The Last Pilgrim

By Jack Sheedy

A bit late for Thanksgiving…

Pilgrim William Bradford kept a journal, later published as Of Plymouth Plantation, in which the Governor provided much information of interest about those early years and those brave souls who came across on the Mayflower. Additionally, he included references to the arrival of subsequent ships – the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and Little James in 1623.

Concerning those who arrived on the Mayflower, Bradford wrote, “Of these 100 persons which came over in this first ship together, the greater halfe dyed in the general mortality; and the most of them in 2, or three months time…of the old stock, of one and other, there are yet living this present year, 1650, nere 30 persons.”

Thirty years after their arrival some 30 Pilgrims were still alive, which makes sense since the “general mortality,” which killed half the Pilgrims during that first winter, saw children number near half the survivors come Spring 1621 when the Mayflower and its remaining crew set sail for England. By 1650, many of these Pilgrim children were now in their 30s and 40s.

Bradford, himself, died in 1657, yet in years following someone continued to make entries in his journal indicating those Pilgrims from the initial Mayflower crossing who were still living. For example:

“Twelfe persons liveing of the old stock this present yeare, 1679.”

“Two persons liveing that came over in the first shipe 1620, this present yeare, 1690. Resolved White and Mary Chusman {sic}.” Pilgrim John Cooke was also among the living, and was still alive as late as 1694 according to another entry.

And then, finally:

“Mary Cushman is still living, this present year, 1698.”

Born Mary Allerton in 1616, she made the Mayflower voyage with her parents, Isaac and Mary, and siblings Bartholomew and Remember. Her future husband, Thomas Cushman, arrived the next year aboard the Fortune. Married about the year 1635 or 36, Thomas and Mary Cushman raised a family and enjoyed more than fifty years together. Thomas died in 1691. Mary Cushman, who was a four-year-old child at the time of the Mayflower crossing, and who lived into her eighties, died in 1699. She was the last Pilgrim.

Jack Sheedy is the co-author of Cape Cod Collected and Cape Odd. 

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