Christopher Jones and the Voyage of the “Mayflower “

Some of you have heard me say previously that my 10th great-grandparents were John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of Pilgrim and the Mayflower fame. So, when I came across a piece about Christopher Jones, I, naturally, stopped to read more of the man who captained the ship which brought the Pilgrims to America.

Jones is believed to have been born in the seaside town of Harwich in 1570, and was the son of Christopher Jones Senior, who was also a mariner and ship owner. He lived at No. 21 Kings Head Street. He married Sara Twitt, his seventeen-year-old neighbor, in December 1593, but Sara died at the age of 27. Their son in 1596, at age three. They had no more children.

Thomas Twitt, Sara’s father, held expansive shipping interests. He left a small share of his ship Apollo to the couple upon his death. Christopher’s family and that of Sara combined their shipping interests.

Christopher Jones House in Harwich
the house in Harwich ~ Visitors tracing the history of the Mayflower to Harwich can look inside the home of the man who mastered and captained the Mayflower ship on that pioneering journey in 1620. Visitors to the historic town in Essex will be able to experience home life as it was back in the 1600s when the Captain’s home is opened as a tourist attraction for the 400th anniversary – subject to reaching an agreement with its owner. The house is being converted into a museum in time for the 2020 commemorations and a large part of it will be restored to its original features to give visitors a real taste of what it would have been like to live there. ~

Jones’s second wife was a widow at the young age of 19 when they married. Her name was Josian Gray. Her late husband, Richard Gray, and many of her relations had friends among mariners and among the Captains of the 1588 Armada fleet. Christopher and Josian had 8 children: Christopher, Thomas, Josian, John, Roger, another Christopher, Joane, and Grace.

Jones took the oath as freeman in 1601. He was named as a burgess of Harwich in a town charter granted by King James.

Later still, he built a 240-ton ship of his own, which he named Josain, to use for trading purposes. With the aid of his wife’s family in 1609, he became master and part owner of the Mayflower. The ship was chartered by various groups to travel from England to parts of Europe. This development had Jones moving his family to Rotherhithe on the Southbank of the River Thames so he might make his voyages. There is some speculation that he traded the Josain for a quarter share of the Mayflower. He profited heavily from the wine trade between Europe and England, bringing wines to his homeland from Spain, France, Portugal, etc.

In the summer of 1620, a group seeking religious freedom during the reign of King James I. “After two attempts to leave England and move to Holland, a Separatist group was finally relocated to Amsterdam where they stayed for about one year. From there the group moved to the town of Leiden, Holland, where they remained for about ten years, able to worship as they wished under lenient Dutch law. Fearing their children were losing their English heritage and religious beliefs, the resumption of war and their inability as non-citizens to find decent jobs, a small group from the Leiden church made plans to settle in Northern Virginia – as New England was known at the time. In August 1620 the group sailed for Southampton, England, where other English colonists who hoped to make a new life in America met them. They planned to make the crossing to America in two ships, the Speedwell and Mayflower. However, after many problems the Speedwell was forced to return to England where the group was reorganized. In their second attempt to cross the Atlantic, they boarded the Mayflower in September 1620 bound for the New World. They arrived as winter was settling in and endured significant hardships as they struggled to establish a successful colony at Plymouth.” [Pilgrim History]

Christopher Jones captained the Mayflower with 102 passengers onboard. They departed Plymouth on September 6, 1620, and suffered much on the Atlantic Ocean to land in what came to be called Plymouth Harbor on November 11, 1620. The Mayflower remained in America through the 1620-1621 winter, during which half the passengers and some of Jones’s crew died from a variety of diseases.

Jones departed America in April 1621, arriving in Rotherhithe on May 5, 1621. He returned to his trading voyages, but his health had been badly affected by the trans-Atlantic journeys. He died in early March 1622.

Christopher jones statue ~ A statue in the grounds of the church commemorates his role in the Mayflower story. It is represented in the guise of St Christopher, patron saint of travellers, holding a child. The adult is looking back towards the Old World and the child is looking towards the New World. The statue is by Jamie Sargeant and was unveiled in 1995 to mark the 375th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower. The plinth is in the form of a stylised boat, with sharp prow and rounded stern. Around the plinth is written: “To the memory of Christopher Jones 1570 – 1622, Master of the Mayflower. He landed 102 planters and adventurers at Plymouth Massachusetts 21 Dec 1620. They formed the Mayflower Compact & the first permanent colony in New England.”

About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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