©Compiled by Michael Russell OPC for Fordington Last updated July 2014
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)
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)
John Endicott (1588-1665) 1st Governor of MassachusettsThey 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 “www.books.google.com”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.
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.
George Dyer (c1589-1672) 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." 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, Kinnexions.com]
Elizabeth Chard 2nd wife aged 41;
Mary Ford daughter aged 17;
Joan Ford daughter aged 12;
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 - link to a transcription of his will as it her emigration to New England which is referred to 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 on 17th Jan 1629]
Dorothy Upsall nee Capen wife aged 25; [Note:- daughter of Bernard GALPIN of Dorchester- also see page 135/6 FFH]
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 www.dorchesteratheneum.org/page.php?id=917]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.
(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)