Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pilgrim Memorial Raises Questions

This stone memorializes Mayflower Pilgrims Dorothy Bradford,
James Chilton, Jasper Moore (should be More) and Edward Thompson.
Provincetown has several cemeteries, the oldest one lying between Winthrop and Court streets, where these two roads meet. Near the center of this old burial ground is a small white picket fence and a memorial to the four Mayflower Pilgrims who died while that famous ship was anchored in Provincetown Harbor during the late autumn of 1620.
The Pilgrims had arrived in the "New World" in November of 1620, anchoring for five weeks in what we now call Provincetown Harbor, after a miserable, stormy 66-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Many of them were quite ill from exposure to the elements and the lack of adequate nutrition during their arduous journey in search of a new land that they could truly call their own. Religious persecution had driven them from their homes in England and Holland, and they were eager to establish a new colony in the Virginia Territory, as the entire east coast of the United States was called at that time.
James Chilton, Jasper More (spelled correctly here) and Edward Thompson had survived the taxing journey among the 102 passengers crowded into the tiny ship, only to succumb to illness once they arrived, while Dorothy Bradford mysteriously drowned in Provincetown Harbor, under circumstances that were more than suspicious. Many over the years have wondered how she could survive the tempestuous journey across the ocean only to slip overboard and drown in calm waters.
One version of the story says that her body was never recovered, and rumors that she was murdered have persisted. She was, according to more rumors, not well liked by her fellow shipmates, having a rather abrasive personality. When I spoke to descendants of hers, they were unable to say exactly what had happened to their ancestor, though they had tried to find out themselves. They told me they had no proof, but thought that she had likely been the victim of foul play. In the family bible, it is recorded that her husband, William Bradford, the leader of the Pilgrims, married Dorothy's younger sister within a couple of weeks of his wife's death. No historic source I've found confirms this, but I'm still looking. And other scandalous stories are connected with this memorial. Stay tuned...

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