colony. In 1631 he left the Plymouth Colony and relocated to the Marblehead area of Salem, setting up additional fur trading posts, and leaving Plymouth in a financially precarious position.

Salem was in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and officials there soon had their fill of the less than scrupulous Allerton, who had been tolerated as long as he had in Plymouth by virtue of his second wife being the daughter of William Brewster. Allerton fled to the New Haven Colony where he continued his shady business dealings, establishing a fur trade with the Dutch in nearby New Amsterdam. This trade was lucrative enough that Allerton acquired a second residence in the Dutch colony, and entered into the politics which governed there. He continued to amass personal wealth while serving on the equivalent of a city council in New Amsterdam.

Allerton’s first wife did not survive the winter of 1620-21. His second wife, the daughter of William Brewster, died in Plymouth in 1634. He married a third time in New Haven, and his third wife outlived him. He died in New Haven in 1659. Allerton was an important figure in establishing the economic viability of the Plymouth Colony, proving that the venture could generate profits for its investors, but his mismanagement of colony funds led to his undoing. William Bradford as governor would have benefited greatly from Allerton’s trading acumen had it been offered for the benefit of the colony rather than his own.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
This license to practice medicine in England was awarded to William Brewster by the University of Oxford. Wikimedia

William Brewster

William Brewster was the spiritual leader of the Separatists, known to posterity as the Pilgrims. He was a religious scholar and trained doctor who wanted to reform the extremes of the Anglican Church, which led to his fleeing to more open minded Holland in 1608. His departure from England was achieved without the permission of the King, making it illegal, and he became in effect an exile from the nation of his birth. In Holland he supported himself and his family by teaching English to the Dutch students at Leiden School and by the writing and publishing of pamphlets which criticized the Anglican Church and presented the arguments of the Separatists.

When the Separatists began preparations for the trip to Virginia Brewster was involved in the negotiations until a particularly critical tract he published aroused the ire of King James, and Brewster was forced into hiding to avoid arrest. Where he concealed himself remains a matter of conjecture, with some suggesting he hid in plain view in Cambridge while the King’s agents looked for him in Leiden. Brewster was not clerical, he was a lay person of high repute and his absence during the negotiations with the Merchant Adventurers and other investors was keenly felt by the Separatists. He returned to the Leiden Congregation shortly before the voyage of the Mayflower.

Brewster, despite not being a member of the clergy, was the only member of the Mayflower Company to have been educated at the university level, and as such became the spiritual leader of the colony. This role increased with the early death of their Deacon, John Carver, in the spring of 1621. Brewster served as the minister, or preacher, at all religious services held by the Separatists until about 1629, when the first ordained minister arrived at the colony. Brewster continued to preach in a diminished role after that, and retained his position as both a spiritual leader and guide to the colony’s leaders.

For his services and out of respect for his position, several of the islands which define Boston Harbor were granted to him by colony leaders and bear his name today. Great Brewster, Little Brewster, Middle Brewster, and Outer Brewster were granted to him, as well as a plot in Duxbury, where he chose to live in 1632. Two of the More children were under his charge, Mary, who died in the first winter in the Mayflower, and the ultimately successful Richard More, who lived with the Brewster family until the age of 14, when he became employed by Isaac Allerton.

As one of the more influential members of the Plymouth Colony, many place names around the region of Massachusetts Bay bear his name, including the town of Brewster in Massachusetts. Another Brewster, in Nebraska, was also named for him. Brewster was the spiritual and moral leader of the colony for almost 25 years, offering guidance and support to both the colony’s government and its settlers, and was the undoubted leader of the harvest feasts which we celebrate today as Thanksgiving. Brewster died in 1644 at his farm in Duxbury and was buried at Plymouth’s Burial Hill.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
This page from the manuscript Of Plymouth Plantation in Bradford’s own hand contains the text of the Mayflower Contract. Wikimedia

William Bradford

Other than the soldier Miles Standish and the lovebirds John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, probably the most well-known of the Plymouth colonists today is William Bradford. Without the records he left behind in his writings we would know very little of the intrepid band of religious dissenters who settled in Plymouth. Of Plymouth Plantation, which he based on a journal he kept of the formative years of the colony, is the primary first-hand account of the events as they unfolded in Leiden, during the voyage of Mayflower, and in Plymouth. Bradford signed the Mayflower Compact and may have helped write it along with John Carver, and served several terms as the Governor of Plymouth.

When Bradford fled England for Holland he at first lived with the Brewster’s in Amsterdam, later relocating to Leiden where he eventually worked as a weaver of a heavy padded cloth known as fustian. This brought him considerable financial success and by 1611 he was able to receive an inheritance from his family. In 1613 he married Dorothy May, who brought with her a respectable dowry. In the spring of 1620 the Bradford’s were residing in London, in an area of the city which housed many fellow dissenters and successful Dutch merchants. At some point Bradford returned with his family to Amsterdam.

Bradford and his wife left their young son with her parents in Amsterdam when they departed for America in Speedwell, transferring to Mayflower in English waters and making the difficult crossing in 1620. During the early explorations for a suitable site to build a settlement Bradford began to assume a leadership role with the surviving settlers. When he returned to Mayflower after exploring the area where Plymouth would be laid out Bradford learned of his wife’s death, not from the diseases which killed so many of the party, but from accidentally falling overboard and drowning in the frigid waters where Mayflower lay anchored.

After the death of John Carver Bradford was elected Governor of the colony, an office he would hold five separate times as the colony grew and gradually revised the manner in which it was governed. Bradford kept a personal journal throughout the early days of the colony. Around 1630 he began work on a comprehensive journal which described the colony’s settlement and the people who populated it, called Of Plymouth Plantation. He also contributed to works written by Edward Winslow including Mourt’s Relation, again relying on the personal journals he kept earlier in the colony’s development.

Bradford remarried in 1623, to a widow who arrived at Plymouth in one of the later ships which brought additional settlers and needed supplies to the colony, returning with furs to be sold by the Merchant Adventurers and other investors. His son by his first wife arrived in Plymouth in the same manner. He had three additional children with his second wife. He died in 1657 and was buried at Plymouth’s Burial Hill. Among his descendants are Clint Eastwood, Julia Child, Civil War General George McClellan, and noted pediatrician Benjamin Spock.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
A first hand account of the wreck of the Sea Venture and Stephen Hopkins subsequent adventures in Jamestown, published before he sailed on the voyage of the Mayflower. Wikimedia

Stephen Hopkins

Of all the passengers who sailed to the New World in Mayflower only one, Stephen Hopkins, had been there before. Hopkins had previously survived a shipwreck (the Sea Venture, a ship sent to resupply the colony at Jamestown) in Bermuda, been tried for mutiny there and sentenced to death. He was pardoned and later sailed in one of two boats built for the purpose to Jamestown. He remained in Virginia until 1614, serving with John Smith’s militia company. The events of the wreck of the Sea Venture were later used in the plot of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

While he was away his wife in England died, and upon learning of her death he returned to England to care for his children. In London he remarried and when Thomas Weston learned of his experience in the Jamestown colony he recruited Hopkins to join the Separatist’s expedition to Virginia. Hopkins’s experience in Virginia included hunting and dealing with the Indians there, and with the original destination of the voyage being Virginia he was thought by the investors and the Separatists to be an invaluable addition to the expedition. He decided to take his wife and children with him.

Unlike the Jamestown settlement, which had no intention of farming in the earliest days of the colony, preferring to obtain necessities such as food by trading with the Indians, the Plymouth colony was an agricultural community from the outset. Initial dealings with the Indians were primarily learning the techniques required to ensure successful crops in the New England soil and short growing season. Hopkins participated in the negotiations with the Wampanoag Indians which led to a mutual defense treaty and satisfactory trade agreements.

Hopkins also knew of the hunting and trapping techniques practiced by the natives and helped develop the fledgling fur industry which was so critical to the colony’s financial success. When not assisting in these endeavors he opened a tavern, the first such establishment in New England, in Plymouth. His tavern was opened in the first year of the colony, and he operated it until his death in 1644. The tavern led him into difficulties with the colony authorities on more than one occasion. He was reported to have violated the Sabbath by serving intoxicating beverages on that day, and was on another occasion fined for his prices being deemed to be excessive.

Hopkins and his wife had a son, the only child born in Mayflower while the ship was transiting the Atlantic. They named him Oceanus in tribute. He died sometime before 1627. He had several other children in England and in Plymouth. His wife in Plymouth who sailed with him in the Mayflower predeceased him and when he died his will requested that he be buried beside her. The whereabouts of their graves is unknown.

10 People You Didn’t Know Came to America in the Mayflower
The Plymouth Plantation has been recreated near where it originally stood as a living museum. Wikimedia

Edward Doty

Edward Doty joined the Mayflower Company as an indentured servant to Stephen Hopkins. He was a signer of the Mayflower Compact upon arrival in the waters off Cape Cod and joined with Hopkins and others in the early explorations of the land. Doty, which is sometimes spelled Doten, was a quick-tempered man prone to bursts of rage upon only slight provocations. Plymouth Colony did not keep court records until 1632, but in the years succeeding Doty’s name appears frequently for fighting and other displays of temper.

He also displayed a propensity for defrauding his fellow colonists in business deals and other schemes and he appears in the court records many times in civil actions and lawsuits, debt collections, and land claims. Although other such settlers, most of whom came to Plymouth on later ships, were deported from the colony Doty was not. This curiosity is unexplained in the records. Over the years Doty became a land owner with extensive land holdings, a symbol of wealth in the colony. He did not take an active role in the government and management of the colony, nor did he serve in any juries.

Doty was a participant in the first duel fought in New England, wounding his opponent in the thigh and receiving a minor wound in his hand. The duel was fought with Edward Leister, also an indentured servant of Stephen Hopkins. The punishment ordered by the Governor was suspended by Hopkins’ intervention. They were to have been bound together, as Plymouth as yet had no stocks, for a period of 24 hours. Other options for punishment in Plymouth at the time were branding, whipping, and banishment from the colony.

Doty’s many cases which brought him before the court included slander, debt, criminal trespassing, fraud, and theft. Between 1632, when court records in Plymouth began to be kept, and 1651 Doty appeared before the court no less than 23 times. Despite this evident problem with authority he accepted the decisions of the court, paid his fines and obeyed the court’s decision, and went about his business. Doty signed the decisions and other court papers by making a mark witnessed by others, claiming that he had never learned to write.

Doty married Faith Clarke in Plymouth in 1635. Together they had nine children. He died in 1655 in Plymouth and was buried at Burial Hill. At least one of his sons exhibited similar tendencies in both temper and business dealings. Perhaps strangely one of his descendants was James Otis, a noted attorney in colonial Boston and one of the early Founders. Another was Sile Doty, a notorious horse thief and robber in America’s West.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Plymouth Colony: Its History and People 1620-1691”, by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, 1986

“The History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, the second Governor of Plymouth”, by William Bradford

“Famous Descendants of Mayflower Passengers”, by Caleb Johnson, 2009

“William Brewster” Mayflower History.

“Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims”, by David Lindsay, 2002

“Stephen Hopkins”, New England Historical Society.

“The Mayflower Compact and its Signers”, by George Earnest Bowman, 1920

“Of Plymouth Plantation 1620 – 1647”, by William Bradford, edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison, 1991

“Mourt’s Relation, or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth”, by Henry Martyn Dexter, 1865

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