Rev. John Cotton was invited to South Hampton to preach a farewell sermon to the Winthrop Fleet in April 1630  and likened those departing South Hampton to the Israelites having been chosen to inhabit the promised land.1 

Moreover, I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their owne, and move no more.2  Samuel 2: 7.10

The Winthrop Fleet departed South Hampton on April 8th, 1630, for the Isle of Wight and left for New England three days later on April 11th, 1630, with approximately seven hundred passengers.3 The Boston Men that sailed with the Winthrop Fleet were:

• Isaac Johnson and his wife, Lady Arbella

• Simon Bradstreet and his wife, Anne Dudley

• Thomas Dudley; his wife, Dorothy Yorke; and four children: Samuel, Patience, Sarah, and Mercy.

• Charles Fiennes, younger brother of  Lady Arbella.

• William Coddington and his wife, Mary. Mary died soon after arriving in Massachusetts, and Coddington returned to England, remarried, and returned again on the Mary & John with a new wife, Mary Mosely, and five servants in 1633.

The Cotton Window in St. Botolph’s Church – Boston, England

In addition, two Boston families that were not members of the Massachusetts Bay Company sailed with the Winthrop Fleet.

• William Cheeseborough; his wife, Anne Stevenson; and four children, Peter, Samuel, Nathaniel, and Sarah.

• William Pelham, younger sibling of Herbert Pelham III, a founding member of the Massachusetts Bay Company.4

Thomas Dudley narrated the event in his letter to Lady Bridget.

Wee came to such resolution that in April, 1630, wee set sail from old England with 4 good shipps.⁠⁠5 And in May following, 8 more followed;⁠6 2 having gone before in February and March⁠;7 and 2 more following⁠ in June and August, besides another set out by a private merchant.8 These 17 shipps arrived all safe in New England for the increase of the plantation here this yeare 1630—but made a long, troublesome and costly voyage, beeing all windbound long in England, and hindered with contrary winds, after they set sail and soe scattered wth. mists and tempests that few of them arrived together.9

Our 4 shipps which sett out in April arrived here in June and July, where wee found the Colony in a sadd and unexpected condition, above 80 of them beeing dead the winter before, and many of those alive were weak and sick; all the corne and bread amongst them all, hardly sufficient to feed upon a fortnight, insomuch that the remainder of 180 servants wee had the two yeares before sent over, cominge to us for victualls to sustain them, wee found ourselves wholly unable to feed them by reason that the provisions shipped for them were taken out of the shipp they were put in, and they who were trusted to shipp them in another, failed us, and left them behind; whereupon necessity enforced us to our extreme loss to give them all libertie⁠, who had cost us about 16 or 20 £ a person furnishing and sending over.10  But bearing theis things as wee might, wee beganne to consult of the place of our sitting downe; for Salem⁠, where wee landed, pleased us not.11 

Dudley reported that at least two hundred people died between the Winthrop Fleet’s departure in April 1630 and December 1630. 

Many of our people brought with us beeing sick of feavers and the scurvy … wherein many were interrupted with sickness and many dyed weekly, yea almost dayley. 

Amongst whom were Mrs. Pinchon, Mrs. Coddington, Mrs. Philips, and Mrs. Alcock, a sister of Mr. Hookers. Wee were forced to change counsaile for…Charles Towne which stands on the North side of the mouth of Charles river.12

Lady Arbella Johnson was among those who died soon after landing at Salem and was buried in an unmarked grave—off Bridge Street near Arbella Street in present-day Salem. 

The company then relocated to Charles Town in hopes of finding a source of fresh water. But none was found. 

William Blaxton, who lived nearby on the Shawmut Peninsula, had a good source of fresh water on the Shawmut Peninsula and notified his dear friend, Isaac Johnson. It was Johnson who then led the company to a source of fresh water on the Shawmut Peninsula—called Trimountaine by the French.13 

On September 7, 1630, the Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England state: 

It is ordered, that Trimountaine shallbe called Boston.14

Dudley wrote Lady Bridget about Boston’s naming as follows:

Which place we named Boston, as we intended to have done the place wee first resolved on.15

Though Boston had a good source of fresh water, death continued to plague the company, as Gov. Winthrop noted in his journal.

About the beginning of September, died Mr. Gager, a right godly man, a skilful chirurgeon, and one of the deacons of our congregation; and Mr. Higginson, one of the ministers of Salem, a zealous and a profitable preacher—this of a consumption, that of a fever, and on the 30th of September, dyed Mr. Johnson another of the five undertakers (the Lady Arrabella, his wife, being dead a month before.) This gentleman was a prime man amongst us, having the best estate of any, zealous for religion and greatest furtherer of this plantation. He made a most godly end, dying willingly, professing his life better spent in promoting this plantatacon than it would have beene any other way. He left to us a loss greater than the most conceived.16

The town of Boston inherited Isaac Johnson’s land and buried him on what became known as Isaac Johnson’s Burying Ground. Eventually, it was renamed the King’s Chapel Burying Ground.

Approximately one hundred new settlers migrated to New England during 1631 with about two hundred more in 1632. However, these were barely enough to restore the population to 1630 levels.17 

In 1633, forty-six individuals from Boston, Lincolnshire joined Rev. John Cotton and sailed to Massachusetts—a 240% increase from the nineteen from Boston that had sailed with the Winthrop in 1630. The large increase was primarily due to William Laud’s relentless persecution of Puritans after having been made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633. What followed from 1633 to 1640 has been termed the Lauding Migration—80% of the Great Migration.18

Rather than join the Winthrop Fleet, prior to 1633, Cotton chose to remain in England and tend to his St. Botolph congregation.

Less than a year after preaching a farewell sermon to the Winthrop Fleet, Cotton and his wife, Elizabeth, were stricken with malaria in January 1631 and taken in by the Earl of Lincoln’s household at Sempringham to convalesce. Cotton Mather relates the incident as follows,

being invited unto the Earl of Lincoln’s, in pursuance to the Advice of his Physicians, that he (Cotton) should change the Air, he removed thither, and thereupon he happily recovered.19

Boston town records show that on February 7, 1631, three pounds & seven shillings were laid down to Mr. Doctor Coozen & his Apothecary for theire charddges to advise about Mr Cottons sickness.20 

Cotton was slow to recover and complained in the summer of 1633 that the dregs of the ague still hang about me. However, his beloved wife of eighteen years died in April 1631. It is unknown when Elizabeth’s funeral took place or where she was buried.21 

However, Boston town records show that on November 1, 1631, John Thory was paid seven pounds and ten shillings:

for soe much expended by him about Mrs Cottons funeral.22

On April 25, 1632, Cotton remarried.  His second wife, Sarah (Hawkred) Story, was seventeen years younger and well known to Cotton as he had conducted the Hawkredd family’s baptisms, burials, and marriages for over twenty years.  Sarah’s first husband, William Story, had been apprenticed to her father, and they married in May 1619. William died in 1628—leaving Sarah widowed with a six-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

On July 22, 1633, John Cotton, his pregnant wife, Sarah, her daughter, Elizabeth Story, and eight servants boarded The Griffin and sailed to New England with a large contingent from his St. Botloph’s Congregation. Atherton Hough, Thomas Leverett, and Abraham Mellows and their families and servants accompanied Cotton. Each of these men was a founding member of the Massachusetts Bay Company.

On the voyage to New England, Cotton’s wife, Sarah, gave birth to a son whom they named Seaborn. It was Cotton’s first child as he had no children with his first wife, Elizabeth Horrocks, who may have been unable to bear children.

In all, Sarah Hawkred bore Cotton six children.  Two died of smallpox in 1650. Sons, Seaborn and John Jr., attended Harvard College and followed their father into the clergy. Their daughter, Maria Cotton, married Increase Mather, son of Richard Mather. 

Their son, Cotton Mather, achieved fame for his role in the Salem Witch Trials and eventually was named president of Harvard College. 

After John Cotton died in December 1652, Sarah remarried Richard Mather, the father of her son-in-law, Increase Mather. Thus mother & daughter married father & son.

Richard Mather preceded Sarah in death and was buried in Dorchester. 

Sarah died in May 1676 at the age of seventy-five. Although her tombstone reads Sarah Mather, she was interred not far from John Cotton and is the only person known to have been born in Boston, Lincolnshire, buried in King’s Chapel Burying Ground.

Sarah (Hawkred /Story/Cotton) Mather was born  Boston, Lincolnshire buried King’s Chapel  Boston, Massachusetts


1 Some find that Cotton’s sermon, God’s Promise to His Plantation, gave birth to what became known as “American Exceptionalism”. For a rather humorous treatment of this subject see The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell.

2 Cotton, John, Sr. God’s Promise to His Plantation. as It Was Delivered in a Sermon by John Cotton, B.D. and Preacher of Gods Word in Boston., London: Printed by William Jones for John Bellamy, and to be solde at the three Golden Lyons by the Royall Exchange, 1630.

3 Winthrop, J. Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649. (Harvard University Press, 2009). (Dates shown in New Style)

4  William Pelham’s siblings (John, Elizabeth & Penelope Pelham) later migrated on the Susan & Ellen in 1635 and Richard Bellingham later married Penelope Pelham in 1641.

5 The Arabella, Jewell, Ambrose and Talbot.  The Arabella was the Flagship of the Fleet and named after Arabella Clinton-Johnson, sister to the Earl of Lincoln, Theophilus Clinton and wife of Isaac Johnson, the primary investor in the Massachusetts Bay Company.

6 The May-Flower, Whale, Hopewell, William and Francis, Trial, Charles, Success and Gift.

7 The Lyon and Mary-John

8 One of the two was the Handmaid. The other of the two and the merchant ship names are unknown.

9 Dudley, T. To the Right Honorable, My very good Lady, The Lady Bridget, Countess of Lincoln. in (Joshua Scottow Papers, Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1696).

10 meaning that they were provided for out of the new provisions.

11 Cotton Mather (Magnalia Vol.I p62) says the first settlers “called it Salem for the pet with they had hoped in it” but the Planter’s Plea (page 14) seems to be a better authority and says its original name, Naumkeag, was changed to Salemthough upon a faire ground in remembrance of a peace settled upon a conference at a general meeting between them and their neighbours, after expectancy of some dangerous jarre.”

12 Dudley, T. To the Right Honorable, My very good Lady, The Lady Bridget, Countess of Lincoln. in (Joshua Scottow Papers, Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1696).

13 Roger Thompson, ‘Johnson, Isaac (bap. 1601, d. 1630)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004

14 Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, Vol. I, 1628-1641. vol. 1 (William White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1853).

15 Dudley, T. To the Right Honorable, My very good Lady, The Lady Bridget, Countess of Lincoln. in (Joshua Scottow Papers, Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1696).

16 Winthrop, J. Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649. (Harvard University Press, 1996)

17 Anderson, R. C. The Winthrop Fleet. (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012).

18 Anderson, R. C. The Winthrop Fleet. (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012). P10

19 Mather, C. Magnalia Christi Americana. vol. I (Silus Andrus and Son, 1820). P262

20 Transcription of Minutes of the Corporation of Boston: Vol II (1608-1638). vol. 2 (History of Boston Project, 1981).

21 Bush, S. The Correspondence of John Cotton. (University of North Carolina Press, 2001). P180

22 Ibid.

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