Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chapter 43 - Our Cushman Ancestors

Robert Cushman, my 10th great grandfather, was born about 1577 in County Kent , England and he died of the plague in London in the spring of 1625. One of his best known descendants besides myself of course, was President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his 6th great grandson. It is believed that Robert Cushman was onboard the Mayflower when it departed from London in July of 1620 headed for America. He was also one of the most influential of the original "Pilgrims" living in Holland but because he was ultimately not onboard the Mayflower when it finally landed in America in early November of 1620, his name is mostly unknown alongside such famous Mayflower passengers as William Bradford and Myles Standish. The photo above displays two very important historical individuals. The man on the left is King James I, King of England during the period of the Pilgrims' emigration to America. The individual on the right is supposed to be our Robert Cushman who according to the description under the pictures was the man "who organized the Mayflower's voyage."  If this is accurate it would suggest that my great grandfather, Robert Cushman, might well deserve to be the subject of another chapter in this blog about the history of our family's ancestors.  So let us begin his story.

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)
Since the onset of Robert's apprenticeship with George Masters beginning around 1596 he had been living at the Masters' home located within the old walled city of Canterbury. The Masters' home and their business was located just south of the St. George the Martyr Church near the St George Gate in the central eastern part of the walled town. In 1596 the town was filthy by any standards. Just east of their home and outside the wall was the cattle market with the stench of cow shit permeating the air night and day. To their west were the slaughterhouses with dead meat hanging from poles and the blood of cattle and sheep everywhere. George Masters' tallow candles were made from the fat obtained from the nearby slaughtered cows. To offset this appalling setting were numerous parish churches where the local citizens could escape for a least for a brief period. While the Church of England and the English Crown determined how and when people worshipped, Canterbury differed slightly from other parts of England in that a fairly large portion of the population were French Protestants who had immigrated to England and Canterbury to escape persecution from the French Roman Catholics. These citizens were less inclined to follow the mandates of the church and crown and their behavior in this regard undoubtedly had an influence on some of the younger citizens of Canterbury like our Robert Cushman.

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.

Robert Cushman's name first appears in historical records in Leiden, Holland when he purchased a small house in October 1612 on a narrow alley street just off the Nonnensteeg that bordered the University of Leiden. The location of their home was very close to his soon-to-be Pilgrim compatriots and to the Pieterskerk (St Peter's), the church where the Pilgrim congregation worshipped and where many of them are buried including Robert's wife and my 10th great grandmother Sara Reader Cushman. We have to believe that it was no coincidence that Robert Cushman lived in close proximity to the other Pilgrims. Their escape from England in 1609 must have been a well known fact in England and the subsequent writings of the Pastor of the "Pilgrim Fathers," John Robinson, writing from Leiden wherein he justified their separation from the Church of England, would have become well known to Robert Cushman at his home in Canterbury. Whether Robert Cushman came over to Holland with the initial group of Pilgrims in 1609 or later in 1611 or 1612 is really of no consequence. What is really important is that he was quickly recognized as a leader and an organizer. He was educated and a man who could speak and write with clarity. He was also recognized as a man with a business acumen although jobs in Leiden were limited especially for English speaking immigrants and the best job that he could find was that of a "woolcomber", a cloth maker. Our great grandfather Robert Cushman was also somewhat older than many of the other Pilgrim leaders. For example, he was more than a decade older than William Bradford and Edward Winslow both of whom were only in their twenties when they arrived in Leiden. It is not surprising therefore, to learn that Robert Cushman soon became a deacon of their Leiden congregation.

Life in Leiden, Holland did not always bode well for the Cushman family. While Robert and Sara welcomed two new baby daughters to their family after moving to Leiden, both of their baby daughters died in 1616 as did their mother whose death was possibly related to the birth of their second daughter.  All three are believed to be buried under the Pieterskert Church. On a plaque on the exterior of the church it lists the names of many of the early Pilgrim residents who died before the Mayflower sailing including  "Robert Cushman's wife and children - 1616".  It does not come as a surprise that the quote on the plaque "But now we are all, in all places, strangers and pilgrims and sojourners . . ." is credited to our Robert Cushman.

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.

Robert Cushman and John Carter were in England until late November 1617 but after long and tedious negotiations with both The Virginia Company who had been appointed by the Crown to encourage and negotiate settlement terms for land on the James River in Virginia, as well as with one of the King's principal secretaries, they returned back to Leiden with an agreement but one that lacked specific language that allowed their congregation the religious freedom of worship. The terms of the agreement were quickly rejected by the Pilgrim leaders. In December of 1617, Robert Cushman and John Carter again returned to England with a letter from the Pilgrim leaders but the letter and their return visit again failed to gain acceptance by the English authorities of their specific requests relating to their freedom to worship as they chose. Unfortunately as time rolled on during the year 1618 the Leiden Congregation grew increasingly impatient with the lack of progress and with their life in Leiden, so in early 1619 they again sent our great grandfather, this time with William Brewster, back over to England. Final after many months of back and forth discussions they arrived at another agreement that was ultimately accepted by all parties.

Robert Cushman was not yet finished as there was much work yet to be done: how would they get to America and who would finance the trip. Fortunately for the Pilgrims, Robert Cushman was a skilled businessman and negotiator. He helped form a joint stock company that they called "The Merchant Adventurers" who then sold stock in the company to raise the necessary capital to pay for the trip. The incentive for buying the stock was the promise of future profits made from the sale of goods (like fur and fish) that would be shipped back to England by the new colonists for resale. In June of 1618 a vessel was obtained in Holland by the name of the "Speedwell" for the purpose of transporting the Pilgrims living in Leiden over to Southampton located on the southern coast of England.  In the meantime, our great grandfather, Thomas Cushman, hired a much larger ship than the Speedwell, by the name of the "Mayflower," that he then had sail from London over to Southampton to meet up with the Speedwell. The two ships loaded with passengers meet up in late July of 1620. On board these two ships were around 67 passengers from Leiden including Robert Cushman's wife and his son Thomas, and approximately 53 passengers from England most of whom were unrelated to the members of the Leiden Congregation.

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.

Robert Cushman heard nothing about his compatriots who had sailed to America until the Mayflower returned to England on May 6, 1621. Undoubtedly he was satisfied that the settlement had been a success despite the change in its location and the death of almost half of the passengers and many of the crew members during the harsh winter of 1620-1621. Nevertheless Robert worked hard to charter another voyage to the new colony by hiring another ship, the "Fortune," and by arranging to transport another thirty-five passengers including himself and his son Thomas (now age 14) to the Plymouth Colony. Apparently, although the records seem to be missing, Robert's second wife Mary must have died sometime before the voyage of the Fortune which sailed from London in early July of 1621. Weather delays resulted in the Fortune not arriving in Cape Cod and Plymouth Colony until early November of 1621 shortly following the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving feast that they shared with some of the local Indians.

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.

In 1635 Thomas Cushman married 20-year old Mary Allerton, daughter of Isaac and Mary Allerton all of whom had been passengers on the Mayflower. It would seem from all the historical records, that their life together was very wonderful. They were married for 56 years until Thomas' death in 1691 at the age of 83. Mary died eight years later in 1699 at the age of 83. Together they had eight children including my 8th great grandfather Isaac Cushman who was born in Plymouth in 1648. In the year 1649 Thomas Cushman was appointed to the office of Ruling Elder of the Church at Plymouth, a position that had become vacant by the death of William Brewster. Thomas held this venerable position for almost 43 years until his death. A review of Thomas Cushman's Will indicates that besides living a highly spiritual life he must have also lived a highly successful temporal life for he died a fairly wealthy man owning a considerable amount of land at the time of his death. Thomas Cushman and later his wife are both buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth in a prominent location overlooking the Plymouth Harbor. The 25 foot monument that was erected in 1858 in their honor and currently stands at their gravesites, is possibly the most conspicuous monument on Burial Hill.

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.

Isaac Cushman (1676-1727) the son of Isaac Cushman and Rebecca Harlow lived his entire life in Plympton, Massachusetts. He was a lieutenant in the militia, a selectman, a surveyor, and for 16 years the local town clerk. He married Mercy Bradford, great granddaughter of William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony and a Mayflower passenger. (See Chapter 14)

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.

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