John Turner (Mayflower passenger)

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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

John Turner (c.1590 – winter of 1620/21). John Turner was a passenger, along with his two sons, on the 1620 voyage of the historic Pilgrim ship Mayflower. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact and perished with his sons that first winter.[1][2][3]

English Origins[edit]

Very little is known about his life in England, especially his origins. It is believed he may have come from Great Yarmouth in co. Norfolk, where there were several Turner families.[1][2][3]

Life in Leiden[edit]

Per Banks, Turner may have been of the original Pilgrim contingent emigrating to Leiden in 1610 with Bradford and Brewster as in that year, John Turner, merchant, was recorded being admitted as a burgess (political official) of Leiden.[4]

He was of the Separatist church and is known to have lived in Leiden in 1610 and later with the record of him of September 27, 1610 in that city when he guaranteed the citizenship of Peter Boey and William Lisle. Turner was referred to as being a merchant during his time in Holland.[1][5]

Turner was involved in the Holland-England trade and in that capacity often carried letters between those Leideners in London and Holland. Records indicate that on June 10, 1620, John Turner did deliver a letter from the Leiden congregation to Robert Cushman, their chief agent in London. A few days later Turner returned to Leiden with letters as well as first-hand information from Cushman.[1]

Middelburg, Holland, located in Zeeland, was the center of the English business community and John Turner, being the concierge of the English merchant’s house, was responsible for the transport of their mail. His name is found in the customs records in the transport of cargoes of English beer and pewter from London to Holland.[6]

On the Mayflower[edit]

Per William Bradford, John Turner traveled on the Mayflower accompanied by his two sons, whose given names are unknown. The name of his wife is also unknown. She may have remained in Holland at the Mayflower sailing or more likely died before the sailing of the ship, which may explain why such young sons were traveling with him.[1][2]

John Turner departed Plymouth, England on the Mayflower on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. In addition, a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.[7]

On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. After several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21.[7]

John Turner was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620, but not his sons, who were yet to be of age.[1][7]

In Plymouth[edit]

John Turner and his two sons all died the first winter in Plymouth. By this time three other complete families had perished – the Martins, the Rigsdales, and the Tinkers.[1][8]

In addition to his two sons, John Turner also had a daughter Elizabeth, who apparently remained in Leiden after the Mayflower sailed. Elizabeth Turner later came to New England sometime before October 1635.[1][2]

Family of John Turner[edit]

John Turner married ________, possibly in Leiden Holland, by 1615. His wife may have remained in Leiden while Turner voyaged with his sons on the Mayflower, but most likely she had died, which caused Turner to take his two young sons, possibly under the age of ten years, with him.

John Turner and his wife had three children:

  • ______ (son), born around 1615 and died in Plymouth Colony in the winter of 1620/1.
  • ______ (son), born around 1615 and died in Plymouth Colony in the winter of 1620/1.
  • Elizabeth Turner, was born about 1619. She was listed as “Lysbet Turner” an English orphan, in the 1622 Leiden poll tax, apparently residing with someone other than her mother. She arrived in Salem sometime before October 1635 which is when she is recorded as witnessing a property deed between William Lord and John Woolcott of Salem, and a few months later joined the Salem church. She was married in Salem sometime between 1637 and 1650, but the name of her husband is unknown. No further information about her has been found and no descendants of hers are known.

William Bradford wrote of this family in 1651: “John Turner, and *2* sons. He had a doughter came some years after to Salem, wher she is now living.”

And Bradford wrote of their fate:

“John Turner and his *2* sones all dyed in the first siknes. But he hath a daughter still living at Salem, well married, and approved of.”[1][2][9]

Death and burial[edit]

Nothing is known of the dates of death of John Turner and his sons, other than they died sometime in the winter of 1620/21. John Turner was buried in Coles Hill Burial Ground in Plymouth, presumably in an unmarked grave as with most Mayflower passengers who died in that first winter. His sons may have also been buried in Coles Hill Burial Ground. They are all memorialized on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb on Coles Hill as “John Turner and two sons.”[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 243.
  2. ^ a b c d e A genealogical profile of John Turner, (a collaboration of Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society accessed 2013)
  3. ^ a b Robert Charles Anderson, Pilgrim Village Family Sketch: John Turner (a collaboration of American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society)
  4. ^ Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), p. 91
  5. ^ Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 365
  6. ^ Nick Bunker, Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and their New World a History (New York: Knopf 2010), p. 230
  7. ^ a b c Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
  8. ^ Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War, (New York:Viking Publishing, 2006), p. 89
  9. ^ Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), pp. 365, 406, 409
  10. ^ Memorial and photo of their legend on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb

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