The More children and the Mayflower

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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

The More children were passengers on the historic voyage of the Mayflower in 1620. The four children were at the center of a historic incident in early 17th century England that caused later genealogists to ponder why their father, Samuel More would send his very young children away on an extremely dangerous voyage to the New World in the care of strangers.[1][2] It was in 1959 that the mystery was explained. Jasper More, a descendant of Samuel More, prompted by his genealogist friend, Anthony Wagner, searched his attic and discovered a 1622 document which detailed the adultery of the children's mother, Katherine More. That admission of adultery led the father, Samuel More, to believe that the children were not his offspring.[3] To rid himself of these children, he arranged for them to be sent to the Colony of Virginia,[4] but due to winter weather they were forced to land far north at Cape Cod. During the first winter there, three of the children died and Richard More was the only survivor.[5]

The More family[edit]

Much of what is known about the More children's early childhood is through legal documents, more specifically a document written in 1622, in response to a petition of Katherine More to Lord Chief Justice Sir James Ley, at which time Katherine demands to know what has become of her children.[2][6] Richard More's mother was Katherine More, (sometimes spelled Katharine hereafter spelled Katherine). Katherine’s father, Jasper More, was master of Larden, a 1000-acre estate between Much Wenlock and Ludlow. Both estates are in Shropshire, England. Samuel's father, Richard More, was master of Linley, an estate near Bishop's Castle, close to the Welsh border.[7]

Jasper's sons died leaving no male heir.[8] The estates were held in an entail whereby inheritance was restricted to male heirs and Samuel's father, but Richard, in the marriage settlement paid 600 pounds to Jasper More, so there must have been clear title.[9] It was arranged that Katherine would marry her cousin and indeed, in 4 February 1610, (old date style) Katherine, 25, the last unmarried daughter of Jasper, married her cousin, seventeen-year-old Samuel More.[10][11]

At some point during this time, Samuel began working in London as secretary to Lord Edward Zouche, privy councillor, diplomat and courtier.[12]

Mayflower' plaque in St. James Church in Shipton, Shropshire commemorating the More children baptism. courtesy of Phil Revell

The More children[edit]

Over the course of four years, Katherine had four children. There were all baptised at St. James Church, Shipton, Shropshire:

The Scandal[edit]

In 1616, Samuel More accused his wife of adultery and, at the direction of his father, Richard, devised a plan to rid himself of Katherine and the children. The adultery was supposedly committed with Jacob Blakeway, a young man near in age to Katherine who lived close by and whose family had been More tenants for several generations. In 1608, Jacob Blakeway and his father Edward, a yeoman had renewed a lease on a parcel of land owned by Katherine More's father, Jasper More of Larden Hall. The manor of Larden Hall was about half a mile from Brockton where the Blakeway family lived.[15] By a deed dated 20 April 1616, Samuel cut the entail on the Larden estate to prevent any of the children from inheriting. During the long court battle, Samuel would deny that he was the father of the children borne by his wife, Katherine, and stated them to be children of the adulterous relationship.[16] Katherine did not deny her relationship with Jacob Blakeway, stating there was a former betrothal contract with him, and therefore he was her true husband. This would have made her marriage to Samuel invalid. Samuel quotes her words in his declaration, though she could not sufficiently prove by witnesses yet it was all one before god as she sayed. At that time any of the usual witnesses would have been dead.[17]

In that same year, by his own account, Samuel went to his employer and a More family friend, Lord Zouche, Lord President of the Council of Wales, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Privy Counselor, to draw up a plan for the disposition of the children.[18] Zouche had been an active member of the Virginia Company and in 1617 he invested £100 in an expedition to the colony of Virginia, which is where the Mayflower was supposed to have landed. It was his actions that were instrumental in putting the More children on the Mayflower.[19][20][21] At that time, children were routinely rounded up from the streets of London or taken from poor families receiving church relief to be used as labourers in the colonies. Any legal objections to the involuntary transportation of the children were over-ridden by the Privy Council, namely, Lord Zouche. Most people thought it a death sentence and indeed, many did not survive either the voyage or the harsh climate, disease and scarcity of fresh food for which they were ill-prepared.[22][23]

The Removal of the Children[edit]

Additionally, in 1616, Samuel More, under his father Richard's direction, removed all four children from Larden and placed them in the care of some of Richard More's tenants near Linley.[1][2] The removal was shortly after the youngest child had been baptised which was on 16 April. According to Samuel's statement,[24] the reason he sent the children away was as the apparent likeness & resemblance … to Jacob Blakeway, quoting from: "A true declaracon of the disposing of the fower children of Katherine More sett downe by Samuell More her late husband together with the reasons movinge him thereunto accasioned by a peticon of hers to the Lord chief Justice of England" and it is endorsed, Katherine Mores Petition to the Lord Chief Justice ...the disposing of her children to Virginia dated 1622".[25] Samuel goes on to state that, during the time the children were with the tenants, Katherine went there and engaged in a struggle to take her children back:[26] Katharine went to the tenants dwelling where her children had been sequestered, and in a hail of murderous oaths, did teare the cloathes from their backes. There were at least twelve actions recorded between December 1619 and 8 July 1620 when it was finally dismissed.[27][28]

Provincetown memorial for the pilgrims that died at sea or while the ship was anchored; Jasper is third from bottom

The statement details that soon after the denial of the appeal on 8 July 1620, the children were transported from Shipton to London by a cousin of Samuel More and given into the care of Thomas Weston,“…and delivered to Philemon Powell who was intreated to deliver them to John Carver and Robert Cushman undertakers for the associats (sic) of John Peers (Pierce).[29] for the plantacon (sic) of Virginia…” [30] in whose home they would be staying while awaiting ship boarding.[31][32] Thomas Weston and Philemon Powell were both poor choices, and Thomas Weston especially was quite disreputable. In later years Weston would become an enemy of the Crown.[33] As the agent of the Merchant Adventurer investment group that was funding the Puritan voyage, William Bradford states that Weston caused them many financial and agreement contract problems, both before and after the Mayflower sailed.[34]

Weston’s Puritan contacts for the voyage were John Carver and Robert Cushman who jointly agreed to find the children guardians among the Mayflower passengers. Carver and Cushman were agents from the Puritans to oversee preparations for the voyage [35] with Robert Cushman’s title being Chief Agent, from 1617 until his death in 1625.[36] Within several weeks of the More children’s arrival in London, and without their mother Katherine More’s knowledge or approval, they were in the care of others on the Mayflower, bound for New England.[25]

After the Mayflower sailed, Katherine made another attempt to challenge the decision through the courts. It was this legal action in early 1622 before Chief Justice James Ley which led to the statement from Samuel explaining where he sent the children and why, the historical evidence for his parent's history.[37] By a deed dated 20 April 1616, Samuel cut the entail on the Larden estate to prevent any of the children from inheriting. During the long court battle, Samuel would deny that he was the father of the children borne by his wife, Katherine, and stated them to be children of the adulterous relationship.[16] Katherine never denied that she had been intimate with Jacob Blakeway, stating there was a former betrothal contract with him, and therefore he was her true husband. This would have made her marriage to Samuel invalid. Samuel quotes her words in his declaration, though she could not sufficiently prove by witnesses yet it was all one before god as she sayed. At that time any of the usual witnesses would have been dead.[17]

The Mayflower[edit]

The original gravestone of Mayflower passenger Captain Richard More.

Soon after the denial of the appeal on 8 July 1620, the children were transported from Shipton to London by one of Samuel's cousins and given into the care of Thomas Weston, organiser of the Mayflower voyage.[34] As stated several years later in a document from Samuel More telling Katherine More what had happened to her children "…and delivered to Philemon Powell who was intreated to deliver them to John Carver and Robert Cushman undertakers for the associats [sic] of John Peers for the plantacon [sic] of Virginia…” Thomas Weston and Philemon Powell were both choices that would not speak well of the Puritans judgement of people. Powell became a convicted smuggler.[38]

Weston’s Puritan contacts for the voyage were agents John Carver and Robert Cushman, who oversaw voyage preparations and who jointly agreed to find guardians for the children amongst the Mayflower passengers. Exactly what explanation was given for the More children's presence is not known as many homeless waifs from the streets of London were sent to the New World as labourers.[23][39][40]

Within several months of the arrival of the More children in London, and without their mother Katherine More's knowledge, they were in the care of others on the Mayflower, bound for the New World. This would be a fateful journey, leading to the sad demise of three of the children.

The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on 6/16 September 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. This, combined with 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.[41]

On 9/19 November 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 harbour at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on 11/21 November. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.[41][42][43]

Three of the senior Mayflower Pilgrims took responsibility for the four More children as indentured servants:

  • Elinor More, Ellen More, age 8, assigned as a servant of Edward Winslow. She died in November 1620 soon after the arrival of the Mayflower at Cape Cod Harbor. Her burial place is unknown and may have been ashore on Cape Cod similarly to her brother Jasper several weeks later. With many others who died that winter, her name appears on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb, Coles Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.[44]
  • Jasper More, age 7, servant of John Carver. He died of a 'common infection' in Dec. 1620 while the Mayflower was in Cape Cod Harbor. He was buried ashore in what is now Provincetown, Massachusetts. Provincetown has a memorial plaque with his name and that of four others "who died at sea while the ship lay at Cape Cod Harbor" in Nov./Dec. 1620.[44]
  • Mary More, age 4, assigned as a servant of William Brewster. She died sometime in the winter of 1620/1621. Her burial place is unknown, but may been on Cole's Hill in Plymouth in an unmarked grave as with so many others buried there that winter. As with her sister Ellen, she is recognised on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb in Plymouth, misidentified after her sister's name as "and a brother (children)" – the statement of calling her "a brother" mistakenly coming from William Bradford's failing memory years after the event of her death.
  • Richard More, age 6, servant of William Brewster. He resided with the Brewster family until about mid-1627 when his term of indentureship expired. This is about the time that his name appears, at age 14, in a census as a member of the Brewster family, in what was called then 'New Plimouth'. By 1628, Richard was in the employ of Pilgrim Isaac Allerton, who was engaged in trans-Atlantic trading.

Richard, the only survivor, went on to a career as an Atlantic ship-captain, supplied many colonies with goods needed to survive, and he served alongside Joseph Dudley during the Great Swamp Fight in December 1675, a massacre of the Narragansett people living around Narragansett Bay and lived a long life, dying in the mid-1690s.[45]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Anthony R. Wagner, The Children in the Mayflower (The London Times) 30 June 1959 p. 11
  2. ^ a b c Anthony R. Wagner, The Origin of the Mayflower Children: Jasper, Richard and Ellen More, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (July 1960) vol. 114 p. 163-168
  3. ^ Donald F. Harris, PhD., Mayflower Descendant (July 1993), vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 124–127
  4. ^ Donald F. Harris, PhD., The Mayflower Descendant (published Jan. 1994), vol. 44, no. 1, p. 14. and (2 July 1994) vol. 44, no. 2, pp 124–126
  5. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), pp. 43, 44, 45.
  6. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), p 8.
  7. ^ Donald Harris PhD. The Mayflower Descendant, (Jan. 1994), no. 1, p. 12
  8. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press), p. 2
  9. ^ Donald F. Harris, The Mayflower Descendant (July 1993) vol. 43, no. 2, p. 130
  10. ^ Edwin A. Hill, PhD., The English Ancestry of Richard More of the Mayflower, The New York Genealogical and Biographical record, (July 1905) vol 36, p. 214
  11. ^ Shipton Parish Register Shropshire archive.
  12. ^ Acts of the Privy Council of England, APC Col. p. 38 show Samuel More in Zouche's service as a private secretary as noted in David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), p. 221.
  13. ^ Anthony R. Wagner, The Origin of the Mayflower Children: Jasper, Richard and Ellen More, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (July 1960), vol. 114, p. 164 Parish Record of the Shipton Shropshire Register Society. Ellinora Moore filia Samuelis Moore de Larden on 24 May 1612; of Josperus Moore, filius Samuelis Moore de Larden Generosi on 8 Aug 1613 and of Ricardus Moore filius Samuel Moore de Larden on et uxoris on I3, Nov. 1614; Maria Moore, filia Samuelis More et Caterine uxoris ejus de on 16 April 1616.
  14. ^ Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620–1633 (New England Historical Genealogical Society Boston 1995) vol. 2 G-O p. 1282
  15. ^ Donald Harris PhD. The Mayflower Descendant, (Jan. 1994), vol. 44, no. 1, p. 12
  16. ^ a b Donald F. Harris, PhD., The Mayflower Descendant (Jan. 1994), vol. 44, no. 1, p. 14, 18
  17. ^ a b Anthony R. Wagner, The Origin of the Mayflower Children: Jasper, Richard and Ellen More, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (July 1960), vol. 114, p. 165
  18. ^ Donald F. Harris, PhD., The Mayflower Descendant (July 1994), vol. 44, no. 2, p. 109
  19. ^ Liza Picard, Elizabeth's London (Weidenfield & Nicolson 2003), p. 196
  20. ^ Morison & Commager, The Growth of the American Republic (4th Ed., New York, 1950), vol. 1, p. 40
  21. ^ Donald F. Harris, PhD., The Mayflower Descendant (published Jan. 1994), vol. 44, no. 1, p. 14. and (2 July 1994) vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 108–110
  22. ^ The Mayflower Descendant (2 July 1994), vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 110, 111
  23. ^ a b R.C. Johnson, The Transportation of Vagrant Children from London to Virginia, 1618–1622, in H.S. Reinmuth (Ed.), Early Stuart Studies: Essays in Honor of David Harris Willson, Minneapolis, 1970.
  24. ^ The More Archive – Shropshire Council
  25. ^ a b Anthony R. Wagner, The Origin of the Mayflower Children: Jasper, Richard and Ellen More, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (July 1960), vol. 114, pp. 165–167
  26. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), p. 13
  27. ^ The Shropshire Records and Research Center 1037/10/8 and 9
  28. ^ Anthony R. Wagner, The Origin of the Mayflower Children: Jasper, Richard and Ellen More, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (July 1960), vol. 114, p. 166
  29. ^ William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, the second Governor of Plymouth (Boston: 1856), p. 123
  30. ^ Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War (New York: Viking 2006), p. 20
  31. ^ Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), p. 72
  32. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), p. 53
  33. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), pp. 27, 28, 54, 55
  34. ^ a b David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), p. 28
  35. ^ Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War (New York: Viking 2006), pp. 21. 26, 42, 135
  36. ^ Robert E. Cushman and Franklin P. Cole. Robert Cushman of Kent (1577–1625): Chief Agent of the Plymouth Pilgrims (1617–1625) (2nd Ed. Edited by Judith Swan Pub by General Society of Mayflower Descendants 2005), p. 87
  37. ^ Anthony R. Wagner, The Origin of the Mayflower Children: Jasper, Richard and Ellen More, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (July 1960), vol. 114, p. 164-167
  38. ^ Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), p 53
  39. ^ Donald F. Harris, PhD., The Mayflower Descendant (July 1993), vol. 43, no. 2, p.124
  40. ^ Morison & Commager, The Growth of the American Republic ( 4th Ed., New York, 1950), vol. 1, p.40
  41. ^ a b Allison Lassieur Peter McDonnall, The voyage of the Mayflower (Pub. Capstone Press, 2006 Mankato, Minnesota)
  42. ^ Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620–1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
  43. ^ George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920), Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document.
  44. ^ a b William Bradford. History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, the second Governor of Plymouth (Boston: 1856), pp. 447, 451
  45. ^ David Lindsay, Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger amongst the Pilgrims (New York: St. Martins Press, 2002), pp 102–104 and pp. 25–27,102–104,150–152