Thinking of Going to America?

If you are thinking of making a long-term trip to America, especially New England, then eminent historian and CHAS speaker, Dr Doreen Rosman, can tell you what to pack. Well she could if you were travelling in about 1630. In a well attended lecture at St Paul’s Church on 13th March, Doreen explained the background to the famous voyage of the Mayflower to New England in 1620. The oldest passenger was Canterbury man, James Chilton, who sadly died at sea, but legend has it that his 13-year old daughter, Mary, was the first person to jump off the ship on to American soil at Plymouth Rock. Mary spent the rest of her life in America, as did the son, Thomas, of another Canterbury man, Robert Cushman (although Thomas made the crossing in 1621).

Doreen told the audience that in the 1630s a much greater wave of emigrants (over 20,000) also endured hardship and risked their lives to make similar crossings. But it seems these later travellers were not short of advice on what to pack. Documents surviving from this period advise people to pack a hogshead and two gallons of vinegar amongst many other food items. Various clothes, tools, muskets and other weapons and fishing gear are also specified as shown in the document below. Among the emigrants of 1630 was Edward Johnson (from St George’s parish in Canterbury), his wife Susan, and their 7 children (aged 2-14). Edward would settle at Woburn, Massachusetts and is credited with writing the first history of the region, “Wonder-working providence of Sions Saviour in New England”.

Finally, Doreen stated that these men who risked their own lives as well as those of their young families had deep religious convictions and saw the Church of England as only half-reformed. Other men with similar views stayed in Canterbury and other locations to try to reform the church from within. Comment – it has been said that a much greater number of citizens saw these people as extreme in their views and behaviour?

At the end of the lecture and many questions from the floor, CHAS Honorary President, the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Councillor Mrs Jean Butcher, spoke briefly and said how much she had enjoyed the talk.

Advice for Prospective Emigrants to New England