A Brief History of Pilgrim Robert Cushman
As a child growing up in the 1960’s each year our teacher would talk about the Pilgrims and how many believed they celebrated the first Thanksgiving. They had survived a brutal first year, being the second group from England to successfully settle in the New World. Their reason for coming here, to seek religious freedom, has become a key element of the culture and history of our country. I didn’t learn until I was in my 20s that I have a personal connection to the Pilgrims.
Robert Cushman (my grandfather 13 generations back) along with John Carver were the business agents for the Pilgrims. They negotiated with the Virginia Company to finance the voyage. In 1620, shortly after the Mayflower and the Speedwell set sail, it was determined the Speedwell wasn’t sea-worthy. Cushman, who had become so sick he thought he would not survive the journey, stayed in England. One year later, having recovered, he and his son Thomas arrived at the Plymouth Colony on the Fortune.
He brought news from England that those who had financed their endeavor were unhappy. The Mayflower had returned to England empty and as yet they had received no return on their investment. Cushman brought with him some amended articles from their original contract which the Pilgrims had refused to sign before leaving England. He was able to convince them to sign it and also fill the Fortune with wood and furs. He stayed only a few weeks, but left his son Thomas in the care of Ruling Elder Brewster. In 1636 Thomas married Mary Allerton, the last surviving Mayflower passenger. In 1659 he succeeded Brewster as Ruling Elder and held that position until his death in 1691.
Oddly enough, there were no ministers among the Mayflower pilgrim settlers. Robert Cushman, who was a deacon, was the closest thing. Tomorrow I’m going to share with you what he did on his short visit that has a unique place in the history of our country.