The Mary and John, or, How We Got Dorchester

Maude Pinney Kuhns, “The Mary and John”

The Mary & John left Plymouth, England, in March of 1630 with 140 passengers aboard, recruited by the Rev. John White of Dorchester, Dorset. Nearly all came from the West Country counties of Somerset, Dorset, and Devon. The 400-ton ship had three decks for its passengers, livestock, and cargo, and it was her third trip ferrying emigrants to the New World. This voyage was bound for Charlestown. In May, after 70 days at sea, she arrived at Boston’s outer harbor.

But the ship’s captain, whose name was Squeb or Squibb, refused to sail up the Charles River as planned, because he feared running the ship aground in waters for which he had no charts. Instead he left the passengers stranded on Nantasket Point, near the current-day town of Hull, a desolate locale miles from their intended destination. The settlers were forced to transport 150,000 pounds of livestock, provisions, and equipment 20 miles overland to their final destination.

Said the passenger Roger Clapp,

So we came, by the good Hand of the Lord, through the deep comfortably; having preaching or expounding of the word of God every day for ten weeks together by our ministers. When we came to Nantasket, Capt. Squeb, who was Captain of that great ship of four hundred tons, put us on shore and our goods on Nantasket Point, and left us to shift for ourselves in a forelorn place in this wilderness. — The Memoirs of Roger Clap, 1609-1691 (Boston, 1844)

They never made it to Charlestown, walking as far as what is now Dorchester and settling there instead. Five years later, many of them moved on to found Windham, Connecticut.

In terms of our family, the 1630 voyage of the Mary and John was the most ancestor-stuffed transit in the archives. In one shot, she brought 27 forebears representing 12 families and all four of our American grandparents. No other passage comes close.



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