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Dorchester & Fordington

Emigration to New England (1620-1640)

©Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Fordington Last updated July 2014


Pilgrim Fathers

During the early 17th Century there was a great deal of religious persecution in England resulting in the birth of two main movements, the Puritans and Separatists, both of whom sought greater freedom of worship.  From as early as 1607 some escaped to Holland, but a new phase began when the 'Mayflower' carrying the Pilgrim Fathers landed a group of separatists at Cape Cod on Christmas day 1620. They were of course among the first of many who left these shores to start a new life in America.

Rev. John WHITE (1575-1648) Patriarch of Dorchester

Depiction during the Westminster Assembly of Divines 1643/46

In Dorchester the puritan Minister the Rev. John WHITE (1575-1648), the rector of both Holy Trinity and St Peters, was inspired by this new adventure and saw the potential for a puritan settlement as well. Among his parishioners was Richard Bushrod, a merchant and a man of some substance, who for a number of years had traded in fishing for cod and bartering furs in New England. Sharing common ideals they felt this business could benefit from an on shore settlement where the surplus men required for fishing could spend the winter until required next season, but also form the nucleas of a permanent puritan settlement. John White started raising capital, enlisting the support of influential people, and recruiting followers to move to New England, and the records of the Council for New England show that a licence to search for a site for a new plantation was granted on 18th February 1622/3. A year later, on 18 February 1623, the council granted a patent to Sir Walter Earle. The promoters, led by Earle and White, met in March 1624 at Dorchester to formally organize the venture. They formed the "Dorchester Company" which soon had 119 stockholders paying £25 per share.

'The Dorchester Company' (1624-1626)

Of the 119 investors in the company 21 were clergymen and 20 were at some time members of Parliament. Many of John White's friends and relations are listed together with important people from the surrounding area. These included for example Sir Francis Ashley a knight and justice of the peace who was the recorder of Dorchester between 1614-1635 and MP for the borough from 1614 to 1625. William Whiteway Senior (1570-1639) was another prominent merchant who held many public offices as well as his son William Whiteway the Younger (1599-1635) the famous diarist; and Robert Cheeke the Rector of All Saints church who was also the local schoolmaster along with Thomas Devenish the keeper of the Dorchester goal. Many members of the corporation also invested such as Edmund Dashwood (1588-1643) who was appointed Mayor of Dorchester in 1632. Relatives included his brother Steven White and his brother-in-law John Terry the Rector of Stockton.

Four of these investors have known associations with Fordington. We know very little about Robert Veare and William Roydon other than the fact that they came from Fordington. The Rev. Edward PELE however was vicar of St Georges church in Fordington from 1616 to his death in 1645 and shared John White's vision. The Rev. Edward Clarke, had been brought in to be John White's assistant in 1620, but lived in Fordington and married Ann Pelham there on 2nd May 1621.

Altogether, the company's initial fund came to more than £3,000, a substantial amount of money in the 17th century, and it soon started sending out ships to New England. According to Rose Troup in her biography of the Rev John White(1), even before that first official meeting, the new Dorchester Company purchased a small ship called the 'The Fellowship'. John White describes this ship as being of 50 tons and the cost of it's purchase and refitting with new sails as £300. The Weymouth Port Books(2) suggest that 'The Fellowship' carried 3 guns and was owned by a Richard Berry. Richard Bury (1584-1661) was in fact a grocer and apothecary of Dorchester and one of the investors in the company. John White states that because of it's refitting it sailed in 1623/4 a month or six weeks behind the rest of the fishing fleet and missed the best of the fishing season. It therefore sailed for Massachusetts Bay to top up its lading and returned too late to a bad market in Spain before returning to Weymouth. With the added costs of provisioning 14 men that it left behind at the Cape the venture seems to have cost them about £800.

Undaunted the next year 1624/5 they purchased a Felmish Fly boat of 140 tons (thought to have been called 'The Pilgrime' ) which wasn't suitable so they tried to add a deck. The refitting, which encountered problems in attaining a safe trim, cost £800 and made them a month late again, so 'The Pilgrim' and 'The Fellowship' arrived at the Cape when few fish were available. 'The Pilgrim' was meant to sail direct to Bordeaux to sell her fish but with only a little over a third of her lading she sailed back direct to Weymouth and they had to hire another smaller boat to sell the fish in Bordeaux. This time they left provisions costing £500 for another 32 men which they left behind and resulted in a total cost for the voyage of some £2,200.(3)

The 1625/6 season saw 'The Amytie' added to the fleet with sailing of the three ships costing some £2,000 which meant that the Dorchester Company had to borrow over £1,000. 'The Fellowship' sailed on 23rd January 1625 with Edward Cribbe as master, carrying 8 hundredweight of meal, 40 quarts of malt for the provision of the Christians planted in New England. 'The Pilgrim also sailed around this date with William Holmes as master but when about 200 leagues upon her voyage her caulking seems to have failed and badly leaking she had to return to Weymouth to unload her cargo and be repaired. Once again setting sail she headed direct for Newfoundland as the season was too late at New England. 'The Amity' sailed on 27th February 1625 with Isaac Even the master carrying meal, malt and 6 cattle. The ships returned later in the year 'The Fellowship' from Virginia on 11th September carrying 300 Beaver and other skins for William Derby (1588-1649) who was an attorny, capital burgess and deputy recorder of Dorchester as well as being another investor in the Company. 'The Pilgrim' on her return on 1st October found fish prices were very low due to the war with Spain and and the markets in France already being fully supplied and Newfoundland fish carrying a cheaper price than those from New England thus resulting in further losses. 'The Amity' returned on 31st August with 7 cwt of dried fish, 8 tons of trayne (train) oil, 141 fox skins, 14 Racoon, 25 Martin, 5 Otter, 8 Beaver and 1 Muskrat skins for Richard Bushrod (1576-1628) who was John white's main supporter in the venture.

The company however having fallen heavilly into debt folded in 1626. Rose Troup says that although as fishing adventures this proved a failure they had brought over a considerable number of settlers and provisions and implements and in this way a nucleus of the colony was formed.

'The New England Company' (1627-1628)

The Rev. White however refused to abandon the original investors, or those left at Cape Ann, so sought and obtained fresh investors for a new company which they called 'The New England Company. This bought the detbs and assets of the old company and in March 1627/8 commissioned two small ships to sail with supplies from Weymouth, called 'The Peeter' (4) and 'The Happy Endurance'. The Weymouth Port Books tell us that 'The Peter' of 40 or 50 tons with Richard White as master sailed on 20th Jan 1628 carrying 14 rother cattle, 14 hogshead of oats and 3 tons of hay as provisions for their consumption, 4 tons of salt, 3 thousand of bread, and 1 hogshead each of beef, peas, gurts (which are shelled oats) and five tons of beer. On the same day 'The Happy Endurance' of 20 tons left with thirty hodsheads of malt, eight hogsheads of peas, two hogsheads of gurts, 1 hogshead of cheese, seven barrels of butter, one tierce of oil, one barrel of soap, 12 suits of clothes, 5 dozen stockings, 10 dozens of boots and shoes, 4 dozen hats, 2 hogsheads of nails, 2 hogsheads of of meal, and 3 dickers of calves skins. On one of these vessels sailed John Woodbury with his son Humphrey then aged about 20 years.(1)

John Endicott (1588-1665) 1st Governor of Massachusetts

They were able to put their plans more fully into effect when a fleet of six ships carried 350 emigrants and the new Govenor of the Plantation John Endicott to New England. The next ship 'The Abigail' (another Weymouth vessel 20 years old, of 100 tons and owned by Henry Mitchell) sailed on 20th June 1628 carrying the Plantations new Governor John Endicott and about forty other colonists for Nahum Keike. There is now a memorial to John Endicott sited by the Ferry Terminal in Weymouth. The story of his life can be read on line at “”by then entering  “Memoir of John Endicott”  in the search engine.

Because there were no passenger lists it is difficult to know which pilgrims arrived on which ships but the three brothers, Ralph, Richard & William Sprague , John Meech, John Stickland, and other residents of Fordington had arrived no later than 1629. It is likely that these in particular went with John Endicott on the 'Abigail' with some of their families following as a part of The Higginson fleet onboard the 'Lyons Whelp' which sailed from Gravesend on 5th April 1629 arriving at Salem in June.

The Mary & John (1630)

In 1630 the Rev John White organised another major emigration of 140 people from Somerset, Dorset , Devon, and specifically the towns of Dorchester, Bridport, Crewkerne and Exeter. They set sail from Plymouth Sound on 20th March 1630 on board the 'Mary & John' of 400 tons, Thomas Squibb the master, and arrived at Nantasket Point, (now called Dorchester) in Massachusetts. The names of people said to have been included on this voyage have been researched in America (see among others the Winthrop & Mary & John Society websites) and those listed as having originated from Dorchester/Fordington are given below. I have added notes highlighting known references to them, such as in David Underdown's book about Dorchester 'Fire from Heaven' (FFH), and identified where possible supporting documentation this side of the Atlantic. I have not reseached American records but relied upon those better placed to carry it out such as the Winthrop Society. I have therefore given a brief summary from these records simply to give an idea of what happened to them after their arrival.
    Aaron Cook (1613-1690) aged 14; [Note:- Aaron Cook was the son of Aaron Cooke and Elizabeth Charde who married at Bridport in Dorset on 2nd Sep 1610 (this page was missed by ancestry when they imaged the register). His baptism in the year 1613 in the month of March is there where it records 'Aaron ye sonne of Aaron Cooke was baptised ye xxth (20th) day'. His father died being buried at Bridport and appears under December 1615 "Aaron Cooke Senior was buried ye xxviijth day (i.e. 28th). His mother re-married to Thomas Ford on 19th (recorded by ancestry as 20th) June 1616 (actual entry under 1616 June Thomas Fford and Elizabeth Cooke were married ye xjxth day). After arrival in 1630 he is said to have worked as a farmer and became a soldier (Captain of the train band) and was elected a Freeman in 1635. He married Mary Ford the daughter of Thomas Ford (see below) by his 1st wife who the Winslow Society maintain died circa 1650 by whom he had 4 children (Joanna, Aaron, Miriam, Moses). He remarried to Joan Denslow (c1625-1676) by whom he had 3 more children (Samuel, Elizabeth, Noah). He died 5th Sep 1690. Sources P.Reg Bridport; Winslow; M & J, ]

    George Dyer (c1579-1672) aged 51; [Note:- After arrival he worked as a farmer and weaver being elected Freeman in May 1631. Married Abigail? and had 2 children (Elizabeth and Mary). He died on 28th June 1672 at Northampton MA. an inventory of his goods being dated 29th of that month. Sources FFH page 137; Winslow, M & J]

    Elizabeth Dyer, his wife aged 50;

    Elizabeth Dyer daughter aged 21;

    Mary Dyer daughter age 10;

    Thomas Ford aged 42; [Note:- It is possible he was the son of John FORD and Joan BECK who married in the nearby parish of Piddlehinton (6 miles north of Dorchester) on 3rd Feb 1583, and the nephew of Thomas FORD, merchant of Dorchester whose Will dated 20th January 1610/11 was proved on 8th May 1611. In the Will he names, among others, his brother John, and "Thomas, son of my brother, John FORDE." Thomas Ford was a chandler by trade and among the first people to register for admission to the Company of Freemen in Dorchester on 2nd Nov 1621. After arrival he worked as a farmer becoming a civil officer. He married three times; 1st to Joan Way (d.1616) by whom he had a child Mary who later married Aaron Cook (see above). He married 2ndly to the widow Elizabeth Cooke nee Charde (d.1643) by whom he had 5 children (Joanna, Abigail, Thomas, Hepzibah and Hannah). His third wife was the widow Anne Scott (d1675) by whom he had a daughter Ann. He died 28 Nov 1676. Sources FFH Page 137, Winslow, M & J,]

    Elizabeth nee Chard 2nd wife aged 41;

    Mary Ford daughter aged 17;

    Joan [Johanna] Ford (1617-1695) daughter Born on 8th June 1617 She married Captain Roger Clap (1609 - 1690/91) (pages 55 59 Memoirs of Roger Clapp) at Dorchester MA on 6th Nov 1633 when he was 25 and she was 17? They were married for 57 years and had 14 children 10 of which were boys.

    Abigail Ford (1620-1668) daughter age 10 She married John Strong (d.1699) and died in 1668 being buried at the Bridge Street cemetery, Northampton MA where there is a memorial plabue to her placed on a boulder.

    Hepzibah Ford aged 4

    John Holman aged 28;

    William Rockwell aged 39; [Note:- William Rocwell married Susan Capon alias Galpin at Holy Trinity church Dorchester on 14th April 1624.- also see page 136 FFH]

    Susan Rockwell nee Capen wife aged 28; [Note:- daughter of the shoemaker Bernard GALPIN of Dorchester - also see page 135/6 FFH]

    Joan Rockwell daughter aged 5; [Note:- Probably baptised at St Peters Dorchester where parish registers have not survived - see also page 136 FFH]

    John Rockwell aged 2; [Note:- Probably baptised at St Peters Dorchester where parish registers have not survived- see also page 136 FFH]

    Frances Sandford widow aged 42; [Note:- Frances Sandford was the widow of the physician Tobie (Toby, Tobias) Sandford who died 21 Aug 1623 & was almost certainly buried at St Peters parish where registers have not survived. His death is recorded on page 53 of William Whiteway's diary where it states "The 21st of this moneth about noone died Mr Tobiah Sandford Physition of this towne and was buried the next day, a man of very excellent skill in the English and Latin tongues". - link to a transcription of his will. Frances emigration to New England is also referred to by William Whiteway on page 110 under 10th April 1630 where it states "The beginning of this month, many of this town went to plant in New England and among the rest, Mrs Sandford"]

    Henry Smith son aged 20; [Note:- Henry Smith was Frances Sandford's son by her first marriage and is mentioned in her husband Tobie Sandford's will as being under 21 in 1623]

    Stephen Terry aged 21 [Note:- nephew of Rev John White; may have briefly returned to Dorchester as a Stephen Terry emigrated on the Recovery of London in March 1633]

    Nichaols Upsall aged 30; [Note:- Nicholas Upsall married Dorothy Capen alias Galpin at Holy Trinity church Dorchester England on 17th Jan 1629]

    Dorothy Upsall nee Capen wife aged 25; [Note:- daughter of Bernard GALPIN of Dorchester- also see page 135/6 FFH]
A more detailed listing can be viewed at

On 31st March 1633(5) they were followed by Anthony Eames, Church Warden of Fordington who set sail with his family including his daughter Millicent, the betrothed wife of William Sprague. They left from Weymouth in the 'Recovery of London' under the command of Gabriel Cornish for Massachusetts and there appear to have been 26 families on board carrying with them “household goods, clothing and provisions for themselves, their wives, children and servants” to the value of £209. 6s. 8d. Among these 26 families was Thomas Swift who had married in Holy Trinity Church Dorchester on 18th Oct 1630 to Elizabeth Capen alias Galpin one of the daughters of Bernard Galpin. Also on board was Stephen Terry who was probably the Rev John White's nephew who originally emigrated on the Mary & John returning after a visit home.One month later in the 'Neptune of London' go 8 mares, 40 cows, 6 trunks, 4 hampers of household stuff and harnes for horsesto the value of £112.

The importance of these groups, many originating from Dorchester and Fordington, cannot be overstated as they laid the foundations for Boston, Dorchester and Charlestown in particular. An article written by the Rev Arthur W Ackerman DD and published in 1929 by the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England, lambastes Dorchester in England for not fully recognising the key role the Rev John White played and states that “he should be placed at the head of the list of the Founders of Massachusetts”.

[Note: viewable at]

The Rev White's house stood behind St Peter's church, in the middle of the town on the north side of High West Street and he is buried in the church porch and has a fitting inscription:

"In this porch lies the body of the Revd. John White M.A. of New College, Oxford. He was born at Christmas 1575. For about forty years he was rector of this parish and also of Holy Trinity, Dorchester. He died here 21st July 1648. A man of great godliness, good scholarship and wonder- full ability and kindness he had a very strong sway in this town. He greatly set forward the emigration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony where his name lives in un-fading remembrance."

The story of Dorchester in the 17th century is superbly portrayed in the book “Fire from Heaven” written by David Underdown. It gives a very detailed account of life in Dorchester and the people that lived there. It also gives valuable information on the background to the Pilgrim emigration and the work of the Reverend John White in particular.

Genealogical Notes:-

(1). Rose-Troup, FJ - John White , the Patriarch of Dorchester and founder of Massachusetts 1575-1648 - New York and London GP Putnamís sons Published 1930. Pages 67 -71 : Footnote source Weymouth Port Book 873. Peter and Happy Endurance Weymouth Port Books 783. Also see Index for info on individuals such as pages 98/99 which refer to John & Humphrey Woodbury. Note:- Rose Troup states "On this mission (i.e. movement of the settlement) they decided to send John Woodbury. His son Humphrey Woodbury in an affidavit made in 1680 states that his father had been sent out to cape Ann by the Dorchester Company in a ship conveying cattle in or about the year 1624, and that some three years later he was sent back at the instance of "some that Intended to settle a Plantation about 3 leagues west of Cape Ann, to further that designe, William Trask accompanied him, and they sailed from Cape Ann in the autumn of 1627 ----"

(2). Studies in a Dorset History by Maureen Weinstock M.A..,F.R..Hist.S. Published by Longmans (Dorchester) Ltd 1953. Tonnages given in the Weymouth Port Books do not seem to have been reliably recorded but act as a rough guide to the size of ships. Pages 31 and 32 record a survey started on 11th March 1628 of all the ships that belonged to Weymouth both in harbour and at sea. This includes 'The Fellowship' which is described as being 20 years old, of 40 tons, with 3 guns and the ability to bear 2 more. It's owner is recorded as Richard Berry. I have stuck with John White's reference to 50 tons which I think is more reliable as they were buying the ship rather than a rough estimate taken at the port of departure.

(3). A ship named the 'The Pilgrim' is listed in the port survey of 1628 when she is described as being 16 years old, of over 100 tons, and bearing 6 guns. Its owners in 1628 are John Gallott and William Holmes which suggests they bought it when the Dorchester Company folded in 1626. A letter of Marque was granted in 1627 to 'Hill' for the Pilgrim of 200 tons. It is interesting that subsequent letters of marque for this ship include 'Monck' in 1629 and Blackford in 1630. Presumably John Blachford (1574-1632)

(4). A ship called 'The Peter' is listed in the port survey of 1628 when she is described as being 16 years old, of 50 tons, carrying 6 guns and owned by John & Richard Wall.

(5). Maureen Weinstock refers to the date 'The Recovery of London' set sail in her book 'Studies in Dorset History' on page 40 as being 30th March 1634. I have stuck with the date provided by the Wintrope Society as 31 March, 1633 as they have specifically researched this voyage. I do not have access to these documents to check the date. The Weymouth port books also record the departure of the 'Neptune of London' 1 month later (page 41)

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