Page Header for Website

History of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants: 1950-1959

 In 1950 the Society inaugurated an energetic series of "ancestor" teas in honor of each of the Mayflower families. Held at the house or at some suitable place associated with the ancestor, the teas featured lectures, show and tell exhibitions, and the like. The first, a Bradford Tea, attracted about sixty people despite a stormy day in January and set the tradition for successful turnouts. At that meeting a facsimile of William Bradford's History of Plimoth Plantation was borrowed from the State Library. The Winslow Tea in February featured Governor General Pratt and the SAR color guard. A Brewster Tea showed off heirloom jewelry and the Brewster imprints, and the Cook Tea was held at "Soul's Rest" in Halifax, the home of a descendant. The Eaton-Fuller Day featured Mrs. Nason as a descendant of 15 heads of Pilgrim households, and the Chilton Day was held at the Old South Meeting House, followed by a visit to the marker placed for Mary (Chilton) Winslow in 1924 and to her tomb in Kings Chapel.

The largest of the teas was Doty Day in January of 1954, at which former Governor Charles Tapley spoke and Miss Elizabeth Storer showed pictures. More Day was held at the Essex Institute in Salem despite there being no descendants of Richard More in the Society at that time (the first joined in 1957). By the Annual Meeting in 1954, all of the Compact signers who had descendants had been honored by a tea. These regular meetings had become so popular that in June of 1954 a "new member" tea was held for those who had been elected during the past two years, and Mrs. Grace Bonsall and Mr. Tapley described the furnishings and paintings in the house.

Meetings were planned well in advance and a yearly schedule of events was distributed to the membership. The usual schedule called for historical talks at the house in January and February, the Annual Meeting in March, another talk in April, followed by a garden party at the house in May. The Peregrination to Plymouth would be held in June, as usual, and then a visit to Col. Clement Kennedy's New Ocean House in Swampscott in October (Kennedy was a Governor of the Society and it was through his association with Bing Crosby, who vacationed at New Ocean House, that the actor/singer became a member of the Society), Compact Day in November, and Forefather's Day in December.

The major excitement during this decade came in 1957 when a replica of the original Mayflower was built in England and sailed to Plymouth in a recreation of the Pilgrims' voyage. The builder, Warwick Charlton, who had read William Bradford's History of Plimoth Plantation as a British soldier while at sea returning from the North African Campaign, engaged William A. Baker, a naval architect associated with Plimoth Plantation, who had done exhaustive research on 17 th century ships. Mayflower II was launched at Brixham in Devon on September 22, 1956, and left for America under the orders of Captain Alan J. Villiers from Dartmouth on April 20, 1957. She arrived at Plymouth on June 13 th after a storm at sea and a becalming and was welcomed by Vice President Richard Nixon and all the former Governors of Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reported:

There was a special adventurousness about the Pilgrims' enterprise. This gives it somewhat the same kind of attraction Lindbergh's flight to Paris enjoyed over more highly organized air crossings in the 1920s. The men and women of Plymouth seem friendlier, kindlier people, moreover, than the rigorous Puritans who settled Boston.

After making fun of the project, the Boston Herald editorialist proclaimed:

Who, we would like to know, would admit he gave a hoot about the Mayflower and Plymouth (or Plimoth) and all that stuff? Who thinks that English Captain Villiers is anything but a showoff? Who would ever go down to greet that big, fat boat? Who would ever be so silly as to say that the Mayflower II is the most delightful thing to hit New England in a decade?

We would that's who! That's our hat sailing over the tip-top-t'gallant-stunsail boom, or whatever it's called. We must have a Pilgrim somewhere in our family tree. If we don't we'll just quietly make one up.

Eventually the Mayflower II found her home with Plimoth Plantation, the museum replica of the original Pilgrims' homes in Plymouth that had been established in Plymouth in 1948. In 1958 Mrs. Nason retired as Secretary because of illness and Mrs. Eric Patch was elected for one term. Adele Allen, who was the Historian General of the General Society and whose office was then still at 9 Walnut Street (before the General Society acquired the house in Plymouth), took on the newly-created position of Executive Secretary. Adele (Waterman) Allen had been the second woman to hold the office of Historian General. A graduate of Simmons in 1917, Adele had served as State Chairman of Genealogical Records for the Massachusetts DAR, and as Registrar of the Chief Justice Cushing Chapter of DAR, as well as the Massachusetts Society of Daughters of Colonial Wars, of the Massachusetts Society of American Colonists, and of the Massachusetts Society of Daughters of Founders and Patriots. With her late husband, John K. Allen, she was co-compiler of Thomas Bancroft and Some of his Descendants, and she had been secretary and editor of the Monthly Review for the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston for thirteen years.