Here comes my next ancestor for the week, my cousin Sheena, has been wanting me to write about him since I started this journey of writing about a different ancestor every week this year. So for week #43 here he is, John Clarke, master’s mate and navigator of the Mayflower and my 10th great-grandfather on my Daddy’s side of the family through his mother, my grandmother Jessie Doss.
I do not have an actual birth date for John Clarke, but I do have his christening date which was March 26, 1575 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England. Most children in England were christened within a few weeks of their birth up to the age of two, though you will find some christened when they were older as well, so I am assuming for now that John was born between 1573 and 1575 before his christening date of March 26th. John was the son of William Clarke and Margaret Walker and grandson of Sir Thomas Clarke who was a knight in the courts of England. Since this is so far back I have not really done any looking yet to see what if any brothers and sisters, John might have had. John’s parents were probably born in the mid to late 1540’s as they were married January 22, 1570 in Fowlmere, Hertfordshire, England. I have yet to find any christening dates for John’s parents, but the records do start to get a little slim once you are back this far. John’s grandfather is as far back as I have gotten to date on this line, and since John’s grandfather was a knight, his line is bound to tie back into royalty somewhere, but I just don’t have the time to search right now to see if I can find such a link.
I don’t know much about John’s growing up years, but again I am assuming that he went to school and when he was old enough he must have started his maritime/naval training. Since his grandfather was a knight the family would have had a little better set of circumstances in which John would have been privy too. Again, assumptions, but I figure he finished his training and then probably got assigned to his first ship. Then, after this time, he met and got married to Mary Morton on February 18, 1598 in Stepney, Middlesex, England. I do not know anything about Mary Morton yet, she was probably born about 1575 to 1577 in England, but who her parents or any siblings were I do not know at this time.
Just a little history about what a Master’s Mate/Navigator was and what his duties would have been was found at www.Wikepedia.com and reads as follows: “Master's mates was a rating for experienced seamen, and were usually selected from the ranks of the quartermasters, who they supervised, or from the ranks of midshipmen who wanted more responsibility aboard ship; they were less commonly selected from other mates of warrant officers and able seamen. Master's mates were allowed to command vessels, walk the quarterdeck, and mess in the gunroom with the other warrant officers.
Master's mates were responsible for fitting out the ship, and making sure they had all the sailing supplies necessary for the voyage. They hoisted and lowered the anchor, and docked and undocked the ship. They would examine the ship daily, notifying the master if there were problems with the sails, masts, ropes, or pulleys. They executed the orders of the master, and would command in his place if he was sick or absent.
Normally master's mates worked on a three-watch system, with the lieutenants, so that one served as the deputy to the lieutenant on each watch. Master's mates generally assisted the master in navigating the ship and directly supervised the quartermasters in steering the ship. The master's mate with the highest seniority was appointed the head of the midshipman's berth and was responsible for teaching mathematics, navigation, and sailing lore. Master's mates had to keep detailed logs similar to midshipmen. They were also responsible for the division of the crew that included the petty officers.” That seems like a lot of responsibility for a young man.
John Clarke and Mary Morton soon became the parents of at least two known sons, Thomas Clarke 1599-1697, who married Susan Ring, and then Mrs. Alice Hallett Nichols. Thomas Clarke came to Plymouth, Massachusetts from England in the ship Anne, in 1623 and he was also one of the original proprietors of Harwich, Massachusetts. John and Mary’s other known son was my 9th great-grandfather, Edward Clarke, 1602-before April 1666, I have yet to find his wife’s name and I know of only one child, Michael Clarke who was my 8th great-grandfather. Edward was listed as a planter of Virginia in February 1623. In 1624, he was awarded 200 acres by the Virginia Company, as a result of his late father's service. He evidently returned to England for some reason, settling at Thriplow, Cambridgeshire, England where he died before April 1666.
John’s wife Mary Morton apparently died sometime before April of 1610 and possibly even in childbirth with my direct line Edward, since I only know of the two children she and John had together and no others. I do know that John remarried on April 18, 1610 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England to Sibil Farr. If they had any children together I have yet to find any.
As I stated previously John was a master’s mate, ship navigator and or pilot on a number of ships throughout his career. At www.findagrave.com I found this little bio about him that states: “He made several voyages to Jamestown, Virginia as early as 1609. On about June 21, 1611 just three months after arriving in Virginia from London, he was taken captive by the Spanish, at Point Comfort, whereupon he was taken to Havana and interrogated, and then on to Seville and then Madrid, where he remained a prisoner until January 26, 1616 when he was released in a prisoner exchange. After returning to England, he piloted the Falcon in 1619, under command of Captain, Thomas Jones, a sometimes pirate, to Virginia. After returning to England again, he was then hired as master's mate on the Mayflower, setting sail in August 1620, carrying the Pilgrims on their historic voyage to Plymouth Colony. Clark's Island in Duxbury Bay is named after him, because he miraculously brought the shallop ashore during a strong storm on one of these expeditions. He returned to England in the spring of 1621. In early 1622, "for his good service in many voyages to Virginia", the Virginia Company bestowed upon him two shares of land there. He again sailed to Virginia on April 10, 1623, on Daniel Gookin's ship, the "Providence" but died shortly after his arrival in Jamestown.”
These two shares of land is probably what his two sons, Thomas and Edward received, since John did not live long enough to do anything with them himself. For those that might not know what a shallop was, I found a definition in an online dictionary that states the following: “Any of various vessels formerly used for sailing or rowing in shallow waters, especially a two-masted, gaff-rigged vessel of the 17th and 18th centuries.” I found the following picture of a replica of the Mayflower and its shallop at this link: https://www.woodenboat.com/pilgrim-shallop-ii
There are many, many sites that will tell you about the Mayflower, the Pilgrims and their voyage to America, so I won’t even begin to go there. There are also tons of sites that talk about Jamestown and the things that went on there as well. To think that one of my ancestors stood there when Plymouth and Jamestown were just starting is mind blowing to me and so exciting. Don’t you wish you could have a time machine and go back and see your ancestors making history so to speak. The following pictures I thought were kind of cool and were found at these links: http://aenet.esuhsd.org/citizenship_lessons/new/mayflower.gif & http://www.britannica.com/place/Jamestown-Colony
392 years since his death and I am sure his descendant’s number in the hundreds of thousands by now. His descendants have been state governors, explorers, military leaders, teachers, farmers and I am sure a scoundrel or two as well, but what a legacy he left and the stories he could have told of his voyages across the seas and the people he met along the way. Just think he would have met and known William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Alden, Priscilla Mullens and John Smith to name a few and maybe even Chief Powhatan and his daughter, Pocahontas. I mention Pocahontas because for years family stories said that she was one of our ggggg-grandmothers through one of her descendants, somewhere on this Clarke line, but unfortunately that is not the case, though it would have been pretty cool to call her our grandmother. The following picture of Pocahontas I found at www.Wikipedia.com and was done by Simon de Passe in 1616.
John Clarke’s name is on a plaque called “The First Encounter Monument” and it is located at the end of Samoset Road at First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay. It reads as follows: On this spot hostile Indians had their first encounter, December 8, 1620 with Myles Standish, John Carver, William Bradford, John Tilley, Edward Winslow, John Howland, Edward Tilley, Richard Warren, Stephen Hopkins, Edward Dotey, John Allerton, Thomas English, Master Mate Clark, Master Gunner Copin and three sailors of the Mayflower Company. Provincetown Tercentenary 1620 commission 1920, John F. Paramino, sculpture, 1922 Boston, Massachusetts. The following picture of that monument I found at this link and it follows: http://www.capecodgravestones.com/easthampixweb/firenccove.html
For such a short life span, only about 48 to 50 years old when he died, John Clarke saw and witness some of the defining moments in American History. He was there for Jamestown, Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims, but he apparently missed that first Thanksgiving, as records say he left in the spring of 1621, to go back to England, and that first Thanksgiving was held in the fall of that year. Records say that John Clarke, died shortly after his arrival back in Jamestown on April 10, 1623 and so he is probably buried somewhere near Jamestown in an unknown grave. He is an ancestor I am proud to say belongs to me.