Tuesday, 12 April 2016
Today, if it takes your fancy you can fly from Heathrow airport to Boston in less than eight hours, not counting time wasted at either airport. In the early 1630's it tended to take a wee bit longer, sailing ships taking four to twelve weeks to make the crossing. However I read today that between 1620 and 1640 some twenty thousand people traversed the Atlantic in search of a new life no matter how perilous the voyage.
The ship the 'Lyon,' seen here in an old picture of a model of the ship, crossed to New England in 1630, 1631 and 1632 taking mostly 'puritan' families to the new world. Many were indeed escaping religious persecution, England, and I mean 'England' as Scotland was still a free nation at this time although the 'union of the crowns' had occurred when James VI & I took the English throne as well as the Scots one, and many in England were suffering under Charles Ist rather unusual Romanesque religion. Preachers lost the right to speak if they tended towards the evangelical, some were jailed and others roamed the land preaching where they could and when invited.
The towns of Braintree & Bocking contained around about five thousand souls altogether yet some eight hundred met in a farmers barn rather than attend the Anglican service as it was not to their liking. Essex as a county tends to be somewhat rebellious by nature. In 1381 during the 'Peasants Revolt' many from this area were among the first to join in ensuring the monarchs sheriff met his end not far from here. When books of the bible were first translated into local dialect by William Tyndale a priest in Colchester was among the first burnt at the stake for making use of the translation. A William Pygot and several others met similar fate here also not long afterwards. You see when people read the bible, both old and new testament it changes them, this frightens those who are established in power! Monarchs tending towards Rome see this as a threat to their position and even today many churches fear evangelicals as the truth exposes others lies.
Not all were totally honest regarding their religious beliefs however, it cost a great deal to find a place crushed together below decks on such a boat and only the wealthy could afford to travel. Many were hopeful to pray their own way in the new world and make a few bucks at the same time. It often appears to me that making bucks is what many US citizens believe is the 'All American Way' rather tan freedom of opinion! Certainly some would have dreamed dreams of wealth and freedom in their new land while still others, especially the young saw adventure and a new life ahead.
On board the 'Lyon' in 1632 the Master William Pierce, an experienced sailor who had made this journey many times, took some one hundred and twenty three passengers and probably around forty five or so for a crew. There would be around 1500 gallons of water, 15,000 gallons of beer as the water tended to go off while beer did not, oats, cheese, beef, oil and butter plus a variety of foodstuffs, with candles, soap as well as a variety of weapons to deal with any bad boys that came along, cannon, muskets, swords etc.
The westerly winds ensured a longer voyage was required. In 1632 the 'Lyon' waited several weeks before a suitable wind arose and carried them south to the Cape Verde Islands from where supplies could be obtained. Then there came the ten to fourteen days sail across the Atlantic heading north of the West Indies and up the coast of the Americas.
On this occasion not one individual was lost bar the ships carpenter who was washed away by the sea when working on the outside of the ship, all others survived in good health. One hundred and twenty three passengers including fifty children and sixty men landed in Boston in September 1632 after a twelve weeks long voyage.
This area of what was to become the United States soon became dotted with towns named after East Anglian ones, Braintree, Boston and Cambridge the obvious ones and the settlers soon spread themselves around the area moving on to other places when the town or the townspeople were not to their liking. Many famous people and organisations grew out from these men, Harvard was one and much later both John Adams and his son became Presidents of the United States. A man from north of Braintree, Essex settled in the US and a descendent who studied a type of medicine considered a method of catching sunshine and feeding the people in his sanatorium. After much research Dr Kellog produced his Corn Flakes and started a fad that continues to this day. A descendant recently visited the Essex area from where they began. One visitor to the museum informed me that some three million people claim descent from those who travelled on the 'Lyon' on one of her trips to the New World, I hope they don't all come calling at the same time!
Where the ship was built is unknown and what happened to her later is also unclear. Her Master William Pierce made a home in the Boston but on a trip to the Bahamas Group in 1641 he was killed by the Spaniards. Early settlers had troubles all around from the nature of the land, opposition from residents, severe winters and in some cases the Spanish to the south. They remained of course and possibly one of my readers may be descended from the travellers in this ship.