Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Winthrop Fleet fights its way to New England in 1630

© 2014 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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.

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title): 
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)

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)

Ballad: Prescription for a girl's lost virtue

© 2014 Christy K Robinson 

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. 

This ballad, intended to be humorous and performed as entertainment, was published as an English broadsheet in 1624, the year that William Dyer left the family farm in Lincolnshire and apprenticed as a milliner (imported men’s accessories) in London. He was 14 going on 15.

A young man shows a prescription to the apothecary
William would have been very strictly supervised by his master, and he would have spent much of his nine years of service in studying (William must have been good at geometry and other mathematics, as he was a surveyor a few years later), as well as learning the skills and secrets of his master’s trade (imports, exports, taxes and customs, accounting, business administration, maybe a smattering of law). The master was also responsible for his apprentices’ spiritual education. They were members of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, which had Church of England ministers and was under the authority of St. Paul’s Cathedral. William would have had a half-day off each week, on Sundays after church services in the morning.

King James, and his son Charles I after him, encouraged people to play sports on Sunday, partly as a healthy outlet for their energies, and partly as a calculated persecution of the Puritans, who disapproved of sports (like the violent rugby/football/soccer and bear-baiting), and used their Sabbath afternoons for teaching and preaching—and possibly fomenting rebellion.

But though a milliner in training, William Dyer was an apprentice in the Fishmongers guild with friends who worked at the big-city docks and markets, he was a boy off the farm, and he was a normal teenager with hormones, so chances are good that he would have been knowledgeable about the birds and bees, the prostitutes and immoral girls of London, and the taverns where drinking, gambling, and singing
went on. We don’t know any details of his behavior or morals. I’m only setting the scene that he probably heard ballads like this on several occasions, especially when he was older.

The ballad reproduced below tells of a physician or apothecary who put some thought into how to “revirginate” a girl who had erred from the moral way. He described a woman of easy virtue and the remedy for restoring her maiden status. But as you read the impossible ingredients and remedies of her week-long treatment plan, you see that revirgination is impossible, but heaping shame on her might serve to change her behavior. You'll search in vain for any mention of the man who took the young woman's virginity. It's all on the woman.

The lyricist wrote on the seventh day of this eight-day remedy for spoiled maidens, “to comfort her stomach with the syrup of shame: Although she be past all hope of good name, and unto her honesty a very great stain. Let her take it to remedy the same.”

What makes the ballad funny, though, is that the treatment and pharmacological components were really not that far from established medicine of the early 17th century! At the end of this post, you’ll find related articles in this blog that list medicinal compounds made of human milk, blood from a cat’s ear, dung, insects, and mercury. At least those items were easier to obtain than the prescription below, which calls for a Spanish friar’s fart, bee brains, and three leaps of a louse.


A marvellous Medicine to cure a great paine,
If a Mayden-head be lost so get it againe.

To a pleasant new tune.

Once busy in study betwixt night and day,
with choice of inventions I had in my mind,
And many odd matters my mind did assay,
but any to please me I could not well find:
then suddenly casting the nose in the wind,
I smelt out a Medicine both precious and plain,
How to help silly Maidens that had been somewhat kind
to get by good order their Maiden-head again.

First the Maid must be brought into a sleep,
for three hours together before she awake,
And seven days after this diet must keep,
with these kind of compounds the which she must take,
She must eat neither roast-meat, sod, neither bake,
but all kind of dainties she must refrain,
save only this medicine, the which if she take,
then it will restore her Maiden-head again.

The first day give her the slime of an Eel,
blown through a Bag-pipe with the wind of a bladder,
with two or three turnings of a spinning wheel,
boiled in an Egg-shell, and strained through a ladder:
The tongue of an Urchin, the sting of an Adder,
boiled in a blanket in a shower of rain,
With seven notes of music to make her the gladder,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

The second day give her the peeping of a Mouse,
with three drops of thunder that falls from the sky,
And temper it with three leaps of a Louse,
and put therein three skips of a Fly,
With a gallon of water of a Widow's eye,
that weeps for her husband when death hath him slain,
Let her take this medicine and drink by and by,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

The third day give her the chattering of a Sparrow,
roasted in Mitten of untann'd Leather,
Give it her with the rumbling of a wheel-barrow,
and baste it with three yards of a black Swans feather,
The juice of a Whetstone thereto put together,
with the fart of a Friar brought hither from Spain
Let her lay all these in an ell of Louse leather,
and lay warm her belly to help her great pain.

The fourth day give her the song of a Swallow,
well tempered with Marrow wrung out of a log,
With three pound and better of Stock-fish tallow
hard fried in the left horn of a Butchers blue dog,
With the gaggling of a Goose, & the frisks of a Frog
the bill of a shovel, or a Humble-bee's brain:
Give her this tasting, with the grunting of a Hog,
and it will restore her mayden-head again.

The fifth day give her betwixt eight a clock and nine,
Some gruel of Grantum made for the nonce,
The brains of a birdbolt powdered very fine,
and beat in a Morter of Ginne-wrens bones,
Boiled in a nut-shell betwixt two mill-stones:
with the guts of a Gudgin before she be staine:
Let her be sure to drink all this at once,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

Now mark well the sixth day what must be her trade,
she must have a Woodcock, a Snipe, or a Quaile,
Bak'd fine in an Oven before it be made,
and mingle it with the blood of a Snaile,
With four or five Inches of a Jack-an apes tail:
what though for a while it put her to paine,
Yet let her take it without any faile,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

Musicians in a tavern scene by David Teniers
The seventh day give her a pound of Maid's moths,
braid in a basket of danger and blame,
With conserves of Coleworts bound in a box,
to comfort her stomach with the syrup of shame:
Although she be past all hope of good name,
and unto her honesty a very great stain.
Let her take it to remedy the same,
and it will restore her maiden-head again.

Lo these are our Medicines for Maidens each one,
which in their Virginity amiss somewhat fell,
Pray you if ever you hear them make moane,
and gladly would know the place where I dwell,
At the sign of the Whip and the Egg-shell,
near Pancake alley on Salisbury Plain,
There shall they find remedy using this well
or else never to recover their maiden-head again.

Related articles (17th-century health and medical remedies) within this blog:


Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)

Monday, June 16, 2014

The ballad of The Cruel Shrew

© 2014 Christy K Robinson
Click the highlighted text for links to more information within this blog.

Seventeenth-century broadsheets, like today’s tabloid newspapers, told lurid tales of witches and monster babies (born of heretical women like Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer), or murders or political scandals. Sometimes broadsheets were long ballads of romance or comedy, to be sung in taverns. And sometimes, they were sermons or political articles like we’d see on a blog today.

From 1200-1250, when the upper class spoke Norman French, the Middle-English word "shrew" began to describe a bad-tempered, spiteful man or woman. A shrew is a tiny rodent of two to three inches in length, weighing half an ounce at best. The European common shrew, an insectivore, is described as having red-tipped teeth, suggesting blood, and a powerful bite, so perhaps that’s the source of calling a scold or gossip a shrew. Another similarity might be the long nose, getting into others' business!

In about 1590-92, William Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew, and described a shrewish woman in this way: 
"Petruchio, since we are stepp'd thus far in,
I will continue that I broach'd in jest.
I can, Petruchio, help thee to a wife
With wealth enough and young and beauteous,
Brought up as best becomes a gentlewoman:
Her only fault, and that is faults enough,
Is that she is intolerable curst
And shrewd and froward, so beyond all measure
That, were my state far worser than it is,
I would not wed her for a mine of gold."
In the southern counties of England, a shrewish woman might be forced to undergo the ducking stool, which was a life-endangering ordeal where she’d be at risk of drowning while bound to a chair—and possibly gagged. In Scotland and the north of England, a shrew was sometimes dehumanized by being bridled or branked for her disrespectful utterances. In 1655, Dorothy Waugh, a young Quaker known well to Mary Dyer, was bridled in Carlyle, northwest England. Dorothy sailed to New England in 1656, and was further persecuted and beaten for sharing her faith and defying the theocratic colonial governments.  

The Cruell Shrow (shrew) was written by Arthur Halliarg, between 1607 and 1641. (Based on the clothing worn in the broadsheet drawings, I'd guess the earlier date.) This is the sort of humorous entertainment that William Dyer or any of his colleagues and family might have enjoyed in their leisure time in England. 

The Cruell Shrow
Or, The Patient Man's Woe

Declaring the misery, and the great pain,
By his unquiet wife he doth daily sustain.
To the tune of "Cuckolds -All A-row"

Come, bachelors and married men, and listen to my song,
And I will show you plainly, then, the injury and wrong
That constantly I do sustain by the unhappy life,
The which does put me to great pain, by my unquiet wife.

She never lins' her bawling, her tongue it is so loud;
But always she'll be railing, and will not be controlled.
For she the breeches still will wear, although it breeds my strife.
If I were now a bachelor, I'd never have a wife.

Sometime I go i'the morning about my daily work,
My wife she will be snorting, and in her bed she'll lurk
Until the chimes do go at eight, then she'll begin to wake.
Her morning's draught, well-spicèd' straight, to clear her eyes she'll take.

As soon as she is out of bed her looking-glass she takes,
(So vainly is she daily led); her morning's work she makes
In putting on her brave attire, that fine and costly be,
Whilst I work hard in dirt and mire. Alack! What remedy?

Then she goes forth a-gossiping amongst her own comrades;
And then she falls a-boozing with her merry blades.
When I come home from my labor hard, then she'll begin to scold,
And calls me rogue, without regard, which makes my heart full cold.

When I come home into my house, thinking to take my rest,
Then she'll begin me to abuse (before she did but jest),
With -- "Out, you rascal! you have been abroad to meet your whore!"
Then she takes up a cudgel's end, and breaks my head full sore.
When I, for quietness' sake, desire my wife for to be still,
She will not grant what I require, but swears she'll have her will.
Then if I chance to heave my hand, straightway she'll "murder!" cry;
Then judge all men that here do stand,  in what a case am I

To the Same Tune 
"Husband, beware the Stocks," she says to the drunk man
with overturned cups and jugs

And if a friend by chance me call to drink a pot of beer,
Then she'll begin to curse and brawl, and fight, and scratch, and tear,
And swears unto my work she'll send me straight, without delay,
Or else, with the same cudgel's end, she will me soundly pay.

And if I chance to sit at meat upon some holy day,
She is so sullen, she will not eat, but vex me ever and ay;
She'll pout, and lour, and curse, and bann. This is the weary life
That I do lead, poor harmless man, with my most doggèd wife.

Then is not this a piteous cause? Let all men now it try,
And give their verdicts, by the laws, between my wife and I,
And judge the cause, who is to blame. I'll to their judgment stand,
And be contented with the same, and put thereto my hand.

If I abroad go anywhere, my business for to do,
Then will my wife anon be there, for to increase my woe.
Straightway she such a noise will make with her most wicked tongue,
That all her mates, her part to take, about me soon will throng.

Thus am I now tormented still with my most cruel wife;
All through her wicked tongue so ill, I am weary of my life.
I know not truly what to do, nor how my self to mend.
This ling'ring life doth breed my woe; I would 'twere at an end.

Oh that some harmless honest man, whom death did so befriend,
To take his wife from of his hand, his sorrows for to end,
Would change with me, to rid my care, and take my wife alive
For his dead wife unto his share; then I would hope to thrive.

But so it likely will not be, (that is the worst of all!)
For, to increase my daily woe, and for to breed my fall,
My wife is still most froward bent - such is my luckless fate! -
There is no man will be content with my unhappy state.

Thus to conclude and make an end of these my verses rude,
I pray all wives for to amend, and with peace to be endued.
Take warning, all men, by the life that I sustainèd long:
Be careful how you'll choose a wife, and so I'll end my song.


Like this article? Read my non-fiction book on 17th-century life and times (click this highlighted title),
The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport, by Christy K Robinson.
Nonfiction, illustrated. The research and recent discoveries behind the Mary Dyer books. 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.  Chapters on John Winthrop, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, John Endecott, and many others. More than 70 chapters, and all-new, exclusive content found nowhere else!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The anniversary of our civil rights

This article appears in Rhode Island's Providence Journal
for June 6, 2014. The ProJo link WAS here but was taken down sometime in the spring of 2015:


© 2014 Christy K Robinson

This article is copyrighted. Copying, even to your genealogy pages, is prohibited by US and international law. You may "share" it with the URL link because it preserves the author's copyright notice and the source of the article.  
All rights reserved. This book or blog article, or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

On June 1, 1660, our constitutional right to religious liberty began with the execution of Mary Dyer in Boston. The result of her civil disobedience was a royal charter of liberties granted to Rhode Island, which was a model for the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

There were many factors along the way, of course: Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, John Clarke, and a hundred others who founded the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation as a secular democracy; and those who governed the infant colony at their own expense while the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies tried again and again to annex the Rhode Islanders and bring them back under the theocratic fist.

Mary Dyer was a co-founder of both Portsmouth and Newport in 1638 and 1639. Her husband William was the first attorney general in all of America, and New England’s first commissioned naval commander in the Anglo-Dutch War.

William Dyer and the Rhode Island government created laws that supported the separation of church and state functions. They were no atheists—they belonged to Christian fellowships pastored by John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, Roger Williams, and others—but they’d felt the iron grip of theocracy both in England where they’d been born, and in the short time they’d lived in Massachusetts before moving to Rhode Island. Their friends and relatives were still living under Puritan theocratic rule in Connecticut and MassBay. They were determined to keep religion in homes and churches, and government by both ancient laws and consent of the governed. They created the first democracy in America.

 When England’s new sect of Quakers sent missionaries to New England in 1656 and 1657, they were granted refuge in Rhode Island, but the other colonies imprisoned Quakers and Baptists, sometimes without food and water, fire, or blankets in the severe winters of the Little Ice Age. Men and women were stripped naked to the waist and given severe whippings, branded with the H for heretic, had ears cut off, were choked or “bridled” with foreign objects forced into their mouths, were heavily fined, and had their lands, crops, and farm animals seized by greedy magistrates and ministers. When the teenage children of Quakers couldn’t pay fines on their elderly parents’ account, they were put on the slave block to be sold in the South, where the girl surely would have died a sex slave. (When slave ship owners refused to buy the boy and girl, they were released because Governor John Endecott was shamed before his own incensed hometown.)  

News services, if they mention the June 1 anniversary of Mary Dyer’s execution at all, tend to repeat the old hash of Wikipedia. Several of those "facts" were reported (biased to fit their agenda) by Quakers of the time, or by a Victorian descendant of the Dyers who fantasized a royal genealogy for Mary Dyer. The text on Boston’s Mary Dyer statue did not come from her last letters, but was composed by a Quaker in London. The tale about Mary Dyer being hanged on an elm on the Boston Common was disproved decades ago. She did not die “because she was a Quaker,” as many websites repeat.

Mary Dyer deliberately broke the law (violated her banishment) on a particular date (election day and court hearing) to bring the largest audience and most attention for her protest, knowing that she would be executed—and hoping that her death as a high-status woman would be notorious enough to stop the religious executions and torture perpetrated by the religious and political government coalition. Outrage was so great that a 100-member militia of pikemen and musketeers was ordered to accompany her to the gallows—to protect the government from the crowds. Dyer went willingly, intending to die.

And when she did, the news went back to England, where her “last words” letter to the Boston authorities was rewritten by a Quaker minister, in a pamphlet submitted to King Charles II. The king wrote back to Boston and ordered the cessation of capital punishment, saying to send death-penalty cases back to England for trial. John Clarke, the Rhode Island doctor and minister, with strong input from Roger Williams and William Dyer, wrote the 1663 charter of liberties (constitution) that became a model for the United States Constitution 130 years later. The charter granted “liberty of conscience” to worship—or not—according to each person’s conscience, so long as it didn’t interfere with other laws.

So even if you don’t believe in a higher power, you owe that religious freedom and separation of powers to Mary Dyer’s death, and the brilliance of the leaders of Rhode Island. June 1, 1660 is a day to celebrate her sacrifice and our blood-bought rights. 

What else happened on June 1 during the Dyers' and Hutchinsons' lifetimes? 

 Christy K Robinson is author of  ‘Mary Dyer Illuminated’ and ‘Mary Dyer For Such a Time as This;’ and the nonfiction ‘The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport.’ All three of the Dyer books tell the story of theocratic oppression, and the birth of democracy and religious liberty in colonial America. 


Christy K Robinson is author of these sites:  

and of these books:

·          We Shall Be Changed (2010)
·          Mary Dyer Illuminated (2013)
·          Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This (2014)
·          The Dyers of London, Boston, & Newport (2014)
·          Effigy Hunter (2015)
·          Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother (2018)