The amount of research about the family histories of each of the Mayflower passengers and their supporters like our Robert Cushman is truly amazing although not always accurate. Robert is believed to be the son of Thomas and Elinor Couchman and there is a record of their son being baptized at Rolveden, County Kent on 9 February 1577/78. Their son Robert (Couchman) is also mentioned in his father's will dated 1585/86. Whether or not our Robert is a son of these individuals is hard to verify although it is interesting that Robert named his first son Thomas, possibly after his father. In December of 1597 there is a more reliable record of my grandfather, Robert Cushman, in the Parish of St. George the Martyr in Canterbury, County Kent. Canterbury is around 30 miles from Rolveden so Robert's move to Canterbury would not have been that unusual. The record also mentions that Robert was an apprentice of a man named George Masters who operated a grocery store and was a tallow candle maker. Based on the belief that Robert Cushman as the son of Thomas Couchman was born around 1577/78, a number of biographies concluded that he was 18-years old when he started his apprenticeship with George Masters in 1596/97 and if the apprenticeship lasted seven years, he then completed his training in 1603/04 at the age of around 26. Unfortunately this is probably not accurate since most apprenticeships during this period of history started at a much younger age, usually around 14, and younger if the parents were poor. Furthermore if Robert's father died back in 1585/86, it would seem very unlikely that his son's apprenticeship would have been delayed for a decade. If Robert was not eighteen in 1596/97 then it is very unlikely that he was the son of Thomas and Elinor Couchman. I guess we may never really know.
Robert Cushman grew up in a very interesting time in England and particularly in Canterbury in the late 16th and early 17th century. Religion during this period of history had a far greater influence than it has today and the English Crown pretty much determined how the majority of English citizens were required to worship. King Henry VIII in the year 1535 because the Roman Catholic pope had refused to condone his divorce and second marriage, removed the pope and appointed himself as the head of the Catholic Church in England. His son, Edward VI, was a Protestant and following his father's death in 1547 he basically locked up the Catholic bishops and declared all of England to be Protestant. Following Edward's death in 1553, the new Queen Mary I reversed her predecessor and demanded that all churches must once again worship as Catholics and she had many Protestants "burned at the stake." When Queen Elizabeth I assumed control of the English crown a few years later in 1558, she returned churches once again away from Catholicism. It was clearly understood at this point, that by law everyone was suppose to belong to the Church of England who in turn determined when and how everyone was expected to worship. During Elizabeth's reign however, she was fairly tolerant of the religious views of others and it was during this period in the late 1500s that the growth in the number of individuals wishing to reform the church by getting rid of many of the old Catholic rituals and superstitions rapidly increased. The many individuals wishing to change the church were called the Puritans and many of them lived in and around the Village of Canterbury, home of our Robert Cushman. It is not surprising therefore that a young and intelligent man like Robert Cushman was quickly caught up in this new movement to reform the church.
The Map of Old Canterbury: (Click to Enlarge)
Whether Robert Cushman was closer in age to fourteen or eighteen when he started his apprenticeship, it is obvious that the George Masters' family must have treated him like a son as Robert was highly educated as he reached adulthood and his leadership ability had obviously been advanced during the period of his apprenticeship. Furthermore he had clearly developed strong opinions about the frailties of the Church of England and he was apparently not afraid to express them. In 1603, Robert along with a group of his friends got themselves into trouble with the church for posting handwritten notices (written by Robert) on numerous church doors wherein they were critical of the church. One of these friends was Peter Masters, son of George Masters, Robert's employer, who apparently innocently turned Robert into authorities by revealing his name. Robert Cushman was immediately arrested and hauled before the Diocesan Court of High Commission where he and his friends were ordered to pay fines and were warned to conform. Robert and two of his friends were sentenced to a day in prison at Westgate, which was located over one of the gates leading into Canterbury (see the painting of Westgate above). According to historical documents the young men were sent to the prison for providing negative answers and probably arguing with their examiners.
Apparently our great grandfather Robert Cushman continued in his defiance of the church by failing to attend church services on a regular basis and on 16 January 1604 after again refusing to change his behavior, he was excommunicated. Perhaps he had second thoughts or he was strongly advised to quiet his behavior, for apparently he later acknowledged that he was wrong or at least he apologized, and he was absolved on 15 October 1604 and allowed to attend and again be a member of the church. Unfortunately Robert continued his "libels" against the church for he was once again excommunicated on 12 November 1604 but again he was granted a reprieve and his sentence was lifted on 7 July 1605. By 1605 Robert Cushman had completed his apprenticeship and he became a "freeman." At this point he continued in the grocery business but now he was finally in a position where he was being paid for his services.
Two of Robert Cushman's old friends and compatriots who shared with Robert his desire to change or leave the church, were brothers by the names of Thomas and Hilkiah (Helkias) Reader. On 31 July 1606, Robert married Sara Reader, the sister of Thomas and Hilkiah. Despite Robert's disagreements with the church, it would seem that he had no choice but to get married in one of the local parish churches, St. Alphege Church (see sketch), and then when his son Thomas was born in 1607/1608, their son was baptized in one of the local parish churches. The record of the baptism of Robert and Sara's child in 1607/08 is the last known record of the Cushman family in Canterbury before the family moved to Holland.
Some of the biographies on the life of Robert Cushman mention that he was one of the original founding members of a Puritan Congregation in Scrooby, England along with other Pilgrim leaders such as William Bradford and William Brewster who became organized as a group prior to their move to Holland in 1608. There is no evidence to support this belief that Robert was part of this group especially as Scrooby is around 200 miles north of Canterbury. We believe that Robert and Sara Cushman and their son Thomas moved to Holland possible as late as 1611 or early 1612 and that he was never part of the group of leaders who had originally organized the move to Holland. Undoubtedly one of the reasons that there are no historical records in England of Robert Cushman after 1607 is that the intolerance of religious dissenters like the more radical Puritans was quickly increasing and as a result Robert and his fellow Puritans had to keep their activities quiet. This was particularly true after the death of Queen Elizabeth I and the rise of her successor King James I in 1603. Eventually it became obvious to Robert Cushman as it did with many of the other Puritans who would eventually leave England, that there was no hope that the Church of England and the British Crown would change or that the Puritans would be allowed to worship in the manner that they pleased. This more radical group of Puritans who eventually departed England were later to be called the Separatists.
It was very common during this period of history for men and women who had lost their spouse to remarry soon after the death of their spouse so in June of 1617 we find that Robert Cushman married Mary Clarke Singleton, the recent widow of Thomas Cushman's friend Thomas Singleton. It is hard to believe that the marriage could have been much more than a marriage of convenience since shortly after their marriage, Robert Cushman along with Deacon John Carver were selected by their Leiden Congregation to go to London to negotiate for a charter allowing their group to relocate to America. While the English Separatist group living in Leiden, Holland had now grown to around 200 individuals, it seems that there was much discontent among them with life in Leiden. Not only were good paying jobs hard to find and total freedom to worship as they pleased not entirely what they had expected, but they were finding that the Dutch culture was overtaking their children. They were losing their own culture and identities. All of these issues combined left them wanting to move to a new location and moving to America as others had done to Virginia in 1607, seemed like the ideal solution to their problems. It was quite an honor for our great grandfather Robert Cushman to be appointed one of the two men to handle the negotiations and he and John Carter departed for England not long after Robert's marriage to his new wife who was undoubtedly left behind in Leiden along with his then 10-year old son Thomas.
On August 5, 1620 the two ships set sail for America. Onboard the Speedwell were Robert Cushman, his wife, and his son Thomas. Unfortunately, soon after leaving Southampton the Speedwell began leaking and the two ships were forced to sail into the port of Dartmouth on August 12th for the needed repairs. Finally by August 23rd the two ships again set out to sea but here again the Speedwell started leaking (some say it was being sabotaged by the ship's crew who did not want their ship to sail across the ocean), and the two ships once again returned to port, this time in Plymouth, England. At this point it was decided that the Speedwell should be abandoned. After a lot of confusion we suspect, it was agreed that around 100 of the original passengers on both ships would continue on to America on the Mayflower and the remainder, which included our Robert Cushman and his wife and son, a total of around twenty in all, would return to London on the Speedwell. There are some writings that suggest that Robert Cushman was sick and thus was forced to return to London and while this may be partially true, the majority opinion seems to suggest that because he was one of the major organizers of the voyage, he felt that there was more work yet to do in London with respect to the new colony's future business and thus he felt it was important that he stay in England. Finally on September 6, 1620 the Mayflower left England heading out into the open sea and to America.
It would appear that Robert may never have intended on staying in Plymouth despite his arduous and long voyage on the Fortune. His plan it would seem was to get the colonists to sign a new agreement with the Merchant Adventures that they had refused to sign before leaving for America the previous year. He was successful in this regard particularly because the Pilgrims had greatly softened their positions after the hardships that they had suffered over the past 12 months. They were also greatly in need of supplies from England and needed the help of their original investors. On December 12, 1621, our great grandfather, Robert Cushman, boarded the Fortune headed back to England. Quite surprisingly he left his young son, Thomas Cushman, who also was my 9th great grandfather, behind in Plymouth Colony in the care of the then Governor William Bradford (who also happens to be another of my great grandfathers.) It would appear that Robert Cushman probably intended to return to Plymouth Colony once his work was completed in England but he had determined that it was in his son's best interest to grow up with the other Pilgrims. Unfortunately as it turned out, Thomas' father never returned to America.
The Fortune landed back in England in February of 1622 and Robert Cushman again worked with both the Merchant Adventurers and the Pilgrims to their mutual advantage. He helped arrange for more members of the Leiden congregation to relocate to Plymouth Colony (the "Anne" and the "Little James" in 1623 and the "Charity" in 1624) as well as making sure that supplies were sent to the colonists and that furs and fish were sent back to the Merchant Adventurers for resale. Unfortunately, Robert Cushman died in 1625 before his job was completed and before he could return to Plymouth colony and "retire" with his son and his associates who undoubtedly held him in high esteem. There is no record of exactly when Robert died or where he is buried although it is believed that he died during the great plague which is said to have killed as many as 35,000 people in the London area in the year 1625. There is no question in my mind that without the tireless and unselfish acts of our Robert Cushman there might never have been a Plymouth Colony and a great part of our American history might never have taken place.
Thomas Cushman, Richard's son, was around seventeen when his father died and he had not seen his father for four years when he finally learned of his father's death. His mother had died when he was only eight so he had very few memories of her and his young life back in Leiden. He was now as of 1625 fully integrated into the Plymouth community and into the William Bradford family. It is somewhat surprising that William Bradford had agreed to watch over young 14-year old Thomas in the absence of his father despite the fact that Robert Cushman and William Bradford were close friends. Bradford was only thirty-two years old in 1621 and he was a widower as his wife had died only a year earlier having drowned after falling off the Mayflower into the ice cold waters of Cape Cod Bay. His only son John Bradford was only three years old in 1921. William Bradford had also recently assumed the role of governor of the New Plymouth Colony so he hardly seemed to be in a good position to assume the additional role as a guardian. Fortunately, based on what we know of Thomas' father, Robert Cushman, we have to believe that young Thomas Cushman was probably mature for his young age and already well educated. William Bradford married his second wife, a woman named Alice (Carpenter) Southworth, in August of 1623. Alice had two children by her first husband and together Alice and William Bradford had three children. Obviously our Thomas Cushman by the time he was a young adult and had become a "Freeman" in 1634 at the age of 26, he had grown up in a large family and he was undoubtedly thought of as the older brother. Thomas was obviously highly respected by his new family for when William Bradford died in 1657, Thomas Cushman was appointed the principal witness to his surrogate father's Will as well as being responsible for inventorying William Bradford's estate.
Isaac Cushman was the fifth child of Thomas and Mary Allerton Cushman and while he is not as well known as an historical figure like his father and grandfather, he did largely follow the patterns set by his forbearers both politically and spiritually. Thanks probably to his parents, Isaac is credited with being highly educated. In 1675 at the age of 27 Isaac married, although somewhat surprisingly there is confusion about the maiden name of his new bride. Most historians however, believe that his new wife was 21-year old Rebekah (Rebecca) Harlow. Together Isaac and Rebecca had six children including their oldest son and first child, Isaac Cushman, my 7th great grandfather who was born in Plymouth in 1676.
Until around 1695 Isaac and Rebecca and their children lived in Plymouth where Isaac was like most other residents a farmer. In 1685 he was honored by being elected as a Selectman in Plymouth and in June of 1690 and again in August of the same year he was elected a deputy to the general court as he was again in subsequent years until 1692 when Plymouth Colony was united politically with the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1694 Isaac was honored by being nominated as a church elder in Plymouth, however, rather than accepting the position, the family moved to nearby Plympton where Isaac accepted the position as the 1st Minister of the new Church of Plympton. He remained as the church minister for a period of 37 years until his death at the age of 84 in 1732. From what we have determined he was a very successful minister and he was loved and respected by all.
Their daughter Priscilla Cushman married Israel Holmes, great grandson of Mayflower passenger Edward Doty. They lived their entire lives in Plympton, Massachusetts. (See Chapter 42)
Priscilla Holmes, daughter of Israel and Priscilla Holmes married Ephraim Buell. They eventually moved to Ohio after the American Revolution but not before living in Ithaca, in central New York State.
Elizabeth Buell, daughter of Ephraim and Priscilla Buell, remained in Ithaca, New York after her parents moved to Ohio where in 1790 she married Silas Hutchinson, a Revolutionary War veteran from Connecticut.
Mosely Hutchinson, son of Silas and Elizabeth Hutchinson, was born in Ithaca and married Elizabeth Boardman Hall in Ithaca. They moved around 1825 to the Village of Cayuga, New York located at the north end of Cayuga Lake. (See Chapters 34 and 40)
Mary Rebecca Hutchinson, daughter of Mosely and Elizabeth Hutchinson was born in Ithaca although apparently at the onset of the Civil War she moved to southeastern Pennsylvania where she met and married David Dewees Ferree in 1860. Following David's early death in 1869, Mary returned to the Village of Cayuga with her two young children.
Eugene Hutchinson Ferree, son of David and Mary Ferree and my great grandfather, married Marian Coapman in 1890. Following his wife's early death in 1895 he moved with his three children to Lockport, New York where he started up a very successful leather business. (See Chapters 6 and 19)
Florence Adaline Ferree, daughter of Eugene and Marian Ferree and my grandmother, married my grandfather, Douglas Ross Patterson in Lockport, New York. My grandfather was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia but at an early age had moved to Lockport. (See Chapter 5)
Marian Coapman Patterson, daughter of Douglas and Florence Patterson and my mother, married my father Charles Asbury Baker in Lockport, New York in 1939. My father was born in Elmira, New York and met my mother while they were both students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. (See Chapter 10)
So ends my story of my Cushman ancestry.