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John White and Massachusetts

 John White sympathised with the struggles of the Puritans for freedom of worship. He was involved with the group that sailed on the Mayflower. In 1623 he personally organised a group that established a small trading post at Cape Anne.

 John White initially formed The Dorchester Company to organise and finance expeditions to the New World. He worked hard, making many trips to London, not easy in those days. An alliance was created between wealthy London merchants and West Country seamen.


 The Dorchester Company was transformed into the Massachusetts Bay Company with its own charter. The Massachusetts Bay Company was originally concerned with the fishing trade. When that failed, the Company turned to emigration and establishment of plantations. The Amity (1625/6) and the Abigail (1628) both sailed from Weymouth (near Dorchester, Dorset) to New England and set up a plantation at Salem in Massachusetts Bay. The Abigail carried John Endicott, the new Governor of the plantation. There is a memorial to the Abigail and John Endicott in Weymouth.


 The early planters were followed by the Great Migration. This started in March 1630. Under the Massachusetts Bay Company, a fleet of ships &endash; the Winthrop Fleet - sailed with the first large party of English people to settle in New England. On 20th March, the Mary and John set sail from Plymouth. Although not formally part of the Winthrop Fleet, she was known to the fleet and regarded as part of the same adventure. On June 1630 the emigrants in the Mary and John landed and founded the settlement of Dorchester, Massachusetts. The history of the early planters and the religious justification for emigration is described in 'The Planters Plea'. This small book was published in 1630 to coincide with the Winthrop Fleet and the Mary and John, and is generally ascribed to John White.

The Mary and John carried people from Dorset, Somerset and Devon personally recruited by John White. The passenger list is not known with any certainty. Recent research concludes that it is presumptuous to claim any greater accuracy than 50 to 70% and lists people in terms of 'certain or highly probably', 'probable' or 'possible'.


 The passengers of the Mary and John were, in fact, a church. This church had been set up on 20th March 1630, just before embarkation to the New World. The new colony therefore did not need to establish a church in the New World, it was a church from the outset! This is consistent with John White's view of the 'Godly town' that he was trying to establish in Dorchester, Dorset. But rather than take a town and turn it into a church, this was taking a church and turning it into a town.

 It is noteworthy that the Dorchester settlement was to be a different type of church to that established by the Pilgrim Fathers along the coast in Plymouth. The Dorchester Puritans saw themselves as reformers within the Church of England. The Plymouth brethren were separatists who had left the Church of England. Religious differences from England had been transported to New England.

 At least two modern churches in America trace their origins to the Puritans who crossed the Atlantic in 1630 in the Mary and John :


A somewhat larger and more famous institution in the Boston area also traces its roots to 1636 and the Puritans of the Boston area - Harvard University. The importance the Puritans put on education did not diminish when they crossed the Atlantic!

See a timeline of the main events in the emigration to the New World during John White's time.