Tag Archives: Duxbury

52 Ancestors: #48 William Bassett Missed Thanksgiving

William Bassett 1600-1667

What an anti-climax!

I started this series on my Pilgrim Bassett ancestors to lead up to Thanksgiving.

But the “first comer”, William Bassett, my 9th Great Grandfather, totally missed the event we call the first Thanksgiving.

Plimouth Plantation

Modern reproduction village: Plimouth Plantation. Photo by Nancy, licensed under GNU Free license, Wikimedia

We have piles of information about William Bassett, and the offices he held in the communities of Plymouth, Duxbury and Bridgewater, because the Pilgrims, being partly a religious colony and partly a business arrangement, kept meticulous records. Today I will concentrate on his arrival in America.

We know with certainty that William arrived on the Fortune on November 9, 1621, and with probability that he was twenty years old, having been born in Middlesex, England in Stepney Green. The Fortune was an even smaller ship than the Mayflower.

Merchant Ship

17th century merchantman by User Musphot on Wikimedia Commons

It is not William’s fault that he missed what we think of as the first Thanksgiving, which was held well before we hold Thanksgiving toward the end of November. Rather, their three-day Thanksgiving feast was in early October. Not only that, but it was called a Harvest Festival–not a Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving was in 1623.

Whatever the party was called, it was not his fault that he was late, because he had originally set sail on the companion ship to the Mayflower, the Speedwell , which turned back to England because of structural problems.  It took a year for the financiers of the expedition to decide to send more settlers.

When they did outfit the Fortune, thirty-five people were aboard, picked for their likelihood of survival and their fitness for hard labor.  William was a blacksmith, a skill that probably was much needed in the new colony. He must also have had a strong sense of adventure to hang around for a year waiting for this ship and then to set sail under difficult circumstances.

He may already have been married  to his first wife Elizabeth (whose maiden name we do not know) when he arrived. If so, their honeymoon was a bummer. The information is murky.  Did Elizabeth and William marry in Holland? Did they perhaps marry in England after his first ship was turned back there in 1620? Did Elizabeth travel on the ship as a single woman? If so, did they marry in the colony?

We know  they were married by 1623 when they each received land. And in 1627 when the Pilgrims divided cattle based on family members, Elizabeth and William had two children, their namesakes Elizabeth and William.

Book Cover

Book Cover: Of Plymouth Plantation

In Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford writes about the arrival of the Fortune.  The original settlers from the Mayflower had been reduced almost in half by illness and injury to 53 from 102 , so they were eager to have reinforcements–both people and supplies. Other ships had brought messages and some goods from time to time, but this was the first to arrive with more people to join their tiny band. Unfortunately, the supplies did not show up–just more mouths to feed.

In November, about that time twelvemonth that themselves came (Note: Bradford means the original Pilgrims, himself included) there came a small ship to them unexpected or looked for in which came Mr. Cushman and with him, 35 persons to remain and live in the plantation; which did not a little rejoice them. And they, when they came ashore and found all well and saw plenty of victuals in every house, wer no less glad, for most of them were lusty young men, and many of them wild enough, who little considered whither or about what they went till they came into harbor at Cape Cod and there saw nothing but a naked and barren place…

Perhaps, given his history in the Plymouth colony, William was not quite as “lusty” and “wild” as Bradford is labeling these newcomers.  But they must have been a sad sight–dressed in rags, and unlike the Mayflower Pilgrims, not carrying supplies of food, seeds, blankets, clothing and utensils.

Pilgrim kettle

Standish kettle, artifact from the Pilgrim Hall Museum.

So they all landed; but there was not so much as a biscuitcake or any other victuals for them, neither had they any bedding but some sorry things they had in their cabins; nor pot, or pan to dress any meat in; nor overmany clothes. But there was sent over some Birching Lane suits*

*Birching Lane was a street in London where cheap, ready-made clothes were sold.

You can almost hear William Bradford sigh, as he looks at this irresponsible, ragged bunch. Note to my relatives–Bradford says the new guys were lower class, which is what I have always suspected of William Bassett.

The plantation was glad for this addition of strength but they could have wished that many of them had been of better class, and all of them better furnished with provisions. But that could not now be helped.

Perhaps Edward Winslow was thinking of the passengers on the Fortune, when he later wrote back to his fellow Leiden Pilgrims with a packing list for the trip.

As it turns out, as ragged and unprepared as he was (although I suspect he may have brought his blacksmith tools–the ones he willed to his younger son Joseph ( my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather), and as wild as some of his children were, William Bassett did very well in his life, building wealth in the new Colony to the point where he paid the 4th highest taxes by 1663.

In the long run, his contributions to Plymouth Colony and his hard work meant much more than missing one little celebration in his youth. Thanks, William. We’re glad you’re an ancestor.

How I Am Related

  •  My maternal grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson, was the daughter of
  • Hattie Stout Morgan, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan, the daughter of
  • William Bassett the son of
  • Samuel Bassett, the son of
  • William Bassett, Jr., the son of
  • William L. Bassett, the son of
  • William Bassett, the son of
  • Joseph Bassett, the son of, and Mary Lapham Bassett, the step-daughter of
  • William Bassett, the Pilgrim.

Notes on Research

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