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Mystery of the Mayflower


“Available for Charter: Mayflower, of 180 tons, owners Robert Childe, Thomas Short, Christopher Jones and Christopher Nichols. Of three masts and three decks, 100 feet in length with a 24-foot beam and a 12-foot draft. Mayflower has made successful voyages transporting lumber, fish and tar, wine, cognac and vinegar. She is inured to the rigors of the North Sea and the Atlantic. Apply to the captain, Christopher Jones, in London.”

The advertisement might not have read quite that way, but a group of religious separatists responded, hiring the 11-year-old vessel in the late 1620s. Granted permission to raise a colony in North America, the pilgrims needed the transportation to make their dream come true. Approximately 35 of the separatists sailed on the Mayflower in mid-September with Capt. Jones in command.

The pilgrims lived almost exclusively on the gun deck, which had barely 5 feet of headroom. The trip lasted 66 days. Two passengers died; a girl named Oceanus was born at sea.

Finally, in November, Mayflower reached the shores of Cape Cod. A month later, the passengers and crew sailed over to the mainland and settled in what would become Plymouth, Massachusetts. The voyage had been no picnic, but Mayflower had carried her human cargo safely to their new land and into history.

So, what happened to her afterwards?

Mayflower sailed back to England in 1621. Jones died the next year, and his widow inherited the vessel. Judged a derelict by the appraisers, Mayflower was valued at just 128 pounds and change.

No one knows for certain, but it’s believed the ship was broken up for scrap with some of the timbers used in the construction of a barn in Buckinghamshire, England. The barn later became a local tourist attraction.

A second Mayflower sailed to Plymouth Colony in 1629. Attempting a voyage to Virginia in 1641, that Mayflower and her 140 passengers were never heard from again. — Steve Knauth

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.



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