Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mary Dyer's arrest after solar eclipse


© 2014 Christy K Robinson

This is what an 83% annular solar eclipse looks like through a solar filter.
But without the lens, the sky was almost as bright as usual without the eclipse.
One of the most thrilling research moments I had while preparing and writing my trilogy on Mary and William Dyer was discovering where Mary was when an act of God took place.

I’d already looked up every cosmic event during her lifetime, from 1611 to 1660, in astronomical tables, almanacs, and town records, for earthquakes, comets, meteor showers, eclipses, blood moons, hurricanes, and anything that would be considered supernatural to people of that time. Lunar and solar eclipses could be predicted by astronomers and astrologers, but the religious groups still considered natural events to be sobering messages from God.

I found a record for Salem, Massachusetts, that mentioned an unusually severe thunderstorm on the night before Mary Dyer arrived in Boston for the last time before she was hanged, so I wrote it into the story. In the same records, I found a description of a solar eclipse for November 14, 1659, about two and a half weeks after Mary had been sent to the gallows the first time and reprieved. She and the Quakers of New England might have connected the eclipse with God’s disapproval of the hanging deaths of Robinson and Stephenson in Boston.

The Salem record for November 4 said, “An eclipse of the sun began ‘presently after seven o’clock in the morning, continued till half past nine; digits eclipsed nine.’”

The difference between November 4 in the Salem record, and the November 14 date the eclipse occurred is explained by the old Julian calendar used in the 17th century, and the Gregorian calendar that our society uses today.

More about the eclipse later. Now let’s turn to what Mary Dyer was doing on that day.

I also found a record from Plymouth Colony, 73 miles south of Salem, that the recent English immigrant Thomas Greenfield was arrested on that date, for transporting one “Mary Dier” from Newport, Rhode Island, to Sandwich, in Plymouth Colony. Presumably, Mary was there to talk with the Sandwich Quakers. She would have spoken of the deaths of her Friends, and assured the Sandwich group that they were now in heaven. The Quakers’ numbers were growing fast thanks to the missionary efforts of Robinson and Stephenson, William Leddra, and the new converts themselves.

A major drawing point for converts was the Quaker endurance under severe persecution. The next generation of Pilgrims and the many Puritan immigrants from England contrasted their rigid religious system with the light and grace of the Quakers, and wanted to know what was so important that Quakers would prefer being whipped to a pulp and having their farms and stock confiscated, to attending Puritan Sunday services.

This is the record I found for Plymouth’s court actions in the autumn of 1659.

“Whereas Thomas Greenfield, coming lately out of England, and arriveing att Road Iland, came into these ptes about the fourteenth day of November, and brought Mary Dier with him to Plymouth, contrary to an order of Court which prohibiteth any of those called Quakers to come into this jurisdiction, shee, the said Mary Dier, being one of those soe called; and hee, the said Greenfield, being examined and required to answare directly whether hee had any residence, viz, house or land, att Sandwich, within this govtment or noe… [it mattered whether he was a ‘foreign Quaker’ or a colony resident, and they wanted to know his address so they could seize 30 shillings worth of goods for his fines]. 
"And the said Greenfield, for his bringing in or being a conduct to the said Mary Dier from Road Iland to Plymouth, was sentenced to pay for her transportation backe to Road Iland the summe of sixteen shillings; and for the fees of Mary Dier’s imprisonment the summe of eleven shillings, of which said summes the marshall, Barlow, was by warrant required to levy on the estate of the said Thomas Greenfield, whersoever hee should find it within his liberties."

Where was the jail? Not in Sandwich, where they were arrested. Colony records mention only a jail at Plymouth in the 1640s and 50s, says historian and museum director Jeremy Bangs. So they either walked the 19 miles (an all-day walk) or were transported by an oxcart or boat. Walking would be likely for prisoners, but with Mary’s high status, perhaps the Quakers or the marshal provided a ride.
1701 map of Plymouth, with prison and gallows hill
in upper right corner.

It appears that Greenfield, who wouldn’t give his home address, and Mary Dyer, whose financial estate was known to be “plentiful,” weren’t willing to pay their fines. Mary’s fee of 11 shillings (the modern value of their 11 shillings is £72.05 or $116.63) corresponds with about six days of prison expense in their economy, and Greenfield was supposed to pay. Perhaps the court didn’t want to involve the formidable attorney William Dyer paying his wife’s prison expense.

When Mary was released in the third week of November, with winter already upon them, it’s probable that she went immediately to Shelter Island, at the eastern tip of Long Island, because William Dyer’s May 27, 1660 letter on Mary’s behalf mentioned that he hadn’t seen her for “above a half year.”  

As for Greenfield, from the records, it sounds like he was kept in Plymouth prison for another two or three weeks, into December. Finally, a Sandwich resident testified that Greenfield owned a property there, so it could be levied and Greenfield released.

Readers of my second book, Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, know how I interpreted these two events, the solar eclipse and Mary’s arrest. The eclipse was surely seen as a message from God, the Creator. In that era, natural events and disasters were all attributed to God: they just needed interpretation.

Back to the Salem almanac: “An eclipse of the sun began ‘presently after seven o’clock in the morning, continued till half past nine; digits eclipsed nine.’” Not being an astronomer, and the furthest creature from a mathematician, I reasoned that nine digits might mean nine fingers on two hands, held up from the morning horizon against the sun’s position. Or it might mean that at Salem there was a 90% obscuration of the sun’s light during the peak of the eclipse.

Only a few weeks before my research, a total annular eclipse had tracked across the afternoon skies on May 20, 2012, from Texas to Japan. The totality was observed at the Grand Canyon and southern Utah, about 200 miles from my home in northwest Phoenix. Here, the obscuration of the sun was 83%. The 2012 eclipse was in the hot early evening, but the 1659 eclipse was in a chilly autumn morning. I had previously imagined that in a partial eclipse, the sky would be twilight, but I saw that because of the sun's corona, the sky was still very bright. If you glanced for half a second at the sun, it appeared to be as bright as usual, and there was no indication of the moon obscuring the sun--it was still too bright to look at. But instead of straight-edge shadows, they were indistinct crescent-shaped bright areas. Looking at the projection through a pinpoint cardboard, I saw crescent-moon shapes! The points of sunlight shining through a bush and onto a wall were crescents, too. We were seeing the eclipse in the negative.
83% eclipsed sun made crescents
 instead of circles on a wall.


If the Salem version of the eclipse was near 90%, as I guessed from the almanac, what would it have been in Plymouth, 73 miles south?

To learn more, I called the Kitt Peak Observatory here in Arizona, and spoke with an astronomer who referred me to a familiar name whose byline or expert commentary I'd seen in popular science magazines and websites, including Nature, National Geographic, Earth Observatory, and others. He was Dr. Jay Pasachoff, professor, astronomy department chair, and Hopkins Observatory director at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. I was about to converse with a world-famous astronomer! I did as much homework as it was possible for me to understand before I emailed him.
Dr. Jay Pasachoff writes about the Aug. 21, 2017 total eclipse crossing the United States. http://cosmoquest.org/x/365daysofastronomy/2014/08/21/aug-21st-the-minus-third-anniversary-of-the-2017-us-crossing-total-solar-eclipse/
Dr. Pasachoff’s reply was to give me the link to an eclipse projection for that 1659 date. He said, “If you click on the position of Salem on the map, you get details of the eclipse at any location. It shows an 87% coverage of the diameter by the Moon [magnitude at maximum], so that is close to 90%, which is probably what is referred to.  The eclipse was in the early morning, with the maximum about one palm's width above the horizon and the end about two palm's width (each palm width is about 10°).” 

Screenshot of the eclipse path of the November 1659 eclipse, via Dr. Pasachoff. The total eclipse crossed Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and into Hudson's Bay. South of the path of totality, in Maine and Massachusetts, the eclipse was partial.
In other words, something like I’d guessed: fingers (digits) and percentages.

Next, I zoomed in and clicked the map position for Plymouth and Sandwich, which said that Sandwich had a maximum eclipse of 82% on that 1659 morning. How do you like that? I had observed an 83% annular eclipse, and Mary had observed an 82% annular eclipse.

I had the gratification of a guess being confirmed (and much expanded!) by a world-famous scientist. I knew what the crescent shadows looked like, and the brassy color of the sky, slightly darker in the opposite direction of the sun. I knew the religious symbolism of the sun and moon. And I could write the chapter to be as real as if I were standing there in November 1659: the morning eclipse, followed by Mary's arrest.

_________ 
Get your history veggies in the form of a delicious brownie! Read the Dyer trilogy by Christy K Robinson, available in paperback and Kindle. http://amzn.to/PPEWMk  Books 1 and 2 are written as a narrative, through the eyes of Mary and William Dyer, John Winthrop, and Anne Hutchinson. Book 3 is a nonfiction companion book to the biographical novels.



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book giveaway winner announced

In celebration of the third anniversary of this blog, and 100,000 page views, I'm announcing the winner of a FREE author-signed paperback of "The DYERS of London, Boston, & Newport:"
My high school history teacher, Charles Barber, chose a number that was randomly assigned to those who entered comments below, which corresponded with -- Renee G.
He also chose an alternate number, which I'll notify if I don't hear from Renee.


Congratulations, Renee! 

Are you the type who thinks you can never win? (Join the club!) You can purchase the paperback or Kindle at Amazon, along with the other two Dyer books by Christy K Robinson.

The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport  (The Dyers #3)

Five-star nonfiction

by Christy K Robinson
Kindle edition Amazon price $6.99 
Paperback edition now available! 320 pages, Amazon price $12
Nonfiction, illustrated. The research and recent discoveries behind the novels. The Dyers is a lively nonfiction account of background color, culture, short stories, personality sketches, food, medicine, interests, recreation, cosmic events, and all the "stuff" that made up the world of William and Mary Dyer in the 1600s. More than 70 chapters, and all-new, exclusive content found nowhere else! 

If you don't have a Kindle device, Amazon offers a free Kindle reading app for your PC, Mac, tablet, iPad, smart phone, etc. Get the free app here: http://amzn.to/Osuhjv  






Monday, August 4, 2014

If they had Shark Week in the 17th century

© 2014 Christy K Robinson

Click the highlights to open a new tab with more information.

I don’t have cable or satellite TV to watch annual Shark Week programs (beginning Aug. 10 this year), but it’s difficult to miss the humorous trailers for the intentionally-bad horror film Sharknado, or see reruns of nature programs on sharks. I remember when Shark Week was only a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live, known as Land Shark. ("Candygram!")

In a shameless bid for more readers of this 17th-century historical research blog, I’ve had a Sharknado/brainstorm that you might enjoy a bit about how sharks were perceived in the 1600s.

Tracking two great white sharks' travels.
http://www.wired.com/2013/12/secret-lives-great-white-sharks/
Sharks are well-known in Massachusetts Bay, Long Island Sound, and in Narragansett Bay of Rhode Island, where the Dyers co-founded Newport. But in the years of America’s settlement, there were few accounts or images made of them. Governor John Winthrop wrote about the “sea horse” or walrus of Sable Island, and about the massive cod and halibut they caught off the Isles of Shoals in June 1630. But he didn’t write of sharks, or the archaic word for them, sea-dogs.

*****
In 1606, William Shakespeare refers to the “ravined salt-sea shark” in Macbeth, act 4, scene 1.  Part of the witches’ brew of “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” was the ingredient of the violent mouth and gullet of a hungry shark.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravined salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digged i' th' dark,
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

*****
1613: Scientist/artist: Ulisse Aldrovandi
Originally published in:
De Piscibus
Aldrovandi sometimes combined
impressive realism (a recognizable
thresher shark) with puzzling chimera.
The fish on the bottom has a
mammal-like face with a saw
protruding from the head,
dragon-like scales, fishy fins and flippers.
In 1634, William Wood, a commissioned public relations writer, published a book, New-Englands Prospect, about the natural wonders of Massachusetts, to encourage Puritan Englishmen to emigrate and make their fortunes. Here’s his description of the shark, amid many other creatures of the land, air, and sea:
“The Sharke is a kinde of fish as bigge as a man, some as bigge as a horse, with three rowes of teeth within his mouth, with which he snaps asunder the fishermans lines, if he be not very circumspect: This fish will leape at a mans hand if it be over board, and with his teeth snap off a mans legge or hand if he be a swimming; These are often taken, being good for nothing but to put on the ground for manuring of land.”

*****
In the whaling business, sharks were a worry to the men processing the whale carcass. They had to work quickly to get the whale dissected and onto the ship, before sharks could devour the valuable whale carcass. And the whale oil on the decks could cause a man to slip and fall overboard to the waiting sharks below.

*****
1641: They survived the hurricane
and shipwreck,
but the sharks picked them off.
 On Sept. 24, 1641, a hurricane wrecked a convoy of eight Spanish treasure ships in the Florida Straits. When the small tender ship went down 6 leagues (.33 kilometer) off Santiago, Cuba, a priest and other survivors attempted to swim ashore, but sharks ate them all. (I'm not sure who was left to report this detail, however! Perhaps someone on another ship of the convoy?) Vast treasures of silver and gold were soon after recovered from the wrecks; even more riches were recovered in the early 21st century.

Remarkably, on the other side of the Atlantic, one day earlier, the treasure ship Merchant Royall went down 30 miles off Land’s End, Cornwall, England. Though men died, there were no reports of sharks in that incident.

*****
 1648
Scientist/artist: Ulisse Aldrovani
Originally published in: Musaeum Metallicum
Naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi recommended fossil shark teeth as an antidote for snake venom, to be mixed in wine or water.


*****
 1662
Scientist: Caspar Schott
Originally published in: Physica Curiosa
In his Physica Curiosa, Schott included scores of illustrations, many of outlandish creatures, some closer to reality. What real-life animal might have inspired this illustration isn't easy to guess. It has gills, fringes, and a long curling tail, but the predominant feature is its gaping mouth lined with sharp teeth. The teeth are shaped like those of a shark.

*****

 1667
Scientist/artist: Niels Stensen
 Originally published in: Canis Carchariae Dissectum Caput
Strange as it looks by today's standards, this picture of a dissected head of a giant white shark actually marked significant progress in marine biology. For years, fossilized shark teeth were believed to be tongues of serpents turned to stone by Saint Paul, and hence were named glossopetrae, or "tongue stones." Niels Stensen correctly identified tongue stones as shark teeth, though he was not the first person in history to do so. In fact, Steno's picture was derived from a 16th-century unpublished work by papal physician Michele Mercati.


***** 
1670
Scientist/artist: Agostino Scilla
Originally published in: Vain Speculation Undeceived by Sense Baroque
Although Steno's depiction of a dissected shark head was a step forward in scientific accuracy, Scilla felt he could improve upon Steno's work. Scilla was an accomplished painter and a coin collector. He believed—and informed his readers—that his experience in these fields gave him insights into fossils and other natural specimens that others could not. Where others perhaps saw uniformity in sharks and their teeth, Scilla saw individuality. He delivered detailed depictions to different kinds of sharks, including a hammerhead, advancing accuracy even a little further than Steno.

*****

1709
Scientists/artists: Athanasius Kircher and Filippo Buonanni
Originally published in: Musæum Kircherianum
The 17th-century German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher established a fabulous museum in Rome. These fish carcasses and shark teeth must have looked outlandish to the visitors to Kircher's museum, but fish like these swim in the sea today. After Kircher died, Buonanni took over his collection and published a catalog in the early 18th century. These images from the catalog show some 18th-century progress in accurately depicting sea life.

*****






If you enjoy articles like this, you’ll love the book The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport  (The Dyers #3), by Christy K Robinson. It’s packed with illustrations, trivia, new research, and facts about the people and culture of the 17th century.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Educators, librarians, and students take note



Recommended BY educators, FOR educators.
And their students.


Two biographical/historical novels on the birth of America’s democracy and civil rights have used primary historical sources in American and British archives to retell the story of the Great Migration from England to New England through the eyes of Gov. John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson and her son, and Mary and William Dyer. These books, even though they’re part fiction, correct the mistakes of previous accounts of Mary Dyer, and add little-known documented facts to the 350-year-old story. Mary’s sacrifice of her life to bring liberty of conscience to Western cultures would not have been possible without the people in her life, who you’ll meet in this series. This is no mere recital of facts and dates: it’s a narrative of real peoples’ lives.

Target audiences: history and historical fiction readers, civil and Constitutional rights activists, Anglophiles, teachers, colonial America, genealogy enthusiasts, religious history students, women’s studies and social studies students, homeschool teachers, book groups, librarians, readers who appreciate freedom and a heritage of nobility of character.

Charles Barber, retired high school history, civics, and English teacher, and Don Keele, Jr., minister, youth director, and high school religion teacher, reviewed and recommended the series of books called The Dyers.

Charles Barber wrote: “For those of you wish to have a better understanding of the struggles that led to our religious freedoms, Christy K. Robinson has written a two volume set of historical novels about Mary Dyer. Mary and William Dyer, Anne Hutchinson, and Roger Williams are largely responsible for us having true religious liberty and not just the right to practice the state religion freely. Christy brings to life all the major players as she tells Mary's story. It is a story of the struggles both the women and the men as a new civilization is created in New England.

“Like the best writers of historical fiction, Christy has thoroughly researched her material and creates dialogue based the letters and diaries of her characters. I must confess that I am a partial reviewer. Christy graded papers for me when she was a student at Thunderbird Academy. I could not be more proud of what she has accomplished. Go to Amazon.com and order Mary Dyer Illuminated, vol. 1 and Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, vol. 2.”

Don Keele wrote: “Mary Dyer Illuminated is an absolutely amazing book! Once I had a grasp of the context, I couldn't put it down. As I finished this one and read the notes at the end, I began to fathom the full depth of research and how many hours/years the author has put into this story. The book reaffirmed that history indeed repeats itself, and people today, while pretending to be more sophisticated than those of Boston in the 1600s, can be just as vicious with their words and actions towards those with whom they disagree. The book not only entertained me, but moved me deeply."



☼☼☼☼☼  5.0 out of 5 stars
Christy [the author] weaves in excellent explanations of the nuances of the theological
By Grandpa B
Christy has done an incredible job of bringing life in 1600s England and New England to life in her historical novel Mary Dyer Illuminated. I wish that she had written this book years ago when I was still teaching high school history classes. The depth of information that she weaves into her story-telling makes it easier for us to understand the struggles of life nearly five hundred years ago. Christy's gift includes bringing the issues of religious freedom and the rights of women to the center of her story.

For most of us, if we knew anything about Mary Barrett Dyer, our knowledge was limited to the fact that she was a Quaker who was hung in the Puritan-controlled Massachusetts Bay Colony. Her story is so much more than that, and Christy brings Mary's full story to life. Along the way, Christy weaves in excellent explanations of the nuances of the theological, political and economic issues of the day. She helps us understand the difficulties in creating a new civilization in New England. But none of this interferes with her telling Mary Dyers' story.

For those of us who have ancestors from the seventeenth century New England, Christy brings these people to life and gives us a chance to understand the issues that they faced daily. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the issues of religious freedom and the rights of women. Those who want a better understanding of founding of the colonies in New England will also be satisfied.

☼☼☼☼☼   5.0 out of 5 stars
An Historical Novel That Will Keep You Turning the Pages
By Don Keele  
An excellent read looking into the lives of the early Puritans, especially at the life of Mary Dyer. Christy Robinson has created a page-turning novel based on some of history's little known characters. She has done meticulous research into the life and times surrounding Mary Dyer, including many actual journal entries. If you like historical novels, this is a must read!



☼☼☼☼☼   5.0 out of 5 stars
Clear, accurate, fascinating!
By Rondi A.
As a high school English teacher, I am always looking for books to add to my reading lists—for myself and my students. Back in the 90s I was teaching in a Boston suburb and found a collection of essays about the history of intolerance in America that included the story of Mary Dyer. My students were fascinated by the first story particularly—“The Silencing of Mary Dyer”—since many of them lived in Boston where the story takes place. I've been including it in my "Beginnings" unit every since.

Now, I teach clear across the country and have brought Mary’s story to my students in Arizona. Again, they found the story interesting, but recently, it became all the more real to them when an alumna of our school published two books about Mary Dyer!

I immediately contacted Ms. Robinson and asked her to come share Mary’s story along with the research and writing process involved in writing a historical novel. I then bought and read the books and proceeded to be impressed at the turn of each page. This well-researched, well-written two-volume story of an amazing and inspiring woman, her husband and family, along with a large cast of supporting characters, acquaints the reader with those who contributed substantially to the freedom of religion that every American citizen enjoys, regardless of their belief. Ms. Robinson has brought to life a time and place that I, as a long-time student of American literature and history, enjoyed thoroughly, and enjoyed even more sharing with my students, who responded with interest as well. They didn’t have to grow up in Boston to be able to see and understand Puritan Boston’s terrain—geographical or theological. Ms. Robinson painted the picture clearly and accurately, on every level. She even corrects some long-held misconceptions about Mary Dyer. We all came away with a deeper appreciation for those who lived so long ago but whose life-actions had far-reaching consequences.

Good reads for every age, Ms. Robinson’s books can now be found on this teacher’s American Literature book list. I will recommend them with enthusiasm and pleasure for years to come.



☼☼☼☼☼ 5.0 out of 5 stars
History that Impacts Everyone Now
In Book Two, Author Christy K. Robinson once again breathes life into the characters of William and Mary Dyer as she expands the story of the start of religious liberty in the United States. Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This, is a fascinating historical novel that brings to light the horrible persecution of people who didn't subscribe to the exact religious beliefs of those in power in the colonies of the 1630's. The Puritans, then in power in Boston, were quick to jail, whip and even destroy those who were Baptist, Quakers and/or even people of no religious beliefs. Mary Dyer's life and subsequent death shed light on their persecution and caught the attention of the Crown in England, resulting in those persecutions being ended, as well as opened the door for the subsequent separation of the powers of church and state in the Colonies, which, a hundred years later were written into our Constitution. Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This is a must read for anyone wanting to know more about the history of the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States.

☼☼☼☼☼  5.0 out of 5 stars
I heartily recommend both volumes for readers from junior high on up,
By Grandpa B -
In her second volume about Mary Dyer, Christy focuses on Mary's personal struggles with her faith and marriage. For those of us who have lived in the 20th and 21st centuries, it is difficult to understand how Mary could be so committed to her religious evolution. Among Christy's gifts in telling the story is her ability to put us inside Mary's mind as she gives up her roles of wife and mother as her religious convictions become the sole focus of her life. Her descriptions of the oppressive policies of the colonial leadership should make us all thankful for what the Dyers and Roger Williams created and defended in Rhode Island.

I heartily recommend both volumes for readers from junior high on up. Social studies teachers should read these books so that they can better explain the struggles that created and preserved our freedoms. Our understanding of this era, its leading figures and the challenges that they faced is forever enriched by what Christy presents in these books.


 The author, Christy K Robinson, is an alumna of Thunderbird Academy, Loma Linda University (BA in Communications, print media) and La Sierra University (16 units of graduate English). Her short bio is available at http://ChristyKRobinson.com .

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Are you a descendant of William and Mary Dyer?


Beware the genealogy sites: there are many false (and funny) notions out there

© 2014 Christy K Robinson
Click on the highlighted words or phrases to open a new tab about that subject. 

The blog author's paternal and maternal pedigree charts
mounted on a wall.
Genealogy websites are only as good as the information that people paste into them. Sometimes data is put there by professional genealogists and historical researchers, but more often, it's a stone soup of copy-pastes from other genealogy and Wiki pages that also have it wrong.

Many people who research their ancestry look at only the member of a family who is their direct ancestor. If they’re professional genealogists or historians, they like to see a family record. And before I wrote my three books on Mary and William Dyer, I had to know what happened to their children, who their associates were, and their children, where they were born, what properties they owned, who they married, their professions, their religious and political affiliations… 

The place to start is not necessarily with names in the past (start with the grandparents you know and work backward one step at a time). Certainly you would not start with a famous name that you’d like to have for an ancestor, but can’t prove! For instance, though my mother was a kick-butt ancestry researcher in the 1960s through 1980s (without internet, obviously), and she maxed out Personal Ancestral File v.1.0 in 1985 and had to call the techies in Salt Lake City to increase the memory, she made a few mistakes in equating a name and a locality with “how it must have been.” Later, better, more complete records have since corrected the data, but alas, I can’t claim those certain people as my ancestors. I can’t bend the facts to fit my known ancestors just because they have the right surname in the right city. Someday, I might find the missing link, but for now, I have to stop with what is known. It's very difficult to do that when you're *this close.*

 There were hundreds or even thousands of Dyers in England in the 1600s before the Great Migration to colonial America. It would be silly to think they were all siblings or close cousins. The origin of the Dyer name was probably wool dying, and when surnames came into more frequent use in medieval times, that industry took place in several places around the country. Here a Dyer, there a Dyer. As our William Dyer the Elder spelled it, Dyre, or Mary Barrett Dyer spelled it, Dire, it might have meant fear, trouble, or calamity. Most people of the 17th century spelled phonetically because there was no dictionary standard as there is today.

Another truth about names is that the custom, over thousands of years and countless cultures, was to name children after parents and grandparents. In the space of a hundred years, you could have five Williams—or more! If a baby or child died, parents would name subsequent children that same name. That’s what the Dyers did. Their first baby, born in 1634, died after being christened William, and they used the name again a few years later.

But our people were not the only Dyers or even William Dyers in New England at this time. There were Dyers in Maine and Cape Cod, and in Maryland—probably all the colonies. They had children who were, as the custom dictated, named after their fathers. William Dyer begat William Dyer begat William Dyer. And none of them were Mary Dyer’s husband or sons!

Mary and William emigrated to Boston, and their next child was born in October 1635, named Samuel. Two years later, in October, the anencephalic girl, called Mary’s “monster,” was stillborn. She had no name because they didn’t christen or baptize the dead. (Yet some websites omit the stillborn girl, and call her Mary, which would make Mary Jr. an old maid, age 28, at her marriage to Henry Ward!)


The Dyers’ fourth child was William—again. Based on events of his parents’ co-founding of Portsmouth and Newport, Rhode Island, and of his later life, it’s very probable that William Jr. was born in the fall of 1640. (Several of his siblings were born late in the year, so it’s reasonable to guess this about William Jr. also.) When he carried the previously-agreed-upon reprieve to his mother’s execution site, he was still just a teenager. He wrote, in his thirties, that he had been at sea for more than 20 years.

Mary gave birth to eight children (William the infant, Samuel, stillborn girl, William Jr., Maher, Henry, Mary, and Charles), and she may have had miscarriages that were never recorded. I’ve seen recent statistics that even in the 21st century, up to 40 percent of embryos will spontaneously miscarry because of defects—imagine what it might have been like 370 years ago! Further, one must consider that the mothers were nursing babies for a year or two, and lactation sometimes suppresses fertility.

After Samuel and the anencephalic girl who were born in Boston, and the parents moved to Rhode Island in 1638, there are no birth records or baptisms for Dyer children. There are two reasons for this: the vital records of Newport were lost at the bottom of New York harbor in the Revolutionary War, and/or the Dyers, like the Baptists and Antinomians of Rhode Island, didn’t baptize infants or children, but would have waited for them to reach an age of accountability when they could make their own decisions about eternal salvation.

The other Dyer children can be approximately dated by subsequent life events. Maher was probably born in the fall of 1643, because he’s named after the terrible deaths of Anne Hutchinson and her younger children. Henry Dyer was born about 1647, Mary about 1648, and Charles in 1650. The birth and weaning of Charles meant that Mary Dyer couldn’t have sailed to England in 1650, as some websites have written. There’s a 1652 letter from Governor William Coddington to John Winthrop Jr. that says Mary had sailed on the “first ship.”

I’ve also seen references in 19th century books that Coddington wrote letters to John Winthrop Sr., years after the Bay Colony founder, Winthrop Sr., had died. No, Coddington was writing to Winthrop Jr. 

And I read that King Charles II, who wasn’t even born until 1630, made Massachusetts land grants to the Dyers in 1636—but in reality, the land grants were made for financial and service considerations by the colonial governor and assistants under their charter. Their corporation bought the land in their "patent" or charter, so they were the ones who granted deeds. People will put anything they like in genealogy pages, and other people come along and trust that the poster has diligently done their research.  

Poster of Mary Dyer's
handwriting, and a photo
of the Dyer statue in Boston.
 I've read Mary Dyer's handwriting for myself, and learned that her words and the words of the letters we read in history and genealogy sites are not the same—her words were rewritten in London, after her death.

So before you jump to a conclusion, you have to know life spans of your people, in birth, death, marriages, and children. You have to be realistic about travel times and modes of transport, climate, pirate or criminal threats, pregnancies, newborns and nursing babies, ongoing international politics and conflicts or wars. You have to look at maps, for goodness' sake. One website says that the Dyers were married at a church in Leicestershire. Excuse me, that would be in London, 100 miles to the south!

I’ve studied the family of Sir Henry Vane the Younger, after whom I believe Henry Dyer was named because there aren’t Henrys (that we know of) in the Dyer relatives. Vane named a daughter Mary, which was not a family name among his or his wife’s relatives. Katherine Marbury Scott, Anne Hutchinson’s younger sister, had no Marys in her relatives, so I think she named her daughter after Mary Dyer, too.

After Mary Dyer was executed on June 1, 1660 (one website called it May 32, 1660—think about that), her husband William married a woman named Catherine in about 1661, and they had one daughter, Elizabeth, in 1661 or 62. I’ve actually seen a website that wrote that Elizabeth was Mary and William’s daughter, born two years after Mary Dyer died.  

Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve written that people have confused William Dyer Sr. with a Puritan minister of the same name in London, who was born 23 years too late to be our man.

And there’s the persistent myth that Mary Dyer was the daughter of Arbella Stuart and William Seymour—but if you plot out the events from Arbella’s biography based on her letters and papers, you’d see that the timing of who was where and when (never mind the fantastic illogic) proves that there was never a Stuart-Seymour child.

Timelines, people! Do the math. Use your logic. Put it in context. “If it doesn’t fit—you must quit!” (to paraphrase from an infamous trial of the 1990s).

 If you’d like to see the research that does not repeat the mistakes, legends, and hyperbole of the Victorian era (as immortalized in the books of Horatio Rogers and Ruth Plimpton), you need to read the nonfiction book, The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport. It’s written in short chapters and sorted by topics (Mary Dyer, William Dyer, their associates/friends/enemies, the culture they lived in, and cosmic events). The accounts of the early Quaker historians are balanced or supplemented by discoveries in New England colonial annals, archives of the British Library, the Massachusetts Archive and State Library, Winthrop journal and papers, scores of out-of-print books, and a considerable bookshelf full of recent research.

To read it in an in-depth story-telling style, read both novels: Mary Dyer Illuminated; and Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This. Readers say that these are not light, fluffy stories. They're meaty. They're chewy. They use easy language, but require some thinking. And you'll remember them for a very long time. There’s even a timeline at the end of the second book that resolves the lives and events of the Dyer family through the end of the first generation.

Knowing what happened to the Dyers and what made them who they were, and knowing how they met and overcame those challenges, will change you whether or not you're the recipient of their DNA. You'll see how they were among the foundation stones that built America.  


"It is not the glorious battlements, the painted windows, 
the crouching gargoyles that support a building, 
but the stones that lie unseen in or upon the earth. 
It is often those who are despised and trampled on 
that bear up the weight of a whole nation."



JOHN OWEN, English Puritan minister

1616 – 1683



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Winthrop Fleet fights its way to New England in 1630

© 2014 Christy K Robinson


Beach roses or salt-spray roses, growing on the shores of Maine
in June 2014, 384 years after the Winthrop Fleet passed this spot.
Flower photos courtesy of Dr. Rondi Aastrup.
In late March 1630, in their new year and on Easter Monday, the Winthrop Fleet of business investors and religious refugees heard a sermon and blessing by their favorite minister, John Cotton, and left the harbor on England’s south coast. The strong winds and rain kept the fleet glued to the coast, though, for a few weeks, and many of the passengers, including Thomas Dudley’s family and John Winthrop’s son Henry, spent time ashore rather than on the cramped ships.

Only three days into their venture, while the fleet’s occupants were fasting and praying, some farm laborers they’d brought “pierced a rundlet of strong water” (a 15-gallon barrel of whisky used primarily for medicinal purposes), and were put in "a bolt" (probably tied or chained to part of the ship) for a night and day to punish them.

The ships set their sails for Salem, Massachusetts, where a previous party, led by John Endecott, had gone a year earlier to found a town and plant crops to support itself and the hundreds of people set to arrive in 1630.

The 350-ton Arbella, admiralty ship of the Winthrop Fleet,
was often separated from the other ships by high seas and
a succession of raging tempests.
 The fleet was at sea for 10 weeks, two weeks longer than expected, and they were two months later than their original plan called for. Storms blew the fleet apart for days at a time. They’d fought the westerly gales and sailed south to the 43rd parallel before they tacked back to the North Atlantic. After a month, they were only halfway across the Atlantic, north of the Azores and west of the Bay of Biscay. The ships had to strike their sails in the tempest and were reduced to drifting if they wanted to keep their masts in one piece. “The sea raged and tossed us exceedingly, yet, through God’s mercy, we were very comfortable, and few or none sick, but had opportunity to keep the Sabbath and Mr. Phillips preached twice that day.”
 
The Effects of Intemperance,
by Jan Steen
Tensions mounted. Men fought and spent the night in chains. A servant made a private deal with a boy (presumably the ship’s boy) to purloin three biscuits a day from the communal food supply, and upon discovery, the servant was tied to a bar and had a basket of stones placed around his neck for two hours. A maidservant, being seasick, drank so much whisky that she was “senseless, and had near killed herself. We observed it a common fault in our young people, that they gave themselves to drink hot waters [whisky] very immoderately.”

We will resist the temptation to call Mr. Winthrop “Captain Obvious” about young people and hard drinking, because in their world, their era, their religious customs, alcohol poisoning was a rare thing. As a rule, their drinks were very low in alcoholic content.

By the 29th of May, two months after their launch, three of the fleet were just off the Grand Banks, south of Sable Island and about 600 miles east of Salem. On the third of June, knowing they were nearing dangerous shoals, they sounded for depth, but found no bottom.

Cape Neddick, Maine, called Aquamentius in
John Winthrop's Journal
 Finally, on June 6, they sounded at 80 fathoms/486 feet. They were offshore of Aquamentius, Maine. The next day, Monday, they were becalmed, and they threw lines and a few hooks over the sides of the ship, and in two hours caught 67 codfish, “some a yard and a half long, and a yard in compass.” Any fish of 5½ to 6 feet will weigh 100 pounds or more, says Gulf of Maine Research Institute.   

Still, they couldn’t proceed too fast for fear of running on the rocks of the Isle of Shoals, a long line of rocks and small islands. They took a large boat out of storage to sail before the ships and take soundings so they could safely sail south to Salem. 

"We had now fair sunshine weather,
and so pleasant a sweet air as did much refresh us,
and there came a smell off the shore like the smell of a garden."
 John Winthrop wrote in his journal on June 8, "We had now fair sunshine weather, and so pleasant a sweet air as did much refresh us, and there came a smell off the shore like the smell of a garden." They celebrated by catching another 36 cod, much needed because during the extra-long voyage, they had consumed their stores of salted fish, and were low on other provisions.

On June 9, they could see mountains on the mainland, and many islands or half-submerged rocks between the ship and the shore. On the 10th, they saw several large and small ships doing commercial fishing. On the 12th of June, they came around Cape Ann and arrived at Salem.

But conditions at Salem were harsh, with a short growing season exacerbated by the frosts and famines of the Little Ice Age. The fierce storms that had battered the Winthrop Fleet had also worn down the settlers—and killed perhaps half of them. The Endecott party used up the rations they’d brought, and were barely surviving on seafood and wild strawberries by the spring of 1630. Until the meager harvest in August, or the arrival of the Winthrop Fleet with their provisions, Salem was hungry, run down, and sick.
The Winthrop Fleet, by WF Halsall (wiki)

Some of the officials of the Massachusetts Bay Company went ashore and supped on venison pasties (meat pies) and “good beer.” They met the Endecott party of settlers—who were not in good shape, and begged for the food stores on board the Winthrop ships. The town was not ready to receive the hundreds of passengers—not with food and fresh water, and not with shelter. The Winthrop party was too late to plant a food crop and build shelters for the next winter, and they had enough food only for a few more weeks.

What were they to do? You’ll find out in my book, Mary Dyer Illuminated. See the tab on this page or click this link: Books on William and Mary Dyer.  The books closely follow and personalize many more luminaries than the Dyers: William and Anne Hutchinson, John Winthrop, John Cotton, Thomas Dudley, Isaak Johnson, and other brave and brilliant people.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Four things to learn from Quakers

Mary Dyer was a Quaker in the last five to seven years of her life, and is the most famous of the four Quakers who were executed for defying the theocratic government of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

This links to an article about Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) published on Huffington Post. Click the headline to read the article.

4 Things We Can All Learn From One Of America's Oldest Religious Communities   by Alena Hall 

A Quaker woman preaching in
New Amsterdam (New York City)