|The Mayflower Voyage
How many people came over with you on the Mayflower? Were they all members of the same church?
Of the Mayflower's 102 passengers, about half were members of our Church. Some of the others were much in sympathy with us. But they were members of the Church of England, whose bishops had condemned us. Some of them have been opposite and untoward.
Were you scared when you first set foot on the Mayflower?
No, I had been to sea on other ships twice — back and forth to Holland. The Mayflower was a larger ship, and she was a good one. We had confidence in her.
What was the worst part of the ocean journey on the Mayflower?
For me, it was the dampness and the darkness of the ship — and the frightening Atlantic storms.
Were there any bad storms during your trip over?
Yes. One so bad that a chief timber of the ship suddenly cracked. The sailors were afraid the ship might break apart. But it was successfully mended, and the storm abated.
How did you feel when you first saw land from the Mayflower?
I couldn't believe how filled with trees the land was! After living for many years in Holland, where there are no trees, it was amazing to me.
Did all the men on the Mayflower sign the Mayflower Compact? Did any women sign?
All of the adult men signed, but no women signed the document because women don't have legal powers.
How old were the children that worked on the Mayflower?
There was a cabin boy, but other than that, children did not work on the Mayflower. The children were passengers, and their job was to stay out of the sailors' way. All of the sailors were grown men.
Why did your family travel to America on the Mayflower?
We traveled to America because my father wanted a better life for his family. It was very difficult living in England. We had some difficulties with our church. As well, father was greatly cheered by the opportunity to own his own land in New England.
Was it hard to leave England? Do you miss your friends?
Oh, I miss England every day! It is so hard living in this wilderness. There is nothing but trees and trees and trees. When I lived in England, I could see rolling farmland and fields. There are no horses here. And our barley does not grow well. I do not think we will be able to brew any beer. We don't even have cows! At home we had all of these things.
Who were your friends on the Mayflower?
I did not know anyone on the ship except my family. My brother Joseph and I would keep each other entertained. We would also find amusement with our father's servant, Robert. We would tell riddles and sing songs. I also tried to help the mothers and children that were on the ship. Poor goodwife Hopkins gave birth to a baby boy during the voyage!
How did you feel when you first saw land from the Mayflower?
I was VERY glad to see land, even though it was a wild and barren wilderness. When we first got off the ship, out on Cape Cod, we women went out to do the wash. Everything was so filthy and stinking! I was looking forward to having some fresh food. I was very tired of eating salted pork, ship biscuits, and peas pottage.
What kind of games did the children play on the Mayflower?
It was very, very dark on the Mayflower. So we could not play with our ball and cup, our marbles, or much else. I did see some of the girls with their poppets. We were so seasick, many of us just slept. We often did sing, though, and tell stories. You could always do that in the dark!
We read that only men signed the MayflowerCompact. What did you think of that?
Well, my father was the head of the household. It was his responsibility to look after the needs of the family. It was good that he signed the agreement. My mother married my father because of his good judgment. You do not want to marry a foolish man because it is his place to make the decisions for the family. That is the order that God put upon this earth and that is what we must uphold — otherwise we will fall into chaos. Women are cold and wet. Their brains are not as hot and dry as man's.
What kind of food did you eat on the Mayflower?
It was all fair wretched. Salted fish, dried cow's tongue, oatmeal, ship's biscuit.
What does the Mayflower look like inside?
It was a middling size merchant ship, a barque I think Master Jones called it. It was brightly colored, as all merchant ships are.
Why are merchant ships bright colors?
I know not exactly, but I would expect so that their owners can see them far into the harbor before they come into shore.
Did anything humorous happen during the voyage?
Besides me falling overboard? It was all pretty frightening, although we tried to keep our spirits up as best we could
How did it feel to fall off the Mayflower? How long did it take you to get back in the Mayflower after you fell off?
I was frightened beyond my wits. I'spect, it was a quarter of an hour although I lost account of the time. I know not in truth, I was only glad that God spared me.
Was there fighting on the Mayflower?
I think the greatest brabble us passengers had was not betwixt ourselves but with the sailors on board.
Who was the captain of the ship and what was he like?
A captain is a military man. But the master of the ship, it being a merchant ship, was named Master Christopher Jones. That he kept the ship through the winter 'til we had houses, that he gave us some of his crews' beer when we had run out, made me think he was a true Christian man.
Was it hard living on the Mayflower?
We lived on the lower deck, a place normally for cargo on a ship. It is cramped and dark and damp. And the ship is near always pitching forth. You find many people tossing their bellies [being seasick].
Why did you sail to America? What made you want to want to go to America?
I was hired to work as a cooper on a ship called Mayflower; a cooper is someone on land who builds barrels and casks. At sea a cooper mostly fixes or maintains them. I did not voyage to the New World intending to remain there. I had thought I would be returning to England.
Why did your family travel to America on the Mayflower?
My husband was one that wanted to own land. But we also came that we might bring religion to the nation. The Indians are not Protestants, though they have Gods that they worship. It was important for us to bring them news of our religion. As for land, common men of England find it harder to own land [in England] in these times.
Was it hard to leave England?
Indeed, very hard. I had lived all my life in London, and I had not thought when I married Stephen Hopkins that he would bring our family to such an outlandish place. I was used to markets, and mills, and all the conveniences of city life. There are none of these things in the New World, and it has proven very hard for English housewives.
Did everyone on the Mayflower get along?
I think it would be very surprising if one hundred people on so long a voyage did not have spots of trouble here and there. My husband and I are not part of the congregation from Holland, so we are a little apart from the rest. Those who lived in Holland -- that is about half of the passengers on the ship — have known each other for many years.
Indeed, my husband and I are strangers to them. One of our neighbors, John Billington, has already had some trouble here in this town. His sons did cause much trouble for nearly blowing apart the Mayflower. One of his sons, Francis, got hold of his father's musket and did fire a blank charge out of it. It would have made a loud noise, which is what Francis wanted, I think, but it was very close to a cask of gunpowder. No one was hurt, and no harm came of it, but this was one of the more disagreeable events on our voyage.
Were there any doctors on the Mayflower to help you deliver your baby?
A very good question. There were no doctors, for it is uncommon for common people to go to doctors. There was on board ship a surgeon for the Mayflower crew named Giles Heald. And the people who came from Holland had amongst them a man named Samuel Fuller who had good skill at medicine. He gave much comfort. When women give [have] children, they do not want the comfort of a surgeon, but the comfort of a midwife. There was no midwife on board, but there were other women who had had children. They were of the greatest help to me. I did very much miss having my sisters and my mother by my side, for they had been at the birth of my daughter, Damaris.
Did other women help you take care of the baby?
Indeed. Mostly I have help from my stepdaughter, Constance. She is twelve years of age and is delighted to help take care of her new little brother.
How was it giving birth on the Mayflower compared to giving birth in England?
I had never given birth in a rocking bed before. And when you have a baby on land, you can make the chamber warm and you can be with just the women in your family. The ship was crowded, cold, and of little comfort. I think this is why my baby is weak. I pray I never have another child on a ship. I hope none of you were born on ships!
What did you bring with you on the Mayflower?
You have to bring a great deal of things. In London, there are lists of the goods needed to come to the New World with you. So my husband and I looked carefully to these lists and decided what amongst our goods we could bring, what we could buy, and what we might sell of our other goods in order to buy the things necessary.
As there are no markets in the New World, you must consider well what is needed. With me I brought seeds for planting my kitchen garden, all my hearth furniture — pots and kettles. We brought warm clothes and shoes and many tools that will enable us to build houses, hunt, fish, and work in the fields and gardens. My husband is worried, for he fears that we may not have the proper stuff for fishing.
What did you eat aboard the Mayflower?
It was very much like the food we eat in winter. Many salted meats, powdered fish, pork, and beef. We also have dried foods that are easily stored, like peas and oats. The bread that we eat is very hard, and is called ship's biscuit. I will be very glad when I do not have to eat that anymore! In addition to the food that we had for our voyage, we brought a great deal of food to last us until our first harvest.
What kinds of things did you do for fun while on the ship?
My children entertained me and themselves with singing, telling riddles, and playing games. My little girl has a rag poppet (a rag baby) that she plays with.
Where did you sleep on the Mayflower?
In the 'tween decks of the ship, where the goods are usually kept. My husband had a carpenter build us a little cabin, and so we had a bed there.
How did you hold religious ceremonies or worship services on the Mayflower?
We did not have the same sort of church I was used to in England. But there is aboard one man who is a leader of the Church from Holland, Elder William Brewster. Upon the Sabbath, he led us in prayer and singing. Although I am not of their Church, this gives me much comfort.
Were you able to go on the main deck?
When we could, it was encouraged. People suffer from scurvy on the ship. We exercised our limbs as much as possible. It was harder for me to go above deck since I was great with child and had trouble going to and from.
What was it like for women on the Mayflower?
For everyone it was difficult, because there was nothing to do. We were used to working for our livings, but on the ship we were just crowded together waiting.
When you came to the New World, what did you bring with you, and why?
Well first, I came with my husband and sons. We brought tools that we would need for building and farming, and muskets for defense and hunting.
As a mother, what did you find was the most trying aspect of moving to the New World for your children?
Most uncomfortable. Aboard the ship, because there was little to do, it was difficult to keep them out of trouble. Once we were here, I feared the wild animals and the woods. In truth, my oldest son was lost for a time and was recovered by Indians.
I heard your sons nearly blew up the Mayflower. Is that true?
They did get into a bit of trouble with some squibs — that is gunpowder. But they were discovered before there was a great fire. So no, they did not nearly blow us up.
Elizabeth and Damaris Hopkins
Student: Can you please tell me what types and amounts of cargo were on board the Mayflower?
Plimoth Plantation: For a ship as famous as Mayflower has become, you would be surprised at how little is known about her. Historians do not know precisely what she carried or how much of it, but we can make some educated guesses about food supplies and tools necessary to build a houses and plant crops.
Elizabeth: We brought householdment with us - pots and kettles, bedding, clothing. And the company provisioned the ship with food as dried peas and butter, muskets, swords, and guns to defend our town, mattocks and spades to turn the ground, saws and axes for timbering.
Student: What are four foods eaten by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower??
Goodwife Hopkins: Good day Sammy - aboard ship we ate ship's biscuit which is a sort of hard bread. We ate poor john, what is salted fish, with mustard sauce and dried peas well boiled.
Student: I was curious about what cities the Pilgrims came from in England? Were there any that came from outside of England?
Plimoth Plantation: Some Mayflower passengers came from London. A number came from towns in the North Midlands like Scrooby & Sturton le Steeple. Others from villages in East Anglia such as Redenhall. There was a servant from Fen Stanton, Huntingdonshire and a family from Henlow in Bedfordshire. As well as many other towns and villages. Some of the children aboard were born in Leiden, Holland although their parents were English.
Elizabeth: Stephen and I were married in London. Several others, John Billington and his family, Richard Warren also dwelt in London before boarding the ship. Many of the others are strangers to me, I know not from whence they came but from near all over England methinks.
Student: How many people were on board the Mayflower? What was the work that people had to do?
Elizabeth: We were about a hundred passengers aboard the ship and crew besides.
Damaris: I help Mother in the kitchen garden and setting corn in the fields and weeding it and scaring the birds from it. I pound the corn for flour and gather kindling for the fire. On a sunny day I help her lay out the laundry to dry and I mind the baby and so many things
Student: Did they get sick on the voyage?
Damaris: Most were seasick in the usual way but I was not troubled by it.
Student: How long did you sail for?
Elizabeth: Mayflower left Plymouth England on September 6, 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod in the midst of November.
Student: Where was the Mayflower built?
Elizabeth: I know not where the ship was built in England but was hired in London.
Plimoth Plantation: Mayflower II was built in Brixham, England in 1955. She sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1957 where she remains open to the public.
Student: When did the Mayflower come back to England?
Elizabeth: Mayflower left New England at the first of April last past. I know not if she hath arrived safely or no.
Plimoth Plantation: The original Mayflower did arrive safely back in England in 1621.
Student: How many women were on the Mayflower?
Plimoth Plantation: There were between 18 and 20 women above the age of 16 plus another 6 or 8 girls.
Student: What did the shipmaster do?
Elizabeth: The ship's master ordered his crew and commanded his ship. After we had arrived here he showed us some kindness in bestowing beer upon the sick now and then keeping his ship here until we were recovered of our sickness.
Student: Is it true that the Pilgrims ate in the dark on the Mayflower so they would not see the bugs on their food?
Elizabeth: How could there be any light between the decks of the ship where we dwelt? It was most always dark no matter what we were about.
Student: What exactly is the Mayflower compact and why is it an important document even today?
Plimoth Plantation: On November 11, 1620, before they came ashore on Cape Cod, the Mayflower passengers made an agreement to join together as a “civil body politic.” They also agreed to submit to the government which would be chosen by common consent, and to obey all laws made for the common good of the colony.
The agreement (first called the Mayflower Compact in 1793) didn’t get much official attention until after the American Revolution. Politicians struggling to establish the government of the newly-created United States looked to the early Plymouth colonists for precedent. The Loyalists who supported peace with England pointed to their loyalty to King James and the laws of England. Pro-revolutionists saw the document as an example of pure democracy. John Quincy Adams, described the agreement in 1802 as “the only instance in human history of that positive, original social compact,” which many believed to be the only legitimate source for government. Adams’ view won out, and the Mayflower Compact has been viewed since as a cornerstone of American democracy.
Student: Were there any doctors on board the ship?
Elizabeth: There was a surgeon of the name of Gyles Heale. He carried drugs and strong waters to keep the crew in health. Among the passengers was Samuel Fuller, the deacon of the church, who is also a surgeon. He has cured some of scurvy.
Plimoth Plantation: When Elizabeth Hopkins speaks of surgeons she does not mean the same thing we mean today. In the 1600s surgeons were tradesmen like butchers and barbers. They were not university-educated doctors