I’m happy to welcome author Noelle Granger to the Power of 10 series. Today, Noelle shares interesting facts about Mary Allerton Cushman.
Many of you know I am writing a historical novel called The Last Pilgrim, about the life of Mary Allerton Cushman. She was the oldest survivor of the passengers on the Mayflower, who became known as the Old Comers. I have become truly lost in the history of the Pilgrims (not given this name until a very late and passing reference in William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647.) The Old Comers and many who followed were Separatists from the Church of England.
So here are some facts, of which there are very few as it turns out, about Mary.
She was born while the Separatists were living in Leiden, in 1616, daughter of Mary Norris and Isaac Allerton.
She sailed on the Mayflower with her parents, a sister named Remember, two years older, and a brother, Barthomew, eight years older.
Mary’s mother was pregnant aboard the Mayflower and gave birth to a stillborn son. She died, still aboard the Mayflower, in January of 1621, before suitable housing was built on the site of chosen for their settlement.
Bartholomew returned to England around 1630 and insofar as is known, Mary never saw him again.
Her father married to Fear Brewster, daughter of Elder Brewster, the religious leader of the colony, in 1627. Her half-sister, Sarah, daughter of Isaac and Fear, died as a child. Her half-brother Isaac graduated from Harvard.
Around 1636, she married Thomas Cushman, who had come to Plymouth in 1621 at the age of thirteen on the ship Fortune with father Robert Cushman. Robert Cushman was a prominent member of the Separatist congregation in Leiden.
Thomas and Mary had a prosperous family; seven of their eight children survived to adulthood and married.
She had at least fifty grandchildren!
Her husband, Thomas, took over the position of Elder of their church when Elder Brewster died.
She lived in the Plymouth Colony until her death in 1699, and was buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth. The site of her grave is unknown, but she is mentioned on the memorial erected to the Cushman family.
Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA
One side of the Cushman Memorial
Side of the Memorial mentioning Mary
This is basically most of what is known of Mary Allerton Cushman, with the exception of the names and dates of births, marriages and deaths of her children. I don’t know what she looked like, because there are only a few portraits, painted largely from imagination, of the colony’s male leaders. Thus I’ve had to create her from whole cloth, but I want her life set against the real background of everything that is known of the Plimoth Plantation history and life there. Much of this comes from Bradford’s book – how much poorer we would be without it, but it is hard to read and understand! I also glean from information provided by the Plimoth Plantation historical recreation in Plymouth. This venue is about four doors down from the house where I grew up and I was a tour guide there when it first opened. I also use records, online sources and other books. The latter two have to be vetted for their veracity, since there is a lot of misinformation floating around!
Statue of Elizabeth Tilley Howland, who came on the Mayflower at age 13. She had 88 grandchildren. The Pilgrim women were prolific. I played her in a Pilgrim’s Progress when I was a teen.
I recognize that women in the early colonial days were basically servants – did you know they were not allowed to speak in church except for singing psalms? – but you know they had thoughts, memories and opinions of their own, and I am trying to give life to them.
Wish me luck!
Where to find Noelle…