Early life in England
William Mullins was born about 1572 in Dorking, co. Surrey, England, probably the son of John Mullins and Joan/Joane (Bridger) of Dorking parish, located about 21 miles south of London. John Mullins died in February 1583/84 and William’s mother Joane married secondly Vincent Benham on November 1, 1585. The Dorking Register shows baptisms, marriages and burials of persons with the name of “Mullyns” between 1571 and 1585 and then a gap in those names of about twenty-five years until more names of this family appear.
The first mention of William Mullins in Dorking records was on October 4, 1595, when he was fined, at about age 23, two pence by the manorial court for non-attendance at that year’s session. That record states that he was then residing in the Chippingborough district of Dorking. Records note a William Mullins named on a 1596 muster list for Stoke, near Guildford, co. Surrey, where it is believed he was living at that time, and returning to Dorking about 1604. While in Guildford it is believed that Mullins married for a first time, name of wife unknown. During that time, it is also believed that his first wife gave birth to at least one daughter, name Elizabeth, with baptism recorded at Holy Trinity Church, Guildford on December 11, 1598. Elizabeth may have died young. Authors Caleb Johnson and Charles Edward Banks have indicated that this unnamed wife may have given birth to a son and daughter prior to the 1598 birth of Elizabeth. Records for Dorking dated October 5, 1604, again name William Mullins, then residing in the Eastborough district there where he was the head of a “frankpledge” – a group of ten families bonded to the king for their good behavior. And if one member of the group was fined or punished, all members would be punished, which is what happened on September 19, 1605 when Mullins and his frankpledge were fined for an unknown transgression.
Dorking records exist for several dates in 1612 for William Mullins: On March 30, 1612 – William Mullins witnessed the will of John Wood. On December 20, 1612 – Mullins was named the overseer of the will of Jane Hammon. That document, for the first time, states Mullins occupation as shoemaker. On December 28, 1612 – Mullins purchased a tenement on West Street in Dorking. This house still exists and is often a stopping place for tourists. Banks refers to this house as the “Manor of Dorking.” In August (Banks says April 29) 1616 William Mullins was called before the Lordships of the Privy Council and held for an unknown reason for a period of time. On May 1 he appeared before the Privy Council and was technically continued in their custody “untill by their Honours’ order hee be dismissed.” It has been speculated that this may have involved matters of a religious nature which may have forced Mullins to consider emigrating.
In May 1619 Mullins sold his Dorking Manor holdings to Ephraim Bothell/Bothall for 280 pounds, which may have been a precursor of his preparations for the Mayflower voyage. It appears he made a good living as a shoemaker as his was one of the larger investments in the Merchant Adventurers group, of which he was a member, which was investing in the Pilgrim venture. His will shows he had nine shares of stock in the Merchant Adventurers and that his estate consisted primarily of boots and shoes. The London businessmen known as the Merchant Adventurers, under the direction of Thomas Weston, invested in the Mayflower voyage from the very beginning. The documents drawn up, and approved by members of the Leiden church, imposed certain restrictions on the Pilgrims work week, to which they agreed. But as the time to depart England drew near, the Adventurers wanted the restrictions tightened which would have caused the Pilgrims to work almost 7 days a week, in an effect to increase profits, without such as due time for religious activities. The Pilgrims balked at this and refused to agree to the new terms. William Mullins played a part in these deliberations, probably because he had a large investment and needed to ensure a satisfactory return on it, as an Adventurers member. And although Robert Cushman, who had been the Leiden agent for Mayflower voyage preparations, came to Plymouth in November 1621 to try to settle the rift between the Pilgrims and the Adventurers, it was never resolved. Eventually the Pilgrims bought out the Adventurers and formed their own investment company.
On the Mayflower
When the Mullins family boarded the Mayflower, they consisted of William, then about age fifty, his wife Alice, daughter Priscilla and son Joseph, as well as a servant. They boarded the ship with the London contingent, and not as part of the Leiden religionists. Mullins was a shoemaker and businessman, and carried with him a large stock of boots and shoes. The family had left behind in Dorking the two eldest children, Sarah, about age 22 and probably married, and William, possibly in his late 20s and married. These two older children may have been borne by a first wife of Mullins. His daughter Sarah, married to _____ Blunden, was his estate administrator, as requested in Mullins will.
Recording those on board the Mayflower, William Bradford wrote of Mullins as “Mr. William Mullins”, possibly due to he being somewhat more prosperous than many of the original settlers: “Mr. William Mullines, and his wife, and *2* children, Joseph and Priscila; and a servant, Robart Carter.” The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on September 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 the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. 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 Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 21. William Mullins signed The Mayflower Compact 11/21 1620.
In the New World
William Mullins, his wife Alice and son Joseph all died within months of arriving in the New World, along with their servant Robert Carter. Only their daughter Priscilla survived. William may have been the first of the family to die, probably on February 21, 1621. In his will, written on his deathbed, he mentioned “my man Robert” indicating Carter was still alive then. Per Stratton, Alice, her son Joseph and servant Robert Carter were all alive on April 5, 1621 when the Mayflower set sail on its return voyage to England, but all had died before the arrival of the ship Fortune in mid-November of that year.
For more information see Wikipedia.
William Mullins and Alice Wood were my 9th great grandparents. See Relationship Chart.
Priscilla was most likely born in Dorking in Surrey, the daughter of William and Alice Mullins. Priscilla was an eighteen-year-old girl when she boarded the Mayflower. She lost her parents and her brother Joseph during the first winter in Plymouth. She was then the only one of her family in the New World, although she had another brother and a sister who remained in England. John Alden and Priscilla Mullins were probably the third couple to be married in Plymouth Colony. William Bradford’s marriage to Alice Carpenter on August 14, 1623, is known to be the fourth. The first was that of Edward Winslow and Susannah White in 1621. Francis Eaton’s marriage to his second wife, Dorothy, maidservant to the Carvers, was possibly the second. Priscilla is last found in the records in 1650, but oral tradition states that she died only a few years before her husband (which would be about 1680). She lies buried at the Miles Standish Burial Ground in Duxbury, Massachusetts. While the exact location of her grave is unknown, there is a marker honoring her.
Pricilla is known to literary history as the unrequited love of the newly widowed Captain Miles Standish, the colony's military advisor, in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1858 poem The Courtship of Miles Standish. According to the poem, Standish asked his good friend John Alden to propose to Priscilla on his behalf, only to have Priscilla ask, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”
Longfellow (a direct descendant of John and Priscilla) based his poem on a romanticized version of a family tradition, although until recently, there was little independent historical evidence for the account. The basic story was apparently handed down in the Alden family and published by John and Priscilla’s great-great-grandson, Rev. Timothy Alden, in 1814. Scholars have recently confirmed the cherished place of romantic love in Pilgrim culture, and have documented the Indian war described by Longfellow. Circumstantial evidence of the love triangle also exists. Miles Standish and John Alden were likely roommates; Priscilla Mullins was the only single woman of marriageable age. The families of the alleged lovers remained close for several generations, moving together to Duxbury, Massachusetts, in the late 1620s.
(Conjecture leads me to believe that during the long and arduous voyage, Pricilla may have taken notice and been attracted to the young ship's cooper, John Alden ... and/or visa versa. ... DJP)
Pricilla and John Alden were my 8th great grandparents. See John Alden.
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