|Thomas Willett biographical notes (3)|
“Of the passengers aboard the original Mayflower, only about 40 or so called themselves saints (religious dissidents who had cut all the ties to the Church of England which they regarded as hopelessly corrupt). The rest were strangers, as the saints called them; humble folk recruited to fill out the list. The strangers simply hoped to better their lot in the new world. Later
generations, influenced by seventeenth century romanticists, would lump them all together as Pilgrims” (Cooke, page 48).
[p. 3] Their supposed destination was “Northern Virginia,” an area which then included the Hudson River Valley. Instead they made a much more northern land fall. An attempt to sail around Cape Cod had nearly ended in disaster on the shoals off Montomoy [sic] Island. The story is that the storm rebutted them from a more southerly landing. However, according to Captain Thomas Willett, as he explained it in later years, the Mayflower’s captain had been brided [sic] by the Dutch in New Amsterdam to land the colonists well away from their Hudson River settlements. Captain Thomas Willett was eminently likely to have had access to this type of information, since he worked so closely with Bradford in Plymouth and the Dutch in New Amsterdam. However, a more plausible explanation is that the Green Gate Congregation never intended to land anywhere else. And, New England offered the certain welcome advantages of having no established political government, and no Anglican Church.
The story of the Pilgrims, is a separate story from that of our Thomas Willett. The Pilgrim era was closing in March, 1629, when Thomas Willett, sailed from Gravesend, England on the Mayflower with Captain William Pierce in command. This was not, however, the Mayflower of 1620 which took the original Pilgrims to Plymouth. In 1620, there were approximately 120 ships of English registry, and 20 of these were named Mayflower.
On board this second Mayflower were 35 passenger [sic] from Leyden, Holland, a portion of the Green Gate Congregation that included Isaac, Mercy, and Fear Robinson (Planters of the Commonwealth, page 35). What reason prompted young Thomas Willett to leave his family, parents and sisters, to settle in a “new world” is unknown. He most likely was encouraged by his father to start a new life away from the life of the exile in Holland. It was not that life was difficult here, or that persecution abounded. It was the exact opposite. The second generation English family was lossing [sic] its English identity. Dutch attitudes, life style, and language was [sic] replacing their English heritage. The elder dissenters were dying off, the congregation was growing smaller and was in danger of being assimilated by the Dutch. This was what motivated the Green Gate Congregation from Leyden to embark to a “new world” in search of a new life. Since Thomas was one of that congregation his reasons must have been the same.
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Updated Mar 2014
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