Friday, February 15, 2013

Peter Browne

  • Name: Peter Browne 
  • Born: January 1594 Dorking, Surrey, England 
  • Died: 1633 Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • Related through: Dan's grandmother Elvira Wilde 

Peter Browne, often modernized as Peter Brown, was a Mayflower passenger on its 1620 voyage that initiated the settlement of New England, and a signer of the Mayflower Compact. Peter Browne was probably born in January 1594 in Dorking, Surrey, England to William Browne. He was baptized in the local parish on 26 January 1594.

Browne's brothers John and James joined him in Plymouth Colony in 1632. They were weavers, his vocation is believed to have been a carpenter or machinist. In 1619 or 1620 he was likely enlisted by William Mullins, as part of the "London contingent," whose trades and skills were necessary for the voyage of the Mayflower and the Speedwell and the creation of the colony.

The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.

 On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was Cape Cod. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at the Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. Realizing they were not at the intended destination they determined to bind themselves as a democratically governed and administered colony loyal to England. This document became known as the Mayflower Compact and was sign by all eligible men on behalf of themselves, their families, their fortunes and property. Peter Browne was one of the 41 men who signed the Mayflower Compact on 11 November 1620.

 A 12 January 1621 incident is recorded in Mourt's Relation whereby Peter Browne and John Goodman became lost in the woods after their dogs began to chase a deer. After a sleepless night, during which time both Browne and Goodman believed they heard lions (possibly mountain lions or other large mammals such as bears or coyotes), they successfully reoriented themselves and returned safely to the site of the village on the shore.

Being among the half of the crew who survived the first winter, Browne could have been present at the First Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621, the event that set the precedent for the American Thanksgiving holiday.

Peter Browne came over as a single man. By about 1626 he had married a widow Mary Ford, wife of ___ Ford, who were passengers in 1621 on the ship ‘Fortune’.  She gave birth after the ship’s November 1621 arrival, but her husband died soon after, as did the baby. Contrary to information published in some sources, Mary Ford was not the wife of the Fortune’s master. Per Banks, the master of the Fortune on this 1621 voyage was Thomas Barton.

Although Peter Browne had married two times, at his death in 1633 he left only three female descendants. The administration of the estate of Peter Browne on 10 October 1633, indicates that he died sometime since the last reference to his property in the records. It is widely believed that he succumbed to the same sickness that spread through Plymouth Colony in the summer of 1633. He is buried at Cole's Hill, Plymouth. He was survived by his second wife Mary who acted as the executrix of his estate. Following the death of Peter Browne, his widow Mary received custody of the two children she had with him, but his two daughters by his first marriage, Mary and Priscilla, were apprenticed out until they were age seventeen — Mary to John Doane and Priscilla to William Gibson. When they reached that age they requested that the Plymouth Court assign them to the custody of their uncle, John Brown, a weaver in Duxbury.

This article came from the Wikipedia article on Peter Browne. Thanks Wikipedia!

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