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About the Ship Mary and John

The ship that brought the first European settlers to Dorchester in June of 1630 was named the Mary and John. The same vessel or another of the same name was one of two that had carried a group of settlers from the West Country of England to the Maine coast in 1607 under the leadership of Captain George Popham. The colony constructed a fort for permanent protection, but the settlers were unprepared for the harsh winter.

They arrived with about 120 English colonists, who chose the mouth of the Sagadahoc River (now known as the Kennebec River) on a site known today as Sabino Head, Maine on August 13, 1607. The colonists were financially backed by Sir John Popham, Chief Justice of England, and led by his nephew George. They hoped to ship timber back to England, to find gold, silver, and other valuable minerals, and to establish a fur trade with the local Eastern Abanaki people. The Mary and John stayed until October 6, 1607 when it returned to Plymouth, England, arriving on December 1, 1607.

The colonists built an admiral's house, a chapel, a storehouse, a cooperage, and a guardhouse. They also built a 30-ton ship they named Virginia. The ship Gift of God remained at the settlement until December 16th when it too sailed for England, carrying nearly half the colonists with it with the purpose of conserving the outpost's supplies. The Popham Colony, England's first attempt at a New England settlement, didn't prosper.

During a harsh winter season, George Popham died on February 5th, 1608 and Raleigh Gilbert assumed leadership. In the late summer, two relief ships including the Mary and John arrived carrying supplies. Captain Robert Davies of the Mary and John also brought news that Raleigh Gilbert's brother Sir John Gilbert had also died leaving the colony's leader as his heir. Raleigh Gilbert elected to return to England, and the remainder of the colonists followed him aboard the Virginia and the Mary and John. In September or October 1608, after little more than a year, the colonists abandoned the colony.

"Contemporaneously with the sailing of the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, a party of emigrants embarked at Plymouth, Devon, in the ship Mary and John, on March 20th, bound for the same destination in Massachusetts Bay within the bounds of the territory of the Company headed by Winthrop. While not having any defined connection with the Winthrop Fleet, yet their destination presupposes a cooperative agreement and a common purpose. In his last letter to his wife, before leaving Southampton, Winthrop notes the departure of this vessel and her passengers, indicating his knowledge of their destination in the limits of the Massachusetts Bay Patent and by inference an approval of them as

The Mary and John was owned by Roger Ludlow, one of the assistants of the Massachusetts Bay Company, who sailed in her, as did Edward Rossiter, another Assistant, as leaders of this Company, and thus further confirmation is given to it as an integral, though separated,

The Reverend John White, Vicar of Dorchester, England, who has been generally and rightfully acclaimed as the sponsor of the earliest Massachusetts settlement (Plymouth excepted), was the inspiration of a movement which culminated in the gathering of nearly one hundred and fifty persons in the counties of Dorset, Somerset, and Devon and their agreement to emigrate in a body to Massachusetts whither he had sent other groups in the previous six years. ... In describing this Company he said that scarce a half-dozen of them were personally known to each other prior to their assembling at the place of embarkation in Plymouth. It may be assumed that these people, from many parishes scattered over three counties, were moved by the same urge to emigrate which animated those of the Winthrop Fleet, but it is safe to say that the tales of 'religious persecution' of these people was not a factor in their pilgrimage. The West Country was free from it. ...

The Mary and John made a good passage and arrived at Nantasket May 30th without casualty. These one hundred and forty passengers are generally known as the Dorchester Company, from the place chosen for their settlement, and as they remained a distinct body of colonists, and there are contemporary records to identify most of them, it has been possible to compile a tentative list of those who came on this pioneer ship. ..."


Banks, Charles Edward. The Winthrop Fleet of 1630. Boston, 1930. Photoreproduced by The Higginson Book Company. Appendix B: Passengers of the Mary and John in 1630.

See Also

Hansen, Ann Natalie. English origins of the "Mary & John" passengers. Columbus, OH: At the Sign of the Cock, 1985.

Kuhns, Maude Pinney. Mary and John. A story of the founding of Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1630. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1971.