Histories

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants has been dedicated to preserving both the genealogies and histories of our Pilgrim ancestors for over one hundred years. From the foundations of American religious freedom, to Thanksgiving, to early Colonial history itself, the individuals from whom our members descend played a vital role in the development of our national identity.

The histories listed to the right
are intended to give the reader a brief survey of Pilgrim history, as well as the histories of numerous traditions, and our hereditary society itself.  We hope that the information here inspires you to research further into the diverse and rich history our Pilgrim forefathers left us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History of the Pilgrims

The Pilgrims were a group of English people who came to America seeking religious freedom during the reign of King James I. After two attempts to leave England and move to Holland, a Separatist group was finally relocated to Amsterdam where they stayed for about one year. From there the group moved to the town of Leiden, Holland, where they remained for about ten years, able to worship as they wished under lenient Dutch law.

Fearing their children were losing their English heritage and religious beliefs, a small group from the Leiden churches made plans to settle in Northern Virginia - as New England was known at the time. In August 1620 the group sailed for Southampton, England, where other English colonists who hoped to make a new life in America met them.

They planned to make the crossing to America in two ships, the Speedwell and Mayflower. However, after many problems the Speedwell was forced to return to England where the group was reorganized. In their second attempt to cross the Atlantic, they boarded the Mayflower in September 1620 bound for the New World. They arrived as winter was settling in and endured significant hardships as they struggled to establish a successful colony at Plymouth.

In time their colony flourished and lead the way to establishing religious freedom and creating the foundations of the democracy Americans enjoy today. Their celebration of the first Thanksgiving has grown to become a festive national holiday.

Work Cited:  The text included in this section was provided by The General Society of Mayflower Descendants at the following URL:  http://www.themayflowersociety.com/

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The Mayflower

The Mayflower is first recorded in 1609, at which time it was a merchant ship traveling to Baltic ports, most notably Norway1.  It was at that time owned by Christopher Nichols, Richard Child, Thomas Short, and Christopher Jones2.  The ship was about 180 tons3, and rested in Harwich. In its early years it was employed in the transportation of tar, lumber, and fish1,2; and possibly did some Greenland whaling4.  Later on in its life, it became employed in Mediterranean wine and spice trading5.

In 1620, Thomas Weston assisted by John Carver and Robert Cushman hired the Mayflower and the Speedwell to undertake the voyage to plant a colony in Northern Virginia3.  The Speedwell turned out to be a leaky ship, and so was unable to make the famous voyage with the Mayflower. 3

Christopher Jones was the captain of the Mayflower when it took the Pilgrims to New England in 1620.  They anchored off the tip of Cape Cod on 11 November 1620 .  The Mayflower stayed in America that winter, and its crew suffered the effects of the first winter just as the Pilgrims did, with almost half dying.3

The Mayflower set sail for home on April 5, 1621, arriving back May sixth6,8.  The ship made a few more trading runs, to Spain, Ireland, and lastly to France.  However, Captain Christopher Jones died shortly thereafter, and was buried 5 March 1621/2 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England7.  The ship lay dormant for about two years, at which point it was appraised for probate, and its value was determined to be 128-08-04, an extremely low value (had it been in sailing condition, 700 could be expected).  

This probate inventory is the last record of the Mayflower.  The ship was not in very good condition, being called "in ruinis" in a 1624 High Court of Admiralty record (HCA 3/30, folio 227) written in Latin.  Ships in that condition were more valuable as wood (which was in shortage in England at the time), so the Mayflower was most likely broken apart and sold as scrap.  There is no evidence that the Mayflower ended up as the Jordans barn, though it has become a tourist trap anyway.

Mayflower was a very common ship name, and in fact numerous other ships called the Mayflower made trips to New England; but none of them were the same ship that brought the Pilgrims to America.  

Work Cited:  The text included in this section was provided by Caleb Johnson at the following URL:
http://www.autopenhosting.org/mayflowerhistory/

 

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History of Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims who sailed to this country aboard the Mayflower were originally members of the English Separatist Church (a Puritan sect). They had earlier fled their home in England and sailed to Holland (The Netherlands) to escape religious persecution. There, they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but they eventually became disenchanted with the Dutch way of life, thinking it ungodly. Seeking a better life, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Most of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, but were hired to protect the company's interests. Only about one-third of the original colonists were Separatists.

The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. At the beginning of the following fall, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast -- including 91 Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives. The feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a true "thanksgiving" observance. It lasted three days.

Governor William Bradford sent "four men fowling" after wild ducks and geese. It is not certain that wild turkey was part of their feast. However, it is certain that they had venison. The term "turkey" was used by the Pilgrims to mean any sort of wild fowl. 

Another modern staple at almost every Thanksgiving table is pumpkin pie. But it is unlikely that the first feast included that treat. The supply of flour had been long diminished, so there was no bread or pastries of any kind. However, they did eat boiled pumpkin, and they produced a type of fried bread from their corn crop. There was also no milk, cider, potatoes, or butter. There was no domestic cattle for dairy products, and the newly-discovered potato was still considered by many Europeans to be poisonous. But the feast did include fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, venison, and plums.

This "thanksgiving" feast was not repeated the following year. But in 1623, during a severe drought, the pilgrims gathered in a prayer service, praying for rain. When a long, steady rain followed the very next day, Governor Bradford proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, again inviting their Indian friends. It wasn't until June of 1676 that another Day of Thanksgiving was proclaimed.

On June 20, 1676, the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving. It is notable that this thanksgiving celebration probably did not include the Indians, as the celebration was meant partly to be in recognition of the colonists' recent victory over the "heathen natives," (see the proclamation).

 October of 1777 marked the first time that all 13 colonies joined in a thanksgiving celebration. It also commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. But it was a one-time affair.

George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving in 1789, although some were opposed to it. There was discord among the colonies, many feeling the hardships of a few Pilgrims did not warrant a national holiday. And later, President Thomas Jefferson scoffed at the idea of having a day of thanksgiving.

It was Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor, whose efforts eventually led to what we recognize as Thanksgiving. Hale wrote many editorials championing her cause in her Boston Ladies' Magazine, and later, in Godey's Lady's Book. Finally, after a 40-year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale's obsession became a reality when, in 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving.

 Thanksgiving was proclaimed by every president after Lincoln. The date was changed a couple of times, most recently by Franklin Roosevelt, who set it up one week to the next-to-last Thursday in order to create a longer Christmas shopping season. Public uproar against this decision caused the president to move Thanksgiving back to its original date two years later. And in 1941, Thanksgiving was finally sanctioned by Congress as a legal holiday, as the fourth Thursday in November.

Work Cited:  The text included in this section was provided by the following URL: http://wilstar.com/holidays/thankstr.htm


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General Society of Mayflower Descendants


The first organization of Mayflower Descendants was founded in 1894 in New York City. The founders were influenced by efforts to return the original manuscript of William Bradford's Of Plimoth Plantation to the United States. The first Annual Meeting of the New York Society was held November 22, 1895. During 1896 similar State Societies were formed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Representatives from these four Societies met in Boston later that year to discuss the possibility of forming a General Society. Preliminary resolutions were adopted, and on January 12, 1897, delegates from the existing Societies met to form the General Society. That group adopted a constitution, elected officers, and adopted insignia for the new organization. Mr. Henry E. Howland of New York was elected the first Governor General.

The Constitution reflected the way the organization was formed, and it remains important today. The organizers were careful to form a "federal body" which did not take control of the State Societies. The General Society directs the membership qualifications and approves applications, but each State Society has control over its own affairs. A General Congress is held every three years for governance and election of officers. Among the important functions of the General Society is the chartering of new State Societies.

From this formation over 100 years ago, the organization has grown, both in the United States and internationally. The first state to be chartered by the General Society was Illinois in 1897. Colorado was the first state west of the Mississippi to be chartered (1906).

Starting at about that time, some states found that their organizations worked better by establishing Colonies. Colonies share the administrative responsibilities for their Societies and make it easier for members to attend and participate. By 1963, all fifty states and the District of Columbia had established Societies. The latest charter was granted to the Canada Society in 1980.

Since its formation, the General Society has participated in many exciting events related to the memory of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony. In 1897 the General Society announced the return of Bradford's manuscript, which was restored to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts later that year. During the first few years of the 20th Century a Pilgrim Monument was erected in Provincetown, MA. The General Society participated in the planning and dedication of that monument. In 1941 the General Society was able to purchase the Edward Winslow House in Plymouth, and the house became the Society headquarters in 1946. During the 1950's the Society supported the
early efforts of Plimoth Plantation, Inc., as that organization began to establish the living museum now located a few miles south of the Plymouth Townsite. In 1957 officers of the General Society participated in the formal reception of the Mayflower II in Plymouth. On that occasion the Governor General presented a silver bowl to Captain Alan Villiers, who piloted the ship from England to Plymouth Harbor. These and many other events are described in the Centennial History of the General Society Of Mayflower Descendants, 1897-1997, which is the primary source for the above information.

As the 21st Century begins, our General Society is involved in many projects. With the help of scientists at Oxford University, DNA analysis is being performed, primarily to establish links between known Mayflower descendants and family members in England. The English origins of some of our Mayflower families are not very well understood, and it is hoped that this application of modern technology may help us to learn more about our ancestors. Another current project group is looking into the background of the non-Pilgrim participants at the first Thanksgiving. The Pokanoket Tribe of the Wamponoag Nation contributed enormously to the success of the Plymouth Colony, but their story has not been well recorded. The Education Committee of the General Society is working with tribal leaders to record and publish their story which is so directly tied to that of our Pilgrim ancestors. These and other exciting projects are currently under the direction of the General Society.

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First State Society in the West

Organization Begun November 1904
Chartered 31 January 1906
Organized 21 April 1906
Incorporated 27 April 1906

Charter Members* 

CO No.

Name

Transferred From

     
1
Mrs. W. S. Cheesman  NY (1897)
2
Mrs. C. B. Kountze  NY (1900)
3
Mrs. F. L. Woodward  NY (1897)
4
Mrs. J. L. Garner PA (1897)
5
Mrs. Frank Turnbull CT (1897)
6
Irene Seldomridge  DC (1899)
7
William K. McAllister   MA (1901)
8
Clifton Sharpe Thompson  MA (1897)
9
Sidney A. Sabin CT (1897)
10
Joel Frederick Vaile CT (1896)
11
Marion O. Barnes  DC (1899)
12
Sarah Adella Giddings DC (1899)
13
Victor Clifton Alderson IL (1896)
14
Allen Shaw Bush CT (1903)
15
Edward Reynolds Steuart NY (1905)
16
Horace Gray Lunt IL (1904)
17
George T. Prince MA (1900)
18
Durand Clarence Packard IL (1905)
19
Joshua Freeman Grozier DC (1902)
20
Margaret Alice (Packard) Taussig IL (1905)
21
Rebecca Jeannette Welch CT (1905)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*These families came out or were transferred to Colorado to help the development of the West.

  

                           First Slate of Officers and Board of Assistants

Governor -- Joel F. Vaile
Deputy Governor -- Horace G. Lunt
Secretary -- E. R. Steuart
Asst. Secretary -- Margaret Packard
Treasurer -- Mrs. C. B. Kountze
Historian -- Victor C. Alderson
Elder -- Rev. A. S. Bush
Captain -- W. K. McAllister

Board of Assistants -- Mrs. W. S. Cheesman, Mrs. J. L. Garner, Joshua Grozier, George T. Prince, Mrs. F. L. Woodward, Mrs. H. H. Seldomridge, Mrs. C. C. Welch

Numerous times through the years our Colorado state governors, by Executive Order, have proclaimed November 21st as Mayflower Compact Day.  They furnished us with a legal document bearing the Colorado state gold seal.  This was noted in our local newspapers.  We are privileged to have had several national officers as our main speakers at our Compact Day meetings.  Colorado, along with New Mexico and Wyoming Societies, hosted the General Board meeting in Denver in 1973.  This was only the second time where more than one society came together as a body to host the General Board meeting.  We have made contributions regularly to the Five Generations Project in memory of deceased members.

The Colorado Society has had the honor of having a National Officer, E. Roy Chesney, who served as Assistant Governor General from 1975 until his death in 1981.



ACTIVITIES OF THE COLORADO MAYFLOWER SOCIETY

DURING THE 350th ANNIVERSARY YEAR

 

Both of our newspapers ran articles.

KBTV (Channel 9) program.  This station had a fifteen-minute broadcast presented twice on Thanksgiving Day, which was filmed and taped in one of the first grade classrooms of the Denver Public Schools.  This was the classroom of our State Secretary, Mrs. Helen M. Clark.  It included a discussion of the landing of the Pilgrims, the hardships on board the Mayflower and during the first winter, and the First Thanksgiving.  This station brought out many fine points regarding our wonderful heritage.  This was broadcast nationally.

KMYR-TV (Channel 6).  This educational channel had a story hour with children acting out the First Thanksgiving.

KOA-TV (Channel 4) carried the movie Plymouth Adventure.  Several churches were contacted by some of our members, being furnished with "The Mayflower Story".  The ministers indicated they would incorporate this in some way in their sermons.

Several schools outside Denver were furnished with copies of the Compact and in the Secretary's school all the fifth grader students were given copies.  Our school librarian had a fine bulletin board display and did much in her classes.

The Denver Public Library, Genealogy Department, had an outstanding display of books, pictures, dishes and glassware, spoons, figurines, the Colorado Charter, various medals and a replica of the Mayflower.  This display was there for six weeks and brought numerous phone calls and letters regarding membership in the Society.

Colorado Governor John A. Love proclaimed November 21, 1970, "Mayflower Compact Day in the State of Colorado".  We were given a beautiful copy of this proclamation signed by the governor with the state seal.

The speaker at our annual dinner, November 21, 1970, was Dr. Donald D. Braden, formerly Associate Professor of History, U. S. Air Force Academy, now Director of Development, Frontier Boys Village, in Larkspur, Colorado.  Dr. Braden based his speech on "The Mayflower Story".  In referring to the Compact, he brought out the importance not only of what it says, but what it implies, and what it inspired in the ensuing 350 years of world history.

Each new Junior Member is given a copy of "The Mayflower Story" with a bookplate bearing their name, Junior Number and date, which is accompanied by a letter of congratulations and a membership certificate.

We received a letter of praise from Edward E. Edgar (then Captain General) for our outstanding recognition in Colorado of the 350th anniversary.

 

                    COLORADO SOCIETY GOVERNORS

 

*Joel Frederick Vaile.......................................................... 1906
*William Kossuth McAllister..................................... 1907-1912
*Joel Frederick Vaile................................................ 1913-1916
*Mrs. Jane Olivia Cooper................................................... 1917
*Dr. Victor C. Alderson (Acting)......................................... 1918
*James Henry Brewster............................................ 1919-1920
*Mrs. Claude M. Taussig.......................................... 1921-1922
*Judge John Foster Symes...................................... 1923-1924
*Mrs. Edwin S. Kassler, Sr................................................. 1925
*Dr. Victor C. Alderson.............................................. 1926-1927
*Judge John Foster Symes...................................... 1928-1934
*Alfred Barnes Bell.................................................... 1935-1939
*Irving Hale, Jr........................................................ ....1940-1943
*Paul Baxter Lanius................................................... 1944-1948
*John F. Ryland......................................................... .1949-1950
*Raymond Hough, Sr................................................ 1951-1952
*Mrs. Burton A. Smead............................................ .1953-1954
*Gordon M. Connelly................................................. .1955-1956
*Raymond Hough, Sr........................................................... 1957
*Merritt H. Perkins.................................................. ...1958-1959
*George E. Tarbox, Jr......................................................... 1960
*Mrs. Virginia Hardin Stearns............................................ 1961
*Burton A. Smead, Jr.................................................. 1962-1963
*Sarah Rachel Isbell.................................................... 1964
*Mrs. Wesley M. Shaw........................................................ 1965
*E. Roy Chesney........................................................ 1966-1967
*George C. Edgerly, Jr.............................................. 1968-1969
*Bruce Hough Dixon........................................................... 1970
*Mrs. J. Herschel White............................................ 1971-1973
*Henry W. Hough................................................................. 1973
*Mrs. Smead Rose.............................................................. 1974
*Mrs. John L. Farris................................................... 1974-1975
*Ross Byron Johnson................................................. 1975-1977
*Mrs. Perle L. Holloway..............................................1977-1978
*H. Bond Badgley....................................................... 1978-1980
*Frederick A. Thornton................................................1980-1982
*Mrs. Mary Louise Johnson........................................1982-1984
 Joseph C. Weber...................................................... 1984-1986
*Mrs. Warren J. Kelley................................................ 1986-1988
 Clarence L. Bixler, Jr................................................ 1988-1990
 Raymond M. Freeman.............................................. 1990-1992
 Mrs. James O. Cole.................................................. 1992-1996
 Joseph C. Weber....................................................... 1996-1998
 Mrs. Gladys Gallagher............................................... 1998-2000
 George P. Garmany, MD.......................................... 2000-2002
 Don E. Wilson, MD.....................................................2002-2004
 Paul D. Kilburn, PhD...................................................2004-2006
 George P. Garmany, MD...........................................2006-2008
 John F. Cook, Esq......................................................2008-Present

*Deceased

 The Colorado Society actively participated in the 375th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower.  We sponsored one of the regiments marching in the parade and two Board members attended the festivities and swearing-in ceremony, Governor Susan Cole and Assistant Secretary Emily S. Palmer.  Governor Cole, as a costumed Pilgrim, escorted one of the 102 new citizens to the ceremony.
 

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