COLONY & COUNTY, 1620-1690

© 2000 Copyright and All Rights Reserved
by Patricia Scott Deetz and James Deetz

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Arrival of the Mayflower, Dec. 1620

When the Mayflower first weighed anchor off Cape Cod on November 11, 1620, of the 102 passengers who had sailed from England on the Mayflower (the Speedwell carrying 20 passengers had to turn back) one had died, William Butten, apprentice to Samuel Fuller, and one had been born, Oceanus Hopkins, and so there were still 102 as the result of one death and one birth. While anchored off Cape Cod, four passengers died -- Dorothy Bradford, James Chilton, Jasper More, and Edward Thompson -- and one more was born, Peregrine White. So by the time that the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Harbor on December 16, 1620, there were 99 "first comers." From December 21, 1620 through March 1621, William Bradford recorded the deaths of 44 more passengers. After the Mayflower left on its return journey to England on April 5, 1621, five more settlers died, including Governor John Carver and his wife, reducing the number of survivors to 50.

Sources: William Bradford's list of "Decreasings and Increasing," in Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, Samuel Eliot Morison (Ed). (New York: Knopf, 1852), pp. 443-448, and "A Register of Governor Bradford's in his onwn hand, recording some of the first deaths, marriages and punishments at Plymouth," in Thomas Prince, A Chronological History of New-England, in the Form of Annals (Boston, N.E., 1736; Edinburgh Private Printing, 1887-1888), vol. 3.

Arrival of the Fortune, Nov. 1621

35 new colonists led by Robert Cushman, who returned to England on the Fortune when it left Plymouth on 13 Dec. 1621, a total now of 85. In 1623 Bradford told John Pory, a visitor to Plymouth, that "for the space of one whole year of the two wherein they had been there, died not one man, woman or child."

Sources: Three Visitors to Early Plymouth: Letters about the Pilgrim Settlement in New England during its First Seven Years, by John Pory, Emmanuel Altham, and Isaack de Rasieres. Sydney V. James, Jr. (Ed.), (Bedford, Mass.: Applewood, 1997), p. 7.

Weston's settlers, May, 1622 - June 1622

In 1622 Thomas Weston sent a fishing vessel, the Sparrow, to Massachusetts Bay, with a small party of seven men to find the most suitable place for a colony. They were to prepare for the arrival of a large group of single men whom he proposed to send out. Weston was one of the leaders of the London merchant adventurers who sponsored the establishment of Plymouth Colony, but who was now independently setting up his own. The site eventually chosen was at Wessagusset (modern Weymouth, some thirty miles north of Plymouth). The ship anchored at the Damaris Cove Islands off the coast of Maine, and a group of ten, including some crew from the Sparrow, sailed down to Plymouth in a shallop, arriving there on May 31, 1622, just as Massasoit's men were demanding that Squanto be handed over to them for execution. They brought letters to the Governor from Weston, but no provisions for which the settlement was in desperate need. Phineas Pratt was one of Weston's settlers, and he and his six companions were given hospitality in Plymouth until the Charity and the Swan arrived with the main party of Weston's settlers at the end of July or early August 1622.

The two ships, the Charity and the Swan, temporarily added sixty more "lusty men" to the eighty-odd colonists living in Plymouth village. They stayed for the months of July and August. The settlement at Weymouth was a failure, and the men had to be rescued by Capt. Standish and some of his men. Phineas Pratt, on the breakup of the settlement moved to Plymouth, and later married Mary Priest, niece of Isaac Allerton.

Arrival of the Anne & the Little James, July 1623

In 1623, two more ships, the Anne and the Little James, arrived carrying some 90 new settlers, including Alice Southworth, whom William Bradford married soon after. They had both been members of the Leiden Church, and she had been widowed in that city. This new group posed a different problem. Sixty of them were sponsored by the joint stock company, and therefore were obligated to work for the "common good" of the colony. But thirty others were under no such obligation, having paid their own expenses. They were referred to as "the particulars," having come "on their particular." The Anne reached New Plymouth in July 1623 and the Little James, a week or two later. These ships were the first to arrive with settlers for Plymouth to join the 85 settlers from 1620 and 1621, plus Phineas Pratt and possibly two or three others from Weston's abandoned settlement at Weymouth, making a probable 90 colonists, bringing the total number to some 180 by mid-1623. Bradford commented that of the sixty settlers who came to join the general body of settlers as distinct from those who came on their own particular, some were "very useful persons and became good members to the body; and some were the wives and children of such as were here already. And some were so bad as they were fain to be at charge to send them home again the next year" (Bradford, p. 127).

1623 Division of Land

The division of land between the colonists in 1623 tells us more or less who was in Plymouth in that year, and who were passengers on the Fortune (November 1621), the Anne and the Little James ( July 1623).

The 1623 Division of Land was originally written by William Bradford, and is published in The Records of Plymouth Colony (PCR) 12: 4-6; it is reprinted in Eugene Stratton's Plymouth Colony, 1986: 415-17. Each colonist, man, woman and child, was entitled to one acre. There are 104 names, including Thomas Flavell's son, William Hilton's wife and two children, and Robert Hick's wife and three children. John Oldham, who came out on the Anne had nine others with him, so they received ten acres between them. There were a potential 180 eligible colonists, and some 196 acres (certain names have an X in place of the number of acres, which has been taken to equal one acre). Bradford notes that the Governor "assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end [to raise as much corn as possible], only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family" (Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 120). Robert S. Wakefield has published what he calls a "reconstructed 1623 census of Plymouth" from this land division. It was published under the title "The Plymouth 1623 Land Division" in the Mayflower Quarterly 40: 7-13, 55-62.

Sources: The Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer (William White, 1855-61; AMS Press, 1968), vol. 2, p. 177 (cited hereafter as PCR [Plymouth Colony Records], volume and pagination from the AMS Press 1968 reprint).
Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History & People 1620-1691 (Ancestry Publishing, 1986).

Sir Ferdinando Gorges' Settlers on the Katherine Sept. 1623

The passengers were an initial burden on the settlers at Plymouth, but moved out to Weston's abandoned settlement at Weymouth.

Arrival of the Charity, March 1624

Edward Winslow, who had been back to England, returned on the Charity, probably with a few other passengers. He also brought three heifers and a bull, "the first beginning of any cattle of that kind in the land," according to Bradford (Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 141).

Capt. John Smith, 1624

At New-Plimoth there is about 180 persons, some cattle and goats, but many swine and poultry, 32 dwelling houses, whereof 7 were burnt the last winter, and the value of five hundred pounds in other goods; the Town is impaled about half a mile in compass. In the town upon a high Mount they have a fort well built with wood, loam and stone, where is planted their Ordnance: Also a fair Watch-tower, partly framed, for the Sentinel . . . they have made a saltwork, and with that salt preserve the fish they take, and this year hath fraughted [filled] a ship of 180 tons.
John Smith's 1624 estimate of 180 people living at Plymouth, according to the evidence available, appears to be accurate. We know that a few of Weston's settlers joined the community in Plymouth after his settlement's disastrous end. The next population estimate available is that of the cattle division of 1627. Although only 156 people were involved in it, this number would not include the thirty particulars. Adding them to those who received shares in the cattle produces a number not all that different from Smith's.

Sources: Philip L. Barbour, The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631). It was published in three volumes in 1986 for The Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, by The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London. "The present estate of the plantation at New-Plimouth. 1624" was first published in his Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England and The Summer Isles . . . (London, 1624; reprinted in Barbour, vol. 2, pp. 472-473). The source Smith used is not known.

1627 Division of Cattle

On May 22, 1627, at a public court held in Plymouth, the cattle that until then had been held in common, were divided in shares between 156 colonists, including children and servants. There were twelve lots, and each consisted of thirteen people. Families were grouped together in a single lot, with other families and single colonists. The list, published in the Records of Plymouth Colony (PCR 12:9-13), appears to include the name of every member of the general company of settlers at Plymouth, but not the thirty or so who came on their own particular and were not entitled to a share in the company's livestock.

Arrival of the second Mayflower, from Leiden, Aug. 1629

Some 35 passengers, family and friends who had remained in Leiden sailed on a ship called the Mayflower but which was not the original ship that came to Plymouth in 1620. The ship was part of the Higginson fleet of ships bringing newcomers to Salem and Charlestown, Massachusetts Bay Colony. They left Holland in May and arrived in Plymouth Colony in August (Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 213).

Arrival of the Talbot, circa August, 1629

In a letter to Bradford dated May 25, 1629, James Sherley, one of the London Adventurers, wrote that "we have also sent some servants in the ship called the Talbot that went hence lately" (Ibid. p. 382).

Arrival of the Lyon, from Leiden, May 1630

The second group from Leiden left Holland at the beginning of March 1630, and arrived in Plymouth towards the end of May. Bradford does not give any indication as to the number who arrived on the Lyon. Both groups of Leiden settlers were a financial burden to the young colony, and although most of them were unknown to the colonists, many of them nevertheless assisted the new settlers until their first successful harvest some sixteen to eighteen months after their arrival (Of Plymouth Plantation, pp. 214-215). Isaac Allerton and Edward Ashley were two of the passengers (Ibid, p. 219).

Warwick Charter or Patent from the Council for New England, Plymouth Colony's 3rd Patent, Granted 13 Jan. 1630

The patent referred to the size of the colony: " . . . they have increased their plantacon to neere three hundred people. . ." Stratton comments that the "almost three hundred people undoubtedly included those who had arrived on the second Mayflower, plus the servants of the Talbot, but would not have included those still to come on the Lyon and the Handmaid" (Stratton, p. 40). Stratton's source is William Brigham, The Compact with the Charter and Laws of the Colony (Boston, 1836), pp. 21-26.

Arrival of the Handmaid, 29 Oct. 1630

After twelve weeks at sea, the Handmaid docked at Plymouth with about 60 passengers. Winthrop's Journal, "History of New England" 1630-1649, James Kendall Hosmer, Ed. (New York: Scribner, 1908), vol. 1, p. 53.

Population 1630

" . . . it is doubtful that the entire population of Plymouth Colony had grown much in the early years after 1630, when the population was about 300 people plus arrivals on the Lyon and the Handmaid, perhaps 350 to 400 people in all" (Stratton 1986: 50).

The 1627-1634 Arrivals

Robert S. Wakefield and Eugene A. Stratton compiled a list of people who arrived at Plymouth sometime between May 22, 1627, date of the Division of the Cattle, and March 27, 1634, date of the 1634 Tax List. It is published in Stratton, pp. 433-37, and totals 164 persons. Stratton comments that the "list is undoubtedly incomplete, but it is hoped that future research will allow additions to it. In general children born abroad who came over during this period to join their parents are included, but children born in Plymouth Colony are not" (Ibid, p. 433).

Population to the end of 1633, prior to the beginning of the Great Migration, 1634-1640

From May 1634 the population of New England rose sharply through the rest of the decade. Robert C. Anderson estimates that about 15% of the immigrants to New England arrived in the fourteen years from 1620-1633, but the bulk of the new immigrants went elsewhere, not to Plymouth Colony.

Sources: Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995) 3v. Anderson discusses his criteria for inclusion in his listings on pp. xv-xvii.

Population 1643

In 1643 threat of a war with the Narragansetts, following the Pequot war, brought about a confederation of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Haven and Plymouth, calling themselves the United Colonies of New England. The fourth article of the New England Confederation provided that from time to time each colony would "bring a true account and number of all the males in every Plantation . . . of what quality or condition soever they be, from 16 years old to 60, being inhabitants there" (Of Plymouth Plantation, p. 432). Plymouth Colony's list of those able to bear arms was compiled and published in August 1643 (PCR 8:187-196). It is divided up under eight towns, listed in the following order: Plymouth, Duxbury, Scituate, Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Taunton and Marshfield. In addition, five freemen are listed under Seekonk, a small settlement that was incorporated as the town of Rehoboth in 1645.

Stratton points out that the list included "ministers, government officials, freemen, other free residents, and servants. . . Consequently we have a good idea of the total male population between sixteen and sixty in Plymouth Colony in 1643 -- about 600 (after eliminating some duplicates). We have their names, we know the towns they lived in, and we have the basis for an educated guess as to the total population, including women, children, and men over sixty: probably around 2,000 people." In the related footnote, Stratton comments that "Many calculations of total population in 1643 are possible, depending on the assumptions one makes. A very rough estimation of some 2,000 people would seem plausible, based on reasoning too complicated to be given here" (Stratton , pp. 70, 72). He reprints "The 1643 Able to Bear Arms (ATBA) List" as Appendix J, pp. 439-46.

Population 1650

Bradley Chapin, in Criminal Justice in Colonial America, 1606-1660 (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1983), p. 78 estimates that in 1650 Plymouth Colony, Rhodes Island, and New Haven had a population of about 1500 persons. He takes his figures from The Statistical History of the United Sates from Colonial Times to the Present (US Bureau of the Census with the cooperation of the Social Sciences Research Council, 1965), p. 756.

Population 1660s

Edwin Powers in Crime and Punishment in Early Massachusetts 1620-1692: A Documentary History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), p. 511 states that Plymouth "always remained small. After the founding of the [Massachusetts] Bay Colony, its population declined. When in the 1660s it could count three thousand souls within its boundaries, it was still only one-fourth or one-third the size of the Bay Colony." Powers does not give any source for his population estimate of 3000.

Population 1680

In 1680 Governor Josiah Winslow estimated that the total number of men in the colony between 16 and 60 years of age was about 1,200. Winslow had access to the lists of those capable of bearing arms kept by each town, and so his estimate was probably accurate (George D. Langdon, Jr., Pilgrim Colony: A History of New Plymouth 1620-1691 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, p. 181).

Population Plymouth County 1690

It is possible to get an idea of population figures around this time by looking at estimates calculated for Plymouth County towns for 1690, as follows (Stratton, p. 128):

for a total of3,055

It would appear these figures were obtained from Evarts B. Greene and Virginia D. Harrington's American Population Before the Federal Census of 1790 (New York, 1932), xxiii, 21 (Stratton, note 12, 138).

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