A Fictional Ocean Crossing
Based on historical facts concerning my Paternal Grandmother’s lineage.
by Douglas Bayliss
After an unsettling dark and stormy night, in South Hampton, England, William White gathered up his wife Sarah and son Resolved, and along with their 2 servants, hurried to the pier where a boat was waiting for them.
It was August in the year 1620 and they were at long last, after many delays and negotiations, about to board a ship known as the “Mayflower.” It would take them to the new world. America.
She was a beautiful sailing ship. Small only 100’ long but she had 4 masts and three levels, and they were so happy, after months of setbacks, to finally be setting sail.
They were happy for another reason too; Sarah was 6 months pregnant with their 2nd child. How exciting this must have been! What strong conviction and faith they must have possessed, to set out on such a journey!
It was a rough start. Their companionship, the Speedwell, kept taking on water and both ships would turn to dock. 1st at Dartmouth, where it took another 2 days for repairs and after setting sail, they had stopped again, this time in Plymouth England. The Speedwell was sold at auction and its passengers, the Separatists, later to be known as Purists, joined the London merchants aboard the Mayflower.
Mind you the Mayflower was a cargo ship not made to transport people. Holed up in the middle level. They crammed into space about 90’ long just 5 ½’ high. The space was made to hold crates and boxes. It must have been very uncomfortable.
Soon their voyage over the North Atlantic Ocean became fraught with danger and fear. Storm after storm-tossed the ship about and they lost their bearings.
One night in particular. Strong gale-force winds ripped across the decks of the Mayflower, causing its timbers to be badly shaken, the protective grout between the wooden planks crumbling away, thus allowing wave after crashing wave to spray the passengers with cold north Atlantic water. They lay wet and cold even their bunks. A crew member and one of the White’s servants were to perish.
How strong a woman Sarah White must have been to endure such seemingly insurmountable hardships -and with a baby due just weeks away!Tried as they might regaining their course for Hudson Bay proved impossible as the North Atlantic, especially at this time of year, was unforgiving.
They took refuge in Cape Cod Bay. it was November 1620.
They lived on the ship during the harsh New England winter while building their homes on the land. Taking row boats or wading through the shallow water 1.5 miles back and forth from ship to shore caused them to become very sick. Nearly half of passengers and crew died.
It was during this time William’s wife Sarah gave birth to another son, they named Peregrine White. Peregrine is from the Latin ‘peregrinus’ which means pilgrim. Peregrine’s father, William died in February 1621.
Sarah White with her new-born son Peregrine and her 5 yr old son Resolved, became the only surviving widow out of the many families that perished that 1st winter.
She married widower Edward Winslow, a Plymouth colony NOTABLE and had 5 more children. Peregrine also went on to become a person of note in the Plymouth colony active in both military and government affairs. He lived well into his 83rd year after building houses for his many children.
The ‘Boston Newsletter’ of Monday, July 31, 1704, gives the following obituary: “Marshfield, July, 22 Capt. Peregrine White of this town, Aged Eighty-three years, and Eight Months; died the 20th instant. He was vigorous and of a comely aspect to the last; Was the Son of Mr. William White and Susanna his Wife;’ born on board the Mayflower, Capt. Jones Commander, in Cape Cod Harbour. Altho’ he was in the former part of his Life extravagant, yet was much Reform’d in his last years; and died hopefully.”
Today, 35 million people are direct descendants of Mayflower passengers. I am one too; 5 generations ago my great, great, great grand mother’s maiden name was Aseneth Jane White, born 1826 in Pennsylvania.
Honored that I am a direct descendant of Peregrine White, the first child born to the pilgrims in the year 1620.