Bartholomew, and Remember Allerton were born, respectively, in 1612 and 1614 in Leyden, the Netherlands (Holland). They were brother and sister. Their parents were Isaac (born in 1586) and Mary Norris Allerton who died on 25 Feb. 1621.
It is now a month or so after the harvest festival (what we call "The First Thanksgiving") of the year 1621. They, and their little sister Mary who was born in 1616, also in Leiden, have lived through the 66 day voyage and the terrible first winter in New England during which time half of those who came on the ship died. They were accompanied by their English friends who have also lived in Leyden.
They would like to hear from you.
Because their father is an Assistant to the Plymouth Colony governor William Bradford, he is a very busy man and because Bartholomew can not yet write, Papa Allerton writes the answers to the letters that Bartholomew receives from you. Writing paper is expensive and scarce and, there being no shops yet in the Colony, paper, like all supplies, must come from England by ship. No ship has arrived in Plymouth up to this point. The Mayflower returned to England in April of this year. So please try not to ask the same questions that have been already answered below. Please also don't ask Bartholomew about the death of his mother and his baby brother that was born on the "Mayflower" and died shortly afterwards. As you can imagine, those questions make him very sad. Also, just like you, he can not see into the the future.
Isaac Allerton's story can be found in our Pilgrim biographies. He died in New Haven, CT, in February 1659. Mary Allerton, a daughter of Isaac and Mary Norris Allerton, married Thomas Cushman who came on the ship “Fortune” in 1621. He became a ward of Governor Bradford. When he became a man, he succeeded William Brewster as Ruling Elder of the Plymouth Church. Cushman died in 1691. His wife, Mary Allerton, died in 1699, and was, indeed, the last survivor of the 1620 “Mayflower” voyage. You can read about these folks in Eugene Aubrey Stratton’s “Plymouth Colony – Its History & people 1620-1691. A children's book, “Three Young Pilgrims” by Cheryl Harness, tells the story of Bartholomew, Mary, and Remember Allerton. You can purchase the books through the Plimoth Plantation Website.
2nd June 1620
Dear Quill driver —
My name is Bartholomew Allerton. I am eight. I have two younger sisters. Their names are Remember and Mary. Remember is six and Mary is four.
Father has told us that we are going to the New world. All our English friends here in Leyden will go too.
We must all first take a ship to England where there will be another ship to sail with us.
The two ships will be crowded. On board will be our apparrell, victualls, household implements, Tooles, a few Animals and parts of a Boat called a shallop that Father and others will assemble when we get there.
Everything and us will be ‘Tween Decks.
Father says that where we are going in Northern Virginia, there are no shops to buy things in. Even no houses waiting for us! All we will have is what they bring or what we can find in the forest or sea. I am frightened to leave Leyden. I have not yet seen the sea.
Father says that we may only take one small toy or special possession. I do not want to leave all my toys behind. Remember does not either. Mary is too young to know.
If you were going with us, what would you take?
Please write us and tell us. Would you be scared also? Father says that he will help us answer your letters —(he wrote this – what we told him- for us) but I can sign my name.
Hi Bartholomew, my name is Nick. I am in the 4th grade and I am doing a report on you for my Thanksgiving project. I just have a few questions for you: I have to dress like you, what kind of clothes do you wear? What was Thanksgiving like for you?
Dear Friend Nicholas -
Thee has asked about mine clothing. I dress same as other boys. Everything is alike my father Isaac doth wear. I assume it is just like thine but in ye case that it be not, I shall describe it for thee.
When I arise at first light, I am wearing my shirt with its long sleeves. I pull on mine long woolen stockings that come above mine knees and tie them with garters or ribbons at their tops - not so tightly that it marks mine legs. Next I put on mine woolen breeches that come to mine knees. I tie them at the knee with the strings that they have. Next I put on mine doublet or jacket and button it. It too is woolen. In the summer thee gets used to the itch of the wool on thy skin. The collar of my shirt is worn outside the doublet. Some of my doublets (perhaps the calls them jackets) have sleeves that come to mine wrists whilst others may be with short sleeves. At mine waist I tie the points or strings that attach mine breeches or trousers to the doublet. Mother helps me with ye back points. I then put on ye shoes and tie their ribbons. I often wear a cap in of doors and out of doors. If there be rain or hot sun I might wear a hat instead of a cap. In the cold I wear a sleeveless cloak.
When we left England for the New World, fathers were advised to provide for each man and boy one cap, 3 falling bands (a loose white collar to be worn over the doublet), 3 shirts, one waiste-coate or doublet, and 3 complete suits (1 of Canvas, 1 of Freize or wool, and 1 of cotton), 3 pair of Irish stockings, 4 pair of shoes, 1 pair of garters, 1 dozen points. In all likelyhood there would few shops for purchase of supplies of any sort.
When our ship May-Flower made land fall, we found that we were not where we should have been in Northern Virginia, but well north at Cape Cod. There were no towns, nay, anyone to greet us. Ye nearest were the Dutch to the South on ye Hudson River. There was no way to get more clothing. Ye next ship to arrive, ye Fortune, brought no supplies of any sort - only 35 more people. As we grew, mothers had to adjust and patch our clothing or we would wear outgrown clothing of other children. Although other ships came with more people to feed and shelter, it would be two years before supplies began to arrive.
The celebration of our first harvest in September of 1621 was great fun! Ye Indian king Massasoit came with about 90 Indians whilst we, men women and children, numbered only 50 or so. We feasted on waterfowl, turkeys, venison and fish. There were games and my father joined our other men in shooting competition. Ye celebration lasted 3 days!
I ask thee what is "Tennessee"? I know not of such place. I have heard tell of ye sport tennis that King Henry VIII did play. Is thy place named for that?
Hello, I certainly hope you and your family have a jolly time on the Mayfoure. I have a riddle for you: Joy's parents had four children, Spring, Autumn, and Winter; what is the other child's name? Are you at all excited about your journey? I would be very excited if I were you. I hear if you get a chance to be on the top deck of the boat you may see dolphins and other fishes swimming around and jumping out of the water below. How did your sister, Remember, get her name? Was it a family name? Please write back soon!
I fear that the voyage will not be jolly. Even though we should arrive in Virginia prior to summer’s end, Father says that it may take two to three fortnights to complete due to sea and wind condition and the sailors do not abide passengers often above deck. I hope that my playmates Love and Wrestling Brewster and their older sisters Patience and Fear will be in the same ship with me. We often speak Dutch together and our parents then often know not what we say. To answer your riddle, it be Joy. The four children be Joy, Spring, Autumn and Winter. Amazed be I as I have not heard of the seasons also being names of people. Did you make them up or knowst people with those names?
I have asked Father your question about sister Remember’s name. He says that we do not talk of his family in England. He never talks of them and I know not my Grans’ names or if they be living or dead. Perhaps they thought ill of his illegal and nonconformist faith. Father came to Holland before my birth with the other members of our faith and here married Mother. Mother was of Newbury, England.
Did you not write before of your poppet Naomi?
Pleased to be called your friend,
When did your sister Mary die? We heard she was the last passenger from the Mayflower to die. We know your mother died the first winter, but when did your father die?
How much did you eat at the first Thanksgiving? Did you have soup? What was your favorite food? Thanks for answering our questions.
Mrs. Ostman's 2nd grade
Churchill Elementary School
Dear Mistress Ostman’s 2nd grade,
You ask very troubling questions of me. I am eight years of age. Father is alive and, he tells me, 34 years of age.. Sister Mary is younger than I and very lively and sometimes I am greatly vexed by her.
A youth by the name of Kyle who lives on the Spanish Main wrote to ask me the same question about my favorite food some time ago. It is rabbit pie. Do you also like rabbit pie?
We give thanks to the Lord daily when we break fast.
My name is Kyle and I live in Bangor, Maine. I am nine years old and am homeschooled. I am doing a report on the pilgrims and the native Americans for a first grade class at Fruit Street school. I would like to ask you a couple questions. I have to do chores at home, what kind of chores do you do and how often? My favorite food is pizza, a flattened dough covered with tomato sauce and cheese then baked, what is yours? When you leave on your voyage will you and your family have to stay on the lower deck at all times, or will you be able to walk about? I think you will like your new world!
Good luck on your trip and bon voyage!
Your new friend,
Kyle from Maine
Dear new friend Kyle,
Thank you for your letter of 18 October. I think that you made a mistake with the year. In Leiden, Holland, the year is still 1620. Do you live on the Spanish Main? How exciting!
Most interesting that you are doing a report on pilgrims. I have heard of pilgrims making their religious pilgrimages to various holy sites here in Europe. Some come to our Vrouwekerk. That is Dutch. In English it is Church of our Lady. I can speak Dutch better than Father and Mother. That is one reason they want to leave Holland.
I'm not sure what "native Americans" are or why you would be studying them and the religious together. Father says that you may be referring to the fierce naked savages that roam about the New World. I certainly hope I never meet up with one! The only savages here, Father says, are the Spanish troops. He says that he saw one in London that had been taken by one of the fishing ships.
Mother has me carry yesterday's cold ashes from the fire out of the house every morning. I then build the fire so she can prepare the meal to break fast. Sometimes I have to help her carry the clothing to the river where she washes it. Mostly I keep an eye on my sisters Remember and Mary.
My favorite food is rabbit pie but we don't get it very often.
I asked father about how we will live aboard the two ships. A ship called the "Speedwell" has been purchased to take all from Leiden to England where we are to meet the second ship. Some will stay in the "Speedwell" for the trip and some will transfer to the second ship. I don't know its name. Father says that whilst in England we will be adding some people who are not of our church. He doubts that we will be allowed above deck very often on voyage. Sailors do not abide passengers. I hope it doesn't take more than five weeks to complete. Once we get to northern Virginia, the second ship will return to England.
Do you like riddles? I fear that we children will be making up many on the voyage. Knowst this one? What is it that lives as long as it eats, but dies when it drinks?
Your friend in Holland,
Oh, the answer to the riddle: Fire. A burning fire consumes, but dies when doused with water!
Hello. My name is Zack. I am 10 and a half years old. I am in homeschooling, learning about 5th grade. How are you doing? If I were you, I'd watch out for Indians in the forests. You can never tell when an Indian is hiding with bow and arrow at the ready in the trees. If I were to bring one thing along it would probably be a good book to read. How would life be for you if you stayed in England?
Zack in Arizona
Dear Zack in Arizona.
I am 8 years. What is homeschooling? Fifth grade? Is this a degree of inclined plane? I have asked Father about Indians hiding among trees. He tells me that there is a sub-continent in Asia called India and the people who live there are Indians, but that you are probably referring to wild people that live in Virginia where we are going to settle. That they are friendly is my hope. Father wonders what is Arizona. Does it mean that you are arizing, that is to say up from bed for the day? Father owns no books, not even the Bible, as they are too dear. I shall take the hornbook with me. I have already learned the abcderia which be on it written. I have never seen England. I was born here in Leiden, Holland. Father and Mother were born in England and came to Leiden to be free of the Church of England. I should like to stay in Leiden with my friends, but Father says that we may not because my sisters and I and all the other children of the English here are becoming Dutch. My friends and I only speak Dutch to one another. He fears that we will forget that we are English. Perhaps some day when I am a man I will be see England. Mother tells of great hills, even mountains, there. Here it is very flat.
Thy friend, Bartholomew
My name is Amy and I am nine-and-a-half years old. I am homeschooled and do 6th and 7th grade work. If I were to leave Leyden and could take only one toy, it would be my baby doll, Naomi. What are you going to take on your journey? I would not be scared because I trust in the Lord and know He would protect me. My advice to you is if you don't want to be bored on the boat, sing songs and tell stories.
Write back soon.
I still have not set my mind of what toy I shall take. I have marbles that are my favorite, but I fear that asea the deck will never be still enough to use them. I know not how long we will be asea but father says for well more than a month and I want something that I can use whilst asea.
One toy that I do have that I might use is a small wooden cup at the end of a handle. There is also a wooden ball attached to a string with the bitter end tied to the handle. Perhaps if I take it and the ship should lurch, I should not lose the ball even though I miss catching it in the cup. Do you have such a toy or have you seen one? I can get it in the cup most times unless sister Remember jostles me. Remember has a baby poppet also. I told her that you call yours Naomi.
I surely hope that the Lord will protect us. I like your thought to sing. I know Psalm 100. It starts - Shout ye triumphantly to Jehovah all the earth. I will also share riddles with my friends. Do you know the answer to this one? What is it that 20 will fill a tankard, but one will fill a barn? Candles! 20 unlit candles can fit in a tankard, but one candle when alight can fill a barn with light.
Fare thee well, Thy friend,
We read a story about your family. Your mother and the baby died that first winter. How did they die? Who died first and where were they buried?
Mr. McGovern's third grade class
Dear Master McGovern's third grade class,
I was so excited to hear from you. your are only the third ones to reply to my letter that I wrote before my parents and I left Leiden, Holland. I miss my friends who were going to come with us until the other ship called Speedwell had to turn back with them since it was going to sink.
You asked about my dear Mum. When we arrived in New England we came to Cape Cod Bay and eventually landed at a place the Captain John Smith had years before named "New Plymouth." He is famous and you may have heard of his being in Virginia. Isn't it strange that the last port we saw when we left England was Plymouth Harbour in Devonshire and we ended up in a New Plymouth! Anyway, we arrived in the Bay in mid-November but didn't get ashore until 21st of December, the beginning of winter. There were no houses or any shelter for us in New Plymouth. There was only a few ruins of an Indian village. Father says that all the Indians had died long before we arrived here. We had to spend the winter on the ship. There was no heat except what little was made by all of our bodies and when we had our little hearths burning below deck. Many of our friends got very very sick because they were always cold and the air was smoky and damp. Mum got very sick in February before the end of the winter and Dr. Samuel Fuller told Father that there was nothing he could do to help her. I don't know anything about a baby, but Father says something very sad happened the day after we landed in New Plymouth in December. Father says that all those who died the first winter were buried on the hill that overlooks the New Plymouth Harbour. The burials were a big secret because they didn't want the Indians to know that our strength in number was decreased by half. There is now a fort up there where we have our church services. We call the hill Fort Hill. I miss my warm home in Leiden and the shops. Its roof didn't leak and the cold wind didn't blow in through the doors and walls like it does of the houses that Father and the other men built here. If you have a warm house, as Father says, "Count your blessings." I would like to see what you think my house in New Plymouth looked like. It was not made of logs, rather it was made of planks that the men made in a saw pit. It has a thatched roof.
Your New England Friend,
Bartholomew Allerton, age 8
Our class would like to know what school was like in 1620? Did you have paper to write on and books to read? What was your favorite subject?
Did you have dunce caps or did you ever sit in the corner?
Mrs. Danielson's Class
Dear friends in Mistress Danielson's Class,
I was much pleased to receive your queries about schooling in 1620. There is no school in New Plymouth, New England. Now there are only 20 of us children who came on the ship. There were no houses for us when we arrived so we had to live on the ship and many became real sick. It was icy so many days. The only heat was from our little hearths on board. I miss my real warm house in Leiden, Holland. There is no paper. Some of our parents brought along pieces of slate for us to write on. Father tells me that a few families brought books on the voyage. There was little room for them. He tells me that Captain Myles Standish, our soldier, has a fine and large collection of books but I have not seen them. "Schooling" is done by my father. I like to write my abcderia (my "A" "B" "C's"). I don't know what a dunce cap is. I only have one hat. It is not a cap but is felt and is like my father's, only smaller. There are no markets or shops here. Everything must come by boat from England. Corners are dark and cold. Why would I sit there? At night the only light is near the hearth. Father wrote down for me as I neither spell nor scribe very well yet due to my being only eight. Father hopes that my letter reaches you, for he knows not a village called Rochester except for Rochester in Kent and another Rochester in Northumberland and neither have "MN" with them. My sister Remember (she is six) says "Hullo" to the girls.
Your New World friend,
I would also be very scared. i think you sould go though, it would be adventurus!
A letter reader megan
Oak Avenue School, Los Altos, California
Yes, our voyage had developed into quite the adventure. My sister and I had little room to play onboard the Mayflower. One of the men, John Howland actually fell overboard. Providence prevailed and Goodman Howland was able to grasp onto a trailing rope and was pulled back aboard.
Mary and I hope to hear from you again.