Last night I mentioned to a neighbour of mine in Hemingford Abbots, Cambridgeshire that we were attending the Mayflower 400 Digital Workshop in Southampton and would be showing to the attendees the interactive digital map we had developed as part of the project.
The map shows the known birthplaces of the Mayflower passengers and some of the crew, their backgrounds and information on their lives in the USA and place of death (which was not always in the USA!)
As with any similar project a lot of background research was necessary to ensure we were as accurate as possible. Checking and cross-referencing multiple sources to establish details on the passengers and crew took some time.
Whilst doing the research we found out that one of the passengers was from a village only a few miles away from where I live in Cambridgeshire. John Howland was born in Fenstanton in 1592/3. He was initially an indentured servant and then assistant and secretary to John Carver who was a Deacon in the Separatists Church. John Carver survived the first winter when almost half of the passengers and crew died but in April 1621 he died followed shortly afterwards by his wife. John Howland became a freeman and probably inherited the estate and the responsibility for the other servants. In the 1624 land distribution John Howland was granted an acre for himself, and those who had been in the Carver household and who he was now considered head of the household for.
Over the next few years John Howland performed many key roles in the colony – assistant and deputy governor, highway inspector and fur trade committee member.
By 1626 John Howland was wealthy enough to be asked to become one of the people who would assume the colony’s debt to the London Merchant Company who had financed their passage on The Mayflower. They also received a 6 year contract as the sole supplier of furs. That helped guarantee the survival of the settlement.
A few years after John had sailed on The Mayflower his two brothers Henry and Arthur emigrated to America too.
The extra information my neighbour gave me was about the two trophies awarded every year at the Hemingfords’ Regatta. In 1958 an American had been visiting Fenstanton to find the graves of the parents of John Howland in Fenstanton Churchyard. They happened to visit the Hemingfords and saw the Regatta. As the book about the Regatta says:
‘These are named after a famous boat The Mayflower. Mr Lewis Gibbs of Philadelphia USA was researching his ancestry and came to Fenstanton where the father of John Howland, one of the Pilgrim Fathers, is buried. He chanced to see the Regatta in 1958 and was so charmed by it that he gave these trophies to be a link between the New and the Old Worlds.’
The Regatta itself is the oldest such event in the UK. It is happening again this year on 8th July. A book about the history of the Regatta was published on its Centenary in 2001. Details can be obtained from mailbox(@)hemingfordsregatta.org.uk (email abridged to avoid spam).