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IN SEARCH OF THE ARABELLA: A STORY OF TWO BOATS


By CarolynCHolland(9,534) CarolynCHolland



Between April 8 and June 12, 1630, a fleet of 17 ships carrying over 1000 passengers set sail from Yarmouth, England to Salem, Massachusetts. It was under the command of Mass. Gov. John Winthrop, who sailed with 400 emigrants aboard the flagship "Arabella." This 28-gun ship also transported the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company to Salem, thereby giving legal birth to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

America's first poet, Anne Bradstreet, left England to escape persecution by the Church of England's Archbishop Laud. At age 18 she, her husband and her parents braved the Atlantic Ocean on the Arabella.

Also on board was Arabella Johnson, wife of one of the assistants. The ship was named in her honor. Charming and from a luxurious home, she was considered “queen of the colony.”

Enroute, Gov. Winthrop preached a lay sermon titled "Modell of Christian Charity." He clearly articulated why the Puritans migrated, and that they needed a Covenant with God to form a government---that is, they needed to consent to God’s law of justice and subordination.

“God Almightie in his most holy and wise providence hath soe disposed of the Conicion of mankinde, as in all times some must be rich some poore…” he preached. The sentence continued, “some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjection.”

After three sickening months at sea, surviving on salt meats, the Arabella passengers arrived at Salem to find there was no church and no town, only a rather stately house for the governor and a few hovels among cornfields that sheltered the settlers.

Their fantasy of pagan natives peaceably and eagerly awaiting the good news of the gospel was smashed when they met the starving survivors at Salem. Food was scarce, disease rampant. Arabella died within a month after her arrival. Her husband’s grief brought him to death a few weeks later.

Puritanism, a spiritual reformation in England’s churches, was found inadequate to purify the church of England. Many clamored to go all the way with the Bible. They were derogatorily labeled “Puritans.” Their image generally denotes people intent on stopping all pleasures. It wasn’t so. They wore bright clothes, danced, were excellent businessmen, ardently promoted higher education, were the first to allow multiple religious denominations in one country, and knew how to enjoy life.

Furthermore, the good ship Arabella’s cargo included 10,000 gallons of wine (50,000 fifths) and 42 tons of beer. They only had 14 tons of fresh water. Early Puritans proved to be among the best brewers. So why am I researching this?

In 1921 my maternal great-grandfather built a 39-foot boat he named the Arabella, and I wondered where the name came from. Did he name his boat after the historic one involved in giving legal status to the colony of Massachusetts?

The boat was built in a barn across the street from the back of Woodward School in Quincy, Mass. According to a note on a post card featuring the Arabella and oral telling, he sailed the boat between Quincy Yacht Club and Lamoine Beach (on Frenchman Bay), Maine.

The late Gladys, long-time resident of Lamoine who died last May at 92 years old, provided the oral history. I met her a few years ago through my genealogy research---both of us are descendents of Louis Des Isles who emigrated to Lamoine from France in 1791. (We’re touching on subjects and sites in my novel---Lamoine, Maine and Louis Des Isles.)

Summers were special for the Des Isle clan and their friends in Lamoine. There were parties and picnics. Some of the picnics occurred at the Ovens, across Frenchman Bay on Mount Desert Island. They were day-long affairs where the Arabella played an active part.

My great-grandfather brought the boat from Quincy to Lamoine for these events. Early in the day, he sailed fishermen across the bay to the Ovens to catch the fish of the day. He returned to Lamoine and filled the boat with the women, who would set up kettles to prepare chowders and fires to cook the fish, taking them to the ovens. Later he sailed the remaining picnickers across the bay. Gladys sailed on the Arabella as a young woman. All this was done during low tide when the sailing across the reef-filled bay was the most treacherous. However, the Ovens were only visible during low tide. The narrow rocky, shelly beach at the Ovens has a 60-foot or better sheer cliff walling it in. Picnickers had to vacate the beach before high tide lest they not escape at all, but drown.

I’d love more information on the Arabella---what kind of boat it was, for example. However, all those who had the pleasure of being on the boat are now gone. There’s no one left to add to its story.

However, I’ve submitted the information above on my great-grandfather’s Arabella to the Quincy Yacht Club for their website, at their request. Perhaps there are records, pictures and memories still there that I can glean information from.

There’s a lesson here: It’s wise to gather family information before it’s too late.




This Blog Post has been read 250 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Monday, January 01, 2007
View other posts by CarolynCHolland

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