Mayflower, First Sickness and Cole's Hill Burial Ground

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Plymouth, Massachusettsmap
Surnames/tags: mayflower plymouth
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Cole's Hill Burial Ground Monument

The inscription tells the story:

"This monument marks the first burying ground in Plymouth of the Passengers of the Mayflower. Here under cover of darkness the Fast dwindling company laid their dead, leveling the earth above them lest the Indians should learn how many were the graves."

The First Sickness 1620 to 1621

One hundred two passengers sailed on the Mayflower. One died at sea and one was born, leaving the same number to land as sailed, but during the first year half the company died leaving just 52 persons to begin Plymouth Colony. Governor William Bradford in his journal refers to these deaths as during the first mortality, first sickness, first infection, and general sickness. His words tell of this sorrowful time and the compassionate care given by members of the company.[1]

"But that which was most sadd & lamentable was, that in 2. or 3. moneths time halfe of their company dyed, espetialy in Jan: & February, being ye depth of winter, and wanting houses & other comforts ; being infected with ye scurvie & other diseases, which this long vioage & their inacomodate condition had brought upon them ; so as ther dyed some times 2. or 3. of a day, in ye foresaid time ; that of 100. & odd persons, scarce 50. remained. And of these in ye time of most distres, ther was but 6. or 7. sound persons, who, to their great comendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night nor day, but with abundance of toyle and hazard of their owne health, fetched them woode, made them fires, drest them meat, made their beads, washed their lothsome cloaths, cloathed & uncloathed them ; in a word, did all ye homly & necessarie offices for them wch dainty & quesie stomacks cannot en dure to hear named ; and all this willingly & cherfully, without any grudging in ye least, shewing herein their true love unto their freinds & bretheren. A rare example & worthy to be remembred. Tow of these 7. were Mr. William Brewster, ther reverend Elder, & Myles Standish, ther Captein & military comander, unto whom my selfe, & many others, were much beholden in our low & sicke condition. And yet the Lord so upheld these persons, as in this generall calamity they were not at all infected either with sicknes, or lamnes. And what I have said of these, I may say of many others who dyed in this generall vissitation, & others yet living, that whilst they had health, yea, or any strength continuing, they were not wanting to any that had need of them. And I doute not but their recompence is with ye Lord."[1]

Six people died in December, eight in January, 17 in February and 13 in March for a total of forty-four. Another six died before the Fortune arrived in November of 1621.[2]

The accounting begins three days before the Mayflower arrived at Cape Cod.

6 Nov 1620: William "Butten" a youth, servant to Samuel Fuller, died at sea, the only passenger who died on the voyage. B[3][4]
4 Dec 1620: Edward Thomson, servant to Mr. White was the first to die after the Pilgrims arrival at Cape Cod.
6 Dec 1620: Jasper More a boy assigned to the care of Mr. Carver died
7 Dec 1620: Dorothy, the wife of William Bradford
8 Dec 1620 James Chilton died.[5]

The Mayflower arrived at a harbor in the cape. The place would officially be named Plymouth on Dec 31, but in the meantime two more died.[6]

21 Dec 1620: Richard Britterige, the first to die "in this harbor"
24 Dec 1620: Solomon Martin was the sixth and last to die in December.

The following three months January to March 1620/1 took a toll.

1 January 1620/1: The year began with the death of Degory Priest.[7]
8 January 8. Mr. Christopher Martin died.
29 January 29. Rose, the wife of Captain Standish died.
Five others died in January, a total of eight.
February 1620/1: A total of seventeen died including:
21 February: Mr. William White, Mr. William Mullins, with two more.
25 February: Mary Allerton, the wife of Mr. Isaac Allerton..
13 died in March including:
24 March Elizabeth, the wife of Mr. Edward Winslow died..

Bradford wrote: "The like disease fell also among the sailors, so as almost half of their company also die before they sail.[8]

"But the spring advancing it pleases God the mortality begins to cease, and the sick and lame recover, which puts new life into the people, though they had borne their sad affliction with as much patience as any could do."[8]

Early Passenger Deaths

Those that died before reaching Cape Cod:

Butten, William died at sea before reaching Plymouth
More, Jasper
Bradford, Dorothy (May) Fell off the ship and drowned.
Chilton, James
Thompson, Edward

Those that died in the first sickness:

Allerton, John
Allerton, Mary (Norris)
Britteridge, Richard
Carter, Robert
Carver, John
Carver, Katherine (White)(Leggatt)(wife)
Chilton, Wife (Unknown)
Clarke, Richard
Crackstone, John (Sr.)
Eaton, Sarah (Unknown)( wife of Francis)
English, Thomas
Fletcher, Moses
Fuller, Edward
Fuller, Wife
Goodman, John
Holbeck, William
Hooke, John
Langmore, John
Margesson, Edmund
Martin, Christopher
Martin, Marie (Prower)(Wife)
More, Elinora
More, Mary She is listed as Ellen's brother
Mullins, William
Mullins, Alice (wife of William Mullins).
Mullins, Joseph (son of William Mullins
Priest, Degory
Prower, Solomon
Rigsdale, John
Rigdale, Wife
Rogers, Thomas
Standish, Rose
Story, Elias
Tilley, Edward
Tilley, Agnes (Ann) (Cooper)
Tilley, John
Tilley, Joan (Hurst)(Rogers)
Tinker, Thomas
Tinker, Wife
Tinker, Son
Turner, John
Turner, Son
Turner, Son
White, William
Wilder, Roger
Williams, Thomas
Winslow, Elizabeth (Barker)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856)
  2. Prince, Thomas. A Chronological History of New-England: In the Form of Annals, Being a Summary and Exact Account of the Most Material Transactions and Occurrences Relating to this Country, in the Order of Time Wherein They Happened, from the Discovery of Capt. Gosnold, in 1602, to the Arrival of Governor Belcher, in 1730 : with an Introduction Containing a Brief Epitome of the Most Considerable Transactions and Events Abroad, from the Creation ... (originally published: Boston: 1736) ("A New Edition, Cummings, Hilliard, and Company, Jan 1826
  3. Prince uses various abbreviations, in italics. B Governor Bradford's History in manuscript; "bp" Governor Bradford's pocket - book , which contains a register of deaths, &c. from Nov. 6, 1620, to the end of March 1621; M Relation of the proceedings of the English plantation at Plymouth, in New England, published by G. Mourt. in 4to. London, 1622. (i.e. Mourt's Relations)
  4. Prince: p. 161
  5. Prince cites bp Bradford's pocket - book for items 4-8 Dec p. 165
  6. Prince cites bp Bradford's pocket - book for deaths the 21st and 24th p. 168
  7. Prince cites Bradford's Journal for the remaining deaths pp. 182, 184, 189
  8. 8.0 8.1 Prince p. 189 cites Bradford's Journal

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